Football is notoriously hard to predict, and as such, player projections for the fantasy draft game are rare. With so few goals scored, upsets tend to happen more than in other sports, whilst the limited use of substitutes also makes it easy to misjudge the amount of playing time an individual will get. Add these to the fact that any position can and does contribute to almost all aspects of the game (unlike in many American sports), as well as the fact that one goal can have a monumental impact on a player’s score (e.g. a goalkeeper can go from +8 to -2 with one kick), and you have a recipe for disaster. So, with that all said, I present to you: Fantrax EPL’s gameweek projections. Please go easy on them!
(Notes: the list of players is at the foot of the article, below the short pieces on each team. The information for each team was written the day after their GW34 matchup and therefore does not take into account GW35 pre-match press conferences, or any injuries/information released since then. All numbers are based on Togga scoring. Only players predicted to start have been projected points. Players in green are “almost certain to start”; players in yellow are “70-90% likely to start”; players in red are “50-70% likely to start”. Next season we will aim to produce both table and image formats (see GW 32-34 projection articles) for this piece, though with the incredibly short turnaround time between gameweeks currently, this is not possible).
The GW34 draw against Tottenham was the first time that Bournemouth had won the XG battle since their win against Aston Villa in GW25 (it was also their first clean sheet since GW17!). Such a performance after so many weeks (well, technically months) of ineptitude is likely to lead Howe to want to pick the same 11. The problem is the injury to Adam Smith. Jack Stacey is a ready-made replacement for him though and came on to decent effect against Tottenham. Unless another injury arises, or there are some serious fatigue issues, the rest should stay the same.
Arteta has yet to field the same 11 in successive games since the restart (and probably during his entire reign at Arsenal) but this could be the week. With Nketiah suspended the usual debate up top can be put aside for a few games, whilst Saka’s excellent form surely means Pepe stays on the bench. Would the manager risk a returning Torreira or Ozil in a big North London derby? Or a youngster like Willock or Nelson? With 5 days since the GW34 match against Leicester, fitness shouldn’t be an issue. Soares could come in for Bellerin, but more than likely things stay as they are.
Grealish and the center-backs have played every minute of Villa’s 6 games since the restart, and in GW34 it looked like it, with the tiredness showing. They will be asked to go again in the GW35 match that really is must-win. McGinn isn’t right after his injury, but it’s a little like Watford and Doucoure – he is Villa’s second-best player, and it is very difficult to drop him. Ngoyo might move to the bench though; if Guilbert is ready then he should come in, otherwise, it’ll be El Mohamady. Grealish has been quiet so I think he moves back out to the left, with Hourihane coming in (though Nakamba is a more defensive possibility). The manager then has to decide whether to go Trezeguet or El Ghazi on the right, and Samatta or Davis up top.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton takes on Manchester City in GW35, and if anyone can predict all 22 starters in this game then they must have borrowed the DeLorean. Potter is a poor man’s Pep (in the nicest possible way), and it’s impossible to know what he’s thinking for this game, particularly as Brighton are all but safe. The defense is the only place where the manager tends to stick, but everywhere else is up for grabs. Trossard looked good again against Liverpool, so surely starts, but after that, it’s close your eyes and hope. Sticking my neck out, we’ll go with Mooy, Bissouma, and Connolly coming back in for Propper, Gross, and Maupay, and then Montoya coming in for Stephens (with Lamptey pushed into midfield).
Dyche *could* send out the same 11 that won at West Ham (though he will surely know they were a little fortunate), which is for the most part the same 11 that has seen them take 10 points from their 5 games since the restart. However, I think we will see one change, with Wood coming in for Vydra. Wood is the better player and has been excellent all season for Burnley. If he’s regained enough match fitness (he got over 30 minutes in GW34) then he starts. Brady and Gudmundsson remained unused on the bench against West Ham, with the manager only making 1 substitution – he clearly doesn’t buy into the need for rotation and freshening things up.
Willian (513/540 minutes) and Pulisic (466 minutes) have played a lot since the restart, but it would be a surprise – and a risk – if Lampard were to rest either considering the exceptional form that they’ve been in of late. The manager only made one change in the win against Crystal Palace, and that was an enforced one due to Kante’s injury (which will likely keep him out again this week), but we may see a few for the trip to Bramall Lane. Jorginho, for one, may have done enough in his short substitute appearance to finally return to the starting 11, whilst Rudiger could be reintroduced to a defense that looked shaky. Lampard may decide to take things slow with Gilmour, despite his good performances, and bring in Loftus-Cheek or a fit-again Kovacic.
Palace had their best attacking performance (in terms of XG) since GW28 against Brighton, so despite a couple of shaky individual performances (Ayew was quiet and Milivojevic couldn’t seem to keep up with the pace of the game), the midfield and forwards will probably stay the same in GW35. Hodgson will be forced to make at least one change though, following Cahill’s injury. If Kelly is fit, he should get the nod, otherwise, Sakho will get the start. The manager has faith in his core players (or is that a lack of faith in the likes of Townsend, Meyer, McCarthy, and Riedewald?), and with 5 days until their next match, they’ll probably get given the chance to end the 4-game losing streak.
A week ago it all looked so promising for Everton, and whilst a 1-0 loss away at Spurs and a 1-1 draw against Southampton don’t look that bad, it’s the poor performances that will be most concerning. There’s probably only 3 options available to Ancelotti for the next game: Sidibe for Iwobi/Coleman, Sigurdsson for Davies/Gomes/Gordon, and Bernard for Gordon/Iwobi. The fact that Walcott wasn’t given any minutes suggests he’s still another week away from a start, and whilst DCL was poor against Southampton, you can’t imagine Kean comes in up top. The first three options probably will happen though. Getting Delph fit would be a huge bonus.
The 3-4-3 experiment didn’t work against Arsenal so we should see a return to the usual 414, with Iheanacho and Bennett dropping out for Fuchs (presuming Chilwell is not fit) and Barnes. Gray came on and did well, getting the assist for the equalizer, so he could push Albrighton in probably the only other change. It would be surprising to see Maddison risked given that it’s “only” Bournemouth but if they are confident he’s fit then he obviously starts. Tielemans, Ndidi, and Perez in a central role have probably done enough in recent games to keep Praet – the only other realistic contender for a starting spot – on the bench.
The extent of Henderson’s injury is unclear, but with Arsenal coming up in GW36 you’d think that Klopp will play it safe with his captain, which would mean Fabinho’s reintroduction. I’m not sure we will see too much rotation given that Liverpool hasn’t exactly looked good since the restart (the Brighton game in GW34 was their 3rd worst of the season in terms of XGA). A more settled side will hopefully bring back the performances they have been used to for the majority of the season. Salah has made it clear he’s after the golden boot, so I doubt he gets a rest, and Robertson should come back in after he had his best 45 minutes since the restart as a sub in GW34. The only real spot up for grabs may be Wijnaldum’s, with the Ox, Milner, or even Jones knocking on the door there.
As expected, Pep rotation has been in full swing since the restart – KDB has played the most, but at only 400 league minutes (out of a possible 540), he should still be pretty fresh. In fact, 18 players have played over 200 minutes during this time, which is an incredible statistic, unless of course, you are someone trying to predict the City lineups. So far, between games Pep has made 8, 6, 3, 6, and 5 changes. No City player has played 4 successive games since the restart, so despite his goal, we may see Jesus drop out. Zinchenko, Cancelo, David Silva, and Mahrez have played back-to-back games, and so they may also be rotated. That’s 5 changes…thinking one more will occur, probably at center-back…Laporte in for Otamendi?
What a great tactic Ole has come up with to handle the intense schedule since the restart: start the strongest 11 every game but simply be so good that you’re in a comfortable enough position to substitute everyone on 60 minutes and take your foot off the gas. It’s genius. United fielded the same side for the 4th successive game, yet only 4 outfielders have played over 400 minutes out of the possible 450, and 3 of them are defenders. The pursuit of the top 4 is in overdrive and it would be hugely surprising to see any changes unless an injury is picked up.
All reports suggest Saint-Maximin was just rested in GW34, not injured, and therefore should return for GW35. Lascelles is more questionable, whilst Sean Longstaff and Hayden remain out. It’s likely that Bruce used the City game to rotate, and that we’ll see a side similar to that of the GW33 draw with West Ham, at least going forward, with Joelinton, Almiron, and ASM supporting Gayle. Despite his poor performance (WhoScored gave him a 4.8; heavily influenced by the own goal it seems), Fernandez is the only certainty in defense, though if Lascelles is fit you’d imagine he’d start too. If not, Schar may drop back into his more familiar role. Manquillo and Rose will probably get the nod in the fullback positions.
Norwich were unlucky against Watford, and with relegation now all but secured, what will Farke do? Does he put want away players in the shop window by playing them? Or bench them to give time to those that will still be there next season? Some managers would turn to youth in these final, meaningless games, but Norwich have been playing their youngsters all season, bar Idah. Tough to call right now, but hopefully, this week gives us some indication of his plans for GW’s 36, 37, and 38. Buendia, though, surely has to start – he has a WhoScored rating of 7.19…Norwich’s next best player? Hanley and Byram with 6.77.
McBurnie’s withdrawal in GW34 was apparently fatigue-related as opposed to an injury, though Wilder may take the opportunity to give starts to Moussett and Zivkovic anyway, given how they performed when they came on as subs. The win over Wolves was huge, and probably deserved, and may mean that Lundstram is not rushed back into the side. Chelsea in GW35 will be their 8th game since the restart (26 days ago) and they have 8 players who have played over 400 minutes since then; 3 of whom have played over 500. The temptation to rest will be there, but I think Wilder asks for one last push from the core group until their fate (i.e. European chances) is decided.
Understat has Southampton with the 8th best expected points in the league, and they put in another very good performance in the draw away at Everton in GW34. Hassenhuttl’s men don’t have much to play for, but confidence will be high after picking up 10 points from 15 since the restart, and there’s no real reason to change things for the game against Manchester United next. Hojbjerg could come back into the side, but you would think it would have to be at the expense of Romeu, and so the manager may stick with the latter given the defending that will need to be done in the midfield. Aside from that, Long is an option for Adams, but again, the manager may prefer to show faith in the man that has just scored his first goal for the club. Same 11 unless there’s an injury.
How poor have Tottenham been in their last two games? That said, they’ve taken 4 points and kept two clean sheets, which I’m sure is something Jose will remind people of. Son in and Bergwijn outlooks the obvious change for GW35 but it’ll be interesting to see what else the Special One does. Winks was the best of the midfield 3 against Bournemouth, yet he’s the one that Jose seems to have the least faith in. He has to shake things up a little bit more going forward though, so Moura (or Alli if he’s fit) would presumably be the one to come in. The question is whether it’s an attacking switch (i.e. for Sissoko/Winks/Lo Celso) or a defensive one (i.e. for Lamela).
They may have been fortunate to get the win but that doesn’t matter when you’re in Watford’s position. It was their first victory in 6 games and will surely mean Pearson rolls out the same 11 against Newcastle in GW35. No injuries were reported after the game, so unless they incur any in the next few days, it’s unlikely that Cleverley, Chalobah, Pereyra, Mariappa, Gray, Cathcart, or Pussetto will be moving from their spots on the bench. Man of the match Welbeck probably offers more support to Masina in his task of stopping Saint-Maximin than Pereyra would anyway.
West Ham United
West Ham may have lost in GW34, but they dominated the game and deserved much more. The Yarmolenko experiment was a big improvement on Lanzini, though it did take away from Bowen’s effectiveness a little. The hammers only have 3 days between that game and Norwich in GW35, but I can’t see too many changes, if any. Moyes will know that the performances over the last 3 games are much closer to what is needed, and risking fatigue is probably preferable to risking the system/players who have almost got them out of trouble since GW32.
Two very disappointing results have all but ended Wolves’ Champions League hopes, via league position at least. In fact, from an attacking perspective, they’ve looked poor in all games since the restart. Jota is out of form big-time, and now Adam has dislocated his shoulder (though this sounds worse than it is…the previous 3 times he has done it he’s only missed 25 days combined). Nevertheless, the Fantrax star should miss out in GW35, minimum. Wolves have 8 players who have played at least 96% of all possible minutes since the restart…this will continue, in part because there are few alternative options, and in part, because the club clearly do something very well to keep their players fit and fresh. Vinagre is the only player with an outside chance of coming in unless Neto has fully recovered.
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