The Fantasy Premier League (FPL) lessons from the remaining two of Saturday’s top-flight matches are covered in our latest Scout Notes article.
The narrow wins for both Manchester clubs are dissected here.
WHY EDERSON WAS BENCHED AND ALVAREZ WASN’T
There were pre-match predictions that a Manchester City player returning from international duty in South America would be benched in Gameweek 9 – but it was Ederson (£5.6m), and not Julian Alvarez (£7.1m), who had to make do with a place among the substitutes at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola has already gone on record a few times this season about how important Alvarez is now that Ilkay Gundogan is gone and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.2m) is injured, calling him “almost undroppable” at one point.
Guardiola had every reason to rest Alvarez after international breaks in Gameweeks 5 and 9, with “jetlag” cited as a factor in the former. But he ended up lasting 90 minutes in both fixtures, delivering nine-point returns on both occasions. If there was any doubt about the importance of Alvarez to the City cause at present, from his pressing to his goal threat, then his extended game-time against Brighton and Hove Albion was proof positive.
As for Ederson, his demotion to the bench was indeed linked to his globetrotting over the October break.
“Just the fact for the travel from Brazil for Eddy, it was a long time.
“It has happened many times and he played but he played two games there and the first day he arrived he was so, so tired.
“Normally Ortega plays the Carabao Cup – now we are out – and the FA Cup. Even for Eddy it’s good to rest for a little bit, freshen your mind. Other players get tired and keepers can be tired, too.” – Pep Guardiola on Ederson’s benching
“He’s younger! I saw him sharp. I spoke with him, he said ‘I feel fresher than I would say the other times I came from internationals’.
“In the second game [for Argentina], he played 45-50 minutes and was replaced by a player that is not bad like Leo Messi. Eddy played 90, 90.
“[Argentina] won and after you win it feels much better [but for] Brazil it didn’t happen. These kind of things we detail.” – Pep Guardiola when asked how Julian Alvarez’s situation differed from Ederson’s
POWERFUL YOU HAVE BECOME, DOKU
Jeremy Doku (£6.5m) was yet again preferred to Jack Grealish (£7.3m) down the left flank, producing a fine display and teeing up Alvarez for City’s opener.
A total of three shots and two chances created meant that he was involved in half of the 10 attempts that City had, his Sane-like directness on the left wing giving Brighton right-back James Milner (£4.8m) nightmares.
“After the West Ham game he didn’t play one or two (games) because of doubts he has to play game, game, game every three days and he is not used to it.
“He is an exceptional winger. Jeremy is so smart in defensive areas and after, he has the quality. He got to the byline and got us the first goal and there were many actions. I am really pleased for his impact since he came into us. It’s the start of many years for him in this house.
“Jeremy can play on the right perfectly. Maybe on the left he is not used. Years ago, it was left player on left and right on right side. Now it’s difficult to find. Both can play. Jack is more controlled. He doesn’t have the one-v-one speed but has the control.
“Today I doubt a lot the line-up because the game would have more transitions. They are man to man and aggressive so we will lose more than usual to make more transitions.
“I thought Phil and Jeremy with their pace could help us. I thought a lot to put Mateo (Kovacic) and Matheus (Nunes) in [central midfield]… but Bernardo (Silva) with the way we want to press is so intuitive, so important for control.” – Pep Guardiola on Jeremy Doku
Elsewhere, Erling Haaland (£14.0m) ended his mini-drought with a league-leading ninth goal of the campaign. While he’s six goals down from where he was after nine matches of 2022/23, the underlying numbers across the two campaigns are very similar:
Above: Erling Haaland’s underlying numbers after nine appearances in 2022/23 (left) and 2023/24 (right)
At the back, the benching of Ruben Dias (£5.5m) was almost as much of a surprise as Ederson’s demotion, even if the Portugal international’s form had dipped slightly. In came John Stones (£5.3m), who was straight back into his inverted centre-half role.
In other City centre-back news, Manuel Akanji (£5.0m) was sent off late on for two bookable offences and will now miss Gameweek 10, potentially handing Dias an instant reprieve.
MARCH INJURY – £5.0M ADINGRA TO BENEFIT?
Brighton have had some rotten luck with injuries this season and they appear to have lost another regular to a long-term injury, this time Solly March (£6.3m).
The winger went down awkwardly late in the second half at the Etihad, having to be stretchered off soon after.
Danny Welbeck (£5.8m) also limped out of the defeat in Manchester with a muscular injury.
“This is the worst news today. I think we can lose Solly March for a long time and Welbeck, I don’t know, it’s a muscular problem.
“We are losing too many players, I think we are not ready to compete in these competitions and we are adapting. It’s tough. We [will] play against Ajax – a crucial game – without Estupinan, Lamptey, March, Welbeck, I think, and Julio Enciso.” – Roberto De Zerbi
March had been filling in at left-back over the last couple of Gameweeks but is usually deployed on the right flank, so budget FPL midfielder Simon Adringra (£5.0m) may get a little minutes boost in the Premier League in the absence of his injured team-mate. The winger, who was excellent against Liverpool in Gameweek 8, has started four of the last five league fixtures for Albion.
The schedule gets much, much better now, too, for Adingra and co:
The Seagulls have given most teams a good game this season but were outclassed by City here, and there’s no shame in that.
Someone who didn’t look overawed by the treble-winning hosts was Kaoru Mitoma (£6.5m), who was sharp. The Japan international spurned a golden one-on-one chance before his driving run led to Ansu Fati‘s (£6.5m) consolation, albeit without giving Mitoma an assist.
With Brighton top of the Season Ticker from Gameweeks 10-16, Mitoma will rise up the FPL watchlist as a result – it’s just a shame about the nagging doubts over rotation, thanks to UEFA Europa League involvement.
MORE OF THE SAME FROM UNITED
You kept your Manchester United triple-up for this? It’s a question that a chunk of FPL managers will be asking themselves in the aftermath of another unconvincing 2-1 win for the Red Devils, this time at 20th-place, injury-hit Sheffield United.
There were some excruciating near-misses involving Marcus Rashford (£8.7m). Striker Rasmus Hojlund (£7.2m) couldn’t convert two close-range chances that would have resulted in a Rashford assist, while the England international himself sent a great opportunity narrowly wide from a Bruno Fernandes (£8.4m) pass.
Fernandes at least did chip in with an assist with his set-up for goalscorer Scott McTominay (£4.8m) but there was even frustration for him, thanks to Rashford’s spurned chance and a free-kick of his own hitting the bar.
It’s fair to say that owners of both players have been pretty unlucky in the first quarter of 2023/24 – but it’s also fair to say that United simply aren’t in the same class as even the likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Brighton when it comes to collective goal threat. When you’re watching the Red Devils, you never get the feeling that they could steamroller anybody in the division, even the relegation favourites.
Above: Man Utd rank outside of the top 10 for expected goals (xG) in 2023/24
At the rear, Harry Maguire (£4.2m) and Jonny Evans (£4.0m) again represented a cut-price pairing at centre-half. One of them (Evans, very likely) will make way for a fit-again Raphael Varane (£5.0m) in the Manchester derby, while there’s even a possibility that Maguire too could drop out if Victor Lindelof (£4.5m) is moved back to centre-back to accommodate a return for Sergio Reguilon (£4.4m).
Another member of the United backline, match-winner Diogo Dalot (£4.9m), delivered on his decent underlying numbers: he’s had four shots and created eight chances over the last four Gameweeks alone.
MCBURNIE, NOT ARCHER, ON PENALTIES
As for the Blades, they really aren’t the totally abject team that many are making out. Their only real hammering came against Newcastle in Gameweek 6, with both Manchester clubs and Spurs made to work hard for 2-1 wins.
What they are is limited in top-tier quality and cursed with injury, with a full XI of senior casualties. Added to that list of absentees ahead of Gameweek 9 was a hamstrung Anel Ahmedhodzic (£4.3m), and the centre-back crisis is now so bad that manager Paul Heckingbottom has had to ditch the 3-5-2 formation.
Oli McBurnie (£5.4m) is flagged, too, with groin discomfort leading to his early withdrawal on Saturday night.
In a blow to Cameron Archer (£4.5m) owners, it was McBurnie who stepped up from the spot to score when the hosts were given a first-half penalty. That was the first successful Sheffield United spot-kick in 21 months.