The Fantasy Premier League (FPL) takeaways from four more of Saturday’s matches are covered in our latest Scout Notes article of Gameweek 8.
This time we’re looking at Manchester United v Brentford, Fulham v Sheffield United, Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest and Everton v Bournemouth.
WHY £3.9M GOALKEEPER STRAKOSHA STARTED
Every £100k counts in FPL, so the sight of a £3.9m goalkeeper lining up between the posts in Gameweek 8 would have piqued interest.
That man was Thomas Strakosha (£3.9m), who made a Premier League debut for Brentford at Old Trafford.
Mark Flekken‘s (£4.5m) early-season displays for the Bees had led to plenty of hypothesising about his security of starts but it was a lack of fitness, and not form, why he missed out against Manchester United.
“Illness, [we found out] this morning.
“I think actually [Strakosha] played a good game, I must say. We are moments away from a fantastic story. I could praise him in the dressing room, praise him to you guys: coming in, clean sheet. Talk about Ethan ‘The Mountain’ Pinnock, did fantastic. And of course he still did fantastic but it’s not the same good story.” – Thomas Frank on Mark Flekken’s absence
Whether he did enough to make Frank twice about his starting goalkeeper in Gameweek 9 is doubtful. Strakosha was more assured in some aspects of his game but his distribution (which Brentford place great importance on) was a mixed bag and all of his saves were unconvincing parries, most of them back into dangerous areas.
Gameweek 10 Wildcarders should know whether Strakosha is going to get starts, at least, based on who Frank favours against Burnley in a fortnight.
There were positives to take from Brentford’s display, particularly at the back where Ethan Pinnock (£4.5m) was excellent. The Bees are ranked sixth for fewest expected goals conceded (xGC) this season, with the defence – if not the goalkeepers behind them – largely doing well.
There was a fourth straight blank for Bryan Mbeumo (£6.8m), however, with his best chance whistling just wide. He’s surely a hold for Gameweek 9 but even team-mate Mathias Jensen (£5.4m) has overtaken him in the points stakes now, the Dane – who has scored from three of just five shots in 2023/24 – in nosebleed territory as the fifth-highest-scoring FPL midfielder after Saturday’s games.
PAPERING OVER CRACKS
Substitute Scott McTominay‘s (£4.8m) stoppage-time double rescued victory from the jaws of defeat for Manchester United but that late salvo barely cloaked another dire display.
There was more ponderous play in attack, while it was alarming how slow United were at the other end of the pitch to close down Brentford’s shooting opportunities. The goalkeeper isn’t bailing out his team, either, with Andre Onana (£4.9m) conceding another goal he should have saved.
Above: Andre Onana is second bottom among FPL goalkeepers for expected goals prevented in 2023/24
The line-up had provided more false hope, with Sofyan Amrabat (£5.0m) joining Casemiro (£5.4m) in midfield rather than wasted at full-back. Casemiro promptly turned in another shocker, while Victor Lindelof (£4.5m) was as uncomfortable at left-back as Amrabat had been previously.
There is mitigation for the defence, as you could argue that all four first choices are injured. Raphael Varane (£5.0m) completed the set: he was absent for this one with a minor issue but will be back after the break.
But while Luke Shaw’s (£5.2m) attacking contributions are missed down the left flank, there is literally no one else to turn to reinvigorate a flagging frontline. Alejandro Garnacho (£4.8m), Facundo Pellistri (£4.4m) and Antony (£6.8m) aren’t the answers based on the evidence of recent weeks, certainly not in terms of consistency.
Marcus Rashford (£8.8m), once upon a time a 90-minute man, barely made it to the hour mark here. This wasn’t actually his worst display, with the occasional moment of fleet-footed trickery and the odd shot, but the confidence has visibly ebbed away.
It is, at least, Sheffield United up next. The Red Devils’ opponents of the last two Gameweeks, Palace and Brentford, are at the right end of the table for many of the key defensive numbers this season. The Blades are emphatically not.
Even taking this into account, and based on how United struggled against Wolves and Burnley, the betting money would be on a narrow win rather than another 8-0.
BLADES BLUNT AGAIN
Sheffield United have improved since their pasting by Newcastle United, but that improvement has still seen them ship five goals in two Gameweeks.
Given how much Willian (£5.3m) enjoyed himself down the left flank on Saturday, delivering five shots, three chances created and a goal, there’s a straw to be clutched at for Rashford owners.
The Blades could be commended for their rearguard effort at Craven Cottage, while the goal that put Fulham back in front at 2-1 was a flukey Tom Cairney (£4.9m) effort that bounced in off Wes Foderingham (£4.5m).
But Fulham should still have been ahead long before Bobby De Cordova-Reid (£5.5m) opened the scoring in the 53rd minute, with Willian and Andreas Pereira (£5.5m) wasting big chances.
The Blades are now even further weakened at the back, with Chris Basham (£4.0m) suffering a horrific leg break at Craven Cottage and John Egan (£4.4m) ruled out for “months” by Paul Heckingbottom at full-time. It does mean that Aaron Trusty (£3.9m), the joint-cheapest defender in FPL, looks set for a run of starts.
At the other end, the visitors created little. Their only goal in the last three Gameweeks was basically gift-wrapped for them, with an injured Issa Diop (£4.5m) firstly handing the Blades possession and then Antonee Robinson (£4.5m) slicing the ball into his own goal.
Starved of service, Cameron Archer (£4.5m) has only had one shot in the box since his exciting debut in Gameweek 4.
Fulham had their own budget forward on the field in the shape of Carlos Vinicius (£4.8m), who ousted Raul Jimenez (£5.4m) from the starting XI for the first time in 2023/24.
Whoever gets the nod in attack after the international break will be hard-pushed to deliver anything over the next six Gameweeks, with a grim-looking fixture run upon the Cottagers:
STALEMATE AT SELHURST
With an array of Crystal Palace attacking talent sidelined and Taiwo Awoniyi (£6.6m) now ruled out for a month with a groin injury, one of the more predictable goalless draws of the season played out at Selhurst Park.
You could argue that Palace were without seven future first-team starters, with Messrs Henderson, Ward, Lerma, Doucoure, Eze, Olise and Franca all absent.
The only real chances that fell their way were spurned by Jordan Ayew (£5.5m) and Jean-Phillipe Mateta (£4.9m), yet another sub-£5.0m forward in a Premier League starting XI this weekend – if only because of an injury crisis.
But what Palace do possess is a solid goalkeeper in Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) and a well-drilled backline marshaled by the excellent Joachim Andersen (£4.8m). Their only two major scares came courtesy of some individual brilliance from Forest centre-half Murillo (£4.5m), with much of what else the visitors created proving to be meat and drink for Johnstone.
A juicy-looking five-match run is only three Gameweeks away for Palace.
And there have also been some quietly impressive displays from Forest’s backline, who boast the seventh-best minutes-per-xGC average this season.
Matt Turner (£4.0m) kept his place between the posts for this one, to the relief of his owners, but the star of the show was Murillo. A De Boer-esque raking pass led to Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.8m) striking the woodwork, while Murillo himself did his best Ricky Villa impression when dancing through the Palace backline and testing Johnstone.
He looks like a star in the making.
“I will also look at the fact he’s heading a lot of balls away, making a lot of interceptions and tackles, and positionally he is stopping attacks. All of that is as much what you want from your centre-back as what he showed with the ball as well.” – Steve Cooper on Murillo
Anyone hanging onto Jordan Pickford (£4.4m) finally got that long-awaited clean sheet on Saturday as Everton swept aside relegation rivals Bournemouth.
It’s difficult to see too many other shut-outs arriving in the near future, however, with a mostly horrible run of games upon the Toffees:
Everton have created chance after chance all season, mostly failing to capitalise on those opportunities other than away at Brentford.
While they’ve had a favourable run of games, they remarkably sit second for goal attempts and big chances in 2023/24.
It does suggest they may be more of a threat to the clean sheets of upcoming opponents Liverpool, West Ham United and Brighton than we might have imagined.
“Other than the scorelines, I think there have been a few complete performances so far. I have talked about it, but it doesn’t have the same strength when you don’t win. I am pleased for the players.
“The signs have been there all season. We dominated in the very first game this season. The signs have been there, we have won three out of four now.” – Sean Dyche
In Jack Harrison (£5.5m), they also now possess a winger who has proved capable of delivering the FPL goods from a low asking price.
A total of 18 attacking returns was a personal high in 2020/21, while even in Leeds United’s relegation campaign he managed to chip in with five goals and eight assists.
His goal against Bournemouth was a brilliant opportunistic lob over the stranded Neto (£4.5m), while he came so close to doubling his tally when a goalbound header was blocked; he at least picked up the Fantasy assist when Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.5m) tucked in the rebound.
That was Doucoure’s 11th attacking return in his last 18 appearances under Sean Dyche.
“Jack has been carrying a bit of a niggly hamstring. It was a worrying one, should he play, should he not? But he said clearly, ‘No, I want to play’.
“I thought he was excellent. He ran freely during the game, we managed to get him off as well”. – Sean Dyche
A cut-price Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8m) is getting plenty of chances, too, coming within a crossbar’s width of extending his scoring sequence to four successive matches in league and cup.
Everton won’t get many easier clean sheets this season, it has to be said.
Bournemouth had only had two efforts in the box in the first 70 minutes, by which point they were 3-0 down. Illia Zabarnyi‘s (£4.5m) late header was the only big chance they had throughout.
The Cherries deserve some mitigation as, before Gameweek 8, they’d endured a tricky run of fixtures. Consecutive home matches against Wolves and Burnley will surely give Dominic Solanke (£6.4m) more of a platform to shine, as he had looked a threat over the first two months of the season.
This Everton game was meant to be a favourable match too, however, so it wasn’t exactly a successful audition ahead of the double-header at the Vitality Stadium.
Vote for Fantasy Football Scout at the 2023 Football Content Awards by clicking here and selecting our name in the ‘Best in Fantasy Football’ section from the ‘Editorial’ drop-down menu.
You can also vote via Twitter using this one-click Tweet template.
A huge thank you for your continued support!