Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
- Goals: Leander Dendoncker (£4.4m)
- Assists: Jonny (£5.4m)
- Bonus Points: Jonny x3, Dendoncker x2, Conor Coady x1 (£5.1m)
Raúl Jiménez‘s (£8.3m) string of consistent post-lockdown returns came to an end against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
The Wolves forward was backed by over 30% of the top 10k for Gameweek 32+ after netting in both matches since the Premier League restart.
However, he never really looked like scoring at Villa Park, replaced in the 84th minute by Pedro Neto (£5.0m) for a first blank since Gameweek 29.
Even more so than he in his one-shot display against Bournemouth midweek, Jiménez drifted into wide positions on Saturday afternoon, moving away from much of the crucial penalty box action.
That was most evident when Wolves finally got a breakthrough at Villa Park. Jiménez played a pivotal role in the goal but was too distant from the eventual strike to reward his Fantasy owners and captainers.
In the 62nd minute, his latest foray onto the flanks allowed him to play a sweeping cross into Jonny (£5.4m), who had run into Jiménez’s centre-forward position from left-back. The Spaniard teed up the ball for Leander Dendoncker (£4.4m) to slot home across Ørjan Nyland‘s goal (£4.3m), with Jiménez watching on from outside the penalty area.
As this was the second match in a row to feature him drifting to the flanks, there might be some concerned Jiménez owners at there ahead of a Gameweek 33+ meeting with Arsenal.
However, the recent improvements to Aston Villa’s defence may well have played a part in his Gameweek 32+ positioning and blank.
Arguably, there should be little surprise that Dean Smith’s men kept Jiménez relatively quiet on Saturday, as they came into Gameweek 32+ with some of the better defensive statistics in the division.
Between Gameweeks 1 and 29, Villa were the Premier League’s worst for shots allowed in the box, big chances conceded and expected goals conceded (xGC). However, as reported in the recent Captain Sensible article, the last four matches saw Villa concede just five big chances, only four teams recording better totals in that department over the same period.
With Tyrone Mings (£4.4m) and Kortney Hause (£4.4m) forming an increasingly familiar partnership since Gameweek 30+ flanked by more conservative full-backs in Matt Targett (£4.4m) and Ezri Konsa (£4.3m), Smith’s side has been overrun much less often in recent matches.
For that reason, Wolves were forced to exploit a tenth-minute injury to Targett, Neil Taylor (£4.3m) introduced at left-back for the first time since the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City back in Gameweek 22.
“Yes (Targett’s injury is because of the busy schedule). We’re the only team to have played four games in 11 days, so thank you very much for that.” – Dean Smith
For most of the first half, and much of the second, Nuno Espirito Santo asked Jiménez and Matt Doherty (£6.4m) to double-up on the former Swansea man in an attempt to get behind Villa’s defence, pulling the Mexican out of the penalty box.
Jiménez was not helped in this regard by the formation laid out by Nuno at Villa Park. He switched back to the 3-5-2 used from the beginning against West Ham, pairing Jiménez and Diogo Jota (£6.3m) in a front-pair, with Adama Traoré (£5.8m) dropping to the bench. Without the increased support on the flanks afforded by a 3-4-3 shape, it was up to both Jiménez and Jota to support their respective full-backs for much of the game.
Is that likely to be the same story against Arsenal though? Unlikely. In fact, Jiménez backers should still feel confident ahead of Gameweek 33+, as their upcoming opponents have not defended as well as Villa in recent weeks. In the same period that the relegation-threatened side have conceded just five big chances, Mikel Arteta’s men have allowed seven, as well as 10 more penalty area shots.
There was, of course, still some bad luck for Jiménez against Aston Villa. He managed to connect a low header with a Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) in the opening exchanges, only to see it collected by Nyland, and he was also denied the chance for a tap-in when Doherty got behind the defence later in the half, opting to blast a shot into the side-netting rather than square it.
Any remaining owners of Jota are likely to be at their wits’ end with the Portuguese international. He may have got his third successive start in Gameweek 32+ but could not last even an hour on this occasion. It was Jota who was chosen to be replaced by Traoré in the 59th minute. As a result, Wolves’ number 18 has now been subbed off without an attacking return in six of his last eight Premier League appearances.
Jota had arguably the best chance of the game though, making life even more frustrating for his 7.2% backing.
Nyland’s attempt to swing a throw out to one of his defenders went awry late in the first half, the ball squirming out into the path of Jota. However, the Wolves man took no time with the shot, lashing it immediately over the bar. Perhaps a more in-form Jota, with more confidence, might have buried it.
Meanwhile, owners of Traoré are likely to have a few concerns after his second benching since the Premier League restart. Furthermore, he was unable to have his usual impact from the bench as Nuno brought him on for Jota, playing him through the middle of the 3-5-2, rather than the flanks of a 3-4-3.
Using Traoré as an impact substitute is generally something the manager normally gives more thought to for away matches, so the chances of seeing him on the flanks of a 3-4-3 line-up, much more suited to his abilities, for the Gameweek 33+ home match with Arsenal seem relatively high. Nuno also mentioned before the game that rotating Traoré simply came with the territory considering the rushed and compressed Premier League schedule.
“(Asked why he benched the in-form Traoré) It’s all about managing the squad. Knowing that such tight schedule means different approaches. We have to be aware of the decisions we make so that we can take advantage of the squad at the right moment.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Meanwhile, Wolves defensive assets endeared themselves to Fantasy managers once again, keeping their seventh clean sheet from a possible eight since Willy Boly (£4.8m) returned from injury in Gameweek 25.
Despite Aston Villa lining up with an unprecedented two-man front-line of Keinan Davis (£4.3m) and Mbwana Samatta (£5.6m), Wolves were their usual well-organised selves, not allowing the hosts any space to exploit. Villa’s ongoing struggles in front of goal are also good news for those invested in the Liverpool and Manchester United defences that face them in Gameweeks 33+ and 34+ respectively.
“Everything starts on the defensive process of the team and our goal is always a clean sheet. If you keep that in mind and work towards that, eventually the organisation will provide with the talent that we have in our players that can unbalance teams.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
A double-up on their back-line is perhaps a bit too extreme for the Gameweek 33+ meeting with Arsenal, but upcoming matches against Sheffield United (away), Everton (home), Burnley (away) and Crystal Palace (home) look exceptionally profitable at this end of the pitch.
Crucially, Romain Saïss (£4.6m) is now free from the threat of a two-match suspension for now. He went into Gameweek 32+ with nine yellow cards, one away from triggering the ban. However, with Wolves’ 32nd match of the campaign out the way, the Moroccan’s threshold for a suspension has risen to 15.
Aston Villa XI (4-3-1-2): Nyland; Targett (N Taylor 10′), Mings, Hause, Konsa; Nakamba (Trézéguet 82′), D Luiz, Hourihane (McGinn 60′); Grealish; Davis (El Ghazi 82′), Samatta.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-5-2): Patrício; Saïss, Coady, Boly; Jonny, Moutinho, Neves, Dendoncker, Doherty; D Jota (Traoré 60′), Jiménez (Neto 85′).