Double Gameweek 26 finally came to a finish on Thursday evening, with a few Fantasy success stories celebrated but plenty more blanks lamented.
NO DOUBTING THOMAS
Any questions over whether Thomas Tuchel’s ‘easy’ start was behind Chelsea’s upturn in defensive numbers has been put to rest in Double Gameweek 26.
The Blues followed up their goalless draw with Manchester United with a 1-0 win at Anfield, taking Tuchel’s new troops to six clean sheets in their last eight Premier League matches.
Chelsea didn’t concede a single big chance across the whole of Gameweek 26 and reduced Liverpool to just one effort on target on Thursday.
Even the loss of Thiago Silva (£5.6m) to injury hasn’t derailed the backline, with Andreas Christensen (£4.7m) slipping seamlessly into the defence in the Brazilian’s absence and producing a man-of-the-match display at Anfield.
The goals haven’t exactly flowed at the other end but Mason Mount (£6.8m) has scored more of them than any other player under his new boss, and it was his fine run and first-half strike that proved decisive come full-time.
YOU DON’T WIN
FRIENDS POINTS WITH SALAH
While Chelsea’s defence continues to impress, Liverpool’s is in disarray.
A clean sheet against Sheffield United on Sunday, only the Reds’ second of 2021, was always to be treated with a healthy scepticism.
And normal, horrible service resumed against Chelsea, with the visitors exploiting a disastrously high line time and time again.
Only a marginal VAR call and profligate finishing denied Timo Werner (£9.2m) from getting in on the act before and after Mount’s strike, with even the return of Alisson (£5.9m) and Fabinho (£5.4m) failing to have any galvanising effect.
Liverpool’s attack will face easier tests than Chelsea’s in-form backline but the fact is that Jurgen Klopp’s outfit have now only scored 11 goals in their last 13 matches – and only one goal in six fixtures at Anfield.
Mohamed Salah‘s (£12.6m) Double Gameweek 26 ended in ignominious fashion as he was hauled off on the hour-mark for what was his 10th blank in 13 appearances.
Jurgen Klopp explained the substitution after full-time:
Just bringing fresh legs. It’s not very often but Mo looked today like he suffered a little bit, played a lot of games. You’re right, I could have taken off Sadio, Bobby but at the moment, it looked like Mo suffered the most.
Tottenham Hotspur’s much-lauded attacking trident of Gareth Bale (£9.3m), Harry Kane (£11.1m) and Son Heung-min (£9.5m) plundered 36 points between them in Spurs’ 4-0 win over Burnley at the weekend but that premium FPL trio could only add another six at Craven Cottage on Thursday night.
This always looked the trickier of the Lilywhites’ two Double Gameweek 26 fixtures, with Fulham among the division’s form defences after four clean sheets in their previous five games.
And so it proved in an edgy contest, but there were still enough openings for the Spurs attackers to add to their tallies: Kane uncharacteristically wasted two big chances, depriving Son of an assist with one of his spurned opportunities.
The luckless Korean thought he banked an assist for the visitors’ opener, too, only for Dele Alli‘s (£7.4m) strike to be subsequently awarded as a Tosin Adarabioyo (£4.5m) own-goal.
Bale’s unproductive display was brought to an end after 67 minutes and it may well slow the rate of FPL transfers in ahead of the Gameweek 27 clash with Crystal Palace, a match he may well be a rotation risk for anyway given his previous struggles to string together successive starts.
On Alli’s first start since Gameweek 1 and his plethora of options in midfield, Jose Mourinho said after full-time:
In this moment, we need the squad. So many matches coming so fast. Of course we need it. We cannot change the structure of team. We can change 2-3 players which today we did with Dele, Ben and Matt.
Vinicius and Bergwijn and was not even on the bench. We have this group of eight players for these attacking positions and I like them all so it depends on the moment, it depends on the work, it depends on the match plan and the position, the accumulation of matches.
The previous two matches it was Lucas that was starting and he needs a rest. We could feel him coming in the last 20 minutes could give elevation to the team.
RICH VEIN OF FORM
It’s now four Premier League goals in as many games for Richarlison (£7.9m), whose second-half header was the only difference between Everton and West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
The Brazilian, who only had two league strikes to his name before Gameweek 24, has spent much of 2020/21 out on the left flank but the switch to a central role in February has benefited him hugely.
Five big chances in the last three Gameweeks is almost half of what he has managed all season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.8m), who has only two goals to his name since Gameweek 12, can only look on enviously at his strike partner’s purple patch; he wasted a big chance to end his drought just before half-time on Thursday but fired straight at Sam Johnstone (£4.5m).
West Brom’s Mbaye Diagne (£6.0m) continues to look a threat in the budget forward bracket but his luck was out against the Toffees; denied an early goal by a flying Jordan Pickford (£4.8m) save, he saw a stoppage-time leveller ruled out by a VAR-adjudged offside call.
That late disallowed effort meant that Everton have now recorded three consecutive clean sheets, with Michael Keane (£5.1m) banking bonus points to go with all of them.
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