Norwich 0-2 Watford
Goals: Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m), Andre Gray (£5.7m)
Bonus Points: Deulofeu, Ben Foster (£4.8m), Daryl Janmaat (£4.3m)
Watford defensive assets continue to creep closer to the Fantasy Premier League radar as they kept another clean sheet on Friday night.
The Hornets saw off Norwich by a 2-0 scoreline in the opening match of Gameweek 12 and, not for the first time in the last few weeks, never really looked like conceding.
Ever since September’s 8-0 drubbing at Manchester City, manager Quique Sanchez Flores has been working on improving Watford’s back-line and appears to have come across a successful formula with his three-man defence.
The clean sheet recorded at Carrow Road was a third in five matches for the Hornets and were it not for a mix-up between Ben Foster (£4.8m) and Kiko Femenía (£4.2m) at Spurs in Gameweek 9, it might have been a fourth.
“We’ve kinda reverted to a 5-3-2 although tonight it was more of a 3-5-2 because we wanted to go for the game and win it. Just having that base to start with is so much better for the team. You can get a foothold in the game and go from there. Just getting a clean sheet means you know you’re at least going to get a point from there so you can build on it.” – Ben Foster
A big winner of this run of form has been Daryl Janmaat (£4.3m) who, since Gameweek 8 has averaged 6.8 points per game.
As we’ve highlighted in some of Watford’s previous clean sheet outings, the former Newcastle man is taking up a relatively advanced position as a wing-back in the 3-5-2 system which could, at some stage, make a mockery of his £4.3m price-tag, especially compared to yellow-card magnet Jose Holebas (£4.7m) on the opposite flank.
Against Norwich, Janmaat had plenty of joy down Jamal Lewis‘ (£4.5m) side of the pitch, afforded the space to twice cross into the box virtually unopposed. Each of these found Will Hughes (£5.5m) drifting wide in space, who was able to create goal-scoring opportunities in the middle. The right-back’s contribution to the game earned him bonus points for the third time in the last five matches.
Another beneficiary of Watford’s recent defensive resurgence has been goalkeeper Foster, who also pulled on bonus against Norwich.
As Watford steadily reduce the quality of chances they are facing, as well as increasingly forcing opponents to shoot from range, Foster has been able to improve his potential for save points and, therefore, bonus.
Between Gameweeks 1 and 7, the goalkeeper conceded 20 goals and produced 19 saves, at a rate of 2.7 per game.
From Gameweek 8 onwards, Foster has only been breached on three occasions, racking up 22 saves in the process, at a rate of 4.4 per game.
Whether there is still enough time for Fantasy managers to capitalise on this run for Watford remains to be seen though.
Their next two Gameweeks pit them against Burnley (home) and Southampton (away) which certainly carry some clean sheet potential, but after that it’s Leicester (away), Liverpool (away) and Manchester United (home) between Gameweeks 15 and 18.
Furthermore, they will be without Christian Kabasele (£4.3m) for Gameweek 13 after he was sent off for a second bookable offence on Josip Drmic (£5.4m) against Norwich. Curiously, this was Watford’s seventh red card since the start of the 2015/16 campaign, the most in the Premier League.
Either way, Kabasele has been a mainstay of the back-three since Gameweek 8 and, even though he did struggle at times on Friday night, he still put in a hard-working shift marking Teemu Pukki (£6.8m) out of the game and could be missed against Burnley. That said, Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) performed admirably after coming on for Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) and Watford looked just as solid with 10 men as they did with 11.
It is also worth pointing out that, Norwich did get plenty of joy of their own down Janmaat’s side of the pitch, in particular. In yet another poor outing for the Canaries, left-winger Onel Hernández (£5.3m) was by far their best player.
“It’s good to have Vrančić back and Hernández fully back. Hopefully, I’ll have the defensive leaders back after the international break. Then we can be competitive.” – Daniel Farke
While it might not have been enough for Flores to consider dropping Janmaat for Kiko Femenía, his area was where Watford were most vulnerable, especially in the first half.
“(At half time, the manager) basically said just try and keep doing what you’re doing but Daryl, in particular, just be a little bit more wary. (Hernández) was a very fast lad, obviously got a lot of technical ability as well. So it was something we just had to be careful of and watch but we didn’t want to take our foot off the gas, we still wanted to keep going to get that second, maybe even third goal.” – Ben Foster
Fantasy managers probably did not learn a great deal about Watford’s attack from the opening match of Gameweek 12, even if they did win 2-0.
The Hornets did not actually create too many clearcut chances as Norwich largely dominated possession and the shot count.
They had just two shots on target at Carrow Road, both of which ended up in the back of the net.
With just two goals to their name between Gameweeks 6 and 11, it does seem as if Watford were just the latest side to benefit from the Norwich-effect.
The Canaries are in serious danger of becoming this season’s Fulham in that they continually boost the attacking scores of even the most goal-shy outfits.
Deulofeu was the chief beneficiary of this on Friday night as he claimed a goal and an assist, continuing his theme of last season: largely delivering only away from home against relegation fodder (such as Huddersfield or Cardiff).
“Yes (I enjoy playing up-front). Yes, because I am more near the goal and I can get more chances. Also, I run a lot, but I think I have to run a little bit less (up-front) than when I’m on the wing!” – Gerard Deulofeu
While Roberto Pereyra (£5.6m) had to come off with a suspected hamstring strain, Watford were boosted by a welcome return to the matchday squad for Troy Deeney (£6.2m), who remained an unused substitute.
“Having Troy back (is good for us). I think him just being around the team, I know he probably wasn’t ready to even come on tonight, but just having him around the place, he’s our captain he’s our leader. He really does lead by example as well.”
In truth, it was once again Norwich’s defence that cost them the points as they continue to make dreadful mistakes in the wrong areas of the pitch.
Their ongoing defensive problems should enhance the attacking options at Everton, Arsenal, Southampton, Sheffield United, Leicester and Wolves, who they face over the next six Gameweeks.
Emi Buendía (£6.0m) was the main culprit against Watford as he attempted to nutmeg Deulofeu in his own defensive third, only to allow the attacker to win the ball, dribble past him (and several of his colleagues), before sliding the ball into the bottom corner of Tim Krul‘s (£4.5m) net.
The right-winger was also culpable for Watford’s second goal as he drifted out of his position onto the other flank and lost the ball, triggering a counter-attack into the exposed space on his side of the pitch.
Not surprisingly, manager Daniel Farke was most unhappy with Buendía after the game.
“We are disappointed and annoyed. We dominated possession, we created more shots, we created more situations, but in the end, you have to play without easy mistakes.” – Daniel Farke
“In football, small details make the difference and this was, of course, a game-defining moment and I’m pretty annoyed with this mistake. Yes, definitely (it was a harsh lesson for Buendía to learn) and I think for the second goal, before the goal our right-winger leaves his position and we overload the left-wing but he denies our counter with a bad touch and we were open on the right-wing.” – Daniel Farke
“Emi has made a nursery mistake. To try and nutmeg an opponent 30 yards from our goal and leave the player to go on. No. I want them to be brave in the opponents’ half. Close to their box. Take the risk there.” – Daniel Farke
Offensively, there was not much to impress remaining owners of Norwich assets either.
Pukki’s Gameweek 12 blank was his seventh in a row, once again rewarding those who jumped ship with very little regrets.
As per usual, there was a number of factors influence the Finland international’s latest blank.
It must be said that he did somewhat struggle to find space against Watford’s centre-back trio.
While Hernández was able to find plenty of space on the left-hand side, it was very hard to get his crosses on target with Pukki marked and marshalled so tightly by the Hornets’ hard-working and well-organised back-line.
Furthermore, Norwich’s attacking players do appear to be suffering from the same issue that Fulham’s did last season.
Each subsequent goal the team concedes, especially when they are often linked to defensive errors, it can be pretty damaging emotionally as it effectively doubles the workload and increases pressure on the forward assets within the squad.
Norwich have now conceded six goals in the first 15 minutes of games this season, second only to Watford (although four of the seven shipped by the Hornets came in one match at Manchester City).
Crucially, the Canaries have now also lost all nine matches in which they gave up the first goal, and won the only two in which they scored it. So it does seem that as long as their defensive problems continue, so too will their attacking options suffer.
Finally, a word on Todd Cantwell (£4.6m) who, for the second match in a row, named among the substitutes.
The left-winger enjoyed extensive game-time during Hernández’s injury absence but impressive performances for the Cuban of late seem to have consigned him to the bench for the foreseeable future.
It must also be said that, after Cantwell came on for Buendía for the final half an hour, he did not have the desired impact. A number of his corners were under-hit and a late free-kick was looped all the way beyond everyone in the penalty area and out for a goal-kick.
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Krul; Lewis (Vrančić 81′), Godfrey, Tettey, Aarons; McLean, Trybull; O Hernández, Stiepermann (Drmic 62′), Buendía (Cantwell 62′); Pukki.
Watford XI (3-5-2): Foster; Cathcart, Dawson, Kabasele; Holebas (Masina 88′), Hughes, Capoue, Doucouré, Janmaat; Pereyra (A Gray 31′), Deulofeu (Mariappa 70′).
GAMEWEEK 12 – FPL MATCH REPORTS
- Norwich City 0-2 Watford
- Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Burnley 3-0 West Ham United
- Newcastle United 2-1 Bournemouth
- Southampton 1-2 Everton
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Everton
- Leicester City 2-0 Arsenal
- Manchester United 3-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Wolves 2-1 Aston Villa
- Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City
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