Bournemouth 0-3 Watford
- Goals: Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m), Troy Deeney (£6.2m), Roberto Pereyra (£5.6m)
- Assists: Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m), Doucoure, Andre Gray (£5.6m)
- Bonus: Doucoure x3, Deeney x2, Adam Masina (£4.3m), Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) x1
Two teams that started Gameweek 22 in the relegation zone and one point apart met at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday, with Watford running out comfortable 3-0 winners.
There is a stark contrast between the two clubs at present.
The Hornets are revitalised under Nigel Pearson, losing just one of the six matches that he has overseen (away to Liverpool), and several of their players appeal from a Fantasy Premier League perspective.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, are in a real rut and even some favourable fixtures in the next five Gameweeks won’t be enough for many FPL bosses to revisit the Cherries.
Eddie Howe’s side had begun fairly brightly against their visitors this weekend, with Dominic Solanke (£5.2m) almost pouncing on a mishit Adam Smith (£4.3m) shot and Harry Wilson (£5.9m) forcing Ben Foster (£4.9m) into a flying save with one of his trademark free-kicks.
That turned out to be Bournemouth’s only attempt on target in the entire match and, once Watford had broken the deadlock five minutes before the interval, the hosts’ self-belief visibly ebbed away.
Howe acknowledged that confidence was at a low after full-time, saying:
The first goal going in damaged us mentally and we didn’t recover. Confidence is such an important thing to any team and it just felt it was lacking from that goal onwards, it seemed to dent us.
It’s certainly not what we wanted and the performance wasn’t what we wanted either.
We can only regroup, learn from what we’ve delivered, analyse the game properly and improve. We need to rediscover our belief in the team. For me, that’s the only thing missing because we’ve got good players.
Bournemouth’s early pressure was more of a mild breeze than a full-blown storm but once Watford had comfortably seen off the Cherries’ handful of first-half forays into their final third, they began to kick on.
The Hornets are not just well-structured at the back, they are oozing confidence further forward.
The in-form Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m) had already fired a warning shot across the Bournemouth bows early on when breaking clear of Nathan Ake (£4.8m) and fizzing the ball wide, and it was the Senegal international who teed up Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m) for Watford’s opening goal in the 41st minute.
While that attacking return owed a debt to Mark Travers‘ (£4.2m) awful pass out, Sarr was a threat all match and could have had added to his assist.
The Senegalese winger had a shot deflected over on 50 minutes and then spurned a glorious chance soon after, miscuing a volleyed effort from six yards after a weak headed clearance.
He was heavily involved in Watford’s second goal, too, with his run and attempted cross for Doucoure falling kindly for Troy Deeney (£6.2m) to hammer home just after the hour-mark.
Sarr now has five attacking returns to his name in as many Gameweeks, a total that only Manchester City pair Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) can trump among FPL midfielders.
He’s not the only appealing option in this Watford side.
Deeney has four goals to his name since Pearson took charge, while Doucoure has banked four attacking returns in the last three Gameweeks.
Doucoure has flirted with Fantasy managers since his arrival in the Premier League (at least ten attacking returns in each of the last two seasons) and he is certainly thriving in an advanced number ten role, looking more comfortable than he did when stationed further back under Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores.
Pearson revealed afterwards that Doucoure has been playing through the pain barrier:
He’s not trained this week, he had a fitness test on Saturday, so he’s been playing with discomfort for a while and it was touch and go whether he played.
But he’s a very resilient lad and his demeanour’s been very positive. He was desperate to play, but he’s only played today because of conversations that we, as coaching staff, had had with the medical staff to make sure we understand what the risks are.
Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) was the only one of Watford’s front four to blank on Sunday but he has been chipping in with goals and assists of late too and could have had further returns this weekend, forcing Travers into a save at his near post early on and slicing wide when the Hornets broke at pace midway through the second half.
Roberto Pereyra (£5.6m) rounded off the scoring in stoppage time, volleying in the rebound after fellow substitute Andre Gray (£5.6m) had been denied.
At the back, Foster collected his fourth clean sheet in seven Gameweeks but was scarcely troubled in the away goal.
Bournemouth have scored a miserable seven goals in 15 league matches and there will seldom be easier shut-outs than this but Pearson deserves credit for his work with the Hornets, with hitherto unconvincing options such as Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) and Adam Masina (£4.3m) solid at full-back on Sunday.
Those two players picked up bonus points to go with their clean sheets, although the likes of Kiko Femenia (£4.2m) and Daryl Janmaat (£4.1m) are still to return from injury and it remains to be seen who Pearson favours when all of his defensive options are available.
Christian Kabasele (£4.3m) is due back from suspension at centre-half in Gameweek 23, meanwhile, with Craig Cathcart (£4.3m) looking about as nailed an option among those playing in front of Foster in the medium-term.
Reflecting on the game, Pearson said:
There have been times when we’ve played some really good football and won games and then today was an example of having to show quite a bit of resilience and game understanding, but also using our quality when we could and I thought our counter-attacking situations were really good.
We created a lot of chances, we defended set plays with an incredible desire to keep the ball out of the net, and we needed to.
It’s a great result for us, but we have to keep our focus from here on in.
As for the Cherries, they sit second-top of our Season Ticker over the next five Gameweeks – but who would back their FPL assets at present?
As well as scoring at a rate of 0.47 goals per match over the last 15 Gameweeks, Howe’s troops have kept one clean sheet in 11 league fixtures.
Their most-owned FPL asset, Diego Rico (£4.4m) was dropped to the bench for this one, while goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (£4.7m) missed out through injury.
Howe at least had the consolation of welcoming Ake and Smith back from recent lay-offs and afterwards said that Ramsdale’s issue wasn’t too serious:
He went to catch a ball yesterday in training and just felt something. I don’t think it’s serious, I think it is very minor but it was enough to see him miss today.
Callum Wilson‘s (£7.4m) own FPL form mirrors his team’s and he is without an attacking return since Gameweek 7, with the mid-price FPL forward having few chances to get on the scoresheet this weekend.
The upcoming fixtures might be better than Watford’s (the Hornets are towards the bottom of our Season Ticker in the medium-term) but Bournemouth’s horrendous form is surely more of a factor at present.
Bournemouth XI (4-4-2): Travers; Smith, Francis, S. Cook, Ake; Gosling (L. Cook 59′), Lerma (Billing 59′); H. Wilson (Surridge 75′), Fraser; Solanke, C. Wilson.
Watford XI (4-2-3-1): Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Chalobah, Capoue; Sarr (Pereyra 83′), Doucoure (Quina 86′), Deulofeu (Gray 90′); Deeney.
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