The long-dormant ‘Say What?’ series is revived as we recap some key manager and player quotes from the weekend’s football, with the focus very much on what it means from a Fantasy Premier League (FPL) perspective.
A possible Double Gameweek 25 for Southampton, an explanation for Matthew Lowton‘s (£4.4m) benching, West Ham’s search for an alternative to Michail Antonio (£7.9m) and Liverpool’s penalty-taking pecking order are all discussed.
For a recap of the on-field action, check out our Scout Notes via the links below:
READ MORE: Dennis suspended for second Gameweek 23 fixture but Foster may return: Friday’s review
READ MORE: Broja dangerous despite blank as De Bruyne and Laporte continue fine FPL form: Saturday’s review
READ MORE: Alonso dropped as Tuchel opts for a back four: Sunday’s review
SOUTHAMPTON’S DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 25?
Having planted the seed that Southampton may have a Double Gameweek 25 in his pre-match press conference, Ralph Hasenhuttl teased us with the same thought when speaking after Saints’ 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
Asked whether Kyle Walker-Peters’ (£4.8m) excellent performance at right-back lessened the need to hasten the injured Tino Livramento‘s (£4.3m) return, Ralph Hasenhuttl dropped another hint.
“No, I hope he is soon back because we need every player at the moment.
“We have after the break I think five games in two weeks so we need every player, especially when you want to switch and a little bit take care of the workload then you need to have an alternative.
“Can you imagine that we have only one right-back this season, say Tino, and he is out? Then you are struggling like we have done in the last year, it would be horrible.” – Ralph Hasenhuttl
Currently, Southampton have only four fixtures scheduled in league and cup immediately after the winter break. As we’re already down the rabbit hole of conjecture, Saints’ run could look something like this if there was any substance to their head coach’s comments – the Newcastle home game being their only outstanding match so far:
- Feb 5: Coventry (FA Cup)
- Feb 9: Spurs (GW24)
- Feb 12: Man Utd (GW25)
- Feb 16: (Newcastle in DGW25?)
- Feb 19: Everton (GW26)
WHY WAS LOWTON BENCHED?
Such is the absurd nature of this FPL season, Sean Dyche chose a Double Gameweek to bench a player who had started the last 51 Premier League matches in a row.
Matthew Lowton (£4.4m) was Burnley’s most-owned defender heading into Friday’s deadline and a cheap target for FPL managers who were aware that this was the first Double Gameweek of at least five for the Clarets due to their backlog of fixtures.
Perhaps Lowton was one of the many Burnley players who was affected by Covid-19 and was struggling for match-fitness? If he was, there was no mention of it in Dyche’s post-match presser, with the gravel-voiced nickname-conferrer instead hailing the attributes of Connor Roberts (£4.5m).
“Connor has done well, he’s only had 60 minutes of an under-23 game in weeks but he is a very fit lad.
“We’ve got to look at what we’re doing as a staff. What can activate a change and give you something different. Connor was one of them, we have to start using him and looking at him.
“We want that demand from the group. Bardo is right in the hat as well but he’d only trained for a day this week because he’d had an injection in his lower back.” – Sean Dyche on his decision to start Connor Roberts at right-back
LAMPTEY STILL HANDLED CAREFULLY
Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) returned from a lengthy hamstring injury as a substitute in Gameweek 8 and here we are, three months on, with Brighton and Hove Albion’s exciting but fragile right-back still having his minutes managed.
This was his third benching in four matches and Brighton coach Bjorn Hamberg, who was deputising for the Covid-hit Graham Potter, hinted that the careful handling would continue – something to bear in mind, as if we needed reminding, for Albion’s future Double Gameweeks.
“There is still a little bit of managing his minutes. And after Chelsea (last Tuesday), a high-intensity game, stretching the backline a lot, we needed a big effort to go again.
“Sometimes we try to see is it the start of the game or the back end. We chose this time for the back end and I thought he had a good impact coming on.” – Bjorn Hamberg
SALAH’S CHALLENGE FOR SPOT-KICK DUTIES
With first-choice penalty-taker James Milner (£4.9m) granted less and less game-time in his dotage, Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) has been chiefly responsible for Liverpool’s spot-kicks over the last few years.
However, the premium FPL midfielder missed two of his last four penalties – against AC Milan and Leicester City – before departing for AFCON duty with Egypt earlier this month.
Fabinho (£5.4m) has been on penalties in Salah’s absence, scoring twice from 12 yards in cup and league over the last fortnight and taking his excellent historic conversion record to 95.8% (23 out of 24 scored).
“He works on them a lot and he’s good at them. Millie was stood on the sideline as well, probably eyeing it up ready to come on! But Fab did really well there. He’s scored a few now and he seems to have moved into that penalty spot.
“It will be interesting to see when Mo comes back if he’s still got that number two spot on pens! We’ll see. It was good, though, and we needed that from him.” – Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on Fabinho’s penalties
MOYES LOOKING FOR ANTONIO COMPETITION?
Owners of Michail Antonio (£7.9m) face a slightly nervy time over the next week or so – and not just because the West Ham forward has three stabs at picking up a muscle injury while he is on international duty with Jamaica.
David Moyes said after Saturday’s loss to Manchester United, a game in which Antonio again laboured up top, that the Hammers are once again renewing their so-far-fruitless search for competition in attack.
“I think in a perfect world that is what we would try and do. We have been trying for a couple of years to add a striker to the group but we have not been able to. We have had quite a few offers for players at different times that have not been accepted or we could not get or [they] have been too expensive.
“So it is not for the want of trying and not like we are not seeing the same things that others are seeing. It is trying to get in players that I think can help us and make a difference but we will continue trying to look. With a week or so to go [in the transfer window] we will keep looking.” – David Moyes on West Ham’s search for a striker
ZIYECH BENEFITS FROM CHELSEA’S TACTICAL SHIFT
Thomas Tuchel went with a back four for the fourth time in six matches in league and cup in Sunday’s win over Spurs.
Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) was benched as Malang Sarr (£4.9m) again started at left-back, as he had done against the Lilywhites in the mid-January EFL Cup semi-final.
“It’s one way forward. We tried a 4-1-4-1 formation today because we tried a 4-4-2 against them in the first match and that gave us an advantage but then they reacted to it in the second match.
“We thought maybe it could be an approach to give the players a solution after the last matches and we had the players for the formation, players in shape, players who wanted and should be on the pitch, and good positions for them.
“It gives us more options than only playing a 3-4-3 and we don’t decide now, but it was well done.
T”revoh [Chalobah] had only one training session and Andreas Christensen, a key player, was not available. For a back three, you need three central defenders and two wings backs.
“We thought today that we could play in a 4-1-4-1 to cause them problems. The deal did well and it gives us another option so well done.”
Hakim Ziyech (£7.3m) has been a beneficiary of this tactical shift and has scored twice in successive matches, which is no surprise given that he has been playing in his favoured right-wing position – a role that doesn’t exist in Tuchel’s usual 3-4-3.
“It was also maybe his best position to be on the wing. We had the wide position on the right wing, that position does not normally exist in that particular manner when we play 3-4-3, it is more of a wing-back.”
Chelsea now take a backseat in FPL with three blanks in four Gameweeks but it’s worth monitoring the Blues’ tactics at home and abroad over the coming weeks to see if Ziyech can remain on the radar for an excellent run of matches from Gameweek 28 onwards.
Another Gameweek, another Patrick Bamford (£7.7m) absence through injury – and the chances of him making his first start since Gameweek 5 after the winter break still look in doubt.
“I have my doubts. I’m not sure. It’s not just about being able to count on him, it’s that he arrives in conditions to develop his game and a player who’s gone so long without playing, it opens up a question mark, after he is healthy, how long he needs to show his regularity.” – Marcelo Bielsa on Patrick Bamford’s chances of being back in Gameweek 24
GREALISH THROUGH THE MIDDLE
Lauded one week, benched the next: we’ve learned the hard way to take quite literally everything that spews out of Pep Guardiola’s mouth with a pinch of salt.
His latest with-a-side-of-sodium comments concerned his decision to play Jack Grealish (£7.6m) through the middle against Southampton, describing him as “the perfect player to play between the lines”.
The former Villa man is still on a poor four attacking returns from 15 starts this season and an FPL footnote right now but his starting position does have an impact on other City assets, with the more widely owned Phil Foden (£8.0m) stationed on the left at St Mary’s.
“At Aston Villa, he played wide and after he moved wherever he wants and came inside. I think he’s the perfect player to play between the lines.
“(He is) so aggressive, he made incredible runners, he dropped the Southampton team to the byline, his decision making is excellent.
“He had two almost clear chances to dribble and shoot that were blocked so I think he played really well. I was so satisfied today for the performance that Jack has done.” – Pep Guardiola
RASHFORD IN, ELANGA OUT?
Anthony Elanga (£4.9m) was handed his third successive league start in Gameweek 23 but had a quiet time of it against West Ham.
Were it not for the woeful form of his more senior positional rivals, and Marcus Rashford (£9.4m) in particular, Elanga may not have even had a chance at staking such a first-team claim.
Rashford has responded with two goals in as many substitute appearances and he may well have played himself back into contention ahead of Gameweek 24, with a possible Double Gameweek 25 to come for the Red Devils.
“We have a lot of wingers, we have a lot of outstanding players in that position. Jadon (Sancho) was not available today but we have a lot of players for those two positions (striker and winger) and Marcus is one of them.
“Right now, yes, he has scored twice in consecutive games when he came from the bench but, of course, his ambition is to play regularly from the start again.
“It is up to him. If he continually plays on a high level and keeps scoring goals, of course, this is the best way to get back into the team and play from the beginning.”
“We all know what kind of quality he has. He has got almost everything that a modern striker needs. He has got the pace, the skills, he has got the size, the physicality of the striker and in the end it is all about confidence for strikers.
“I am pretty sure that those two goals have raised the level of confidence within Marcus. Now it is about taking the next steps and showing that on a regular basis. It is about continuity now. I think he can play a very important role for the rest of the season for us.” – Ralf Rangnick on Marcus Rashford
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