Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Carlos Vinicius (£6.9m), Harry Kane (£11.6m)
- Assists: Lucas Moura (£6.6m)
- Bonus: Lucas x3, Joe Rodon (£5.0m) x2, Kane x1
A fairly low-key affair at Villa Park saw Tottenham Hotspur emerge as victors, with the narrative from a Fantasy perspective as much about the players who didn’t feature as those who did.
THE RIGHT KOREA CHOICE
Absent from the Spurs squad on Sunday was Son Heung-min (£9.4m), whose hamstring injury kept him sidelined.
Jose Mourinho was clearly angling for Son to stay in England over the international break when discussing the winger’s fitness last week – and it looks like he has got his way, with the South Korea Football Association confirming on Sunday that the Spurs man had withdrawn from their squad.
The next question is whether Son will be fit for the trip to Newcastle in Gameweek 30. The signs look fairly positive: Mourinho had said the premium midfielder would “need the international break to recover totally”, with local media reporting that a return for the clash on Tyneside is a possibility.
Elsewhere on the Spurs fitness front, Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) and Serge Aurier (£5.2m) missed out through illness and Sergio Reguilon (£5.5m) limped off after 55 minutes – but downplayed the severity of his injury after full-time.
Aston Villa were without their own game-changing left-winger, with Jack Grealish (£7.5m) not recovering in time to feature.
He looks set to return against Fulham in Gameweek 30, however. Speaking to Sky Sports before Sunday’s game, Villa boss Dean Smith said:
There was definitely a chance, I wouldn’t have said it if there wasn’t.
He had not trained up until Friday when I had done my press conference, but he is pain-free now and he is running. So he will definitely be back after the international break, for sure.
Tenth-place Villa were again limp without their talisman, registering just one shot on target – a speculative 25-yard effort from John McGinn (£5.5m), at that – against a Spurs side that had lost their last seven Premier League games against clubs currently in the top half.
The Villans have scored on only three occasions in Grealish’s six-match absence, with Ollie Watkins (£6.6m) not only without a goal to his name in that time but also a single ‘big chance’.
Smith acknowledged after full-time that even some of his players were “waiting for Jack to come back”, although did point out that the dip in form had preceded the England international’s absence:
At times I feel like the players are waiting for Jack to come back. This is a great opportunity for them.
Since the COVID break, we’ve not been anywhere near as consistent as we were.
Over the last eight games, we’ve created nowhere near as many chances as we should. Defensively, I think we’ve been solid – apart from individual mistakes have cost us goals.
I’ve said this before but I didn’t think we played well in the two games before Jack came out of the team. We weren’t great but, with Jack, you get that bit of quality like his cross at Southampton where we got the goal. He’s got that little bit of quality which can open up teams and would have opened up Tottenham today.
It wasn’t just injuries that led to no-shows from the most-popular FPL assets on Sunday.
Gareth Bale (£9.7m) was bought by more Fantasy managers than any other player ahead of the Gameweek 30 deadline but failed to register a single minute in the Midlands, with his unexpected hour-long run-out in the Europa League on Thursday perhaps contributing to Mourinho’s decision to bench him.
There were surprises all round in the Special One’s starting XI, with Joe Rodon (£5.0m) and Japhet Tanganga (£4.9m) starting in defence, the fit-again Giovani Lo Celso (£6.9m) thrust straight back into the side and the underused Carlos Vinicius (£6.9m) deployed up front.
Speaking of his line-up after the game, Mourinho said:
My thinking was we need angry people, we need fresh and positive feelings. We need kids on the bench that live a dream, kids that if you play them 10 seconds, they play them like the last seconds of their career. I need people on the pitch that I know the match is really important for them. Tanganga and Rodon are these kind of players. This kind of positivity is something that the team needed. I think it was good.
The nagging worry for Fantasy managers with Bale in their squads is that it wasn’t just fatigue that led to his omission on Sunday but that he is at the centre of one of Mourinho’s trademark about-turns, which have seen players suddenly drop out his favour at a moment’s notice.
Bale owners could no doubt have done without an upcoming triple-header of fixtures for Wales, too, although there could be managed game-time in the friendly against Mexico, a match that is sandwiched by two World Cup qualifiers.
MOURA THE SAME
Harry Kane‘s (£11.6m) 30th attacking return of the season arrived on Sunday, with his 67th-minute penalty and complimentary bonus point providing the two million+ FPL managers who captained him with a satisfying enough haul.
Kane had a strike partner for this encounter, with Vinicius – who opened the scoring at Villa Park – used alongside him. Speaking straight after full-time, the England international said:
It’s been spoken about this year, it’s part of my game, dropping into the hole. Vinny is more of a number nine, so he stretched as much as he could, tried to occupy the two centre-halves and for me to try and get into the pockets.
Kane still registered twice as many shots as anyone on show despite his above job description, with Lucas Moura (£6.6m) topping the table for chances created in this clash.
Lucas has been in excellent form of late and he claimed the assist for Vinicius’ opener, his fourth attacking return in his last six outings – twice as many as he had managed in the rest of 2020/21.
He is only joint-52nd among midfielders for expected goal involvement (xGI) over his last six matches, however, to put his output in context.
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Luiz; Traore (El Ghazi 60), Sanson (Barkley 66), Trezeguet (Davis 79), Watkins.
Spurs XI (4-4-2): Lloris; Tanganga, Sanchez, Rodon, Reguilon (Davies 57); Hojbjerg, Ndombele (Sissoko 81); Lo Celso (Bergwijn 66), Moura; Kane, Vinicius.
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