Wolves registered only their third shut-out in 21 Gameweeks on Saturday as they saw off Cardiff City at Molineux.
Owners of Matt Doherty, Jonny and Rui Patricio missed out on the clean sheet points, however, as Nuno Espirito Santo rotated heavily.
There was further joy for Raul Jimenez‘s owners, though, as the budget-turned-mid-priced Fantasy Premier League forward banked a third double-digit haul of the season.
The 2-0 win for Santo’s side is the chief focus of our Scout Notes below, while we also run the rule over Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Huddersfield Town.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Cardiff City
- Goals: Diogo Jota (£6.1m), Raul Jimenez (£6.9m)
- Assists: Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota
Having promised to give John Ruddy (£4.2m) a run-out against Cardiff in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Nuno Espirito Santo wielded the rotation axe further after a busy week.
The “in the know” rumours turned out to be accurate once again as Santo made five changes to his starting XI from the defeat to Huddersfield Town in midweek.
As well as Ruddy for Rui Patricio (£4.5m), in came Adama Traore (£5.1m), Ruben Vinagre (£4.3m), Romain Saiss (£4.2m) and Morgan Gibbs-White (£4.3m) at the expense of Matt Doherty (£5.5m), Jonny (£4.4m), Ruben Neves (£4.9m) and Joao Moutinho (£5.4m).
While Ruddy’s inclusion in the team was on the grounds of building up match-sharpness ahead of his start in the FA Cup quarter-final in a fortnight’s time, the Wolves boss explained his outfield rotation after full-time:
It’s a short squad, a very short squad of 16 [outfield] players, so credit to them as they prepare themselves for the moment the chance comes.
I think it is our job to prepare the squad well, so we’re always able to choose a strong XI.
We are all aware of what happened at Huddersfield, we didn’t perform well, but it’s nothing to do with that.
We have to realise the momentum. We came from a very good run of games, so it would be stupid on my part to pass on that message to them.
When you have a tough cycle of games in a week, the third one is the one we believe requires some attention.
Those last two lines are the most relevant to Fantasy managers worried about the first-team prospects of Doherty and co.
Firstly, the mass-benching of four of Wolves’ midfield five (we’re including the wing-backs in that) was not some sort of punishment for the dismal defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Secondly, Santo’s comment about the third match in a “tough cycle of games” is something to bear in mind in future with Double Gameweeks on the horizon.
Wolves’ two Premier League fixtures in Double Gameweek 32 immediately precede FA Cup semi-final weekend, which they may yet be involved in, while the expected Double Gameweek 35 runs straight into Gameweek 36.
The Wolves boss has previous for this sort of thing, benching Raul Jimenez (£6.9m) and Moutinho at the back-end of Gameweeks 14-16.
The squad players performed well on Saturday, with Gibbs-White and Saiss impressing in the centre of the park and Vinagre and Traore putting in decent shifts at wing-back.
One piece of good news for Doherty’s owners is that, for all Traore was electric when bombing forward and taking on his man, he offered little in the way of protection for Ryan Bennett (£4.2m) at centre-back.
Santo seemed to address that in an early second-half change, throwing Doherty on at wing-back and pushing Traore alongside Jimenez.
The Wolves head coach confirmed that the player sacrificed in that substitution, Diogo Jota (£6.1m), wasn’t injured:
No, he’s [Jota] perfect. It was a decision. We didn’t change tactically. We balanced the team a little bit more. It was good.
Jota and Jimenez combined beautifully in the first half, each setting up a goal for the other and recording double-digit FPL hauls.
Jota finished a brilliant 16-pass move to open the scoring after quarter of an hour, while his Mexican strike partner doubled the lead two minutes later following a swift break – and error from Sol Bamba (£4.7m).
Further chances came and went, with Leander Dendoncker (£4.3m) hitting the post from point-blank range and then seeing the follow-up effort deflected over, Traore dragging wide after a solo run and Vinagre twice stinging the hands of Neil Etheridge (£4.7m) from presentable positions.
After missing out on clean sheet points, Doherty’s owners were then denied an assist when Etheridge somehow kept out Jimenez’s 73rd-minute effort from a prone position.
Santo said of his side’s efforts:
It was well played in the first half, very well. The second half was not so good.
I’m pleased, especially for the manner we scored. It was well played.
I’m not so pleased with the second half because we must do better in situations when we have superiority – when we are in front.
Credit though for the way we defended, until the end of the game, with all the problems Cardiff put you in – throw-ins, corners, through-balls – over and over again.
Wolves will be without Bennett for their next two Premier League matches after the centre-half collected his tenth booking of the season, meaning Saiss will likely keep his place (either at centre-back or in midfield if Dendoncker drops into defence) in Gameweek 30 and the first half of Gameweek 32.
Owners of West Ham assets will be have been encouraged to see Cardiff so wide open at the back ahead of the two clubs’ meeting in Gameweek 30.
The Bluebirds’ defensive strength against non-big six sides was one of their major plus points but they have now shipped ten goals to Watford, Everton and Wolves in little over a week.
The perhaps premature return from injury of Sean Morrison (£4.7m) has been cited by some Cardiff fans as a contributing factor in their recent troubles at the back.
The Bluebirds look set to be stuck with their club captain at centre-half, though, after Bamba picked up a knee injury on Saturday.
Neil Warnock was downbeat when asked about his defender’s prognosis:
Not very good, we honestly don’t know the full extent but I would imagine the way things are going, it would be season-defining.
You can’t tell with things like that until they’ve settled down with swelling.
The worse scenario is if it’s a bad one, I can’t see him playing again this season. But that’s imagining it’s the worse scenario.
He’s had a rip on his thigh which should have kept him out for six weeks, so you never know with Sol – he might be alright for next weekend.
With Bruno Ecuele Manga (£4.4m) needed at centre-half in the event of Bamba’s absence, FPL bench fodder option Lee Peltier (£3.9m) should see more regular starts at right-back – though January signing Leandro Bacuna (£4.5m) can also deputise there.
Warnock lamented his side’s defensive display in his post-match press conference:
We don’t give ourselves a chance. We’ve got to go a goal in front for a change rather than committing suicide like that and giving two goals away. For me, they were stupid goals.
We’re not scoring goals and we’re conceding silly goals. It’s a bad recipe.
I thought the attitude was alright. I thought the two full-backs were excellent, Bennett and Pelts. I thought Joe Ralls was super. Victor [Camarasa] was tired but he came through alright. There were a few plusses for us but we killed ourselves with the goals.
Victor Camarasa (£4.6m) returned to the starting XI after his recent injury lay-off and was part of an attacking 4-1-2-1-2/4-4-2 diamond line-up, with Bobby Reid (£5.2m) playing in behind Oumar Niasse (£5.0m) and Kenneth Zohore (£4.6m).
The Bluebirds created few chances of real quality, however, with an early Aron Gunnarsson (£4.4m) volley that Ruddy almost fumbled into his own goal about as close as Cardiff came to scoring.
Warnock was asked to explain his formation after the game and said:
Because of you guys, you want them all! I just felt the way Wolves play we could catch them in certain areas and I still do. Unfortunately, we can’t if we throw goals away like that. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we won’t win any games if we concede goals like that.
Wolves XI (3-1-4-2): Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly, Saiss; Adama (Cavaleiro 75′), Dendoncker, Gibbs-White (Moutinho 64′), Vinagre; Jimenez, Jota (Doherty 47′).
Cardiff City XI (4-1-2-1-2): Etheridge; Peltier, Bamba (Manga 45′), Morrison, Bennett; Gunnarsson; Camarasa, Ralls; Reid (Paterson 59′); Zohore, Niasse (Healey 76′).
Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Huddersfield Town
- Goal: Florin Andone (£5.0m)
- Assist: Anthony Knockaert (£5.2m)
There’ll be plenty of Fantasy managers who won’t give two hoots about the events at the Amex on Saturday, with only one player on show – Shane Duffy (£4.7m) – having an FPL ownership of higher than 3.1%.
Nevertheless, Brighton are one of a cluster of clubs who are guaranteed two Double Gameweeks and the Seagulls may even have a third (or a rare Triple Gameweek) further down the line depending on their progression in the FA Cup.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, are one of just eight teams who are guaranteed fixtures in Blank Gameweeks 31 and 33.
From a Brighton perspective, a relative lack of injury and suspension in Chris Hughton’s squad means that “nailed” (let alone in-form) attacking assets are few and far between.
Glenn Murray (£6.3m) has started every Brighton league match in 2019 but has looked off the boil in recent weeks and was hooked before the hour on Saturday, with his replacement, Florin Andone (£5.0m), impressing on his introduction.
Andone was back from a three-match ban this weekend and looked lively, nodding in an Anthony Knockaert (£5.2m) cross to give the hosts all three points.
The Romanian striker’s pace and dynamism are attributes that the predatory Murray lacks up front, though Hughton’s 4-3-3 set-up invariably means that there is room for only one of those two FPL forwards.
The Brighton manager said of his two strikers:
[Florin] wants to play every game, as they all do. He is always disappointed when he doesn’t play. He is just back from a three-match ban as well. I thought he was excellent. That’s what you want from any sub that comes on.
Glenn is always going to be there as well and that’s the type of competition you want. Florin is a different player. It is a tough decision at times which way to go.
Glenn is a type of player who doesn’t have to play as well. Even when he is not at his best, he can still get a goal. He has a knack of being in the right place. He will always score goals.
Much uncertainty abounds in the wide areas, too.
Solly March (£4.9m) and Jurgen Locadia (£5.3m) have had the duopoly on those positions over the last two months or so but it was Knockaert and Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£6.7m) who were given the nod against the Terriers.
Knockaert’s set-piece deliveries were a constant threat for the Seagulls, while Jahanbakhsh put in perhaps his best display in a Brighton shirt to date and came close to a first FPL attacking return when striking the crossbar in the first half.
The return to fitness of Jose Izquierdo (£5.9m) is another name to throw into the mix on the flanks.
Hughton said of Jahanbakhsh’s display:
It was a terrific strike in the first period. He just needs games. He is one who is still getting used to the league here. He has had three setbacks, coming back late from the World Cup, being injured and then going to the Asian Cup. He’s never had a long enough run. He is adjusting. We just need him to get some goals.
Alireza is a player we value having come in for big money. It was another good opportunity for him. I am hoping we are going to see more because he is a goalscorer. That’s why we brought him in. We want our wide players to contribute and we are missing Jose Izquierdo’s goals that we had from the left-hand side last season.
Pascal Gross (£6.7m) – who missed this game because of a hamstring problem – is arguably the safest attack-minded Brighton asset when fit (having started 14 of 15 matches since returning in Gameweek 13), though the German schemer has been used in a more withdrawn role this season and would be less appealing if Knockaert was sharing set-piece duties.
Hughton intimated that he would perhaps stick with a 4-3-3 going forward:
It is just trying to get the balance. The clean sheet is big for us. It is the best platform to push on. The level of our performances have improved in a 4-3-3 but you’ve got to be scoring goals.
Brighton’s custodian and two centre-backs will no doubt be popular choices for their Double Gameweeks, with Duffy and Lewis Dunk‘s (£4.4m) aerial threat and Mathew Ryan‘s (£4.4m) budget goalkeeper status obvious attractions.
Duffy is perhaps the pick of those three: the towering centre-half recorded another three headed goal attempts on Saturday – no Premier League defender has had as many efforts on goal than the Ireland international in 2019.
Brighton recorded their sixth clean sheet of the season on Saturday but, as has often been the case in 2018/19, that perhaps says more about Huddersfield’s shortcomings in attack than their own solidity.
The Terriers have looked better (and more secure at the back) under Jan Siewert over the past few weeks but creativity remains an issue, with Ryan not really tested by any of the four shots on target he faced on Saturday.
Not one of Huddersfield’s six efforts on goal was from closer than 12 yards out.
Siewert stuck with a 4-4-2 diamond following the win over Wolves, with budget FPL midfielder Juninho Bacuna (£4.2m) – who was arguably Town’s man of the match – replacing Demeaco Duhaney (£4.0m) at right-back.
The Terriers were heading for their second successive clean sheet before being caught out by a quickly taken free-kick for Andone’s winner and Siewert expressed his anger at full-time:
I think we did a lot of good things, but in the end, I am so angry because we lost the game because of one situation where we were not switched on. It was a free-kick they played short and quick and we were not switched on and we were not organised.
We lost it through that, and we have so many supporters here from a long distance supporting us. Just one situation and we lost the game, I am so angry.
Brighton were not better than we were – we had good defending and many opportunities for counters, and we had good play.
Huddersfield lost Jonathan Hogg (£4.4m) to injury in the first half and Siewert provided an update on the midfielder after full-time:
Hoggy had a knock. He was injured so I had to sub him before half-time. Hopefully, we can get Hoggy back on the pitch as soon as possible.
At the moment I am not sure because it was a hard knock. He couldn’t breathe any more and that’s why I had to sub him early, which doesn’t make it easy. I hope it is not a broken rib. It could be, but I hope not.
Jason Puncheon (£4.2m) wasn’t part of the Huddersfield squad after reports of a bust-up with his manager but Siewert appeared to leave the door open for a return, saying:
Yes, he is part of my squad but I have to do decisions and I will do the decisions in my way. We had 18 players in the squad and I am just allowed to have 18 players, so I made my decision and I am paid for making decisions.
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-3-3): Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Propper, Stephens, Bissouma (Kayal 85′); Knockaert, Murray (Andone 57′), Jahanbakhsh (Izquierdo 77′).
Huddersfield Town XI (4-1-2-1-2): Lossl; Bacuna, Schindler, Kongolo, Durm; Stankovic (Hadergjonaj 65′); Hogg (Mooy 40′), Billing; Pritchard (Kachunga 61′); Mounie, Grant.