Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
- Goals: Dwight Gayle (£5.0m) | Ahmed El Mohamady (£4.1m)
- Assists: Andy Carroll (£5.4m) | Conor Hourihane (£5.7m)
- Bonus Points: Gayle x3, Matt Ritchie x2 (£5.3m), Jonjo Shelvey x1 (£4.9m), El Mohamady x1, Hourihane x1, Ezri Konsa x1 (£4.3m)
An entertaining draw with Newcastle led Aston Villa Dean Smith to decry an ‘annoying point’, while most Fantasy managers were just left annoyed.
Of the seven players who scored, assisted or were awarded bonus points, none of them were owned by more than 0.9% of FPL bosses.
Fantasy interest was instead concentrated on the 23.1%-owned Villa midfielder Jack Grealish (£6.3m), who blanked for a fifth straight match, and various members of Newcastle’s defence, which failed to keep a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
The game went full cliché by being of two halves. The first belonged to Villa, who went close through Trezeguet (£5.2m) and Mbwana Samatta (£5.6m), both from excellent deliveries from the right, while Newcastle looked much more threatening in the second once Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m) decided to come alive.
But it took Newcastle substitutes to break the deadlock, with Andy Carroll (£5.4m) holding the ball up wide on the right before feeding Dwight Gayle (£5.0m), who finished calmly for his first goal of the campaign.
Other than that, the Magpies’ brightest attacking spark was Matt Ritchie (£5.3m), classified as a defender in FPL this season but playing as a midfielder for the most part.
The Scotland international was joint-top for attempts and was a creative force as well, his all-round performance earning him a bonus point even though he had to go off with an injury after 67 minutes. Crucially, he was the only Newcastle defender to benefit from a clean sheet.
Midfielder Isaac Hayden (£4.4m) was another to succumb to a knock, with Newcastle manager Steve Bruce providing an update on both post-match.
“Both soft tissue. Well have to wait and see. We hope we’ve caught it, it’s more precautionary. We have to err with caution.” – Steve Bruce
Ritchie, in particular, remains an attractive Fantasy proposition in his current out-of-position role as the Newcastle defence is generally solid at present.
The Magpies’ schedule is good, although they do have Liverpool and Manchester City to play still, and Bruce is hoping his players will finish the season strongly.
“We can’t forget that we have a great opportunity to push on a bit now. Can we push on and catch the teams above us and finish the season looking upwards, rather than just looking over our shoulders?” – Steve Bruce
If investment in Newcastle’s backline therefore remains viable, Villa’s prospects, both real and Fantasy, are considerably less promising.
Ahmed El Mohamady‘s (£4.1m) late equaliser, from fellow substitute Conor Hourihane‘s (£5.7m) corner, was deserved, although it did involve a rare error from home keeper Martin Dubravka (£5.1m), who allowed the defender’s header to slip under his body.
But Smith was more interested in his side’s improved defensive performances since the resumption of top-flight football.
“We’ve been conceding too many goals and too many chances all season. It’s no surprise to me that the first two games back, on expected goals, we’ve deserved to win. The fact that we’re restricting good teams to so few chances can only be a positive.” – Dean Smith
‘Positive’ is not a word that can be applied to Villa’s run-in, however.
They have to face Wolves, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton over the next five Gameweeks and with Grealish seemingly struggling through a points drought, few of the team’s others players are much more tempting for such a tough schedule.
Newcastle (4-3-2-1): Dubravka; Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Rose; Ritchie (Gayle 67′), Shelvey, Hayden (Bentaleb 86′); Saint-Maximin, Almiron (Lazaro 86); Joelinton (Carroll 64′).
Aston Villa (4-5-1): Nyland; Konsa (El Mohamady 77′), Hause, Mings, Targett; Trezeguet (Davis 70′), Douglas Luiz, McGinn (Nakamba 77′), El Ghazi (Hourihane 70′); Grealish Samatta.