We look back at two more matches contested on Saturday in this Scout Notes piece.
Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain both recorded braces as Chelsea finally clicked into gear against an admittedly inadequate Huddersfield Town, while Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford played out a goalless draw on the south coast.
As usual, we’ll cover the goals, assists, main Fantasy talking points, headline injury news and key manager quotes as we recap the events at Stamford Bridge and the Amex Stadium.
Chelsea 5-0 Huddersfield Town
- Goals: Gonzalo Higuain (£9.5m) x2, Eden Hazard (£10.9m) x2, David Luiz (£5.9m)
- Assists: N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) x2, Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.3m), Ross Barkley (£5.1m), Willian (£7.2m)
While it may not be enough to prevent an exodus ahead of the next three Gameweeks, Eden Hazard (£10.9m) at last rewarded his remaining owners for their patience with a 15-point haul in west London on Saturday.
Those who kept faith with the Belgian winger for this encounter with bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield Town will be thankful for a long-overdue double-digit return but given that he averaged 3.0 FPL points per match over the last five Gameweeks this was mere consolation for the month of misery that preceded it.
Chelsea next have meetings with Manchester City and Spurs either side of a blank in Gameweek 27 so Fantasy managers who have held on to the Blues’ talisman have ample reason to take this parting gift and ditch the Belgium international despite his scintillating display on Saturday, particularly given that Maurizio Sarri’s side are unlikely to face a team as limited as the Terriers any time soon.
The counter-argument has to be acknowledged that an on-song Hazard is a threat regardless of opposition – the Belgian registered two assists against City earlier in the season and is, despite his recent dry patch, still the second-highest-scoring FPL midfielder in 2018/19.
Doubt remains over the players (and manager) around him, though, and a comprehensive victory over a Championship-bound Huddersfield side doesn’t yet fully satisfy the questions that plagued Hazard as an asset throughout January.
There were at least encouraging signs regarding Hazard’s fledgling relationship with Gonzalo Higuain (£9.5m).
The Argentinean striker, unsurprisingly, looks a significant upgrade on both Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) and Alvaro Morata, with Hazard spending much of the match in close proximity to the on-loan striker and dovetailing nicely with him in attack.
Higuain’s movement was particularly intelligent, with his and Chelsea’s opening goal owing as much to his dart in behind the Terriers’ defence as it did to the excellent N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) pass that found him.
While some Fantasy managers will hope Higuain can become a decent foil for Hazard, the Argentina international may enter the premium striker debate himself when Chelsea’s fixtures ease off and the next Double Gameweeks roll around.
Higuain’s second strike was a superb effort from distance and a welcome antidote to the laboured approach play that had dogged Chelsea during their recent slump.
Hazard and Higuain recorded a combined 20 penalty box touches and ten shots on goal between them on Saturday and Sarri praised both players after the match:
I know very well when Higuain arrived he wasn’t at the top of his physical condition. Now he’s improving and I’m happy because apart from the goals he’s very suitable to play close to Eden.
On the pitch, they’re very suitable to play with one close to the other. For us, it’s very useful to have Higuain because he will be able to score a lot of goals but it’s also important for Eden.
From the first 25-30 minutes, I saw my football. We moved the ball really very fast, with good movements without the ball, and were really dangerous every two minutes.
Hazard himself said:
When you lose it’s always good to talk together. We did it for 40, 45 minutes [after the Bournemouth game]. We are men. We talk, we did, and we are just happy to win.
That was better than Wednesday for sure. When you lose a game in the week you need to bounce back. We did a fantastic game, maybe one of the best of the season, so we are happy.
I hope we gave him [Sarri] the response he wants. Now we need to keep winning like this.
On his relationship with Higuain, Hazard added:
He’s good, we know, we saw it in the first training session that he is a fantastic striker.
He can score from everywhere, he scored a lot of goals in Italy and Spain. He has the quality to score, and also receive the ball, be a target man, go deep. He is complete, and we are just happy to play with him.
The Belgian’s first goal arrived from the penalty spot but his second was Hazard in his pomp, the winger expertly collecting a Ross Barkley (£5.1m) pass and dancing round Jonas Lossl (£4.4m) to put Chelsea 3-0 up.
The fact that Hazard completed all 12 of his attempted dribbles on Saturday – a season-high total in the Premier League – underscored just how impressive he was.
Chelsea’s central midfield were much improved, with Kante again impressing in his more advanced role by collecting two assists and registering four key passes.
David Luiz (£5.9m) collected his third double-digit haul in ten Gameweeks by heading home Willian‘s (£7.2m) corner in the game’s closing stages and now sits fourth in both the FPL defenders’ points list and for attempts on goal among players in his position.
The man with more shots to his name than any other FPL defender in 2018/19, Marcos Alonso (£6.5m), made a swift return to the Chelsea team after his benching in Gameweek 24 and racked up five penalty box touches as the Blues mounted attack after attack.
Emerson Palmieri (£5.2m) was present at Stamford Bridge but failed to make the match-day squad, while Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) dropped to the bench amid reports of a slight knee injury; Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) performing ably in his place.
There’ll be little Fantasy interest in Huddersfield assets but encouragement for owners of Arsenal players ahead of the two sides’ meeting in Gameweek 26 given how the Blues found ample space in and around the visitors’ box.
Jan Siewert welcomed back Aaron Mooy (£5.0m) and Philip Billing (£4.5m) to the Huddersfield starting XI after injury, though Jonathan Hogg (£4.4m) missed out with a back complaint and Isaac Mbenza (£5.9m) was withdrawn with a calf strain after only 27 minutes.
The new Huddersfield boss said:
Sometimes I think we have to shoot more; I have to encourage the players to do this more as it creates a bigger threat.
I’m looking forward to having Saturday to Saturday with the players. It is a difficult situation, but I have to face it and I like to have this opportunity. We are still positive.
There were some positive moments in the game, but the fans have the feeling that we are consistently getting better.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Alonso; Kanté (Loftus Cheek 83), Jorginho (Kovacic 70′), Barkley; Willian, Higuaìn, Hazard (Hudson-Odoi 77′).
Huddersfield Town XI (4-2-3-1): Lossl; Smith, Schindler, Kongolo, Lowe; Billing (Grant 69′), Bacuna; Diakhaby (Pritchard 84′), Mooy, Mbenza (Mounie 27′); Kachunga.
Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Watford
Pascal Gross (£6.7m) was one of our punts in the Spot the Differential article for Gameweek 25 and the German midfielder was desperately unlucky to leave the Amex on Saturday without an attacking return.
The award of three bonus points in a goalless draw with Watford summed up his influence, with the mid-price Fantasy asset creating as many chances as the rest of his team put together.
Those ten key passes were the highest any Premier League player has managed in a single Gameweek this season, with half of those opportunities stemming from dead-ball situations.
Ben Foster (£4.5m) was largely responsible for the lack of assist, with the Watford goalkeeper making two fine stops from Jurgen Locadia (£5.3m): both headed chances being supplied by Gross.
Davy Propper (£4.8m) and Glenn Murray (£6.3m) also sent efforts high and wide from pinpoint Gross deliveries, while Foster later kept out attempts from Shane Duffy (£4.6m) and Florin Andone (£5.0m).
Javi Gracia, whose Watford side failed to register a single shot on target, acknowledged that he owed a debt to Foster for the point:
Ben saved us in the second half. It is not a surprise as he’s a very good ‘keeper. He is not doing anything different that I don’t know.
Brighton played better. We were not good offensively. In the first half, we didn’t suffer a lot, we had some moments with the possession, but we weren’t aggressive offensively.
In the second half, it was worse because Brighton played better with lateral crosses, with more corner kicks where they are dangerous. We’ve defended well, and it was very demanding for our team.
Offensively, we didn’t find ourselves. We tried different ways with Andre [Gray] and Troy [Deeney], some minutes with Will [Hughes] in the middle and Gerard [Deulofeu] on the right. But in our mechanisms of attack, we didn’t find the right way.
While Gracia downplayed the suggestion that Watford were missing the injured Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.9m), there is little doubt that the Hornets have struggled offensively in their midfielder’s absence – the stalemate against Burnley and the 1-1 draw with Newcastle (when Doucoure was rested to the bench) both games in which Gracia’s side lacked much drive going forward.
The Watford head coach meanwhile provided updates on sidelined pair Roberto Pereyra (£6.2m) and Isaac Success (£4.6m):
In some days, Pereyra can be ready. Isaac maybe needs more time. It’s something muscular
Chris Hughton reflected on his side’s performance:
It was a game we should have won, it was a game we deserved to win. The positives are a good performance, a clean sheet. We came up against a good goalkeeper who made three very, very good saves. It was just that bit of luck, bit of quality and a goalkeeper in top form.
Hughton also gave an update on Dale Stephens (£4.4m), who withdrew from the team prior to kick-off:
He felt his hip on Thursday but got through the training.
He felt he was going to be okay; he got up and it was sore. He wasn’t quite up to that level.
As we mentioned in that aforementioned differential piece, Brighton sit near the top of our Season Ticker over the next seven Gameweeks and their home fixtures in particular (Burnley, Huddersfield, Cardiff, Southampton) warrant consideration given that they are unbeaten at the Amex in 2018/19 against sides outside of the “big six”.
The caveat, of course, is that they blank in Gameweek 27 and possibly again in Gameweeks 31 and 33 should they progress in the FA Cup.
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-3-3): Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Gross, Bissouma, Propper; March, Murray (Andone 72′), Locadia.
Watford XI (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Cleverley, Capoue, Sema (Quina 81′); Deulofeu (Gray 70′), Deeney.