With team news often playing a pivotal part in FPL decisions, we have put together an assessment of how open or closed each Premier League manager was when facing the media over the course of the 2018-19 season. Part Four considers Southampton, Watford, West Ham and Wolves.
In terms of talking tactics, Ralph Hasenhuttl is a breath of fresh air among Premier League bosses. Ahead of his first game in charge in GW16, the Austrian explained of his philosophy: “The character and mentality of the team is okay. I think what they need now is a match plan that fits them – to find the perfect formation and tactical summary, so we can be less easy to play against, and force the opponent more than they did yesterday [in GW15]. Ok, it was Tottenham and they are a very good team, but for me tactical flexibility is a main part of our game. 4-2-2-2 is my preferred system, but I can also play with 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 so the main goal is to be very active and press very early. It also depends on how many quick players you have and how much speed they have, so we need to look at the guys and how they compare with the system we want to play.”
'Redmond is expected to be listed as a forward in FPL in 2019/20, having been moved up front by Hasenhuttl' (https://t.co/E7TjqxnyNw)— FPL Guidance (@FPL_Guidance) June 5, 2019
Absolutely ideal when such a lack of forwards play regularly
Only 13 played 2500+ minutes last season compared to 46 defenders and 33 midfielders
After switching from 3-4-2-1 to a four-man backline for Southampton’s 1-0 win away to Brighton in DGW32, Hasenhuttl said before BGW33: “The flexibility of our game is rising and that means we can play different shapes now. In the last game we switched to a 4-2-2-2 and surprised them [Brighton] a little bit; I must say I like this shape and it worked very well. This is the kind of development we need at this stage of the season, to have the ability to do something different.”
Redmond, Ward-Prowse and Long from August to early December:— Saints Marching (@SaintsMarching_) May 3, 2019
32 apps, 0 goals, 2 assists 😖
🇦🇹 Hasenhuttl the catalyst arrives
Redmond, Ward-Prowse and Long since then:
62 apps, 20 goals, 6 assists 🙌
Imagine that rate of contribution for a whole season 😍💪 #SaintsFC pic.twitter.com/OPb9xHyJAP
The Austrian generally stuck to a wing-back system, was usually clear in his injury updates and put Saints assets firmly back on the fantasy radar. Southampton’s formation is one to keep an eye on at the beginning of the season but overall Hasenhuttl has been a good addition to the league in FPL terms.
Ralph Hasenhuttl: 8/10— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) May 12, 2019
Dropped a lot of points from winning positions, but deserves a medal for keeping what he inherited up given the club only got weaker in January. Transformed Redmond and JWP and actually played Bednarek. All 3 crucial to survival.
The biggest issue with Watford’s press conferences is a club-enforced embargo which sees team news delayed until 5pm on the day of a presser. Fine if Javi Gracia is speaking on Thursday, not so great it he faces the media on a Friday – particularly if there is a gameweek beginning that evening.
Cheers. Yeah got that. Watford press conference has an embargo.— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) March 31, 2017
When eventually published on Watford’s website, Gracia’s quotes are usually helpful and informative. However, there was a slight sting in the tail for Gerard Deulofeu owners in GW34. The winger had come off injured in the Hornets’ FA Cup semi-final win over Wolves but his manager reported that “Kiko Femenia trained all this week and Gerard as well”. Further down in Watford’s team news article – which, as it happens, was published two hours before the GW34 deadline – it was noted that Gracia had in fact given his players the first three days of the week off after beating Wolves on the Sunday. So “trained all week” actually translated to “trained today and yesterday”, with Deulofeu failing to make Watford’s squad for the visit of Arsenal.
On the Spanish attacker’s prospects ahead of Watford’s two GW35 fixtures, Gracia said: “Both [Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra] trained [for the first time] with the team [on Thursday] and we’ll see tomorrow [Saturday] how they are to play. We’ll decide tomorrow. Maybe [they can play]. We have another training session tomorrow and we’ll decide. I’m optimistic both will be ready, but I think they are close to coming back.”
That last line is similar to certain quotes from Unai Emery or Maurizio Sarri, where an overseas manager’s quotes can cause some confusion – which, again, is something to be noted rather than criticised. Overall, Gracia was not giving much away about his two midfielders. Deulofeu played 90 minutes that Saturday, netting a brace, while Pereyra was absent from the matchday squad. So while Watford’s releases on Gracia’s press conference are worthwhile, they may sometimes require some extra scrutiny from FPL managers.
Manuel Pellegrini, much like his Hammers team, was something of an enigma last season. The Chilean sometimes offered lots of injury information and other times left things out completely.
After starting four gameweeks in a row, Aaron Cresswell disappeared in GW34 as Arthur Masuaku took over at left-back. Pellegrini’s first mention of the English defender following that absence came in GW37. The Irons manager said: “Lanzini, Cresswell and Nasri are all ready. We will see tomorrow about the starting XI and who will go on the bench, but for the first week of the season maybe, we have different options for starting and on the bench.” Creswell was not part of the squad that weekend, nor in GW38 despite Pellegrini’s assertion that “everyone is fit”.
That example is just a warning for FPL bosses going into the new season that while Pellegrini often provides useful updates, we must be somewhat wary of his press conference offerings.
Due to the small size of Wolves’ squad, Nuno Espirito Santo’s press conferences tended to go along the lines of, ‘Everyone OK?’...’Yeah’.
Raul Jimenez did not start in GW32 after a long round trip for international duty with Mexico before Wolves travelled to play Burnley. At his pre-match presser, Nuno said: “Everybody is OK. They have had many miles, and there's special attention for some of those, but everybody is fit. That is the important part. Everybody is available.”
Although I remember Nuno being very patronising when asked about tactics in a presser earlier this season— Simon Austin (@sport_simon) February 22, 2019
In fairness to Nuno, he did rule Diogo Jota out ahead of GW11 and GW18, leaving no doubt as to whether the attacker was available. But with Wolves’ squad expected to expand due to Europa League qualification and a tendency for Nuno not to be heavily quizzed on injuries and doubts, the Portuguese manager’s press conferences are another for the ‘scepticism list’ in the coming campaign.