A fairly dismal evening on the Fantasy Premier League front saw only five players deliver attacking returns, all of whom were owned by fewer than 2% of managers.
The cherry on the excrement was a second successive blank for Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m), the most-captained and most-owned FPL asset of Double Gameweek 26.
A truly grim spectacle at Selhurst Park saw Manchester United grind out a goalless draw for the third time in a week.
We highlighted the Red Devils’ ongoing cautiousness in games against ‘big six’ opposition after Sunday’s game at Chelsea but perhaps one other factor we overlooked is fatigue.
United have played twice a week, every week from the beginning of 2021 up until now.
There has been relatively little rotation from Ole Gunnar Solksjaer throughout that run and there was a jaded quality to their display against Palace, with Fernandes looking particularly flat – this was his 16th appearance in little more than two months, with 14 of those coming from the start.
The Portuguese playmaker didn’t register a single shot at Selhurst Park, although did top the pile for chances created.
Back-to-back clean sheets was good news for owners of United’s defensive assets, at least, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.6m) and Luke Shaw (£5.1m) now first and third among FPL defenders for ‘form’ (average score over the last 30 days).
RIGHT BACK AT YOU
A rare miscalculation from Nick Pope (£5.6m) was a contributing factor in Burnley losing their clean sheet on Wednesday, although in fairness, not many right-thinking individuals would have anticipated Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.6m) meeting Wilfred Ndidi’s (£4.8m) chipped through-ball with a Van Persie-esque volley.
For a team renowned for their reputation as a defence-first side, the clean sheets have been in fairly short supply of late – only four have arrived in the Clarets’ last 15 matches.
Burnley’s backline aren’t famed for compensating with attacking returns at the other end of the pitch but Matthew Lowton (£4.5m) – dubbed the ‘Chesterfield Cafu’ by internet wags for his recent displays – has suddenly burst into life in the last month.
The budget right-back has supplied 10 chances in the last three Gameweeks (two of which were admittedly ‘doubles’), with four of those key passes arriving in the Leicester game.
Shaw is the only FPL defender who has supplied more opportunities than Lowton in that time, while no-one in the Burnley man’s Fantasy position has carved out as many ‘big chances’.
As for Leicester’s own marauding right-back, Ricardo Pereira (£5.9m) began the game at wing-back and ended it as a winger – but all of that hyped ‘out of position’ potential amounted to nought as he ended Double Gameweek 26 with a meagre two points.
KELECHI CRASHES THE PARTY
Iheanacho has been a benefactor of injury-enforced absences to James Maddison (£7.3m) and Harvey Barnes (£6.9m), if only in that first-team starts are now easier to come by.
Those two midfielders being sidelined has not exactly helped Jamie Vardy (£10.2m), whose record now stands at one goal in his last ten Premier League appearances.
The Foxes were short on inspiration at Turf Moor, as they had been against Arsenal on Sunday, with Vardy mustering just one shot on goal in another showing that hinted at his underlying fitness issues catching up with him.
It might not just be the absence of Barnes and Maddison that is damaging Vardy’s output, however.
The veteran striker isn’t used to sharing the limelight with a strike partner and Iheanacho has certainly been hogging the chances, having seven of them across the two Gameweek 26 matches; Vardy had one.
HEROES TO VILLANS
Aston Villa’s yo-yo form in 2021 continued as they once again failed to string together successive wins, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to a Sheffield United side who had Phil Jagielka (£3.9m) sent off in the second half.
So used to performing heroics en route to keeping a clean sheet, Emiliano Martinez (£5.3m) for once had very little to do at Bramall Lane on Wednesday.
But one of just two shots on target the Villans faced, David McGoldrick‘s (£5.2m) opportunistic strike from a mishit George Baldock (£4.9m) effort, beat the Argentine shot-stopper and put paid to hopes of a ninth shut-out on the road.
Villa’s shot count suggested they didn’t miss the injured Jack Grealish (£7.6m) too much, with Ollie Watkins (£6.6m) striking the woodwork, John McGinn (£5.5m) missing a sitter and Ezri Konsa (£4.6m) forcing a fine stop out of Aaron Ramsdale (£4.6m).
But at full-time, visiting boss Dean Smith lamented the lack of a final-third spark that Grealish so often brings:
For all of the possession in the final third we needed better quality, better runs and better balls in but, for me, we tried to get the goal back inside the first five minutes after the sending off instead of being patient, pulling them out and finding holes.
Bertrand Traore (£5.9m) was perhaps the pick of Villa’s FPL assets, with a game-high five attempts including one jinking, Ricky Villa-esque run that ended in an off-target effort.
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