Things were going brilliantly for squad, back inside the top 100K with two players playing in the last match of gameweek 18. Yep, two Southampton players who netted a minus 2 to drag us kicking and screaming back outside the top 100K with the net result a small green arrow to land around the 125K mark. Anyhow, enough with the past, it’s wildcard time so read on to find out who has made it in our reworked squad declaring our gameweek 19 starting XI along with the customary reason and justification that may just help in your squad decisions…
Jones | Cedric | Nyom
With West Brom’s next ten fixtures as strong as they are for potential clean sheets our Baggies defensive double up remains with Ben Foster being joined by Allan-Roméo Nyom. Home games against Hull City, Sunderland, Stoke City, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace are supplemented with away trips to Middlesbrough and West Ham in a combination that should yield points.
Here’s where our budget started to dictate our selections with the defence lacking any player above 5.0 million. So no Chelsea defender for us but with the Blues impending fixtures including trips to Tottenham, Leicester and Liverpool and a home encounter against free scoring Arsenal, perhaps this is the only time in the season where going without a Chelsea defender might be successful. In truth we really wanted an Arsenal defender to cover their fantastic fixtures ahead of a Chelsea man but the money just didn’t stretch. Instead we have stumped for two defenders from clubs who rank in the top four for clean sheets in large parts to claiming the same feat for big chances conceded in Cedric from Southampton and Phil Jones from Manchester United. Both clubs have solid upcoming schedules to hopefully build upon decent defensive first halves to the season.
Completing the back five in our wildcard are Nathan Ake of Bournemouth and Calum Chambers of Middlesbrough who have proved their defensive strengths in the Championship have translated to the Premier League, ranking in the top five for fewest goals conceded, most clean sheets and big chances conceded while only shipping a single goal from a set piece is always a good barometer for organisation. Their upcoming next seven includes four home encounters where clean sheets will be expected.
Sanchez | Firmino | Allen | Hazard
Alexis Sanchez was going nowhere with the Arsenal man’s goal threat from midfield only matched by Roberto Firmino who returns to the squad after a short spell away. The pair have all the traits we look for in attacking threat with a high shots inside the box ratio – 63.16% & 72.73% – and have a big influence inside the final third ranking in the top four for touches inside the box from midfield – 129 & 113. Sticking to statistics to drive our wildcard, Eden Hazard is retained as our Chelsea attacking coverage with the Belgian along with Alexis the top two midfielders for percentage of their passes recorded in the final third – 65% & 64%. Add the most successful dribbles (83) while the Chelsea man is another player in our engine room with a healthy SiB ratio – 66.67%. The net result is all three mainstays ranking in the top six midfielders for shots on target.
To facilitate the above three, Joe Allen is drafted in ahead of a favourable run of fixtures (after this gameweek) for Stoke City. The former Liverpool man while not at the same level of Firmino, Sanchez or Hazard has shown the same traits, registering more touches inside the box than Gylfi Sigurdsson, Pedro and Willian – 47.
Backup arrives in Pierre-Emile Højbjerg due to his budget friendly price.
Ibrahimovic | Aguero | Carroll
Ok, so no Diego Costa for us as we draft Sergio Aguero straight back in after his ban to accompany Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a front pairing who have demonstrated the biggest goal threat opportunity around. While the Chelsea man has relied on a fantastic goal conversion ratio, both Ibra and Kun can rely on averaging less than 20 minutes per attempt – 16 and 19 – compared to Costa’s extended 30 minutes, which is on the slide in recent weeks. Both players match our mantra of underlying statistics as the default choice for selection and in combination with our midfield is the top five players in our Chalkboard ratings.
Completing the squad is Andy Carroll who since returning from injury has demonstrated his importance to West Ham’s attacking prowess, having mustered 11 goal attempts in just 262 minutes.
So there you have it, our wildcard squad. One hopefully you will agree matches our beliefs that underlying statistics, particularly data influencing the final third leads to future points. Best of luck everyone and we’ll see you on the other side.