Is it time to invest in Chelsea attack in Fantasy?

The introduction of Cole Palmer (£5.2m) to Chelsea‘s starting XI has helped revive the potential of their key attackers in Fantasy Premier League.

The Blues will return from the international break on the back of successive four-goal performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

That form is in stark contrast to their stuttering start under Mauricio Pochettino, where they scored only five goals in their first six Premier League matches.

Palmer has emerged as a huge source of value in Fantasy since securing a first-team berth, with his output significantly boosted by his role as Chelsea’s penalty-taker.

He has scored four goals, all converted spot-kicks, in addition to supplying three assists in the last six Gameweeks.

The summer signing from Man City has amassed 43 points in that run, placing him fourth overall and only two points behind Erling Haaland (£14.0m).

Top-scoring players in Fantasy, GW7-12
Player Points Goals Assists Bonus points Blanks Double-digit hauls
Salah 58 7 0 9 2 3
Watkins 49 5 4 6 2 2
Haaland 45 5 2 8 3 2
Palmer 43 4 3 4 1 2

Palmer’s first start of the campaign in Gameweek 7 has helped Pochettino implement his preferred style of play.

See: How Pochettino’s vision is coming together

Chelsea were far more reliant on delivery from the flanks in in their opening six matches, recording a league-high 142 crosses.

The underlying numbers show this was proving a fruitless tactic; they managed just nine headed shots and failed to score any of those attempts.

Since Palmer came into the side in Gameweek 7, Chelsea’s total number of crosses has dropped by a massive 50 per cent. Indeed, no other side has produced fewer crosses than their tally of 71 in the last six Gameweeks.

Instead, the Blues are now the leading team for through-balls, with their total of 24 at least nine more than any other side in the last six Gameweeks.

Chelsea’s first & last six Gameweeks compared
  GW1-6 GW7-12
Crosses 142 71
PL Rank 1st =19th
Headed shots 9 8
PL Rank =17th =18th
Through-balls 17 24
PL Rank 4th 1st

Palmer has been pivotal to that approach.

The 21-year-old has immediately seized responsibility, having more touches and receiving more passes than any team-mate in the final third of the pitch.

Dictating play for the Blues, Palmer has produced eight through-balls from Gameweek 7 onwards, more than any other player in Fantasy, and at least five more than any team-mate.

His four big chances created, meanwhile, are second only to the five of Kieran Trippier (£7.0m) over the same period.

See: Who’s the best midfielder under £7.0m for fixtures ahead?

Palmer’s numbers are somewhat in contrast to his fellow midfielder Conor Gallagher (£5.4m) and are indicative of their roles.

Gallagher has played no through-balls and created only two big chances. He has, nonetheless, been another player to profit from the change in approach.

He is Chelsea’s leading creator with 15 key passes and has claimed all five of his assists for the season in this run.

Chelsea’s top creators, GW7-12
Player Key passes Big chances created Through-balls Assists
Gallagher 15 2 0 5
Palmer 10 4 8 3
Caicedo 6 1 1 0
Sterling 6 1 2 3
James 5 3 3 1

As the team becomes more accustomed to Pochettino’s style, their attacking output has improved markedly.

Chelsea’s five goals in the first six Gameweeks were better only than promoted pair Burnley and Luton Town, who both had played only five matches due to their Blank Gameweek 2.

Since then, however, Chelsea have scored 16 goals, joint-second with Man City and second only to the 17 of Aston Villa.

The recent upturn has brought Nicolas Jackson (£6.8m) into his best form of the season.

Over 2.2million managers have sold the Senegalese this season in Fantasy, mainly thanks to his run of one goal in his first six starts.

But he has since scored five goals in the subsequent six Gameweeks, joint-top with Haaland and Ollie Watkins (£8.4m) among forwards.

Jackson’s goal threat increasing

Jackson’s touch maps over the two six-Gameweek periods also show the impact of Chelsea’s new approach.

His main heat zone was outside the penalty area in the first six matches, an indication he was dropping too deep to become involved in build-up play.

But the Blues’ new tactics and Palmer’s ability to produce through-balls means Jackson has mainly focused his energies inside the opposition box in the last six Gameweeks, as shown by Opta’s touch heat maps.

Jackson’s touch map, GW1-6*
Jackson’s touch map, GW7-12*
Nicolas Jackson touch heat map GW7 onwards

*Direction of play, left to right

The underlying statistics clearly highlight Jackson’s influence on the Blues’ attack.

He is their leading player for shots in the box, shots on target and goals over the last six Gameweeks, despite only returning to their starting line-up in Gameweek 10.

See: Who is the best forward to partner Haaland in Fantasy?

Jackson’s Expected Goal Involvement (xGI) of 4.35, the sixth-best in Fantasy in the last six Gameweeks, is all the more encouraging in light of his limited minutes.

Palmer again impresses here, placing among Chelsea’s top two players for all five goal threat statistics.

Chelsea’s top goal threats, GW7-12
Player Shots Shots in box Big chances Shots on target Goals
Palmer 16 9 7 7 4
Jackson 14 12 6 8 5
Sterling 10 7 2 4 2
Fernandez 8 2 1 3 0
Gallagher 6 2 0 3 0

Chelsea’s upcoming schedule further adds to the appeal of their key players as mid to-long-term picks.

According to the Fixture Difficulty Ratings (FDR), eight of their nine matches from Gameweek 16 onwards score only two.

From a Fantasy perspective, Palmer’s cost of £5.2m indicates he will quickly become a must-have.

While his run of penalties is unsustainable, he still boasts a considerable goal and creative threat and is already a vital player for Pochettino’s improving side.

Nkunku to threaten Jackson’s minutes?

Jackson could also maintain momentum over that spell, although his prospects will ultimately be determined by the fitness of his fellow forward, Christopher Nkunku (£7.3m).

The Frenchman could return from long-term injury by the end of the month ahead of Chelsea’s kind run of opponents.

Having produced 50 goals and 19 assists in the previous two seasons across all competitions for German side RB Leipzig, Nkunku’s Premier League debut will be eagerly anticipated by Chelsea fans and Fantasy managers alike.

His potential return does coincide with the start of a busy festive schedule that will result in rotation across all sides, though, and there’s every likelihood Pochettino will initially be cautious with Nkunku’s minutes and ease him back into action.

Also in this series

Part 1: Why Salah has beaten Haaland to 100 points in FPL
Part 3: FPL Team of the Season so far
Part 4: Is it time to sell Son in FPL?
Part 5: FPL experts: What to do with Son?
Part 6: How to handle fixture congestion and rotation in FPL
Part 7: What to do with Cash in FPL?
Part 8: FPL experts: What to do with Matty Cash?
Part 9: Who is the best forward to partner Haaland in Fantasy?
Part 10: FPL experts: Who is the best second forward to own?
Part 11: Who’s the best FPL midfielder under £7.0m for fixtures ahead?
Part 12: Which of the most-owned players in FPL can you go without?

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