Having already brought you the statistical summary of Saturday’s Gameweek 2 action, we now turn our attention to the wider Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from the day’s fixtures.
The numbers and heatmaps you see in this article are from our Premium Members Area, where you can access Opta player and team data for every single Premier League fixture.
It was a punishing afternoon for the 400,000+ FPL managers who offloaded Gabriel Jesus (£8.0m) in the last week as the Brazilian ran riot against Leicester City at the Emirates.
A 19-point haul was the highest individual Fantasy score of the season so far and there could have even been other/further attacking returns, with FPL’s most-owned player denied twice by Danny Ward (£4.0m) and then missing a big chance to grab his hat-trick late on.
His totals for penalty box touches, goal attempts, shots in the box and big chances (BCT) are unbeaten by anyone in Gameweek 2 so far – and up next for Jesus are newly promoted Bournemouth and Fulham.
“He scored two and assisted two and he’s still disappointed in the dressing room because he said he could have scored four. That’s the standard, that’s the mentality that if you want to go to a different level you need that mentality. I wouldn’t like to play against him.
“I think he’s played 18 starts in the last two seasons and we are going to demand him to start a lot of games, so we have to manage that load and the way that we train is different. We have to be on top of that and hopefully we are.” – Mikel Arteta on Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Martinelli (£6.2m) scored for the second week running with his only shot of the game but Bukayo Saka (£8.0m) missed out on the points bonanza. There was definitely a sense of not just him being shunted wider on the right but also a lot of Arsenal’s attacking play being funnelled down the left flank; something to watch out for in the coming weeks but he was, for example, only a post width away from claiming an assist in the first half.
Above: Arsenal’s shot heatmap in Gameweek 2
Someone who did benefit from that slightly lopsided approach was Granit Xhaka (£5.0m), whose more advanced role as a left-sided number eight was something we highlighted in pre-season. While the assist for Jesus’s incredible solo strike was barely deserved, he was in or around the six-yard box for not just his goal but an earlier headed effort that struck the woodwork. It seems a mad thing to suggest but is he someone that ought to be entering the FPL conversation as a budget midfield enabler?
“I’ve got more freedom to go up and down. I know I can do that. I have a lot of freedom from the coach, from my teammates. At the moment I’m happy with how everything is going” – Granit Xhaka
“Granit is arriving in the box and he should have scored last week and he could have scored two today because he had another header, and that’s what we need.
“He’s there to play the role that we want and Granit has certain characteristics, but we can develop other characteristics because he has the ability to do it, and when Fabio Vieira plays in that position he will have a different role because his qualities are different, and it’s the same with Martin, so the team has to adapt, but the players as well have to play with an eye on the goal and the feeling that they want to score.” – Mikel Arteta on Granit Xhaka
Arsenal’s goal concessions were self-inflicted, with William Saliba (£4.5m) scoring an own-goal and Aaron Ramsdale (£5.0m) letting a James Maddison (£8.0m) shot creep beneath his legs, but they weren’t troubled too often by Leicester, conceding just six shots all game. There’s plenty of encouragement then for the upcoming favourable fixture run on the clean sheet front, even if Ramsdale doesn’t always convince on and off the ball.
As for the Foxes, they have a chance to bounce back against a similarly porous Southampton next weekend. Ward may be the cheapest playing goalkeeper in the game but clean sheets look like they’ll be as scarce as they were last season, while Jamie Vardy (£9.5m) hasn’t really clicked into gear yet and will be hoping to kickstart his season against the sorry Saints.
Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; White (Tomiyasu 75′), Gabriel, Saliba, Zinchenko (Tierney 77′); Partey, Xhaka, Saka (Smith-Rowe 84′), Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus (Nketiah 84′).
Leicester City XI: Ward; Fofana, Evans, Amartey (Daka 63′); Castagne, Tielemans (Praet 63′), Ndidi, Dewsbury-Hall, Justin; Maddison, Vardy (Iheanacho 70′).
Erling Haaland (£11.6m) had fewer touches of the ball than Phil Foden (£8.0m) got FPL points in Gameweek 2 but the Norwegian wasn’t a completely anonymous figure in Manchester City’s thrashing of Bournemouth.
Haaland still managed to get two efforts in, would have had an open net to tap into had Foden not selfishly shot from a narrow angle, and was also in tap-in territory for Foden’s fortuitous goal. The forward even found time to tee up Ilkay Gundogan‘s (£7.5m) strike to at least avoid a blank.
“He [Phil Foden] didn’t see him [Erling Haaland], I guess. He has to pass the ball. Now you have to know that Erling will be there all the time. In this kind of situation, arrive at the by-line, Erling will be there. In the past, maybe with false nine or other players [maybe not].” – Pep Guardiola
Still, even Kevin De Bruyne (£12.0m) played along with the ‘low block narrative’ and the adjustment period that his new teammate may require.
“He played really well. Obviously, it’s so tight – I don’t think in Germany he played a lot of games where the other teams were so defensively narrow and onto the goal so it’s something that he has to adapt [to] but I think he did great.” – Kevin De Bruyne on Erling Haaland
De Bruyne was the star of the show with a sumptuous strike of his own but Gundogan is an interesting case and he has been allowed a decent amount of attacking license in Gameweeks 1 and 2. The German’s late-timed runs into the box have always been a forte but he’s not always given the remit to do so. However, Haaland’s defence-occupying presence does open up a bit of space behind him, something highlighted in the City’s opening goal. Gundogan also was top among his teammates for penalty area touches in Gameweek 2.
Joao Cancelo (£7.0m) was most definitely wider and further forward than he was last week, supplying the assist for the own-goal that rounded off the scoring.
As for the Cherries, this was a result that was to be expected and we won’t be considering any of their players until Gameweek 5 at the earliest due to the tricky opening schedule.
Dominic Solanke (£6.0m) was absent for this one, along with the Covid-hit Jordan Zemura (£4.5m), but his non-involvement sounds more precautionary in nature.
“Dom has felt his ankle yesterday morning, so didn’t feel he could play today and obviously didn’t want to risk that.” – Scott Parker
Man City XI: Ederson, Walker (Lewis 81’), Dias (Stones 63’), Ake, Cancelo, Rodrigo, Gundogan (C) (Gundogan (64’), De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden (Grealish 46’), Haaland (Alvarez 73’).
Bournemouth XI: Travers, Smith, Mepam, Kelly (C), Stacey, Cook (Billing 63’), Pearson, Lerma, Tavernier, Christie (Stanislas 63’), Moore.
Leon Bailey (£5.0m)’s pre-season form and Steven Gerrard’s pre-match comments counted for naught as the winger’s run in the Aston Villa starting XI ended at one game, at least for now.
Steven Gerrard recalled Ollie Watkins (£7.4m) alongside Danny Ings (£7.0m) at Bailey’s expense and reverted to a 4-3-1-2, citing the lack of goal threat in Gameweek 1 – and the strike pair duly delivered when combining for Villa’s opener.
There is a sense that Gerrard is still struggling to nail down his best XI or formation but Bailey certainly isn’t a natural fit for the narrower set-up we saw against Everton. That was underscored when Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m) got injured on the hour mark, with another genuine ‘number 10’ in the form of the impressive Emiliano Buendia (£6.0m) brought on to replace him.
Bailey later replaced Ings up top and was involved in a couple of near-misses on the counter-attack but with Ings and Watkins combining to effect against Everton, an ‘out of position’ run-out in a front two looks unlikely from kick-off next weekend.
There was the merest glimmer of hope for Bailey owners from Gerrard after the game, however, with the Villa boss saying that a two-man attack was a tactic designed to combat a three-man defence – something that Gameweek 3 opponents Crystal Palace tend not to play with.
“We knew we were going to play against three central defenders today, we wanted to be aggressive and brave.
“We felt last week that Danny was a little bit isolated at times and when we putting crosses and quality into the box, he was getting suffocated and outnumbered. Having another body in there gave the back three something to think about.” – Steven Gerrard
The Saturday lunchtime kick-off at Villa Park gradually opened up but was short on real quality, especially in an attacking sense, with Everton again ‘striker-less’ and using Anthony Gordon (£5.5m) through the middle. There were plenty of near-misses for the visitors, with Gordon seeing an effort chalked off for offside and Demarai Gray (£5.5m) unable to sort his feet out when six yards out, but the Toffees had to rely on a Lucas Digne (£5.0m) own-goal to halve the deficit.
So far this campaign, these look more like two teams you wouldn’t mind opposing FPL assets facing.
There was plenty to report on the injury front: Matty Cash (£5.0m) and Coutinho “should be OK” for Gameweek 3 along with Conor Coady (£4.9m), but Diego Carlos (£5.0m) is a big concern and Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.5m) needs a hamstring injury assessed.
Aston Villa XI: Martínez, Digne, Mings, Carlos (Chambers 95′), Cash (Konsa 94′), Ramsey (Young 94′), McGinn, Kamara, Coutinho (Buendía 60′), Ings (Bailey 78′), Watkins.
Everton XI: Pickford, Holgate, Tarkowski, Coady (Alli 81′), Doucouré (Davies 35′), Iwobi, Mykolenko, Patterson, Gray (Onana 81′), Gordon, McNeil (Rondón 64′).
“It’s like a men’s team against under-nines.
“It’s a real achievement to spend a billion pounds and be this bad.” – Gary Neville
You’ll have no doubt read the back-page reports by now but yes, Manchester United really were that bad in their 4-0 defeat to Brentford.
The frenzy whipped up by some impressive pre-season performances and the discounted FPL starting prices has been completely quietened, with the Red Devils now bottom of the table and facing Liverpool next. On this evidence, Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) has a far easier fixture than Erling Haaland (£11.6m) when we’re looking at potential Gameweek 3 captains.
From front to back United were awful, with the tone set early on when David de Gea (£5.0m) let a tame Josh Dasilva (£4.6m) shot slip through his grasp. Bullied defensively, vulnerable to a high press and anaemic up top, they look just as rudderless as they did under Ralf Rangnick in 2021/22.
“A really poor performance. You start the game and you have to be ready, and we weren’t, and that’s disappointing. It’s difficult for me.
“It’s a surprise when you start the game like this; in 35 minutes conceding four goals. It’s not possible. So, the team has to take responsibility. I feel really sorry for the fans. They give everything to support us and we let them down.” – Erik ten Hag
While we’ll surely all be avoiding United assets in FPL in the short term, Brentford are a different prospect altogether.
The Bees have some excellent fixtures to come both before and after the September international break, with only the Gameweek 8 visit of Arsenal looking off-putting.
Some words of caution are probably needed about budget FPL midfielders Mathias Jensen (£5.0m) and Dasilva after their strong starts: the former isn’t renowned for his attacking output and managed just one return in the whole of 2021/22, while Dasilva has scored twice this season from an expected goals (xG) tally of 0.07. It’s too early to say whether either are ‘nailed’ starters, too, with competition healthy in the engine room and Dasilva’s minutes clearly being managed after a long lay-off.
Bryan Mbeumo (£6.0m) managed to avoid the woodwork with his first goal of the campaign, while quietly going under the FPL radar is Ivan Toney (£7.0m), who claimed two assists here after his opening-day goal. His xGI figure of 0.45 is pretty unimpressive this season but it’s an unfair reflection of his contribution against United, with both of his assists laid on a plate for Ben Mee (£4.5m) and Mbeumo.
There aren’t many goalkeepers with better fixtures than David Raya (£4.5m), either, even if the centre-half department in front of him is short on two likely starters.
Brentford XI: Raya; Hickey (Sorensen, 80), Roerslev, Jansson, Mee, Henry; Dasilva (Janelt, 62), Norgaard (Onyeka, 82), Jensen (Baptiste, 74); Mbeumo (Wissa, 73), Toney.
Manchester United XI: De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Martinez (Varane, 45), Shaw (Malacia, 45); Fred (McTominay, 45), Eriksen (Van de Beek, 87); Sancho (Elanga, 60), Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.6m) spurned an excellent chance to hit the summit of the FPL forwards’ points table when he missed a late penalty at Molineux.
Transferred in by around 650,000 FPL managers ahead of the Gameweek 2 deadline, Mitrovic compounded his owners’ misery by being booked for some petulance late on and ending the afternoon on a minus score.
There’s no danger of him losing spot-kick duties, however, with his manager giving him some emphatic backing after full-time.
“Mitro knows that the next penalty will be there, the next penalty he will take, and the next penalty he will score. That is part of the game.
“Last week he had one and he scored, this afternoon he could be the moment for us to win the game, but okay, it’s part of our job.
“It’s part of Mitro’s job as well and we have to keep working with him. I will not miss, for sure, because I do not take penalties, but it’s part of the life of a football player. Next time he will score.” – Marco Silva
Elsewhere, there was positive-sounding news on the well-owned budget midfielder Andreas Pereira (£4.5m), who limped out of the stalemate:
“Lacking a focal point” was a common observation/criticism of Wolves in their clash with the Cottagers, with Bruno Lage’s striker-less troops drawing a blank.
Pedro Neto (£5.5m) looked dangerous without registering a single legitimate shot – he was belatedly flagged offside after one early effort and didn’t actually pull the trigger when presented with an open goal later in the first half – while Daniel Podence (£5.5m) and Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.5m) both wasted gilt-edged chances.
But the void up top seems telling, with Hwang Hee-chan (£6.0m) and debutant Goncalo Guedes (£6.0m) both tasked with leading the line here; neither of whom is a real bona fide striker.
“It’s frustrating because we didn’t score. I think we deserved to win because we created chances to score goals, but It’s almost like living everything again and again. That’s the way, but we need to continue to work.” – Bruno Lage
Wolves XI: José Sá, Collins, Kilman, Jonny (Nélson Semedo 78′), Aït-Nouri, Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto (Traoré 79′), Dendoncker, Rúben Neves, Gibbs-White, Hwang Hee-Chan (Gonçalo Guedes 58′)
Fulham FC: Rodák, Tete (Francois 92′), Tosin, Ream, Robinson, Reed, João Palhinha, Andreas Pereira (Cairney 86′), Kebano (Stansfield 83′), De Cordova-Reid (Mbabu 93′), Mitrović
No FPL asset has scored more goals (three) or had more shots (10) than Rodrigo Moreno (£6.1m) this season, with the Leeds man notching a brace in Saturday’s draw at Southampton.
The history suggests we be careful with this early-season bandwagon – he scored six and seven goals respectively in the last two campaigns – but he is no longer playing as a ‘number eight’ as he did under Marcelo Bielsa, instead pushed further up the park in this new-look Jesse Marsch side.
Above: Rodrigo had as many shots in the six-yard box in Gameweek 2 (2022/23 xG shotmap, right) as he did under all of his games under Marcelo Bielsa last season (left)
He was admittedly helped by Patrick Bamford‘s (£7.5m) first-half injury and Marsch abandoning the ‘Daniel James (£6.0m) up front’ project, while Bamford isn’t expected to be sidelined long.
“The goals are one thing but for me even more so the quality at which he’s playing, the clarity, the tactical awareness, the discipline, the work rate. He’s putting new full performances together.
“I think the idea was that maybe we could challenge their backline with Dan’s speed, but we weren’t getting enough of that. Dan had a big chance at the end of the first half that maybe would have rewarded that idea. But then I just felt like making the rotation of putting Rodri in a more dangerous spot putting Brenden in the middle to help find pockets in their team and also to help press and win balls and then Dan in the right flank to be a little bit more aggressive to be running in the deep and being vertical.
“Rodri, obviously, I thought the first goal was a really good goal, a really good connection between him and Jack and Brenden, I thought was fantastic.” – Jesse Marsch on Rodrigo
Rodrigo’s points tally has masked Jack Harrison‘s (£6.0m) contribution, with the winger delivering back-to-back assists and now top of all Premier League players for chances created in 2022/23. The Scout Picks/hipsters’ choice from the Leeds midfield, Brenden Aaronson (£5.5m) is already starting to lag behind on the underlying stats front, as bright as he looks.
This was definitely more of an advert for the two sides’ attacks, with the defences looking like ones to target in FPL for all the wrong reasons.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s troops were heading for yet another defeat but a late change to his trusty old 4-2-2-2 set-up helped swing the game, with the very promising Joe Aribo (£5.5m) coming off the bench to net one of the goals.
Aribo managed three attempts on goal in just 30 minutes and after impressing in pre-season, occasionally as an ‘out of position’ centre-forward, he’s a name very much for the FPL watchlist when Southampton’s fixtures get better. Budget forward Sekou Mara (£5.5m), supplier of an assist here, also falls into this bracket, although his Saints career is even more embryonic than Aribo’s and more observation time is needed with him.
Southampton XI: Bazunu, Walker-Peters, Ward-Prowse, Adams, S. Armstrong (Aribo 61’), Djenepo (Stephens 90’), Salisu, Elyounoussi (A. Armstrong 61’) Bednarek (Mara 70’), Bella-Kotchap, Lavia.
Leeds United XI: Meslier, Koch, Aaronson, Roca (Forshaw 88’), Bamford (James 28’ (Sinisterra 84’)), Harrison (Klich 84’), Adams, Llorente, Rodrigo, Struijk, Kristensen.
After the stalemate at the Amex, there were the usual predictable narratives about Brighton being a team full of chance-wasters. This was the first time in 10 Premier League matches that they had failed to score, however, and the blank was as much to do with Nick Pope‘s (£5.0m) goalkeeping and some last-ditch defending from Newcastle as it was Albion’s profligacy.
Pascal Gross (£5.6m) wasted the best of the Seagulls’ opportunities late on: the German midfielder, who scored a brace in Gameweek 1, is an eye-catching third among all FPL assets for expected goal involvement (xGI) in 2022/23. His usual creativity from open play and dead-ball situations is part of that total (he supplied another four chances against Newcastle) but he is in a slightly more advanced role this season, with his rate final-third and penalty box touches well up at this early point.
Fans of a cheap midfielder may have been impressed by Solly March (£5.0m), too, who saw one effort saved well and another cleared off the line. He’s in excellent form at present but there’s always the nagging concern about Graham Potter’s love of rotation, with Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) on the bench and a congested fixture schedule upon us.
“I can cut in, it opens up more shots if the ball is cut back for me – the same with Leon on the other side. It hopefully will give us more goals.” – The left-footed Solly March on being played as a right-sided wing-back
Newcastle posed little threat, registering just four shots in all; the concerns about a lack of goals outside of Callum Wilson (£7.5m) was indeed something we discussed after the Nottingham Forest victory.
The Magpies look more impressive at the back and are one of just two sides (so far) to keep clean sheets in both of their opening fixtures.
Dan Burn (£4.5m) filled in at left-back on Saturday, with Matt Targett (£5.0m) absent with a minor hamstring issue.
“You’re only as solid as your defence, I think we’ve changed personnel, added strength and added depth and now we’ve got some very good characters in that unit.
“And I think you saw that today, because we were under the cosh but we stayed calm and we battled through it.” – Eddie Howe
Now probably isn’t the time to pounce on Newcastle players in FPL with matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and West Ham coming up but Brighton sit top of our Season Ticker for fixture difficulty until the international break, with their run from Gameweek 4-8 particularly appealing.
Newcastle United XI: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Willock (S.Longstaff 76), Guimaraes, Joelinton, Almiron, Saint-Maximin (J.Murphy 75), Wilson (Wood 87).
Brighton and Hove Albion XI: Sanchez, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, March (Mitoma 75), MacAllister, Caicedo, Trossard (Lamptey 75), Lallana (Mwepu 65), Welbeck.