Sales in Manchester United’s assets continue on the back of a second defeat in three, while Huddersfield Town regain their scoring touch just when they need it the most.
Four wins in the last six matches, five clean sheets in seven…you’d be excused for thinking that all is well at Manchester United.
But yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United was their second in three Gameweeks, and there’s a strong sense of a team out of balance, form and confidence.
The individuals remain stellar, the prospects rather more earthbound.
Phil Jones and Paul Pogba, sold by 97,000 and 99,000 respectively ahead of Gameweek 27, returned to the starting XI at St James’ Park.
Anthony Martial was another brought back into the fold as coach Jose Mourinho continued to chop and change his side to accommodate new signing Alexis Sanchez, who was captained by 78,000+ Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers looking for a major differential.
Take-up in the Chilean has been slow since his move to Old Trafford, but he’s now in 5.1% of squads, only to blank for the second time in his three matches as a United player.
Jesse Lingard’s form is even worse.
Yesterday’s defeat marked a fifth successive blank and he’s been subbed off just after the hour-mark in each of the last three Gameweeks since Sanchez arrived.
The England midfielder was the third most sold player (169,000+) heading into the weekend and is second only to Marcos Alonso for sales since then, with a further 34,000 parting company.
Pogba, who has seven blanks from nine starts since returning from injury, is also among the top five for Gameweek 28 most sold as faith in United’s attack, in particular, is set to plummet due to both the Newcastle result and the upcoming schedule.
The Red Devils will face Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in the near future and should they beat Huddersfield in the FA Cup fifth round, their Gameweek 31 clash with West Ham will need to be rescheduled.
That would leave just two ‘strong’ fixtures – a trip to Crystal Palace and a visit from Swansea City – over the next six Gameweeks.
A Champions League tie with Sevilla only adds to their busy schedule, hiking the likelihood of rotation.
The first leg is four days before Gameweek 28’s visit of Chelsea, the second leg three days after Liverpool come to Old Trafford.
Magpies showing form
A first home win in the league since October underlined the improved form of a Newcastle side that has now lost just twice in nine league matches – and both of those were against Man City.
But that doesn’t promote the need for investment in their players.
The Magpies’ schedule is a decidedly mixed affair, with four away fixtures (bou liv tot lei) and two huge home match-ups, versus Southampton and Huddersfield, to come over the next six Gameweeks.
That Gameweek 31 trip to Spurs will need to be rescheduled, though, should the north London club defeat Rochdale in the FA Cup this weekend.
Matt Ritchie scored the winner yesterday – his first goal of the season – from a Dwight Gayle assist, with the former given maximum bonus for a third 11-point haul of the campaign.
Loan signing Martin Dubravka picked up two bonus points in a fine nine-point debut in which the goalkeeper helped secure Newcastle’s first clean sheet in five matches.
That should finally kill off any hope 18.2% of FPL managers were harbouring of their man Rob Elliot regaining the number one jersey.
The 4.1-priced stopper is now third in that particular pecking order, with Karl Darlow returning to the bench yesterday.
Terriers find some bite again
Steve Mounie starred as Huddersfield made it back-to-back 4-1 wins in all competitions.
The Terriers followed up an extra-time triumph over Birmingham in the FA Cup with a vital victory against Bournemouth.
And the Benin international was at the heart of the win, scoring one goal and earning two assists as Huddersfield prevailed in the league for the first time since Gameweek 16, lifting themselves out of the relegation zone for good measure.
Maximum bonus handed Mounie (5.7) a season-high 15-point return – only the third time he’s managed double digits in the campaign.
Huddersfield’s schedule (wba tot SWA CRY new bha WAT) will tempt some to invest in Mounie’s budget charms, but he has been consistently rotated with Laurent Depoitre by coach David Wagner.
The Belgian striker missed the Bournemouth match with a foot problem, having started in three of the previous four Gameweeks.
Midfielder Aaron Mooy provided an assist on the day and was unlucky not to be on the pitch when Huddersfield were awarded a late penalty.
The Australian, the side’s designated spot-kick taker, had been stretchered off with a gash to the knee by then, leaving Rajiv van La Parra to convert.
The extent of the injury to the Australian midfielder, who is in 5.6% of FPL squads, will be assessed this week, but he does have close to a fortnight to recover for Gameweek 28’s vital trip to West Brom.
The penalty came after new signing Alex Pritchard was fouled in the area. That capped a fine first home start for the ex-Norwich City man, who also scored and received two bonus for a 12-point haul.
The victory brought a five-match losing streak to an end and that favourable schedule, plus a guaranteed Gameweek 31 fixture (at home to Crystal Palace) should they lose to Man United in the FA Cup next weekend, could promote interest in their key assets.
Defensively, however, they remain fragile, with no clean sheets since Gameweek 21.
Off day for Cherries
Bournemouth went into the match on a seven-match unbeaten run, but were a shadow of the team that had seen off Arsenal and Chelsea in recent weeks.
Striker Callum Wilson’s four goals and two assists during that run prompted a further 101,000+ FPL managers to bring him in this week, only for their man to struggle badly.
He had no shots at all – the entire team managed just two on target all match – but a good schedule (NEW lei TOT WBA wat CRY) should persuade his 10.2% ownership to hold for now.
The Cherries’ goalscorer, Junior Stanislas, has both form and fixtures on his side. He’s scored two goals and provided another two assists in the last four Gameweeks now, suggesting his 0.5% ownership might not stay so low for long.
Should West Brom lose to Southampton in the FA Cup next weekend, Bournemouth’s Gameweek 31 match against the Baggies will be confirmed, further adding to the appeal of their assets.