Alexandre Lacazette furthered his case for inclusion in our Fantasy squads – and Unai Emery’s starting XI – with a brace off the bench in Arsenal’s 5-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
Bournemouth and Watford both played two matches in as many days, meanwhile, although Eddie Howe’s side and the Hornets had contrasting fortunes.
Our next instalment of Scout Notes from the weekend’s action rounds up the goals, assists, team news, injuries and tactical talking points from these five pre-season friendlies.
ARSENAL 5-1 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
- Goals: Mesut Ozil (£8.5m), Alexandre Lacazette x2 (£9.5m), Rob Holding (£4.5m), Eddie Nketiah
- Assists: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), Emile Smith-Rowe, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson (£4.5m) x2
Arsenal put a youthful PSG side to the sword in Singapore over the weekend, with four goals from the Gunners in the last 25 minutes adding some gloss to an otherwise well-contested match.
Unai Emery had selected a strong starting XI for this International Champions Cup match, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) leading the line – rather than being deployed out wide – and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) watching on from the bench. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.0m) and Alexi Iwobi (£5.5m) flanked the Gabonese striker, with Mesut Ozil (£8.5m) playing as the most advanced midfielder in the central three.
Ozil, captaining the Arsenal side a week after his retirement from international football, put Emery’s troops ahead on 13 minutes after tapping home an Aubameyang centre.
Gianluigi Buffon, one of only three senior players in the PSG line-up, then denied Iwobi and Aubameyang as Arsenal pressed their advantage, although Bernd Leno (£5.0m) was called into action several times as Emery’s former employers hit back.
The French side levelled after the break, with Christopher Nkunku converting a spot-kick after the impressive Timothy Weah had been hauled down by Sead Kolisinac (£5.0m).
Aaron Ramsey (£7.5m) had replaced Mohamed Elneny (£4.5m) in the centre of the park at half-time, while Lacazette’s second-half arrival for Iwobi meant that Aubameyang switched out onto the flank to accommodate the French substitute.
Lacazette scored his first from an Emile Smith-Rowe cross and nodded in his second four minutes later from a recycled corner-kick.
Rob Holding (£4.5m), who had flicked the ball onto Lacazette for the Frenchman’s second strike, then found the net himself with a looping header from a Reiss Nelson (£4.5m) corner. Nelson claimed a second assist for Eddie Nketiah’s stoppage-time goal.
While Emery’s side ostensibly lined up in a 4-3-3, the Gunners’ shape often resembled a 4-2-3-1 in attack, with the excellent Ozil playing well ahead of the double pivot.
Speaking of the German midfielder’s role, Emery said:
We want to give him and our players the position they feel most comfortable in on the pitch. He started today at No 10 with Matteo (Guendouzi) and Mohamed (Elneny) behind him. The first one would go up and then find him between the lines, or sometimes Mkhitaryan. When we do have the ball, we can press with the striker and a No 10 almost like a 4-4-2 in a press. It depends because Mesut can play on the right and go inside, driving in to open up space for the right back. We want to find a space for him and the other players where they can use their qualities through good positioning.
That high press is something of a work in progress, as Emery himself acknowledged:
It’s the first match for Mesut, Eleny and Iwobi. Tactically, we’ve been working all week in training and watching movies. The first idea we are working on is without the ball and the right place to be pressing. I am happy with how the players played for the first time for these three players.
Granit Xhaka (£5.5m) and new signing Lucas Torreira (£5.0m) were among the World Cup participants still missing for the Gunners, although budget midfielder Matteo Guendouzi‘s (£4.5m) superb performance in front of the back four was worthy of note.
ARSENAL (4-3-3): Leno (Martinez 46)’; Bellerin, Sokratis (Chambers 63′), Mustafi (Holding 63′), Kolasinac (Maitland-Niles 73′); Guendouzi (Willock 73′), Elneny (Ramsey 46′), Ozil (Smith-Rowe 63′); Mkhitaryan (Nelson 63′), Aubameyang (Nketiah 63′), Iwobi (Lacazette 46′)
STEVENAGE 0-1 WATFORD | BRENTFORD 1-2 WATFORD
- Goals: Andre Gray x2 (£6.0m), own-goal
- Assists: Roberto Pereyra (£6.0m)
Andre Gray‘s (£6.0m) tally for pre-season reached three as the Watford striker grabbed the winning goals in their away friendlies against Stevenage and Brentford over the weekend.
Gray came off the bench to nod home Roberto Pereyra‘s (£6.0m) cross in the 1-0 victory over Stevenage, before capitalising on a dreadful kick out from Brentford goalkeeper Daniel Bentley to fire home the winner at Griffin Park a day later.
The Hornets were earlier indebted to a comical own goal from Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard to bring the scores level, after Ollie Watkins had pounced on a Ben Foster (£4.5m) parry to tap the home side into the lead.
Budget midfielder Ken Sema (£5.0m) looks to be a possible beneficiary of Richarlison’s transfer to Everton, with the Swedish winger being the only Watford player to start both of the Hornets’ pre-season matches over the weekend.
Rather than lining up on the left side of the midfield four, however, Sema was stationed as an inverted winger on the opposite flank in Javi Gracia’s 4-4-2 formation.
Gracia’s pre-season tendency to field inverted wingers has opened up the gaps for Watford’s full-backs to overlap in attack, and Daryl Janmaat (£5.0m), Jose Holebas (£4.5m), Adam Masina (£4.5m) and Marc Navarro (£4.5m) were all prominent threats going forward. Each one of this quartet was given a start at the weekend and the final summer friendly against Sampdoria next weekend should provide Fantasy managers with some clues as to which full-backs Gracia intends to select for the Gameweek 1 match against Brighton.
Nathaniel Chalobah (£4.5m), Abdoulaye Doucoure (£6.0m) and Gerard Deulofeu (£5.5m) were all missing from the weekend’s matches and Gracia provided an update on the absent midfield trio after the Stevenage fixture:
Gerard and Chalobah finished last season injured and in this moment they are not available yet. In the next week I suppose they can be with the team. Doucoure, as well, feels some pain. He needs to rest for a couple of days and I think in the next week he will be ready.
Holebas picked up a knock in the win at Griffin Park and was replaced at half-time, but Gracia has stated that the substitution was only a precautionary one:
I do not know what happened, he felt pain today after the first half and I thought I’d rather change him [than risk further injury]. In this moment, I don’t know, but it is only a little thing.
WATFORD v Stevenage (4-4-2): Gomes; Navarro (Janmaat 61′), Prodl (Cathcart 61′), Mariappa (Britos 61′), Masina (Holebas 61)’; Hughes, Rodwell (Charles 61′), Wilmot (Capoue 61′), Sema (Pereyra 61′); Jakubiak (Success 61′), Deeney (Gray 61′)
WATFORD v Brentford (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat (Navarro 60′), Kabasele (Prodl 60′), Britos (Mariappa 60′), Holebas (Masina 46′); Pereyra, Charles (Rodwell 60′), Capoue (Wilmot 60′), Sema (Jakubiak 60′); Success, Gray (Deeney 60′)
BRISTOL CITY 1-1 BOURNEMOUTH | NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2-0 BOURNEMOUTH
- Goals: Josh King (£6.5m)
- Assists: None
Like Watford, Bournemouth also faced a double-header of friendlies over the weekend but had little joy in their two encounters with Championship opposition.
Josh King (£6.5m) fired home the opening goal in the 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate, after the City backline had failed to clear a Tyrone Mings (£4.5m) long ball. Jermain Defoe (£6.0m) missed an excellent chance for the Cherries in the first half, while Steve Cook (£4.5m) underlined his aerial threat from set pieces with a late header that went close.
Andreas Weimann tapped in the equaliser for the hosts.
Eleven changes were made for the trip to Forest a day later, with the Cherries’ defensive frailties being exposed once again.
Charlie Daniels (£4.5m) lost Tendayi Darikwa for the hosts’ opener, with the Forest winger tapping in a low cross from inside the six-yard box.
Daniels, who faces a serious challenge to his starting place from new signing Diego Rico (£4.5m), was then shrugged off the ball by Gil Dias for Forest’s second.
Budget midfielders David Brooks (£5.0m) and Ryan Fraser (£5.5m) were lively presences in the Bournemouth attack, with Fraser entrusted with set-piece duties.
Brad Smith was withdrawn from the Cherries’ team in the match against Bristol City but boss Eddie Howe has since played down the severity of the defender’s injury.
BOURNEMOUTH v Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Begovic; A Smith, S Cook, Mings, B Smith (Dobre 83′); Surman, L Cook, Ibe, Pugh; King; Defoe (Mahoney 73′)
BOURNEMOUTH v Nottingham Forest (4-4-1-1): Boruc; Francis, Ake, Simpson, Daniels; Brooks (Mahoney 77′), Arter, Gosling, Fraser; Mousset; Wilson (Hyndman 70′)
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