Newcastle United 1 Watford 1
Goals: Fabian Schär (£5.0m) | Will Hughes (£5.5m)
Assists: Isaac Hayden (£4.5m)
Bonus: Hughes x3, Hayden x2, Ben Foster (£4.9m) x2
Watford earned their first point of the season with a draw at Newcastle light on both consistent attacking quality and significant Fantasy impact.
Will Hughes (£5.5m) gave the visitors the lead after just two minutes and the Hornets held out until close to half-time before Fabian Schär (£5.0m) swept home Isaac Hayden‘s (£4.5m) knock
Replays showed that the ball came off Hayden’s arm and the goal should have been chalked off, but the decision stood as VAR continued its mystifyingly inconsistent start to the season.
And, in truth, a draw was all that Watford deserved from a game in which coach Javi Gracia opted for pragmatism over progressiveness in a bid to halt his side’s three-match losing streak in the league.
Gracia made his intentions clear in his starting line-up, consigning striker Gerard Deulofeu (£6.3m) to the bench and fielding three centre-halves and a lone striker in a team set up to drop deep, absorb pressure and play on the counter
The Spaniard, found in 2.9% of Fantasy Premier League squads, is Watford’s most popular asset, but he has lost close to half of his Gameweek 1 ownership and an eight-minute cameo at St James’ Park will do little to halt that decline.
At least Hughes (0.3%) has offered attacking returns, figuring in both goals the Hornets have so far managed this season.
The midfielder followed up his assist in last week’s 3-1 loss to West Ham United by finding the net when Tom Cleverley‘s (£4.9m) shot was deflected into his path.
Hughes’ effort was one of only three shots on target for the visitors, while Andre Gray (£5.9m) and Kiko Femenia (£4.5m) both missed good chances on the break before Newcastle equalised and then took control of the game in the second half.
Not that the Magpies were overly impressive going forward themselves.
Both sides had 13 attempts, eight of which were in the area respectively, and created a chance every 7.4 minutes.
The home team did manage two more shots on target than Watford, forcing Ben Foster (£4.9m) into some smart work to deny both Miguel Almirón (£5.9m) and Hayden in a performance that earned the goalkeeper two bonus points.
But Newcastle’s lack of an end product – three goals from four matches – means their attacking assets remain attractive to only the most tribal, or wilfully optimistic, of Fantasy managers.
Manager Steve Bruce’s plans were hampered by injuries to wide men Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m), meaning first starts for Christian Atsu (£5.4m) and Jetro Willems (£4.5m).
That did little to improve the supply line to striker Joelinton (£5.9m), who was the match-winner in Gameweek 3’s surprise victory over Spurs.
The Brazilian could not muster a single shot on target against Watford, his two attempts matched by defenders Schär and Craig Dawson (£5.0m).
At least Hayden produced a first return of the season for his 5.7% ownership – the joint-highest figure among Newcastle players alongside centre-half Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) – although that popularity is most likely down to his bargain bucket pricing in FPL.
And Schär’s goal again demonstrated his attacking potential, having scored four times, and provided one assist, last season.
The Swiss international, however, was substituted after 84 minutes as a precautionary measure, according to Bruce.
“He was feeling not great at half-time and had dizziness in spells, which was a bit of a concern, and in the
endhe wasn’t great when I spoke to him in a water break when one of the players was injured. There was a sort of vacancy about him, so I hope he’s okay. We’ll see how he is. He was not feeling well, he was just complaining to the doctor about being dizzy, and that was at half-time.” – Steve Bruce
Schär is still expected to join up with the Switzerland squad, but even without an international break to stall our Fantasy dealings, there is likely to be no rush to acquire assets from either side any time soon.
Watford will face Arsenal and Manchester City over the next two Gameweeks, with tricky trips to Wolves and Spurs just round the corner as well.
And the Magpies have to play Liverpool, Leicester City and Manchester United before the second round of international fixtures rears its ugly head in early October.
For once, country before club could work in both managers’ favour, buying them some much-needed time to work on the deficiencies, both defensive and attacking, hampering their respective sides.
Gracia is certainly hoping the enforced break can be a force for good.
“Last season we started really well, this season the first four games we have only got one point. Now we have a break and it’s a good time to work and prepare better for the next game.” – Javi Gracia
Newcastle, with four points from their last two outings, are clearly in a better place than Watford.
But as things stand, neither set of players currently represent much Fantasy fruit worth picking.
Newcastle United XI (5-4-1): Dúbravka; Willems, Dummett, Lascelles, Schär (Fernández 85′), Krafth (Manquillo 78′); Atsu (Muto 82′), S Longstaff, Hayden, Almirón; Joelinton.
Watford XI (3-4-2-1): Foster; Cathcart, Kabasele, Dawson; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucouré (Chalobah 71′), Janmaat; Pereyra, Hughes (Success 71′); A Gray (Deulofeu 82′).
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