FULHAM 0-1 CHELSEA
- Goals: Mason Mount (£6.8m)
- Assists: None
- Red cards: Antonee Robinson (£4.4m)
- Bonus points: Mount x3, Antonio Rüdiger x2 (£4.5m), Thiago Silva x1 (£5.6m)
OUT OF THE BLUE
Ahead of an appealing run of matches, Chelsea kept a much-needed clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Fulham.
It was the first time the Blues had kept out a Premier League opponent since Gameweek 14 and only their second shut-out since Gameweek 11 – but the signs of improvement were there at Craven Cottage.
And, of course, defensive returns were bread and butter stuff for Frank Lampard’s men earlier in the campaign, with achieved five clean sheets from a possible seven between Gameweeks 4 and 10.
Based on Saturday’s win, the next few weeks could see a return to that sort of form.
When sorting the Season Ticker by defensive potential over the next five Gameweeks, no team ranks higher than Chelsea, who face Wolves (home), Burnley (home), Sheffield United (away) and Newcastle (home) between now and Gameweek 24.
While Wolves have managed to score six times between Gameweeks 17 and 19, they have failed to find the net in every away match at a side inside the Premier League top seven this season (Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester United).
Meanwhile, Burnley (nine) and Sheffield United (nine) are the division’s joint-lowest scorers and Newcastle have scored just once in their last four league outings.
Against Fulham, Chelsea did, of course, benefit from a first-half sending off for Antonee Robinson (£4.4m) but the centre-back pairing of Thiago Silva (£5.6m) and Antonio Rüdiger (£4.5m), despite only making a second Premier League start together, mostly looked in control.
However, that fact does introduce the main problem for Fantasy managers considering the Chelsea defence: how to invest.
Between Gameweeks 6 and 13, Lampard deployed Silva with Kurt Zouma (£5.8m), Ben Chilwell (£6.1m) and Reece James (£5.1m) seven times from a possible eight but that consistency has wavered since then.
Injuries to his full-backs and minute management for the centre-backs have made Lampard’s back-four harder to predict of late and Rüdiger’s form has further complicated matters – although it does provide an opportunity for Fantasy managers looking to take a cheap risk.
Despite Zouma’s consistent presence this season, the German international has lasted 90 minutes in two of the last three Premier League matches, paired with Silva in each of those appearances.
Rüdiger went close to scoring a headed effort at the far post on Saturday too, denied only by a superb diving Alphonse Areola (£4.5m) save.
Considering that James was only an unused substitute upon recovering from his injury, and Silva has required regular rests this season, Chilwell appears the safest route into the Chelsea defence in the coming weeks.
That said, the £6.1m defender has seen a drop-off in creative output recently, registering just one key pass in the last four matches.
MOUNTING AN ATTACK
Chelsea’s attacking options offer a similar challenge to Fantasy managers as Lampard continues to shuffle his pack.
Timo Werner (£9.2m), who missed a golden late chance, Tammy Abraham (£7.2m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m) had to make-do with second-half substitute appearances while Olivier Giroud (£6.7m), Christian Pulisic (£8.2m) and Hakim Ziyech (£8.1m) all blanked.
The Moroccan international is becoming increasingly influential for Chelsea again, taking his fair share of set pieces before Hudson-Odoi replaced him in the 74th minute. He is still without an attacking return since Gameweek 8 despite making five appearances since then although he was denied from the edge of the box and hit the post on Saturday..
Mason Mount (£6.8m), who also struck the woodwork at Craven Cottage, has been a relatively consistent performer, and starter, so may receive some consideration. That said, his Double Gameweek 19 goal was a first attacking return since Gameweek 14 and his first goal, and double-digit haul, since Gameweek 3.
“I thought it was very apt Mason got the goal. I thought he was fantastic.” – Frank Lampard
But considering the wealth of options Lampard has at Chelsea, and the fact that finding a truly devastating combination has proved difficult with just one goal scored in each of their last four matches, we may need more time before a real attacking Fantasy option emerges ahead of those appealing fixtures.
That is especially pertinent considering that the busy schedule played a part in Lampard’s most recent team selection and there are certainly plenty more matches to come in quick succession.
“It was difficult and I was speaking about Callum (Hudson-Odoi) specifically because there has been an uplift from him recently. But Hakim gives us something different. I did have Leicester in mind and we will see how some do over the next day or two.”
While Fulham suffered a ninth defeat of the season against Chelsea, they continue to prove themselves harder to beat than some Fantasy managers might be led to believe.
Despite losing Robinson on the stroke of half-time, Fulham still held Chelsea at arm’s length for much of Saturday evening.
Their 1-0 loss means they have conceded either one or fewer goals in each of their last six Premier League matches.
The last time the Cottagers gave up two or more goals was the Gameweek 11 defeat at Manchester City, which serves as a reminder to anyone still targeting them as Premier League ‘whipping boys’.
Manchester United are among their next opponents, although Fantasy managers can do nothing about that match as it forms part of Double Gameweek 19, while Leicester’s Gameweek 22 trip to Fulham should probably not be seen as much of an opportunity as it might do on paper.
In fact, with Brighton (away) and West Bromwich Albion (away) two of the Cottagers’ next three opponents, Parker might fancy their chances of adding to the two clean sheets recorded in the last five matches.
“I thought we defended heroically and we defended very well. It’s a shame they got their nose in front but overall nothing but admiration for the way the team played.” – Scott Parker
Whether they can offer the same level of attacking potential remains to be seen, especially as Robinson formed such a big part of their threat against Chelsea and Bobby De Cordova-Reid (£5.3m) will miss Fulham’s second Double Gameweek 19 match against Manchester United.
The left wing-back set up Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) in the first half, who was denied by a Rüdiger block, before spearheading a move that saw Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.3m) spurn a gilt-edged chance.
“First half limited them really and then ten minutes before the sending off we were in the ascendancy and missed a big chance with Cavaleiro when really when your us, those chances need to go in. Sending off changes the game obviously.”
That Cavaleiro opportunity was created by Kenny Tete (£4.4m) who has shown signs of promise since returning from injury. He has now started each of the last three matches in all competitions at right wing-back for Fulham and looks in good form.
In fact, across his last four matches, he has created more chances than any other Fulham player, despite only featuring for 286 minutes in that time.
“I thought it’s the best we’ve seen Kenny (Tete) today. I thought everything about him today has been first class. He’s an attacking full-back and at times in the first half, we saw that getting in the right areas. In the second half, there were limited chance to go forward and he has to defend and put a shift in for the team. Defensively he was very good as well. He’s been out for a long while and we’ve asked him to play two games in a short space of time, that’s where it is and we’re going to need him fully in the next few games as well.”
Fulham XI (3-5-2): Areola; Adarabioyo, Andersen, Aina (Bryan 83′); A Robinson, Zambo Anguissa, Reed, De Cordova-Reid (Kamara 83′), Tete; Lookman, Cavaleiro (Onomah 79′).
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): E Mendy; Chilwell, Rüdiger, T Silva, Azpilicueta; Mount, Jorginho (Abraham 65′), Kovacic; Pulisic, Giroud (Werner 75′), Ziyech (Hudson-Odoi 75′).
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