We continue our analysis of the Gameweek 31 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) action in our Scout Notes series.
Here, we focus on Saturday’s Tottenham Hotspur v Bournemouth and Manchester City v Leicester City meetings.
Any numbers you see in this article are taken from our Premium Members Area, where you can access Opta player and team data from every single Premier League fixture.
HAALAND HAULS IN A HALF
Well, it didn’t take long for FPL to return to Erling Haaland (£12.2m) perma-captain territory but, following last week’s two goals and 12 points at Southampton, the Norwegian did exactly the same versus Leicester in one half.
He scored a penalty won by Jack Grealish (£7.2m) – leading the winger’s 949,000 new managers towards a seven-point score – and was later put through on goal by Kevin De Bruyne (£12.1m) to make it 3-0.
It ensured Man City bagged their tenth successive win in all competitions and puts them in a great position for Gameweek 33’s crunch clash with leaders Arsenal. As for Haaland, he’s already on 32 league goals – the joint-most for any player during a 38-game Premier League season. He now has eight matches to overtake Mohamed Salah‘s (£12.8m) total from the 2017/18 campaign.
Considering the gains from this haul were tiny due to his high ownership, going off at half-time won’t have upset too many managers.
DEFENSIVE ROTATION BEFORE BAYERN
However, removing John Stones (£5.5m) during the break frustrated the 99,000 who’ve bought him since Gameweek 29, believing he’s the best route into anticipated Man City clean sheets.
Perhaps that’s greedy, considering he scored the opening goal with a lovely left-footed strike. It’s not like Pep Guardiola’s side ended up with a clean sheet, either, as Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.9m) netted for the Foxes.
As this match sits between both Champions League quarter-finals, Pep left Nathan Ake (£5.1m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£7.3m) benched for all 90 minutes, with further early withdrawals for De Bruyne and Rodri (£5.6m).
TOUGH START FOR DEAN SMITH
It almost backfired for the champions, as Leicester had several attempts to follow Iheanacho’s goal with a second. In fact, they ended with a higher expected goals (xG) tally of 2.36 compared to 2.06.
And it would’ve been typically FPL if James Maddison (£8.1m) had scored his big one-on-one opportunity, considering his high number of Gameweek sales. He missed, something which new manager Dean Smith reflected on afterwards.
“The goal, I felt we deserved it after that second-half performance. It would have been interesting had one of the other chances gone in. Kel [Iheanacho] hit the post with one, Madders [Maddison] went through.
“There was another one where [Maddison] put Kel through to put it over the bar. Dennis [Praet] had one as well on a cut-back from Tim [Castagne], so we’ve created some really good chances and moments in the game.” – Dean Smith
Hired by the freefalling Foxes to repeat the late survival heroics of his 2019/20 Aston Villa side, Smith won’t be judged on this Man City defeat. It’s the next four outings against Wolverhampton Wanderers (h), Leeds United (a), Everton (h) and Fulham (a) that will determine whether Leicester can escape relegation.
Maddison’s last eight appearances have brought no goals and just one assist, so it’s hard to recommend him based on anything except a possible ‘new manager bounce’.
SOLANKE OR KANE?
In north London, Spurs found yet another way to throw points away at the death. After wins turned into draws at Southampton and Everton, the impressive Bournemouth snatched a 3-2 victory with the stoppage-time Dango Ouattara (£5.0m) winner.
Set up by Dominic Solanke (£5.5m), it was the cheap forward’s final act of a 15-point haul that – when looking at the underlying stats between Gameweeks 28 to 30 – was definitely due.
No player had more attempts, shots inside the box or xG during this period, so it’ll be interesting to see which Free Hit Gameweek 32 managers will favour Solanke over Harry Kane (£11.7m).
We can’t be too hard on England’s record goalscorer when he preceded this blank with five goals from four outings. Also, he had six shots here, beaten only by Manchester United’s Antony (£7.3m) this week, that had a combined xG of 0.87.
Although Free Hit users are unlikely to have money problems due to the absence of expensive Haaland and Bruno Fernandes (£9.6m), it just comes down to the fixture of both players. Solanke is at home to West Ham United, whilst Kane travels to face one of this season’s best defences – Newcastle United.
For non-Free Hitters, opting for Solanke may also be needed to help squeeze Liverpool’s Salah into squads ahead of his own strong fixture run.