The biggest story of the 29th round of fixtures in the Barclays Premier League was not Burnley’s 1-0 home victory over the reigning champions – it was the four-goal outpouring from Aston Villa. The Villans entered play on Saturday having scored 15 goals in 28 Premier League outings. Easily the worst in the League and on pace to be historically poor. Four goals in 15 away matches had fantasy EPL managers dreaming of bonus points for Black Cats’ keeper Costel Pantilimon and the rest of Gus Poyet’s defenders – with a clean sheet thought to be a foregone conclusion.
First Benteke (16′), then Agbonlahor hit a brace (18′ and 37′) before the imposing Belgian hit the fourth (44′) just before the break. Tim Sherwood’s effervescence carried the day as Benteke’s brace doubled his season tally and saw him earn 13 FPL points (Gabby finished with 12) and sets the stage for an enticing home clash with Swansea next weekend. Benteke (0.6%) and Agbonlahor (1.6%) are both owned in fewer sides than Andreas Weimann (2.3%) despite the later failing to record 90′ since 28 December or a League tally since 2 November. Benteke hit 10 goals in 2126′ a season ago and is just one year removed from his 19-goal debut campaign (2818′).
The Villans Leandro Bacuna recorded a pair of assists in his first 90′ of the season and may be worth monitoring – or even a flyer in a weekly game like Togga’s Perfect XI. He joins Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie as the only players to record two assist this gameweek. Bolaise’s performance was outstanding. Not only for the two assists but his constant pressure in the opposition end of the pitch. He finished the match with eight chances created, two successful crosses and two successful TakeOns*. Alan Pardew’s influence has been unmistakable and the next five matches will provide fertile ground for the Eagles to continue soaring under Pardew’s ‘attack at all costs’ tactics. The win dropped QPR to 19th and may have confirmed the Hoops relegation.
Spurs got knocked the f*#$ out. A rampaging Manchester United side turned the screw early and often – running out to a 3-0 lead after 34′ capped by the captain bull-rushing the Tottenham defense and calmly slotting past Hugo Lloris at his near post. Rooney had come under fire for a video which surfaced of him boxing in his home, but the 29-year-old embraced the controversy on the pitch before down-playing the story after the match.
Rooney has been playing as a proper striker again and took the opportunity to score his third goal in three games and 11th of the campaign. Even more impressive than Roo’s outing were the shifts put in by both Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick. The duo of statuesque midfielders each notched a goal and an assist – for Fellaini it was his first goal in the League since 17 January and first League assist since 26 October. For Carrick it was his first goal and just his second assist on a season interrupted by injury. After missing five straight matches and seeing just 2′ on the pitch in GW28, Carrick delivered an accurate header for the Red Devils’ second goal. Liverpool, City and Chelsea await in the next four and Louis van Gaal may decide this XI deserves an extended run. A similar stability may be sought by Roberto Martinez. The Toffees’ boss saw his side run out 3-0 winners against Newcastle at Goodison on Sunday. Entering play without a League win in five on the spin, Martinez welcomed Leon Osman back to the starting XI – and the midfielder earned his first full 90′ since 3 December. The addition of Osman, plying on the left wing, allowed Martinez to play a true 4-4-2 with Lukaku pairing Arouna Koné up front.
Fantasy premier league managers may be rightly concerned that Romelu Lukaku, and not Leighton Baines, took the penalty kick. England’s left-back was on the pitch but it was the young Belgian who stepped up to slot home Everton’s second on the day. The penalty delivered Lukaku’s first double-digit return in FPL this season. He benefited from the service of Osman and Aaron Lennon on the right, eventually scoring the goal Lennon earned. The on-loan winger notched his first assist since joining Everton from Tottenham at the end of the transfer window.
He wasn’t finished when he earned the penalty, later drawing a straight red for Magpies’ captain Coloccini. Roberto Martinez’s side is looking better with each passing day and face a run of fixtures that will determine the outcome of their season: QPR (a), Southampton (H), Swansea (a) and Burnley (H). Back to Baines – the England international earned two bonus points in this one, to post an 8-point haul. That is the high-water mark for the past 18 weeks. Baines has scored exactly five goals in three of the past four seasons, but without penalty duty it’s hard to believe he’ll hit that mark this season. With just two goals to his credit – and six clean sheets – Baines has been relying heavily on his assists. His eight assists are level-third in fantasy premier league behind only Fabregas (15) and Di Maria (10). Priced £7.0m and 14% owned, Baines may be priced too much for some but he remains an exceptional value. If Everton find their feet it will be Baines who provides the stability and who stands to reap the reward.
*Opta Stats courtesy of www.playtogga.com and reproduced under license.