The key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from three more of Saturday’s Gameweek 3 matches are discussed here.
Brighton and Hove Albion v West Ham United, Brentford v Crystal Palace and Everton v Wolverhampton Wanderers are the games in question.
DE ZERBI ON GOALKEEPERS + PEDRO
As if there was any doubt before, Jason Steele (£4.5m) and Bart Verbruggen (£4.4m) are basically off the FPL menu now – unless you plan to use two Brighton slots by owning them both.
Roberto De Zerbi had previously promised regular goalkeeper rotation this season, delivering on that threat against West Ham by giving Verbruggen his first start.
“Depending on the opponent, depending on their physical condition… I believe in Bart like in the same way I believe in Jason. They will play 50% of the games this year. We are lucky to have in our squad two great goalkeepers.” – Roberto De Zerbi
There was no Joao Pedro (£5.6m) in the Brighton starting XI, either, the forward benched for the second straight game.
De Zerbi didn’t offer up anything new on the Brazilian after full-time but in quotes you might not have seen (ie embargoed from Friday’s press conference), the Albion boss suggested Pedro needed more adaptation time:
“Ferguson deserves to play. He is another very important player for us. He didn’t start in the first two games. And I want to give Joao Pedro time to understand better the style of play.” – Roberto De Zerbi
Pedro was actually a bright spark when he came onto the pitch on the hour mark but with the fixtures turning for the worse and the rotation risk not going away, many of his FPL owners will be cutting their losses.
BRIGHTON TO BOUNCE BACK?
Above: The average position of Brighton and West Ham players in Gameweek 3
This wasn’t a terrible Brighton performance by any stretch, particularly in the second half. This was more the Indiana Jones ‘sword vs gun’ scene in footballing form, with West Ham conceding almost 80% of the possession but carving out big chances whenever they ventured forward.
The Seagulls experienced sporadic thumpings last season, notably against Nottingham Forest, Everton and Newcastle United. On each occasion, they bounced back with handsome wins. It was after the 5-1 loss to Everton, indeed, that they went and won 3-0 at Arsenal.
Kaoru Mitoma (£6.6m) and Pervis Estupinan (£5.3m) were still lively, both of them going close to assists: in the former’s case, Evan Ferguson (£5.9m) missed a sitter and then struck the bar.
There’s no denying now that the fixtures are mostly awful until late October. ‘Keep or sell’ is a question we’ll be pondering on these pages throughout the week.
Of most concern is the defence, which ranks second-bottom for expected goals conceded (xGC) despite facing only Luton Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United so far. Estupinan can partly cover with attacking returns, of course, but clean sheets look like they will be scarce in Gameweeks 4-9:
TOP OF THE LEAGUE
West Ham were FPL party-poopers last week against Chelsea and they did it again here, ascending to the top of the Premier League table in the process.
The upcoming fixtures are still a mixed bag, with attractive fixtures against Luton Town (who are up next) and Sheffield United punctuated by clashes with Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
There were fine performances all over the park, with £4.0m-rated FPL goalkeeper Areola excelling between the sticks and Michail Antonio (£6.0m) rolling back the years with yet another superb display of graft and goals in attack. Said Benrahma (£6.0m) was bright off the bench, too. Whisper it quietly but between them, Edson Alvarez (£5.0m) and James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m) might end up being adequate cover for Declan Rice (£5.5m).
Ward-Prowse adding open-play goal threat to his dead-ball duties is an exciting proposition, the midfielder getting forward to support Antonio and scoring the Hammers’ opening goal.
But it’s probably still Jarrod Bowen (£7.0m) who remains the stand-out FPL target in attack. He was again excellent here, taking his goal superbly and getting two other clear sights of Verbruggen’s posts.
He’s now the leading FPL midfielder for non-penalty xG this season, a tally that will surely be further boosted on Friday against Luton:
Above: FPL midfielders sorted by non-penalty xG in 2023/24 so far
EASIER TESTS AHEAD FOR PALACE AND BRENTFORD
There were blanks for Eberechi Eze (£6.4m), Yoane Wissa (£6.2m) and Bryan Mbeumo (£6.7m) in west London on Saturday, which wasn’t a huge surprise given that these sides boast two of the better defences in the Premier League.
The two clubs have met five times in the top flight since Thomas Frank’s troops were promoted, all of the results being low-scoring or goalless draws.
Genuine clear openings were scarce, with neither side reaching 1.0 expected goal (xG).
Even the two Opta-defined ‘big chances’ weren’t really that, with Wissa having to lean back to connect with a six-yard header and Jordan Ayew‘s (£5.5m) effort smothered at point-blank range.
It took a superb solo goal from Kevin Schade (£5.4m) for Palace’s defence to be breached, while what would have been a double-digit haul from the improving Mark Flekken (£4.5m) was only ruined by a scrappy Joachim Andersen (£4.5m) strike.
No need to overthink the dearth of attacking returns, then, as much easier tests await – starting right away in Gameweek 4.
JOHNSTONE CONCERN, ANDERSEN CREATIVE
Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) owners have three very appealing home fixtures coming up but will he be between the posts for any/all of them?
Dean Henderson (£4.5m) will be unveiled as a Palace player in the coming days, so uncertainty rages over whether Johnstone will still be the Eagles’ number one come September.
Media reports suggest Johnstone could even be on his way to Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Jose Sa (£5.0m) moving on to Nottingham Forest.
Joachim Andersen is not without his suitors, either, and it’ll be interesting to see if any club comes in for him before deadline day.
He’s currently FPL’s top-scoring defender and while Saturday’s goal will catch the eye, it was his assist potential that really stood out.
Four chances created against Brentford took him to six for the season, 50% of his tally from 2022/23.
Distribution has always been a forte but with Messrs Eze, Olise and Zaha all in the same side last season, there was plenty of creativity elsewhere.
Now, there is perhaps an added incentive for him to step into midfield and create, with only Eze of that trio on the pitch at present. Jefferson Lerma‘s (£4.9m) added presence helps plug the gaps if Andersen does venture forward.
They might not all be clear chances he’s creating (some of them mere square balls leading to long-range efforts) but they all help boost his bonus points potential:
Above: FPL defenders sorted by baseline bonus point (BBPS) in 2023/24 so far
“I thought Joachim Andersen was the outstanding player on our team and maybe the outstanding player on the field today.
“I thought he was a colossus today. He won every header at both ends of the field. He won every challenge he went into. He was a leader figure. He drove the team forward and wasn’t afraid to come more than midway in the opponents’ half, as we saw.
“He was playing balls and spraying it around from about 20 or 25 yards from goal. That was a great responsibility he took there, and it was only fitting he was the one that got the goal, albeit it wasn’t a classic!” – Roy Hodgson
For the third game running, Everton drew a blank in front of goal. The Toffees are now bottom of the Premier League, without a point to their name.
They dominated in Gameweeks 1 and 3, however, with Bernd Leno (£4.5m) and now Jose Sa turning in goalkeeping masterclasses to frustrate Sean Dyche’s side.
Big chances for the ‘out of position’ Arnaut Danjuma (£5.5m), James Tarkowski (£4.5m) and Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.5m) went begging, with wasteful finishing to blame whenever Sa wasn’t performing heroics. A total of 4.07 expected goals (xG) have been generated in two matches at Goodison Park, which is more than the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea have managed on their own turf this season.
Above: Everton’s xG shotmap at home this season
They’re not a totally desperate side, then, but a half-competent, fully fit striker is much, much needed before transfer deadline day.
“I can’t keep going on saying we have played well again, we have, we’ve made quality chances today but you have to take them and take responsibility for that.
“Their keeper ended up man of the match, it was the same against Fulham. We give them the chance to save things they shouldn’t be saving. That’s what we have got to change because a lot was right today.” – Sean Dyche
£4.0m BRANTHWAITE STARTS
There was more teeth-gnashing frustration for Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) owners, with Wolves following Fulham in producing a smash-and-grab win on Merseyside. He didn’t register a save point in either home game, just to underscore the dominance of Everton in both matches.
There was a notable inclusion at the back for the hosts, with Jarrad Branthwaite (£4.0m) finally getting a chance after the latest Michael Keane (£4.5m) horror show in Gameweek 2.
Branthwaite was arguably the pick of Everton’s players, also popping up with three shots at the other end of the pitch, so is one to monitor in the budget FPL defender pool.
A lucky away win at Everton isn’t likely to fuel a mad rush for Wolves players in FPL.
Sasa Kalajdzic (£5.0m) is a name to keep track of, should Gary O’Neil not add to his striking options this week. One of the cheapest Fantasy forwards, Kalajdzic grabbed the game’s late winner when nodding in a Pedro Neto (£5.5m) cross.
For now, he’s still some way off full fitness after a year on the sidelines.
“He looked a little bit behind the others, sharpness and fitness-wise, but I obviously don’t have a clear picture in my mind of what he is like when he is full throttle either. I have spoken to him a lot about it. He understands where he needs to improve and that he needs extra time on the grass and we need to keep working. But he also understands he can have a big impact on football matches still.
“If we are going to arrive in good areas and get good balls into the box then he is a real good option for us.” – Gary O’Neil on Sasa Kalajdzic