Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United
- Goals: Conor Hourihane (£5.7m), Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m)
- Assists: Jack Grealish (£5.9m), Hourihane
- Bonus: Hourihane x3, Frederic Guilbert (£4.4m) x2, Matt Targett (£4.4m) x1
The final match of Gameweek 13 was the story of Conor Hourihane‘s (£5.7m) dead-ball expertise and Newcastle United’s inability to deal with it.
A non-descript game seemed to have all the hallmarks of a goalless draw in the first half an hour, with the Magpies’ trademark backs-to-the-wall approach to away fixtures initially working well.
There hadn’t really been a chance of note until Conor Hourihane (£5.7m) struck a superb free-kick past Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) after 32 minutes, with the Irish midfielder turning provider soon after when assisting Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) from another set-piece situation.
During the international break, we discussed how Villa had struggled at free-kicks and corners with Hourihane out of the side.
For all his limitations as a central midfielder, Hourihane’s dead-ball deliveries do give Villa an extra attacking dimension and they were ultimately the difference between the two sides on Monday.
He could indeed have had another assist late on, had Wesley (£6.0m) not fired at Dubravka from point-blank range.
Dean Smith said of the Ireland international after full-time:
He wasn’t happy when I left him out of the game against Manchester City away and I understand why, but it’s a squad game and I have decisions to make.
I knew we’d spend an awful lot of time defending and today I knew we’d have a lot more of the ball.
He’s answered me back in the best way. He scored against Norwich, he scored against Brighton and he’s scored again today, so I’m really pleased for him.
The Magpies, meanwhile, have conceded from a set play in each of the last three Gameweeks.
No side allowed more headed chances or efforts from set-piece situations in 2018/19 and a change of regime hasn’t improved much, with Steve Bruce’s outfit again joint-bottom for headed opportunities conceded this season and in the bottom seven for attempts from corners and free-kicks conceded.
Indeed, over the last six Gameweeks, no other club has allowed more of either.
This may well be of interest to owners of Kevin De Bruyne (£10.2m), with Manchester City up next for Newcastle in Gameweek 14.
Aston Villa assets may not be top of many Fantasy managers’ shopping lists at present, with the Villans third-bottom of our Season Ticker over the next four matches.
There are some appetising matches beyond that, though, and Jack Grealish (£5.9m) and John McGinn (£5.9m) may well be key midfield targets come Gameweek 18.
The returning Grealish, back after a month out, was at the centre of most of Villa’s play on Monday, having more touches than any other player on show.
It was a little ironic that, for all of his creativity and goal threat against the Magpies, his sole attacking return was an assist for a lay-off for Hourihane’s free-kick.
That was his fifth FPL contribution in six starts and the move to a narrow left-wing role from Gameweek 7 has only boosted his appeal.
Grealish is also the most fouled player in the Premier League this season, which, as we’ve seen with Wilfried Zaha (£6.6m) at Crystal Palace, can be a source of Fantasy assists.
Unsurprisingly, it was Grealish who won both of Villa’s free-kicks for the goals.
Smith said of his talismanic midfielder after full-time:
He’s a constant threat and he moves around the pitch really well into positions where people don’t want to come and tackle him.
The opposition get frustrated and two free-kicks against him end up with two goals for us.
Knowing Jack, he’ll be disappointed he hasn’t got on the scoresheet himself.
McGinn, the highest-owned player in the Monday night game, blanked for the fifth time in six Gameweeks but he too was a threat, if only in the last quarter of an hour when the game opened up.
The Scotland international fired narrowly wide from inside the box as the match entered stoppage time before striking the woodwork with the final kick of the game.
The fit-again Tom Heaton (£4.5m) and Villa kept their first clean sheet since Gameweek 5, meanwhile, although one look at the short-term fixture list will deter many from reconsidering the Villans’ defensive options for now.
Newcastle themselves have a tricky double-header against City and Sheffield United coming up and will likely not appeal to FPL bosses until Gameweek 16.
The Magpies had scored six goals in the three previous Gameweeks but five of those strikes were by defenders; not a sustainable source of goals, you’d think.
The occasionally brilliant Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m) was by some distance the pick of United’s players, registering more than three times as many take-ons as anyone else at Villa Park and testing Heaton with a curling, 46th-minute effort.
With a continued lack of support around him, however, attacking returns may be irregular at best, despite his eye-catching trickery.
A Federico Fernandez (£4.4m) header and an Andy Carroll (£5.4m) volley – both of which were saved – were as close as the Magpies came to ruining Heaton’s clean sheet but in truth, Villa looked more likely to score a third than concede a consolation.
Bruce cited the absence of skipper Jamaal Lascelles (£4.4m) as a mitigating factor, saying:
The first half, in particular, we did not do enough with or without the ball. We felt we were harshly done by with two free-kicks, but the way Conor Hourihane has executed them made it a difficult night.
Conor is very good, I have seen it many times and he has the accuracy and power to score. The second one, our defenders have to defend better, too many stood and watched it.
Jamaal Lascelles is our captain and has been playing very well. Last week the defenders were excellent but you are always going to miss your best players.
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Gameweek 13 – FPL Match Reports
- West Ham United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal 2-2 Southampton
- AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Leicester City
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
- Everton 0-2 Norwich City
- Watford 0-3 Burnley
- Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
- Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United
- Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United
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