Another defeat for Everton has made preparation for Blank Gameweek 27 a little easier for Fantasy Premier League managers.
The Toffees do not have a league fixture until Gameweek 28 now, but their rotten run of form has dramatically reduced interest in their assets for the long-term.
Meanwhile, Southampton suffered their third league defeat under new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl against Cardiff.
Watford 1-0 Everton
Goals: Andre Gray (£5.9m)
Assists: Will Hughes (£4.9m)
Richarlison (£6.7m) and his Everton colleagues ensured they would be ditched en masse ahead of Gameweek 27 after a 1-0 defeat at Watford on Saturday. For the third match in a row, the Brazilian did not register a single shot, despite operating in his preferred position on the left flank of attacking midfield again. With no fixture in the next Gameweek, and Liverpool and Chelsea to come soon afterwards, it does look as if the time is up for Everton assets.
The Toffees continue to slump down the attacking charts in the Premier League, no team creating few big chances than them across their last four matches. Meanwhile, just three teams recorded fewer shots inside the box than them over that period. Cenk Tosun (£6.5m) has recently been recalled to the side as Marco Silva tries to find a new formula for attacking play, but his shot-shy nature has only contributed to the Toffees problems in front of goal. The Turkish international has mustered just four shots since Gameweek 23, although three of those did come against Watford on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m) continues to be Everton’s primary goal threat with 12 shots on goal in the last five matches. However, his chance creation has dropped off massively, playing just two key passes in that time.
“I knew before I came in that this team has problems creating chances. We changed it in the first months of the season but now we are having problems to create again and it is up to us to find ways to change.” – Marco Silva
There might be a case for holding onto Lucas Digne (£5.3m) as he finished the trip to Watford as the most creative player on the pitch and still managed an effort on goal. His price makes him a little more benchable than his other colleagues, while he could be rotated on and off the bench with Cardiff (away) and Newcastle (away) awaiting Everton in Gameweeks 28 and 30 respectively.
However, defensive returns are hard to predict in those fixtures, with just two clean sheets in 14 matches. The Toffees have won just three times in that run, with only Fulham and Huddersfield, the Premier League’s bottom two, picking up fewer points since the start of December. Furthermore, in their last four, Everton have shipped the third-worst number of big chances.
To make matters worse, they will also be without Kurt Zouma (£5.0m) for their next Premier League fixture in Gameweek 28, against Cardiff on February 26. He was shown two yellow cards after the full-time whistle at Vicarage Road for complaining about a refereeing decision in the build-up to Watford’s goal.
That was scored by Andre Gray (£5.9m), finding the net for the first time since Gameweek 6. The centre-forward was making just his second appearance since Gameweek 15 when he came on for Ken Sema (£4.6m) at half-time, in a move which could facilitate a change of shape in future from Javi Gracia.
“In that moment we decided to change the shape because playing with Troy and Gerard we didn’t find the way to attack well. I prefer in that moment to play with Troy and Andre, and with Gerard on the left because we weren’t precise. I think the way to attack was directly and be ready for the second balls.” – Javi Gracia
Gray has not had much of a look-in since Gerard Deulofeu (£5.5m) began to play as a second striker alongside Troy Deeney (£5.9m) back in the autumn, but against Everton, Gracia made the decision to push the midfielder onto the left flank and allow the former Burnley man to play up front. He played well and found himself in the right place at the right time to convert Will Hughes‘ (£4.9m) cross.
“I was very pleased for him. He deserved his reward today. I think he helped the team a lot in the second half and when he scored, I was very, very happy for him.” – Javi Gracia
Watford’s recent upturn in defensive returns is worthy of note for Fantasy managers. The Hornets now have clean sheets in three of their last four outings and back-to-back shutouts at home. That has put Ben Foster (£4.6m) in a position to average seven points per game in that time, mainly because Watford are still allowing a high number of chances. Just four teams have conceded more shots in the box since Gameweek 23 than the Hornets, which could indicate the clean sheets will dry up soon, with Liverpool and Manchester City two of their next four opponents, but it has meant Foster has been able to secure additional points. In the selected period, he has made 15 saves, earning points for them in each of the last four and bonus in three matches.
“I think the team is defending a high level. Not only the defensive line and not only the goalkeeper, but all of them have played really well, defending well as a team. It was very demanding, but they did it.” – Javi Gracia
These defensive returns have also benefited Jose Holebas (£4.8m), but the full-back should be avoided for at least the next couple of Gameweeks. After picking up his 10th yellow card of the season against Everton on Saturday, Holebas is now suspended for two league matches. One of those will be Watford’s trip to Cardiff City in Gameweek 27 and the other will be the away match at Liverpool’s Anfield in Gameweek 28, where Mohamed Salah (£13.6m) scored four times against Watford last season. He will return for the home match against Leicester in Gameweek 29.
“Yes, [it’s a shame to have Holebas suspended] but I prefer not to complain about the players I don’t have. In this case, we have other players like Adam Masina who are ready. We will have to do something different, but we didn’t have Kiko [Femenía], Roberto Pereyra, Sebastian Prödl and Isaac Success and the team keeps going.” – Javi Gracia
Kiko Femenía (£4.2m) was due to play in Gameweek 26 but was not risked in the end with a hamstring injury. Gracia provided an update on him after the win over Everton, as well as on Roberto Pereyra (£6.1m), who has missed the last two with the same problem as Femenía.
“Yesterday before training, I thought Kiko was ready but after that, we decided it was better to wait,” said Gracia. “Pereyra is in his process, he’s improving. I’m not sure if he will be ready for the next game or whether we will wait.” – Javi Gracia
Watford XI (4-4-2): Foster; Holebas, Cathcart, Mariappa, Janmaat; Sema (A Gray 45′), Capoue, Doucouré, Hughes (Chalobah 90′); Deeney, Deulofeu (Cleverley 81′).
Everton XI (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Digne, Zouma, Keane, Kenny; A Gomes (Walcott 63′), Gueye; Sigurdsson (Calvert-Lewin 74′), Davies, Richarlison (Bernard 66′); Tosun.
Southampton 1-2 Cardiff City
Goals: Jack Stephens (£4.2m) | Sol Bamba (£4.6m), Kenneth Zohorè (£4.6m)
Assists: Charlie Austin (£5.5m) | Callum Paterson (£5.0m), Víctor Camarasa (£4.6m)
It was the second blank in a row for James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) on Saturday as Cardiff snatched a late victory at Southampton. However, the midfielder continues to be the Saints’ most appealing player as he finished the game with more key passes than any other player. Having played nine of them in the last four matches, Ward-Prowse, back in a central role against Cardiff, could still offer potential as a fourth or fifth midfielder.
Also re-announcing himself to the Fantasy world was Charlie Austin (£5.5m), who arrived on the pitch all guns blazing as a second-half substitute. With Danny Ings (£5.4m) still out injured, the former QPR man replaced Shane Long (£4.7m) in the 72nd minute but finished the match with more than double the shots in the box of any other player. His energetic 18-minute display earned him the assist for Jack Stephens’ (£4.2m) dramatic equaliser. If Austin can work his way back into the side and keep up that level of goal threat, he would be worth considering.
However, the fixtures now turn for Southampton with Arsenal (away), Man United (away) and Spurs (home) three of their next four opponents, likely to reduce any interest in their assets for some time. The Gameweek 31 trip to Watford is also still up in the air, potentially set for a postponement if the Hornets beat QPR in the FA Cup.
Interestingly, it might actually be the case that Ralph Hasenhüttl and Southampton might actually prefer those tougher fixtures compared to their recent so-called ‘six-pointers’. With just two points from a possible nine against other sides in the bottom eight in the last three Gameweeks, it is possible that the Saints are struggling to come to terms with being the dominant team in a fixture.
Under Hasenhüttl, Southampton have become big on high pressure on their opponents and hitting them on the counter-attack. That type of tactic is not quite as effective against sides like Cardiff, who allowed their hosts to have a greater share of possession on Saturday. Neil Etheridge (£4.7m) was the busier of the two goalkeepers at the St Mary’s Stadium, but the Saints were largely restricted to long-distance shots as the Bluebirds sat back. Conversely, in three matches played against top-six sides so far this season, Hasenhüttl has four points from a possible nine, suggesting there will be more space to exploit against Arsenal, Man United and Spurs.
“Dominance is not interesting because it is not the way we want to play but against this opponent, you have more ball possession than normal. It is not what counts in the end. In the end, they scored twice and we scored once so it is not enough.” – Ralph Hasenhüttl
Also, it should be noted that Southampton continue to struggle defensively. They have recorded just one clean sheet since Hasenhüttl took over, averaging 1.4 goals conceded per game. Cardiff came to the south coast with just seven goals in 12 away matches but left having found the net twice. For those reasons, budget enabler Jan Bednarek (£4.0m) is likely to remain on our benches for some time.
Meanwhile, Neil Warnock’s team selections get harder to predict with each passing week. Against Southampton, he opted for a three-man defence featuring Sol Bamba (£4.6m), Bruno Ecuélé Manga (£4.4m) and Lee Peltier (£3.9m). Joe Bennett (£4.4m) and Callum Paterson (£5.0m) were the wing-backs in a 3-4-1-2 system.
There was a return for Víctor Camarasa (£4.6m) from injury as he replaced Oumar Niasse (£5.0m) in the 83rd minute. He provided the assist for the winning goal. That was scored by fellow substitute Kenneth Zohoré (£4.6m), who until Saturday was yet to score a Premier League goal this season.
“I thought we were super after that. I’m really pleased for Ken and Victor [Camarasa] – both the subs helped for the winning goal.” – Neil Warnock
“Scoring the goal felt good. Everybody knows that I’ve had a tough year with injuries and not playing so much, so for me to come on and get the winner was a big thing for me and the team.” – Kenneth Zohoré
Southampton XI (3-5-2): McCarthy; Vestergaard (Elyounoussi 72′), Stephens, Bednarek; Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Højbjerg, Valery (Gallagher 83′); Long (Austin 72′), Redmond.
Cardiff City XI (3-4-1-2): Etheridge; Bamba, Ecuélé Manga, Peltier; Bennett, Ralls, Gunnarsson (Bacuna 62′), Paterson; Arter; Niasse (Camarasa 83′), Reid (Zohoré 62′).