EPL

Premier League Fantasy Picks: Kepa shows safe hands and Son can sink Saints

By Sports Desk March 17, 2023

Kepa Arrizabalaga looked to be yesterday's man at Chelsea, but such has been his recent form the goalkeeper might have a long-term role to play for the Blues.

He might also be a quick fix this weekend if your fantasy league goalkeeper is having a rough time of it.

In north London, title-chasing Arsenal have a pillar of strength in their backline, and a goal threat too, as Gabriel Magalhaes makes his presence felt at each end of the pitch.

Chelsea face Everton this weekend, while Arsenal tackle Crystal Palace, and away from the capital there is a chance for Ollie Watkins to show his prowess as Aston Villa take on Bournemouth.

Tottenham, still in the hunt for a Champions League place, travel to Southampton with Son Heung-min facing perhaps his favourite opposition.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has assessed why these four players could help your fantasy league team bring in useful points this weekend.
 

Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea v Everton)

The turnaround in Kepa's Chelsea career has been astonishing. From looking destined to be a permanent understudy, he has responded to Edouard Mendy's injury absence by making a huge impression and staking a strong claim to keep his place for the long term. Since the World Cup, only Alisson and David de Gea, each with six shutouts, have kept more clean sheets than Arrizabalaga (5).

Spaniard Kepa's 79.55 per cent save rate in this period has been bettered only by Brentford's David Raya (84.62), and this weekend he faces an Everton side who have a joint-worst goals-per-game record this season. The Toffees have 20 goals in 27 Premier League games, or just 0.74 goals per game, the same record as Southampton and Wolves.

 

Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal v Crystal Palace)

Gabriel got Arsenal's opener in the 3-0 win at Fulham last week, and the central defender can be a set-piece threat in another London derby on Sunday.

The Brazilian's goal at Craven Cottage was his 10th in the Premier League, more than any other defender has managed since his debut in 2020-21. This season, no defender has more Premier League goals (3) or clean sheets (12) than the Brazilian, so can you really afford to be without him?

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa v Bournemouth)

Villa striker Watkins netted his 100th English league goal last time out (excluding play-offs) and is one away from reaching 10 Premier League goals for a third successive season.

Bournemouth will be on their guard, no doubt, a week on from shutting out Liverpool. Watkins has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League games, with only Marcus Rashford (8), Erling Haaland and Harry Kane (both 7) netting more in 2023.

Watkins has missed out on selection for the latest England squad, so he may also feel he has a point to prove this weekend.

 

Son Heung-min (Southampton v Tottenham)

Son hit four for Tottenham at St Mary's in September 2020, when the pandemic made it a behind-closed-doors game.

The South Korean forward has more goals (10) and more goal involvements (14) against Southampton than he has against any other side in the competition, including eight goal involvements in his last six games against them (6 goals, 2 assists).

He scored in the win over Nottingham Forest last weekend, and will fancy it against struggling Saints.

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    One day after surprisingly announcing De Zerbi's departure, Brighton ended their Premier League campaign with a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United.

    That meant they slipped below rivals Crystal Palace to finish 11th in the table, their first bottom-half placing since finishing 16th in 2020-21.

    De Zerbi has been linked with several big clubs since leading Brighton to European qualification last season, with Bayern Munich, Milan and Napoli touted as possible landing spots for the former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk coach.

    However, De Zerbi says he has not reached an agreement with any other club, telling reporters: "There isn't any club – no-one offered me anything. At the moment, nothing.

    "I hope to work in the Premier League again. I don't know where or when, but it was an honour to work in the Premier League."

    Sunday's defeat was De Zerbi's 70th Premier League game in charge of Brighton, with his top-flight win percentage of 37 per cent (26/70) the highest of any boss in the Seagulls' history.

    Battling a lengthy injury list for much of 2023-24, Brighton made a total of 143 changes to their starting lineup throughout the course of the campaign, with only Manchester City in 2019-20 (144) ever making more in a single Premier League season.

    Asked by BBC Match of the Day if there was a particular reason for his exit, the Italian added: "We didn't find the agreement to move on. I want to keep my way. 

    "I know very well what I want to do and I know I am a coach and I have to accept the policies of the club.

    "They gave me an incredible chance. They gave me the possibility to know incredible people, to play and to work in the Premier League, to play in the Europa League. They gave me the opportunity to know this club, this city, these fans and that I cannot forget."

    Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna and Nice coach Francesco Farioli have both been tipped as possible contenders to replace De Zerbi, with Brighton having a reputation for excellent succession planning under owner Tony Bloom.

    Asked about the search for a replacement on Sunday, Bloom said: "We always try and have a plan. We have got a plan. We now need to execute that plan."

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