Manchester City’s Premier League title win and Nottingham Forest’s top-flight survival were the Premier League headlines of the day but our Scout Notes articles concentrate on the main Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points.
In this piece, the focus is on Forest v Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford and Bournemouth v Manchester United.
All the key numbers from Saturday, from bonus points to expected goals (xG), can be found here.
NO RASHFORD – AND NO UPDATE
There was no Marcus Rashford (£7.2m) in the Manchester United squad to face Bournemouth on Saturday, the illness that was reported in Erik ten Hag’s pre-match presser evidently serious enough to keep him out of action.
We didn’t get an update on the attacker from ten Hag after full-time on the south coast, interviews with MUTV, Sky Sports and Match of the Day and the post-match presser failing to bring about any fresh information.
There is at least a generous recovery period with the Chelsea game not until Thursday, so there is still a good chance that he’ll make a belated Gameweek 37 appearance.
Ten Hag will face the media again in midweek ahead of that match, so we should get a heads-up on Rashford’s availability.
UNITED’S GOAL STRUGGLES
The Red Devils ground out a narrow 1-0 win over their hosts, putting the ball in the net proving to again be a bit of a problem: ten Hag’s troops have scored fewer goals than any other Premier League team over their last dozen games.
Above: Teams sorted by fewest Premier League goals scored from Gameweek 26 onwards
“That is, I think, a symbol from this season. We are not scoring so easily. Nevertheless, we have scored over 100 goals during the season. That’s a lot. Also, we played a lot of games, sometimes the freshness [isn’t there].
“That is one of the things we have to improve, to score more easily, as that makes life easy, because now we have to fight until the end [of games]. If we didn’t have that great goalie, you get the equaliser.” – Erik ten Hag
A new striker or two is surely a must this summer, while Bruno Fernandes (£9.5m) and Antony (£7.3m) had another seven attempts between them without success: their shot-to-goal conversion rates this season are a dismal 6.9% and 5.6% respectively, two of the three worst percentages among £7.0m+ FPL midfielders. Fernandes did go close here, admittedly, a stinging volley bringing a fine stop out of Murara Neto (£4.5m).
It was left to Casemiro (£4.9m) to settle matters, the midfield anchor netting only his third goal of the campaign.
The good news is that all was well at the back once again, United ensuring that they will finish 2022/23 on more clean sheets than any other team. Bonus machine Luke Shaw (£5.2m) secured another nine-point haul, his owners getting a brief scare ahead of kick-off when he pulled out of the warm-up.
And if we’re continuing to look at the positives, Liverpool’s late equaliser against Aston Villa ensures that United still have plenty to play for on Thursday and should cement starts for the big guns as ten Hag seeks to mathematically ensure Champions League qualification.
“It’s a final on Thursday and I hope all the fans are ready for it because we want to to get that done on Thursday. We therefore need another good performance and that will not be easy. You have to be ready, you have to be on the front foot, you have to be at the highest energy levels. You need to focus. And then it’s possible. We know that we are strong, especially at Old Trafford.” – Erik ten Hag
Bournemouth players aren’t likely to be big FPL targets for the final day, their role being supporting acts in the relegation dogfight. Gary O’Neil also ran wild with the changes (a real turn-off for Fantasy managers), making five in total, but there was plenty of heart on show here to suggest that Everton won’t have it easy.
“In comparison to Crystal Palace, light years apart. I thought it was a very competitive game. I didn’t think there was much in it. I thought our chances were probably equally as good as theirs. They managed to take one, we didn’t. It ends up 1-0, but I don’t think anyone could’ve complained if Kieffer Moore would’ve taken his chance at the end and the game finishes 1-1, I think it would’ve been a fair scoreline.” – Gary O’Neil
A CLOUD OVER NORTH LONDON
Arsenal’s defeat to Nottingham Forest just brought forward an inevitable Manchester City coronation by 24 hours, while north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur slipped to eighth when losing to Brentford and are in danger of going into 2023/24 without any European football to offer.
Players from both clubs ought to be key Fantasy targets for Gameweek 38, with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United providing favourable opposition, but prospective and existing owners of anyone other than Harry Kane (£11.4m) will surely be having second thoughts now.
Spurs were actually very good in the first half against the Bees, Kane’s stunning free-kick goal and Ryan Mason’s switch to a 4-2-3-1 ensuring a deserved half-time advantage. Arnaut Danjuma (£6.1m), Dejan Kulusevski (£7.8m) and Son Heung-min (£11.5m) got some early joy playing off and often ahead of Kane, with good chances for Son (twice), Danjuma and Emerson Royal (£4.8m) instilling some optimism.
Mason deserves some credit for a bit of tactical innovation after the stubborn Antonio Conte days, at first getting joy in his 3-4-3/4-4-2 hybrid and then today in the 4-2-3-1. But once the opposition has worked out a way to combat the novel approaches, as Aston Villa did last week and Brentford did in the second half of this game, there doesn’t seem to be much left in response.
The concern is that a fighting Leeds side roused by Sam Allardyce won’t be the pushovers they were under Javi Gracia, although if the Whites need to push for all three points at any stage to give themselves a chance at survival, there is still the prospect of Son and co getting plenty of space on the break.
Arsenal meanwhile have Julen Lopetegui’s poor travellers to come but whether they can muster any strength to put on a show at the Emirates is another question, as there was a real defeated whiff about their performance at Forest.
An expected goals (xG) tally of 0.64, the second-lowest in the Premier League on Saturday, underscored the lack of attacking thrust, while Mikel Arteta’s bizarre decision to have Thomas Partey (£4.7m) ‘inverting’ from right-back seemed like the tactical equivalent of the Arsenal boss giving up and walking into Boots.
“Today is just sadness, you see a lot of people who have put so much work, so much belief and so many hours and I am sad for them because I wanted to find a way. We wanted to squeeze everything that we had out of that group and find alternatives and ways to reach certain levels, and when we don’t we try in other ways. We fell short and it is my job and my responsibility and I have to analyse that and think.” – Mikel Arteta
KANE HITS NEW HIGHS
Kane’s goal against Brentford took him to a new personal best for FPL points in a single season, while he’ll need a brace against Leeds on the final day to take him to 30 Premier League goals for the first time in his career.
It’s an even more impressive achievement given that he’s done this in a bang-average team under mismanagement, while the fact that he’s now cheaper than his starting price of £11.5m is a by-product of Erling Haaland‘s (£12.4m) superhuman heroics and Spurs having no Double Gameweeks in the run-in.
Kane now has 44 goals in his last 61 Premier League appearances.
MBEUMO EMERGING FROM TONEY’S SHADOW
Enjoyers of our Big Numbers article may have read about Bryan Mbeumo‘s (£5.6m) successes whenever Ivan Toney (£7.2m) hasn’t been in the Brentford side, something that continued on Saturday.
The now-banned Toney has only missed four of the Bees’ league fixtures this season but Mbeumo has scored in all of them, five of the nine goals he has plundered in 2022/23 coming in those four matches.
The underlying numbers have been strong in Toney’s absence, too, and they were again noteworthy in north London: Mbeumo has had more efforts than anyone else in Gameweek 37 so far.
Mbeumo will be on the ‘third forward’ radar for the first half of next season, especially if he’s still deputising on penalties.
Yoane Wissa (£5.3m) also chipped in with a double-digit haul, and it was interesting to hear BT Sports studio guest Pontus Jansson (£4.2m) describe Wissa as the best finisher at the club – Toney included. We could have some bargain attackers on our hands from Thomas Frank’s troops.
Forest’s survival ensures that Gameweek 38 will be a more relaxed affair away at Crystal Palace; a good job, considering that Steve Cooper’s side have been mostly dreadful on the road.
Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.5m) and Taiwo Awoniyi (£5.6m) combined for the winner against Arsenal, the pair registering 13 attacking returns between them over the last six Gameweeks. No-one is ‘overachieving’ on the xGI front more than Awoniyi in that time, it should be said.
But the last six Gameweeks, even on the road, have seen Forest at their best. Cooper being able to call on a largely settled starting XI has surely been a big factor after a preposterously bad run of luck on the injury front in 2022/23, so there’s every reason to expect the Garibaldi to kick on next season and aim for the lofty heights of mid-table – perhaps even providing us FPL managers with more targets in the process.