With the 4th gameweek of the season being in the books, it leads us into the first international break of the season. Two whole weeks of waiting, while praying that your key players don’t pick up injuries by being kicked up in the air by some farmer in a random friendly.

It does give us two weeks to tinker around before the next gameweek, though. In plenty of cases, as we’ll look at later, this may be after popping the wildcard.

Here’s an overview of the main talking points, stats and things to watch out for following GW4.

Gameweek 4: Key Stats

FPL Points: Cedric Soares, Romelu Lukaku, Alexandre Lacazette, Glenn Murray (12)

Total Shots: Glenn Murray, Christian Benteke, Mateo Kovacic (6)

Shots in the Box: Mohamed Salah, Callum Wilson, Romelu Lukaku (5)

Shots on Target: Glenn Murray, Christian Benteke (6)

Key Passes: Eden Hazard (5)

Penalty Area Actions: Kieran Trippier (19)

Reassessing Richarlison’s Replacements

One key area of FPL discussion this season, and especially over the past week, has been the choosing of mid-priced midfielders. A lot of deliberation was put into picking the right midfield option after Richarlison’s red card against Bournemouth.

Theo Walcott (6.8m) was the most transferred-in player going into GW4, with over 700,000 managers opting for him as their GW4 transfer. He ended up with 1 point this week, going off injured after the 56th minute. Stats-wise, he didn’t impress too much – he managed 2 shots, neither on target, and 2 touches in the box.

I personally opted for Walcott – more of a straight-forward, no-nonsense choice as opposed to one backed up by stats. It didn’t go very well.

There were some other underwhelming performances from similarly priced players, most of which were brought in as replacements for Richarlison.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (7.2m) was benched against Cardiff, with Emery opting for a midfield three that saw Ozil move out to the right in place of Mkhi. Despite having played 90 minutes in each of Arsenal’s first three matches, he’s always had this potential rotation risk hanging over his head. This is even more prevalent with Lacazette and Torreira’s performances meaning that they should be starting soon enough.

Pascal Groß (6.9m) had a bit of a stinker, too. He scored -1 point in Brighton’s 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, missing a penalty before being subbed due to injury in the magical 59th minute.

Pedro (6.8m) picked up a large number of new owners prior to GW4 but was benched for their 2-0 win against Bournemouth. Willian started on the right-hand side, but Pedro ended up making the difference, coming off the bench to score. He managed 2 shots on target and 1 attempted assist in the 25 minutes he played, providing more of a direct threat in comparison to Willian.

Looking at a touch map of the two over the past 2 weeks, Pedro drifts inwards whereas Willian stays near the touchline:

FPL - Pedro vs Willian

Though I opted for Walcott, Pedro is probably the shining light of this bunch.

Other contenders are out there, including Ryan Fraser (5.6m) and Roberto Pereyra (6.3m). The former has created the most big chances of any player in the league with 5, while the latter has had 9 shots in the box for an extremely confident Watford side.

James Maddison (6.5m) is also an option. He grabbed an assist against Liverpool this week; his second attacking return of the season. One thing worth noting was the large hike in his underlying stats, something which had been putting me off him previously. Against Liverpool, Maddison had 5 shots, as well as 3 attempted assists. If he continues to become more involved in terms of direct attacking output, he could become a fantastic option, especially with Leicester’s upcoming run of fixtures.

Leicester Fixtures 2018

The Reemergence of Premium Forward Options

One of the themes of the season so far has been the real lack of premium forward options. Aguero’s been the only real option among these forwards, with cheaper players like Mitrovic and Wilson shining in their place.

Two premium forwards really stood out this week: Romelu Lukaku (11.0m), and Alexandre Lacazette (9.4m).

Lukaku was the joint-top scorer of the week in terms of FPL points, notching 12 points after bagging a brace against Burnley.

He’s quietly managed to climb the ladder in terms of shooting stats, even without starting the first game, playing for a disjointed Man United side. He’s joint-second for shots in the box with 13, joint-second for shots on target with 8, and is fourth in terms of xG with 2.88.

Here’s a look at the forwards who stand out in front of goal – Lukaku is right up there:

FPL Forward Stats GW4

Credit: Tim Bayer

Lukaku’s also had 4 big chances over the past 2 gameweeks, the most of any player. In those two games, he’s had 10 shots in the box and 6 shots on target – again, the most of any player.

It’s hard to take too much away from that match as Burnley were genuinely awful, but the signs are promising. United also have a decent run of fixtures following the international break – could Trollkaku become an option again?

Man United Fixtures September 2018

Lacazette also stood out, as he was outstanding against Cardiff. He scored 1 and created another, also notching 12 points. During that match, he had 5 shots, 3 being on target, as well as 3 attempted assists.

He could really be emerging as an option – he really made a statement in that match, and could well become a much bigger part of Emery’s plans going forward.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (10.9m) also scored in that game, finally providing returns for those who have stuck with him since the beginning of the season. Lacazette’s inclusion saw him moved out to the left wing, though they’ve been building a decent partnership since Auba moved to these shores in January.

Comparing the two, Lacazette looks to be the better option. Aubameyang has had just one more shot than him in almost twice as many minutes played, though he has a higher xG – 1.2 compared to Lacazette’s 0.8.

Arsenal, like United, have an excellent run of upcoming fixtures. Lacazette could be a fine move for this run, considering his low ownership and high potential.

Arsenal Fixtures 2018

Salah, Mane and Hazard

One of the bigger talking points this week would be the notion of selling Mo Salah (13.0m), bringing in Eden Hazard (10.7m) to replace him. This is a subject that was brought up a few weeks ago in the GW2 review. Is selling Salah a viable option?

Hazard has been excellent so far this season. He’s got 2 goals and 2 assists in the opening 4 games, only playing 90 minutes twice in that time. The stats have looked good, too. He’s managed 10 shots so far this season, as well as 10 attempted assists.

In the previous look at Sarri at Chelsea, Hazard was mentioned as a player who could really shine under new management. This seems to be the case, with Hazard playing a key role in Sarri’s more attacking system.

Looking at the two comparatively, Salah is generally more central and closer to the box.

Hazard vs Salah - Heatmaps

Hazard is much more involved in terms of general build-up, with most Chelsea attacks going through him.

Salah vs Hazard - Distribution

While Hazard is far, far more involved in the build-up of play, Salah’s overall stats are essentially the best of any player in the game right now. He has both the highest xG (3.11) and xA (1.72) of any player in the league, having taken the second highest number of shots (19) and attempting 13 assists. Even with 2 goals and 2 assists in the books, there’s the potential for much more.

Another reason against selling Salah would be his ownership. Though currently dropping, it still sits at over 50%.

Salah Ownership FPL

Now, a key part of the idea of selling Salah is the fact that his mate Sadio Mane (9.9m) has been outperforming him at a much cheaper price. Mane is currently the top scoring midfielder in the game with 39 points, scoring 4 goals and already claiming 8 bonus points – matching his tally from last season.

Looking at all three, Salah stands out in terms of stats, as has already been covered.

Salah vs Mane vs Hazard FPL

One thing I’m wary about when it comes to “covering” Liverpool’s attack with Mane over Salah would be the potential of Mane overperforming so far. Mane has had 10 shots compared to Salah’s 19, with 6 attempted assists compared to his teammate’s 13. In terms of xG, Mane’s is 2.13 – this puts him near the top of the list, but nowhere near Salah’s 3.11.

I know that xG isn’t everything, with some taking it as some dorky stat that doesn’t mean much, but I can’t help but feel that Salah has so much more to offer in terms of attacking returns.

Now, one final point with regards to selling Salah would be Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures. Thanks to their unfavourable Champions League and League Cup draws, they’ll be playing Spurs, PSG, Chelsea (twice), Napoli, and Manchester City within the next month.

Liverpool Fixtures 2018

This could lead to rotation in games like Southampton (H) and Huddersfield (A). It’s also just a bloody difficult run of fixtures, which could diminish their attacking returns. Chelsea’s fixtures are more favourable, with Cardiff (H), West Ham (A) and Southampton (A) coming up in their next 4 games. They also don’t have the Champions League to worry about, with it likely being the youngsters + fringe players that play in the Europa League.

To lay these ramblings out into pros and cons, here’s what we’re looking at in terms of selling Salah:

Pros

  • Allows you to spread the value elsewhere, opting for Mane and Hazard to pick up the slack in terms of attacking returns
  • Avoid investing too much in Liverpool assets going into an insane run of fixtures.
  • Salah struggles for BPS and seemingly isn’t on penalties.
  • Have a massive advantage if Salah performs poorly over this difficult run of fixtures due to his ownership.

Cons

  • Inversely, you’re in trouble if Salah performs well, again due to his ownership.
  • Salah has the highest xG and xA of any player, indicating that he can improve massively in terms of output, even already having 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games.
  • There’s a chance that Mane won’t keep performing to this level of attacking output, currently outperforming his xG by 1.87.
  • It could be difficult to get him back into your team considering his massive value.

So, what will you be doing? Will you be keeping Salah, or binning him in favour of Hazard/Mane?

 

 

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