The Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Monday’s clash at St James’ Park are covered in our Scout Notes.
Any numbers and graphics 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.
TOP FOUR SECURE, TOP-FLIGHT SURVIVAL NOT
Newcastle United booked their place in next season’s UEFA Champions League with a point against Leicester City on Monday evening.
It means that the Gameweek 38 trip to Chelsea is now effectively a dead rubber, as finishing third or fourth won’t alter their seeding in the 2023/24 Champions League.
Leicester’s final-day clash with West Ham United is anything but.
Only a win will do for the Foxes but they will still require Bournemouth to stop Everton from winning at Goodison Park.
Will we get a gung-ho Leicester side taking to the field at the King Power Stadium, then? Dean Smith suggests not.
“No, because if you chuck everything [at West Ham], they have got good enough players [to punish us]. They’ve just qualified for a European final. They could open some doors against us and we can’t allow that. We have to make sure that we play a balanced performance, to make sure we don’t give big chances away but go and create some.” – Dean Smith
Eddie Howe meanwhile hinted that he may make a few changes at Stamford Bridge with nothing meaningful riding on the game, although said that existing injuries might be the primary motivation to do so.
Joelinton (£6.1m) pulled out of the starting XI in the warm-up, while Sean Longstaff (£4.3m) and Elliot Anderson (£4.3m) started despite a lack of training and a knock respectively.
“I’ll have a look. I think there’s been a few players that have been playing with injuries, naturally at this stage of the season.
“We haven’t got a huge squad, what you saw today is what we have fit and available, senior professionals plus one or two younger players.
“I imagine there might be changes because there are one or two players, as I said, struggling with injuries.” – Eddie Howe when asked if he would select soon-to-depart or younger players in Gameweek 38
OPERATION ‘GET BEHIND THE VARDY’
Whatever the opposite of gung-ho is – that’s what Leicester were on Tyneside.
Setting up in a 3-5-2, Smith saw his side cede 77% of the possession and fail to have a single shot until the 92nd minute when Timothy Castagne (£4.3m) almost made the ultra-conservative game plan look like a tactical masterstroke.
Leicester were much better defensively en route to their first clean sheet in six months but had to ride their luck all the same, their hosts hitting the woodwork on three occasions and Alexander Isak (£7.0m) blazing high and wide from 10 yards.
James Maddison (£7.8m) and Harvey Barnes (£6.6m) were jettisoned from Smith’s starting XI to accommodate the new shape, both making second-half appearances off the bench.
While Smith downplayed the suggestion that it’ll be an all-out attack approach against West Ham, both players surely come back into the thinking in Gameweek 38 with at least one goal needed.
“I make no apologies for the way we set up today, we haven’t kept a clean sheet for too long. The reason we are where we are is because of that.
“My mind was made up when I watched Newcastle play Brighton on Thursday, one of the best footballing teams in the Premier League this year, and in the first 20-25 minutes, they steamrolled them.
“We had to make sacrifices with the teamsheet today and hope then we’re still in the game. It almost worked exactly to plan but their goalkeeper made a good save in the 90th minute, which was our only shot.
“If it’s too little, too late, who knows? But we have taken it to Sunday.” – Dean Smith
TRIPPIER TWO AWAY FROM 200
Newcastle United’s first clean sheet in 10 games duly arrived in a Gameweek in which Kieran Trippier (£6.1m) had been benched by over a million of his owners, his ‘effective ownership’ down at 38% in the top 10k.
Trippier scooped maximum bonus points to go with the shut-out and is now just two points away from a double-century, the 200-club being one that few other Fantasy defenders are part of.
Callum Wilson‘s (£7.2m) golden touch deserted him for once but he was still a threat in parts, three chances – including two in the same move – going begging from inside the six-yard box.
Isak was once again farmed out to the left flank but moved centrally upon Wilson’s withdrawal midway through the second half, although all four of his shots came before that change; Newcastle gradually becoming more content with a point and throwing fewer bodies forward.
The two may still end up sharing the same pitch at Chelsea this Sunday but the central striker job-share will surely return in 2023/24, with midweek European jaunts necessitating a division of the workload up top.