We round up the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Saturday’s six Gameweek 35 fixtures in our Scout Notes summary.
GOALS, ASSISTS AND BONUS
INJURIES AND BANS
There were a number of injuries to report from Saturday’s matches although none of them were earth-shattering from an FPL perspective.
Perhaps the most notable, given his recent spike in popularity, was an injury sustained by Fabian Schar (£4.4m) in Newcastle’s defeat to Liverpool. However, Eddie Howe couldn’t give us much information after full-time.
“I don’t know. It was related to the tackle. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t spoken to him or the medical team yet, so we hope it isn’t serious, but, obviously, it was enough for him to come off.” – Eddie Howe
Lucas Digne (£5.0m) made a shock early return from a collarbone injury for Aston Villa’s win over relegated Norwich City but it was one in, one out for the Villans, who lost Leon Bailey (£6.3m) to an ankle injury that will now require an MRI scan.
Opponents Norwich had their own issues: Kenny McLean (£4.9m) was replaced after the warm-up due to ongoing problems with his toe, while Josh Sargent (£5.4m) suffered a recurrence of a niggling ankle injury just 14 minutes into a substitute appearance.
Nelson Semedo (£4.8m) succumbed to a hamstring injury during Wolves’ loss to Brighton, who themselves saw Enock Mwepu (£5.9m) limp from the field of play with a groin tweak that Graham Potter hopes is more fatigue-related.
There were casualties in the evening fixture, too, with Liam Cooper (£4.4m) pulling out of the Leeds XI after “feeling something behind his knee” in the warm-up and Nathan Ake (£4.7m) walking gingerly from the field of play on the hour mark after taking a knock to his ankle.
More serious though was what seems to be a season-ending knee injury suffered by Stuart Dallas (£4.9m), who was stretchered off on the stroke of half-time.
FPL TALKING POINTS
NOT TOO IMPORTANT FOR A REST…
Liverpool and Manchester City both traded wins on Saturday, emerging from away matches with victories to nil. Business as usual, then? Not quite, as Mohamed Salah (£13.3m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.4m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) didn’t make their respective sides’ starting XIs.
The bombshell teamsheet reveals confounded expectations that Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola would deem their star names rotation-proof while the title push was on the line and instead manage minutes through early substitutions.
If we’re to take the positives, we can assume that further rests are less likely for Salah et al in Double Gameweek 36, while the end-to-end nature of the Leeds game, which the scoreline belied, might have reminded Guardiola of the control he usually gets in the engine room when he plays De Bruyne and the also-benched Bernardo Silva (£7.0m).
Klopp’s post-match comments are worth repeating, however, particularly if you’re an Andrew Robertson (£7.3m) owner.
“Tsimikas would’ve deserved to play and Robbo could have had a break as well but when you change one full-back and a centre-half and there are three changes in the last line, what I think then is ‘No, don’t do that, let’s do it like this.’ – Jurgen Klopp
As for those who did make it onto the pitch at Elland Road, Gabriel Jesus (£8.5m) notched his sixth league goal in three starts and Phil Foden (£7.8m) bagged his first assists of 2022 as he started for the 12th time in 13 league games.
WEGHORST ON PENS?
Wout Weghorst (£6.4m) owners had another frustrating afternoon as their Dutch striker blanked and was withdrawn after 59 minutes of Burnley’s 2-1 win at Watford.
Compounding their anguish was the fact that Weghorst was all set to take the first-half spot-kick that the visitors won, only for the VAR to spot that the foul that led to the award took place outside of the area.
It’s still perhaps too early to assume that the Netherlands international is now Burnley’s first-choice option from 12 yards, as not one of Maxwel Cornet (£5.9m), Jay Rodriguez (£5.2m) or Ashley Barnes (£5.2m) – all of whom have taken penalties for the Clarets – was on the field at the time.
Cornet had indeed taken a penalty with Weghorst (and Rodriguez) on the field two weeks ago, although ended up missing it.
Alexis Mac Allister (£5.1m) was also tasked with penalty-taking duties for Brighton on Saturday, seeing his first effort from the spot crash against the post before he converted at the second attempt later in the game.
Again, previous takers Neal Maupay (£6.3m) and Pascal Gross (£5.7m) were off the field – although both players had missed their last attempts.
ZAHA MAKING HIS CASE FOR GAMEWEEK 37
Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) was someone we talked about in last Monday’s Scout Notes, after he did everything but score in the goalless draw with Leeds United.
It was a frustrating evening for him then and it looked like Saturday was going to be a repeat performance, after he was named among the substitutes for just the second time this season – he had been recovering from illness the first time that had happened, with this latest omission chalked up to a bruising encounter at Elland Road.
But up he popped off the bench to lead the line at Jean-Philippe Mateta’s (£5.4m) expense and score a superb late winner.
“We put him in the No.9 [position] because of his mobility and the fact he can hold the ball and run in-behind. There was a massive space between the two lines of four that allowed him to drop and get the ball at his feet.
“And we know how dangerous he can be running in-behind as well, so he just needed a half-chance to put it in the back of the net. The game against Leeds he was unlucky, and today he showed how good he is and he is a really top goalscorer.” – Patrick Vieira on Wilfried Zaha
Zaha is arguably one of the biggest draws for Gameweek 37, whether you’re on a Free Hit or otherwise. Palace are on the road twice in that set of fixures but the Ivory Coast international has scored six goals in his last seven away matches and has quietly crept up to joint-sixth in the Golden Boot charts, with 12 strikes in all this season.
While Zaha impressed his manager with his cameo appearance, Armando Broja (£5.5m) was being maligned by his own boss.
Broja was reduced to a substitute’s role for the second game in a row and the still-popular FPL forward was even namechecked by Ralph Hasenhuttl as a contributing factor to Saints’ current run of five points from a possible 30.
“It’s not bad if you have something like that (Zaha as a substitute), I must say I expect more from my guys coming on.
“This is what we are lacking at the moment, Broja is not the same like he has been a few months ago. This is the difference at the moment.” – Ralph Hasenhuttl
Wolves’ form bodes well for City/Chelsea
Wolverhampton Wanderers have been one of the toughest nuts to crack this season and for a while were even flirting with a top-four place.
But the wheels have fallen off somewhat over the last four Gameweeks, with three defeats-to-nil on the bounce effectively ending their European aspirations.
Up next for Wolves is a Double Gameweek but there’ll be few FPL managers interested in their players based on form and fixtures.
Bruno Lage called Saturday’s defeat to Brighton his side’s “worst performance” of 2021/22, highlighting the disruption caused by injuries (the influential Ruben Neves (£5.2m) returned for this one but was clearly only half-fit) as a catalyst in the recent loss of form.
“When little things come together it makes a massive difference. We had a long period where we were playing with one team, now we are playing with players who didn’t start the season with us. The positions are not the same, so the decisions are not the same.” – Bruno Lage
They’re bottom for minutes-per-xG over this three-game run, not creating a single big chance against lower-table opposition Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle, while they’re also 17th for expected goals conceded at the other end.
It’s Manchester City and Chelsea up next in Gameweek 36 and for owners of players from those two clubs, this fixture looks that bit more appealing than it did a couple of months ago.
INGS AND WATKINS OUTSHINE COUTINHO
Villa players were popular transfer targets in Gameweek 35 and they duly responded with a 2-0 win, although Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m) again wasn’t among the points.
It’s difficult to get too carried away with Saturday’s victory, with the Villans bright in spells but ultimately making heavy work of seeing off the Championship-bound Canaries.
Danny Ings’ (£7.7m) introduction helped change the game and the strong money would be on him retaining a start alongside Ollie Watkins (£7.5m) in at least the first Gameweek 36 fixture, with the pair and the generally subdued Coutinho briefly showing some good link-up play in attack.
The trio registered 14 shots and nine chances created between them, with Watkins’ own tally of six attempts the best of any forward in Gameweek 35 so far. Coutinho went close to a couple of assists, meanwhile, although still looked quiet.
NORWICH DOWN, WATFORD EFFECTIVELY GONE
Norwich City’s defeat at Aston Villa condemned them to the drop, while Watford’s last-gasp loss at the hands of Burnley all but sent then packing too.
Mankind’s quest to prove that a team being ‘on the beach’ is statistically a thing may have not quite found compelling evidence but what contesting end-of-season dead rubbers does do is raise the risk of rotation.
Fringe players are seemingly more likely to get a look-in when there’s little tangible to play for; we have seen it with Eberechi Eze (£5.9m) at Palace, Shane Long (£5.4m) at Southampton and Bailey at Aston Villa recently, for example.
Luckily there are few Norwich players we Fantasy managers genuinely covet but for those we do, it’s worth considering that Dean Smith might start to have one eye on next season with his team selections now that the Canaries are down.
The recently in-demand Teemu Pukki (£6.1m) could be relatively safe, at least, with Sargent reinjuring himself and Adam Idah (£4.9m) out for the season.
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