Wolves 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Rayan Aït-Nouri (£5.0m), Daniel Podence (£5.5m)
- Assists: Pedro Neto (£5.5m)
- Bonus points: Aït-Nouri x3, Nelson Semedo x2 (£5.5m), Neto x1
Fantasy Premier League managers finally got a definitive clue to Nuno Espirito Santo’s long-term plans for his defence this season in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
And, much to the dismay of the 22.4% in possession of Romain Saïss (£5.3m), the top-scoring FPL defender in 2020/21, we received confirmation that his role is diminishing.
The return to fitness of Marçal (£4.9m) and the arrival of Rayan Aït-Nouri (£5.0m) had been creeping up on Saïss for the last few weeks as he stood in at left wing-back.
But the emergence of Max Kilman (£4.2m) has caught him between a rock and a hard place considering that his old job has now been taken too. Crucially, against Palace, Saïss stayed on the Wolves bench. Helpful for avoiding one-point cameos but increasing the need for nearly a quarter of managers to draw on their bench.
Of FPL defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (33.2%) and the injured Tyrick Mitchell (25.7%) came into Gameweek 7 with more owners than Saïss, who actually became the most popular in that position among the top 10,000 managers on Friday night.
The fact that he is no longer guaranteed starts could mean a large number of managers already have one transfer booked in for Gameweek 8, especially those who feel they cannot bench a non-playing asset at £5.3m. Interestingly, 8.2% of all managers own both Saïss and Mitchell, although the latter is easier to keep on the bench for a few weeks.
Accordingly, we could see a flash-sale of the Wolves man in the coming days, especially as his team’s upcoming fixtures now take a turn for the worse from a defensive perspective anyway. Wolves travel to Leicester, Arsenal and Liverpool between now and Gameweek 11.
Meanwhile, any hope that Saïss might somehow fight his way back to either left wing-back or centre-back were dashed by fantastic performances from both Aït-Nouri and Kilman against Crystal Palace.
Considering he is a natural left wing-back, it should come as no surprise that Aït-Nouri offered a much better balance to the Wolves side than Saïss did. He was also on-hand to blast Cheikhou Kouyaté‘s (£5.0m) first-half clearance into the bottom corner of Vicente Guaita‘s (£5.0m) net to give Wolves a well-deserved lead.
Bombing forward with intent and energy, the 19-year-old matched what Nelson Semedo (£5.5m) offered on the right and, as a result, Crystal Palace struggled to cope with how wide the pitch became.
“(Aït-Nouri) is brilliant. He’s come in and learned the role inside out. He’s really sharp. Turns you inside out with his bag of tricks. Tonight, I thought he was brilliant.” – Conor Coady
“(Aït-Nouri) played good. He has a lot of talent. There is a lot to improve on the defensive aspect and the shape of the team. But to score on your debut is great.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Arguably, the chief beneficiaries of the impact Aït-Nouri had on the Wolves team were for Daniel Podence (£5.5m) and Pedro Neto (£5.5m), who each got their third attacking returns of the season in Gameweek 7.
Each wing-back taking up advanced positions, and offering energy and enthusiasm to track back, although, admittedly Aït-Nouri was not as good at that part of the job as Semedo (which Nuno picked up on, based on the above quote). Generally, the extra pace in these areas allowed the two wingers much more freedom to roam forward and cause problems against Palace.
Podence was particularly lively in the early stages, as Wolves finally rediscovered how to start games on the front foot. It is telling that Aït-Nouri’s 18th-minute goal was their first scored in the first half since Gameweek 1.
Then, after teeing up Leander Dendoncker (£4.5m) for a seventh-minute headed effort and watching Guaita palm away a 10th-minute curled strike, Podence finally rewarded the patience of his 3.6% ownership with a first attacking return since Gameweek 2.
Netting his first goal since this same fixture last season, the former Olympiacos man ghosted in at the back post to slot under Guaita after Neto had found space behind Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) for a cross.
ON THE SPOT
The 482,570 Fantasy managers who signed Wilfried Zaha (£7.3m) for Gameweek 7 were, naturally, disappointed to see him pick up just one point at Wolves.
The fact that Nuno’s men have kept four clean sheets from a possible seven now arguably makes his rather quiet display feel like more of an anomaly, considering he averaged 10 points per away game before Friday night.
With Leeds (home), Burnley (away), Newcastle (home) and West Bromwich Albion (away) up next, there is still plenty of reasons to be positive about Zaha’s credentials.
Not least because he might be back on penalties again after Luka Milivojevic‘s (£5.7m) short-lived return to the Crystal Palace side.
During the club captain’s absence, Zaha has taken on responsibility for spot-kicks. But, when the Eagles were awarded one in the first half at Molineux, it was, unsurprisingly, Milivojevic who prepared to take it.
In the end, the penalty was ruled out for an offside in the build-up but the fact the Serbian collected the ball and stood over it spoke volumes.
However, Zaha owners were handed something of a reprieve as Milivojevic was sent off for violent conduct in the closing stages. At present, his ban lasts three matches, which would, of course, be ideal for anyone wanting Zaha to take some more penalties.
That said, it would be worth keeping an eye on whether or not Palace decide to appeal the decision and try to shorten the suspension.
“I’m disappointed about the red card. I personally thought it was a fair challenge from Luka Milivojević. But the referee, unfortunately, had a different opinion.” – Roy Hodgson
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-4-3): Patrício; Kilman, Coady, Boly; Aït-Nouri, Neves, Dendoncker, Semedo; Neto (Moutinho 76′), Jiménez (F Silva 90+1′), Podence (Traoré 76′).
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; van Aanholt, Dann, Kouyaté, Clyne; Schlupp (Eze 65′), Riedewald, Milivojevic, Townsend (Ayew 72′); Zaha, Batshuayi (Benteke 84′).
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FPL GAMEWEEK 7
- Wolves 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City
- Burnley 0-3 Chelsea
- Liverpool 2-1 West Ham United
- Aston Villa 3-4 Southampton
- Newcastle United 2-1 Everton
- Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Fulham 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Leeds United 1-4 Leicester City