Juan Mata conjures three assists to help guide Chelsea to a Britannia rout, whilst boosting those who trusted the Spaniard with this week’s armband. With blanks for Gareth Bale, Marouane Felaini, Michu, Dimitar Berbatov and Demba Ba, Mata’s returns will have prompted a mini-league swing, as City and United ready themselves for Sunday’s encounters. For now, here’s the Stock Check on Saturday’s events…
On the Up
The Spaniard topped the Captain Poll, the “Rate My Team” weekly rankings and duly took his place in the Scout Picks and, with one game down, has already repaid that faith. A hat-trick of assists for Mata in the drubbing of Stoke means that he has now returned goals or assists in six of his last seven league appearances: his only blank being the home clash with QPR which saw him play just 16 minutes. Those who backed Mata with the armband will already be delighted, regardless of whether he starts against Southampton on Wednesday. If he turns up in that one, a big points bonanza could be on the cards given his current level of form.
The Chelsea Defence
Rafa Benitiez’s side have now conceded just two goals in their last five league matches, having battled to a 4-0 win at the Britannia, taking them level with Stoke on nine for the season. With Walters missing a second-half penalty, Chelsea were perhaps fortunate to travel home with their clean sheet intact but investors in the likes of David Luiz and, in particular, Cesar Azpilicueta, will not be quibbling. The Spaniard earned the assist for Chelsea’s opener, his third of the season, in his fifth consecutive start today.
A goal and assist contribution to Sunderland’s fine 3-0 win over West Ham saw Johnson again stand out amongst the Black Cats’ midfield options. The former City man has now scored three goals and two assists in his last eight league starts and bonus points from today’s victory will put him on terms with Stephane Sessegnon in the Sunderland squad.
The Sunderland Defence
An eighth clean sheet of the season in the 3-0 win over West Ham, saw Martin O’Neill’s defence impress yet again. Despite suffering cruel injuries at the back, the Black Cats have kept three shut-outs in the last five league matches, with Simon Mignolet justifying his position atop our Watchlist rankings. He is now ranked second only to Asmir Begovic in the overall FPL keeper standings.
A brace for Lukaku was wasted as Reading stormed back to take the points but the Belgian’s form remains eye-catching. With nine goals for the season, coupled with a price tag of 6.4 in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL), Lukaku goes on offering good value. Steve Clarke has started him in five of the last six, indicating that, at last, Lukaku is being given the opportunity to demonstrate his ability.
The Scot found a pair of assists in the 3-2 defeat to Reading, his first Fantasy returns in nine league starts. Having looked to be a canny Fantasy acquisition earlier in the season, Morrison has faded badly with a change in role restricting his attacking output; today’s assists offered a reminder of his quality.
While Lukaku is staking a claim for our budget dollar up front, Lambert remains the prize asset for those shopping for a bargain striker. Today’s spot-kick took Lambert to nine goals for the season, with three goals and two assists in his last four starts.
Then again, the case for Pogrebnyak is mounting. A third goal in as many league matches, the Russian now appears to be flourishing having been handed regular starts by Brian McDermott. At just 4.3 in the FPL, it’s getting more difficult by the week to overlook Reading’s striker as an option for the third slot up front in order to free up funds for heavy investment elsewhere. He could well be a winter wildcard favourite.
The Southampton Defence
A clean sheet at Villa rewarded those who took a chance on Southampton’s cheap double Gameweek defenders. While this was only the second shut-out in the last six league outings, it’s further indication that Nigel Adkins has firmed up his side and added an extra level of resilience. Artur Boruc, having seemingly cemented his start between the sticks, is emerging as a credible budget keeper option at 4.4.
The Spurs Defence
The shut-out at Loftus Road took Andre Villas-Boas defence to four clean sheets in the last six league outings. They’ve conceded just two goals in that spell. After starting four of those six matches, Michael Dawson may start attracting interest as a 4.5 FPL option.
At last Everton earn themselves a clean sheet – their first in 16 league outings. While Baines failed to find attacking returns in the 0-0 draw with Swansea, with kind fixtures to come in the next three, his loyal owners will be hoping that David Moyes’ side can build on today’s shut-out to help supplement potential attacking returns.
The Stoke Defence
With nine clean sheets, the Stoke rearguard is regarded as one of the best, if not the best in the league but, on current form, the alarm bells are ringing. Today’s home defeat – their first of the season, means that Tony Pulis’ side have now conceded 10 goals in their last three league outings and have just one clean sheet in their last six.
Reports suggest that Walters was amongst Stoke’s better players on the day but a brace of own goals and a missed penalty consigned the unfortunate mid-price midfielder to a miserable -4 total in the FPL, just three weeks after a 15 point haul in the win over Liverpool.
Having frustrated Chelsea last time out in the league, it was Tottenham’s turn to face Harry Redknapp’s new resolute R’s, as Bale was denied returns for the third Gameweek running. In fairness, Bale missed Gameweek 21 through suspension but, with the competition for the heavy-hitting midfield slot so fierce, today’s blank will be a concern for Bale’s owners – particularly those who opted to avoid investment in Juan Mata. It’s United up next for Bale and Tottenham.
While Bale owners may fidget, those still holding Jermain Defoe will definitely be smarting after another blank which means that the Spurs striker has returned just a single goal in his last seven league appearances. With big sales going into the Gameweek, that trend would seem likely to continue, despite Defoe’s best efforts to end the drought at Loftus Road today.
While Dimitar Berbatov’s owners will surely give the Bulgarian more time having returned two goals in his last four, today’s blank and the 1-1 draw with Wigan means that Martin Jol’s side have scored just three goals in their last three league matches at Craven Cottage. That form will have to improve if Berbatov is to keep pace with the array of options available to Fantasy managers up front.
A reported hamstring injury for West Ham’s defensive warrior saw him withdrawn after 34 minutes of today’s defeat at Sunderland. He seems likely to be a doubt for West Ham’s double Gameweek.
Another potential absentee from West Ham’s two Gameweek 22 fixtures, Noble missed the miserable defeat in the North East today with a reported calf injury.
John Arne Riise
Even with Matthew Briggs out of the squad, Riise was kept on the bench by Martin Jol as Kieran Richardson lined up at left-back for Fulham. The Norwegian has now sat out the last three league outings.