Watford 0-0 Sheffield United
Bonus Points: Daryl Jamaat x3 (£4.3m), Ben Foster x3 (£4.8m), Christian Kabasele x1 (£4.3m), Jack O’Connell x1 (£4.5m)
John Lundstram (£4.5m) continued to prove his value to Fantasy managers in Gameweek 8 as he pulled in another five points.
It came from Sheffield United’s third clean sheet of the campaign, as they continue to display potential for defensive returns. Chris Wilder’s men have still only conceded seven goals in their first eight matches of the campaign – only Liverpool have let in fewer than that.
The latest shutout took Lundstram to a season score of 39 points, just one shy of current top-scoring defenders Ricardo Pereira (£6.1m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m).
For that reason, Lundstram remains the best value player in any position in 2019/20. His season value, as measured by the official Fantasy Premier League website, stands at 8.7, 1.1 higher than any other player, Mat Ryan (£4.6m) currently in second place on 7.6.
As per usual, Lundstram offered the potential for returns additional to his clean sheet potential with one effort inside the Watford penalty box and two key passes.
However, his 31.1% ownership will be somewhat frustrated at his yellow card from this fixture, which reduced his score to just five points.
Furthermore, it takes Lundstram that little bit closer to a one-match suspension for accumulation for yellow cards.
Players will receive a ban if they pick up five of these in their club’s first 19 matches of the season, the threshold increasing to 10 from their 20th match onwards.
So far, Lundstram has been booked three times in the first eight Gameweeks, which works out at one every 2.7 games. If he continues on that current trend, the budget FPL defender would pick up his fifth yellow card of the season in either Gameweek 13 or 14, before the threshold increases to 10.
While two Sheffield United players have committed more fouls than Lundstram since promotion, he is the highest in this department among midfield players.
The hope for Fantasy managers is that he gets his next two yellow cards very soon as the Blades are embarking on a tough run of games, in which even the most enthusiastic Lundstram owners may be forced to consider benching him.
They host Arsenal in Gameweek 9 while they also face Tottenham (away) and Manchester United (home) before Gameweek 13.
Outside of Lundstram, there wasn’t a great deal to write home about from a Fantasy perspective for Sheffield United.
While roughly a third of all managers are invested in the out-of-position Fantasy defender, no other Blade is owned by more than the 3.4% currently in possession of goalkeeper Dean Henderson (£4.5m).
As far as starting outfield players go, Enda Stevens (£5.0m) and George Baldock (£4.5m) are the most popular but sit in just 0.7% of Fantasy teams.
The lack of investment in midfield and forward players was certainly justified by a fairly forgettable attacking performance from Sheffield United.
While Chris Wilder’s men dominated possession, they failed to create anything too clearcut against the joint-worst defence in the Premier League (20 goals conceded).
That means after the first eight matches of the campaign, only Everton (six), Newcastle (five) and Watford themselves (four) have found the net fewer times than Sheffield United.
Furthermore, they have blanked three times in the last four matches, which could convince Wilder to make some changes his side.
The 3-5-2 formation he went with at Vicarage Road featured the same 11 players who gave Liverpool a tough time in Gameweek 7, a third successive Premier League start for each of those options.
That is, of course, welcome news for their budget assets, not least Lundstram, who has started every match of the season so far.
It also shows that Oli McBurnie (£5.9m) and Callum Robinson (£5.3m) are the established front-two for the Blades while David McGoldrick (£5.4m) is out with a groin problem.
However, if Sheffield United continue to struggle in front of goal, the Republic of Ireland forward could earn a recall after the international break.
For now, Lys Mousset (£4.9m) and Billy Sharp (£5.7m), back from suspension, are being used as impact options, both of whom featured in the second half at Watford but failed to add much going forward.
In spite of recent struggles in front of goal, Wilder remains in a positive place considering that, thus far, Sheffield United are one of just three teams who are yet to taste defeat away from home this season.
“I’m delighted with the players on the road this season. The results we’ve had speak for themselves. You come away from home in the Premier League, in our first season, to dominate the game as we did, of course, we would have liked to open them up a little bit more. We couldn’t really find that final pass. But I thought our approach was good yet again, we’ve come to win and we haven’t and if we can’t then we take something back up the road to Sheffield.” – Chris Wilder
It must be said that Sheffield United’s latest clean sheet was helped by a wasteful Watford side.
The Hornets remain bottom of the league for goals scored this season despite creating better chances than their opponents on Saturday afternoon.
Big opportunities came the way of Andre Gray (£5.8m), Danny Welbeck (£5.9m) and substitute Craig Dawson (£4.9m) but all three of them were nowhere near clinical enough.
Former Burnley and Brentford forward Gray found himself faced with an open goal from four yards out in the first half but still managed to blaze over a dreadful miss.
Welbeck got through on goal in the second half, exploiting some space at the back. However, when faced with the chance to square to Gray or take Henderson on, he opted for the latter and had his shot saved.
Afterwards, Dawson got clear in front of Sheffield United’s goal from a second-half set-piece and, despite his usual composure in such situations, headed wide.
“We had the best chances. They were very clear and, in another moment, with more confidence, they would be a goal. We wanted a win, we needed it. They used their tools and we used out tools and we created the best chances. This is very clear.” – Quique Sanchez Flores
Such a performance at that end of the pitch for Watford will encourage those with defensive assets set to play them in the coming weeks.
Both Chelsea and Burnley, who have appealing assets at the back, will face the Hornets between now and Gameweek 13.
Finally, despite Watford’s own defensive players have been off-limits for Fantasy managers this season, they still managed to keep their first clean sheet of the campaign.
In fact, it was the Hornets first one in 19 Premier League matches, their last one coming at the beginning of February, eight months ago.
While Sheffield United’s own flat offensive performance was probably a contributing factor, it is possible that Quique Sanchez Flores has managed to orchestrate some improvements at Vicarage Road.
The Watford manager opted to match up to Sheffield United’s formation with a 3-5-2 of his own, recalling Christian Kabasele (£4.3m) and Sebastian Prödl (£4.0m) to sit in the back-three with Craig Cathcart (£4.4m).
“The clean sheet is very important for the team because since February we haven’t had one, so it’s good for the confidence. We didn’t concede, we played for the second time with a back five and from these two games we didn’t lose.” – Christian Kabasele
For former Werder Bremen man Prödl, this was his first league start since April 2018 and by all accounts was relatively solid before coming off with a knock after 57 minutes.
“I’ve suffered a bad couple of months with injury comebacks and being out of favour but I was focused on my goal, that I want to be back for Watford in the Premier League to help the team, especially this very weird and difficult situation, to be back with my experience to help the team out. I am working hard.” – Sebastien Prödl
Whether we see a three-man defence used again by Flores remains to be seen. It is possible that he used it against the Blades to match them up and the manager himself said after the game that the players were to be praised not the system.
Clean sheets should certainly be something that he will be working towards recording more of in his second spell at the club as they formed an important part of his first.
During Flores’ first five matches in charge of Watford back in 2015/16, three clean sheets were recorded before the club went on a run of five in eight outings a few months later.
However, it seems unlikely that defensive returns will be regular any time soon with Tottenham (away), Bournemouth (home), Chelsea (home) and Norwich (away) the Hornets’ next four opponents.
“The system is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the players. Once we have the players, the system can change and how you read the system. We don’t have too much time. We don’t have amazing confidence in other shapes, we don’t have these memories.” – Quique Sanchez Flores
Watford XI (3-5-2): Foster; Cathcart, Prödl (Dawson 57′), Kabasele; Holebas, Pereyra, Doucouré, Cleverley, Janmaat; Welbeck (Sarr 77′), A Gray (Deulofeu 59′).
Sheffield Utd XI (3-5-2): D Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram, Baldock; Robinson (Sharp 71′), McBurnie (Mousset 62′).
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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