With the International Break coming to an end, it’s time to get ready for another exciting week of Premier League Football. It will be interesting to see if the performance of players will be affected by the break. In the case of Romelu Lukaku, the momentum from his great start this season helped him score the goal that secured a spot in the 2018 World Cup for Belgium. On the other hand, Alexis Sanchez’ Arsenal struggles traveled with him to Santiago, Chile. Finally, will Wayne Rooney’s international retirement and subsequent arrest affect his play. There’s no telling if these trends will carry forward into Week 4 and beyond, but it will definitely be something to watch out for any players that you are thinking about picking. Onto the match-ups for the week.

Rather than simply listing the games, the following list will provide a summary of the point differential between the two teams. The point differential shown is based on the home team’s perspective. For example, Arsenal will be hosting AFC Bournemouth this week. Since Arsenal has 3 points and Bournemouth has 0 points, the summary will show the following: Arsenal – AFC Bournemouth (3). The purpose of this summary is to look for any potential mismatches between teams.  The fact that it is still early in the season makes this methodology an imperfect method but for right now it’s a first step into looking for any possible trends.

Week 4 Match-ups and Point Differentials

Manchester City – Liverpool (0)

Arsenal – AFC Bournemouth (3)

Everton – Tottenham (0)

Leicester City – Chelsea (-3)

Southampton – Watford (0)

Brighton & Hove Albion – West Bromwich Albion (-6)

Stoke City – Manchester United (-5)

Burnley – Crystal Palace (4)

Swansea – Newcastle (1)

West Ham – Huddersfield (-7)

Match-up Analysis

The two largest positive home point differentials are in favor of Burnley and Arsenal. It is interesting to note that they are in 10th and 16th place respectively, which gives you an idea of the struggles that their opponents this week are experiencing. Both Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouth have records of 0-0-3.

Crystal Palace has yet to score a goal but their only away game resulted in the least amount of goals they have allowed. Two of their games have been against top teams but they have also struggled at home against lower ranked teams. Burnley has shown the ability to score early and late in games and their only loss was a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. It would not be surprising to see a few goals from Burnley.

Arsenal’s struggles this season have been well documented and their trashing by Liverpool right before the break showed that things were not getting any better. While Arsenal showed a lot of resiliency in the home opener comeback, they didn’t score in either of their next two games. Though AFC Bournemouth has only scored once, two of their losses have been by one goal and they played well in Week 3. Since both teams have a GD of -4, it’s hard to predict which team will prevail in this match. Arsenal is playing at home but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 0-0 score.

While being at home is sometimes an advantage for teams, it may not necessarily matter if their opponent is much stronger. Huddersfield has played consistently well and has yet to give up a goal. On the other hand, West Ham has given up 10 goals and only scored 2. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Huddersfield score but it also wouldn’t be surprising for Chicharito to sneak in a goal.

It can be tempting to assume that Brighton and Hove Albion are going to lose again because of their standing. However, it’s important to remember they are just 3 games into being back into the Premier League and they have played tough against all their opponents. Their away draw against Watford is perhaps a sign that BHA is adjusting to Premier League level competition and may be a tough opponent from here on out. West Brom has earned the 7 points they’ve obtained and the fact they’ve only allowed one goal shows the level of intensity they are bringing into this season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a 1-0 win for either team and stellar defensive effort on the part of both teams.

The last major point discrepancy game is the Stoke City – Manchester United game. It would be easy to assume that Manchester United is going to have another clean sheet win. The 4 points Stoke City have earned have been hard fought ones. Their only loss was 1-0 away game and their draw was made possible by scoring the only goal that West Brom has allowed all season. While Manchester United will have to work hard for their goals, they may be too much for Stoke City.

By no means are these the only five games to choose from. They are simply a quick way to see if there any any glaring mismatches going into a week of play. Due to the fact only a few games have been played, the differential in points may be skewed by a bad game or two. The need to watch the games is also key to making sure decisions aren’t made on numbers that look good but are misleading.

Picks – If you’re not familiar with the scoring system for Perfect XI, you can review the breakdown by clicking here. As shown in last week’s article, an average score of 20 points per player should lead to a winning lineup. For the three outfield positions, goals and assists are the biggest scoring statistics, so the focus on Forwards and Midfielders will be looking for mismatches that could allow for goals to be scored.

Forwards – The analysis for these next two positions is pretty straight forward. The key to scoring points is to have a player that’s involved with the scoring. Defensive performance doesn’t matter so those stats are not even looked at. Based on the point mismatches from above, the likely teams to score are Burnley and Manchester United. Lukaku is the highest scoring forward. Since he is leaving the international break on a high, he would be a strong bet for points.  While Burnley is expected to score, determining who is going to score for them is the tricky part. Chris Wood is the highest ranked Burnley forward but he has only played in one game and came on as a substitute. The other Burnley forwards have averaged less points. There is a possibility of one of them having a great game but figuring out which one could make choosing the wrong one not worth the risk. Choosing a league leader such as Roberto Firmino may be a hedge against this type of risk. Harry Kane may also be an option now that it’s September and he’s yet to score a goal for Spurs.

Midfielders – To stick with the Manchester United trend, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are among the league leaders and both scored lots of points in the first two games. These should be automatic picks for this week. Neither Burnley nor Huddersfield have had much scoring from their midfield so it would be unlikely to find a strong pick from these teams. The remaining league leaders basically come from Liverpool, Tottenham, Leicester and Manchester City. The outcome of those game is tough to predict since the teams are closely matched. Picking players from opposing teams during the same game can be a great move if you have a high scoring affair such as the Arsenal-Leicester opener, but can cripple you twofold if they cancel each other out. Simply going on points obtained so far this season make picks such as Sadio Mane, Christian Eriksen, or David Silva good choices for accumulating points.

Defenders – As you’ll read below, David DeGea may not be the best choice for goalkeeper, but the Manchester United defense may be a great team to choose a defender from. Stoke City’s low scoring (2) and low shot (7) on goal pace make Manchester United a strong candidate for a clean sheet. While not league leaders, they do score points in ancillary stats such as Interceptions and Tackles. Additionally, the have had no sending offs so far. Similarly, Crystal Palace has only had 8 shots on goal all season and have scored on none of them. Burnley’s defense has given up only 4 goals all season so the possibility of this game being another clean sheet source is strong. As you’ll also see below, Huddersfield is another strong candidate for a clean sheet.

While potential clean sheets are a good starting point, the next stat is to look at which defenders from these team may be able to score a goal. Goals for defenders are worth 10 points. Chris Schindler and Zanka from Huddersfield have solid averages due to the fact they have picked up three clean sheets but since they don’t score, the risk of a poor score exists in the event West Ham scores. Daley Blind of Manchester United also posts consistently solid scores but it is also clean sheet driven. A safe bet may be to take one or two defenders from the teams above and supplement them with league leaders such as Marcos Alonso of Chelsea and Ahmed Hegazi of West Brom. As stated above, the West Brom game could be a defensive battle that could lead to all kinds of points including another goal by Hegazi.

Goalkeeper – While it would be great to have a week where your choice had a clean sheet and made a bunch of saves, it’s important to understand that a goalkeeper with a clean sheet and 1 save will score the same number of points as a goalkeeper with 6 saves and 1 goal allowed. Clean sheets are great but picking a goalkeeper on the hopes they obtain one is a risky approach. A better approach is to look for a goalie that will make a lot of saves but not give up many goals. Below is an example of the analysis used to determine a possible choice:

Team                     Shots Taken      Shots on Goal     Goals For        Shots on Goal Against    Saves       Goals Against

West Ham                33                       12                             2                              18                                  8                     10

Huddersfield           32                       15                              4                              11                                  11                     0

Joe Hart of West Ham is a terrible pick because he’s allowing more goals than he saves.  In weeks 1 and 2, he had negative scores. Huddersfield may only get 5 shots on goal per match, but it’s likely they will score if they shoot. Jonas Lossl was the week 1 top scoring goalkeeper in Perfect XI. While he has posted three consecutive clean sheets, he’s averaging about 4 saves per match. If you factor in the tough defense Huddersfield is playing and the fact that West Ham only averages about 4 shots on goal per match, Lossl may only get a handful of points from saves. The threat of Chicharito sneaking one in would affect his score significantly. Lossl would be a good choice against a team that shot more but still scored at West Ham’s pace.

In determining a goalkeeper, using the statistics above can be a good way to determine which goalkeeper to select. Interestingly, AFC Bournemouth has one of the highest Saves to Goal Against difference with 11. Arsenal has the fifth highest number of shots on goal in the EPL with 16.  If Bournemouth makes sure Arsenal continues their bad scoring run, Asmir Begovic can make a good number of saves and let a minimal number of goals in. If you’re more concerned finding someone who is likely to notch a clean sheet, David DeGea is a good choice. Stoke City has had 7 shot on goal all season and have scored two goals. The only risk to this choice is DeGea may obtain a clean sheet, but he may have little saves to add to it.

Summary

Obviously not all of the matches, teams and players were looked at. The goal was to find games where one team should do better against the other based on the level of play so far. There is a possibility that the leading scorer for each category will come from a game that is supposed to be a to be very close or where the teams are evenly matched. For example, very few people expected a 4-0 win by Liverpool against Arsenal. The mismatch approach is a great first step but it’s not the only step. Understanding all the games and players is also important. Good luck to everyone and hopefully you’ll pick the Perfect XI.