We begin our analysis of the Gameweek 31 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) action in our Scout Notes series.
Here, the attention is on Chelsea v Brighton and Hove Albion.
Any numbers you see in this article are taken from our Premium Members Area, where you can access Opta player and team data from every single Premier League fixture.
STEELE INJURY LATEST
Roberto De Zerbi’s pre-match comments hinted at a potential issue for Jason Steele (£3.9m) and the budget FPL goalkeeper duly missed out on the win at Stamford Bridge.
The good news is that Steele’s omission was described as “precautionary”, so he may well be back in time for Gameweek 33.
Brighton don’t play in Gameweek 32 due to the clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.
Robert Sanchez (£4.5m) was back between the sticks in west London and he’ll keep his place at Wembley next weekend, with Albion’s ‘reserve’ Premier League goalkeeper (whoever that has been) having played in every round of the FA Cup to date.
We’ll hopefully get an update on Steele in De Zerbi’s pre-match press conference ahead of that cup semi-final, while the Brighton boss should face the media again a week on Tuesday ahead of Gameweek 33.
It remains to be seen if Sanchez has done enough in training or on the field to change De Zerbi’s thinking regarding the pecking order; only last month did the Albion head coach describe Steele as being “closer than Robert to my style”.
VELTMAN INJURY BAD NEWS FOR MAC ALLISTER – OR MARCH?
Brighton were hit by a further double injury blow in west London, losing Joel Veltman (£4.6m) and Evan Ferguson (£4.6m) during the game.
Ferguson’s replacement was a like-for-like swap, as Danny Welbeck (£6.5m) came off the bench for the young striker and grabbed the Seagulls’ equaliser.
But Veltman’s exit necessitated a reshuffle, with fellow full-back Tariq Lamptey (£4.2m) also currently sidelined.
On came Julio Enciso (£4.6m) in Alexis Mac Allister‘s (£5.5m) number 10 role, with Pascal Gross (£5.4m) redeployed to right-back and Mac Allister moving back into central midfield to fill the void left by Gross.
Such a tactical tweak was always likely to happen in the event of an injury, and it’s the reason why Mac Allister is lower down our Watchlist than Kaoru Mitoma (£5.7m) and Solly March (£5.2m).
Mac Allister’s open-play goal threat predictably suffered: having had two shots in the box before Veltman’s 28th-minute withdrawal, the Argentine was subsequently limited to three more efforts from 22 yards out or further.
Above: Alexis Mac Allister’s shot map in Gameweel 31 (the bigger the circle, the better the chance)
Veltman’s injury could keep him out of Gameweek 33 and potentially the first half of Gameweek 34 based on De Zerbi’s quotes below (he later said in his press conference that a two-week absence was a “minimum”), so we could see Gross and Mac Allister in deeper positions in those games.
The Brighton boss did suggest that March was also an option for more defensive duties, however:
“There are two [bits of] bad news, Ferguson and Veltman. The first check, can lose them both for a couple of weeks but we will see in the next days, Monday or Tuesday, we will see better.
“We have many solutions, we can change position of a lot of players – like Pascal [Gross] and Solly March.” – Roberto De Zerbi
As for Enciso, FPL interest would have been piqued at the sight of a £4.6m budget forward on the scoresheet. His goal was excellent, his performance too, but boss De Zerbi wasn’t entirely satisfied after the game.
“Enciso played a fantastic game until the goal. Then, he’s finished the game. But it’s not a surprise, he’s a very young player, he’s a good guy, but he has to progress, he has to improve, first of all, in the mentality.” – Roberto De Zerbi
One other thing to note regarding Mac Allister is last week’s return to training of Adam Lallana (£4.8m), another no. 10 operator, although he may be some distance from a playing comeback.
ANOTHER SUPERB ATTACKING BRIGHTON DISPLAY
After racking up 49 shots across their two Gameweek 29 fixtures and another 17 at Spurs last week, Brighton produced another sensational attacking performance in west London.
There were 26 goal attempts, five big chances and 2.94 expected goals (xG) registered by the visitors at Stamford Bridge, with Ferguson, Enciso, Mitoma, Mac Allister, March and Welbeck all wasting good opportunities and the woodwork rattled twice.
Pep Guardiola called Albion the “best in the world” at build-up play in Friday’s press conference; no side has had more shots than Brighton since De Zerbi was appointed.
A Brighton midfield/forward triple-up might be being considered by some FPL managers ahead of their three remaining Double Gameweeks but Pervis Estupinan (£4.8m) carries his own substantial attacking threat and is long overdue a goal, having had another three shots on Saturday.
CHELSEA: FPL NON-ENTITIES?
Chelsea, like Brighton, blank in Gameweek 32.
But while we’ll all be flocking back to March, Mitoma et all after that Blank Gameweek has been and gone, Chelsea are doing their utmost to write themselves out of FPL contention.
Sat in 11th place, closer to the relegation places than the top four, with only one goal to their name in four Premier League games (a heavily deflected effort from Conor Gallagher (£5.6m) on Saturday), and with some tricky fixtures to come, they’re almost a Fantasy afterthought now.
The bloated squad and attention switching to the Champions League is also off-putting, although they will likely be out of Europe come Tuesday.
As he promised he would on Friday, Frank Lampard rotated many of his regulars with one eye on the upcoming Real Madrid game.
Ben Chilwell (£5.9m) did come close to an attacking return when his cross was nodded onto the post by Christian Pulisic (£5.6m), while Kepa Arrizabalaga (£4.7m) starred between the sticks, making nine saves to keep Brighton at bay.
But it could be argued that even Chilwell and Kepa, Chelsea’s star attractions in FPL, are sellable now with better options available in their positions and price brackets.
“I think at the moment, more than defeats, it’s performance we’ve got to talk about. Wins only come with performance. In terms of performance that was the most disappointing one because we were well beaten in the basics of football. It’s a really good Brighton team so we must give them a lot of a credit because they’re a fantastic team and they can perform like that against pretty much anyone in the league.
“But we were short. A yard short, a tackle short, a fighting duel moment short and when that’s not right you’re not going to win games. You have to have the capacity to do that as well as the desire and at the minute we’re falling short on that and need to turn it around quickly.” – Frank Lampard