From injury updates to eye test observations and stand-out stats, the Scout Notes covers the big Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points.
Saturday’s inquest starts with the eight-goal thriller on Tyneside and Burnley’s comeback draw.
The other three Gameweek 23 matches will be covered in a follow-up article.
GORDON + ISAK INJURY UPDATES
The day started so well for Anthony Gordon (£6.2m) but ended with the ‘out of position’ winger leaving St James’ Park on crutches.
With Alexander Isak (£7.6m) absent and Callum Wilson (£7.8m) only fit enough to be named on the bench on his return from injury, it was Gordon who led the line against Luton Town.
His usual livewire self but in a more central role, Gordon claimed the assist for Newcastle’s second goal when Sean Longstaff (£4.8m) followed up on his run and saved shot.
And then, his afternoon ended abruptly.
Gordon failed to appear for the second half, with Wilson replacing him. It quickly emerged that the substitution was enforced.
Later sighted in a protective boot, an ankle twist was said to be the cause of his half-time exit.
“It looked like he twisted his ankle, I wasn’t sure of the incident. I did not necessarily see the moment that he did it but he was in a lot of pain at half-time so he had to come off.
“No idea (how long). It was sore enough for him to come off, that was his decision, and he knew he could not continue. Obviously, we hope it is not bad, he’s such an important player for us and we missed him when he went off.” – Eddie Howe on Anthony Gordon
While the extent of the issue is to be determined, even a mild ankle sprain could mean 2-3 weeks out.
It’s not just injury that may impact Gordon’s future minutes but also the return of positional rival Harvey Barnes (£6.2m), who scored on his comeback game.
As for Isak, Howe said his groin injury is “slight”.
“He’s got a slight groin injury, we don’t think it’s too serious. We hope he’ll be back pretty soon but when that is, I’m not sure.” – Eddie Howe on Alexander Isak
KEEGAN YEARS RETURN?
A total of 27 goals have been scored in Newcastle’s last five league matches.
We’ve said all season that there has been little wrong with the Magpies as an attacking force. In fact, they are up 13 goals and around 8.0 xG on where they were after 23 games last season.
But the chances continue to fly at the other end, too.
There had been green shoots of recovery in recent weeks, culminating in a professional win at Villa Park in midweek.
But it was back to basketball football against Luton, who were a constant threat on the break and especially lively down poor Dan Burn‘s (£4.4m) flank.
“It’s very unlike us, even early season we were we weren’t perfect defensively but we were tight enough and we you know we always want to prove that part of our game.
“The last few games here have been far from ideal defensively and it’s certainly something that we go away and look at and try and find answers.
“Today was from a defensive perspective we’re disappointed, I can tell you that right now. The first goal especially we’ve worked hard to get the lead and then from a set play, an innocuous-looking ball into the box. Really, we don’t deal with two headers and we’re punished.” – Eddie Howe
Kieran Trippier (£6.8m) at least compensated with a goal and an assist, teeing up Longstaff for the opener before himself volleying in an effort.
He’s now reached the same number of attacking returns (ten: one goal, nine assists) as he did in the whole of 2022/23, a figure that no other defender can better this campaign.
LUTON’S DOUBLE GAMEWEEK 25 AUDITION
Over the last nine Gameweeks, no team has scored more goals per game (2.5, see above) than Luton.
They’ve overachieved on the xG front to a huge degree (+7.62) but there’s no doubting how fearless and free a team they’ve become, taking the game to the likes of Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea and Newcastle over this period.
There were excellent displays across the park on Saturday, with Chiedozie Ogbene (£4.9m) outstanding down the right flank. It was from one of his Burn-burning take-ons that Luton won their 59th-minute penalty that Carlton Morris (£5.0m) converted.
As a forward playing as a wing-back, though, Ogbene is of limited Fantasy interest.
Alfie Doughty (£4.5m), Ross Barkley (£4.9m) and Elijah Adebayo (£4.8m) are the three names that stand out from an FPL perspective, again doing so on Tyneside.
The corner-taking Doughty is also offered a lot of attacking license from open play, and it was from the wing-back’s saved shot that Barkley tapped in Luton’s second.
Barkley has been one of the signings of the season. The heartbeat of the Luton side, he’s delivered seven attacking returns in the last nine matches. It was he who teed up Adebayo for the Hatters’ fourth goal, while a second assist almost arrived when his excellent chipped pass found Ogbene late on.
Deeper central midfielders admittedly have a tough task of convincing us Fantasy managers that they’re more worthy than wingers or number 10s. Barkley is fourth among all FPL midfielders for shots since he returned to the Luton XI in Gameweek 10, although many have been from distance. What he has done of late is up the creativity: 13 chances have been supplied in the last three Gameweeks alone.
Adebayo, meanwhile, is now behind only four forwards for goals scored (nine) – and he’s only been a regular from Gameweek 15 onwards. He’s scored with an unsustainable 46.7% of his shots during this time but as a dirt cheap forward in an attacking side, he’d still offer value after the expected regression.
The reason that there’s extra attention on Luton is that they will have a Double Gameweek 25. The fixtures make it a hard sell but you’d fancy them at home against anyone, and Manchester United are no great shakes. They also meet Liverpool just days before the Reds are in EFL Cup final action, which could be to the Hatters’ advantage.
A Blank Gameweek 26 is another downside but Luton could be one of the few clubs to have a fixture in Gameweek 29.
BUDGET FORWARDS ON THE MOVE
Adebayo wasn’t the only budget forward making headlines on Saturday.
Armando Broja (£4.9m) and David Datro Fofana (£5.0m) were both signed on loan in January, starting the Burnley v Fulham match on the bench.
Broja’s move got the most attention but it was Fofana who made the bigger impact on Saturday, scoring two late goals as a substitute to rescue an unlikely point for the Clarets.
Both goals owed much to Fulham errors, with Bernd Leno (£4.8m) flapping at a cross for the first strike and Kenny Tete (£4.4m) failing to control the ball in the build-up to the second.
The Cottagers were in complete control before this point, with a Joao Palhinha (£5.0m) header and a Rodrigo Muniz (£4.4m) lob putting them in what seemed to be a comfortable position.
Defender Antonee Robinson (£4.4m), added to our Watchlist last week, provided the assist for the second.
Fellow full–back Timothy Castagne (£4.5m) meanwhile made it seven shots in the box in his last four starts with three efforts in Lancashire.
Above: Castagne has got into some eye-catching goalscoring positions in his last four starts, with the circles above representing the shots he has taken in that time
Only Burnley ‘keeper James Trafford (£4.5m) kept the score down after that point, making a series of smart saves.
It was noticeable, not for the first time this season, how easily caught out Burnley were on the transition, particularly to direct balls behind their high defensive line. It’s a weakness that seems ready-made for Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.5m) to exploit in Gameweek 24 (if he’s selected!), and he indeed created two chances from deep in the reverse fixture in December.