Fantasy Premier League managers should consider the differential options in attack at Crystal Palace after they largely dominated their 1-1 draw with West Ham.
The Eagles registered 25 shots against the Hammers in a match they really should have won, but their recent increased activity in front of goal, boosted by new signings bodes well.
We have assessed the best options looking to burst into the Fantasy template for future Gameweeks in this latest Scout Notes article – as well as assessing the problems at West Ham.
Crystal Palace 1-1 West Ham United
Goals: Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) | Mark Noble (£4.8m)
Assists: James McArthur (£4.8m) | Michail Antonio (£6.8m)
Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) continues to offer serious potential as a differential option after finding the net once again. The Crystal Palace forward has now scored in both of his last two appearances and has four attacking returns since Gameweek 21. Largely operating on the left of a front-three these days, the Ivorian international has been posting some impressive underlying statistics of late, seventh for penalty box touches in the last four Gameweeks and joint-fourth for chances created in that time – despite missing Gameweek 25 through suspension.
At Selhurst Park on Saturday, no player managed more than Zaha’s six shots in the box, the mid-price forward proving a constant menace. With Leicester (away), Burnley (away) and Brighton (home) three of Crystal Palace’s next four matches, it is certainly worth considering their talismanic attacker.
However, the aforementioned suspension does threaten to come back and haunt him as he was handed an additional one-match ban by the FA following his sending off against Southampton. As it was a suspended suspension, Zaha was able to play against West Ham while he and his club wait for the results of his appeal. The FA Cup match against Doncaster looks the most likely fixture that he would miss although the Gameweek 27 trip to Leicester still looks a little under threat.
“I thought we were a bit unlucky to lose this one, it wasn’t a cut and dried case. We think that gave us a reason for appeal and we’re hoping that, on appeal, they will decide that of course, he did wrong, he shouldn’t have applauded the referee as he did but he accepts that and has apologised for that. We believe that is sufficient punishment. The reason we have appealed is a very simple reason. We thought that we had a very good case that he would not be subject to a further ban and we were a bit disappointed when it was decided that he is subject to a further ban, one match. But we thought we were entitled to appeal that because we thought we had a very good case. I trust in the appeal committee and the FA to listen to our appeal and make the decision they want to make.” – Roy Hodgson
Zaha’s return to the side facilitated Roy Hodgson reverting back to the 4-3-3 he has proved so fond of recently, after playing 4-4-2 against Fulham. That meant there was room for just one centre-forward on Saturday afternoon, who on this occasion was Christian Benteke (£6.3m) for the first hour. This was his second start in a row since returning from injury but he was not quite as influential as he was against Fulham in Gameweek 25. Michy Batshuayi (£6.5m) replaced him and managed a whopping five shots in his 30 minutes on the pitch, one every six minutes, only Zaha managed more in the whole game. Four of those were in the penalty box although none of them were on target. While Batshuayi could have done better for accuracy, the purpose he brought to the Crystal Palace side was a big part of their domination of the game in the second half. It doesn’t seem long until the Belgian gets his first start for his new side.
“(Asked what Batshuayi needs to do to get a start): Just keep doing what he’s doing, I thought his performance was good. He was looking to get shots away, I think in his brief period on the field he probably had as many as five or six shots. He was certainly working hard to get behind the defenders which is what we want from him. We want him getting into goalscoring positions, we want him being confident enough to take on those shots and opportunities from crosses that come his way and I thought the introduction of Michy and later Max (Meyer) were good additions because they were obviously replacing – in the case of James McArthur – someone who worked very hard for 70-75 minutes. It was nice to get the fresh legs and put on somebody who not only had the fresh legs but also showed a lot of skill when he was on.” – Roy Hodgson
There was another start for Jeffrey Schlupp (£4.4m) on Saturday afternoon, which came after his goal-scoring performance against Fulham. Hodgson had admitted that the former Leicester City man had been unfortunate not to get more game-time this season, and responded by including him on the left of the midfield trio in Gameweek 26.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.6m) owners were disappointed not to get a clean sheet. Many started their Crystal Palace defensive assets considering West Ham’s recent problems in front of goal, but saw their clean sheets wiped out by a first-half Mark Noble (£4.8m) penalty. There was a change made to the Palace back-line as James Tomkins (£4.3m) missed the game through a calf injury, replaced by Martin Kelly (£3.9m).
Despite finding the net at Selhurst Park, West Ham’s attack continues to largely underwhelm. Over the four matches prior to Gameweek 26, the Hammers averaged 9.25 shots on goal, 4.5 in the box and 1.5 on target. Against Crystal Palace, Manuel Pellegrini’s men managed just six goal attempts, of which four were in the box. There was some improvement as they were accurate with four efforts, but the Hammers still look like a side that has lost its way going forward.
Marko Arnautovic (£6.8m) may be back from injury and committed to the club but it is clear the recent saga regarding his future has affected the club in some way. The Austrian was actually named among the substitutes at Selhurst Park, featuring only as a second-half substitute for Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez (£6.1m). Michail Antonio (£6.8m) has impressed in the last two matches for West Ham, coming away with a goal and assist from them, but his underlying numbers will need to improve before he can command serious Fantasy interest.
“(The Arnautovic saga) affected us because of results. Only really when you think about January, when you think of players being unsettled, but I am proud of the lads with the two performances we have just put in. I will never blame a player. I won’t because they have got families and you have got to understand where they are coming from. But you have to have a big enough squad to cope with it and with 11 injuries it is pretty tough.” – Mark Noble
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; van Aanholt, Sakho, Kelly, Wan-Bissaka; Schlupp, Milivojevic, McArthur (Meyer 79′); Zaha, Benteke (Batshuayi 60′), Townsend.
West Ham United XI (4-1-4-1): Fabiański; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Fredericks (Zabaleta 84′); Rice; Anderson, Snodgrass, Noble, Antonio (Obiang 73′); Chicharito (Arnautović 68′).