Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa
- Goals: Ollie Watkins x2 (£6.0m)
- Own goals: Bukayo Saka (£5.3m)
- Assists: Matt Targett (£4.5m), Ross Barkley (£6.0m), Jack Grealish (£7.4m)
- Bonus points: Watkins x3, Targett x2, Barkley x1
THE GREAL DEAL
Jack Grealish (£7.5m) has firmly established himself in the current template for success among Fantasy Premier League managers after yet another attacking return against Arsenal.
Following a Gameweek 8 assist, the Aston Villa midfielder has involved himself in 10 of his team’s 18 goals this season (55.6%) and averaged 8.6 points per game in 2020/21.
The England international does not look like letting up either, running the show in Villa’s impressive 3-0 win at Arsenal, who came into Sunday evening’s clash with the Premier League’s best defensive record.
As is usually the case with this all-action midfield asset, Grealish could easily have left the Emirates Stadium with a third double-figure haul of the season as he assisted a John McGinn (£5.5m) goal ruled out for offside against Ross Barkley (£6.0m) in the first period before seeing his second-half penalty box effort cleared off the line by Kieran Tierney (£5.4m).
Unsurprisingly, Fantasy managers are taking note of Grealish’s excellent displays, and ability to convert them into points, increasing the pressure on non-owners.
He came into Gameweek 8 in 57.9% of squads inside the top 10,000 worldwide rankings, only Son Heung-min (87.1%), Harry Kane (86.7%) and Mohamed Salah (65.3%) owned by more at that level.
With Brighton (home), West Ham (away), Newcastle (home), Wolves (away), Burnley (home), West Bromwich Albion (away) and Crystal Palace (home) the next seven teams to face Aston Villa, it is certainly not too late to exploit Grealish’s favourable form and fixtures, his price already rising to £7.5m as of Tuesday morning.
The kind nature of Aston Villa’s fixtures, as well as their ability to score goals, certainly justifies anyone looking at a double-up on their attacking assets.
Even better, there is a seriously viable candidate to join Grealish in our squads right now, Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) registering a 13-point haul at Arsenal thanks to a brace and maximum bonus.
Those goals took the former Exeter City and Brentford forward to seven attacking returns for the season, all of them coming in Villa’s last five matches, an average of 8.6 points per game.
Crucially, the timing of Watkins’ form and fixtures could be perfect for anyone in need of replacing Callum Wilson (£6.6m), should his hamstring injury prove to be a long-term one. We are likely to find out more about it on the other side of the international break.
And while Bamford may be one to consider as another alternative Wilson replacement, Watkins might even find himself as the go-to option for anyone concerned about Leeds’ fixtures, as they face Arsenal (home), Everton (away), Chelsea (away) and West Ham (home) in the next four. Over the last four Gameweeks, Bamford has scored 28 points to Watkins’ 24, so the two players are largely tracking at the same level of output but the latter has better fixtures by far.
BARK AND BITE
Watkins is not the only kindly-priced option to pair with Grealish though, as Barkley added his third attacking return of the last five Gameweeks against Arsenal.
During that time, he has averaged 5.8 points per game and, ahead of Gameweek 9, he was pushed into a more advanced role against Arsenal.
Dean Smith has mostly favoured 4-3-3 since the turn of the year as he sought to shore up last season’s defensive problems.
However, in recent weeks the Villa manager has begun lining his troops up in more of a 4-2-3-1, asking McGinn and Douglas Luiz (£4.9m) to sit slightly deeper and affording Barkley a number 10 role.
A first clean sheet since Gameweek 5 was welcome news for the 26.8% invested in Emiliano Martínez (£4.8m) although Villa’s clean sheet potential for their kind run of fixtures is still arguably up in the air.
Smith’s men were fortunate not to concede at Arsenal, Alexandre Lacazette (£8.4m) spurning a golden chance at the back post, which he headed over in the first half.
Then, in the second half, Rob Holding (£4.4m) was afforded too much time to get on the end of Gabriel‘s (£5.1m) cross. Had offensive players been given the chance to attack that space, they might well have scored.
Remember, of course, Villa’s upcoming opponents Brighton have blanked in just one match this season and West Ham have found the net against Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs.
Arsenal XI (3-4-2-1): Leno; Tierney, Gabriel, Holding; Saka, Elneny, Partey (Ceballos 46′), Bellerín; Aubameyang, Willian (Pépé 65′); Lacazette (Nketiah 65′).
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martínez; Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash; McGinn, D Luiz; Grealish, Barkley, Trézéguet (El Ghazi 88′); Watkins.
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 8
- Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Burnley
- Southampton 2-0 Newcastle United
- Everton 1-3 Manchester United
- Crystal Palace 4-1 Leeds United
- Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United
- West Ham United 1-0 Fulham
- West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Leicester City 1-0 Wolves
- Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
- Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa