You’d have been lucky to avoid at least one of your players suffering a benching in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) on Saturday, with usual suspects Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel joined by plenty of others in throwing teamsheet curveballs aplenty.
Elsewhere on a busy day of FPL, Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) continued his red-hot form, Chelsea and Manchester City kept yet another clean sheet, and bargain-bin options Shane Duffy (£4.4m) and Tino Livramento (£4.2m) reminded us of their worth with solid defensive returns.
Our usual, more detailed Scout Notes will follow for all of the day’s games but in the meantime, our resurrected Scoreboard series rounds up the key goings-on from the day’s Gameweek 8 fixtures.
GOALS, ASSISTS, PROJECTED BONUS
INJURIES AND BANS
It was a fairly quiet day on the injury front, with few fresh concerns reported so far.
Marcelo Bielsa did however confirm after full-time that Kalvin Phillips (£4.9m) had missed out through a combination of hip and calf issues, while Junior Firpo (£4.8m) was absent with muscle problems.
Anthony Martial (£7.6m) sat out Manchester United’s defeat to Leicester City with a minor injury picked up while on duty with France but teammate Harry Maguire (£5.4m) made a swift return to playing action – and probably wished he hadn’t.
THE THINGS WE LEARNED
Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) is 27 points clear of any other FPL player after his fifth double-digit haul of the season; he managed just six of those 10+ returns in the whole of 2020/21.
The Egyptian is a remarkable 35 points ahead of where he was at this stage in his record-breaking 2017/18 campaign and is now averaging over 10 points per match this season.
All of Liverpool’s front three were among the points in the 5-0 win over Watford but unfortunately for Diogo Jota‘s (£7.6m) owners, he wasn’t part of that attacking trio. His omission was all the more galling given that Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) scored a hat-trick of goals from point-blank range, central areas where Jota has been getting – and spurning – chances in recent weeks.
EVEN DIAS ISN’T ROTATION-PROOF
Only one ever-present starter remains among Pep Guardiola’s squad following Ederson‘s (£6.0m) anticipated no-show and rather less expected benchings for Jack Grealish (£7.9m) and Ruben Dias (£6.2m) on Saturday.
The rest for Dias was a particular bolt out of the blue as he was the mainstay of the City defence last season: the centre-half was a substitute in only one league match from his Gameweek 4 debut to Gameweek 30 (the point at which Guardiola started focusing on the Champions League and FA Cup, with the domestic title sewn up), and even that was because he had just recovered from illness.
Joao Cancelo (£6.2m) is the last man standing when it comes to bench evasion, having started all eight of the Citizens’ league fixtures in 2021/22.
He has racked up more clean sheets (six) than any other Fantasy asset and now sits top of the FPL defenders’ table on a half-century of points. Not only that but despite his premium price tag, he sits fourth for ‘value’ – a metric typically dominated by budget assets – when points are divided by cost.
RONALDO/LUKAKU ARE TESTING OUR PATIENCE
Three straight blanks for Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.6m), four consecutive two-pointers for Romelu Lukaku (£11.7m)… how different the Fantasy landscape looks now following the clamour to crowbar both strikers into our teams a month or so ago.
Lukaku huffed and puffed to no avail at Brentford and now has had just six shots in the last four Gameweeks.
Ronaldo’s opportunities have dried up a tad, too, and he hasn’t had a single Opta-defined ‘big chance’ in his last three outings.
Jamie Vardy (£10.5m) has outscored both of them combined now this season, and his strike against United was his fifth in four matches. No forward can better the Leicester veteran for shots or penalty box touches over the last four Gameweeks.
WHY RAPHINHA MISSED OUT
It was always going to be a tough ask for Raphinha (£6.6m) to start after racking up 71 minutes of pitch-time for Brazil on Friday morning and, in the end, the Leeds winger didn’t even make Marcelo Bielsa’s matchday squad, let alone the starting XI.
The Leeds boss said of his star midfielder after full-time:
“Raphinha, we had decided that he was going to fly after his game, without knowing how many minutes he was going to play on the Friday. In the end, he played 70 minutes, flew 15 hours and today at midday he wasn’t in conditions to take on board even a part of the game. Given that he wasn’t in conditions to respond, we didn’t risk because it’s possible in circumstances like this, injuries can occur.”
MBEUMO IS OWED SOME LUCK
Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m) blanked in the late kick-off against Chelsea and despite two goals in the last four Gameweeks for the ‘out of position’ midfielder, his luck appears to be right out in 2021/22.
No Premier League player other than the Brentford attacker has hit the woodwork more than once this season – but Mbeumo has been thwarted by the frame of the goal on six occasions, twice on Saturday.
A total of 16 of his 19 shots have been technically off-target but it’s hard to chastise his finishing ability too much when we’re talking millimetres on those half-dozen occasions.
STAT WATCH – GAMEWEEK 7
Raul Jimenez (£7.6m) and Adam Armstrong (£6.0m) were among the high-profile names who were on bench-warming duties on Saturday.
While the jet-lagged Mexican’s cause was helped by a limp Wolves attacking display from open play (Bruno Lage’s side scoring three times from set pieces late on), Armstrong’s owners would have been concerned to see Armando Broja (£5.0m) turn in a match-winning display in his stead.
Broja is top for shots in the box in Gameweek 8 so far, while no forward could better his total of 10 penalty area touches.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s rotation policy continues to bemuse but given his price and fine display, the Albania international is an intriguing prospect.
He’s long ceased to be an option for many of us but it’s worth highlighting Bruno Fernandes‘ (£11.9m) recent creativity, with his Gameweek-high total of seven chances created taking him to a total of 22 over the last four Gameweeks – that’s 10 more than any other player has managed.