Christian Benteke bags a brace as Villa upsets the odds with a win at Anfield. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney both notch for United, Adel Taarabt inspires QPR to their first win of the season, Luis Suarez and Dimitar Berbatov return blanks again, while Marouane Fellaini looks likely to face FA action after a series of bouts with Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross…
Benteke the Talisman
Villa’s midweek Capital One Cup win at Norwich perhaps hinted at what was to come at Anfield. Paul Lambert’s side had ended the Canaries unbeaten run thanks to a 4-1 hammering last Tuesday; Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke were the main protagonists that night and the pair continued their impressive form by grabbing all three of their side’s goals between them. Benteke provided the assist for Weimann’s strike and also bagged a brace to continue his superb debut season at the midlands – since his first appearance in Gameweek 4, he’s had a hand in eight (five goals and three assists) of Villa’s 13 goals so far, a clear sign of his importance to their attacking cause. A weekend trip to Chelsea may not be the easiest but Benteke then has three home games in the following four (TOT, WIG, swa, SOU) that could see him prosper further. Once again, post-match, Paul Lambert reserved special praise for his young Belgian…
“He’s 22 and he can be anything he wants. He’s a top lad too which is important. His partnerships – whether it’s with Andi, Darren, Gabby – it seems everyone likes playing alongside him. He’s been sensational for us. There aren’t many can push him off the ball, that’s for sure. He’s got the potential to be one of the best. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him but the potential for someone as young as that is an absolutely frightening thought.”
Johnson’s Run Continues
While Jose Enrique failed to recover from a hamstring problem in time for Villa’s visit, Glen Johnson once again produced attacking points in an otherwise dismal day for Brendan Rodgers’ men. Liverpool had conceded just once in their previous five at Anfield and were heavily backed for a clean sheet but while Johnson’s owners suffered the loss of three unexpected goals, his assist for Steven Gerrard’s consolation was the third successive game he has provided an assist from right-back. Although morale will be low in the Liverpool camp, an enticing set of fixtures to follow continue is likely to see Johnson climb in ownership.
Taarabt Finally Produces
On an almost weekly basis, the Moroccan’s Opta stats have been significantly strong but the Fantasy returns have rarely managed to materialise. Yesterday, though, he delivered big time, as a Loftus Road double handed QPR their first win of the season and harvested an 11 point haul, with maximum bonus surely set to follow. Having provided an assist in the previous Gameweek, Taarabt’s importance to the R’s relegation bid is increasing with every passing game – while three home games in the next five will offer chance of further points. The key to Taarabt’s returns may well have been a change in position, with Harry Redknapp shifting the playmaker behind lone striker Djibril Cisse, deploying Jamie Mackie wide on the right flank. Redknapp brought us more on this post-match…
“I decided I had to get him in a position where he wants to play. He has been playing off the left but today I played him in the hole, off the front man and tried to get him between the lines – play little balls in those holes to him and every time he got the ball they were in trouble…He’s an amazing talent…Everything he did today was top class and the goals were the icing on the cake.”
While Taarabt will likely earn attention as a result of yesterday’s haul, there are two notable caveats before acquisition should be considered. Taarabt’s owners may well be forced to plan an escape route as he jets off to the African Cup of Nations next month. Having picked up consecutive yellow cards, Taarabt also moved to four bookings yesterday, just one yellow card from an one-match ban.
Pilkington’s Carrow Road Consistency
While over 78,000 FPL managers drafted in Robert Snodgrass ahead of Norwich’s home game with Wigan, Anthony Pilkington had picked up just over 4,000 new owners by comparison. A goal and assist in the 2-1 win over the Latics continued a series of crucial home displays from the 5.7 priced midfielder and suggests he could be a real alternative to Snodgrass in Chris Hughton’s midfield. Pilkington has now scored three and assisted one of the Canaries’ five home goals since Gameweek 12 and has produced double figures in each of his last three at Carrow Road.
Suarez and Berbatov Blank Again
Fantasy owners of Luis Suarez and Dimitar Berbatov were treated to one and two points respectively yesterday as the pair continued their fall from Fantasy form. Suarez’s booking summed up a hugely frustrating day for his owners – he threatened plenty and teed up chances for his team-mates but his failure to pick up the points means he has now drawn blanks in his last four; factor in his one-match suspension last weekend and his last set of points was in Gameweek 12. The upcoming schedule still looks promising and is likely to persuade many to hold, though – a situation similar to the one Berbatov’s owners find themselves in. The Bulgarian has now gone six games without points and continues to suffer from his move to a deeper-lying role in light of Bryan Ruiz’s hamstring injury. Berbatov travels to Anfield next week but with three home games in the following four, his potential for points is likely to keep his owners optimistic over the festive period.
Ba Keeps On Scoring
The home defeat by City may have continued Newcastle’s slide further down the table but Demba Ba remains relentless in his quest for Fantasy points. The Magpies man moved up to 98 FPL points –behind only Robin Van Persie and Carlos Tevez for forwards – by spoiling City’s clean sheet with his eleventh strike of the season; just five less than his tally for the previous campaign. While Suarez and Berbatov continued to frustrate, Ba’s consistency caught the eye yet again and although the fixtures stiffen after next week’s home game with QPR, Alan Pardew’s decision to play him centrally, regardless of formation, has made a mockery of Ba’s 7.5 FPL starting price.
Rooney and Van Persie Both Produce
Once again, both United forwards were amongst the points as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took their tally to 43 goals for the season – at least 10 more than any other team. With the fixtures so favourable, many had one, or both, of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney ahead of yesterday’s game, with most opting for Van Persie’s consistency when awarding the armband. The Dutchman – a runaway winner in the Captain Poll for Gameweek 17 – duly delivered with a goal and assist, with the maximum bonus likely to follow. Rooney’s goal also highlighted his consistency since returning from a thigh injury in Gameweek 6 – he has now scored or assisted in eight of his last 11 matches. As United prepare for a four enticing festive fixtures (swan, NEW, WBA, wig) Ashley Young is quietly picking up the points and perhaps offers a cheaper midfield alternative; he has now provided an assist in each of the last three Gameweeks.
It was perhaps significant that, post-match, Sir Alex Ferguson showed his frustration at the missed opportunities in yesterday’s win, stressing the importance of maintaining the momentum being achieved by his two strikers…
“We don’t pick out Robin van Persie’s runs as well as we should – his movement is great and he kept them on the back foot. But Wayne could’ve scored three of four goals, he hit the bar and missed two or three chances in the first half. But he got one which is important as it keeps his run going.”
Fellaini’s Moments of Madness
The Belgian is facing the prospect of retrospective FA action after the match officials failed to see his headbutt on Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross yesterday. Certainly, given the severity of the incident, Fellaini can surely now expect to be slapped with a violent conduct charge, with a minimum of a three-match ban coming his way over the festive period. His possible suspension would have a huge knock-on effect on the Fantasy landscape – he’s the second most popular player in the FPL game, with an incredible 44.6% ownership.
With a furious David Moyes already admitting the Toffees won’t contest the ban, a mass exodus looks on the cards if the FA choose to act.
“We will take the punishment if it is given for it. I have told him in the dressing room that it is not acceptable – I won’t accept it as a manager that he does that. There is no absence yet, but he is a really good player and a big part of the team, and that is why I think the biggest disappointment, if anything does happen, is that he will have let the team down. Today, it should have been a sending-off in the game. If the referee had been able to see it, it should have been”
Fellaini was quick to issue his apologies. The Belgian released a statement on the Everton website acknowledging his culpability in the unsavoury incident:
“I apologise completely to Ryan Shawcross, my team mates and to our fans at the game. There was a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area and I didn’t feel I was getting any protection from the officials. Nevertheless I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. I have also apologised to the manager and the staff. I have no excuses, I was disappointed with the way I was being treated and I lost my temper, which was unprofessional of me.”
Monday will likely bring the formal charge for Fellaini, although we may not know the full extent of any ban until later in the week when the window for an appeal passes. Much depends on paperwork and red tape at the FA but we’ll work to confirm the likely outcomes for you and bring you the news early next week.