The Digest articles make a welcome return to Fantasy Football Scout in 2023/24.
In these pieces, a player, team and talking point that have attracted interest in the weekend’s matches are discussed.
Five-time top 1k finisher Tom Freeman will be taking the reins this season, producing regular Digest articles, with only Premium Members able to access every single one.
THE PLAYER: COLE PALMER
Chelsea have scored six goals in their last two league matches, with back-to-back wins at Fulham and Burnley.
Both victories have come in games Cole Palmer (£4.9m) has started and it’s no coincidence the Blues have looked far more fluid going forward with their deadline day signing featuring from the right.
It was Palmer who netted Chelsea’s second on Saturday as a surprise penalty taker, before he later turned provider for Nicolas Jackson (£6.9m).
Just as he had against Fulham in Gameweek 7, Mauricio Pochettino deployed Palmer on the right of his 4-2-3-1, but gave him the freedom to drift infield into more central areas, which is captured below.
Above: Cole Palmer’s touch heatmap Gameweeks 7-8
Averaging 2.56 shots and 2.24 key passes per 90 minutes in 2023/24 so far, it’s clear Palmer has quickly established himself within Pochettino’s tactical framework.
“He is a very talented player and he has the quality, and he surprised me when he arrived because it was the day before the transfer window closed. The way he reads the situations and what the team needs in every situation, he can be the player who can link with his team-mates. [He is] still very, very young, but with great personality and he has the talent and the quality which we saw.” – Mauricio Pochettino on Cole Palmer
After the international break, it will not be an easy time for Chelsea, as they welcome Arsenal to Stamford Bridge. That fixture kicks off a tricky seven-game league run that will see them face six sides currently in the top half of the table:
However, Chelsea largely focus their attacks down the right (43%) and given how Palmer’s qualities make him more dangerous when games open up, he could be the perfect Fantasy enabler, allowing upgrades in other areas.
In addition, with Palmer drifting infield and Reece James (£5.3m) providing an outlet on the overlap, it could be the perfect time to invest.
One word of caution: it looked like Palmer felt something in his hamstring on Saturday before being withdrawn, although reports have since suggested his substitution was precautionary. Still, it’ll need to be monitored.
When Christopher Nkunku (£7.3m) comes back into the fold, the situation for Palmer becomes more complex, but given his talent, you’d back him to become a regular.
THE TEAM: SHEFFIELD UNITED
After a poor transfer window where star players Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge (£4.8m) left, Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League has been brutal.
They lost 3-1 at Fulham on Saturday, in what was their seventh defeat in eight top-flight matches. In that time, they have scored just six goals while conceding 22.
Paul Heckingbottom is clearly trying his best but they look massively underequipped to compete at this level, making them a team to target in FPL.
“We fought. We were organised and frustrated Fulham. We were comfortable. We started the second half well but then gave Fulham too many opportunities on the break from our corners and throw-ins. It probably shows a naivety. There’s no way they should be breaking from those moments, but they did. It shows we’ve still got a naivety at this level. That’s probably the difference, the speed of thought in transition. You get what you deserve and we’re where we deserve to be. At the minute the things that can go against us are going against us. But we have to roll with it. We’re the only ones who can get ourselves out of it.” – Paul Heckingbottom
Crucially, even the division’s weakest attacks are causing their backline problems.
For example, Fulham – who had failed to score in each of their last two matches – racked up 2.21 expected goals (xG) in Gameweek 8, their highest individual total of the season so far.
Furthermore, the Blades rank bottom for headed chances and shots from set plays conceded, weaknesses Newcastle United and Kieran Trippier (£6.8m) were able to exploit in Gameweek 6.
It’s also worth noting Fulham were consistently able to expose Sheffield United’s right side on Saturday and they rank bottom for chances conceded on both flanks, offering hope to Marcus Rashford’s (£8.8m) long-suffering owners in Gameweek 9.
THE TALKING POINT: INTERNATIONAL BREAK
Fantasy managers now face a fortnight of deliberation as we head into the second international break of the season.
With players flying off all over the world to represent their countries, now is the time to hold off making early transfers.
While the threat of rotation after an international break is often overplayed, the fixtures taking place in South America in the early hours of next Wednesday morning are a concern.
Particularly for Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez (£7.4m) and Luis Diaz (£7.5m), given that the Reds contest a Merseyside derby against Everton in Saturday’s early 12:30 kick-off.
As a result, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if benchings occur for the pair, a scenario which happened at Molineux in Gameweek 5.
“We have four international breaks by March and for two of them we already have the 12.30 kick-off [when Premier League action resumes]. If I say a word about it then the world says, ‘He’s moaning again’. This is a joke. We had four players in South America who I haven’t even seen yet. In 24 hours, we play [Wolves]. But it’s like it is and we cannot change it. We will never change that, whoever we talk to. Now the TV channel has a different name, but obviously it doesn’t change anything at all. They don’t give a …., so why should I talk about that? We didn’t think about it.” – Jurgen Klopp speaking before Gameweek 5
Julian Alvarez (£7.0m) also faces a long trek back to Manchester.
He started after the last international break, assisting twice at West Ham United, yet Pep Guardiola suggested in his post-match interview that it was a very close call.
“We had doubts because he came from Bolivia with the jetlag, he was so tired the day before yesterday. He felt better and we spoke with him last night and he said he felt good.” – Pep Guardiola on Julian Alvarez
While there isn’t much we can do as FPL managers, at least preparing ourselves for reduced minutes seems sensible.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for Neale’s essential ‘Which FPL players are on international duty – and when?’ article in the coming days.