Southampton 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goal: Danny Ings (£6.7m)
- Assist: Jack Stephens (£4.3m)
- Bonus: Ings x3, Jack Stephens (£4.3m) x2, Alex McCarthy (£4.3m) x1
Danny Ings (£6.7m) continued his superb goalscoring run as Southampton saw off a lacklustre Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary’s Stadium.
The striker made it nine goals from his last nine starts to round off an excellent festive run for the Saints, who have taken 10 points from 12 over Christmas.
The contrast with the lot of Spurs forward Harry Kane (£11.0m) could not have been more stark, the England captain limping off with a hamstring issue that could well prompt a flurry of sales among his 20.4% Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership.
The injury came as he stretched to prod home what looked like an equaliser for the visitors, only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for offside.
It would have been an undeserved strike either way as Southampton out-fought, and for the most part outplayed, a one-paced Spurs side for the majority of the match.
Chances were at a premium throughout – no player had more than three attempts – but Ings took the best of his two with aplomb.
The 17.2%-owned forward latched onto a ball over the top by Jack Stephens (£4.3m) before flicking it past the flat-footed Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) and finishing smartly on his left foot.
The lack of goalmouth action made for dreary viewing, although the select few with Southampton defenders in their Fantasy sides won’t have cared as they banked clean sheet points for the second time in three Gameweeks.
Alex McCarthy (£4.3m) was the busier of the two keepers, but none of his five saves were any more than regulation ones as Tottenham lacked purpose and cohesion in the final third.
The potential loss of Kane for any length of time will not help remedy that, with Jose Mourinho’s initial assessment understandably guarded.
It is negative, hamstring is always negative. Is it a tear? Is it a small thing? At this moment I cannot say.
The Spurs coach was rather more forthright about midfielder Tanguy Ndombele (£5.8m), who had to be taken off in the first half after taking a knock to the knee.
He’s always injured. He’s injured, he’s not injured, he plays one match. This is the same since the beginning of the season.
Mourinho claimed to be a changed man following the bitter end to his time at Manchester United, but publicly singling out a player for criticism has been a long, and generally divisive, tactic of his. How Ndombele and his team-mates respond to it will be worth keeping an eye on.
For now, however, most eyes will be on Southampton assets.
Ings’ ownership has ballooned by nearly one million in eight Gameweeks and looks certain to rise ever higher over the coming weeks.
The Saints will have to travel to both Leicester City and Liverpool in the next four Gameweeks, but will fear nobody having beaten both Chelsea and Spurs over Christmas.
And after Gameweek 25, a five-match run of attractive fixtures awaits, suggesting that investment in more than Ings might be worth considering.
Coach Ralph Hasehuttl was certainly happy to spread the praise post-match:
It’s the first step in the right direction if you defend like a Premier League team and at the moment we are defending very well. We know we can always score with Ingsy up front. When he has a chance, the chance is big that he scores and it’s enjoyable to watch this team at the moment.”
Stephens’ assist capped a fine four matches for the defender, who has also scored and kept two clean sheets over that period.
And in midfield, a revitalised Nathan Redmond (£6.2m) and the industrious Stuart Armstrong (£5.2m) led the way for both attempts and chances created against the Londoners.
Spurs’ schedule is less inviting, and their form too inconsistent, to warrant much interest.
Mourinho’s men have badly missed the pace and directness of the suspended Son Heung-min (£9.8m) of late and his return can’t come soon enough – particularly if Kane ends up sidelined for a significant spell.
Southampton XI (4-2-2-2): McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Djenepo (Long 58′), Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Armstrong (Romeu 90′), Redmond, Ings (Obafemi 76′).
Spurs XI (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sessegnon, Sissoko, Ndombele (Lo Celso 25′), Eriksen, Alli, Moura, Kane (Lamela 75′).
Watford 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m) | Pedro Neto (£5.0m)
- Assists: Deulofeu, Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m) | Joao Moutinho (£5.4m)
- Bonus: Deulofeu x3, Doucoure x2, Moutinho x1
Watford’s bid to escape the nether regions of the Premier League gathered pace with a third straight home win since Nigel Pearson took charge.
The Hornets had to dig deep to see off Wolves, surviving with ten men for the last 20 minutes when Christian Kabesele (£4.3m) was shown a red card, after VAR intervened, for hauling down Diogo Jota (£6.1m).
That decision, and a 60th-minute goal from Pedro Neto (£5.0m), meant a nervy end to a game that the hosts had previously controlled.
A 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) and Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m), didn’t flatter Watford, although neither attack overly worked the goalkeepers, with the sides managing just seven shots on target between them.
Deulofeu opened the scoring when Wolves gave away possession inside their own half and the Spaniard finished with assurance when played in by Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m).
The attacking pair have form and fixtures on their side as they start the new year.
Striker Deulofeu has two goals and an assist to his name in the last three matches, while Sarr has two of each since Gameweek 18 ushered in the packed Christmas schedule.
Watford’s next five fixtures should tempt Fantasy managers to consider at least of one of them.
They’ll face Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Everton and Brighton, while a Gameweek 23 visit from Spurs looks the toughest test on paper.
With Pearson in charge, the belief is flowing back into the side, perhaps best exemplified by the emergence of Doucoure as an attacking threat.
The new manager has been employing the midfielder in a more advanced role and he has responded with a goal and an assist from the last two Gameweeks.
Clean sheets are also back on the table – the Hornets have kept three from Gameweek 16 – although injuries, and Kabasele’s dismissal, are now leaving them dangerously light at the back.
That situation wasn’t helped by Keko Femenia (£4.2m) being subbed off seconds before the magic 60-minute mark against Wolves, denying his (small) army of owners shut-out points. The move wasn’t tactical as the defender required treatment before he left the pitch, but there was no immediate indication as to the nature or severity of the problem.
Wolves got a goal back immediately after Femenia went off when Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) set up Neto, whose shot took a deflection on its way past Ben Foster (£4.8m).
The home keeper was only worked sporadically after that, even when Watford were down to ten men, as his team-mates repelled the visitors time and time again – eight of the top ten players for clearances, blocks and interceptions were Watford assets.
That resilience was recognised by Pearson in his post-match comments.
At times we’ve played some really good football and won, but today it was about showing desire and character as well as ability.
Wolves, meanwhile, looked tired – hardly surprising as they were playing their 35th game of a long and well-travelled season so far.
The main Fantasy interest in their stars centred on Adama Traore (£5.6m), who was the most transferred-in player for the Gameweek, with 502,389 new owners.
But the winger was a peripheral figure who managed no attempts and created just a couple of chances.
As a team, Wolves lacked a cutting edge. They had 16 shots all in, but only four on target, with wing-back Matt Doherty (£6.1m) having half of those himself.
Coach Nuno Espirito Santo was honest enough to acknowledge his side’s deficiencies when he spoke after the game:
We didn’t create enough to really come to the draw and get what we wanted – a good performance, a team with character – we didn’t have that today. But we should improve and we should perform better.
Wolves’ fixtures, in the very short term, are good, with Newcastle at home and Southampton away.
Things turn nasty after that, however, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Leicester and Spurs to play during a five-match spell from Gameweek 24.
The side remain good enough to beat pretty much anyone on their day, but fatigue and a lack of defensive stability – they’ve not kept a clean sheet since Gameweek 15 – mean few Fantasy managers will look past the prospect of points offered by the goals of Raul Jimenez (£7.5m).
Watford XI (4-2-3-1): Foster, Dawson, Kabasele, Cathcart, Femenia (Holebas 60′), Capoue, Chalobah, Sarr (Pereyra 90′), Doucoure, Deulofeu (Masina 73′), Deeney
Wolves XI (3-4-3): Patricio, Doherty, Bennett (Neves 54′), Coady, Dendoncker, Jonny (Vinagre 54′), Saiss, Moutinho, Neto (Jota 66′), Jimenez, Traore.
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