Our review of Saturday’s Gameweek 9 action begins with the matches at Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
BOTMAN INJURY LATEST
As you may have seen by now, Sven Botman‘s (£4.7m) flag in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) has turned from orange to red.
The Dutch centre-half played no part in Newcastle United’s resounding 4-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, with budget FPL defender Jamaal Lascelles (£3.9m) again deputising.
Having provided an ambiguous injury update in Friday’s press conference, Eddie Howe gave more of a timeframe for Botman after full-time – and the Netherlands international won’t be back in Gameweek 10.
“He wasn’t close today. Obviously I couldn’t say that yesterday but he hasn’t trained with us yet, so he’s got a bit of a way to go. We’re hopeful it won’t be too long but certainly, the next couple of weeks he won’t be fit.” – Eddie Howe on Sven Botman
Gameweek 11, which is a fortnight away, might even be too soon based on Howe’s quote above. By that point, Botman would have been sidelined for six weeks.
The Newcastle defence didn’t miss him against Palace, banking their fourth clean sheet in five league matches. Kieran Trippier (£6.9m), naturally, was in the thick of the action, delivering yet another assist. He’s now racked up 54 points in his last five starts.
This was a perfect afternoon for his owners, with the points in the bag and an early withdrawal sparing his legs for the final quarter of the game.
NEWCASTLE’S UNDERRATED ATTACK
Much of the Fantasy discussion surrounding Newcastle has centred around their defence but they are now the division’s top scorers, having recorded 24 goals in 2023/24. Two-thirds of those have come in the last four Gameweeks alone.
As well as actual goals, they’re also first for expected goals (xG, 19.87) and big chances (37).
Above: Premier League teams sorted by xG in 2023/24
The underlying numbers had been positive even before this purple patch, with chances created throughout a tricky opening month.
The downside to their attack, which there isn’t really at the rear, is the rotation risk. Their front three were changed completely from Gameweek 8, with the 0.2%-owned Jacob Murphy (£4.8m) marking his first Premier League start of the season with a 17-point haul.
Anthony Gordon (£5.6m) will start more games than not on the opposite flank with Harvey Barnes (£6.3m) out, and his goal against Palace means that he has blanked in only two of his eight appearances this season.
And Callum Wilson (£7.8m) has proven adept at scoring in what little pitch-time he is afforded: he’s 29th among forwards for minutes played this season but third for goals scored. Had injury not struck ahead of Gameweeks 7 and 8, there’s every chance he would have started then and inflicted more damage.
With four ‘big six’ sides to come in the next seven Gameweeks, there are stiffer tests ahead for both the in-form defence and attack.
OFF-DAY FOR PALACE
While the ‘zero’ next to Palace’s name was perhaps expected based on their injury problems in attack, few punters would have anticipated a four-goal hiding.
Palace had only conceded 18 goals in as many matches under Roy Hodgson before Saturday, arriving on Tyneside off the back of three successive clean sheets.
This was a rare off-day for the Eagles’ defence, then, following on from some strong rearguard displays and solid underlying numbers. A freakish Newcastle opener and a rare Marc Guehi (£4.5m) error (more of an unfortunate slip, really) underscored the feeling that it was going to be just one of those days.
“We made mistakes of course. Several of the goals and chances were uncharacteristic mistakes which the defenders and midfielders haven’t been making. That’s one thing, but you never know what it is in a game that causes you to collapse a little bit in terms of what we’ve been privileged to see from this team.
“In fact, at half-time, one of the coaches rightly said that this is our first under-par performance in the first eight league games, and now we’ve got to do something about it in the second half.” – Roy Hodgson
A juicy run of matches from Gameweek 11-15 is just around the corner, when they won’t face anyone of the calibre of Newcastle.
Bodies are slowly coming back, with promising young winger Matheus Franca (£4.9m) now fit, but the return of Michael Olise (£5.8m) and Eberechi Eze (£6.1m) can’t come soon enough. Palace had 17 shots at St James’ Park but not one of them was a ‘big chance’ and many of the efforts came after the Magpies were 3-0 up.
TSIMIKAS DELIVERS… JUST
Kostas Tsimikas (£4.5m) climbed in price overnight and is set to rise further in popularity this week, with the news now confirmed that positional rival Andrew Robertson (£6.6m) is out for around three months.
While Klopp reminded us that he has other options for the left-back role in Friday’s press conference, it was indeed Tsimikas who made the starting XI against Everton on Saturday.
His was not a performance that would live long in the memory: neither good enough to be noteworthy nor bad enough to suggest he may lose his place in Gameweek 10.
The positives to take were that he was allowed to get forward quite a bit, delivering more crosses than anyone else on show, and that he was on a share of set plays, taking three corners in his 61-minute showing.
There aren’t too many downsides at that price and with the fixtures falling the way they are for Liverpool. This is basically Robertson-lite for over £2.0m cheaper, someone who may chip in with the odd attacking return and clean sheet without reaching the Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.9m) levels of recent seasons.
He began his stint in the first team with a shut-out but it was a close-run thing, his afternoon ending just after the hour mark. It appeared to be a tactical withdrawal rather than manager dissatisfaction, with Klopp throwing on attacker after attacker as the stalemate with 10-man Everton dragged on.
SALAH FINDS A WAY
“Today was not his best game but then [still] being that clinical with the penalty and then staying in the situation, that’s probably his biggest quality, and I love that.” – Jurgen Klopp on Mohamed Salah
Jurgen Klopp’s appraisal of Mohamed Salah‘s (£12.7m) derby display perfectly summed up the Egyptian’s day and general allure as an FPL asset.
Non-owners of Salah will bemoan his ‘luck’ in rescuing a haul from the jaws of a blank, with a penalty and a last-gasp breakaway goal papering over an unremarkable overall performance. Owners will counter that taking spot-kicks and being a 90-minute man, hence still being on the field for a late, late chance when the trailing opposition are getting desperate, is all part of his appeal and why you pay the big bucks.
The penalties are making a substantial contribution to his totals. He and Liverpool were only awarded four penalties in the whole of 2022/23 – and he’s matched that figure already after less than a quarter of the current campaign.
Above: Premier League teams sorted by penalties scored in 2023/24
Just as he was immediately after the September break, Darwin Nunez (£7.4m) was benched for Liverpool’s first game back following the October internationals. “Better flights” helped the Uruguayan striker get home quicker than he did last month but with Diogo Jota (£7.7m) relatively rested, the Portugal international was preferred up top.
Liverpool have another post-international 12.30pm kick-off after the November break, so there’ll be the usual question marks over Darwin’s minutes against Manchester City in Gameweek 13. Before then, of course, are three very appealing fixtures.
Cody Gakpo (£7.2m) wasn’t involved in this one despite his return to team training later in the week.
The match finished 2.23-0.13 in terms of xG, with Liverpool racking up more shots than any other team in Gameweek 9 so far. But the game really didn’t have that feel: as dominant as the Reds were, they didn’t carve out a single ‘big chance’ until Salah’s 75th-minute penalty.
Much of that was due to a solid Everton defensive effort, with budget-friendly defender Jarrad Brantwaite (£4.0m) again impressive and Vitalii Mykolenko (£4.3m) generally doing well against Salah.
That’s now Liverpool, Arsenal and Brentford who Everton have restricted gilt-edged chances to this season, so Jarrod Bowen (£7.3m) and co may find the Toffees a tough nut to crack in Gameweek 10.
“There was a different side to us today – the commitment to defend properly, keep our shape and the energy was very pleasing. We weren’t as free-flowing as we had been – there were too many soft giveaways with the ball – but the defensive side I was pleased with and going down to 10 men, I was pleased with until the penalty.
“I think there’s been positivity all season. It’s a different kind of positivity today. This one gets taken away from us. The fans saw their team giving everything and I’m sure they’re frustrated.” – Sean Dyche
PALMER STILL ON PENALTIES
A sub-£5.0m midfielder on penalties and (temporarily) playing as a central striker for a traditional ‘big six’ club… it makes you wonder why Cole Palmer (£4.9m) isn’t in more squads than he is.
At least 10 other midfielders competing for our Fantasy cash and poor short-term fixtures for Chelsea are, of course, the reasons why.
But more positive displays from Palmer over the next six Gameweeks will have many FPL managers surely considering a move for him in Gameweek 16, when Chelsea’s fixtures get really, really good:
It should be noted that he was only deployed as a central striker because of the absence of Armando Broja (£4.9m) and the lack of fitness of Nicolas Jackson (£6.3m), who wasn’t risked from the start after recent surgery.
“Broja wasn’t available and to decide to play with Nico after the surgery on his wrist, it was to find a different way to play in our principles but I think to change the strategy to attack. It was a little bit both. I have been so happy with the performance of [Gallagher] and Palmer.” – Mauricio Pochettino on why Conor Gallagher played further forwards in support of Cole Palmer
But Palmer was a bright spark in an unnatural position, twice going close to adding to his tally after a 15th-minute penalty. The budget FPL midfielder, who also scored from the spot in Gameweek 8, had to really fight for this one, with a stroppy Raheem Sterling (£7.0m) attempting to wrestle the ball from his team-mate’s grasp.
THE CAVALRY RETURNS
Chelsea welcomed back Reece James (£5.3m), Malo Gusto (£4.2m) and Benoit Badiashile (£4.4m) from suspension and injury for this fixture, while Jackson and Axel Disasi (£5.1m) were among the substitutes after recovering from international break problems.
The upcoming fixtures are a big reason why many Fantasy managers will swerve Chelsea assets until December at the earliest, so their chief role in FPL until then will be how much of a party-pooper they can be against players we do own.
They certainly threatened to spoil Arsenal’s evening, with the Gunners really struggling to create anything of note until Robert Sanchez (£4.6m) laid the ball on a plate to Declan Rice (£5.4m) after 77 minutes. Substitute Leandro Trossard (£6.5m) then restored parity shortly after.
The opening fixtures had been kind to Chelsea until this weekend but being ranked third for lowest expected goals conceded (xGC) is still worthy of mention, as was the suffocation of an Arsenal side that had beat Manchester City two weeks earlier. With Thiago Silva (£5.0m) in imperious form, Enzo Fernandez (£4.9m) and Moises Caicedo (£4.7m) screening the backline, and young legs pressing up top, there could be tough tests for Brentford, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to come before the November break.
Arsenal somehow managed to keep their unbeaten run going at Stamford Bridge, while Bukayo Saka (£8.5m) maintained his own excellent record – one blank in eight appearances – by teeing up Trossard’s leveller.
In truth, it was a rare moment of quality from an Arsenal attacker as Saka, Gabriel Martinelli (£7.7m), Martin Odegaard (£8.5m) and Gabriel Jesus (£7.9m) were all kept quiet. Rice’s late gift of a goal was, in fact, the Gunners’ first shot on target.
This match will soon be forgotten about in the wider context of a successful season to date, and especially with the small matter of Sheffield United at home up next. Saka getting through 90 minutes unscathed was the biggest positive from Stamford Bridge, as it suggests there are no major concerns about his workload heading into a very attractive Gameweek 10 fixture.
And while the clean sheet was spoiled, perhaps there is some reassurance to take from the wounds being partly self-inflicted: Gabriel Magalhaes’ (£4.7m) wandering hands gave away the spot-kick, while David Raya (£4.8m) was beaten by a cross-shot from Mykhailo Mudryk (£6.4m). It’s only reassuring if those individual aberrations are one-offs, however. It wasn’t the only error made by Raya, who also gifted Palmer a clear opening with his errant distribution. Aaron Ramsdale (£4.8m), absent from this one to attend the birth of his child, will have been an interested spectator.