Lukaku on the rise, Leicester surprise and Brighton’s demise

Why do FPL managers call it “the business end” of the season? A quick Google sheds some light. The Cambridge dictionary website explains that “the business end of something, such as a knife or a gun, is the end that does the work or damage rather than the handle”. Suddenly it’s all too clear why we refer to these final weeks of the season as the business end – these are the ones that can wound FPL managers the most.

But fear not. If the remainder of the season is indeed the barrel of a gun pointing in your direction, these underlying stats are your bulletproof vest, shielding you from a volley of anxiety-inducing unpredictability. Using the analysis below, you can plan for the rest of the season with the confidence of a privately educated schoolboy.

gameweek 34 expected goals

Lukaku still rules the roost

Earlier in the season, the verdict on Romelu Lukaku had been unanimously passed. Where once he was a young, prolific FPL bargain, under Mourinho he had transitioned into an overpriced (and overweight) disappointment. But now his pendulum swings once more, to a goalscorer worthy of the premium price-tag slapped on him by the folks at FPL HQ.

Solskjaer’s impact at Manchester United has been unilaterally lauded, but one of the most remarkable turnarounds that still flies under the radar is that of Romelu’s. With the much-fancied Harry Kane now injured, many FPL managers have a premium hole in their forward line that needs filling, and there appears to be little reason why the Belgian international shouldn’t be the one to fill it.

With a satisfyingly round xG/90 of exactly 1.00 in his last 5 games, the message here couldn’t be clearer if it was headed out of the box by James Tarkowski: if Lukaku gets minutes, he gets opportunities. These days he’s taking them, too.

Gross could be the DGW hero

With so much talk about Brighton prospects this week, it would be folly-March of me not to acknowledge some here. Notably, there are actually more Cardiff prospects in these xG and xA tables than Brighton ones, but one of Hughton’s men stands out above the rest: the 17/18 hero that is Pascal Gross.

It turns out there’s more to this player than just that weird letter in his name. Apparently, he’s actually pretty good too. The German comes in 3rd for xA in his past 5 games; an impressive feat considering his minutes have been managed more carefully this season. His fitness is still touch-and-go, which means including him in your Gameweek 34 squad could be a gamble.

But whilst the likes of Pep and Klopp frequently come under fire for their unpredictability, it is, in fact, Chris Hughton that flirts most frequently with lady-rotation. With none of the Brighton attackers assured 180 minutes across Gameweek 34, managers could do a lot worse than investing some faith in Pascal.

Jimenez still punching above his price

Raul Jimenez has shades of Jamie Vardy during Leicester’s title-winning season about him. Despite what was a staggeringly low starting price, the Wolves forward just keeps returning. It is only now, as we approach the final run-in, that serious FPL managers are beginning to consider him worthy of the captaincy armband. He is one of the few players to feature on both the top xG and xA tables over the past 5 games, an illustration of the Mexican’s impressive versatility as both a goal-scorer and creator for Wolves.

For those on their Wildcard ahead of Gameweek 34, he poses an attractive option; both for his fixture in Gameweek 34 (Southampton, which could be worse) and his double-header of home fixtures in Gameweek 35. With no viable replacement and the FA Cup run a distant memory, Jimenez is as assured of minutes as anyone this gameweek. At his price, what’s the catch?

Team Expected Goals (Last 10 Gameweeks)

Team GP xG
MCI 9 25.36
LIV 10 18.15
MUN 9 17.81
LEI 10 17.15
ARS 9 16.63
CHE 10 16.35
CPL 10 16.15
WOL 9 13.84
TOT 9 13.55
EVE 10 13.29
BUR 10 13.17
FUL 10 12.78
NEW 10 12.06
BOU 10 11.70
CAR 9 11.01
WHU 10 10.44
WAT 9 10.40
SOT 9 9.81
HUD 10 9.31
BRI 8 9.26

Team Expected Goals Against (Last 10 Gameweeks)

Team GP xGA
MCI 9 4.31
LIV 10 6.79
WOL 9 9.88
LEI 10 11.16
EVE 10 11.67
MUN 9 11.70
CPL 10 12.17
CHE 10 12.29
TOT 9 12.80
BRI 8 13.10
ARS 9 13.96
SOT 9 14.07
BUR 10 14.94
NEW 10 15.24
BOU 10 16.48
WAT 9 16.92
CAR 9 17.23
HUD 10 20.67
FUL 10 20.90
WHU 10 21.91

Something, something, Man City are good

Sometimes you have to stop being contrarian and just look at the facts. I know it’s a lot more exciting when you’ve picked out a differential and he ends up bringing home a haul, but there comes a point where being different just isn’t going to win your mini-leagues. We’ve reached that point with Manchester City.

Pep’s men are top for xG and top for xGA over the past 10 gameweeks. In other words, they create a lot of goal-scoring opportunities whilst affording their opponents very few. They also appear to be impervious to fixture difficulty too: this is a side who have scored 9 and conceded 1 in their last 2 top-six clashes. The moral of the story is clearer than the story of Pep’s brother, Humpty Dumpty: ignore City assets at your own risk.

Foxes can fly

Leicester City are in the top 4 teams for both xG and xGA over the past 10 gameweeks. I’ll give you a moment to digest that.

It means two things: firstly, that Leicester City players are not only viable options, but positively decent ones. Vardy, Tielemans, Barnes, Maddison – even their defenders – are all sensible inclusions in any competitive FPL squad. The second implication is perhaps just as important: that Leicester are no longer a pushover side.

Competing teams are not assured goals and clean sheets any longer: instead, as far as underlying stats go, Leicester must be viewed in the same ilk as the Premier League’s best sides. In fact, they’ve outperformed the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Cardiff being ignored over Brighton?

Whilst Brighton’s Gameweek 34 fixtures are undeniably better than Cardiff’s, it appears FPL managers are ignoring the fact that Brighton, for all of their scrappy survivalist gusto, are actually a pretty poor side.

If proof is needed, look no further than their xG over the last 10 gameweeks: a mere 9.26. It puts them at the foot of the table and, whilst they’ve played a few games less than the teams around them, it’s a worrying omen ahead of Gameweek 34. Brighton backers will point to the defensive fragility of Cardiff and Bournemouth as sound justification for investing in the Southern England outfit, but in their current form, weaker opposition may not be enough to warrant such faith.

Gameweek 34 Clean Sheet Odds
Best Kane Replacements

Jamie Reeves

BEST FPL FINISH: 8,872 (17/18)

More from Jamie