FPL review: Conte on Son, Maddison warms up for Gameweek 9

The Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Saturday’s fixtures are covered in this latest Scout Notes article.

A statistical summary of Saturday’s Gameweek 8 action can be found here.

The numbers you see in this piece are from our Premium Members area, where you can access Opta player and team data for every single Premier League fixture.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 6-2 LEICESTER CITY

Another goalfest between these two clubs played out on Saturday, with Son Heung-min (£11.7m) ending his goal drought in some style.

The South Korea international did it all as a second-half substitute, too, having been dropped to the bench by Antonio Conte for the very first time in a Premier League match.

There was plenty of hindsight bias and sour grapes flying around after full-time in north London but both the for/against Son camps had legitimate reasons. Whatever definition you’d apply to the abstract term ‘form’, Son wasn’t in a rich vein of it: a scarcity of FPL points, a mixed bag of underlying numbers (plenty of shots but just the 20th-best expected goal involvement figure (xGI) in the division in Gameweeks 1-6), and, the consensus seemed to be, below-par ‘eye test’ displays. All of that, and especially because of a stronger-than-usual chance of a benching in Gameweek 8, made him a speculative FPL punt this week, even against one of the division’s worst defences.

But he had undeniably been unlucky in the opening six Gameweeks, despite all that, hitting the woodwork and having a tap-in taken off his toes by a defender who put the ball in his own net – amongst other near-misses. And his history as a serial points-scorer and expected goals (xG) overperformer told us he was always going to get out of this sticky patch sooner rather than later. In one fell swoop on Saturday, his xG delta (the difference between expected and actual goals scored) for 2022/23 climbed from an uncharacteristic -1.68 to a more recognisable +0.65.

“I am pleased for Sonny, for sure, because we can speak, we can try to give an explanation if a player doesn’t score especially when he is a striker, but at the end, the striker has to score because if the striker doesn’t score, the confidence goes down. For sure, in the last seven games, he had a lot of chances to score, but he was unlucky.” – Antonio Conte

Elsewhere, Harry Kane‘s (£11.4m) purple patch continued as he rose to second in the FPL points table with a double-digit haul, while Ivan Perisic (£5.6m) contributed a third assist of the season with a corner that was nodded in by Eric Dier (£5.0m). The Croatian, however, ended up with just two points, with the hammer-blow of a 54th-minute withdrawal compounded by a yellow card dished out for on-field encroachment after he was substituted. His average appearance for Spurs has lasted 47.5 minutes this season if we (harshly) include Gameweeks 1 and 2 when Conte favoured 2021/22’s regulars.

Unreliable game-time will continue to be an issue for Perisic and many other Spurs assets after the international break, with the two-games-a-week schedule set to continue all the way to the World Cup (graphic below from Legomane):

“In the first four games, Richy was on the bench, and then in three games with Deki on the bench, today Sonny was on the bench. When we start to play after the international break, 12 games in a row, for sure, I will make rotation. The only thing I ask my players is to give me the possibility don’t drop the level when we make this rotation. We always want a strong team because we want to fight for every competition.” – Antonio Conte

 James Maddison (£7.9m) warmed up for Leicester’s favourable fixture swing nicely with a goal, topping the non-penalty expected goal involvement (NPxGI) table in Gameweek 8. An eye-catching seven shots and four chances created were registered by Maddison in north London and he’s by far and away the most attractive Foxes option for Gameweek 9 onwards.

It’s easy to see where Leicester’s problems lie: they’ve scored two goals in four of their seven matches this season – and looked decent going forward on Saturday – but not won any of them.

They are one of just two teams without a clean sheet to their name in 2022/23, while even a Bournemouth side that lost 9-0 at Anfield still haven’t conceded as many as Brendan Rodgers’ troops (22). Bottom of the table for big chances conceded, too, even the favourable fixtures and low prices of Danny Ward (£4.0m) and James Justin (£4.3m) aren’t enough for them to be anything more than bench fodder at present. Perhaps the easier schedule will breed some upturn in defensive form but you wouldn’t put much money on it.

“We conceded from a couple of set pieces which is obviously disappointing, especially if I told you how many hours we’ve done on that because it was a downfall of ours last season.” – James Maddison

“Obviously, it’s pretty low (team morale), but we’ve got to get our heads up and work over the international break, all of us that are here, and try and get back for Forest. That’s something that the gaffer loves us to do (be on the front foot) and we’ll have to do it as a team. I feel it’s when we’re at our best, but obviously at the same time we’ve got to keep it tight at the back and keep clean sheets.” – James Justin

The goalless Jamie Vardy (£9.2m) was benched again, meanwhile, with even Rodgers acknowledging that age was now a factor with the 35-year-old striker.

Spurs XI: Lloris, Sanchez (Romero 59), Dier, Lenglet, Perisic (Royal 55), Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Sessegnon, Kulusevski (Bissouma 70), Kane, Richarlison (Son 59).

Leicester City XI: Ward, Castagne, Faes, Evans, Justin, Ndidi (Soumare 85), Maddison, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall (Iheanacho 74), Barnes, Daka (Vardy 74).


WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0-3 MANCHESTER CITY

The Scout Notes articles strive to find a new narrative or fresh bit of insight but sometimes, ‘business as usual’ is the main takeaway.

There are no more superlatives that can be lavished on Erling Haaland (£12.0m) after 11 goals in seven league appearances, while Manchester City being top for clean sheets at this early stage of the season is simply representative of the reigning champions being the best defensive side in the division over several campaigns now.

FPL points being shared around midfield assets is a recurring theme with Pep Guardiola’s side, too, with Jack Grealish (£6.8m), Phil Foden (£8.0m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.0m) all picking up attacking returns at Molineux on Saturday; in Gameweek 9, it could just as easily be Riyad Mahrez (£7.6m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£7.6m). We yearn for a rotation-proof City talisman from the £8.0m-and-below bracket but in reality, they’re this price for a reason.

Above: Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are comfortably clear of other City assets for minutes per expected goal involvement (xGI) in 2022/23

Grealish turned in a fine display after surprisingly retaining his place following a midweek disasterclass; even the player himself seemed taken aback at his manager’s faith. With Grealish catching the eye, Manuel Akanji (£5.0m) – someone who was perhaps viewed as back-up when he was signed – also impressing at the back and the squad nearing full fitness, predicting City line-ups in the next eight-Gameweek stretch of 2022/23 will be even trickier than usual. It’s all a bit off-putting if you’re looking for a cheaper route into this free-scoring, clean-sheet-amassing team.

“I never say he has to score a goal – I said to try, be more aggressive (in the box), yeah. Kevin scored a lot of goals last season, but this year he is more about assists than goals and Gundo is an incredible runner into the box as he showed perfectly against Aston Villa last season – when we are there, everyone has permission to open the door and go to the box – nobody is not allowed to do that – everyone can do this.” – Pep Guardiola on Jack Grealish

In a classic case of ‘you get what you pay for’, City boasted the leading FPL points scorers in all three outfield positions before Sunday’s fixtures: Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne (£12.3m) and Joao Cancelo (£7.2m). And they’re all, tellingly, the most expensive City options in each category.

De Bruyne’s fifth and sixth assists of 2022/23 made it 28 attacking returns in his last 27 appearances for City, eight more than Mohamed Salah (£12.9m) has managed when assessed by the same criteria. A conveniently cherry-picked timeframe, admittedly, but still food for thought.

As for Wolves, they put up a good fight after Nathan Collins (£4.5m) was dismissed for serious foul play in the first half of Saturday’s game. Collins will now miss the next three matches and given how promising his partnership with Max Kilman (£4.5m) was at centre-half, that’s good news for owners of attacking assets from West Ham, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest.

Goalscoring also remains an issue and Wolves – who are joint-bottom for goals scored in 2022/23 – were without all three of their senior forward options against City at the weekend, including an unfit Diego Costa (£5.5m).

“We have three strikers with us, but nobody is available. [Diego Costa] to play 15 minutes maybe. In the meantime, we’ll go with Daniel Podence or Hwang.” – Bruno Lage

Manchester City XI: Ederson, Stones, Dias, Akanji, Cancelo, Rodrigo (Gomez 81), De Bruyne (Gundogan 72), Bernardo (Mahrez 72), Foden (Alvarez 72), Grealish (Palmer 77), Haaland

Wolverhampton Wanderers XI: Sa, Jonny, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri (Semedo 81), Neves, Nunes, Moutinho, Guedes (Hwang 70), Neto (Campbell 86), Podence (Traore 70)


NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-1 BOURNEMOUTH

A team who aren’t quite as good as we’ve been making out versus a team who aren’t as abject as we thought?

That was the overriding feeling from Saturday’s match at St James’ Park, where the Magpies made it six matches without a win – or one defeat in six, depending on your perspective – with a one-all draw against managerless Bournemouth.

There’s not a great deal wrong with Newcastle’s defence despite their clean sheet loss, as only Manchester City have kept more clean sheets this season. Eddie Howe’s troops are also ranked fifth for fewest expected goals conceded (xGC).

General profligacy and an overreliance on the absent Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.4m) and Callum Wilson (£7.2m) is a fair criticism further forward, however, while the second-highest scorer of the Howe era, Bruno Guimaraes (£5.6m), is now playing in a deeper number six role because of an injury to Jonjo Shelvey (£4.8m). Wilson and Saint-Maximin should hopefully be back after the international break, although Howe was less certain on the latter after full-time.

It’ll be interesting to see how Wilson’s eventual return impacts Alexander Isak (£7.0m), the big-money striker who scored his second goal in three appearances with a penalty on Saturday. It’s not just who is first up from 12 yards but if and how the Newcastle boss plans to integrate both players into his side. There is a suggestion that Isak could be used on the right flank with Wilson through the middle, and an Isak-Wilson-Saint-Maximin attack certainly looks more potent on paper than a frontline containing Ryan Fraser (£5.3m) and Miguel Almiron (£5.0m), two very game but very limited wingers who have scored just four goals between them since the beginning of last season.

“That’s below the levels we set ourselves. For the first time this season, those levels dipped. We were off with every aspect of our game. Big sense of frustration.” – Eddie Howe

Bournemouth are now unbeaten in three matches under caretaker boss Gary O’Neil. They’re still among the five worst teams for both minutes per expected goals (xG) and expected goals conceded (xGC) in that period, so there’s not been a huge transformation outside the results, but there’s at least some backbone there after the capitulation at Anfield.

Philip Billing‘s (£5.3m) two goals in as many Gameweeks have come from just three shots, with his latest strike teed up by Jordan Zemura (£4.4m) – the Cherries left-back created more chances than any other player in Gameweek 8.

Newcastle United XI: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Burn, Targett, Joelinton, Willock, Guimaraes (S Longstaff 71), Almiron (Wood 90), Isak, Fraser (Murphy 71).

Bournemouth XI: Neto, Smith, Mepham, Senesi, Zemura, Cook, Lerma, Christie (Stacey 87), Billing (Stephens 90+3), Tavernier (Anthony 80), Solanke (Moore 90+3).