Attacking returns from Bukayo Saka (£8.7m), Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) masked two unconvincing home displays at the Emirates and Old Trafford.
We round off the Gameweek 3 Scout Notes with the main Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from Arsenal v Fulham and Manchester United v Nottingham Forest.
SAKA BACK ON PENALTIES
Less than a week after he was seemingly off penalties, Bukayo Saka (£8.7m) was back on them.
Martin Odegaard (£8.5m) had stepped up from 12 yards in the Gameweek 2 victory over Crystal Palace but there was still some doubt as to whether he’d be permanently on penalty-taking duty after Mikel Arteta said he had “no clue” that was going to happen.
Come Saturday, it was Saka back at the front of the queue.
The winger despatched his 70th-minute effort against Fulham, his first success in three attempts including a pre-season miss against Barcelona.
There was no comment from Arteta on the pecking order after full-time.
Manchester United won their own spot-kick in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest. There was no such surprise that Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m) stepped up to take it, his career penalty success rate now over 90%.
“Yeah (I was confident). I have always the conversations with Craig (Mawson, goalkeeper coach) about the penalties. I always have a conversation with him; he shows me some videos of the goalkeeper on penalties and says what he thinks.
“I said to him what I think; sometimes I even speak with the ‘keepers to understand, if it comes up in the moment of the game, what I have to do. Obviously, I do different things because it depends on the ‘keeper, what I see on the videos, and the moment of the game. That is why.” – Bruno Fernandes
GABRIEL BENCHED AGAIN
We’re three Gameweeks into the season and we’re still awaiting a start for Gabriel Magalhaes (£4.9m). The Brazilian has now suffered the indignity of seeing Jurrien Timber (£4.8m), Takehiro Tomiyasu (£4.5m) and Jakub Kiwior (£4.4m) start ahead of him in the Arsenal back four.
Arteta didn’t speak about Gabriel’s latest omission after the Fulham match. But, in embargoed quotes from Friday’s pre-match press conference, the Arsenal boss did address his current exclusion:
“We have to focus on what is ahead, what is now, and how we’re going to evolve that. There will be different relationships, Gabi will play a lot of games, I’m sure. It’s about bringing the competition high and trying to make the team play better, better, better, being more dominant and winning more games.
“Yeah [you have to explain these decisions], especially someone who has played a lot of minutes and games with us in the last year. He understands the reasons, whether he agrees or not is something different! But the best way [to respond] is when you play, he has to tell me how blind and wrong I am.” – Mikel Arteta
As mentioned previously, Gabriel’s starting XI prospects might hinge on Oleksandr Zinchenko‘s (£4.9m) fitness. The Ukraine international is recently back from injury and has been getting minutes off the bench in the last two Gameweeks. If Zinchenko is inverting from full-back, rather than an unconvincing Thomas Partey (£4.9m), then there’s an easier – if not assured – route back into the team for Gabriel at centre-half.
Arsenal’s defence might be an ‘avoid’ anyway over the next six Gameweeks:
Kai Havertz (£7.4m) needed a positive start to his Arsenal career to get the detractors immediately off his back. It hasn’t happened.
He’s without a single attacking return in 2023/24 so far, his latest appearance ending after 56 minutes. A big chance had been spurned by that point, with the discontented murmurings from the Emirates faithful becoming more audible by the week.
To make matters worse, his replacement, Fabio Vieira (£5.4m), was excellent upon his introduction, claiming the assist for Saka’s penalty and then Eddie Nketiah‘s (£5.6m) strike.
“Yes, I think [he will win over the fans]. I think he’s already done some really good things and today it was tough for him in certain moments. He got in some great areas again and the ball didn’t arrive and he had a lot of situations. He should have already scored a lot of goals already this season and that’s the thing that is missing there.” – Mikel Arteta on Kai Havertz
The wealth of options at Arteta’s disposal is no doubt giving him headaches as much as FPL managers. Leandro Trossard (£6.8m) started up front on Saturday, with Nketiah replacing the ineffective Belgian at half-time. Gabriel Jesus (£7.9m) returned from injury, too, as a late substitute.
How long before the rotation affects the likes of Gabriel Martinelli (£8.0m)? The Brazilian winger was livelier in the first half against Fulham, getting four shots away before the break, but he too is goalless in 2023/24 so far.
RASHFORD ON THE LEFT, HOJLUND NEARLY FIT
There is a bit of a consensus that Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) plays better on the left flank than up front, even though the attacking returns breakdown by position suggests it makes little difference to his output.
Saturday would have fuelled that argument. It certainly wasn’t vintage Rashford, but it was better than what preceded it in the first two Gameweeks. Turns of pace led to assists for Christian Eriksen’s (£5.9m) tap-in and Fernandes’ penalty, while Rashford brilliantly ‘assisted the assister’ for Casemiro‘s (£5.5m) goal.
Fernandes is still bossing the underlying numbers. Even discounting Saturday’s penalty, he’s almost on double the expected goal involvement (xGI) as Rashford at this very early stage of the season. Even in the incident that led to Joe Worrall‘s (£4.5m) red card for the denial of a goalscoring opportunity, it was Fernandes who was racing through on goal.
The big unknown is how effective the pair will be with Rasmus Hojlund (£7.0m) in the side. The new arrival is expected to have a full week of training ahead of Gameweek 4, so regular starts should be coming soon. Will his “very direct” style lead to fewer shots for Rashford? Will having a reliable goalscorer up top help convert all those Fernandes key passes into assists?
He’ll surely be an upgrade on Anthony Martial (£6.5m), either way.
A word on United’s ropey-looking defence. Already without the sidelined Luke Shaw (£5.4m) and having to play Diogo Dalot (£4.9m) as a makeshift left-back, the Red Devils lost Raphael Varane (£5.1m) to an injury at half-time.
FOREST AND FULHAM GIVE IT A GO
The home clean sheets were busted within minutes of kick-off at the Emirates and Old Trafford.
A quickfire double from Taiwo Awoniyi (£6.5m) and Willy Boly (£4.5m) opened up a 2-0 lead for Forest, while Andreas Pereira (£5.4m) pounced on a Saka error to score for Fulham after 57 seconds.
Forest are maybe a couple of much better centre-halves away from being a comfortably mid-table team. For all the money spent, Worrall and Scott McKenna (£4.5m) shouldn’t be starting at this level. Felipe (£4.4m) coming back from injury soon is a boost, while there are still a few days of the transfer window left.
There’s little wrong at the other end of the field.
Awoniyi scored on Saturday for the seventh successive league match. He’s netted a preposterous 75% of his shots in that time, so that conversion rate obviously isn’t going to be sustainable, but double figures is easily reachable from here.
Having a decent goal-getter up top boosts the assist potential of Morgan Gibbs-White (£6.0m), too. The midfielder has now completed a full season of appearances for Forest (ie 38 matches), assisting on 14 occasions.
Four of the next five matches don’t scream hauls for Forest’s attack, it must be said.
The importance of Joao Palhinha (£5.0m) to the Fulham cause was again evidenced on Saturday. It’s not the goals – he scored the late equaliser – but his off-the-ball contributions, his presence in front of the back four so influential.
Owners of Manchester City players would still have been encouraged to see Arsenal rack up 3.20 expected goals (xG) despite Palhinha’s presence, with Saka and Havertz wasting huge chances.
City entertain the Cottagers in Gameweek 4.