The Nick Pope vs Tom Heaton debate took an unexpected turn on Thursday as both goalkeepers now have injuries to deal with.
Elsewhere, we learned more about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s role in Unai Emery’s new-look Arsenal side and Marko Arnautovic continued his impressive pre-season form.
In another Scout Notes piece we analyse how the latest goals, assists and line-ups should affect our Gameweek 1 plans for Fantasy Premier League.
ARSENAL 1-1 ATLETICO MADRID
- Goals: Emile Smith-Rowe
- Assists: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m)
New Arsenal manager Unai Emery appears to be preparing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) for a role on the left flank of his attacking front-three this season. The Gabonese striker has reportedly been taking up this position in training and was used there in the Gunners first pre-season match in Singapore against Atletico Madrid. Aubameyang still threatened from his wider position as it made him harder to mark, and it must be remembered he scored registered three goals and two assists in three appearances as a left forward last season. On Thursday night, he played the key pass for Emile Smith-Rowe’s spectacular second-half equaliser, laying the ball off to him having won it back in midfield.
It was Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) who led the line, just as he has done in training too, lending some credence to the argument for selecting him over Aubameyang, considering the £1.5m saving on offer for Fantasy managers. The Frenchman already had three pre-season goals in as many matches before this Atletico meeting and was unlucky not to add to his tally as three good chances were brilliantly saved by Jan Oblak.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.5m) looked like he will be at the heart of Arsenal’s attacking play in 2018/19, setting up two of Lacazette’s chances. But the stand-out star was 17-year-old Smith-Rowe, who was composed on the ball, showed great skill in midfield, and craftily took the ball around two defenders before launching his shot from distance into the top corner.
Emery’s plans for the Arsenal defence are still hard to get an accurate fix on. This match was just the second the Gunners have played publicly so far this summer, with two others played behind closed doors. The new manager went for a back-four in the first hour which featured Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) and Hector Bellerin (£6.0m) on either side of Rob Holding (£4.5m) and Shkodran Mustafi (£5.5m). After a raft of changes, Emery switched to a back-three containing Calum Chambers (£4.5m), Sokratis Papastathopoulous (£5.5m) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (£5.0m) with Jordi Osei-Tutu and Kolasinac as the wing-backs, the latter the only player to get a full 90 minutes in Singapore. Sokratis and Chambers have been spotted paired together in training which could suggest Emery is looking to use them together, but when looking for the best Arsenal defender to invest in, we need more information first, so keep an eye on subsequent Scout Notes articles.
Of note was the fact that Bernd Leno (£5.0m) started ahead of Petr Cech (£5.0m), although the latter did get game-time in the second-half. Potential 2018/19 bargain Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.0m), featured only as a substitute and looked good when on the ball but Arsenal struggled to get it to him enough. Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil (£8.5m) was present at the match having returned to training on Monday but he was not involved in the action himself.
ARSENAL XI (4-3-3): Leno (Cech); Kolasinac, Holding (Sokratis 65’), Mustafi (Chambers 65’), Bellerin (Osei-Tutu 65’); Guendouzi (Willock 74’), Ramsey (Mavropanos 65’), Smith-Rowe (Maitland-Niles 65’); Aubameyang (Perez 65’), Lacazette (Nketiah 65’), Nelson (Mkhitaryan 65’).
ABERDEEN 1-1 BURNLEY
- Goals: Sam Vokes (£5.5m)
- Assists: Chris Wood (£6.5m)
The Burnley goalkeeper situation took an unexpected turn during Thursday night’s 1-1 draw with Aberdeen. There has been much debate over whether Nick Pope (£5.0m) or Tom Heaton (£5.0m) would start the season in net for the Clarets, considering the former’s involvement in the World Cup, but it is now a possibility that neither of them feature in Gameweek 1.
Heaton was ruled out of the Europa League qualifier at Pittodrie with a calf strain, which meant Pope, who had returned to training earlier this week, was thrust straight back into the Burnley side. However, he was forced off with a shoulder injury in the 14th minute following a collision and was taken to hospital after being replaced by Anders Lindegaard (not yet in FPL). After the match manager Sean Dyche revealed that Pope’s knock could be a long-term one.
“We’ll find out more, he’s gone to hospital, at this stage it looks more serious than not serious. We’ll wait and see, Tom has a minor calf injury, and Anders did great. It’s not easy to walk on there in that sort of game, and he handled it nicely.
With some uncertainty in goal, the Burnley back-four may prove a more assured route for Fantasy managers looking to buy into their defence. As expected, Stephen Ward (£5.0m), James Tarkowski (£5.0m), Ben Mee (£5.0m) and Matt Lowton (£5.0m) lined up in Scotland, with little reason to believe they won’t do so at Southampton in Gameweek 1, barring injuries. Potential investors should still stay informed on the goalkeeper situation as the absence of both Pope and Heaton may make them less reliable. Thursday was Lindegaard’s first senior competitive appearance for any club since conceding eleven goals in two Championship matches for Preston in October 2016. Furthermore, Tarkowski also gave away a penalty against Aberdeen.
Ashley Barnes (£6.0m), Robbie Brady (£5.5m) and Steven Defour (£5.5m) all missed out on the match as they recover from various knocks. Chris Wood (£6.5m), on the other hand, allayed fears over his fitness as he started the match leading the line in a 4-3-3 formation. Brady’s absence, as predicted, allowed Aaron Lennon (£5.0m) to get a start on the right-flank, in a more advanced position than would normally be expected in the traditionally 4-4-2 system. Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£6.0m) also benefitted from the switch, deployed on the left flank of the front three. That said, the Clarets’ crucial equaliser in the second-half came after reverting back to 4-4-2, Wood finding substitute Sam Vokes (£5.5m), who lifted the ball over his marker, headed it down and blasted high into the net from close range.
BURNLEY XI (4-3-3): Pope (Lindegaard 14’); Ward, Mee, Tarkowski, Lowton; Westwood, Hendrick (Vokes 67’), Cork; Gudmundsson, Wood, Lennon.
BLACKBURN ROVERS 3-0 EVERTON
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
Richarlison (£6.5m) hit the ground running in his bid to justify a £40 million transfer fee with an energetic performance in Thursday night’s trip to Blackburn Rovers. The Brazilian could not affect the result, a worrying 3-0 win for the Championship side, but there are already encouraging signs for the 10.3 percent who have him in their Fantasy squads. The former Watford man was introduced as a left forward in the second-half but popped up in virtually every position in the front line on the night. It was also clear that his team-mates had been briefed to get the ball to him as often as possible. That level of attention from the rest of the team bodes well for Richarlison’s goal involvement potential in 2018/19. He had two chances to score at Ewood Park, a chip that went just wide and a header from a Baines cross that went just over the bar, also getting back to make tackles when needed.
The fact that Everton were 2-0 down by the time Richarlison entered the fray says more about the Toffees’ second-string players than their first-teamers. New manager Marco Silva had said earlier this summer that he wanted to have two players competing for every position, thankfully for Fantasy managers, there doesn’t seem to be much competition, especially in defence. Another poor performance from Ashley Williams (£4.5m) and Matthew Pennington in the first-half added further backing to Michael Keane (£5.0m) and Phil Jagielka (£4.5m) as the likely Gameweek 1 centre-back pairing. Leighton Baines (£5.5m) and Seamus Coleman (£5.5m) should easily have their starting berths nailed down and we’ll have to wait and see whether Jordan Pickford (£5.0m) can get back in time to replace Maarten Stekelenburg (£4.0m), who was at fault for one of Blackburn’s goals.
Further up the pitch, Mohamed Basic, Tom Davies (£5.5m), Sandro Ramirez (£5.5m) and Kevin Mirallas (£5.5m) struggled to supply Oumar Niasse (£5.5m) with much service, although Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.5m) pressed well the opposition well. That was particularly impressive considering this was his first outing after returning from World Cup leave.
While several players can be discounted from Everton selection discussions following this match, there is still much up in the air. Theo Walcott (£6.5m), Yannick Bolasie (£6.0m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.5m) and Beni Baningime (£4.5m) still haven’t featured in pre-season for various reason but are all expected to be involved in some form between now and Gameweek 1.
EVERTON XI (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Robinson (Baines 45’), Williams (Jagielka 45’), Pennington (Keane 45’), Kenny (Coleman 45’); Besic (Schneiderlin 45’), Davies (Gueye 45’); Ramirez, Sigurdsson (Dowell 45’), Mirallas (Richarlison 45’); Niasse (Tosun 45’).
ASTON VILLA 1-3 WEST HAM
- Goals: Michail Antonio (£7.0m), Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m), Robert Snodgrass
- Assists: Artur Masuaku (£4.5m), Arnautovic
Michail Antonio (£7.0m) scored on his return from injury to add some complication on the flanks at West Ham. Manager Manuel Pellegrini splashed out big money to bring Andriy Yarmolenko (£7.0m) and Felipe Anderson (£7.0m) to the club over the summer which would suggest they are the more likely to start but Antonio has historically impressed when fit. So his presence back in the squad is something to be wary of when considering either one of Yarmolenko or Anderson, who made his first appearance of pre-season too. Antonio’s goal came from a typically powerful run down the right flank, which saw him lose the ball and win it back again before firing across the goalkeeper into the far corner.
That said, bearing in mind they are the same price, Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) is looking increasingly like the best option at West Ham. He got his fourth goal in three matches at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium and provided the assist for Robert Snodgrass’ late strike. No other forward at his price point has shown anywhere near as much promise so far this summer, and his form may well trigger a rise from 25 percent ownership, in spite of tricky early fixtures for the Hammers.
FPL midfielder Artur Masuaku (£4.5m) was, once again, deployed at left-back but he did manage to register an assist after a marauding run and a square-ball to Arnautovic. Alongside him was new signing Fabian Balbuena (£4.5m) and Angelo Ogbonna (£4.5m) who could be the first-choice pairing this season after particularly impressing although Issa Diop (£4.5m) has been regularly involved in pre-season. Meanwhile, defender Declan Rice (£4.5m) was tested out in a midfield three.
After impressing in his previous two outings, Yarmolenko missed the match but he was simply rested by Pellegrini, there is not believed to be any injury concern over the Ukrainian. He is expected to be involved against Ipswich at Portman Road on Saturday.
WEST HAM XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Masuaku (Byram 87’), Ogbonna, Balbuena (Diop 45’), Zabaleta (Fredericks 80’); Wilshere (Cullen 66’), Noble, Rice (Obiang 45’); Anderson (Haksabanovic 45’), Arnautovic (Martinez 87’), Antonio (Snodgrass 45’).
STOKE CITY 0-0 WOLVES
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
Raul Jimenez (£5.5m) registered his second start of pre-season as Wolves drew 0-0 with Stoke. The Mexican is expected the lead the line this season with Diogo Jota (£6.5m) either side of him. The latter was withdrawn for tactical reasons in the 32nd minute although there is not believed to be any injury.
Ryan Giles was deployed on the left side of the midfield now that Barry Douglas (£5.0m) appears to be on his way to Leeds United while new left-back Jonny Castro remained on the bench. Matt Doherty (£4.5m) on the other flank, who scored and assisted four times last season, started again and looks to be the foremost Wolves defender to have given his attacking potential.
Further back, there is an outside chance that Ryan Bennett could add himself to the list of starting £4.0m defenders, although we will have to continue to track his performances during the summer. Conor Coady (four starts, 33 minutes) is the only player to have registered more pre-season time than Bennett in the back-three so far (four starts, 296 minutes). The pair are the only two players to have been involved in all five matches too. On two occasions now Bennett has been replaced by Romain Saiss (£4.5m) so it does remain to be seen whether or not the 28-year-old’s run in the team over the summer was as a result of the Moroccan’s late return from the World Cup or not. Further friendly matches should tell us more on the subject.
WOLVES XI (3-4-3): Ruddy (Patricio 45’); Hause, Coady (Batth 63’), Bennett (Saiss 45’); Giles (John 63’), Gibbs-White (Goncalves 45’), Neves (Watt 63’), Doherty (Buur 63’); Jota (Cavaleiro 32’ | Enobakhare 63’), Jimenez (Bonatini 45’), Costa (Ashley-Seal 63’).
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