Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Leicester City
- Goals: James Justin (£4.7m) own-goal, Harry Kane (£10.9m) x2
- Assists: Son Heung-min (£9.7m), Lucas Moura (£7.0m) x2
- Bonus: Kane x3, Lucas, Hugo Lloris (£5.3m) x2
Leicester City and Manchester United will square off at the King Power Stadium in Gameweek 38+ and, depending on how the Red Devils and Chelsea get on in their respective midweek fixtures, it could be a case of winner takes all for a UEFA Champions League qualification spot next Sunday.
Those of us on a Free Hit or with a transfer to burn might be considering whether to ditch a United asset or two given the magnitude of the fixture but based on what we saw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could have plenty of joy against the Foxes.
Jose Mourinho showed his former employers how to do it: cede possession and hit a patched-up, plodding defence on the counter-attack.
Spurs saw only 29% of the ball in this match and had no penalty box touches in the second half, with Brendan Rodgers’ side registering more than three times as many shots over the course of the game.
But the damage was done by half-time, with all three of the Lilywhites’ goals scored on the break.
An in-the-mood Harry Kane (£10.9m) set Son Heung-min (£9.7m) free down the left flank for the hosts’ opener, with the Korean’s shot taking a telling touch off James Justin (£4.7m) and wrong-footing Kasper Schmeichel (£5.5m) after just five minutes.
Kane hit a quick-fire double as the game neared half-time, first rolling a finish past Schmeichel following a through-ball from Lucas Moura (£7.0m) and then curling a superb effort in off the upright after another pass from the Brazilian.
There could have been other goals and again, all of them came from quick passes from back to front, catching Leicester’s high line out all too easily.
Son forced Schmeichel into a save following a direct, 50-yard ball from Harry Winks (£5.2m), with the South Korea international later getting his feet in a muddle when played clean through on goal by Kane just after half-time.
Given Bruno Fernandes (£9.1m) and Paul Pogba‘s (£8.3m) ability to spot a pass from deep and United’s capacity to break at speed, Sunday’s match in north London would have provided Solskjaer – and Fantasy managers – with food for thought.
Mourinho talked through his tactical masterclass after the game, saying:
I think it was an intelligent performance. I knew that for them to play with this back five is not a very comfortable situation.
I want to be honest with Brendan. I don’t remember that someone was so honest with me when I was playing without a striker, but I want to be honest with Brendan and it’s easy to realise that to play without Ricardo Pereira, Soyuncu and Chilwell destroys a backline.
So we decided to take away from them where they can hurt us, which is basically behind us. We took away from them our defensive depth, we control the game by positioning our defensive block a little bit lower than we normally do.
Then we gave the ball to them, to their back three, because we wanted them to bring the ball and we wanted them to feel quite comfortable, leaving their comfort zone, which is where they are not playing many matches.
Bennett and Morgan, we wanted to take them away from their comfort zone to try to explore the counter-attack and fast transitions. So when we scored three goals in the first half, I think the game is over.
As Mourinho mentioned above, Leicester were without three of their regular back four, namely Ricardo Pereira (£6.2m), Ben Chilwell (£5.5m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£4.9m).
None of that trio will be available for the Manchester United game, although there is a chance that Marc Albrighton (£5.1m) could return to take over one of the wing-back slots.
In their absence, a back three with a combined age of 98 years struggled with the pace and movement of Son and Kane, while teenage left-back Luke Thomas (£4.0m) – who impressed going forward – had a real baptism of fire from a defensive perspective on his first away start.
That ragtag bunch of defenders had performed well against Sheffield United in midweek but Chris Wilder’s side aren’t renowned for their pace on the break and played into the hands of the Foxes, something Mourinho evidently didn’t do on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) and Anthony Martial (£8.5m), in particular, will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Wes Morgan (£4.1m) and co next weekend.
Rodgers said after full-time in north London:
It was a strange game because we were really good in parts. The parts we weren’t so good in was things that we’ve spoken about: dealing with the counter-attack.
The first one we’re disappointed with because we’ve got to have a better pressure higher up the pitch. Instead, Harry [Kane] turns and makes the pass in behind and they get a bit of luck.
The other two: obviously a breakaway from a corner and a great finish. That individual quality hurt us today, but it was strange. It didn’t feel that we should’ve been 3-0 down.
There was a bit of encouragement at the other end, at least, despite the blank in front of goal.
Jamie Vardy (£9.7m) had a number of early sighters before seeing an inventive backheeled effort strike the feet of Hugo Lloris (£5.3m), while the lively Ayoze Perez (£6.0m) drew two flying saves out of the Frenchman and substitutes Demarai Gray (£5.0m) and Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) both saw efforts from range repelled.
Lloris emerged with two bonus points to his name but the Spurs clean sheet was as much to do with the players in front of him, with the Foxes not registering a single ‘big chance’ despite all of their possession.
Serge Aurier (£5.1m) and co have now banked four shut-outs in the last seven Gameweeks, more than they managed in Mourinho’s first 18 matches in charge.
With an out-of-form Crystal Palace to come in Gameweek 38+, there could be joy to be had for Spurs assets at either end of the field.
Certainly Kane, for all our initial reservations about the premium forward ahead of the restart, appears to be hitting levels we haven’t seen in a long time, combining the deeper role we came to be suspicious of with the hitman status of yesteryear.
He may not be the classic ‘number nine’ of yore, but maybe a ‘nine-and-a-half’ is enough at present.
FPL Lessons Learned From Gameweek 37+
- Norwich City 0-2 Burnley
- Bournemouth 0-2 Southampton
- Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Newcastle United
- Sheffield United 0-1 Everton
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Watford 0-4 Manchester City
- Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal
- Manchester United 1-1 West Ham United
- Liverpool 5-3 Chelsea
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