There were braces for two forwards at either end of the price list on Saturday afternoon.
Nearly £10.0m separates Erling Haaland (£14.3m) and Rodrigo Muniz (£4.4m) but both emerged with 13-point hauls from their respective games.
2021/22’s cult hero Bruno Guimaraes (£5.8m) also scored twice in a win for Newcastle United.
We cover the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from the matches at the Etihad, Craven Cottage and the City Ground in this Scout Notes article.
WHY GUARDIOLA BENCHED DE BRUYNE – AND OTHERS
A lack of touches and a lack of minutes have never been barriers to Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.8m) racking up points in the past.
It was the same on Saturday, with Haaland rescuing a haul from the jaws of anonymity and De Bruyne again coming off the bench to chip in with an attacking return.
The Belgian was named among the substitutes after starts in Gameweeks 22 and 23, with Tuesday’s trip to Copenhagen perhaps in mind.
“Kevin since he came back is something for many years I’ve seen. He’s so fresh in his mind, in his legs and that’s why sometimes I don’t play him because I want to keep him fresh. Sometimes a few minutes like today, the impact on Kevin is higher than maybe from the beginning.” – Pep Guardiola
City have another Saturday/Tuesday turnaround in Double Gameweek 25, so there is every chance that Guardiola will adopt a similar game-time approach with De Bruyne then.
Not that the Belgian will be alone.
Kyle Walker (£5.5m), Josko Gvardiol (£4.8m) and Bernardo Silva (£6.4m) were all benched against Everton on Saturday, with the newly fit-again John Stones (£5.3m) and Manuel Akanji (£4.9m) offered the chance to get “rhythm”.
“We have a tough schedule and we have to get the best out of the injured players, coming back with rhythm. We thought today was the best day.
“We have a lot of games. I think in today’s modern football, only a few players can sustain every three days: game, game, game, the high intensity.
“They have to feel that they can play. They have to feel like if they didn’t play good, the other one is there.
“There’s a lot of games, on Tuesday we are in Copenhagen. Then after, Chelsea come here. There’s a lot of games and everyone has to be involved.” – Pep Guardiola
The use of Stones and an inverting Akanji at full-back meant that Phil Foden (£8.0m) and Jeremy Doku (£6.5m) were tasked with providing the width at the Etihad.
Foden’s versatility means that you will get games like this, where he’s wider than his Fantasy owners would like. Last Monday, he was drifting in from the left into central, goalscoring positions. Here, he was moved over to the opposite flank and less prominent. Next Saturday, it could be something different again.
Guardiola at least recognised that the tactics hadn’t worked in a goalless first half, giving some touchline instructions to swap the poor Matheus Nunes (£4.8m) and Foden in order to get the latter more central.
Nunes was eventually replaced by De Bruyne, while some consolation for Walker owners is that his 57th-minute introduction was just as influential.
“We tried but it didn’t work. Manu (Akanji) didn’t feel comfortable. We changed our structure but it was more than that, we didn’t read where the spaces were. The spaces were more with Phil and Jeremy. We didn’t turn the ball, it was so passive, we didn’t use the middle to go to the opposite side.” – Pep Guardiola on his tactical changes
All credit to Sean Dyche and Everton, who have made a habit out of suffocating City for long periods.
They’re one of the more competent defensive units in the division, with Jarrad Branthwaite (£4.2m) excellent again.
They must surely be one of the clean-sheet favourites in Gameweek 25, when a depleted Crystal Palace visit Goodison Park.
GORDON’S ALIVE… BUT WILSON MAY BE INJURED AGAIN
Anthony Gordon (£6.1m) threw off the crutches to extend his unbroken run of league starts to 16.
“He trained for the first time yesterday, previous to that he was training by himself. He feels confident, he feels fit. He’s such an important player, I’ve got no hesitation in playing him.” – Eddie Howe on Anthony Gordon, speaking ahead of kick-off
The winger didn’t look like he was at full tilt but was still bright enough, albeit while failing to get in on the points in the five-goal thriller.
There’s a chance Gordon may be up front in Gameweek 25, with Alexander Isak (£7.5m) sidelined and Callum Wilson (£7.8m) struggling with an arm injury after full-time.
“It’s a slight concern for us after the game. His shoulder is fine but he looks like there is a problem with one of the muscles in his arm. We’re hopeful it is not serious but at this moment we don’t know.” – Eddie Howe on Callum Wilson, via the Evening Chronicle
Jacob Murphy (£4.8m) was also described by Howe as “unusable” off the bench after complaining of a tight calf in the warm-up.
BRUNO FURTHER FORWARD
Above: The average position of Newcastle players in Gameweek 24
Bruno Guimaraes was chiefly used as a more advanced central midfielder (an ‘eight’) when he first signed for Newcastle two years ago, hence the goal rush.
Since then, he’s mostly been used as a deeper ‘six’, dictating the play from the base of the midfield.
That’s made him a no-go as a Fantasy option.
But he was back in a more attacking role against Nottingham Forest, with Lewis Miley (£4.5m) holding the fort instead.
Ironically, Bruno’s more advanced role had little to do with his brace: his first came from a brilliantly worked set piece, his second after he’d intercepted a pass out while retreating to a deeper role.
It’s a tactic worth monitoring but with Miley not exactly as convincing as the ‘six’, it’s not an experiment that is guaranteed to be repeated.
DEFENCES ALL AT SEA
The two defences at the City Ground again failed to convince. Forest have now gone 13 matches without a clean sheet, while Newcastle’s only shut-out in the last 10 games was against the 10 men of Fulham.
Opposition teams are clearly targeting Dan Burn (£4.4m), while a Joelinton-less midfield is all too easily bypassed.
Nottingham Forest’s Achilles heel is set plays, with Bruno’s first strike and Fabian Schar‘s (£5.3m) effort both coming from dead-ball situations.
Forest have conceded more goals from corners and free-kicks than any other Premier League team this season.
The hosts’ Anthony Elanga (£5.1m) was their shining light in attack, tormenting Burn as he did in the reverse fixture. He’s now the top-scoring Fantasy midfielder under £5.5m, having delivered 11 attacking returns from just 16 starts and a handful of sub appearances.
While not a Fantasy target right now, he’ll be a name to consider for Free Hitters or dead-enders in Blank Gameweek 29 if the Luton v Forest game goes ahead.
“[The attacking threat] is the positive. I am not concerned if we miss one chance or a one-v-one with the goalkeeper because we are producing a lot.
“That is not a concern. But we are worried and concerned – and we have to address it – about how easily we are conceding goals. It is disappointing.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
£4.4m FORWARD BRACE
One side taking their chances, the other team not. That was effectively the story of the game at Craven Cottage, where Fulham were outshot 25-7 by Bournemouth but came away 3-1 victors.
It doesn’t quite tell the full picture, as the hosts were dominant in the early stages. Having twice established two-goal advantages, the onus was then very much on the visitors to throw bodies forward, so you’d expect a late flurry of shots.
As well as the goals, Willian (£5.3m) and attacking full-back Antonee Robinson (£4.4m) went close with back-post big chances.
Armando Broja (£4.9m) would have expected to see more game-time after a loan move from Chelsea but he’s first got to work his way past Rodrigo Muniz (£4.4m).
The budget forward Muniz followed up his goal against Burnley last week with an opportunistic brace here.
“I’m really pleased for him. He deserves this. When you have the chance to step in, you have to pop up. When the chance is there, you have to show your quality.
“The performance this afternoon was probably his best so far in a Fulham shirt. It’s important now that he keeps working hard and it’s important that I keep developing him as a football player.
“[Broja] knows being in the Premier League that he is going to have competition for places. He arrived only last week and against Burnley, another striker scored an important goal and had a good impact on that game.
“If Rodrigo is going to have another good week and Armando is going to have a good week, then it’s perfect for us.
“Football players are not stupid. They can understand decisions and one way you can deal with the situation is to work hard and show that they are better than the others who are playing.” – Marco Silva on Rodrigo Muniz, via West London Sport
Either way, there’ll likely be a sub-£5.0m forward leading the line for Fulham in Blank Gameweek 29, should we require the services of one.
Dominic Solanke (£7.0m) grabbed an assist for Marcos Senesi‘s (£4.5m) third goal of the season but had an off-day in front of goal, failing to score from any of his five shots. The best of his chances was blazed over from close range.
Still, as the old adage goes, it’s better to be missing those chances than not getting them at all, and he’ll certainly get more sights of goal at a leaky Newcastle based on recent evidence. Double Gameweek 28 is in sight now, too.