Bournemouth 0-0 Norwich City
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus: Steve Cook (£5.0m) x3, Nathan Ake (£4.9m), Diego Rico (£4.2m) x2
A goalless draw played out by two of the Premier League’s most obliging defences meant a frustrating afternoon for many a Fantasy manager.
The blank was especially hard to take for those who owned Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki (£7.0m and 35.9%) or the 14.3%-backed Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson (£8.0m) in Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
Goals, after all, had seemed certain at the Vitality Stadium.
Neither side had managed a clean sheet all season and the Canaries were bottom of the league for goals conceded (21).
What transpired was a stale affair devoid of thrills, spills or any attacking cohesion.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe opted to bench Josh King (£6.3m) and hand Ryan Fraser (£7.1m) a first start since Gameweek 4 – a bitter blow for more than 100,000 managers who had bought the Norway international in anticipation of a big haul.
Howe explained his starting XI ahead of kick-off:
Joshua King came back from internationals a bit fatigued, so we’re protecting him. Jefferson Lerma picked up an injury with Colombia but it’s great to have Lewis Cook, Ryan Fraser and Adam Smith back in the team.
Wilson was similarly in-demand, with his ownership up by a net figure of 168,430 as he prepared to face Daniel Farke’s forlorn backline.
But the England striker managed just two shots – and none on target – in 90 barren minutes during which his highlight was setting up strike partner Dominic Solanke (£5.4m) for the game’s one and only big chance.
That opportunity was spurned; one of two (count them) saves that returning keeper Tim Krul (£4.5m) was obliged to make.
His Bournemouth counterpart, Aaron Ramsdale (£4.5m), was called into action just the once, although it did at least involve a superb stop to deny Pukki’s well-struck shot from the edge of the area.
The decline of the Finnish finisher is gathering pace rather more dramatically than anything that happened on the pitch at Bournemouth.
More than half a million managers had got rid going into Gameweek 9 and he’s currently the most-sold player ahead of Sunday’s visit by Manchester United.
That has prompted two price drops in quick succession and only an end to his four-match goal drought seems likely to stop the inevitable slide back towards his original £6.5m valuation.
Norwich’s other popular asset, the 23.1%-owned Todd Cantwell (£4.9m), recovered from a knock to start on Saturday.
But he, too, blanked for the fourth successive game and is shipping owners and value as well.
Not only that but positional rival Onel Hernandez (£5.3m) returned from a lengthy lay-off at the Vitality, coming on as a late substitute.
For all their attacking abandon, Norwich have now managed to score just once in five away attempts this season, so Bournemouth’s first shut-out of the campaign was perhaps not such a surprise after all.
The two Cherries defenders with double-digit ownership levels, Nathan Ake (£4.9m) and Diego Rico (£4.2m), also brought in bonus points for their efforts, while the maximum award was enjoyed by the 0.2% of managers with Steve Cook (£5.0m) in their teams.
Unsurprisingly, Howe was happy to praise his defence post-match.
For me, the past two games defensively have been a big improvement. We were relatively okay from the defensive side at Arsenal (a 1-0 loss) and today we were strong again.
Adam Smith (£4.3m) returned to the backline following a lengthy lay-off with a hamstring problem, but Rico’s attacking threat – he has two assists to his name – and cut-price cost mark him out as the best of a still-unreliable bunch heading into an okayish run of fixtures (wat | MUN | new | WOL) before a trickier set kicks in through to Christmas.
As for Norwich, the return of Alexander Tettey (£4.5m) as a midfield shield for that porous defence worked wonders. His inclusion, following two matches out with injury, meant the bench for previous ever-present Marco Stiepermann (£5.3m), who has arguably been the least-effective of Norwich’s hitherto ever-present front four while doing little to shore up things defensively.
Tettey’s inclusion led to a slight change in formation with perhaps more emphasis on defence than before, with the Canaries resembling a 4-1-4-1.
But only the bravest, or strangest, of Fantasy managers will be looking at bringing in Norwich assets with a defensive bent any time soon, regardless of Farke’s comments after the whistle.
The Canaries’ boss said:
It’s a good point with a first clean sheet and solid defending. We have been accused of being a bit too soft, but today we showed real character and steel.
Defending is the base of being successful. It’s difficult at this level when you have so many injured players. I’m looking forward to having all of our centre-backs back, so we are even more competitive. At the moment, we have to find some other solutions.
Instead, it will all be about those still willing to hold their nerve regarding Pukki and, to a lesser extent, Cantwell.
The Canaries actually have a decent enough schedule over the next ten Gameweeks, with the United match and clashes with Arsenal and Leicester City the toughest tests on paper.
That scoring record on the road could be the clincher, however, with Pukki, in particular, looking like a luxury most can now ill-afford where once he was the season’s biggest bargain.
Bournemouth XI (4-4-2): Ramsdale; Smith, S Cook, Ake, Rico; H Wilson (Danjuma 69′), L Cook, Billing, Fraser; C Wilson, Solanke (King 63′).
Norwich City XI (4-1-4-1): Krul; Aarons, Amadou, Godfrey (Trybull 50′), Lewis; Tettey; Buendia, McLean, Leitner (Srbeny 90′), Cantwell (Hernandez 80′); Pukki.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 9
- Everton 2-0 West Ham United
- Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Bournemouth 0-0 Norwich City
- Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle United
- Leicester City 2-1 Burnley
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Watford
- Wolves 1-1 Southampton
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City
- Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
- Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal
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