clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Trip Around the English Premier League: Endgame

New, comments

It’s all about the “last mile”.

Thomas Tuchel - Chelsea FC - Premier League
For lots of points, please choose Chelsea!
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

I believe I speak for the entire FPL community when I welcome this international break. Never have I wanted one more than this. The last few months have been exhausting; a war of endurance and attrition.

The past, however, is in the past. We now have game-weeks 30-38 to look forward to. I like to refer to the upcoming period as the “last mile” before the endgame.

The last mile is the time to apply everything we’ve learned and correct our mistakes. It is a time to gamble and to take risks, and also to protect ourselves from hard-charging mini-league competitors with their high-ownership template soldiers (Bruno Fernandes, I’m looking at you!).

Given we have so much statistical information from the previous 29 game-weeks, we can now trust the actual numbers a bit more than the expected numbers. This means that I’m now weighing actual G+A roughly equally to xG+xA. I’m also looking at upcoming fixtures, trusting the math, the eye, and the storylines (i.e., relegation, European places) in equal parts to help me decide my FPL roster for the last mile.

Let us go then, you and I, on A Trip Around the League where we will take a look at some of the must-have teams and players for the last mile.


Teams with the best attacking fixtures for the last mile

Our first stop brings us to the land of teams with the most promising attacking fixtures, particularly over the next five game weeks (we will deep-dive on the last three fixtures in a separate article closer to GW-36).

For the next five game-weeks then, these are the teams whose offenses are expected to outplay their opponents’ defenses given realized and expected output (ranking the top 1-10).

  1. Manchester City
  2. Liverpool
  3. Manchester United
  4. Arsenal
  5. Tottenham
  6. Chelsea
  7. Leicester
  8. West Ham United
  9. Brighton
  10. Southampton

Next, we combine actual stats plus expected stats with the story line (i.e, whether or not teams have something to play for) to select some attackers (MID and FWD) to add to our FPL squads:

Manchester City: The expected stats really favor KDB, while the actual numbers say Ilkay Gundogan. Given Pep roulette and the approximately seven million pieces of silverware the Citizens are still competing for, I wouldn’t want to sink too much money into any of these boys. Therefore, I won’t be looking at KDB or Kun Aguero. Most of us will have Gundo in our squads and, given his enabler price point, I think he’s fine to keep. Riyad Mahrez is an interesting pick as he does seem to be playing more Premiership matches than cup matches lately (GW-28 being a recent exception, but that benching was probably because Pep saw Mahrez in editor Jeff’s Blog Cup squad).

~

Liverpool: I plan to buy Diogo Jota in FPL. The real question is what to do with Mo Salah. Given where Liverpool ranks on this list, and the fact that ‘Pool hopes to qualify for next season’s Champions League, I am planning to keep him and I believe he could pay off as an addition to teams that don’t already own him. But one might worry that Liverpool seems to do better against UCL opponents than against bottom-half sides in the EPL, so YMMV.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool - Premier League
Vote for Jota!
Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

~

Manchester United: Bruno Fernandes (aka “Penandes) is an easy decision. Marcus Rashford is one to consider as well, but I worry about some of his recent injury reports and his relatively high price. Although not technically an attacker, I do favor Luke Shaw as well, who is on my team for his attacking positioning and play.

~

Arsenal: Bukayo Saka is cheap I guess, but none of the Gunners’ attackers really excite me. I’m passing, though I did bring in Kieran Tierney for a reason similar to Luke Shaw.

~

Tottenham: I am keeping Harry Kane, who is arguably the safest “set-and-forget” captain choice for the last mile, and that is all. Many of us will have to move on from Son and Bale.

~

Chelsea: Tuchel’s rotation policy is like Pep roulette but with malice thrown in for fun. I don’t trust any of the Blues’ attackers for consistent playing time. If I were to pick one, I’d probably go for Mason Mount or Kai Havertz, but their prices are much too high to sit on our benches.

~

Leicester: In a perfect world, we’d be able to have both Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane... but we live in this world and that is unlikely to be affordable without devastating one’s midfield. Lucky for us, Kelechi Iheanacho is cheap and on fire. I am really considering him, particularly if Patrick Bamford struggles to recover from recent knocks and exhaustion. Leicester also has a Champions League spot to play for!

Leicester City v Manchester United: Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final
Iheanacho could be the FWD to own!
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

~

West Ham: The underlying metrics don’t have me quite sold on Jesse Lingard, but facts are facts: he has been fantastically productive since joining the Hammers. On the other hand, the expected metrics really do favor Michail Antonio. Both are nicely priced and both have something to play for personally (Lingard wants to be on England’s Euro team) and team-wise (Champions League spot). I think one or the other (rather than both) is the way to go.

~

Brighton: Leandro Trossard will be on everyone’s radar after his GW-29 heroics, but it is worth reminding ourselves that the Newcastle match was an outlier because the Toon’s right defensive flank is a unique brand of horrid. This is why we saw not just Trossard but also Neal Maupay and Joel Veltman explode. Although Brighton is much better than its league position and still has to fight relegation, I don’t fancy any attackers there. I also believe Brighton will not have much to play for once safe in a few weeks (again, this is not a bad team at all!)

~

Southampton: I’m staying away as there are far more attractive options elsewhere.


Teams with the best defensive fixtures for the last mile

Our next stop brings us to the land of teams with the most promising defensive fixtures, particularly over the next five game-weeks (again, we will deep-dive the last three fixtures in a separate article closer to GW-36).

For the next five game-weeks then, these are the teams whose defenses are expected to outperform their opponents’ attacks given realized and expected output (ranking the top 1-10).

~

Chelsea: Given Tuchel’s extreme rotation policy, it is hard to be confident about any one player’s solidity in his XI (even GK Mendy has been rotated during Tuchel’s reign of terror!). While Cesar Azpilicueta has been the only player to not yet face Tuchel’s rotation, I don’t love his high price and modern lack of involvement in the attack. If I could trust one of the fullback/wingbacks for playing time, then he’d be an easy choice (e.g. Reece James, Ben Chilwell or Marcos Alonso). Both Antonio Rudiger and Anders Christensen are attractively priced, but again they have Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma as playing time competitors. So my preference is to go for the goalkeeper Mendy and one of Chelsea’s cheaper defenders like James or Rudiger backed by someone on my bench who can step in on any given game-week.

Chelsea FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 Leg Two
Take a punt on Mendy!
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

~

Man City: Here’s a similar rotation dilemma. Ederson is the safest pick, but I prefer Chelsea’s Mendy because he is cheaper. Bruno Dias plays a lot, but he’s even more expensive than Azpilicueta. Cancelo plays less and is also very expensive. Therefore, I plan to go with the cheaper John Stones and hope that he is not dropped on the same game-week as either Rudiger or James.

~

Arsenal: I don’t fully trust the Gunners’ defense, and there is a fair bit of rotation in this corps as well. For reasons I shared in Arsenal’s attacking blurb, I am going with Kieran Tierney because of his attacking play.

~

Wolves: Not much to play for really, but Conor Coady is relatively cheap, he always starts, and the fixtures aren’t bad.

~

Manchester United: I said it before and I’ll say it again: I like Luke Shaw. He is also cheaper than Obi Wan or Maguire!

Leicester City v Manchester United: Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final
Run, don’t walk to add Luke Shaw to your team!
Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

~

Liverpool: Fresh off a shocking England snub, and with a Champions League spot still to play for, Trent Alexander Arnold could be worth a punt. He’s also cheaper and, given his injury layoff earlier in the season, fresher than Andy Robertson. Equally, I don’t mind one of the cheap CBs. TAA’s downside is that without Liverpool’s injured first-choice CB’s behind him, he hasn’t been going forward as far or as often as in past seasons. Still, I will have a Liverpool defender on my last mile starting-XI.

~

Leicester: If Ricardo Pereira were healthy, he’d be a good punt. Unfortunately he is not, and I can’t say I fancy any other Fox defender.

~

Tottenham: Too expensive, too much rotation... I don’t want anything to do with Spurs defenders.

~

Brighton: Following GW-29, a lot of teams will have at least one cheap Brighton defender or goalkeeper. I think it’s fine to keep Robert Sanchez, Dan Burn or Joel Veltman, but I might look to sell the more expensive Lewis Dunk.

~

West Ham: While I am not looking to add any Hammer defenders, I think it’s fine to keep one if already in hand.


Welcome back from your Trip Around the League, I hope it has been enjoyable and worth your time.

Before we bring this to a landing, I wanted to confirm my top five teams to target for the next five weeks. This is an average of the above Attacking and Defensive lists (ranked 1-5):

  1. Manchester City
  2. Chelsea
  3. Liverpool
  4. Arsenal
  5. Manchester United

I think it is crucial to have at least two players from each of these squads (Arsenal being the exception). While Man City and Chelsea rank higher, Liverpool does offer a lot more certainty in its starting-XI, and ‘Pool has much to play for to claw a way back up to a Champions League slot.

You might be wondering what teams to avoid. Based on the average of their attacking and defensive fixtures, the worst five teams are (ranked 16-20):

  • Leeds: Though I think it’s fine to keep one of Raphinha or Bamford.
  • Sheffield United: Ew!
  • Newcastle: Joe Linton, baby! ...psych!
  • Crystal Palace: Not even a cheapo for the bench
  • West Brom: They’re cooked.

I wish you all the best during the international break and the beginning of the last mile. I’ll be seeing you very soon right here on Never Manage Alone!

~

What’s your strategy for the final stretch run? Any underrated teams or players you plan to target (or overrated teams or players to avoid)? What are your FPL chip plans? Please share questions and opinions in the comments section below!

~

Poll

What is your top team to target for the the final stretch?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Manchester City
    (4 votes)
  • 28%
    Chelsea
    (7 votes)
  • 24%
    Liverpool
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Arsenal
    (1 vote)
  • 12%
    Manchester United
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    Other (specify in Comments)
    (4 votes)
25 votes total Vote Now

~