There’s plenty to unpick from Wednesday’s Gameweek 15 matches, including what Thomas Frank said about the injury that forced Bryan Mbeumo (£7.1m) off at the Amex Stadium.
All six fixtures from last night are discussed in this Scout Notes article.
- READ MORE: FPL notes: Tomiyasu injury update, Arteta on Jesus + in-form Hwang
- READ MORE: FPL Gameweek 15: Wednesday’s goals, assists, bonus points + stats
Mbeumo made it 11 attacking returns in 16 appearances by scoring his third penalty of the season on Wednesday night.
But that was as it good as got for both player and club as Brentford went on to not only lose their clash with Brighton and Hove Albion but also their Cameroonian star to injury.
A “rolled ankle” forced Mbeumo off after 40 minutes – and it’s an issue that will now keep him out for “weeks”.
“It is bad. I don’t know how bad. We don’t have the exact number of weeks. He will definitely be out for Saturday and for weeks.” – Thomas Frank on Bryan Mbeumo’s injury, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Thursday
Frank had gone with a rare old 4-4-2 for this clash, with Neal Maupay (£4.9m) keeping Yoane Wissa (£5.9m) out of the side – although the two were reunited when Mbeumo limped off.
Budget midfielder Jack Hinshelwood (£4.5m), in his third start in four post-break Brighton matches, grabbed the winner for the hosts.
Pascal Gross (£6.3m) and Kaoru Mitoma (£6.5m), benched in Gameweek 14, returned to the starting XI here and combined for the Seagulls’ early leveller. Gross and Hinshelwood were makeshift full-backs for the day, with options in short supply in defence.
And that’s now eight consecutive league starts for young Albion winger Simon Adingra (£5.0m), who whistled one of his four efforts narrowly wide.
ALEXANDER FORM-STRONG… AND HIS POINTLESS FRIEND
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.0m) is now FPL’s ‘form’ player, averaging 10.0 points per match over the last four Gameweeks.
This wasn’t even a stand-out showing from the defender but his tally of seven chances created was an eye-catching one: never before has he bettered that in a Premier League game.
A 12-point haul could have been even greater.
Having supplied the corner that Virgil van Dijk (£6.1m) swept in after 37 minutes, Alexander-Arnold then saw further assists spoiled by a(nother) Darwin Nunez (£7.7m) one-on-one miss and Wes Foderingham’s (£4.5m) excellent save from Mohamed Salah‘s (£13.1m) volley.
He’s always able to pick a pass from open play but perhaps most crucial in the last six Gameweeks has been his increased re-involvement at set plays.
Dominic Szoboszlai (£7.1m) had eaten into Alexander-Arnold’s share of corners and free-kicks at the start of 2023/24 – but that’s not been the case as much from Gameweek 10 onwards.
In case you’re wondering about the sample sizes below, Alexander-Arnold has played roughly the same number of minutes in both timeframes.
|Corners taken: GW1-9
|Corners taken: GW10-15
Kostas Tsimikas (£4.9m) didn’t even get onto the field for this one, by contrast. His duck-egg means that it’s now 53-34 in the FPL points stakes, in Alexander-Arnold’s favour, since the Greece international began his run in the team in Gameweek 9.
Tsimikas was one of three well-fancied FPL defenders who warmed the bench on Wednesday.
Matty Cash (£4.9m) and Reece James (£5.4m) were also among the substitutes for their respective clubs.
The ongoing prospects are very different for all three options.
With Tsimikas, the expectation is that he’ll return to the Liverpool starting XI in Gameweek 16. Jurgen Klopp had mentioned as recently as Tuesday about the Greek left-back not being able to “play all the games”, so he will drop out of the team from time to time in busy periods – something we also witnessed in Gameweek 11.
For Cash, there is now more of a sustained concern about minutes. This was his second successive benching, having been hooked at half-time in his last league start.
With Ezri Konsa (£4.5m) excellent at right-back against Manchester City and Leon Bailey (£5.5m) providing the match-winning goal further down the same flank, there’s worry about how Cash gets back into the team.
Fresh legs may be one consideration with the visit of Arsenal less than 72 hours away but there’ll be week-to-week uncertainty going forward.
As for James, fitness – shock, horror – continues to be a factor with his game-time, even when he’s available for selection.
“Reece played against Newcastle and then he was suspended against Brighton. For different reasons, we need to try to look after him and his fitness. He starts from the bench with the possibility to maybe play in the second half and then to build again his confidence for the future, to be solid in his performance.” – Mauricio Pochettino, speaking before kick-off
“It was 1-1 in the first half but we cannot play with Reece for 90 minutes, that’s why it was the decision. We got we wanted in the second half to use more the right side to attack.” – Mauricio Pochettino, speaking after full-time
He looks such a threat when he is on the field, mind, creating two excellent chances in his 45-minute showing at Old Trafford.
SALAH SUBBED, DARWIN BENCHED
Klopp made four changes to his starting XI, with Darwin joining Tsimikas among the substitutes.
The Uruguay international, booked in his second-half cameo, at least salvaged a late assist for Szoboszlai’s goal.
The good news is that he should now be a starter against Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime given the harsh 63-hour turnaround.
Salah, who has only scored in one of his eight away league matches this season, also had his minutes managed, departing with Luis Diaz (£7.4m) midway through the second half.
This was a poor display from the Egyptian but still, one that would have brought home at least eight points were it not for Foderingham’s brilliance.
Klopp has been fond of giving Salah a rare Premier League rest in early December in years gone by; the hope this time is that an early withdrawal at Bramall Lane boosts his expected minutes in Gameweek 16.
One further bit of team news is that Joel Matip (£4.9m) will likely be out for the rest of 2023/24 with a ruptured ACL, handing Ibrahima Konate (£4.9m) a game-time boost.
Aston Villa’s home form reached its absolute zenith on Wednesday night as the reigning champions were outfought, outplayed and eventually defeated.
Villa remarkably had 11 times as many shots as their visitors, with Man City’s only two opportunities falling to the otherwise peripheral Erling Haaland (£14.0m) in the same move.
Arsenal will face a stiff test against the side that has now registered 14 home league wins in a row on Saturday.
Douglas Luiz (£5.6m) was involved in nine of Villa’s 22 opportunities (five shots, four created), hitting the post from range and even popping up in the six-yard box in open play to see one big chance excellently saved by Ederson (£5.5m).
Moussa Diaby (£6.7m), like Cash, was benched for the second successive game.
“He’s in the process of adaptation with us. We are very happy with him. We are in the process with the team to build, to create a strong structure with the players and of course there are players sometimes in this starting XI more or less.
“Our players have to be involved in the process. One of them is Moussa Diaby but Moussa Diaby is playing well, very well. His adaptation is going well but there is still more time to get more performances individually. He played tonight the last 20 minutes and he was very focused on the idea, keeping the process.” – Unai Emery on Moussa Diaby
As for City, they extended their losing sequence without Rodri (£5.6m) to four in all competitions. He mercifully returns from suspension in Gameweek 16, as his unavailabilty left the engine room exposed.
The good news: their next four fixtures, either side of their Blank Gameweek 18, are all against teams sitting 14th or below.
“We have to change the dynamic on Sunday in Luton and come back to our best.
“It’s my job to find a way to do it. Today is simple, the better team won. They were better, we have to accept it.” – Pep Guardiola
UNITED’S SUB-£5.0M MIDFIELDERS THREATEN
Manchester United produced one of their best attacking performances of the campaign when beating Chelsea on Wednesday – but it’s a result that probably says more about the Blues than Erik ten Hag’s side.
United still haven’t beaten anyone higher than 10th in 2023/24, so this was a stark reminder of where Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in their development.
Cole Palmer (£5.3m) at least returned to the starting XI to trickle in his first non-penalty goal since his move from City.
And from an attacking perspective, there was at least encouragement from the creation of five (unconverted) big chances: the profligate Nicolas Jackson (£6.9m) wasted two of them, while substitute Armando Broja (£4.9m) and Mykhailo Mudryk (£6.3m) both hit the upright and Enzo Fernandez (£4.8m) fluffed his lines from close range.
So, goalscoring and chance creation have’t been a problem in recent weeks – but defending has.
United, who have struggled to carve out much against the big guns this season, racked up a massive 4.07 expected goals (xG) here, including a first-half penalty that Bruno Fernandes (£8.3m) missed.
Robert Sanchez (£4.6m) also somehow denied Scott McTominay (£4.8m) twice from close range in between the Scot’s two goals. McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho (£4.7m) racked up a whopping 15 shots between them, as many as Liverpool had overall in their win over Sheffield United.
McTominay is now up to five Premier League goals for the season.
“Absolutely, yes [we are trying to get him higher up the pitch]. He has the skills and, when he is arriving and he has the skills to arrive there in the right moment. He has the snout. And then he has a very good finish.
“Talking about dynamics, sometimes he is deep and sometimes he is lower. But in our tactics, in our planning, our game plan is often that we want him to be high. So the team has to to make it happen, that he can come high, that he can come into positions where is around a striker and then he can make a run. And as I said, he has a very good smell when to arrive. And then he has also very good finish. And then the team has to make sure that we bring the ball with him.” – Erik ten Hag on Scott McTominay
Garnacho drew a blank but that flurry of chances means he is now the leading FPL midfielder for minutes per shot, at least among those with a minimum of 10 appearances:
Above: Midfielders with 10 or more appearances sorted by minutes per chance (M/C)
With Garnacho and Antony (£6.8m) impressing on the wings, Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) – who was benched here – can only hope that ten Hag wants to freshen things up this weekend, as he won’t regain his place on form alone.
MANAGER(S) ON THE BRINK?
Following Paul Heckingbottom’s dismissal, Steve Cooper is the odds-on bookmakers’ favourite to get the chop next.
Forest were woeful in a 5-0 defeat at Fulham, with Cooper – like Heckingbottom did in his final press conference – even questioning the desire of some of his players after full-time. We could, in turn, question his selection, with Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.7m) benched and a half-fit Felipe (£4.4m), Ibrahim Sangare (£5.0m) and Divock Origi (£5.0m) starting.
Forest are now bottom of the six-match Premier League form table.
Second in the bookies’ odds list? A certain Roy Hodgson. One point from four games against Everton, Luton Town, West Ham United and Bournemouth has left Crystal Palace in 14th place, still nine points above the drop.
But how many more losses will they avoid in the following six Gameweeks with this run? With each passing week and more points lost, the pressure will mount on Hodgson as it did with Patrick Vieira.
It’s a good time for Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers to face their respective Gameweek 16 opponents, then.
It’s not such a good time for Man Utd to be entertaining Bournemouth, however:
Luis Sinisterra (£5.5m) marked his first Cherries league start with an assist for Marcos Senesi‘s (£4.3m) opener against Palace before two substitutes combined for Kieffer Moore‘s (£4.7m) result-sealing strike.
Budget forward Antoine Semenyo (£4.6m) made his fourth straight start before being hooked on the hour mark, while Neto‘s (£4.5m) points-per-match average of 3.8 can’t be beaten by any other fit and available first-choice goalkeeper.
Forest’s conquerors, Fulham, thumped the Tricky Trees 2.52-0.29 on the xG front.
Andreas Pereira (£5.3m) claimed a hat-trick of assists and Raul Jimenez (£5.3m) bagged his first brace in almost four years as Fulham again ran wild in attack: that’s now 11 goals in three matches for the Cottagers.
Jimenez had broken his long drought in Gameweek 12, so there’s a little bit more confidence running through his veins at present – as evidenced in his backheeled finish against Forest.
“I’m really happy. I needed this kind of night.” – Raul Jimenez
ARCHER OUT WIDE
Finally, there was a first look at Sheffield United since Chris Wilder returned to take over.
The Blades boss turned to a 4-3-3 for this one, moving centre-half Auston Trusty (£3.9m) to left-back.
Budget midfielder Andre Brooks (£4.4m) was handed his full Premier League debut, while the most noteworthy tactic from an FPL perspective was the use of the 10%-owned Cameron Archer (£4.6m) in a wide-left role.
Despite this, Archer was more involved at the business end of the pitch than he had been in months.
Four shots were recorded by the budget forward, while he also teed up a big chance for James McAtee (£4.4m) as his pace caused trouble for Liverpool’s high defensive line.
The even cheaper Will Osula (£4.3m) spearheaded the attack but will likely be a placeholder for Oli McBurnie (£5.4m) when he returns from a ban.
A much improved display, then, but Wilder won’t have the surprise tactical element in his arsenal when his side entertain Brentford this weekend.