Crystal Palace 0-2 Leicester City
- Goals: Caglar Soyuncu (£4.8m), Jamie Vardy (£9.4m)
- Assists: Jamies Maddison (£7.3m), Demarai Gray (£5.2m)
- Bonus: Soyuncu, Maddison x3, Kasper Schmeichel (£5.1m) x1
If the 9-0 victory over ten-man Southampton hadn’t fully convinced some Fantasy managers that Leicester City were worthy of investment, then maybe Sunday’s quietly impressive win at Selhurst Park would have provided the necessary incentive.
Plenty of Fantasy Premier League bosses did jump on the Foxes after their thrashing of the Saints.
Four of the five most-bought FPL assets of Gameweek 11 were on Leicester’s books, with just under 1.9 million transfers in total being used on Brendan Rodgers’ squad overall.
The cynics and the glass-half-full brigade, understandably pointing to the freak nature of the result and circumstances at St. Mary’s, would have been cautious about Sunday’s fixture in particular, with Crystal Palace having kept clean sheets in three of their five home league fixtures before this weekend.
No top-flight club had conceded fewer goals than the Eagles on their own soil in 2019/20, either.
This was perhaps a final audition for Jamie Vardy (£9.4m) and co, then, with some of the Premier League’s most obliging defences – including Arsenal, Aston Villa, Watford and Norwich City – to come in the next six Gameweeks.
While the goals didn’t flow as heavily as they did on the south coast, the Foxes produced the kind of accomplished performance that – dare we say it – bore the hallmarks of a title-chasing side.
Another tilt at the Premier League crown is probably unlikely but Brendan Rodgers’ side, along with Chelsea, are looking by some distance the best of the rest after Liverpool and Manchester City.
As for the Foxes’ Fantasy assets, there is plenty to excite.
This was another classic Vardy performance, with the Leicester striker anonymous for long periods (he had the fewest touches of any starting FPL forward in Gameweek 11) but somehow always a threat and popping up with his customary late goal after a superb team move when a rare blank seemed on the cards.
The premium FPL forward had already come close to giving the Foxes the lead in the first half, firing at Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) from a narrow angle on 17 minutes and then being narrowly pipped to the ball by the recalled Palace goalkeeper just before the break.
Both of those chances had been set up by sublime balls from James Maddison (£7.3m) and Youri Tielemans (£6.5m), with Vardy peeling off the Palace defence and almost benefitting from his teammates’ vision.
So long as those two playmakers remain fit and firing, then Vardy will get plenty of chances in the weeks and months to come.
The Leicester striker averages 7.43 FPL points per match since Rodgers first took charge at the King Power Stadium ahead of Gameweek 29 last season, and the former Celtic boss was asked about what tweaks he had made to Vardy’s game over the last eight months.
Firstly, from a defensive perspective, he’s not having to press the whole back four. He’s a guy that would run all day for you, so it’s now much more synchronised in terms of how he want him to press the game, he’s doing short bursts of pressing. He’s so clever in setting traps to press.
He’s playing more on the corridor, so he’s playing more central. The other guys, it’s their job to create the opportunities.
And I’ve asked him to stay on the last line because he’s such a threat. There was a couple of times there today I thought he was away – and when he’s away, he scores.
He’s a really, really top striker at this level, [we’ve made] some little adjustments that help him. He’s playing with a smile as well, he’s really enjoying his football and that’s always important as a player.
Maddison and Tielemans had as much work to do off the ball as on it at Selhurst Park, with neither posing much of a goal threat in their own right.
Maddison was a creative spark, though, particularly from dead-ball situations.
A goal from a set play had looked like it had been coming even before Caglar Soyuncu (£4.8m) got onto the edge of Maddison’s deflected cross in the 56th minute, with Jonny Evans (£5.1m), Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m) having gone close with headers.
Evans had indeed looked the likelier scorer up until his fellow centre-half’s opener, with Soyuncu more often the decoy or blocker at free-kicks and corners.
Tielemans, meanwhile, fired over from a well-worked corner on the half-hour mark.
Rodgers said of his side’s work at set-piece situations:
We try to be inventive, we try to be clever. We’re fortunate that we’ve got an incredible technician in James Maddison that can put it where you want.
We were unfortunate with one we worked in the first half, with Youri Tielemans. And then James’ delivery for the goal was fantastic.
We do a lot of work. Games like this here, that are going to be tight, it might be a set piece that wins you the game.
The Foxes kept their fourth clean sheet of the season on Sunday – only Sheffield United and Manchester City have recorded more – and in truth they were scarcely troubled, with a teasing Cheikhou Kouyate (£4.9m) cross and an off-target Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) curler about as close as the Eagles came to breaching the visitors’ defence.
Ben Chilwell (£5.6m) very nearly recorded his second successive double-digit haul, too, striking the inside of the post from close range in injury time.
While owners of Vardy, Tielemans, Maddison and the Leicester backline would have been relatively content with their assets’ displays, it was another mixed bag from Harvey Barnes (£5.9m) and Ayoze Perez (£6.1m).
The two wingers had shone at St. Mary’s but have been inconsistent for the most part this season, with Sunday another example of that: Barnes was peripheral after a bright start while Perez was frequently dispossessed or errant in possession, although did produce a couple of mazy runs into Palace territory and worked hard off the ball.
Perez’s dallying when clean through allowed Patrick van Aanholt (£5.6m) to get back on the half-hour mark, while Barnes couldn’t take a sublime Maddison pass into his stride later in the match.
While their Gameweek 10 hauls were eye-catching, let’s not forget that it’s just two weeks since Rodgers said that his wingers needed to “do more” for the side.
Palace still have a double-header against Chelsea and Liverpool to come before their FPL assets really demand our attention, with the Eagles top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 14-21.
Their attacking options still need to convince Fantasy managers of their worth, however, and Roy Hodgson’s side managed only three shots from inside the Leicester box on Sunday.
A lack of goals has been Palace’s problem for some time now and the creatively limited nature of their midfield – we saw James McArthur (£5.3m) playing in an advanced right-wing role on Sunday – is obviously to the detriment of attacking assets like Zaha and budget striker Jordan Ayew (£5.1m).
Their defence has been a strong-suit for a while and will perhaps be of greater interest to the Fantasy community upon the fixture swing, with the Eagles generally handling Leicester’s threat quite well on Sunday – although they did concede their third goal from a set-piece situation in two Gameweeks.
The fit-again Martin Kelly (£4.1m), still in one in four FPL squads, was only among the substitutes again as James Tomkins (£5.0m) and Gary Cahill (£4.5m) continue to keep him out of the side.
Cahill, McArthur and Kouyate all picked up injuries of varying degrees during the defeat to Leicester, with Hodgson saying of his walking wounded:
The worst one is McArthur because he has been struggling somewhat with a back injury. He definitely felt his back quite seriously during that second half, that’s why we had to take him off. He was actually having a very good game but his back injury prevented him from continuing.
As for Gary Cahill and Cheikh, I think they were blows to the head, which we see more and more these days, but I don’t think either of those two will be out of training on Tuesday. But they may have a sore head I’m afraid this evening and they will need tomorrow to recover.
Reflecting on the match, Hodgson added:
I thought it was a relatively even game. I don’t think I could have asked a lot more from the Palace team than they gave out there today.
I thought our defensive organisation was good and we restricted them to basically a minimum of chances. Our defending from the set plays and free-kicks had been good but unfortunately one proved too much for us.
We weren’t out of the game even at 1-0. I never had the feeling we were out of this game. But at 2-0, so close to the end, I’m afraid that was a bridge too far and we had to accept then that we weren’t going to get back in it. It was important then, I felt, not to concede more goals because we’d opened up our midfield and gone to a 4-4-2 at 0-1 in an attempt to bring it back to 1-1. That was making it a lot easier for them in that very good midfield area, where they have so many talented players, and I would have been disappointed if we conceded more goals.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic, Kouyate (Meyer 74′), Schlupp; Zaha, Ayew (Benteke 78′), McArthur (McCarthy 78′).
Leicester City XI (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi; Perez (Gray 74), Tielemans, Maddison (Praet 90′), Barnes (Morgan 85′); Vardy.
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