Newcastle United 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: Jamaal Lascelles (£4.4m) | Jonny (£5.4m)
- Assists: Federico Fernandez (£4.4m) | None
- Bonus: Fernandez, Lascelles x3, Romain Saiss (£4.4m) x1
Wolverhampton Wanderers are riding high on our Season Ticker at present, with their run of matches from Gameweeks 12-16 arguably the most favourable in the Premier League.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side has shown improvement ever since the 5-2 hammering by Chelsea in September, with the West Midlands side on a five-match unbeaten run on the top flight.
There are still nagging doubts surrounding their appeal, however, with the well-documented effects of Europa League involvement – be it rotation or fatigue – and their less-than-stellar record against the also-rans of the Premier League factors to weigh up.
A serious-sounding ankle injury to Willy Boly (£5.0m), Wolves’ outstanding performer at the back, is potentially damaging to their clean sheet potential, too.
Perhaps less discussed is Santo’s choice of formation.
After the draw with Crystal Palace in Gameweek 6, we highlighted how much more threatening Wolves looked in their 3-4-3 set-up, particularly when Matt Doherty (£6.0m) and Adama Traore (£5.1m) are working in tandem down the right flank.
That has mostly been the case ever since, with two more examples from this week furthering the argument: Santo changing from a 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3 at half-time of the Slovan Bratislava and Newcastle games and salvaging results from 1-0 deficits in both cases.
The 3-5-2 worked wonders against Manchester City and could be the best formation to use against the “bigger” clubs but there is an argument to suggest that one less central midfielder would be the way to go in the more winnable fixtures.
Even against Pep Guardiola’s side, Wolves’ two goals only arrived when Doherty was brought on at wing-back and Traore was pushed up front alongside Raul Jimenez (£7.2m).
Santo’s resistance to starting with the formation is understandable as it does leave the potential for Wolves’ central midfield to be outnumbered and he may continue to tentatively feel his way into games in the 3-5-2, particularly away from home.
The Wolves boss said of his formation switches:
It’s to do with having versatile players. It allowed us, inside the same starting eleven, to change the formation, the shape, the idea that we have for the game.
This is growing, the way we want to be. We started three seasons ago, trying to build a team that can adapt to any situation. Even if we have big players like Boly out, we can still compete, and today was clear evidence of that, so I’m very proud.
Participation in the Europa League also comes into the reckoning: can Santo realistically play both Doherty and Traore down the right flank in every Premier League game and expect at least one of them to start in Europe, too?
These are questions only Santo can answer but ones that we Fantasy managers will have to pose, too.
After a first half in which they registered only three shots on goal, Wolves clicked into gear after the break.
Traore and Doherty were at the centre of many of their chances, with Jetro Willems (£4.5m) being given a torrid 45 minutes down Newcastle’s left flank
It was from Traore’s cross that Diogo Jota (£6.1m) headed over an excellent chance on 56 minutes, with Doherty unable to control a lofted Jimenez pass when through on goal not long after.
It was the Ireland international who helped create Wolves’ equaliser when Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) could only palm his cross into the path of opposite full-back Jonny (£5.4m).
Doherty then missed a glorious chance to win the game at the death, nodding Jimenez’s cross agonisingly wide from close range.
Over 118,000 Fantasy Premier League managers transferred in the Mexican striker ahead of Sunday’s clash, with only Doherty’s profligacy (twice) depriving him of an assist.
It has to be said that he himself didn’t get too many sighters of goal, with his first effort on goal – a wild lash off-target from wide in the Newcastle box – not arriving until the 85th minute.
The fit-again Jota returned to the Wolves starting XI for the first time since Gameweek 6, first lining up alongside Jimenez in a front two before moving to the left when Santo changed to a 3-4-3 set-up.
He was promising in spells and indeed posed more of a goal threat than his Mexican teammate, with one trademark mazy run from deep ending with an anticlimactic shot straight at Dubravka.
At £6.1m he is an appealing mid-price FPL option but he is perhaps more of a rotation risk than Jimenez (see Gameweek 4), so a punt on one of last season’s Fantasy favourites carries its own dangers while Wolves are in action twice a week.
Ryan Bennett (£4.4m) should return from injury this week, meanwhile, to fill the void left by the injured Boly.
It was Doherty who initially lined up as the right-sided centre-half in Wolves’ back three on Sunday, alongside Conor Coady (£5.0m) and Romain Saiss (£4.4m).
Leander Dendoncker (£4.4m) then dropped back into Doherty’s position in the second half when the Ireland international moved to his usual right wing-back role.
Wolves’ head of medical, Phil Hayward, said on Saturday:
Unfortunately, Willy Boly sustained a serious injury to his left ankle in training earlier today.
Initial tests show a fracture to his fibula, and he will undergo further imaging over the coming days to determine whether surgery is required or not. If surgery is required that will take place during the next week.
Ryan Bennett is recovering well from his adductor injury. He has now started outdoor rehab and he will return to training in the coming days.
Newcastle were typical Newcastle: not-too-shabby at the back (save for Willems being torn to pieces in the second half) but lacking in end product at the other end of the pitch.
The fact that two of their centre-halves, Federico Fernandez (£4.4m) and Jamaal Lascelles (£4.4m), combined for their deadlock-breaking goal says much about their attacking threat.
Their two wingers are polar opposites but neither will likely entice Fantasy managers despite the Magpies’ fixture swing.
Miguel Almiron (£5.8m)’s work ethic is commendable but his confidence in front of goal is shot to bits, with the Paraguay international hitting the side netting with one presentable chance just after the half-hour mark.
Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m), by contrast, is not a player who has probably ever suffered from a lack of self-belief and is never dull to watch, but suffers from myopia when dribbling and can ultimately head down cul-de-sacs when better options are available.
Lone striker Joelinton (£5.8m), starved of service and isolated for much of the season, is an unfair lightning rod for Newcastle’s woes in front of goal but the stats say much about his appeal to FPL bosses: the budget forward has had no shots on target in the last seven Gameweeks.
The Magpies’ backline is perhaps more appealing, given that all of their defenders who started on Sunday are priced at £4.5m or under – although Fabian Schar (£5.0m) and Matt Ritchie (£5.3m) are expected back soon.
No club has conceded fewer goals than Steve Bruce’s side on home soil this season, while their run from Gameweeks 15-18 (shu | SOU | bur | CRY) looks enticing from a clean sheet perspective.
Newcastle will be without Sean Longstaff (£5.0m) for the next three games, however, after the midfielder was sent off late in the game.
Reflecting on the draw with Wolves, Bruce said:
I was delighted the way we played in the first half and needed more of it in the second but for some reason, we didn’t play in the second half. We needed to gain composure and a foothold in the game but we gave the ball away so many times and sat back too much.
We forgot to take part in the second half. We said we wanted to win the second half as well. Second half it was that horrible cliche of a game of two halves – if ever there was one.
We’ve invested in strikers, in the second half they were feeding off scraps. We need to do better to give the players at the top end of the pitch chances.”
I was delighted with the way we’ve played in the first half – it’s, arguably, as good as we’ve played here. We needed exactly the same and to get the second goal. Unfortunately, we went far too deep and didn’t do enough with the ball.
When you get to 75 minutes, I always thought Almiron and Saint-Maximin would be a threat. Yes, you can make a change to hang on, but I didn’t want to hang on; I wanted to try to get another goal.
We didn’t come to terms with Traore in the second half, and we didn’t do enough when we had the ball. That was the most disappointing thing – the number of times we gave it away cheaply.
Bruce’s words on Traore were echoed by Santo, who said:
He’s unique. When he and the team recognise the right moments to do the actions it’s better for us and we are delighted, let’s try to do it for 90 minutes.
Newcastle United XI (3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark; Yedlin, M Longstaff (Atsu 90′), S Longstaff, Willems; Almiron, Saint-Maximin (Gayle 90′); Joelinton (Shelvey 84′).
Wolves XI (3-5-2): Patricio; Doherty, Coady, Saiss; Traore, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Jimenez, Jota (Neto 70′).
Lessons learned from Gameweek 10
- Southampton 0-9 Leicester City
- Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa
- Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 Everton
- Watford 0-0 Bournemouth
- West Ham United 1-1 Sheffield United
- Burnley 2-4 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 1-1 Wolves
- Arsenal 2-2 Crystal Palace
- Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Norwich City 1-3 Manchester United
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