Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion and Fulham v Luton Town are the first two Gameweek 5 matches to come under the Scout Notes spotlight.
The key Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points are discussed in the article below.
WHY DID ESTUPINAN MISS OUT?
Pervis Estupinan (£5.3m) wasn’t part of the Brighton squad at Old Trafford, his place at left-back being taken by forgotten man Tariq Lamptey (£3.9m).
Lamptey went on to claim assists for Pascal Gross (£6.3m) and substitute Joao Pedro (£5.4m), after Simon Adingra (£5.0m) had set up Danny Welbeck (£5.8m) for the Seagulls’ opener.
It appears, although it wasn’t explicitly said after the game, that Estupinan was rested after his midweek exertions for Ecuador.
“We have a great squad, two players for every position. Depending on the day, the physical condition, I can change the first XI.
“There is change in terms of characteristic because Estupinan is different than Lamptey, and Adingra [is different to] Solly March. But in terms of the quality of the players, nothing changes.” – Roberto De Zerbi
The post-match quotes above were more general comments about squad depth but the more telling remarks came in Friday’s press conference – or rather, the embargoed section of that presser.
They slipped out quietly early on Saturday morning, rather than the usual 10.30pm Friday night slot, and strongly hinted that De Zerbi was thinking about sparing Estupinan at Old Trafford.
“We have substitutions. We have [James] Milner, Tariq Lamptey, Pascal Gross, Igor [Julio]. Okay, Igor is a centre-back but he has played in the past in that position. Maybe a different way, in a different style, but he can if we need him play in that position.
“I don’t remember how many games until Liverpool [the last game before the next international break] but we have to keep our eye first on the Manchester United game – but we also have to think of other games.
“First of all, we can’t lose any player and we have to manage in the best way. If Pervis travelled 12 hours and he played 180 minutes in the last week, we have to consider it.” – Roberto De Zerbi
This was the first time De Zerbi had benched Estupinan after an international break; previously, he had taken him off early in the first Premier League game back to spare his legs. It’s something to bear in mind come Gameweeks 9 and 13, the matches that immediately follow the October and November international breaks.
MORE ON BRIGHTON ROTATION
De Zerbi has used 20 different players in his starting XI this season, the most in the division.
He’s changed a winning side on every occasion so far in 2023/24, here making six alterations from the 3-1 victory over Newcastle United two weeks ago.
The great thing if you’re a Brighton fan, and the bad thing if you’re an FPL manager, is that the changes seem to make a scant difference to the performances. Here the likes of Adam Lallana (£4.9m), Adingra and Lamptey were recalled, three players who hadn’t previously started a league match all season. Marquee signing Ansu Fati (£6.5m), who isn’t even among the 20 players to have made a line-up, was introduced off the bench in the second half. This is a club that seemingly isn’t weakened significantly even when resting first-teamers, which is only going to encourage De Zerbi to keep rotating.
No-one is safe, not even the goalkeepers. Jason Steele (£4.4m) was brought back into the XI in Manchester, with Bart Verbruggen (£4.4m) making way.
“I want to rotate Jason Steele and Verbruggen but depending on my head, not the competition. They can play every competition, not one for the Premier League, one for the Europa League.” – Roberto De Zerbi
Solly March (£6.6m), incidentally, missed out with a “small injury”.
RASHFORD + HOJLUND UP TOP
Above: Players sorted by goal attempts in Man Utd v Brighton
The game ended with Manchester United in disarray and outclassed. An Erik ten Hag substitution was even booed. It wasn’t all awful: they were the better, more intense side in the opening quarter of the game.
Rasmus Hojlund (£7.0m) looked lively and a vast upgrade on Anthony Martial (£6.5m), playing in a two-man attack with Marcus Rashford (£8.9m). Twice they almost combined for a goal, denied by VAR on one occasion.
Rashford, meanwhile, had a whopping nine shots of his own (see above). The winger was wasteful, often selfish, but had even just one of those efforts found the back of the net, we’d be sitting here talking about returns in three successive Gameweeks.
“I think today as well, we played well, first half, you analyse that first half, it’s crazy. I think we started well, we created chances, and on the second attack for them and first chance, it’s in.” – Erik ten Hag
As for who took Antony‘s (£6.8m) place on the right… no-one did. Ten Hag instead rolled out a midfield diamond of sorts, with Bruno Fernandes (£8.4m) at the tip – although the Portugal international often drifted deep, as is his wont.
Trialing a narrow new system against a side as adept in wide areas as Brighton backfired but it might get more joy against a naive-looking Burnley next week. By then, the XI could be strengthened by Raphael Varane (£5.0m), Mason Mount (£6.8m) and Sofyan Amrabat (£5.0m).
Luton Town’s Double Gameweek 7 will be here in a fortnight’s time and while the Hatters remain point-less heading towards it, they are slowly getting better.
They created the better chances against Fulham on Saturday despite ceding most of the possession, with the 5.2%-owned defender Issa Kabore (£4.0m) desperately unlucky to emerge from this game empty-handed. Thrice he provided excellent heading opportunities for team-mates with pinpoint crosses, one Jacob Brown (£4.9m) effort striking the upright. The right wing-back had more final-third touches than any of his teammates at Craven Cottage.
Amari’i Bell (£4.0m), another semi-popular budget defender and here deployed as a wing-back rather than a centre-half, saw a big chance of his own go begging, while likely Gameweek 7 target Carlton Morris (£5.5m) slashed at yet another presentable opportunity.
“We’ve had three really big chances in the game and a penalty decision go against us where we should have had one. We’ve had some really good moments where we should have taken something from the game.
“I thought tactically the boys were superb, we limited them to very, very little. Defensively we were very organised, we didn’t allow them to play through, round or over us at all, and we retained a real threat on the counter-attack and looked very dangerous with our speed and quality in those moments.” – Rob Edwards
A bit more encouragement ahead of that ‘double’, then, although the chopping and changing at wing-back is a worry for anyone owning Kabore especially. Boss Rob Edwards, indeed, has already promised line-up changes in Gameweek 6.
“We’re going to have to be different in every game, really. Expect some changes, expect a different way of playing.” – Rob Edwards
This wasn’t a particularly great advert for Fulham assets, given that Luton at home will inevitably be considered the most favourable fixture of the season. The Cottagers were similarly short on creativity against Everton in Gameweek 1 and rode their luck to a clean sheet then, too.
Bernd Leno‘s (£4.6m) usual heroics weren’t called on but he’s risen to the top of the goalkeeper points table with this clean sheet.
While the midfielders and forwards flattered to deceive, Timothy Castagne (£4.5m) looked good on his full debut. The full-back had more penalty-box touches than any of his teammates, also scooping maximum bonus.