Gameweek 34: Man U Have to be Kidding Me….

Southampton 2 – Chelsea 3

St. Mary’s Stadium | Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | 7:30 AM EST

Chelsea traveled to St. Mary’s in fifth place with just twelve points won since the turn of the year. Southampton hosted the champions, sitting in the relegation zone at eighteenth and with just eleven points in their year to date total. Southampton began the game the more interested of the two teams with Chelsea playing in a lackluster manner, lacking any composition to their play. Chelsea arguably has lost their desire and passion to play following an almost certain omission from next years Champions League following defeat to Spurs and the increasing likeliness of a managerial change in the summer. Southampton climbed to a two-goal lead through Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek before the introduction of Olivier Giroud turned the game on its head, literally, as he’s done so many times before, with his head. The Frenchman first rose highest to meet Marcos Alonso’s cross into the box before Eden Hazard leveled things up five minutes later. Giroud got his second of the game, firing low on the volley after a scramble in the box three minutes later, making it three goals in eight minutes for the blues, seeing out the rest of the game in comfortable fashion while leaving Southampton deflated and still below the drop zone.

Olivier Giroud (24) scored twice in the 29 minutes he played off the bench. Not many fantasy owners will have included him in their starting eleven, but the Frenchman moved to second place on the all-time scoring list for contributions off the bench. Eden Hazard (23.5) had his first goal or assist contribution in five gameweeks as he scored to level things up. Willian (22.5) contributed by assisting the equalizer for Chelsea as well as making six key passes.

Dusan Tadic (21) was pulling all of the strings for Southampton on the day, but it was an assist from captain Ryan Bertrand (10.5) that opened the scoring for the Serbian midfielder. James Ward Prowse (11) sent in a blinding cross on the set piece to Premier League debutant Jan Bednarek (7) to make it two goals to the good before Chelsea barnstormed the day to leave Southampton doing the grim math in front of them.

 

Swansea City 1 – Everton 1

Liberty Stadium | Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | 10:00 AM EST

Swansea came out with a point to prove on a sunny day at the Liberty Stadium, where they’ve recently beaten Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley, and West Ham. Jordan Ayew made his return from a three-match ban, and Rooney started despite his outburst at his early departure from the previous match. Despite Swansea being in control on and off the ball for the majority of the first half, Everton scored first against the run of play (Kyle Naughton OG, 43’). The second half went back and forth until Swansea was able to pin back the Everton side and capitalize on a poor clearance from Seamus Coleman. (Jordan Ayew 71’, assist Tom Carroll). It wasn’t an encouraging display from the Toffees who were happy to leave with a point.

Jordan (18.5) & André Ayew (12.5): The Ayew brothers were the lead playmaking duo during the match, both were a threat to score throughout. Jordan deservedly scored the equalizer in the 71st, the creativity in his runs and passes caused nightmares for the Everton right side. He scored his second largest point total for the season despite a yellow card and six dispossessions.

Lukasz Fabianski (5.25), Kyle Naughton (-4), Federico Fernández (16.75), Alfie Mawson (6.25), Martin Olsson (4.5): The Swansea defense continues to underperform, none of the defensive starters for the match have an average L3W greater than three. Swansea’s control over the game did not leave many fantasy points to go around. Federico Fernández was the standout player with an impressive 9 aerial duels won and 7 clearances. Naughton was unlucky to have Everton’s goal deflect off of him and into the net, he finished with a negative point total for the second time in three weeks. The future doesn’t look bright for this group, as their next two matches are at Manchester City and at home against Chelsea.

Cenk Tosun (6), Yannick Bolasie (8.5), Wayne Rooney (4), Theo Walcott (6): Business as usual for the Everton attack, which isn’t a good thing – they continue to trend down. Everton wasn’t dangerous for the majority of the game, things aren’t clicking for this group, and we could see the introduction of Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin into the starting line up next week.

 

Crystal Palace 3 – Brighton & Hove Albion 2

Selhurst Park | Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | 10:00 AM EST

South London’s Selhurst Park was the scene of a crucial game at the bottom of the Premier League, with both clubs looking to keep their necks above the relegation line. With Southampton losing today, following a comeback by an Olivier Giroud inspired Chelsea, both clubs had a chance to cement their place in next years competition. The first half of the match was explosive, the ball hitting the back of the net five times between the two teams. Crystal Palace got off to a blistering start through goals from Wilfried Zaha, and James Tomkins before Lewis Dunk’s header from a corner was knocked in at point-blank range from Brighton talisman Glenn Murray. Crystal Palace’s third of the half came via a pinpoint cross from the foot of Milijojevic to the head of Wilfried Zaha for the pair’s second combination of the day. Izquierdo neatly slotted away Brighton’s second of the day, setting up a tense and tactical second half. Brighton will feel they did enough to earn them an equalizer and a share of the points but a combination of turgid defending, namely from goalkeeper Wayne Hennesey and Mamadou Sakho, and uncharacteristic misses from Glenn Murray meant that Brighton will have to be wary as they enter the final gameweeks of the season, where they play their final five games against five of the Premier League’s top seven.

Wilfried Zaha (29.5) and Luka Milivojevic (23.5) amassed their impressive returns in the first half with Milivojevic assisting Wilfried Zaha on two occasions while almost scoring a fourth for Palace. James Tomkins (21) scored a goal and contributed twelve effective clearances.

Glenn Murray (16.5) and Jose Izquierdo (17) were both on target for Brighton but the former will be left ruing his chances as he had multiple opportunities to draw Brighton level.

 

Liverpool 3 – AFC Bournemouth 0

Anfield | Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | 10:00 AM EST

AFC Bournemouth started with Jermain Defoe up top despite last week’s poor performance, Joshua King replaced Callum Wilson in the second striker role after his superior display against Crystal Palace, and Jordan Ibe returned from his brief spell on the bench due to illness. The Fab Three started together after their hiatus against Everton – it didn’t take long for them to find their groove. Liverpool scored early, which effectively turned Bournemouth’s defensive line of 5 into an invitation for sustained pressure, opening up the game up far sooner than what Eddie Howe would have preferred. Bournemouth held firm for much of the game despite their early concession, but a brilliant team goal orchestrated by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah put Liverpool up two at which point there was no looking back. Liverpool has a relatively smooth remaining run of games, but the UCL semi-finals may phase out their first team as the season comes to a close.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (13.5), Jordan Henderson (11), Georginio Wijnaldum (12): It’s the attacking trident that receives the majority of plaudits, but the cohesiveness and balance between this trio is the bass in Liverpool’s heavy metal ethos. The understanding displayed by this group is impeccable; each midfielder is allowed to play to their strengths while covering for each other’s weakness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is enabled to drive into space while Henderson makes himself available, and Wijnaldum patrols in front of the back four ready to confiscate any loose balls.

Mohamed Salah (21.5), Trent Alexander-Arnold (29.75): This duo combined for one of the best goals of the season for Liverpool’s second goal. TAA played a pinpoint cross from 40+ yards onto Salah’s head who dinked the ball over the keeper while being flanked from both sides. It was an “off game” for Salah, but he still scored 20+ points for the third time in four weeks as he became only the 8th Premier League player to score 30+ goals in a season. TAA will be pushing for an invitation to the World Cup from England given his recent performances. The next 5 weeks will be crucial as he’s positioned to feature in both the Premier League and UCL semi-finals.

Jermain Defoe (0.5), Joshua King (7), Jordan Ibe (-0.5), Callum Wilson (0.5): To say Bournemouth’s attack was undetectable would be kind given their non-existent performance on Saturday. The lack of any threat going forward wasn’t just down to the players; Eddie Howe’s defensive team selection backfired immediately as the players on the pitch didn’t have the requisite skill to break down the Liverpool side after conceding so early. Bournemouth plays Manchester United next and is off the following game week, so it’s time to find some short-term replacements if you’ve been reliant on any Bournemouth attackers.

 

Newcastle United 2 – Arsenal 1

St. James Park | Sunday, April 15th, 2018 | 8:30 AM EST

Arsenal’s away performance has been historically dreadful this season; they’ve lost four away matches in a row, a fifth would be their first time losing five on the trot for the first time since 1984. Additionally, Arsenal was on 13 away points for the season, their all-time low is 22. Arsenal went with a moderate team selection, Aaron Ramey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, and Laurent Koscielny stayed home on a day where they were desperately needed. The game was a tedious watch with a respective plot; Newcastle over the top, Arsenal collect inconvincibly and pass it side to side for a few minutes at which point Newcastle pressure Arsenal into a mistake and resume their ball over the top routine. Arsenal possessed the ball for 72% of the game but only produced three shots on goal in a quintessential Arsenal performance away from home.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (19), Alexandre Lacazette (15.5): Arsenal’s main men up front connected early to get their points but that was it. It was a well-worked goal that gave Arsenal supporters a glimpse into what the future may hold, but the fact is that PEA or Lacazette will never reach their potential without a functional midfield behind them.

 Granit Xhaka (4), Mohamed Elneny (4): Xhaka and Elneney have each been on a decent as of late, but this midfield duo hasn’t, didn’t, and will not work together. Each prefers to take up a more defensive position in the attack to recycle the ball to their forwards so playing them both is an impediment to space and creativity. Arsenal badly missed Aaron Ramsey’s runs forward into the box, Xhaka nor Elneny had the confidence to burst forward and create for their team.

Jonjo Shelvey (5), Mohamed Diame (9.5), Ayoze Perez (23.5), Matt Ritchie (17.5): Newcastle’s star men ran the show against Arsenal. Shelvey, protected by Diame, played the ball over the top repeatedly – Arsenal responded by fumbling most 50/50s and refusing to put pressure on the Newcastle man. Perez and Ritchie were purposeful when they received the ball, they lit up the scoreboard with the help of inexplicable defending from Arsenal.

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