West Brom 1-0 Brighton
- Goals: Kyle Bartley (£4.4m)
- Assists: Conor Gallagher (£5.5m)
- Bonus points: Bartley x3, Sam Johnstone x2 (£4.5m), Dara O’Shea x1 (£4.2m)
ON THE BOUNCE
West Bromwich Albion’s defence is starting to make a marked improvement under Sam Allardyce.
Their 1-0 win over Brighton in Double Gameweek 26 was just their fourth clean sheet of the season although two of those have come in the last two matches.
There was an element of good fortune about the latest shutout considering Pascal Groß (£5.8m) and Danny Welbeck (£5.5m) both missed penalties and Lewis Dunk (£4.9m) had a goal ruled out in confusing circumstances.
Either way, the Baggies have now kept out both Burnley and the Seagulls during that time and face promising fixtures that could continue their emerging defensive form.
Allardyce’s men conceded at least twice in every match between Gameweeks 16 and 23. During that period they gave up a total of 24 goals at a rate of three per match.
Since Gameweek 24, West Brom have conceded just once and that was to Manchester United.
Of course, the last two matches, meetings with Burnley and Brighton, are certainly to be considered favourable matches and a factor in recent improvements.
That said, West Brom face Newcastle (home), Crystal Palace (away) and Southampton (home) between now and Gameweek 31 – all opponents who could help the Baggies to more defensive returns.
NILES PER HOUR
While Kyle Bartley (£4.4m) got the winning goal on Saturday, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.6m) has proved a key beneficiary of West Brom’s recent defensive improvements as far as the Fantasy radar is concerned.
At £4.6m, the Arsenal loanee offers a budget route into the Baggies’ backline but has recently been operating out-of-position.
Once again, Maitland-Niles played on the flanks of attacking midfield against Brighton and came close to getting himself a goal in the second half.
Mbaye Diagne (£6.0m) touched a Matheus Pereira (£5.4m) square ball onto an on-rushing Maitland-Niles, whose shot from just inside the edge of the box was saved by Robert Sánchez (£4.5m).
GONE TO POTTER
Brighton’s latest audition for Blank Gameweek 29 went as badly as their last.
After conceding two goals from two penalty area touches to Crystal Palace in Gameweek 25, they allowed West Brom a first home victory since Gameweek 10.
Despite keeping clean sheets in five matches from a possible six between Gameweeks between Gameweeks 19 and 24, the Seagulls have conceded in each of their last two.
Bartley took advantage of their vulnerability to crosses in the first half, only Leeds and Sheffield United conceding more goals in such circumstances than Brighton this season.
Is that enough to ward Fantasy managers off their defensive assets for Blank Gameweek 29? That might depend on the fitness of Callum Wilson (£6.5m), whose total of 15 headed efforts this season is the eighth-best among forwards, despite his recent time on the sidelines.
West Bromwich Albion XI (4-1-4-1): Johnstone; C Townsend, Bartley, O’Shea, Furlong; Maitland-Niles, M Phillips (Diangana 72′), Gallagher, M Pereira (Ivanović 79′); Diagne (Robson-Kanu 83′).
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-2-3-1): R Sánchez; Burn, Dunk, White (Moder 84′), Veltman; Groß, Bissouma; Connolly (Welbeck 61′), Mac Allister (Lallana 46′), Trossard; Maupay.
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