With another set of fixtures fast approaching on Boxing Day, we continue our whirlwind review of Gameweek 18 with a look back at Sunday’s fixtures.
Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Chelsea
- Goals: Willian (£7.0m) x2
- Assists: Mateo Kovacic (£5.3m), Marcos Alonso (£6.0m)
- Bonus: Willian x3, Alonso x2, Fikayo Tomori (£4.8m)
Son Heung-min (£10.1m) will miss the rest of the hectic Christmas period after being dismissed for violent conduct in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Son was sent off on the advice of the Video Assistant Referee after kicking out at Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m), with Gameweeks 18’s fourth-most-bought FPL asset seeing red for the second time in eight league matches.
Unlike his dismissal at Goodison Park back in early-November, however, Son stands little chance of having this red card rescinded.
Over 250,000 FPL managers have sold Son since he got his marching orders at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the South Korea international now unavailable until the Gameweek 22 meeting with Liverpool.
Spurs’ other FPL assets didn’t fare much better, as Jose Mourinho’s side were comprehensively outplayed by a Chelsea side that had lost four of their last five league matches.
The Lilywhites had just five attempts on goal all match, with two wild efforts from Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Son just before the half-hour mark as close as they came to breaching a Blues defence that previously hadn’t kept a clean sheet on the road all season.
Dele Alli (£8.8m), roaming disconcertingly deep, failed to register a single shot, key pass or penalty box touch.
As happened against Wolves and Manchester United, Spurs lost the midfield battle and delivered a strangely lethargic performance.
Defensively, the question marks are still there too – it’s still just one clean sheet in six league matches under Mourinho since he took charge in late-November.
Chelsea’s goals were preventable, with Willian (£7.0m) not being picked up from a corner before Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.6m) committed a senseless foul on Marcos Alonso (£6.0m) to gift the Brazilian the chance to double the lead from 12 yards.
Bemoaning the two goals that Spurs conceded, Mourinho said:
The first goal is a short corner with a big mistake. We know how to defend short corners, we train how to deal with short corners. The players involved in the short corner solution were not focused. So you concede a goal with a short corner and you concede a goal with a penalty. So the goals didn’t come from that superiority, they came from mistakes.
Perhaps Frank Lampard had seen enough of Spurs in Gameweek 17 to see how much they struggled against a 3-4-3, with the Chelsea boss moving to a wing-back system for this encounter.
Fikayo Tomori (£4.8m) was recalled to the backline and helped completely nullify the Spurs frontline, picking up a bonus point for his efforts.
Willian, deployed on the left flank, was the star of the show, and now has more FPL points to his name than any other Chelsea midfielder this season.
It wasn’t just his goals, either, as the Brazilian created as many chances as the rest of the Chelsea team combined.
While this was a great afternoon for Chelsea supporters, owners of the Blues’ three most-popular FPL assets didn’t have any joy.
Tammy Abraham (£7.9m) was a handful but blanked for the third Gameweek in a row, while Christian Pulisic (£7.3m) didn’t even make it onto the pitch as he was benched for the first time since Gameweek 9.
Mason Mount (£6.5m) also drew a blank but produced an eye-catching display, looking particularly lively early on and being only a pass or two away from delivering an attacking return of his own as Chelsea’s front three attacked with menace.
Mount was intriguingly stationed on the right flank at first, although drifted across the frontline and often ended up close to Willian on the opposite side.
It will be interesting to see what formation Lampard picks for the more ‘winnable’ home fixture against Southampton on Boxing Day but he will definitely be without Mateo Kovacic (£5.3m) through suspension after the Croatia international picked up his fifth booking of the season.
Cesar Azplicueta (£5.8m), who along with the recalled Alonso put in a steady shift at wing-back, also succumbed to a hamstring injury late on, while Abraham appeared to be suffering from the effects of cramp shortly before being substituted.
Asked if he was mimicking Antonio Conte’s set-up, Lampard said:
It was more, can this be a system that helps us defensively and offensively against Tottenham, with the way they play? Watching Tottenham, they’re playing very well, they have a lot of players who can run behind and cause you problems: Son, Kane, Alli, Moura. Having an extra centre-back gives you an element of protection against that, particular with the athletic centre-backs we have. They never got in on that pass today.
But the most important factor in my thinking was what it could give us offensively, in terms of controlling possession. Tottenham defended quite compact, we needed to use the width of the pitch and wing-backs help you do that.
We haven’t been clinical enough lately, and it allowed us to get Mason Mount and Willian slightly inside behind Tammy. We had an element of protection the way it worked. Also it allowed us to have loads of control of the ball. I’m so pleased with how it went.
In ugly scenes in the second half, Rudiger was the victim of alleged racist abuse from sections of the crowd; Spurs confirmed after the match that they were investigating the incident.
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Winks 74′); Dier (Eriksen 45′), Sissoko; Son, Alli, Moura (Ndombele 74′); Kane.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa; Rudiger, Zouma, Tomori; Azpilicueta (James 79′), Kante, Kovacic (Jorginho 67′), Alonso; Mount, Abraham (Batshuayi 79′), Willian.
Watford 2-0 Manchester United
- Goals: Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m), Troy Deeney (£6.2m)
- Assists: Christian Kabasele (£4.3m), Sarr
- Bonus: Ben Foster (£4.8m) x3, Kabasele, Sarr x2
Last week we wrote about the ongoing struggles of Manchester United against the so-called ‘smaller’ teams in the Premier League, following their 1-1 draw against Everton.
We may as well have reproduced the same copy this week as the Red Devils slumped to another disappointing defeat, this time against a team rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
United didn’t have a single shot on target in the first half and, much like at Bramall Lane in Gameweek 13, it was only when they fell 2-0 behind that they cranked into gear.
There was to be no late comeback in this game, though, with Ben Foster (£4.8m) standing firm in the Hornets’ goal and racking up eight saves (as well as maximum bonus points) to preserve Watford’s first clean sheet under Nigel Pearson.
Anthony Martial (£7.7m) was no less sulky than he had been last week but was at least more lively, creating three excellent chances for Jesse Lingard (£6.3m), Marcus Rashford (£9.1m) and Paul Pogba (£8.4m) – all of which went begging.
Lingard’s opportunity was particularly gilt-edged, with the United midfielder opting for a dinked finish but giving too much leverage to his shot.
This was also about as ineffective as Rashford had been since the defeat to Bournemouth, with the in-demand FPL forward never really getting the better of makeshift Watford right-back Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m).
A way-too-ambitious free-kick from out wide was his only effort on goal before the final minute of normal time, when Foster blocked the aforementioned ‘big chance’ that Martial laid on.
With Lingard and Daniel James (£6.2m) similarly toiling and there being little inspiration from the players further back, owners of Rashford and co may have understandable concerns going into the Boxing Day clash against a Newcastle United side who will likely replicate the performance of Watford (and others) by sitting deep to prevent a team so adept at counter-attacking from breaking at speed.
Salvation may have arrived in Pogba, however.
The Frenchman was surprisingly named on the bench at Vicarage Road, emerging as a second-half substitute for his first taste of competitive football in almost three months.
United looked much the better with Pogba in the side, with the France international providing two glorious passes for Rashford and substitute Mason Greenwood (£4.3m), neither of which were capitalised on.
Pogba stung the hands of Foster after some neat interplay with Martial, too, providing the drive that United had so badly lacked before his introduction.
Owners of Rashford et al will probably not be selling before a home match against Newcastle and the hope from their point of view will perhaps be that Pogba is fit enough to be unleashed from the start against the Magpies to provide the Red Devils with the thrust they so crave.
Speaking of the fit-again Frenchman after the game, Solskjaer said:
It’s a big plus. The boy has been working hard, he’s been desperate to play football and he came on and showed that hunger, urgency and quality so I’m sure we’ll benefit from him coming back.
There was nothing good to report at the back, either.
David de Gea (£5.5m) produced a howler to allow Ismaila Sarr‘s (£6.2m) mishit shot to top-spin its way past him at the near post before Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) needlessly committed a foul on Sarr to allow Troy Deeney (£6.2m) to score from 12 yards.
It’s now 13 matches without a clean sheet for United in the Premier League.
Reflecting on the game, Solskjaer said:
It’s very disappointing. I’m disappointed with the first half, more than the second to be fair. It was slow, a testimonial pace, no urgency and coming into half-time, you expect a reaction. Of course, they score that first goal, it’s a freak thing. That happens in football at times and we couldn’t recover from it.
It’s still early days for Pearson-era Watford and an away fixture at Sheffield United on Boxing Day will likely be enough to deter Fantasy investment in the Hornets for the time being.
Still, a positive performance in defeat at Anfield last week was built on yesterday, with Watford recording their first home win of the season.
This wasn’t quite as free-flowing a display as we saw at Liverpool, as Pearson said after full-time:
When you play the stellar teams in the Premier League it’s going to be important to function as a team and I thought we did that, we were organised and disciplined today. I didn’t think we played quite as well as we did last week but the work ethic of the team was exceptionally good today.
Whilst mostly thanks to the impact of the pragmatic Quique Sanchez Flores, no team has kept more clean sheets than Watford (five) in the last 11 Gameweeks.
Defence still looks to be the area where Fantasy managers may target if the new manager bounce continues, with Mariappa and Kiko Femenia (£4.2m) particularly impressive in unnatural roles at full-back (Femenia being stationed on his ‘wrong’ side, at left-back).
Watford (4-2-3-1): Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia; Capoue (Pereyra 77′), Hughes; Sarr (Success 87′, Doucoure (Chalobah 69′), Deulofeu; Deeney.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay (Mata 72′), Fred; James (Greenwood 58′) Lingard (Pogba 64′), Rashford; Martial.
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