Gameweek 19 got off to a disappointing start for those Fantasy managers who had high hopes for Fulham and Wolves’ most-owned assets, who all emerged from this Boxing Day encounter in west London with nothing but appearance points.
It was a case of what might have been though, as the two mid-price forwards on show – Aleksandar Mitrovic and Raul Jimenez – peppered the opposition goal with a combined 14 shots without success.
FPL bosses hoping for a rare Wolves clean sheet were also left underwhelmed as Rui Patricio‘s goal was breached for the tenth match in the last 11 Gameweeks, just at the point where Nuno Espirito Santo’s troops had got on top of their hosts.
We’ll round up the key Fantasy talking points and manager quotes from the first of nine Premier League matches held on Wednesday.
Fulham 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: Ryan Sessegnon (£6.0m) | Romain Saiss (£4.2m)
- Assists: None
The 17.9% of FPL managers who own Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.7m) will have left been left scratching their heads as to how the Serbian striker posted a blank for the eighth time in ten Gameweeks, especially after his commanding display in the first half of this Boxing Day encounter.
Fulham were unquestionably the better team for the opening 45 minutes of this 1-1 draw and Mitrovic was central to everything the Cottagers did, linking up well with Andre Schurrle (£5.7m) and the impressive Aboubakar Kamara (£4.4m) in a fluid Fulham front three and dominating the trio of centre-backs around him.
Mitrovic had registered eight shots on goal in the last three Gameweeks and he almost matched that total in the first half of this Gameweek 19 curtain-raiser alone, chancing his arm on seven occasions and coming within inches of connecting with a Cyrus Christie (£4.2m) cross-shot on the half-hour mark.
The eclectic nature of Mitrovic’s chances underscores the Serbia international’s appeal when he is on-song; there are few FPL forwards who can score (or miss, as has become the case) from as many areas of the pitch as the ex-Newcastle United target man.
Never afraid to chance his arm from distance (two of his shots came from 25+ yards out), Mitrovic also dominated in the air and had a pair of headed opportunities in his eye-catching performance in the opening period.
The best of the Serb’s opportunities, however, fell at his feet when in the Wolves area. Producing some beautiful footwork on 40 minutes, Mitrovic sold two Wolves defenders with a feint and a shimmy before being denied by a point-blank Rui Patricio (£4.6m) save.
Mitrovic and his side were much quieter after the break but the Serbia international was to come within a whisker of a first Premier League goal since November when his deflected effort was cleared off the line by a backtracking Conor Coady (£4.5m) in the 89th minute.
It is difficult to make any kind of case for an FPL forward with two goals in his last 13 starts but Mitrovic could easily have a hat-trick here, being denied either by profligate finishing of his own, excellent defending or sheer bad luck.
The Serb at least avoided a caution in this match, meaning he can no longer pick up a one-match ban for collecting five yellow cards (the threshold raises to ten bookings after Gameweek 19).
Raul Jimenez (£6.2m) was not quite as prominent as Mitrovic in this fixture but posed Wolves’ only real threat for much of the match, firing a bicycle kick over after some superb control on his chest and connecting beautifully with a volley from a narrow angle that Sergio Rico (£4.4m) had to push away.
The Mexican striker also got on the end of two crosses from the left flank after the break without troubling the Fulham goal, going on to register six shots in total over the 90 minutes.
Wolves were well below-par before the break, with Santo hooking Adama Traore (£5.2m) at the interval in a change that he explained after full-time:
The left side was not working out, so we had to change and look for solutions. The team clearly needed more width to allow them to open the spaces inside.
We had to find solutions and I think we did better with the width on both sides with the wingers, Helder and Cav, and the team played well.
Santo also hinted at changes in Gameweek 20, with Wolves again in action on Saturday:
What we expect every time we choose the team or make a decision is that the team performs well. It doesn’t mean your place in the starting 11 is guaranteed. We have to look, now we have to rest, and prepare for the next game because it’s going to be very tough.
For sure we require another approach, in terms of what we decide, because this schedule is very tight. It’s a tough schedule, it’s very difficult for the players. Three days between games is very hard, especially with this kind of intensity, so we have to rest well.
One player who could be involved against Spurs at the weekend is Diogo Jota (£5.9m), who again missed out with a hamstring injury.
Santo said of the Portuguese midfielder:
Diogo is much better. First, he has to train 100 per cent.
Wolves were far from convincing at the back, meanwhile.
The days of a defensive double-up appear long gone and we are largely relying on attacking returns from Matt Doherty (£5.2m) et al at the moment, such has been their aversion to clean sheets in recent times.
Doherty was a considerable distance from his best in this encounter but still popped up with three penalty box touches and a shot on goal, while Jonny (£4.3m) came into the game gradually after the break on the opposite flank without seriously threatening an attacking return.
After 17 Gameweeks without a clean sheet, Fulham came within five minutes of consecutive shut-outs before Romain Saiss’s (£4.2m) scrambled winner.
Claudio Ranieri lined up in a 3-4-3 for the second successive match, only making one change, and this appears to be a formation he is keen on using going forward.
The Fulham boss said:
I think they’ve improved a lot. I think I’ve found a solution for this team with five at the back.
Of course, it’s not dogmatic. The team is much better, more solid, and more comfortable.
Of course, we need something more when we have the ball because when you’re bottom, it’s not so calm, you’re a little more anxious to do something good.
We have to continue this way. It’s the right way. It’s the second time we played in this shape and I’m very happy for this reason.
The fit-again Ryan Sessegnon (£6.2m) came off the bench to lash Fulham in front but Ranieri suggested the youngster still had much to do before he becomes a regular fixture in the first team:
I’m very pleased. He’s a very interesting young player. When he came on, the crowd and his teammates felt something could happen.
[But] he has to improve physically because when the opponents tackle, he has to be a little more powerful.
Fulham XI (3-4-3): Rico; Odoi, Mawson, Ream; Christie, Chambers, Seri (McDonald 82′), Bryan; Kamara (Cairney 73′), Mitrovic, Schurrle (Sessegnon 67′).
Wolves XI (3-4-1-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Saiss, Jonny (Vinagre 82′); Gibbs-White (Costa 63′); Jimenez, Adama (Cavaleiro 45′).
Become a Member and access our data
Memberships for the 2018/19 campaign are now available for the price of just £15.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 130+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.