Aston Villa 1-4 Leicester City
- Goals: Jack Grealish (£6.0m) | Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) x2, Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m), Jonny Evans (£5.1m)
- Assists: Ezri Konsa (£4.3m) | Iheanacho, James Maddison (£7.7m) x2, Dennis Praet (£5.3m)
- Bonus: Vardy x3, Iheanacho x2, Maddison x1
Jamie Vardy‘s (£10.0m) scoring streak now extends to eight Premier League games after his brace in Leicester City’s 4-1 win over Aston Villa.
Vardy’s 13-point return was also his sixth double-digit haul of the season, which no other Fantasy asset can trump.
His total of 128 points in Fantasy Premier League is almost 75% of what he managed in the whole of 2018/19, while he is only three attacking returns away from matching last season’s total of 23 goals and assists.
The premium FPL forward is also a remarkable 47 points ahead of Raheem Sterling (£11.8m) at the time of writing.
Eye-catching numbers aside, there is, quite frankly, little left to discuss when it comes to Vardy.
Plenty of column inches have already been devoted to underlying stats, expected goals, conversion rates and ‘regression’ this season, and there will, of course, come a point when his rate of attacking returns slows slightly.
There’ll be few banking on that happening next weekend when Norwich City visit the King Power Stadium, while even the Gameweek 18 trip to the Etihad ought to provide Vardy with ample space given what we saw in the Manchester derby on Saturday (and in numerous other City games before that).
Confidence is an unquantifiable measure of a player (although goal conversion rate does give a good indication) but Vardy is clearly brimming with it, and he was at his swaggering, ear-cupping, crowd-incensing best at Villa Park.
His first goal did owe a bit to good fortune, as he was allowed a second bite at the cherry when rounding Tom Heaton (£4.5m) and miscuing a shot – the Leicester striker reacting before the home goalkeeper and stumbling covering defender Ezri Konsa (£4.3m) to pick up the loose ball and finish.
Vardy’s second strike was the in-form forward at his best, though, as he raced clear of the Villa defence to coolly convert a Dennis Praet (£5.3m) through ball and round off the scoring.
As ever, there could have been other attacking returns: Heaton saved an early Vardy shot, while there were some nearly moments when his intelligent movement wasn’t rewarded with an accurate pass from a team-mate.
Vardy also teed up James Maddison (£7.7m) for a shot that struck Heaton’s post in the second half.
While the scoreline suggested this was business as usual for Leicester, there were some tactical changes to note.
After naming the same starting XI for seven matches in a row, Brendan Rodgers opted to make two alterations to his team by bringing in Praet and Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) at the expense of wingers Harvey Barnes (£5.9m) and Ayoze Perez (£6.2m).
That also meant a change in shape, with the 4-1-4-1 shelved in favour of a 4-4-2 diamond.
Rodgers has barely put a foot wrong this season and the system tweak worked well, with Villa’s gung-ho full-backs occasionally leaving central strikers Vardy and Iheanacho with two-on-two situations when possession was lost (as happened with the first goal).
Iheanacho claimed the assist for Vardy’s deadlock-breaking strike and was to get on the scoresheet himself before half-time, volleying in a superb Maddison cross to put the Foxes 2-0 up.
That was the Nigerian striker’s second double-digit haul in the space of three Gameweeks but it still seems premature to talk of him in Fantasy terms, given that this was his first league start of the season and that his last game-changing contribution (against Everton) was rewarded with a no-show the following Gameweek.
Rodgers said of Iheanacho after full-time:
I thought he was great, he played the role how we wanted him to play. I just think with Kels now he is settling into being a Leicester City player.
Absolutely first class in his training. You have seen it in the cup games, he comes in and scores. It is just a case of him coming in with confidence. Today, I thought he was very good. His hold-up play, his link up with the midfield. He was excellent.
With this being the busy festive season, it may be that Barnes and Perez were simply rested and will be back in the starting XI next weekend, with the Foxes reverting to their usual 4-1-4-1 set-up.
Sunday’s formation change was also perhaps the best way of including Iheanacho and Praet in their favoured positions.
However, this is a system that Rodgers experimented with in pre-season, and Perez’s hit-and-miss form doesn’t make him a certainty to return against Daniel Farke’s side.
Norwich also tend to push their full-backs high up the field, so Rodgers could potentially use a diamond again next weekend to exploit any two-on-two situations.
Explaining his tactics after the game, the Leicester boss said:
I said when I first came in that having tactical flexibility is so important. The style will always stay the same, how we want to build the game, how we want to play. But having that ability to be able to change systems and give teams different problems is how we want to work.
We did it in pre-season in our preparation phase so we could lay in some principles for that. We felt we have never really had to use it up until this point, but the players carried it out ever so well. The players were so good in how they coped with it.
I felt that, sometimes when you come away from home and you play agaainst a good attacking team like Aston Villa, the full-backs will go. And the midfield is very strong, in there with the three boys [McGinn, Nakamba, Luiz]. Young Grealish comes in off the side.
I just felt having four in there gives us the extra man. And if you’re playing a team at home and they want to commit the full-backs forward, gives us two v two versus the centre-halves.
The formation change certainly helped Maddison, who was occupying the number ten role ahead of the more withdrawn Praet and Youri Tielemans (£6.6m).
Roaming across the pitch rather than restricted to the left, Maddison posed more of a sustained goal threat than he had done in recent weeks (the last-minute goal against Watford being his only shot of the game) and ought to have scored when striking the upright in the 67th minute.
The England midfielder’s two assists took him to ten attacking returns for the season and leaves him fifth in the overall points standings among FPL midfielders.
One of the assists came from a corner and Leicester were a threat from set plays all afternoon, with Jonny Evans (£5.1m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£5.1m) both being denied from point-blank range either side of Evans’ looping headed goal from a Maddison cross.
Afterwards, Rodgers hailed the work of assistant manager Chris Davies on the training ground:
Chris does our attacking set-plays, so he looks in detail at those and is always creative and inventive with those.
That was one that he’d looked at in terms of trying to get Jonny free out at the back and, of course, he made a great header and it was a very good goal, especially early on in the second half.
We conceded just before half-time from a second-phase corner, which disappointed us. However, I felt in the first half, we’d still played really well, and it was just a case of keeping going. I thought we did that.
Leicester may not find all opponents so obliging, however: Villa have conceded more attempts from dead-ball situations than any other side this season.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Rodgers’ troops and their diamond formation did leave them occasionally exposed down the flanks, with Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) blazing one glorious chance against the woodwork from a Matt Targett (£4.4m) cross.
Jack Grealish (£6.0m) denied the Foxes an eighth clean sheet of the season just before half-time, firing in after the visitors had failed to deal with a set play.
Villa continue to pose an attacking threat in most games and Grealish looks set to be a popular option over the Christmas period, with the Villans’ fixtures among the best in the division and the midfielder himself in a rich vein of form: this was his sixth FPL attacking return in seven starts, with his only blanks over that period coming away at Chelsea and Manchester City.
One caveat, however: Grealish picked up his fourth booking of the season on Sunday and is now just one caution away from a suspension.
Defensively, Villa were all over the shop, however.
Barnes should have scored on two occasions when coming off the bench, as chances came thick and fast for the visitors.
Indeed, no Premier League team have allowed more attempts on goal than Villa in Gameweek 16 so far.
Smith said of his side’s defending:
Listen, you can’t expect to win football matches at Villa Park when you concede 23 opportunities. Saying that, we go toe-to-toe with teams because we had 15 ourselves. I just feel, defensively, our structure should be better. Individually, our defending has to be a little bit better.
Up until half-time, we had as many chances as Leicester. They were more clinical. They’ve got a player who, two-and-a-half years ago, was a £70m player who’s in a rich vein of form at the moment. It was always going to be difficult to contain.
None of the goals were due to the tactics, I must admit. Tactics went out of it. The difference was they went over the top with Vardy a couple of times and got really good chances from it.
We switched play a number of times in the first half and got at their full-backs, we could have scored the first goal but we didn’t take our chances.
I was quite happy they were playing a diamond in all honesty. Get our full-backs to tuck in, we’ve got Nakamba and we had a four-vs-three there. We just didn’t defend the goals well enough.
The fixture swing will give them a better chance of clean sheets, at least, with their three previous shut-outs coming in ‘easier’ home fixtures against Everton, West Ham and Newcastle.
The Villans may be without two members of their first-choice back four, however.
Tyrone Mings (£4.5m) succumbed to what looked like a hamstring injury in the first half (his mobility limited when Vardy opened the scoring), while Targett was also forced off later in the game.
Speaking after the game, Smith said:
I thought [Mings] pulled his hamstring straight away, that’s why I called Bjorn Engels. He’s never had a muscle injury before. The message I got from the medical staff was that he wanted to carry on. He felt it might’ve been cramp and not a muscle injury, so we carried on but, unfortunately, they scored. We’ll wait for a scan. It’s a hamstring injury of some sort and we’ll find out.
I don’t know about Matt [Targett] to be honest. All I got told was that he had to come off.
Frederic Guilbert (£4.4m) returned from suspension in this match but was only among the substitutes, replacing Targett late on.
Become a Member and get unrestricted access to our data and articles
Full-year memberships are now available for the price of £17.50. Monthly subscriptions also cost just £2.99.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- Enjoy our brand NEW Flat-Track Bully feature which introduces an opposition filter to your tables.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.