We continue to dissect the key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Gameweek 24 in our Scout Notes series.
The numbers and graphics 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.
Bukayo Saka (£8.3m) made it 18 attacking returns in 2022/23 with a goal in Saturday’s six-goal thriller at Villa Park, that’s just two goal contributions short of his best-ever season’s tally.
There were real concerns for his owners early in the second half of that victory, with the winger falling to the turf and signaling to the bench.
Happily, a bit of additional strapping on a first-half injury was all that was required and Saka managed to see through the remainder of the game, his 11th consecutive 90-minute run-out in the Premier League.
Mikel Arteta also didn’t seem too concerned when facing the media after full-time.
“He’s fine – he got kicked quite a lot again, but he’s going to have to deal with that, not every week, but every three days. Sometimes in training as well. It’s his game – teams are not stupid and they want to stop him. We need to protect him.” – Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka
ARTETA ON MARTINELLI’S BENCHING
A much-feared benching for Gabriel Martinelli (£6.5m) finally materialised on Saturday, with the Brazil international dropping out of the starting XI for the first time in 2022/23 and Leandro Trossard (£6.6m) taking his place on the left flank.
While no doubt winded by that initial blow, Martinelli’s owners couldn’t have wished for much better in the ensuing 90 minutes.
Trossard did little to catch the eye before being hooked midway through the second half, with a fresher-looking Martinelli injecting some pep into proceedings and scoring a fortuitous late goal after Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez (£4.9m) had ventured forward for a corner with the score at 2-3.
Martinelli’s starting prospects in Double Gameweek 25 may have been boosted then, although it’s safe to assume that both he and Trossard will continue to eat into each other’s game-time going forward.
“It wasn’t dropping him – he’s played every single minute. We have three 21 year olds leading the frontline – that’s unheard of. Leo’s been doing really well and we needed impact. I was really worried about the last 20 or 25 minutes in this game because of everything we put in on Wednesday. We needed energy and I think [Martinelli provided] it.” – Mikel Arteta on Gabriel Martinelli’s benching
Ben White (£4.7m) returned to the side after his own midweek benching and looked better, especially going forward; maybe these breathers will serve White and Martinelli well in the longer term.
It turned out to be a decent afternoon for owners of Arsenal midfielders, with Saka and Martinelli on the scoresheet and Martin Odegaard (£7.0m) walking away with all three bonus points after his assist for Oleksandr Zinchenko‘s (£5.1m) strike from distance. Odegaard, who wasted a glorious chance to score himself, has five more bonus points (21) than any other FPL midfielder this season.
Eddie Nketiah (£6.8m) gave the points party a miss, however, failing to score for the sixth time in seven league matches. The old adage about not getting chances being more of a worry is of course true, and he was in the thick of things again at Villa Park, hitting the bar with one headed opportunity.
No Premier League player has underachieved more on the expected goals (xG) front since the Boxing Day restart, so he’s ‘due’.
But with Gabriel Jesus (£7.9m) back on the grass and not too far away from a playing comeback (Gameweek 25 may come too early for the Brazilian), there’s a definite pressing need to start turning those expected numbers into tangible returns.
WATKINS AND VILLA ON THE FPL RADAR
Aston Villa now embark on a favourable run of six matches, and we include Graham Potter’s Chelsea in that bracket.
The Villans also play in Blank Gameweeks 25, 28 and 32 (they could even ‘double’ in Gameweek 29), so some of their players could be decent squad fillers to navigate the choppy Fantasy waters ahead.
Ollie Watkins (£7.2m) is certainly towards the front of the queue. He’s delivered eight attacking returns in nine matches since Unai Emery took over, scoring for the fourth league game in a row on Saturday.
Leon Bailey (£4.4m) lost his place in the Villa starting XI after a string of sub-par displays, denting his own appeal for the upcoming run. To make matters worse, replacement Philippe Coutinho (£6.6m) scored Villa’s second goal of the game.
The shine has been taken off Villa’s defence, too, after they shipped 11 goals in the last three Gameweeks.
Quality of opposition has to be factored in: they’ve just faced the top two and a rejuvenated Leicester City, and the calibre of opponent lessens now.
Villa have the second-worst record for expected goals conceded (xGC) since Emery’s appointment but, just to underscore what we said above, they had the division’s fifth-best total before Gameweek 22!
Alex Moreno (£4.4m) and Matty Cash (£4.6m) regained their places at full-back, each assisting a goal, but it’s far too early to consider either player “nailed” based on the recent defensive chaos.
“Very disappointed, very frustrated and embarrassing as well to lose 2-4 at home with our supporters. Our performance was, collectively or overall, poor. To concede eight goals in two matches at home is not normal. The performance can’t continue like that, away and at home.” – Unai Emery