Crystal Palace moved up to fourth in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over ten-man Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
We reflect on the match and delve into the data as we highlight the stand-out Fantasy talking points from the Eagles’ narrow win.
Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa
- Goal: Jordan Ayew (£5.1m)
- Assist: None
The cheapest starting FPL forward and defender of Gameweek 4 both rewarded their owners in south London on Saturday.
Jordan Ayew (£5.1m) made it two goals in as many starts with the winning strike against Aston Villa, while Martin Kelly (£4.1m) banked his second clean sheet of the season at the other end of the pitch.
This could be the crossroads where the first-team prospects for these two players go in opposite directions.
While the centre-forward spot in Palace’s line-up looks to be Ayew’s to lose, Kelly is now faced with stiff competition at centre-half with last season’s first-choice pairing, Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins (both £5.0m), back in contention.
Kelly limped from the field of play at Selhurst Park with an as-yet-undiagnosed injury and it was Sakho, on for his first competitive minutes since 2018/19, who replaced the budget FPL centre-back.
Tomkins, meanwhile, is scheduled to return after the international break.
Speaking on Friday, Palace manager Roy Hodgson said:
James Tomkins is on the brink of recovery but not training with the team fully as we would like. We’ve been waiting on the recovery of Tomkins and Sakho. I’m fully expecting them to be fully recovered by the end of this international break.
But for a controversially disallowed goal from Henri Lansbury (£4.4m) in stoppage time – more of which below – this was a fairly comfortable clean sheet for the Eagles.
The Villans had only three attempts from inside the Palace box, with Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) called into action on just two occasions.
The 54th-minute dismissal of Trezeguet (£5.4m) effectively killed whatever attacking ambition the visitors may have originally had and shifted their focus to a rearguard effort in a bid to preserve a point.
The Eagles had restricted Villa to few chances before that, though, with Gary Cahill (£4.5m) excelling at centre-half – which further casts doubt on Kelly’s medium-term prospects.
No team has conceded fewer Premier League goals than the Eagles this season, which is a testament to Hodgson’s ability to get the most out of what is a fairly makeshift defence.
At the other end of the pitch, Palace dominated the shot count without carving out too many gilt-edged opportunities – a problem that isn’t new to the Eagles.
Despite sitting fourth in the table, only Watford have scored fewer goals than Hodgson’s side this season.
James McArthur (£5.4m) wasted their best chance when ballooning over the bar in the first half but three of the four saves that Tom Heaton (£4.5m) made were from shots from distance, two of which were curling efforts from Luka Milivojevic (£6.8m).
Ayew also bent a shot narrowly over shortly before his match-winning goal, which owed much to his perseverance down the right flank: the Ghanaian striker squeezing between Tyrone Mings (£4.5m) and Jack Grealish (£6.0m) before curling past Heaton on 72 minutes.
Ayew was about to be substituted just before his goal but Hodgson said this was nothing to do with his performance levels and more about fatigue:
He was tired of course, as he was bound to be with that work-rate and amount of work he puts in, the distance he covers, the high-speed running. We obviously were thinking at 0-0, ‘right, we might need to replace him here. Give Christian Benteke 10 minutes with fresh legs.’
Also we were getting lots of corner kicks and free kicks and thinking ‘there, another big guy in the box who might get his head on these corner-kicks or wide free-kicks.’
So we still made the change. We just didn’t do it immediately after he scored because that would be a foolish thing to do tactically – when someone scores a goal and your next move is to take him off. I don’t think the fans would have been too pleased about that.
If the FPL budget allows, Ayew could be a decent third-choice forward for the months ahead.
The Ghana international is playable in Gameweeks 6 to 8 with the Eagles enjoying some appetising fixtures and very benchable beyond that in matches against four of the ‘big six’ and Leicester City.
Heaping more praise on Ayew, Hodgson added:
Had he not scored the goal today, I would still be heaping praise on him because of the work he does for us, his tactical understanding, the number of times he does the job we want tactically to help other players take up the positions they need to take up. I’m not just talking attacking-wise, I’m talking defending too.
When he puts icing on that cake by scoring a goal last week and a goal this week, then it’s happy days – there’s no doubt about that. It’s in particular happy days for him and it’s happy days he deserves. Last season, he didn’t get as many opportunities as he would like to have had.
There were many times he found himself on the bench as a substitute and wasn’t even getting onto the field of play but never once did he stop working hard in training. Never once did he stop trying to do the right things in training. Players like that, when their moment arrives, as a coach you feel really happy for them.
The more expensive Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) is less appealing with those nasty-looking fixtures on the horizon and, despite his talismanic status at Selhurst Park, he is yet to deliver an attacking return this season.
Those dangerous runs and touches in the opposition penalty box aren’t translating into shots or key passes right now, with his role on the right of a front three perhaps hindering his output somewhat.
This was a game to write off for Villa, with some more attractive fixtures coming up.
The gap between the midfield and Wesley (£6.0m) was chasmic even before Trezeguet’s dismissal and will be a problem that Dean Smith has to address in away games.
The likes of John McGinn (£5.6m) and Jota (£5.9m) had off-days in an attacking sense, while Frederic Guilbert (£4.4m) had a less convincing game than at Villa Park a week earlier – a worry for owners with Mohamed Elmohamady (£4.5m) waiting in the wings.
Grealish did what little he could to drive Villa forward and it was from one of his surges into the Palace box that the controversial disallowed goal came about, with referee Kevin Friend penalising Grealish for a dive seconds before Lansbury turned the ball into the net.
Reflecting on the match, Smith said:
I didn’t think we were great today, in all honesty. I thought we started the game well. We controlled it for the first 20 minutes.
Then in the second half of the first half, I thought we were very passive and they put some pressure on us with a number of balls across the box and balls into the box.
I thought Trez’s first yellow was very harsh but they got it correct with the second yellow. It was a silly one when you’re already on a caution. He’ll learn from that.
Being a numerical disadvantage, it’s tough in this league. There are good players in this league. We didn’t want to sit back. We wanted to go 4-3-2 and try to create some chances – which we did.
We had to soak up a lot of pressure and unfortunately, it told for them. But the lads kept going and should have got their just rewards at the end.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward, Kelly (Sakho 79′), Cahill, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic; Schlupp (Townsend 84′), Zaha, Ayew (Benteke 86′).
Aston Villa XI (4-1-4-1): Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Taylor; Douglas Luiz (Hourihane 75′); McGinn, Grealish, Jota (Davis 59′), Trezeguet; Wesley (Lansbury 85′).
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