Three more of Saturday’s matches are assessed as we look back on the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from the weekend.
It’s Aston Villa v Leicester City*, Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion v Bournemouth that we’re focusing on here.
The numbers you see in this article are taken from our Premium Members Area, where you can access Opta player and team data for every single Premier League fixture.
*Words on Aston Villa v Leicester City provided by Tom Freeman (avfc82)
The footballing equivalent of Barney Gumble losing his diaper played out at Molineux on Saturday as Liverpool’s disastrous 2022/23 campaign hit a new low.
The Reds were 2-0 down to the division’s lowest scorers within 12 minutes, going on to concede a third in the second half. Not since March 2022 had Wolverhampton Wanderers scored three goals in a top-flight game.
Wolves had averaged 1.05 big chances per match before Gameweek 22; they were allowed six such opportunities against Liverpool.
There are problems all over the park for Klopp to solve but it’s at the rear where things have really gone to pot, with just one clean sheet arriving in the last 10 matches. Even that was a lucky one, against Chelsea in Gameweek 21.
Yes, the away form (two wins from 10) is considerably worse than the home form. But even at Anfield, Liverpool are ranked 19th for big chances conceded this season.
“It’s really difficult to summarise. The team is not full of confidence, you can see that – the first 12 minutes were obvious, but it was about defending, being compact, being active. Do you need a lot of confidence for that? I am not so sure. Put your body between the ball and the opponent, block the ball and these kind of things, avoid the cross. You saw Stefan Bajcetic full of confidence, he plays football for as long as we kept him on the pitch. All the others, started a bit different, but second half, with low-confidence levels, playing this kind of game, I think nobody would have been surprised if we scored here, that we could have scored once and twice and then let’s have a look at the game. I know it is hypothetical, 100 per cent, but that was possible. We caused the problems ourselves, how can that happen? I cannot always cover things, it was obvious – we do it in public, that’s why everyone can see it.” – Jurgen Klopp
The underlying numbers are actually decent at the other end of the pitch. Even at Molineux, they racked up 22 shots and an xG of 1.96. But profligacy has dogged them all season: they have wasted 74.2% of their big chances in 2022/23, the worst rate in the division. Darwin Nunez (£8.7m), who failed to score from five shots on Saturday, has missed his last eight such opportunities.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) can’t catch a break as a result. Not only is he deprived of clean sheets (and he cops a share of the blame for that), his team-mates’ wastefulness means he is failing to compensate at the other end of the pitch.
Above: FPL assets sorted by worst xGI delta (actual returns minus xGI) in 2022/23
A brief word on a quiet Mohamed Salah (£12.7m), whose tally of five shots in Gameweeks 19-22 is his worst four-match total since he joined Liverpool in 2017.
Julen Lopetegui has 10 points on the board from his first six league matches in charge, only tasting defeat to the two Manchester clubs so far.
The underlying numbers should serve as a bit of a warning, as Wolves are ranked 18th for expected goals conceded (xGC) and 17th for xG in Lopetegui’s first half-dozen games at the helm.
Easier tests now await, however, and you’d expect those, er, ‘expected’ totals to improve:
The arrival of two defensive-minded midfielders (something Wolves didn’t really have before that) in the transfer window, Mario Lemina (£4.5m) and Joao Gomes (£4.5m), should also hopefully help on the clean sheet front. Lemina was excellent on Saturday, with Gomes yet to make his debut. It might even free Ruben Neves (£5.4m) to play further forward, and the Portuguese schemer – typically a deep-lying playmaker – made a decidedly un-Neves-like run into the box to score Wolves’ third goal against the Reds.
One player who didn’t benefit from Saturday’s shut-out points was Hugo Bueno (£3.9m), Wolves’ most-owned asset in FPL. He was benched for the first time in the league since Gameweek 11, with Rayan Ait-Nouri (£4.2m) taking his place at left-back. Even when Ait-Nouri was taken off, it was Jonny (£4.3m) who was thrown on as his replacement.
Ait-Nouri being a Salah specialist may have been a reason for his inclusion but Bueno’s rotation risk status is another headache that owners could well do without, especially if he’s needed in Blank Gameweek 25.
Lopetegui at least tantalised us with the faint possibility of a recall in Gameweek 23:
“The next match we might change three or four and they all have to be ready. This is very important in each squad. I want them ready and able to play in each moment, but when they don’t play they have to be ready to help the team also.” – Julen Lopetegui
“YOU CAN NEVER SUBSTITUTE” MITOMA
It’s now five attacking returns and 42 points for Kaoru Mitoma (£5.2m) from Gameweek 18 onwards, with the Japan international scoring the late winner at the Amex on Saturday. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the medium-term planners amongst us, who may be overlooking Brighton because of their blank in Gameweek 25 (and likely blank in Gameweek 28).
For existing and prospective owners in FPL, Roberto De Zerbi’s post-match words would have been music to the ears regarding game-time:
“Mitoma is a great player. He has a natural quality.
“He didn’t play a fantastic game like against Liverpool or Leicester. But when you have on the pitch Mitoma, you can never substitute [him] because you always expect one goal, one-to-one. He’s a very good player for us, very important player.” – Roberto De Zerbi
We spoke last week about the fine margins separating Mitoma and Solly March (£5.2m) and the latter’s owners were again left bemoaning their lot after Danny Welbeck (£6.5m) spurned a clear opening that March had created. Mitoma does, as we wrote after March’s 19-pointer in Gameweek 20, look the more exciting prospect, it has to be said.
This game was a good advert for Evan Ferguson (£4.6m), who missed out with a knee injury. Welbeck and, playing behind him, Deniz Undav (£5.1m) were instead charged with providing Albion’s goal threat but contrived to miss five big chances between them, the three of Undav all falling in the same move.
De Zerbi said after the match that he hopes Ferguson will return to train this week.
A second successive home clean sheet was perhaps a little fortunate, with Bournemouth causing a few heart-stopping moments.
Dango Outtara (£5.0m) again shone on the right flank and had four shots, while bargain-bin FPL midfielder Hamed Traore (£4.5m) was promising in a support striker role on his debut.
The fact is, however, that it’s now six matches without a win, 11 goals conceded and just one scored for the Cherries since the restart.
EMERY: ‘MISTAKES COST US’
Aston Villa suffered only their second league defeat under Unai Emery on Saturday, with mistakes costing them at the back. Before the weekend, Villa had conceded just two goals in the last four Gameweeks. However, they had at times pushed their luck, often looking uncomfortable playing out from defence. Here, that was more apparent than ever, with Boubacar Kamara (£4.8m) twice caught in possession for Leicester City’s first and third goals, while a missed Alex Moreno (£4.5m) interception was to blame for the fourth.
“We have to learn to try to break the pressing. They came here to push us and press us high. We can play long ball, long ball, long ball but I don’t want to do it. We can do it sometimes but I want to control better the second action. We work on both but, after the first goal, we were confident. We started the match winning and I want to keep doing it and to continue building up and to play with our goalkeeper. Maybe sometimes we have to mix and to create our style with one process. Of course, I want players with personality to try and play and to improve and be one step ahead.” – Unai Emery
As for Moreno, he was surprisingly replaced by Lucas Digne (£4.6m) in the starting XI, potentially due to the Frenchman’s superior crossing ability. He did, however, appear at half-time, and despite being at fault for Leicester’s fourth goal, put up some decent attacking numbers.
MORENO V LEICESTER
Total (match rank)
- Minutes: 45
- Shots: 2 (5th=)
- Crosses: 6 (2nd=)
- Penalty box touches: 7 (2nd=
- Final-third touches: 24 (3rd)
Above: Alex Moreno’s touch heatmap v Leicester
In an attacking sense, some of Villa’s play was very impressive – they had 19 shots overall, which carried a combined expected goals (xG) value of 1.71.
Ollie Watkins’ (£7.1m) goal, assist and bonus continued his fine form under Emery, which has seen him blank in just two of his seven Premier League outings.
WATKINS UNDER EMERY
|Premier League (GW22)
|Premier League (GW21)
|Premier League (GW20)
|Premier League (GW19)
|Premier League (GW18)
|Premier League (GW17)
|Premier League (GW25)
|Man Utd (h)
With Manchester City and Arsenal up next, Villa assets won’t be afforded much attention, but it’s worth noting they do have guaranteed – and good – fixtures in Blank Gameweeks 25 and 28, with some decent games in between, too.
TETE’S IMPACT/MADDISON CENTRAL
Leicester’s new winger/inside-forward Tete (£5.5m) was excellent on his debut at Villa Park, scoring on the cusp of half-time. The Brazilian added a new dimension to the Foxes’ attack, registering three shots and six successful take-ons, with his role on the right wing allowing James Maddison (£8.0m) – who scored his eighth Premier League goal of the season – to operate in more central areas.
Maddison didn’t see as much possession as he would have liked, touching the ball just 10 times in the final third, but you’d expect him to kick on now, especially if Brendan Rodgers sticks with this new 4-2-2-2/4-2-3-1 system.
“I’ve heard the gaffer speak about it, it’s nice to have that direct width. I’m a player who’s best centrally, and I’ve been playing off the right a little bit, and I’ve played well. I’ve kind of learned the role, and I’m happy to play there. But I’m best centrally. My skill set, I’m at my best when I’m in the middle, I think, in them areas. So, to have Tete come in and be that threat, and he was absolutely brilliant today. It was a real fiery debut, and hopefully he can continue that, but with him and Harvey [Barnes] on the wings, keeping that high width, them runs in behind. When I play off the side, I have to play a little bit differently. My skill set is not that of a winger, so we kind of mould the team a little bit differently when I’m off the side, but it’s nice to be back central, have the pace and the width from them two, and I think it worked well.” – James Maddison
Kelechi Iheanacho (£6.1m), meanwhile, started just his second Premier League game of the season and looked perfectly suited to the central striker role, with Tete’s inside runs hitting the space he vacates when coming short to link play. Here, he scored a goal and set up two others, highlighting his potential when handed minutes.
“Tete was what I’ve been talking about for about 18 months, a right winger who can take the ball, pass the ball, look after the ball, make runs, and work. What a debut for him. It was really good. Because of that, because you have wingers and balance in the team, it allows Kels [Iheanacho] then to play in the spaces we created. The three of them were very good.” – Brendan Rodgers
It must be said Brendan Rodgers’ side were incredibly efficient on the day, scoring four times from just nine shots, but when their fixtures improve they could potentially serve up some interesting FPL prospects.
Their attacking approach did cause problems for their defence, however, which was sometimes left short on numbers. Still, they generally coped well, with another new boy Victor Kristiansen (£4.5m) impressing at left-back and also taking all of Leicester’s corners on the day.