First of all, just a quick refresher to anyone who doesn’t know what PP90 is. PP90 refers to Points per 90. This tends to be a better metric for judging a player’s value than total fantasy points which can overvalue individuals who play 90 minutes week in, week out or FP/G (fantasy points per game) which undervalues individuals who get subbed on or off regularly.
PP90: How and Why?
PP90 Against calculates the average PP90 earned against each team for each position. To do this, we sum all of the ‘total fantasy points’ scored against a team, sum all of the ‘minutes played’ against a team, divide the former by the latter, and multiply the resultant number by 90.
Boring maths aside, PP90 allows us to see which teams are good for our fantasy players to face, and which ones aren’t. This information can then help us decide who to start and who to bench; for instance, it may seem sensible to always play your Liverpool assets regardless of opposition, but in gameweek 23 – when they faced off against Manchester City – the PP90 Against data would have suggested otherwise. As it turns out, only Mohamed Salah scored more than 7 points. On the flip side of that, three of Tottenham’s backline in their gameweek 23 matchup against West Bromwich Albion had ownership percentages of less than 50%, but if you had followed the PP90 Against data and picked them up, you’d have been rewarded with 12.75 (Davison Sanchez), 9.75 (Ben Davies), or 9.5 (Toby Alderweireld).
Heading into gameweek 25, we now have a nice amount of data to work with. As such, the following PP90 figures can be dissected in the hope of giving you an advantage in your league this weekend.
EPL Points Against – Goalkeepers
Burnley still sits number 1 in terms of PP90 Against for goalkeepers, but it should be noted that this has come down a fair bit in recent weeks. Indeed, after giving up double-digit points to opposition goalkeepers 8 times in the first 14 gameweeks, they have now done so only twice in the past 9. In fact, if you replace the 27 that Leeds’ Meslier scored against them in gameweek 15, with 6 (the average GK score), Burnley’s PP90 Against drops to 7.79 – only fourth highest in the league. Sheffield United and Fulham are now pushing Burnley for the first spot, before a sizeable drop to Wolves in fourth.
The meanest team for goalkeepers to face is, perhaps surprisingly, Everton, closely followed by West Ham United, Leicester City, and Manchester City. These four have started to pull away from the pack over the last month, though interestingly, Leicester and Everton have been very erratic in their returns. Ancelotti’s men, since gameweek 17, have given up three double-digit returns, and three returns of less than a point; whilst Rodgers’ side, since gameweek 15, has given up three 10+ scores, and four returns of less than a point.
Two to Target and Two to Avoid
If you’re looking to bring in someone for the next four gameweeks, the PP90 Against numbers would suggest taking a look at Liverpool’s Alisson (76% ownership) and Southampton’s McCarthy (32%). Alisson’s ownership must be at an all-time low – perhaps justifiably – but outside of the two teams with confirmed double gameweeks, the Liverpool man has by far the best upcoming schedule. Speaking of double gameweeks, Southampton has one coming up, and whilst they do then take on Everton afterward, their schedule is also very favorable for the goalkeeper position.
The two to avoid are David de Gea (66%) and Edouard Mendy (59%). Mendy was strangely benched in GW24, and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if Henderson were given a chance (again) over de Gea for United soon either. Regardless, the Chelsea and United fixtures are not good. Chelsea’s next four opponents all give up less than the average to goalkeepers, whilst United has the formidable challenge of taking on Manchester City and West Ham in gameweeks 27 and 28.
*Note, when discussing players to target and avoid using PP90 Against data, the logic is that it is the opposition that is important. Thus, if Newcastle were to drop Darlow, then Dubravka becomes (in most cases) a direct replacement to target, whilst if Chelsea were to drop Mendy, then Kepa remains one to avoid.
- The average goalkeeper PP90 so far this season is 6.09.
- Vicente Guaita’s -3.5 against Burnley in gameweek 24 was the first time this season that a goalkeeper had scored negative points against Sean Dyche’s side (guess who waivered him in to their side?!). Every team in the league has now had a goalkeeper score negative points against them.
- West Ham has only given up 10 or more points to a goalkeeper four times this season – the lowest number in the league – Fulham’s Areola makes up two of those occasions.
- The record for highest goalkeeper score remains with Leeds keeper Illan Meslier, who scored 27 points against Burnley in gameweek 15. Emiliano Martinez came close to breaking it in gameweek 24 with his 26-pointer against Brighton.
- Vicente Guaita still holds the record for the lowest goalkeeper score this season, with his -13.75 points in GW14 against Liverpool. Surprisingly, Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy scored just -6 points when Manchester United put nine past him in gameweek 22.
EPL Points Against – Defenders
Like with Burnley and the GK PP90 Against, Sheffield United remains number one for defenders, but the gap to the rest has shrunk of late. A PP90 Against of over 11 is still an incredible number though, with Burnley and West Bromwich Albion also averaging double-digits to opposition defenders. Fulham and Crystal Palace are not too far away, but after that, the numbers drop considerably. In fact, the extreme numbers given up by these five is such that Arsenal – with the 8th highest PP90 Against in the league – actually gives up fewer points to defenders than the league average.
I said it earlier this week on Twitter but I’ll say it again: these Manchester City PP90 Against numbers are INSANE. To put their 2.50 PP90 Against into context, the average defender would have to face Pep’s side FIVE TIMES before they are likely to accumulate more points than in ONE MATCH against Sheffield United. In City’s last four matches (not including the second part of the DGW in gameweek 24), they have faced 16 defenders and only one scored more than 5 points. Six scored negative points. Liverpool, who had the lowest PP90 Against the last time this article was produced back at the start of January, now has the 3rd lowest; 1.6 points worse than the City. United have jumped from 5th lowest to 2nd lowest (12 goals against Southampton and Everton will boost the numbers!), and along with Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Leicester, and Everton, form a group of teams that you don’t want your defenders to be facing.
Two to Target and Two to Avoid
Fulham defenders are the obvious target given their gameweek 25 matchup against Sheffield United, and whilst all will be available in most leagues, Ola Aina (11% ownership) could be the pick of the bunch. The London-born wingback on-loan from Torino replaced Twitter favorite Antonee Robinson in Fulham’s win over Everton and scored 19.75 points. The Burnley-West Brom game has defensive points written all over it, and if he starts, Darnell Furlong (18%) could be the pick of a large bunch of options. The right-back has dropped to the bench for their last three games, but came on for the injured Peltier at halftime against United and did well. Matthew Lowton (37%) – fresh off a once-in-a-lifetime game where he scored 37.25 points against Palace – or whoever lines up at left-back for Burnley, are also very nice options.
The obvious (and correct) answer for who to avoid is anyone facing Manchester City. That would be Arsenal. The highest ownership defender here is Bellerin (78%), and given his goal and 19.5 points against Leeds in gameweek 24, this could rise even further. It shouldn’t though. And if you do own him, he needs to be on the bench. The second is a risky one…but let’s go for it. Bench Lucas Digne. I tweeted on Wednesday about his extreme scores this season (14 games – 9 double-digit returns, 4 negative returns) and with Everton taking on their near neighbors on Saturday I’m backing it to be a fifth minus points performance. Now, I would almost never advise benching an elite asset like Digne, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such wildly fluctuating numbers before. A forward blanking and getting you one or two points is one thing (cough Aubameyang…. before last weekend of course), but a defender actually costing you points is another.
- The average defender PP90 so far this season has increased very slightly to 6.57.
- 27 out of 91 starting defenders (30%) to have faced Manchester City this season have scored negative points. Only 7 (8%) have scored double-digits (Shaw, Coufal, Robinson, Targett, Aurier, Lindelof, and Wan-Bissaka).
- 51 out of 96 starting defenders (53%) to have faced Sheffield United this season have scored 10 or more points. Just 19 (20%) have failed to score 5 or more.
- Kieran Tierney’s 40.50 against West Bromwich Albion in gameweek 17 is the highest score by a defender this season. Ben Chilwell’s 40.25 against Crystal Palace in GW4 comes a very close second.
- Manchester United’s 9-0 win over Southampton in gameweek 22 not only inflicted the lowest score on a defender this season, but also the second and third lowest too. Kayne Ramsey (-18.25) has the ignominious honor of top spot, with his teammates Jan Bednarek (-17.75) and Jack Stephens (-17) taking second and third.
EPL Points Against – Midfielders
West Brom ruins what is otherwise a very nice consistent decline in PP90 Against numbers, giving up a massive 10.74 – almost a point more than 2nd place Sheffield United. Crystal Palace has climbed to 4th (they were 7th back at the start of January) whilst Manchester United drop all the way to 13th (they were a surprising 5th at the start of the year). Leeds sitting in 3rd may surprise some (particularly the media who seem to be infatuated by Bielsa’s side), but they do appear particularly leaky in this area. Just the last four gameweeks alone has seen Ayoze Perez, Barnes, Tielemans, Sigurdsson, Doucoure, Townsend, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, and Smith Rowe all score at least nine points against them.
No prizes for guessing who has the lowest PP90 Against for midfielders. Manchester City is even worse than the baggies are for creating an outlier at the bookends of the graph, such is their dominance. Pep’s side sat in this position back in January, but whilst those around them (with very close numbers at the time) have all either stayed the same or gotten considerably worse, City has somehow improved by well over a point. Midfielders taking on Arsenal, West Ham, Leicester, Wolves, Chelsea, and Brighton face tough matchups, but it is nothing on the task that faces those up against Manchester City.
Two to Target and Two to Avoid
Back Johann Gudmundsson (35% ownership) to make it three successive double-digit returns when Burnley takes on West Brom in gameweek 25. This isn’t a prediction of the Icelandic winger bringing back the glory days of 2017-2019 (where he had FP/G’s of 9.8 and 8.3), but rather, a sad indictment of Big Sam’s 19th placed side. For the second target, I’ll present a safe option and a riskier option. The safe option is Wolves’ Joao Moutinho. The midfielder should have a pretty high floor this weekend against Leeds. The riskier option is Brighton’s, Alexis Mac Allister. The Scot (just kidding) is finally starting to cement his place in the side, though there is always the risk of rotation with Potter and Mac Allister is also more than capable of putting up a dud week (see: vs Burnley in gameweek 23).
Arsenal’s Saka is the 14th highest scoring player since January 1st, and because of this, I think the decision to bench him in gameweek 25 depends on what a manager has as alternatives on the bench. In 95% of cases, when an outfielder takes on Manchester City, the answer should be to bench. Saka – in this form – might be one of the few to take the risk on. So with that said, the two to avoid come from Aston Villa and Southampton. From Villa, it’s Ross Barkley (86% ownership). Since returning from injury, Barkley has averaged just 7.7 points per game – a big drop from his outputs in October and November. Villa has also dropped like a stone from an XG perspective over the last four matches. Up until January 29th, they had the 3rd best XG in the league (despite playing two fewer games than most). Since January 29th they are dead last. In fairness, they have still taken 7 points in that time (tied for 4th in the league), but it seems to be based on a strong defense now. Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong is the second avoid, and it’s perhaps a controversial one given that he has a double gameweek. Whilst he had a nice assist (and 14.5 points to boot) in gameweek 24, the first matchup in gameweek 25 against Chelsea is horrible. Since Tuchel took over, opposition midfielders are averaging just 5.00 PP90 – that’s lower than City’s! It’s not hard to see why: they dominate possession. 71% against Burnley was followed up with 58% against Tottenham, 69% against Sheffield United, and 66% against Newcastle. Armstrong will be hard-pushed to accumulate points in this situation. A likely scenario that I’m foreseeing? Armstrong scores less than 5 points in a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, with the results that Hassenhuttl decides to freshen things up in attack for the Leeds game…and Armstrong getting benched.
- The average midfielder PP90 so far this season is 8.18.
- The highest score achieved by a midfielder against Manchester City this season remains just 17 points, achieved by Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa in gameweek 11. Just 10 of the 85 starters (12%) to have faced them have returned double-digits, whilst 31 (36%) have scored fewer than 3.
- 36 out of 95 midfielders (38%) midfielders to take on West Bromwich Albion this season have scored 10 or more points. Incredibly they have had seven players score 25+ points against them (Jack Grealish, Anwar El Ghazi, Mason Mount, Wilfried Zaha, Bertrand Traore, Bruno Fernandes, and Ilkay Gundogan).
- Jack Grealish’s 54.50 against Liverpool in GW4 remains the highest midfielder score so far this season. A distant second is Bruno Fernandes with his 42-point haul against Newcastle in GW5, though he can console himself with the fact that he also has the third-highest – the 40 points he scored against Southampton in gameweek 22.
- Ezgjan Alioski’s -11 against Manchester United in GW14 remains the lowest midfielder score so far this season. Bukayo Sako’s -10.5 against Aston Villa in GW8 is good enough for second spot with Ryan Fraser (vs Sheffield United in gameweek 18) and Fabinho (vs Manchester City in gameweek 23) sharing the bronze medal with -9.
EPL Points Against – Forwards
Up until now, you probably didn’t need data to tell you to back goalkeepers facing Burnley, defenders facing Sheffield United, and midfielders facing West Brom. But it’s in the forwards where PP90 Against may give the nerds an edge. 11th placed Leeds given up over 14 points on average to opposition forwards, over two points more than every other team bar West Brom and Southampton. The Saints – themselves 13th in the table – are perhaps another surprise here, and whilst the 78 points that Martial, Rashford, Greenwood, and Cavani put past them in gameweek 22 contributes a lot to that, even without it there PP90 Against would be at 11.30.
What to say about City’s PP90 Against that hasn’t already been said? These numbers are crazy. Again, to try and put this into perspective, you are better off fielding a defender who’s taking on Sheffield United, Burnley, West Brom, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, or Brighton, than you are fielding a forward against City. That is NOT a normal thing. Recognition should also go to Chelsea, though, who have reduced their PP90 Against by over a point and are now easily the second-worst team for forwards to take on. Similarly, Brighton’s PP90 Against numbers for forwards are proving to be no fluke as they are now the third stingiest side to face in the league.
Two to Target and Two to Avoid
Wolves’ Willian Jose (40% ownership) has hardly hit the ground running since his January arrival, but this could be the weekend for things to change. With Adama Traore and Neto each having ownerships north of 90%, there doesn’t look to be another way to exploit the “vs Leeds” strategy (unless Nuno decides to give Fabio Silva (6%) another chance) so backing the on-loan striker may be the best bet. Your second forward to target is the 15% owned Jay Rodriguez of Burnley. J-Rod scored and assisted in a monster game against Palace in gameweek 24 and owners could see him do something similar against his old club in gameweek 25.
What’s that saying? One swallow does not a summer make? Here apply Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (100% ownership). The explosion against Leeds may be the start of the forward’s return to prominence, but it’s going to have to take a one-week hiatus here against City. Despite scoring two in that semi-final last year, Auba has never scored against Pep’s men in the league. At the risk of having egg on my face, that isn’t changing this weekend: bench the man. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of bringing in Benteke (29%) for his game against Brighton. Yes, he’s a ghost point king (he picked up 9 in 75 minutes of action in Palace’s 3-0 defeat to Burnley) but this is not a good matchup for the Belgian. The same applies to Ayew, Mateta, and Batshuayi if Hodgson goes and shuffles the pack after that disappointing result.
- The average forward PP90 so far this season has dropped slightly to 10.55.
- 23 out of 42 starting forwards (55%) that have faced Manchester City this season have scored fewer than 4 points against them. Removing Jamie Vardy’s 36 point haul for Leicester City in GW3 against City drops their PP90 Against (starters only) from 5.36 to 4.61.
- 25 out of 41 starting forwards (61%) to take on Leeds United this season have scored 9.5 points or more. The list of players to have scored 25+ against them has increased from seven to eight, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (gameweek 24) joining Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Anthony Martial, Jamie Vardy, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Raheem Sterling.
- Son Heung-Min’s 50.50 against Southampton in GW2 remains the highest forward score so far this season. Silver medal goes to Riyad Mahrez (49.5 vs Burnley in GW10) and bronze is shared by three players with 46.50: Mo Salah (GW1 vs Leeds), Harry Kane (GW2 vs Southampton), and Ollie Watkins (GW4 vs Liverpool).
- Helder Costa’s -7 against Crystal Palace in GW8 remains the lowest forward score so far this season. Coincidentally, the second-lowest score also came against Crystal Palace (Aboubakar Kamara’s -6.5 for Fulham in GW6). In third is Raul Jimenez’s -5.5 against West Ham in GW3.