Better late than never, our latest Scout Notes article offers up the main Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening.
JOSE SA: SET AND FORGET?
Wolves made it six clean sheets in eight matches with a well-deserved win over Manchester United on Monday evening.
Their goal was scarcely threatened, save for a Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) effort that rattled the woodwork, and they have, perhaps trailing only behind Manchester City, a claim to be the best backline in the division on current form.
The recent results for Bruno Lage’s troops are reassuringly dull from a defensive perspective: 1-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1, 0-1, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0.
What makes that run all the more impressive is that amongst it there have been fixtures against Liverpool, City, Chelsea and West Ham United, sides who have had little trouble finding the net elsewhere in 2021/22.
They are spectacularly ‘overachieving’, it must be said: their expected goals conceded (xGC) total is almost 10 more than what they’ve actually let in this season (23.73 v 14).
But then they do have one of the division’s best goalkeepers between the posts and there’s no surprise to see Jose Sa (£5.1m) up there with the best shot-stoppers for not just FPL points but for expected goals prevented (xGP) and save percentages.
Above: Goalkeepers sorted by xGP in 2021/22
The next challenge for Wolves is to see whether they can cope without the AFCON-bound Romain Saiss (£5.1m) in Gameweeks 22 and 23, as consistency has been key this season and all three of their centre-halves are ever-present starters.
The bargain-bin Marcal (£4.2m) may have to drop into the back three to cover, a move that also helps to accommodate Rayan Ait-Nouri (£4.3m) at wing-back.
Wolves defenders, despite their excellent form but likely because of their recent fixture run, remain underrepresented in FPL, as seen in the top 10k figures above.
Some stiff tests still await from Gameweeks 24-27 but longer term, they sit top of our Season Ticker up to Gameweek 35 and may have a very appealing Double Gameweek 22, should their outstanding fixture against Watford be rearranged for a fortnight’s time.
Sa might be the way to go for anyone setting up their team for the long term, then, with the likes of Conor Coady (£4.6m) and Max Kilman (£4.5m) cheaper routes into the backline – albeit ones with limited goal threat.
On the subject of attacking prowess, Wolves’ forward players remain a no-go: despite their dominance at Old Trafford, Joao Moutinho‘s (£4.9m) strike was only the third goal that Bruno Lage’s side have scored in their last nine matches.
UNITED REVERTING TO UNDERWHELMING TYPE
And continuing with the theme of underwhelming attacks… boy were United awful on Monday.
The new manager feelgood factor has slowly ebbed away over recent weeks and this could easily have been a display from the final days of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, with their players looking sluggish and directionless.
“I didn’t feel when I was on the pitch that we were all there together. We felt like we were struggling and it was tough.
“Sometimes quality isn’t enough. Like I said, we need to bring the intensity, we need to bring being more aggressive and we need to bring more motivation. Maybe from the outside today it didn’t look like we had any of those three, but inside the dressing room, we know we want to win. We know what we want.
“When we step out on that pitch we need to give 100%. Everything we’ve got. I’m not saying not everyone did, but I think to win these types of games against a tough team like Wolves, we all need to be 100% committed because we know it’s always close games whoever they play.” – Luke Shaw
United were towards the top of our Season Ticker for ease of fixture difficulty when Ralf Rangnick took charge but only six goals have been scored against the might of Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Newcastle United, Burnley and Wolves, with the expected goals (xG) column also telling a sorry tale:
|Team||Goals||xG||Goals minus xG||Mins/ xG|
Above: Teams sorted by minutes per expected goal (xG) from Gameweek 15 onwards
We can’t expect miracles from Rangnick given the short space of time he has been at the club but the Red Devils have been outplayed by Wolves, Newcastle and arguably Norwich in three of his five league matches in charge, with only the first halves against Burnley and perhaps Palace anything to offer encouragement.
There’s not a lot to incentivise fresh investment in United at present but existing owners of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) still have favourable fixtures on their side until Gameweek 27, after which comes a tough, bottom-of-the-ticker run-in.
And for all of United’s collective struggles, Ronaldo still ranks highly among FPL forwards for most of the key underlying metrics since the change in manager:
Above: Forwards sorted by shots in the box from Gameweek 15 onwards
At the back, David de Gea (£5.1m) was on for a bonus point-boosted haul before Moutinho’s late winner.
Only two goalkeepers have made more saves than him since Rangnick took charge, which suggests all is not well at the back, either. It’s not like we can blame unavailability for the defensive woes, with the lesser-spotted Phil Jones (£4.5m), in for his first start in almost two years, actually an upgrade on the injured Harry Maguire (£5.4m) at centre-half.
Maguire might be back for the Gameweek 22 clash with Villa but Luke Shaw (£5.0m) and Scott McTominay (£5.4m) will miss out after collecting their fifth bookings of the season.
“Harry, he received that knock on his chest or whatever, in the game against Burnley so we thought he would be good again for tonight.
“But, yesterday, he was just trying and it was impossible. He even had too much pain when he was just standing around or sitting. It wasn’t possible for him to play.” – Ralf Rangnick
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