Bale strikes to maintain Tottenham’s march on the top four, while goals from Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko are not enough to keep their title ambitions on track as an old boy returns to the Etihad to play his part in a strong Liverpool display. As the dust settles on Sunday’s events, here’s our Scout Notes analysing the reaction and aftermath…
Bale Central To Tottenham Ambitions
Gareth Bale’s superb strike added to his effort in the midweek draw at Carrow Road to underline his importance to Tottenham and reinstate him in the thinking of Fantasy managers. Bale had suffered significant sales going into the trip to Norwich but, with back-to-back goals secured, he’s now firmly beck in the frame for a slot in our midfields.
Deployed in a more central role in yesterday’s match, Bale was able to terrorise the West Brom defence and ultimately strike a stunning winning goal. We’ve seen Bale in this central role before, with Harry Redknapp experimenting with it with some effect last season. The Welshman indicated post-match that it’s certainly a role that he relishes…
“I enjoy it. It’s a role that I’m learning season by season. I’ve come inside more often than previous seasons and it’s a role I’m enjoying…It’s a new experience for me, a chance to improve my game and it gives me another dimension.”
The injury to Jermaine Defoe, who suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in yesterday’s match, could well see Bale continue in this role, or even be converted to a forward. Andre Villas-Boas brought us this, post-match, on Defoe’s setback…
“Jermain’s ankle does not look so good. He will have a scan in the morning and we will assess it from there. He is certainly out of the Newcastle game next weekend, for sure. It was always a risk not to buy a striker in the transfer window, but this is the risk we decided to take. We have many attacking options in our team and you could see we created a lot of chances during the game.”
While Togo’s exit from the African Cup of Nations brings Emmanuel Adebayor back into the squad for the weekend clash with Newcastle, the Spurs boss acknowledged that he could call on Bale to reinforce the attack, having already played in that position in Tottenham’s pre-season…
“When we played pre-season, Gareth played alone in the striker role and it is something he feels comfortable with…He gives us even that possibility for sure. It is something we have to look to. You just have to adapt to it in the best way you can.”
Given Bale’s current form, a more permanent shift to a central role to lend maximise his goal power could be a big development in Fantasy terms. While all eyes switch to Liverpool’s attacking assets for their double Gameweek exploits, Bale’s ascendency may be ignored for the time being but seems likely to attract major interest should he continued to be deployed in a central role and produce the goods when the Magpies pay visit to the Lane.
Having said that, Bale’s home form remains an enigma – while he’s been prolific on this travels, the Welshman has only returned goals and assists on three occasions in front of his own fans – in nine starts. He has failed to return in his last four league matches at the Lane.
Sturridge Shines Back at City
The stage was set for Daniel Sturridge to impress and he didn’t disappoint. While Liverpool had top performers all over the pitch, it was Sturridge that drew the plaudits, finding the net with a superb first-half strike whilst impressing throughout with his pace and movement. Yesterday’s goal means that he has returned in every one of his four appearances for Liverpool in the league so far – it’s that kind of consistency, along with his modest price tag, that helped to attract huge interest overnight ahead of Liverpool’s double fixtures in Gameweek 26. Sturridge enjoyed more acquisitions in the FPL than any other player in the last 24-hours, with his price rising to 7.6.
That interest arrived despite slight concerns surrounding his fitness following a thigh injury sustained in Sunday’s match. Brendan Rodgers brought us more on the knock, whilst heaping praise on his new striker…
“He [Sturridge] got a knock just before half-time on his thigh and he wanted to give it a go in the second half. I think he will be a doubt for the game on Wednesday, which is unfortunate because he was terrific today. His hold-up play, movement and pace was a real threat, and combination with Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson up front was outstanding. He is just with the medics at the moment, and he will have a chat with our doctors and he will speak with the England set-up. They might want to have a look at it but at the moment he is obviously struggling.”
The player himself, seen with an ice pack strapped to the injury post-match, seemed optimistic on the injury…
“I did it in the first half and throughout the game I couldn’t sprint…After I did it, I couldn’t really open up properly. Hopefully it’s not too serious and I’ll be okay for next week’s game.”
It remains to be seen if Sturridge is withdrawn from England’s squad for their friendly with Brazil in midweek. Clearly there is some doubt, however slight, that he may miss out when Liverpool take on West Brom a week today. It must be said, however, that, having seen out the majority of the game with the problem, it would suggest that it is only a mild concern rather than a injury that threatens a period of time on the sidelines. We await further updates from Anfield.
While the likes of Sturridge and Steven Gerrard again impressed going forward, Jamie Carragher earned another start at the back at the expense of Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool stalwart has now started the last three matches and, despite conceding twice to both Arsenal and Liverpool, now seems to have cemented a starting role. Brendan Rodgers was quick to talk up the efforts of Carragher following yesterday’s draw…
“You look at Carra, marshalling and controlling. Two big games this week and two big performances. He was up against top players [on Sunday] – Aguero, one of the best players in the world…Carra has never put a foot wrong for me.”
At 5.0 in the FPL, Carragher looks to be the cheapest route into the Liverpool defence as we approach their double Gameweek. Carragher will be expected to sit out the Europa League tie with Zenit following the West Brom clash, leaving him clear to line up against Swansea and complete both league fixtures. Skrtel, meanwhile, looks to be out in the cold having appeared to have secured regular starts alongside Dan Agger earlier in the season.
Goals Not Enough for Mancini
While both Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero returned goals at they renewed their partnership up front, this was not enough for City to earn the points and certainly not enough to appease manager Roberto Mancini. The City boss took the decision to recall Dzeko and saw him score his 11th goal of the season to open the scoring, whilst Aguero converted superbly to punish a Pepe Reina error late on. However, Mancini was in no doubt that his strike pairing could and should have offered more…
“The should do better. They scored two goals but they don’t play well. If they play better, probably we win this game.”
Such comments once again cast doubt over the City attack. With Carlos Tevez unused from the bench in yesterday’s game, there’s every chance that Mancini will again offer him the opportunity of a recall for the trip to Southampton next weekend. While Dzeko was far from impressive in yesterday’s game, he has scored five goals in his last six league outings – Tevez has failed to score in his last eight league appearances.
Mancini could at least be cheered by defeat suffered by the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations. That will see both Yaya and Kolo Toure return to the City squad for the trip to the South Coast in Gameweek 26.
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For Gameweek 38
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