Norwich City 1-5 Aston Villa
Goals: Josip Drmic (£5.4m) | Wesley (£6.0m) x2, Jack Grealish (£5.9m), Conor Hourihane (£5.7m), Douglas Luiz (£4.5m)
Assists: None | Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) x2, Hourihane, Matt Targett (£4.4m) Wesley
Bonus Points: Wesley x3, Michael McGovern (£4.0m) x2, Hourihane x1
Norwich City’s thrill-a-minute return to the Premier League continued on Saturday with a 5-1 battering at home by fellow promoted side Aston Villa.
The commitment of Daniel Farke’s team to attacking football is refreshing, exhilarating and, increasingly, self-defeating. Since Gameweek 5’s famous 3-2 win over Manchester City, the Canaries have lost three straight games by an aggregate score of 1-9.
Their well-documented injury woes – just the nine regulars unavailable against Villa – goes some way to explaining all of that, but an inability to defend on even the most basic level is starting to look like a terminal issue.
It was certainly exploited by the visitors, with striker Wesley (£6.0m) enjoying by far his best display since his summer move to the Midlands. He opened the scoring when he controlled Anwar El Ghazi‘s (£5.5m) cross and turned and fired past Norwich keeper Michael McGovern (£4.0m), before he doubled the lead with a tap-in from Conor Hourihane‘s (£5.7m) low ball from the left.
That made it four goals in eight starts for the Brazilian – not exactly a bad return for a forward who some Villa fans were criticising after last week’s 2-2 draw with Burnley.
He added an assist for the fifth goal when Douglas Luiz (£4.5m) curled home from distance to bring in 14 points, including maximum bonus, for his 2.0% Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership.
The only downer on his day came when he had a first-half penalty, and the rebound, saved by McGovern – a blip which cost that ownership a further six points.
Despite all that, there is no indication of an FPL rush to bring in Wesley just yet, probably because a) it was only Norwich, b) the international break is upon us and c) Villa’s upcoming schedule is far from appealing.
Dean Smith’s side host Brighton in Gameweek 9 before embarking on a punishing six-match run involving two trips to Manchester, one to Chelsea and a home fixture against Liverpool.
However uninspired Manchester United, or generous at the back Chelsea, might be, no side will be anywhere near as accommodating as Norwich at present.
The Canaries allowed their visitors 22 shots, of which 12 were on target; Villa’s midfield ran riot as a result.
Jack Grealish (£5.9m) made it 3-0 when he combined sweetly with El Ghazi, and the tireless Hourihane then capped a fine individual performance with his first goal of the season, set up by the equally industrious Matt Targett (£4.4m).
But while Wesley stole all the headlines, it was El Ghazi who was arguably the star of the show.
The Holland international now has two goals and three assists from his last five games and he was joint-top for chances created at Carrow Road. With just 0.8% ownership, he could be a major differential, particularly when Villa’s schedule eases dramatically from Gameweek 17 onwards.
One player proving way more popular than El Ghazi is the 11.7%-owned John McGinn (£5.8m), who came into the match with back-to-back goals and 214,000+ new owners to his name.
His blank was a bitter blow, as was the late consolation goal handed to Norwich when Tyrone Mings‘ (£4.6m) ill-judged back pass to Tom Heaton (£4.5m) allowed substitute Josip Drmic (£5.4m) to charge down the keeper’s attempted clearance and roll the ball into the empty net. That denied Villa a third clean sheet of the season – and a first away from home – but manager Smith was happy to dwell on events further up the pitch:
They were really good goals, our tactical discipline was really good today. Our performances have been there. That result today is probably what we’ve deserved in the last few weeks. – Dean Smith
And he was keen to praise Wesley:
He’s a young player, he’s only 22, he’s been in Belgium for a year or two and then Slovakia before that. So it’s a new culture, a new team a new group of players, and a big price tag. But he handles it well and I saw a big response from him this week. – Dean Smith.
Wesley’s Norwich counterpart, the 43.5%-owned Teemu Pukki (£7.2m), could only dream of receiving such praise.
After three double-digit returns from his first five matches, the Finn has now blanked for three straight Gameweeks.
Norwich attacked throughout on Saturday – the top four players for penalty area touches all came from the home side, with Pukki among them.
But the Finland international managed just two shots, neither of which were on target, and has had just seven attempts across his current barren spell.
It is no surprise, therefore, that he is currently Gameweek 9’s most-sold player, even with a trip to a Bournemouth side without a clean sheet to come next.
The Canaries’ other popular asset, the 25.7%-owned Todd Cantwell (£4.9m), survived an injury scare to start against Villa, but he also blanked for a third Gameweek running.
He did at least out-shoot Pukki and he was also joint-top with Emiliano Buendia (£6.0m) for chances created among the home players. And the third-most-owned Norwich player in FPL? That would be goalkeeper McGovern (5.6%).
The 380,000+ Fantasy geniuses who have the Canaries’ third-choice stopper in their squads would have walked away with nine points yesterday courtesy of his penalty heroics, six other saves and two bonus points.
But that was if – and it’s a big if – he wasn’t languishing on their benches in all his £4.0m glory.
Glory was certainly far from Farke’s mind post-match:
We have to accept this loss. We made too many mistakes. We created maybe more than they did in the first half, but the mistakes and the goals we were conceded were not good enough. We had so many on the pitch playing with pain killers and they have not been able to train properly this week. So really we are not prepared as we need to be. Then in addition, one or two crucial players do not have their best day. – Daniel Farke
In truth, only McGovern had his best day against Villa, and even he looked nervy before his spot-kick save.
As for the rest of the players, the international break looks to have come at just the right time, allowing them to escape overseas, take a break or recover from injury – whatever is needed to reverse a slide that is looking unstoppable at the moment.
How many Fantasy managers keep faith in the likes of Pukki and Cantwell before November’s final break of the year is unclear. Their fixtures are okay – Bournemouth and Brighton away, Man United and Watford at Carrow Road – but their form is anything but.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): McGovern; Aarons, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis; Leitner, McLean; Buendia, Stiepermann (Roberts 76′), Cantwell (Srbeny 80′); Pukki (Drmic 84′).
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Heaton; Guilbert, Engels (Konsa 75′), Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Hourihane (Douglas Luiz 78′); El Ghazi (Trezeguet 64′), Wesley, Grealish.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 8
- Brighton 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Burnley 1-0 Everton
- Liverpool 2-1 Leicester City
- Norwich City 1-5 Aston Villa
- Watford 0-0 Sheffield United
- West Ham United 1-2 Crystal Palace
- Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth
- Manchester City 0-2 Wolves
- Southampton 1-4 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United
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