GW05 – The Differentials

With the first two-week international break of the 2018/19 season upon us, FPL managers everywhere are filling the void in different ways. While many have been left simultaneously twiddling their thumbs and itching their trigger fingers, some have used it as an opportunity to fire off one of the most powerful rounds possible in the shape of their wildcard, either in an effort to save their floundering team or to get further ahead of the chasing pack. Whether you’re looking at a whole-scale restructure or just looking to use your free transfers to make some important tweaks, differentials – players with less than 10% ownership – represent a great way to get ahead of the curve. While it’s important to make sure you have the must-own players in order to keep chase with the herd, it’s your differential picks that will help you set your team apart at this early stage. With that in mind, here’s a look at 5 of the best differentials going into GW5.

Romelu Lukaku (11.0) FOR. Manchester United. Next 5 fixtures: wat, WOL, whu, NEW, che.

Ownership: 7.7%

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The patience of the Manchester United faithful has truly begun to be tested after an unsteady start to the 2018/19 campaign which sees their team in 10th place with as many wins as defeats after 4 games, as Mourinho’s often negative tactics have so far failed to deliver the one thing they promise to in the shape of consistently yielding results whilst remaining tight at the back. The Red Devils shipped 7 goals in their first 3 games and, after a resounding 3-0 home defeat to Spurs in GW3, the fans’ discomfort appeared to reach boiling point. United’s best chance of that game fell to Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, who latched onto a weak back-pass from Danny Rose and rounded Spurs ‘keeper Hugo Lloris, only to find the angle too tight and slot wide on his weaker foot.

However, that chance, along with the team’s poor performance, appeared to light a fire under Lukaku and Manchester United as a unit respectively as they went on to ease past Burnley in the following GW, with their £75m man hitting a brace in a convincing 2-0 win. The 12 FPL points he earned in that game will be seen by many FPL managers as somewhat uncharacteristic of a player who managed to score more than a single goal in a game on just one occasion last season – on the opening day against West Ham. Perhaps such a perception is justified, but it is worth noting that last season, Lukaku’s Champions’ League form was more impressive than his league output, as he managed 5 goals in just 8 games, managing slightly more than a goal every other game. If he’d maintained this scoring record in the league last season, he would’ve been looking at a minimum of 20 goals rather than the 16 he did manage. The reason Lukaku’s form in last season’s Champions’ League campaign holds significance here is that his current underlying stats in the Premier League bear a striking resemblance to those he recorded during United’s European run.  In his 3 starts this season and during that 8 game stretch, Lukaku averaged 3.3 shots per game and 1.5 key passes per game (0.1 more in the CL). In the league last season, his shooting was down to 2.5 shots per game and he was managing only a single key pass per game. So far this season, the striker has averaged 3 penalty area actions per game – a career high – and has hit 5 shots in each of his last 2 matches. After scoring a further 3 goals and winning a penalty in 2 games for Belgium during the international break, Lukaku looks to be in excellent form and with games against Watford, Wolves, West Ham and Newcastle coming up – he recorded 3 in 5 against these teams last season despite his poorer stats – the Belgian could be a great differential with only 7.7% ownership.

David Silva (8.5) MID. Manchester City. Next 5 fixtures: FUL, car, BRI, liv, BUR

Ownership: 6.9%

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Next up we have a man whose Premier League legend status can be argued by few. In his 9th season with Manchester City, midfield lynchpin David Silva is as crucial to his team’s success as ever. Even at the age of 32, and despite facing adversity in his personal life, ‘El Mago’ managed one of his best ever seasons at the Etihad last year, recording 9 goals and 11 assists in 28 starts as City cruised to the title. In the early stages of this season, with his family issues thankfully behind him, Silva continues to thrive under manager Pep Guardiola.

 Despite only recording a single attacking return so far this campaign – a wonderful curling free-kick in City’s 6-1 demolition of Huddersfield – Silva’s underlying stats are better than ever. He has managed a whopping 4.3 key passes per game, putting him comfortably top of the charts in that department, 1.0 ahead of nearest competitor Mohamed Salah. At this early stage of the season, the Spaniard’s key pass average is higher than it ever has been in his career, with his previous record being 3.3 in 2012/13, when he managed 8 assists. He’s also getting more shots off than ever before at 2.7 per game, and the fact that he is now at the head of the queue for direct free kicks for the first time ever – at least in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne – can only help his cause.

During the pre-season, much was made of Guardiola’s comments concerning Silva’s playing time this season. Back in April, Guardiola admitted that Silva “maybe will not play every game,” using this to highlight that “that’s why the squad has to be big.” This season’s long-term injury to City’s other creative midfield force, however, may have changed Pep’s plans somewhat. Of the players vying for City’s 3 midfield spots last season, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were comfortably in front of fellow central players Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho in terms of assists, key passes, chances created and total shots per 90 minutes. Clearly, then, in the absence of the injured De Bruyne for somewhere in the region of another 8 GWs (expected return 17 Nov), Silva will be chiefly responsible for taking up the mantle as City’s main creative force from midfield, which should see the rotation-happy Guardiola favour the former Valencia man more often than not. During that time, the Citizens have a largely kind fixture list, coming up against Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton and Burnley in their next 5 league games, along with a highly favourable Champions’ League group in which they will face Lyon, Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk. You can expect Silva to get his rest when City travel to League 1 Oxford United in the EFL Cup in 2 weeks’ time, with Pep likely to turn to some of City’s younger players for the tie. All this considered, Silva could prove to be a snip at 8.5 and at only 6.9 percent ownership, looks a great differential punt.

James Maddison (6.6) MID. Leicester City. Next 5 fixtures: bou, HUD, new EVE, ars

Ownership: 3.5%

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Going into the 2018/19 Premier League season, the main concern of Leicester City’s fans will surely have been how the club plan to go about replacing talisman Riyad Mahrez, following the Algerian’s big-money move to Manchester City. With 12 goals and 10 assists to his name last season, everyone involved with Leicester must have been left wondering just how they were going to fill that void. To do so, the Foxes recruited a man who managed the same number of returns at Championship level last season, in the shape of 21-year-old English midfielder James Maddison, who moved from Norwich for a sum of £25m. Maddison’s 14 goals and 8 assists for the Canaries last term certainly caught the eye of many, with his average key pass rate (2.8) and shot rate (2.6) per game making him one of the most dangerous players in the second tier of English football.

The biggest question mark surrounding the move was always going to be whether Maddison could make the step up to the top flight. Having already recorded a goal and an assist after just 4 games this campaign, it’s fair to say that he’s already showing signs of making a successful transition. While his key pass and shot rate is down from last season, he’s still managing to make as many incisive passes per game as Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino (9.4) and Chelsea winger Pedro (6.7) with a rate of 1.3, and is shooting twice per game, which is as often as Wilfried Zaha (7.0) and Aaron Ramsey (7.4). Even if this is a regression from last year, Maddison is showing signs of improving every week, and in Leicester’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool last time out, he was by far the Foxes’ most dangerous player. He managed 3 key passes during the game, which was the joint most of anyone on the pitch, equal with James Milner (5.6) and Marc Albrighton (5.3), and was awarded with an assist, helping Kelechi Iheanacho’s (6.0) square pass onto Rachid Ghezzal (5.3) following a mistake from Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson (6.0). In a game from which Leicester were perhaps unlucky not to come away with more, Maddison managed a highly impressive 5 shots on goal. The only player on either side who came anywhere close to matching that was Liverpool’s Mo Salah (13.0) with 3.

Another big point in favour of Maddison here is the return of Leicester forward Jamie Vardy (8.9) – another interesting differential option at only 3.3% ownership – following his 2-match suspension. Of their star forward’s 20 league goals last term, 7 were assisted by Mahrez, and with Leicester’s extremely favourable upcoming fixture run, which includes just one game rating above a 2 on the FDR scale until December – a trip to Arsenal in GW9 – Vardy, often more lethal against top 6 opposition, will surely be looking to start doing it against the smaller teams. If he is to do so, Maddison will likely be the man who is relied upon as the main supply line. Also hoping to get in on the act of assisting Vardy will be Leicester’s flying full-backs Ricardo Pereira (5.1) and Ben Chilwell (5.0), themselves interesting differential shouts at 5.2% and 0.7% ownership respectively. More than just creator, though, Maddison will also likely be looking to add to his goal tally, with goalscoring a big part of his game. At just 3.5% ownership, now seems like the perfect time to punt on the new Leicester man.

Alexandre Lacazette (9.4) FOR. Arsenal. Next 5 fixtures: new, EVE, WAT, ful, LEI

Ownership: 3.3%

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Another forward, like Romelu Lukaku, whose first season at their new club perhaps didn’t quite go to plan; Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette will be looking to establish himself this year as a partner to fellow striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rather than as his backup. Certainly, his last appearance – and first start of the season – will have done no harm to his cause, as he hit a goal along with his second assist in 2 games, earning 12 FPL points and the Man of the Match award as Arsenal ran out 3-2 winners away to Cardiff. In that game, the Frenchman appeared as the Gunners’ central-striker, with Aubameyang regularly drifting out wide, something that appeared to benefit the former massively, if not the latter. Lacazette managed 5 shots to Aubameyang’s 2, with 3 on target to Aubameyang’s 1. He was also second only to midfielder Aaron Ramsey in terms of key passes with 3, with Aubameyang managing none.

Lacazette’s success in the central striker role last weekend appears no flash in the pan either. After January last season, the former Lyon man failed to score in just 3 of his 9 starts in all competitions, managing 8 goals and 2 assists during that run, including his last outing. While Lacazette’s price tag may prove a problem for some FPL managers, it is worth noting that he boasted a higher rate of goals per 90 minutes last season than similarly-priced options Roberto Firmino (9.5), Alvaro Morata (9.0) and Jamie Vardy (8.9), with a higher shot accuracy than each of them.

Prior to Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Ham, in which Lacazette came on at half time with the sides drawing 1-1, Emery revealed that Lacazette and Aubameyang would not be starting together, reasoning that his side “need to have more possession, with the positioning on the pitch, with more players inside.” On reflection, Emery may wish he had started with both forwards after a difficult first half. After his introduction, Lacazette, despite not scoring, managed 2 shots on target and 2 key passes, as Arsenal managed to find more creative verve during the final 45. Indeed, Aubameyang himself has cited a “spark” between himself and Lacazette, even stating that he “doesn’t mind playing on the left if Laca is in the centre.” Perhaps, then, Emery may finally be about to turn to pairing the duo together on a regular basis. He certainly has a number of favourable upcoming fixtures in order to do so, with a trip to struggling Newcastle up next – a fixture Lacazette scored in last season – followed by home games against Everton and Watford and a trip to Fulham. Whatever Emery’s plans may be, it seems extremely unlikely that Lacazette returns to the bench in GW5 following his latest showing. With a chance to go on and stake his claim as a permanent fixture in Emery’s XI now that he looks to have settled into the demands of Premier League football, the French international could prove to make a big difference to your FPL team, especially considering his 3.3% ownership.

Matt Doherty (4.4) DEF. Wolverhampton Wanderers. Next 5 fixtures: BUR, mun, SOU, cry WAT

Ownership: 0.8%

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After a difficult start defensively to life back in the Premier League, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are slowly starting to show signs of the defensive cohesion which saw them concede just 39 goals in 46 games as they cruised to the top of the Championship last season. A 2-2 draw at home to Everton on the opening day of the season may be considered as something of a disappointment considering the Toffees were down to 10 men after 40 minutes, and the 2-0 defeat to Leicester that followed won’t have done much to alleviate that – although Wolves might well consider themselves unlucky to go down to such a scoreline in that game; Leicester only managed 6 shots to their 11, with just 2 hitting the target. Indeed, Everton only managed 6 shots at Molineux the previous week, though they managed to test ‘keeper Rui Patricio (4.5) on 5 occasions. Since then, it appears that things may have started evening out for Wolves in terms of their defensive efforts. A dogged display at home to Manchester City in GW3, who were fresh off the back of a 6-1 victory over Huddersfield, earned them a 1-1 against the Citizens. This was followed up with a clean sheet in GW4 away to a West Ham side who, despite their difficult start to the season, had only failed to score twice at Upton Park in 2018. After 4 games, Wolves currently stand as the 4th most favourable team in terms of expected goals against, behind only Liverpool, Watford and Man City, and with home games against Burnley and Southampton book-ending a tricky trip to Manchester United, followed by games against Crystal Palace, Watford and Brighton, clean sheets seem a very reasonable expectation for the midlands side.

In terms of which Wolves defender to pick, there is little to separate them. With 2 consecutive 8-point hauls following his goal in GW3 and clean sheet plus 2 bonus in GW4, centre back Willy Boly (4.5) makes a strong case. However, there may be more value in flying full-backs Matt Doherty and Jonny Castro Otto (both 4.4). for 0.1 savings, they both seem to offer great attacking threat, and it seems like you can’t really go wrong with either, with Jonny averaging an impressive 1.3 key passes per game so far. However, it’s Doherty that just about pips him in terms of overall attacking stats: his average of 0.8 crosses per game is on a par with the likes of Eden Hazard (10.7), Ben Davies (5.8) and Ryan Fraser (5.6). Perhaps even more impressive is his average number of penalty area actions per game: Doherty’s currently averaging 1.3 shots from inside the box, the same as household FPL names Marcos Alonso (6.8) and Patrick van Aanholt (5.5).

Wolves manager Espirito Santo certainly raised some eyebrows when he sold last season’s assist machine Barry Douglas to Championship side Leeds whist retaining the services of Doherty, but if the 26-year-old Irishman can turn his attacking stats into goals and assists – he managed 4 of each last campaign – then perhaps his decision will prove justified, and Doherty will prove an FPL bargain and great differential with just 0.8% ownership.

Article written by @JdotQueralt

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