We continue our Fantasy Premier League (FPL) Gameweek 7 write-ups with analysis of Manchester United v Everton.
Manchester United 1-1 Everton
- Goals: Anthony Martial (£7.6m)| Andros Townsend (£5.5m)
- Assists: Bruno Fernandes (£11.9m) | Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m)
- Bonus: Townsend x3, Martial x2, Doucoure x1
UNITED’S DEFENCE POOR AGAIN
The cries of “attack, attack, attack” started to echo around Old Trafford in the closing stages of Saturday’s draw between Manchester United and Everton.
That expectation for front-foot play coupled with the lack of a world-class defensive midfielder (and perhaps defenders) on United’s books frequently leaves the Red Devils looking open in fixtures in which the onus is on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to attack.
We’ve seen it already against Newcastle United and Leeds United (amongst others) this season, despite the comfortable winning margins, while their sole clean sheet of the campaign – against Wolves – came in a match in which they should have been comfortably beaten.
The Toffees were well worth their equaliser on Saturday, with Demarai Gray (£5.8m), Andros Townsend (£5.5m), Salomon Rondon (£6.0m) and Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m) all denied by last-ditch blocks or a save before Townsend finished a fine breakaway move just after the hour-mark.
“We didn’t close down well enough outside the box, we didn’t clear the ball, we made many mistakes starting with my corner. We should do better, we should learn because it’s not the first time it’s happened. We have to be better next time. We need to change something, something’s not working to concede so many counter-attacks.
“That’s down to the players, not someone else. We have to make a foul, stop the game, I have to take a better corner. Many, many things have to be done better.” – Bruno Fernandes
“We gave them a few counter-attacks. I don’t know the stats, but I know we had the ball most of the time. They didn’t play through us at all really, they counter-attacked.
“That was the same as Wednesday night, we need to be better. When to risk it, how not to be counter-attacked. That’s the key lesson today.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Fred‘s (£4.9m) failure to dispossess or tactically chop down Gray in the build-up to the equaliser underscored his limitations as one of the bodies in the double-pivot, while Raphael Varane (£5.5m) can only be as good as the player alongside him – and neither Harry Maguire (£5.4m) nor Victor Lindelof (£4.8m) are performing well.
Despite a very favourable opening run of games in which they ranked fourth for fixture difficulty on our Season Ticker, some of their underlying defensive stats are poor:
|Rank v other PL clubs (1st being the tightest defence)|
|Big chances conceded||=12th|
|Expected goals conceded (xGC)||9th|
Only Manchester City have conceded fewer shots in the box than United this season but there are plenty of chances being given up just outside the area in almost-as-threatening positions, as the below heatmap shows:
It’s a recurring theme going on since the start of last season: United conceded to every team in the division ranked fifth or below in 2020/21.
Last 35 matches against non-big six sides
The upcoming fixture list makes United’s defenders look even more unappealing on paper but it should be said that they fared far better defensively against the big guns in 2020/21, keeping six clean sheets in 10 ‘big six’ matches. Perhaps with not as much expectation on the Red Devils to attack, Solskjaer feels the pressure less to bomb forward.
But it’s a big ask for Luke Shaw (£5.4m) and to reproduce those numbers again, and with City and Chelsea enjoying some favourable fixtures in the short-to-medium term, there seems little sense in taking the risk with United defenders in FPL right now.
RONALDO AND GREENWOOD: KEEP OR SELL?
While few FPL managers will waste time in getting rid of their United defenders, there’ll be more deliberation over transferring out the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.7m) and Mason Greenwood (£7.7m).
They’re most definitely in ‘no buy’ territory for those Fantasy bosses already without United representation and/or on a Wildcard over the international break, but for the rest of us who do own Ronaldo and co, perhaps they are worth one last crack of the whip in Gameweek 8.
That’s more to do with the calibre of opposition than faith in the United attack itself: Leicester City have been dreadful at the back this season, conceding more goals than all teams bar the much-maligned backlines of Newcastle United, Norwich City and Leeds United.
Jannik Vestergaard (£4.9m) and Caglar Soyuncu (£4.9m) continued their woeful individual form at Crystal Palace on Sunday, while Ryan Bertrand (£4.9m) has flattered to deceive too – and they would direct match-ups for Ronaldo and Greenwood, if selected, in the upcoming Gameweek.
Thereafter, United attackers look like easier sells until Gameweek 15 – particularly with rotation now a real risk for all and sundry.
Ronaldo didn’t start on Saturday, with Solskjaer citing the need for freshness ahead of kick-off when asked about his decision to leave the veteran Portuguese and Paul Pogba (£7.8m) out of his line-up and instead hand starts to Edinson Cavani (£8.4m) and goalscorer Anthony Martial (£7.6m)
“Wednesday night was a big effort, big emotional and physical output, so we needed to freshen it up when it’s an early kick-off.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Bruno Fernandes (£11.9m) averages only three points per match over the last six Gameweeks, meanwhile, despite an assist on Saturday.
EVERTON’S MID-PRICE MIDFIELDERS SHINE AGAIN
Last week we devoted a bit of time to Everton’s mid-price midfielders, so we won’t quite go into the same detail this time around.
Suffice to say, Doucoure, Gray and Townsend remain well matched for underlying stats and FPL points, and still impress on the eye, even if they are continuing to wildly overachieve based on ‘expected goals’ (xG) data.
Doucoure and Townsend are now joint-third among FPL midfielders for points, with Gray – who was a threat on Saturday despite his blank – not far back in joint-ninth.
Townsend last week discussed the work he was doing under Rafael Benitez to get closer to the goal and he was top of the pile for shots in the box at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But it’ll be interesting to see how the winger’s game fares once Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m) and Richarlison (£7.4m) are back to fitness, given the aerial prowess of both players and the remit perhaps more likely to be ‘supply’ rather than ‘shoot’.
Townsend has been drifting more centrally in Calvert-Lewin’s absence (see below), registering 10 penalty-box touches compared to the one he recorded in Gameweeks 1-3, with Rondon more battering ram and decoy than a target for crosses.
Calvert-Lewin was front and centre of the Toffees’ attack in Gameweeks 1-3, racking up 11 shots in the box to Gray’s two and Townsend’s zero, so it’s one to watch.
Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw, Fred (Pogba 70), McTominay, Greenwood, Fernandes (c), Martial (Sancho 65), Cavani (Ronaldo 56).
Everton XI: Pickford, Keane, Allan, Gray (Dobbin 91), Digne (c), Mina, Townsend, Doucoure, Godfrey, Gordon (Davies 72), Rondon.