Aston Villa 0-0 Sheff Utd
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus Points: Dean Henderson x3 (£5.3m), Jack Robinson x2 (£4.0m), Tyrone Mings x1 (£4.4m)
Dean Henderson (£5.3m) may have been the Fantasy Premier League hero on Wednesday evening with his 11-point haul at Aston Villa, but it was the hosts’ defence that held our attention on Wednesday evening.
While the Sheffield United goalkeeper was racking up six saves and maximum bonus points, the Villa defence was arguably keeping things much quieter for their custodian Orjan Nyland (£4.3m).
The Norwegian shot-stopper, who made a surprise start ahead of Pepe Reina (£4.5m) faced just five shots all night and only one on target. Such statistics have been unheard of as far as the Aston Villa defence is concerned this season.
However, we should point out that Nyland certainly rode his luck considering he was responsible for the ball crossing the Aston Villa goal-line in the 41st minute.
In fact, he benefited from the first time that the goal decision system ran into a problem for over 9,000 matches.
Oliver Norwood (£4.9m) looped in a free-kick to the far post from the left-hand side, which Nyland stretched to catch. Unfortunately for the goalkeeper, contact with Keinan Davis (£4.3m) pushed him off-balance, and he collapsed beyond the goal-line, ball-in-hand.
Despite the television images clearly showing the ball was beyond the line, Michael Oliver’s watch did not award a goal. It was later revealed by an unprecedented statement from Hawk-Eye that because of the ball’s close proximity to the post, as well as the goalkeeper and defender, the incident was “occluded” and, therefore, unable to give the goal.
Hawk-Eye statement on the goal line incident during Aston Villa v Sheffield match this evening. pic.twitter.com/I2u5lqKMqe— Hawk-Eye Innovations (@Hawkeye_view) June 17, 2020
The rest of the football community is sure to debate this controversy for days and weeks to come, especially if Aston Villa stay up by one point or on goal difference.
However, Fantasy managers may be slightly more interested in the fact that Villa were able to produce a defensive display not really seen before in 2019/20.
Coming into Double Gameweek 30+ they were still bottom of the league for shots allowed in the box and big chances conceded but, on Wednesday night, things were much improved.
As already mentioned, Sheffield United were restricted to just five shots on Wednesday. That is a significant improvement for Villa’s defence which, in the first 29 Gameweeks conceded an average of 18.1 per game.
While Sheffield United have admittedly been one of the less troubling attacks in the Premier League this season, it is entirely reasonable to ascribe some of the credit for Wednesday’s clean sheet to Dean Smith.
Aston Villa were especially suffering defensive issues between January and March when a 3-4-3 system was being deployed. The attacking runs of established left-back Matt Targett (£4.4m) and the various options on the other flank often left them exposed.
However, a return to 4-3-3 in Double Gameweek 30+ was also accompanied with much more reserved roles for the full-backs Targett and, on Wednesday night, Ezri Konsa (£4.3m). The latter has typically operated as a centre-back this season but he was trusted on the right-hand side of a defence that kept a conservative shape all evening. In general, Smith’s men produced a display characterised by discipline and organisation, something we have not seen from their defence this season.
Aston Villa were also bolstered by a surprise start for John McGinn (£5.5m). The box-to-box midfielder put in a strong shift screening the back-four alongside Douglas Luiz (£4.4m) in the anchor-man position, as well as pushing the midfield battle away from the defence with his energetic runs.
The factors mentioned here could signal some newfound hope for Villa fans that they can tighten up in their hunt to stay in the Premier League and such a shift would mean important changes for Fantasy managers.
While assets in the Villa defence are generally few and far between, it could mean Fantasy managers have to show more caution when considering attacking options against them in future.
Of course, we are just one match into Project Restart for Aston Villa so it is hard to tell if things will actually improve long-term. The weekend’s meeting with Chelsea should prove a helpful test in that respect.
There was also plenty of note in the Aston Villa attack as well, which, despite missing a clinical edge, was the busier of the two sides at Villa park.
Most interesting was a surprise start for Keinan Davis (£4.3m) at centre-forward, in the place of Mbwana Samatta (£5.8m). Not only is Davis exceptionally priced, he is also listed as a midfielder in FPL.
In 69 minutes before Samatta’s introduction, he had more efforts on goal than any other Villa player, although it remains to be seen whether or not he can command the centre-forward position as his own moving forward.
Meanwhile, he was matched in terms of attacking output by centre-back Kortney Hause (£4.4m) who presented himself as a constant threat from set pieces. As this section of the season continues, it may be worth keeping an eye on whether he can sustain that.
It was Conor Hourihane (£5.7m) who was responsible for a fair chunk of Villa’s sustained pressure from set pieces on Wednesday, as he took more corners than any of his colleagues, double the number assigned to Jack Grealish (£6.4m).
The England international, who was quieter than his 26.5% ownership might have wanted, came close to an assist in the first half when his free-kick into the box met the head of McGinn. The Scottish international managed a flick-on but Henderson got behind it.
Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m), operating on the right flank of the front-three, also went close to claiming an assist. He was found behind the Sheffield United defence by an excellent through-ball from Grealish and his square pass was
By contrast, Sheffield United’s attack operated below its usual levels at Villa Park.
It was clear they missed the energy of John Fleck (£5.0m) in the middle of the park. The budget midfielder picked up a training ground injury in the build-up to Double Gameweek 30+ but could be back in time for the trip to Newcastle on Sunday.
“One went down during the game last week, that was (John Fleck). Hopefully, he’ll be fit for Sunday.” – Chris Wilder
However, in the mean-time, it did allow John Lundstram (£4.9m) to last the full 90 minutes in central midfield, producing a five-point score for his 42.8% ownership, clipped by a first-half yellow card.
Whether or not Lundstram will start the second outing of Double Gameweek 30+ remains to be seen. It was Sander Berge (£4.8m) who had his game-time managed against Aston Villa, replaced by Luke Freeman (£5.0m) in the 68th minute potentially with a view on the trip to Newcastle. Of course, Fleck could still make a comeback in time, which we will likely know more about after Chris Wilder’s next press conference.
Sheffield United were also unable to put as much pressure on the Villa defence as they would have liked with Jack O’Connell (£4.7m) unavailable.
The marauding centre-back, responsible for providing the extra-man on the overlap so often for the Blades this season, recently sustained a potentially season-ending knee injury.
“O’Connell tried to stop a goal in training and collided with Dean Henderson. That’s his attitude. If his attitude changed in training, it’d change on a match day.” – Chris Wilder
His absence did result in a more reserved role for Sheffield United’s back-three, and therefore left the rest of their team without the usual rhythm, but it may open up a new option for Fantasy managers.
O’Connell’s replacement was budget defender Jack Robinson (£4.0m) who played 90 minutes and secured two bonus for an eight-point haul.
Sheffield United’s remaining fixtures in 2019/20 are far from appealing but the potential emergence of a new regular starting £4.0m defender from a reasonable productive back-line is not to be sniffed at. Robinson is certainly one to watch the minutes of in upcoming Gameweeks.
Fantasy managers will almost certainly have a tough decision to make over Henderson as well. It was his six saves that ensured Sheffield United added their 11th clean sheet of the campaign on Wednesday. Half-way through the Double Gameweek, he is already on 11-points, and could make a considerable addition to that against Newcastle.
However, he will miss the Gameweek 31+ meeting with Manchester United as he is ineligible to face his parent club and beyond that, the Blades must face Spurs (home), Burnley (away), Wolves (home) and Chelsea (home).
Finally, it is worth noting the impact of substitutions on the game, with the cap increased to five during Project Restart.
Smith made four changes in the match, bringing off McGinn, El Ghazi and Davis around the 70th minute, perhaps with an eye to use them against Chelsea.
Meanwhile, the ever-purist Wilder stuck to just three substitutions at Villa Park, not opting to use the other two available to him.
Aston Villa XI: Nyland; Targett, Mings, Hause, Konsa (El Mohamady 76′); Hourihane, Luiz, McGinn (Nakamba 76′); Grealish, K Davis (Samatta 69′), El Ghazi (Trezeguet 69′).
Sheffield United XI: D Henderson; J Robinson, Egan, Basham; Stevens, Berge (L Freeman 69′), Norwood, Lundstram, Baldock; Sharp (McGoldrick 69′), McBurnie (Mousset 80′).
Double Gameweek 30+ FPL Lessons Learned
- Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
- Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal
- Norwich City 0-3 Southampton
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United
- Watford 1-1 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 Arsenal
- West Ham United 0-2 Wolves
- Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
- Newcastle United 3-0 Sheffield United
- Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
- Everton 0-0 Liverpool
- Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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