Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
- Bonus: Kurt Zouma (£5.0m) x3, Reece James (£5.0m) x2, Harry Maguire (£5.4m), Thiago Silva (£5.5m) x1
Manchester United and Chelsea played out a generally drab draw that was heavy on tactical caution and much lighter on action.
The biggest talking point of the match was, fittingly, a non-event, with referee Martin Atkinson and VAR both deciding Harry Maguire‘s (£5.4m) neck lock on Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.9m) was not a penalty.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard disagreed:
Holding is allowed, but headlocks aren’t. I think they should have taken time and advised the referee to watch the monitor. If the referee goes to the monitor, he gives a penalty.
Had the penalty been awarded and converted, Lampard’s decision to play three at the back, sit deep and commit very few men to the counter-attack would have been vindicated.
As it was, United were the only team to at least look like they wanted to score, creating a chance every 6.8 minutes (to Chelsea’s 15.8) and having four shots on target to the visitors’ one.
The Thick Blue Line
The game involved Jose Mourinho-era levels of bus parking by Chelsea.
The return of Thiago Silva (£5.5m) was always going to help with the team’s savvy, but a swap to a three-man backline added further grit and the decision to temper the attacking instincts of wing-backs Reece James (£5.0m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.7m) sealed the defensive deal.
United were happy to sit fairly deep themselves, resulting in long periods of footballing stalemate in which Chelsea had plenty of the ball but did precious little with it.
James and Chilwell did top the crossing charts, alongside Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m), with six apiece, but while half the midfielder’s efforts found their target, only one of the 12 sent over by the defenders was successful.
Maximum bonus points went to Kurt Zouma (£5.0m). He frequently stepped out of the back three to mark Juan Mata (£5.9m), who was again allowed the freedom to drift into central pockets of space, often in advance of central striker Marcus Rashford (£9.5m).
As a result, the key takeaway from the match – and the midweek encounter with Sevilla in the Champions League – is that Lampard is taking a liking for clean sheets.
In the last three matches in which Thiago and Edouard Mendy (£5.0m) have started together, Chelsea haven’t conceded a single goal.
That should elevate the Fantasy status of the two cheapest regular starters in defence – Zouma and James.
The Blues are embarking on a very promising five-match schedule in which a visit from Spurs looks perhaps the toughest test.
The next three matches in particular – Burnley and Newcastle away, Sheffield United at home – look ripe for defensive returns should Lampard continue to indulge his more conservative instincts.
Chilwell leads the way, not just among Chelsea defenders but the entire team, for chances created this season, with nine. James and the dropped Mason Mount (£6.9m) are just one back, but the pair have been involved in all five matches so far, whereas Chilwell has played only three.
The former Leicester man probably offers the best prospect of returns at both ends of the pitch, but those who like a bargain might be more tempted by James or Zouma, with the latter having scored twice this season as well.
A Lack Of Attack
As for the visitors’ attack, it was a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’.
Chelsea sat so deep that the service to, and support for, Timo Werner (£9.3m) and Christian Pulisic (£8.3m) was on the criminal side of negligent.
After losing half his opening day ownership – 1.4 million managers – before his 16-point Gameweek 5 haul, a few hopeful bosses had modestly boosted Werner’s numbers heading into the Old Trafford encounter.
They were treated to just one attempt all match. Pulisic was livelier, with three shots, including the one and only attempt by a Chelsea player that forced David de Gea (£5.4m) to do anything other than stand around shouting and getting very wet.
Damningly, Werner and Kai Havertz (£8.4m) managed, in 143 minutes combined, fewer attempts (one) and penalty area touches (two) than United sub Edinson Cavani (£8.0m) had on his own (two and three respectively) from a 32-minute cameo.
Even more damningly, the 8.6%-owned Havertz provided none of those numbers and didn’t exactly make up for that with the one chance he created.
Lampard is unlikely to play it so ultra-safe over the next few Gameweeks, but patience in all of their exalted front three has worn very thin already this campaign, with significant sales of the trio, and should Chelsea’s newly pragmatic streak continue, their points might not justify their price.
The Tyranny Of Choice
If Lampard is still struggling to find his optimum XI from the riches at his disposal, his United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is another yet to find exactly what he’s looking for.
Since Anthony Martial (£8.8m) triggered a three-match ban with his dismissal in the Gameweek 4 drubbing by Spurs, Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) has covered at centre forward.
He was as industrious as anyone at Old Trafford, with three attempts, two of which were on target, including one effort that brought a particularly fine save from the impressive Mendy.
Of United’s attacking options, he and Fernandes are easily the most popular, but their medium-term prospects for points do not look so good, with Arsenal, Everton, the newly-awkward West Ham and Manchester City to come over the next six Gameweeks.
Solskjaer spoke optimistically of the team’s excellent balance after their 4-1 win at Newcastle last time out, but in truth that ignored the lack of defensive cohesion in evidence against what was a poor Magpies attack.
The backline was more impressive on Saturday, with Maguire and Victor Lindelof (£4.9m) preferred in central defence to Axel Tuanzebe (£4.5m), who had been superb in the midweek win at Paris Saint Germain.
But much of that was down to Chelsea’s blatant lack of attacking intent.
Further up the pitch, Mata and Daniel James (£6.3m) have started the last two matches. The latter has made a feeble case for further inclusion, while the former is creating issues for opposing defences, but needs more than the one assist he’s managed in his two starts to turn Fantasy eyes, even if he is temptingly cheap.
Solskjaer talked about new man Cavani, and the returning Paul Pogba (£7.8m), after the match:
Edi has been out and needs game time to get his sharpness. I am sure he is going to give us lots. As for Paul, he has made a positive impact for us in three games as substitute over the last week. Don’t forget he had coronavirus. He is coming along.
Throw in the curiously under-used Donny van de Beek (£6.8m) and the coach has lots of options, but seemingly little idea as to how to marshal them all.
Fantasy interest is unlikely to stray much further than Rashford and Fernandes until that is addressed.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, McTominay (Greenwood 83′); Mata (Pogba 58′), Fernandes, James (Cavani 58′); Rashford.
Chelsea XI (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Zouma; Chilwell; Jorginho, Kante, James; Pulisic (Ziyech 81′), Havertz (Mount 72′); Werner (Abraham 71′).
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FPL GAMEWEEK 6
- Aston Villa 0-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 1-1 Manchester City
- Fulham 1-2 Crystal Palace
- Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
- Liverpool 2-1 Sheffield United
- Southampton 2-0 Everton
- Wolves 1-1 Newcastle United
- Arsenal 0-1 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
- Burnley 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur