Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal
- Goals: Bukayo Saka (£4.7m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.2m)
- Assists: Kieran Tierney (£5.3m), Joe Willock (£4.7m)
- Bonus: Lacazette x3, Saka x2, Shkodran Mustafi (£5.1m) x1
Arsenal pulled off a surprise 2-0 win at Molineux that would have only been truly enjoyed by their fans and those managers owning players on the Fantasy fringes.
Wolves came into the match on the back of three straight wins and four consecutive clean sheets. Arsenal, for their part, hadn’t won on the road against a team above them in the league since 2015.
A victory for the visitors was, therefore, not exactly expected.
From a Fantasy perspective, expectations centred instead on the fixture’s two most popular players – Wolves striker Raul Jimenez (£8.3m) and his Arsenal counterpart Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), owned by 36.5% and 23.9% respectively.
Wolves’ Mexican forward had only one attempt, a header from an excellent Adama Traore (£5.8m) cross that he could only steer wide under pressure from Cedric Soares (£4.8m).
Aubameyang also managed just the one shot, although he did manage to hit the target when he latched on to a half-cleared corner, only for his mis-hit shot to provide home keeper Rui Patricio (£5.3m) with a regulation save.
With the pair shunted to the Fantasy sidelines, a home clean sheet was the next best outcome for many.
That didn’t occur either.
Bukayo Saka (£4.7m) put paid to that when he expertly volleyed home Kieran Tierney‘s (£5.3m) deflected cross to finish off a swift Arsenal counter-attack just before half-time.
The goal was the first Wolves had conceded in 448 minutes, although Arsenal had already gone close when an Eddie Nketiah (£4.4m) snapshot hit the outside of the post via a smart save from Patricio.
At the other end, Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez (£4.3m) had been forced into action very early on to block Traore.
But that, as it turned out, was the hosts’ only shot on target, although Traore – interestingly playing as a striker in Santo’s 3-5-2 – missed another great chance when he lofted the ball over both the keeper and the crossbar. That was bad news for the 17.7% of managers hoping the midfielder would prosper in an out-of-position role up front alongside Jimenez.
Patricio wasn’t that much busier than Martinez, although he could do nothing about Arsenal’s second goal.
Substitutes Joe Willock (£4.7m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.2m) combined well on the right, with the latter then hitting a shot across the Wolves keeper and in off the far post.
Midfielder Willock had a golden chance to make it three son afterwards when his scuffed shot beat Patricio but didn’t have the legs to make it past the covering Ruben Neves (£5.2m).
And while 3-0 might have been harsh on Wolves, the clean sheet for the visitors caught pretty much every Fantasy manager by surprise as the allure of all Arsenal’s players, beside Aubameyang, has not been great.
The (relative) popularity of the likes of Matteo Guendouzi (£4.2m and 7.5%) and Saka (5.0%) has clearly been based on their price or, in the case of David Luiz (£5.7m and 4.9%), no discernible reason whatsoever.
But the much-maligned Brazilian delivered a second consecutive clean sheet, as did the even more-mocked Shkodran Mustafi (£5.1m), and the unfortunate 0.5% who own Tierney were denied a third straight batch of shut-out points to go with his first Premier League assist only because coach Mikel Arteta took him off after 55 minutes.
In fact, since a disastrous Gameweek 30+, the Gunners have now won three straight league games by a combined score of 8-0 – a run few predicted and even fewer took advantage of in their Fantasy teams.
The maximum bonus award went to Lacazette, capping an all-action seven minutes from the bench that earned him eight points.
The Frenchman has been reduced to a bit-part player over recent Gameweeks – he’s started just two of the last six fixtures. But his record as a substitute has been impressive, with three goals and two assists from his last five cameo appearances.
Whether he ever holds down a regular starting role again remains to be seen, however.
Nicolas Pepe (£9.1m) dropped out of the squad to be with his heavily-pregnant wife, but Arteta opted to use midfielder Saka, not striker Lacazette, in an advanced role alongside Aubameyang and Nketiah.
The moment we have a situation with Nico, it was clear. I was trying to find something with Bukayo in that position. It is true that in the first half he had some moments where he struggled but then he started understanding things better after 20 minutes. I really liked the way he kept trying and trying and trying rather than putting his head down and being disappointed.
Saka’s first ever Premier League goal won’t have dimmed his coach’s admiration either, suggesting Lacazette might have to resign himself to more games as an impact.
Then again, Arsenal’s immediate schedule – home to Leicester and Liverpool, away at Spurs in between – might tempt Arteta to give experience the nod.
What it’s unlikely to tempt is too much Fantasy investment in the side’s key assets, which now should really include members of their defence.
Arteta said of his side’s backline:
The more we improve here, the more solid we are, the more chances we are going to have to win football games. This was down to 11 players defending every time the ball was at the opponents’ feet.
Regardless of yesterday’s impressive win, it’s probably going to take a good deal more to persuade most managers to rely on Arsenal players in matches as big as their next three, however.
That would seem to be the case based on the current transfer trends. Only two Gunners – Aubameyang and Saka – can be found in the top 30 for Gameweek 34+ transfers in. By contrast, four Wolves players make the cut.
That’s not overly surprising when the fixtures of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are factored in. Of their final five fixtures, a trip to Chelsea on the last day of the season looks the toughest.
It could also be a decider in terms of which of them qualifies for next season’s Champions League, meaning the coach is unlikely to rotate his key players any time soon.
But while that might be music to Fantasy ears, the issue of fatigue among Wolves players should never be dismissed – this is a team, after all, that started this long, long season way back in July last year.
Yes, the enforced lay-off has given the squad recovery time. But as a unit, no Premier League team has had to be match-fit and good to go for such an extended period of time; a fact possibly alluded to by the manager in his post-match comments:
What was missing today, a little bit more urgency at certain points. There was a moment that was the definition, if we were going to draw and push for the last moments of the game, but it didn’t happen.
Wolves have four players with Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership of at least 10 percent, and another three over five percent.
Such heavy investment is likely to stay in place for the rest of the season, but yesterday’s defeat and a couple of laboured 1-0 wins that proceeded it, might be an indication that the team is running out of steam.
Wednesday’s tricky trip to a rejuvenated Sheffield United will tell us more.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-5-2): Patrício; Saïss, Coady, Boly; Jonny, Neves, Moutinho (Gibbs-White 89′), Dendoncker (Jota 55′), Doherty (Neto 72′); Jiménez, Traoré
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Martínez; Kolasinac, Luiz, Mustafi; Tierney (Maitland-Niles 56′), Xhaka, Ceballos (Torreira 83′), Cédric (Bellerin 76′); Aubameyang, Nketiah (Lacazette 83′), Saka (Willock 75).
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 33+
- Norwich City 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Leicester City 3-0 Crystal Palace
- Manchester United 5-2 Bournemouth
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal
- Chelsea 3-0 Watford
- Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
- Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham United
- Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
- Southampton 1-0 Manchester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Everton
Become a Member and get unrestricted access to our data and articles
Full-year memberships are now available for the price of £17.50. Monthly subscriptions also cost just £2.99.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- Enjoy our brand NEW Flat-Track Bully feature which introduces an opposition filter to your tables.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.