Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa
- Goals: Ross Barkley (£5.9m)
- Assists: Jack Grealish (£7.7m)
- Bonus: Emiliano Martinez (£5.1m) x3 Matty Cash (£5.0m) x3 Tyrone Mings (£5.4m) x1
Aston Villa made it 10 clean sheets for the season with a hard-fought win at Southampton.
It was a victory involving another dose of VAR and, less predictably, some post-match musings about the size of John McGinn‘s (£5.5m) backside, but the bottom line was the majority of Villa’s key assets delivering once again.
Ross Barkley (£5.9m) scored the winner when he headed home a Jack Grealish (£7.7m) cross – the fourth attacking return in five Gameweeks for the visitors’ 38%-owned captain.
And while the clean sheet was a fortunate one, it meant a fourth double-digit return of the season for FPL’s most owned goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez (£5.1m).
Currently found in 32.9% of squads, the stopper pulled off some fine saves to deny the Saints.
But VAR helped out too, with a late Danny Ings (£8.4m) goal ruled out for offside by the narrowest of Matty Cash‘s (£5.0m) posterior-based margins, prompting the more generously-proportioned McGinn to later tweet:
Just as well it wasn’t my backside.
Cash had earlier survived a strong penalty shout when a Stuart Armstrong (£5.5m) shot grazed his thigh before hitting his arm.
The full-back went on to earn maximum bonus and has now bagged extra points in each of his side’s last three shut-outs.
Some 323,454 Fantasy managers had bought into striker Ollie Watkins (£6.2m) for the encounter. He blanked, but Villa’s schedule is strong enough to offer the promise of returns until Gameweek 31, when things turn decidedly nasty.
As for Southampton, three straight defeats hasn’t prompted major sales of their assets just yet, although a midweek loss at Manchester United might change all that.
Southampton XI (4-4-2): A McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek, J Stephens, Diallo; Redmond, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong; Walcott, Ings.
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martínez; Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash; McGinn, D Luiz; Grealish, Barkley, B Traoré; Watkins.
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United
Bonus: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) x3 Hector Bellerin (£5.1m) x2 Rob Holding (£4.5m) x2
Defenders were to the fore in a goalless draw as the 56.1%-owned Bruno Fernandes (£11.4m) blanked for the fourth time in five matches.
Only Tottenham’s Son Heung-min (£9.8m and 59.8%) is a more popular FPL asset than the Manchester United midfielder, but patience among his owners is surely wearing thin, even if that’s not yet prompted major sales.
Another midfielder, the in-form Bukayo Saka (£5.4m), was left out as a precaution due to a sore hip, much to the chagrin of his 11.8% ownership, but a generally under-strength Arsenal more than held their own against United, with Alexandre Lacazette (£8.4m) almost winning it when his free-kick hit the bar.
Previous bonus point magnet Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) rolled back the years with the maximum award, helped by the fact he was one of only two players to provide a big chance on the day.
It was a third clean sheet in five matches for United and a fifth in six for the Gunners.
Of the two teams, the former’s schedule suggests more shut-outs to come over the next few Gameweeks.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cédric, Holding, D Luiz, Bellerín; Xhaka, Partey; Martinelli (Willian 45), Smith Rowe (Ødegaard 83), Pépé; Lacazette (Nketiah 90+4).
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay (Martial 37), Fred; Pogba, B Fernandes, Rashford (Greenwood 80); Cavani.
Crystal Palace 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Goals: Eberechi Eze (£5.8m)
- Assists: Jordan Ayew (£5.6m)
- Bonus: Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) x3, Eze x2, Vicente Guaita (£4.8m) x1
A second-half strike from Eberechi Eze (£5.8m) was enough to win a predictably patchy game for Crystal Palace.
In a game of few chances and even less excitement, the main Fantasy news revolved around a third clean sheet in five matches for the home side and the absence of their most popular defender – the 18.1%-owned Tyrick Mitchell (£3.9m) – to take advantage of it.
He was replaced by Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) as Palace boss Roy Hodgson made six changes, including three at the back.
Further Fantasy salt was rubbed into Mitchell owners’ wounds when his replacement went on to earn the maximum bonus award.
Such an experienced campaigner could well keep Mitchell out of the side for the foreseeable future, although Hodgson showed plenty of appetite for innovation, switching his team to a 4-2-3-1 formation to both nullify Wolves’ midfield and boost the attacking threat of match-winner Eze:
We also think that Eberechi Eze is not a winger. In that position with Wilf (Zaha) to one side of him and Jordan (Ayew) to the other with a target-like centre forward…it might work out for us and get us on the ball more.
It’s a viable system and I think we can certainly get it to work but I think we were probably better when we went to what we’ve been doing when Eberechi went out into a position as a wide midfielder and Wilf went up top alongside Jordan Ayew. I thought we were probably slightly better in that respect.
But it’s not something which I wouldn’t try to do again because I think it’s got possibilities, that way of playing or that tweak in our system.
The experiment didn’t last the entire game, as Hodgson mentioned above, so a rush on Eze will probably have to wait, as will investment in a Wolves side with just one clean sheet since Gameweek 7.
Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): Guaita; Van Aanholt, Dann, Kouyaté, Clyne (Ward 85); McCarthy (Riedewald 45), Milivojevic; Eze, Zaha, Ayew; Batshuayi (Townsend 79).
Wolves XI (3-4-3): Patricio; Kilman, Coady, Boly; Semedo, Dendoncker, Moutinho (Fábio Silva 78), Hoever (Traoré 63); Neto, Willian José, Podence (Vitinha 68).
West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Fulham
- Goals: Kyle Bartley (£4.4m), Matheus Pereira (£5.6m) | Bobby De Cordova-Reid (£5.3m), Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.3m)
- Assists: Matheus Pereira (£5.6m), Mbaye Diagne | Aleksandr Mitrović (£5.5m), Harrison Reed (£4.4m)
- Bonus: Pereira x3 Mitrović x2 De Cordova-Reid x1
A surprisingly entertaining relegation scrap ended level in what was a classic game of two halves.
Fulham dominated the first period, but scored just the once, before West Brom improved to snatch the lead, only for substitute Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.3m) to equalise four minutes after coming on.
With neither side pulling up the footballing trees this season, Fantasy interest in the encounter was the disinterested side of muted.
The most popular player on display, the 3.6%-owned Aleksandar Mitrović (£5.5m), made his first start since Gameweek 14 and responded with an assist and two bonus for only his third decent haul of a horribly barren campaign.
But the star of the show was West Brom’s Matheus Pereira (£5.6m), who is one of the few Baggies players clearly thriving under Sam Allardyce’s tutelage.
The midfielder scored, assisted and brought in maximum bonus points for a second double-digit score from his last four starts.
Over that period, he has four goals and an assist, although that fine form is currently only enough for him to squeeze into the top 30 for Gameweek 22 transfers-in.
But aside from a nasty double-header with Spurs and then Man Utd in Gameweeks 23 and 24, West Brom’s fixtures look attractive enough in the medium term to suggest Pereira’s 1.2% ownership might receive a bigger boost.
West Brom XI (5-4-1): Johnstone; Gibbs, Bartley, O’Shea (Grant 24), Ajayi, Furlong; M Pereira, Gallagher, Livermore (Phillips 83), Snodgrass; C Robinson (Diagne 45).
Fulham XI (3-4-2-1): Areola; Adarabioyo, Andersen, Aina (Tete 81); A Robinson, Anguissa, Lemina (Reed 72), De Cordova-Reid (Cavaleiro 72); Lookman, Loftus-Cheek; Mitrović.