Two teams who have league fixtures in Blank Gameweek 31 met at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
While interest in Fulham’s Fantasy assets will be lukewarm at best ahead of their meeting with Liverpool this coming Sunday, all eyes were on Leicester’s players ahead of their trip to Turf Moor next weekend.
The Foxes won 3-1 in Brendan Rodgers’ first home match in charge, with Jamie Vardy involved in all three of his side’s goals.
How Leicester assets performed in Gameweek 29 is the focal point of our Scout Notes piece below, while we also take a careful look at how Fulham fared given that many Fantasy managers will have a “triple-up” on Liverpool players at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
Spurs’s 2-1 defeat to Southampton is covered in this article, too.
Leicester City 3-1 Fulham
- Goals: Youri Tielemans (£6.0m), Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) x2 | Floyd Ayite (£4.3m)
- Assists: Jamie Vardy, James Maddison (£6.7m), Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) | Havard Nordtveit (£4.5m)
Jamie Vardy‘s (£9.0m) renaissance as a Fantasy asset gathered momentum on Saturday after a 16-point haul against Fulham.
Vardy grabbed an equaliser in Brendan Rodgers’ first match in charge in Gameweek 29 (he had also scored the first Premier League goal under each of Leicester’s previous three permanent managers) and this latest “new manager bounce” continued against the relegation-threatened Cottagers.
The Leicester striker had only scored three league goals at home this season before Rodgers’ arrival but was given a helping hand by an obliging Fulham defence at the King Power Stadium.
Vardy didn’t find the back of the net until the 77th minute but had repeatedly threatened in the opening exchanges.
As well as unselfishly teeing up Youri Tielemans (£6.0m) for Leicester’s opener, Vardy was twice denied by last-ditch Fulham tackles as he broke the visitors’ criminally high backline and was inches away from dispossessing the unconvincing Sergio Rico (£4.4m) as Leicester steamrollered their opponents.
Despite an improved display after half-time, Fulham almost predictably shot themselves in the foot for Vardy’s first strike: Havard Nordtveit (£4.5m) presenting the ball straight to James Maddison (£6.7m), who played in his team-mate for his 100th Leicester goal.
Vardy then rolled in his second after excellent work from Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) down the Fulham right to leave the King Power with his highest FPL score of 2018/19 to date.
The positive news for Vardy and Leicester’s other attacking assets is that the Foxes next face Burnley, who, despite markedly improved defensive performances in January and February, have shipped nine goals in the last three Gameweeks.
The Clarets are also without a clean sheet in their last seven Premier League games.
Rodgers said of Vardy’s performance:
He’s an incredible player and I’m very lucky he’s here. I’m very happy he’s here but it’s not just his striking. I think that defensively, I always like my central striker to be able to press and be tactically good.
From this early period working with him, he’s tactically exceptional, I have to say. He understands what it is we’re trying to do. On top of that, he’s a real, real major threat in the game.
I think he showed in the first goal how unselfish he is as a player, a team player. He’s through on goal [going for] 100 goals, but he squares it and Youri gets his finish. I’m lucky he’s here.
Leicester won’t encounter defences as porous or as vulnerable to the high press as Fulham’s every week, of course, and it should be said that the Foxes didn’t have the game all their own way.
The visitors were arguably on top at the point of Vardy’s first goal, having earlier equalised via a fine solo goal from substitute Floyd Ayite (£4.3m).
Nevertheless, there was plenty to encourage existing and prospective owners of Barnes and Maddison, both of whom registered assists.
Barnes, in particular, was impressive down the Leicester left, registering more penalty box touches than anyone on show and twice going close with curling efforts from the edge of the Fulham area – Rico brilliantly tipping one effort wide and denying Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) an assist in the process.
Rodgers said of Barnes’ performance:
He has big potential. In a short period of time, it is about working out his best position in the team.
Last week we played him more inside to come out, but his strength has been on the outside to come in, so we played him wider against Fulham, and he gets better and better as the game goes on.
I think with Harvey once he gets that first goal it will be a real spur for him. The beauty with him is he looks like he is going to score in every game he plays. He has a lot of potential.
As an attacking player you’re judged on two things, the goals you provide and the goals you score. If you finish the season on one goal and one assist you are not going to help us.
It is very simple, you need to get numbers in your game, but I’m hopeful the style we will get to in terms of intensity, and you saw it a bit on Saturday, higher up the pitch, that’s going to give them more opportunities and I think Harvey will benefit from that.
Maddison didn’t touch the ball once in the opposition box, though did supply three key passes and curl an effort narrowly wide of Rico’s right-hand post in the first half.
Maddison was fielded alongside Tielemans in central midfield in a 4-1-4-1, with Wilfred Ndidi (£4.9m) stationed in front of the back four.
Claude Puel insisted that Tielemans was not a defensive midfielder before his exit and the Belgium international looks to have as much license to get forward under Rodgers: no FPL midfielder registered more shots than the on-loan Monaco star in Gameweek 30.
Since his debut in Gameweek 26, only Barnes and Mohamed Salah (£13.4m) have attempted more shots than Tielemans among FPL midfielders.
Three of Tielemans’ five efforts on Saturday did, admittedly, come from 25 yards out or further, while over two-thirds of his shots in a Leicester shirt have been from outside the opposition area.
Rodgers’ switch to a back four allowed Barnes, Maddison and Demarai Gray (£5.4m) to be used in the same starting XI and the good news for owners of Barnes and Maddison is that, even if Rodgers decides to sacrifice an attacking midfielder to switch back to a 3-4-3 at Turf Moor next weekend, Gray was by some distance the least effective of that trio on Saturday.
There weren’t such positive signs for Leicester’s defenders or the Fantasy managers who have enlisted their services.
The Foxes conceded for the ninth league match in a row and it is now just themselves and Fulham who are without a clean sheet from Gameweek 22 onwards.
Ricardo Pereira (£5.4m) was perhaps the pick of Leicester’s defenders going forward and went close to banking an assist when teeing up substitute Shinji Okazaki (£5.2m) for a presentable opportunity.
Despite their ever-impressive underlying attacking statistics, however, Pereira, Chilwell and Harry Maguire (£5.4m) are all averaging less than two FPL points per game over the last nine Gameweeks.
Fulham’s fragile first-half display would have been of great interest to owners of Liverpool assets ahead of Blank Gameweek 31.
Much like in the west London derby, however, the Cottagers posed more of a challenge for their opponents after the break and almost edged in front when Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) tipped away an Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.4m) header ten minutes before Vardy’s first goal.
Self-inflicted errors at the back were again their downfall, though, with Leicester’s first two goals coming from a loose pass and a dispossession.
Parker said of his side’s performance:
I think obviously individual errors have cost us the game in the end, it’s probably been a massive part of this year really. First half wasn’t us in the sense of how we wanted it to look, second half we improved a lot and got an equaliser. At that point, we felt we were in control of the game and felt we were a threat.
We changed things around a little bit to try and gain some control and get some bodies inside the pitch. First half we lacked that really, but second half it worked for us. We built from there really and got in some dangerous areas and really got a control of the game which was pleasing. Mistakes change the game and it was difficult from there.
From a Liverpool perspective, Sadio Mane (£9.9m) perhaps has the most enticing match-up based on Saturday’s evidence.
While left-back Joe Bryan (£4.8m) handled Gray’s threat well, Denis Odoi (£4.4m) had a torrid afternoon against Barnes on the opposite wing.
Fulham have indeed conceded more chances from their right flank this season than they have from the left or central zones.
Parker had named an unchanged team for this match after the heartening display against Chelsea but sacrificed the below-par Ryan Sessegnon (£6.0m) at the break on Saturday, with substitute Ayite going on to score Fulham’s only goal.
Leicester City XI (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi; Gray (Okazaki 72′), Tielemans (Ghezzal 72′), Maddison (Mendy 81′), Barnes; Vardy.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Rico; Odoi, Nordtveit, Ream, Bryan; Chambers, McDonald (Vietto 82′); Sessegnon (Ayite 46′), Cairney, Babel (Seri 68′); Mitrovic.
Southampton 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Yan Valery (£4.0m), James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) | Harry Kane (£12.5m)
- Assists: Stuart Armstrong (£5.1m) x2 | Dele Alli (£8.8m)
The three-week break that Spurs now enjoy before they return to competitive action couldn’t have come soon enough.
Both Mauricio Pochettino’s side and Southampton blank in Gameweek 31, with their scheduled Premier League opponents in FA Cup action next weekend.
Whether it was fatigue after the midweek exertions in Dortmund or a loss of nerve after their domestic struggles in recent weeks, Spurs contrived to throw away all three points at St. Mary’s on Saturday after utterly dominating their hosts in the first half.
There were encouraging signs in that opening 45 minutes, with Dele Alli (£8.8m) impressing on his return and seemingly having a galvanising effect on both Harry Kane (£12.5m) and Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) around him.
Spurs had lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond for this match, with Lucas Moura (£6.7m) deployed alongside Kane up front and Son Heung-min (£8.7m) handed what was probably a much-needed rest.
Lucas did little to impress as the “placeholder” for Son but Eriksen, Alli and Kane linked up excellently in the early stages.
But for Kane’s wayward finishing, Spurs would have been out of sight by half-time.
Twice the England striker snatched at presentable chances in the first three minutes after being teed up by first Alli and then Eriksen, before Maya Yoshida (£4.1m) turned a low Kane cross against the foot of his own post.
The breakthrough duly came after 25 minutes when Kane squeezed a low shot past Angus Gunn (£4.3m) after a fine Alli pass but chances continued to come and go for the visitors.
Eriksen struck the bar from a free-kick and Alli stung Gunn’s hands with a rasping drive, before Kane tested the Saints’ goalkeeper just after the break with a curling shot that required saving.
No Premier League player had more shots on goal than Kane in Gameweek 29 and, perhaps with a break and Son to come back into the attack, Spurs assets can appeal in the season run-in – although two trips to Anfield and the Etihad are off-putting.
Three successive away defeats is a concern, too, and Pochettino cut a frustrated figure at full-time:
It’s difficult to understand the second half, the way that we started the second half and the way that we gave the belief to Southampton. I feel so disappointed.
It’s too difficult in this level of competition like the Premier League when you are much, much better than your opponent and after 45 minutes you create a lot of chances and you dominate the game. I don’t understand why we change in the way that we change. It’s a thing that worried me.
I think that we showed a lack of aggression and hunger to kill the game and win.
You use the first half like an example of arrogance, playing with intention, focus, concentration, we matched them in everything and we were much better.
In the second half, it was arrogance in a bad way. I think it is a very good example for everyone of how you need to play for 45 minutes and how not to play for 45 minutes.
Credit must go to Southampton, too, who didn’t have a shot on target in the first half but who drastically improved after the break.
Nathan Redmond (£5.3m), again playing “out of position” as a central striker in a 3-5-2, twice fired into the side netting from inside the six-yard box before wing-back Van Valery (£4.0m) bundled in substitute Stuart Armstrong‘s (£5.1m) cross to level the game up at 1-1.
Armstrong picked up the assist for Saints’ winner, too, having been fouled for the free-kick that James Ward-Prowse (£5.1m) brilliantly converted.
That was Ward-Prowse’s third league goal in as many Gameweeks and his sixth in 2019: Sadio Mane is the only FPL midfielder to have scored more this calendar year.
Armstrong had only been on the pitch because of an injury to Shane Long (£4.7m), who himself was a tactical half-time change for the anonymous Charlie Austin (£5.5m).
Hasenhuttl said of Long’s injury:
He got a kick on the hamstring and I don’t know how big the injury is. Maybe it’s not so worse.
Southampton should have Danny Ings (£5.4m) close to full fitness by the time Gameweek 32 rolls around at the end of March.
Hasenhuttl meanwhile hailed the contributions of his two goalscorers – who were also both on target against Manchester United – and Josh Sims (£4.4m), who impressed after coming off the bench at half-time:
I was very happy with Josh’s performance. It was exactly what I wanted to see from him. He is always attacking and has good solutions on the ball, making very few mistakes in possession. He was really aggressive and has speed so he can really hurt defences.
Prowsey is amazing, his technique is sensational and I think the practice he does in this part of his game helps him a lot. In the second half, he played in the number six position and it was a great overall game, to decide the result like this is great for him.
[Ward-Prowse and Valery] showed that one is for free-kicks and the other is for getting into good scoring positions again!
Southampton XI (3-5-2): Gunn; Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard; Valery, Romeu (Long 46′, Armstrong 72′) Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Bertrand; Redmond, Austin (Sims 46′).
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2 diamond): Lloris; Walker-Peters, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies 82′); Sissoko, Dier, Eriksen, Alli (Llorente 81′); Kane, Moura (Son 72′).
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