We round up the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Saturday’s Double Gameweek 23 fixtures.
GOALS, ASSISTS AND BONUS
INJURIES AND BANS
Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) was one of a host of previously flagged players who made their returns from injury, illness or international duty on Saturday but there were some fresh concerns to report from around the grounds.
Raul Jimenez (£7.4m) missed out on Wolves’ win over Brentford, although his omission appears to be more precautionary in nature:
“He felt something, so we protect him. I don’t want to create problems for him in his calf, so it’s better to protect him” – Bruno Lage on Raul Jimenez
Newcastle lost Joelinton (£5.8m), Paul Dummett (£4.5m) and Jamaal Lascelles (£4.4m) to injuries in their win over Leeds, and the trio will now be assessed during the winter break:
“Joelinton has been suffering with a groin problem since I arrived. Today he succumbed to that which was a disappointment given the form he’s been in. I’m not sure how serious [Dummett] is, fatigue may have played a part. [With Lascelles], I think it’s his hamstring because he went down awkwardly so we’ll have to assess that.” – Eddie Howe
Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m) wasn’t between the posts for West Ham, with David Moyes hinting that the Pole was absent because of coronavirus.
“Like every other Club, we’ve got some injuries, and we’ve got some COVID [cases], so we’ll have to play with what we have. Unfortunately, Łukasz misses out – he’s been playing so well for us this year – it’s happened, and that’s part of football.” – David Moyes
The goalkeeper, plus Brentford concussion victims Rico Henry (£4.5m) and Mathias Jensen (£4.9m), should all have served their respective protocols long before Gameweek 24.
News is awaited on the severity of the injury that forced Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.4m) off, meanwhile.
GAMEWEEK 23 TALKING POINTS
Around 95% of Armando Broja‘s (£5.2m) owners in the top 10k benched the budget forward for the clash with champions-elect Manchester City, likely not expecting much from a meeting with the best defensive side in the division.
Broja did indeed blank but he again demonstrated just what a threat he can be for such little financial outlay, posing the City backline a threat in what little time he got on the ball.
Spurning a one-on-one opportunity and hitting the post with a close-range header in the second half, Broja had found the net and been felled by Ederson (£6.1m) in the box before the break – only to be found to be offside in both cases.
The fixtures turn very good, very soon, and the Saints also have an outstanding fixture against Newcastle to be crowbarred into the schedule; could that be as soon as Gameweek 25? Broja, then, should only increase in popularity from mid-February onwards.
The Saints and the superb Mohammed Salisu (£4.5m) put up an excellent fight against Manchester City, as they did in the reverse fixture, and are an obdurate side despite the clean sheet drought which now extends to 11 matches. Only two clubs from outside the top eight have beaten them this season, and one of those losses was in Gameweek 1.
DE BRUYNE DELIVERS
There was disappointment for owners of most City assets in this fixture but they bombarded the Southampton goal, with Phil Foden (£8.0m) only denied an attacking return when Raheem Sterling (£10.8m) spurned a sitter that his fellow England international teed up.
Kevin De Bruyne (£12.2m) wasn’t quite at his absolute brilliant best but he was still the Citizens’ most prominent threat, almost adding to his assist and maximum bonus with one effort that struck the post and another that whistled just wide. The Belgian is averaging 7.9 points per match over his last seven starts and now he and his league-leading side face Brentford and Norwich in two more plum fixtures after the winter break.
Goalscorer Aymeric Laporte (£5.7m), meanwhile, now hasn’t blanked in any of his last eight appearances and has started every City league match that he has been available for from Gameweek 2 onwards.
RAPHINHA CAN’T DO IT ALL ALONE
Two sides overly reliant on their respective talismans met at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, with Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.7m) and Raphinha (£6.6m) unable to add to their impressive FPL points tallies.
The minor drawback to the value-for-money pair is that their teammates simply aren’t as good as they are, as evidenced when Daniel James (£6.0m) and Joe Willock (£5.7m) spurned big chances that the two star wingers teed up for them.
Saint-Maximin and the slightly below-par Raphinha created six opportunities between them in this match, with no-one in any Gameweek 23 fixture bettering the Brazilian’s nine penalty box touches so far.
Newcastle banked only their second clean sheet of the season and their first on the road, with Kieran Trippier (£5.0m) showing his class and registering a bonus point to go with his shut-out.
Jonjo Shelvey (£5.3m) scored for the second time in four matches, this one owing a lot to a goalkeeping error.
MORE TOILING FROM UNITED
Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) delivered his fifth blank in seven appearances under Ralf Rangnick as Manchester United rescued victory from the jaws of a dour draw against West Ham.
The lure of a possible Double Gameweek 25 and more favourable fixtures keeps his existing owners just about interested but he’s not exactly delivering on his premium price tag at present, without an attacking return – or big chance – in 2022.
Above: Manchester United assets sorted by big chances in Gameweeks 21-23
The veteran striker cut a frustrated figure against West Ham, remonstrating with his teammates on multiple occasions, but he at least has Burnley up next, a team that he registered his only Rangnick-era double-digit haul against when facing the Clarets in December. He was also presented with three big chances in that game.
There were only four efforts on target overall at Old Trafford, including Marcus Rashford‘s (£9.4m) last-gasp winner. West Ham were just as uninspiring but Jarrod Bowen (£6.8m) did enough to keep his owners encouraged, lashing into the side netting with his best chance and then being agonisingly denied an assist when the fit-again Tomas Soucek (£5.7m) drifted a header from Bowen’s corner wide.
Three excellent fixtures from an attacking perspective now follow, while prospects might be rosier at the back despite the clean sheet shortage (just two in 14 games) as Kurt Zouma (£5.4m) made his long-awaited return from injury on Saturday and immediately made a big difference, improving even Craig Dawson (£4.9m) alongside him.
WOLVES WIN AGAIN
Another solid performance from Wolves saw them move within four points of a Champions League spot, with Joao Moutinho (£4.9m) and Ruben Neves (£5.3m) doing the damage with rare returns from the centre of midfield.
Most FPL interest in Wolves centres around their backline and while they failed to keep a clean sheet for the second match in a row, they have now conceded one goal or fewer in each of their last 10 league matches.
Just as a James Ward-Prowse (£6.3m) wondergoal broke their resilience last weekend, this time it was only a superb Ivan Toney (£6.6m) volley – the Bees’ solitary effort on target – that carried a meagre expected goals (xG) rating of just 0.07 that spoiled their clean sheet.
Romain Saiss (£5.0m) returns from AFCON duty in Gameweek 24 to bring their defence back up to full strength. Even if you’re not buying a Wolves defender in FPL anytime soon, it pays to check if your attacking assets are set to face this in-form backline:
As for Brentford, it’s now one clean sheet in 18 matches for Thomas Frank’s Premier League rookies. They did make life difficult for City when they last met them in December but it’s still a very favourable fixture for the league leaders in Gameweek 24.
Above: Premier League sides sorted by goals conceded from Gameweek 6 onwards
DIGNE BEING DIGNE
A duck egg followed by a 12-pointer is classic Lucas Digne (£5.0m) but his promising debut against Manchester United did hint at the potential for past FPL form to be revived over a very favourable run of games, and he duly delivered with a clean sheet, maximum bonus and assist in the 1-0 win over Everton.
On a share of set plays, it was Digne’s corner that was nodded in by Emiliano Buendia (£6.2m) for Villa’s match-winner. Registering almost four times as many final-third touches as Matthew Cash (£5.1m) on the other flank, the French left-back is the most-bought player of Gameweek 24 at this very early stage.
Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m) is not far behind him for transfers in (he was also the most-bought player of Gameweek 23) but there was enough from this performance to suggest he’s still readjusting to English football, with a start against the Toffees perhaps too much of an ask in hindsight given that he has been without game-time for so long.
Coutinho now goes away with Brazil on international duty, which should aid his match fitness, and he’ll be back well in time for the Gameweek 24 clash with Leeds United.
Ollie Watkins (£7.7m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.9m) both drew a blank, each of them wasting a big chance, but it’s the Villa man who still looks the pick of two, as much for the fact that he’s playing for a better team on current evidence. Everton rallied under interim boss Duncan Ferguson in the second half, getting on top of their visitors, but didn’t test Emiliano Martinez (£5.5m) once and it was more perspiration than inspiration in truth.
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