Chelsea and Arsenal both won their first Europa League matches of the season on Thursday night.
The line-ups named by both managers have already given us early indication of which players will feature in Gameweek 6.
We’ve gone over the two matches to find the best Fantasy Premier League talking points in this latest Scout Notes article.
PAOK 0-1 CHELSEA
Goals: Willian (£7.4m)
Assists: Ross Barkley (£5.8m)
As expected, Eden Hazard (£10.9m) played no part in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over PAOK in the Europa League. While fellow captain candidates Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) and Sergio Aguero (£11.4m) were involved for their clubs in the Champions League, Hazard should be completely fresh and ready for his Gameweek 6 trip to West Ham.
It was Pedro (£6.8m) and Willian (£7.4m) who started the match as wide forwards in Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 system. The two players have been going head-to-head for preference in the Premier League with room for just one of them in the Chelsea front-line when Hazard is around.
On Thursday night, Willian may have secured the advantage in what looks like an ongoing see-saw between him and Pedro. After registering a 10-point FPL haul on Saturday, the Brazilian also scored the only goal in Greece. Meanwhile, former Barcelona man Pedro was forced out of the game with an injury late on, although Sarri does not believe it is too serious.
“I don’t know. The problem is the shoulder, but I don’t know exactly the situation. I have spoken with the doctor, but only for a few seconds. The doctor told me that probably it’s not a very serious injury.” – Maurizio Sarri
Pedro also took to Twitter on Friday morning to allay any fears over the knock he sustained.
Good start in the @EuropaLeague . Everything’s ok despite the incident at the end of the game. Come on Blues!! 💪🏻🔵 / Buen comienzo en la Europa League. Pequeño susto al final, pero todo ok #CFC #UEL #PAOKvCFC @ChelseaFC pic.twitter.com/h4LqksFWgJ
— Pedro Rodríguez (@_Pedro17_) September 20, 2018
Crucial to his battle with Pedro, Willian was handed the captaincy on Thursday night, suggesting that Sarri does hold him in high regard. It was the first time he had skippered the side in a competitive setting, having last done so in a pre-season friendly against Lyon. Sarri is yet to announce his official club captain, although he is unlikely to pick Willian for the role. Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.4m) has worn the armband in every league match so far and took it from Willian when he came on for a 24-minute appearance.
Azpilicueta was one of just five players to drop out of the starting XI on Thursday. The others were Hazard, David Luiz (£5.5m), Mateo Kovacic (£6.0m) and Olivier Giroud (£7.8m).
There was some concern over Marcos Alonso (£6.8m) starting, but Sarri did the gentlemanly thing and took him off unharmed on 66 minutes, Azpilicueta his replacement. This was presumably to give the left-back some rest ahead of Sunday’s trip to West Ham.
Jorginho (£5.2m) was substituted at the same time as Alonso although N’Golo Kanté (£5.0m) played the full 90 minutes. The fact that both of Chelsea’s key central midfielders started the match did come as a surprise, and some Chelsea followers believe it was a risk to name such a strong team. Especially considering Ethan Ampadu (£4.4m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£4.3m) not even in the match-day squad, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.3m) an unused substitute. Journalists asked Sarri why he did not rest more players ahead of a Sunday’s London derby.
“I don’t know. For an English team, the Europa League is a very difficult competition. For example, in Italy, if I play in Greece on Thursday I can ask to play on Monday night. Not in England. We have to play again in 63 hours, on Sunday morning. I don’t know in the future. It’s not a big problem now. We have played only six matches. Now it’s not a problem. I hope to qualify before the last one or two games.” – Maurizio Sarri
It is possible that Sarri took the risk of starting so many key players in order to get Chelsea off to a good start in Europe. A trip to PAOK away was probably the hardest test of the group, with BATE Borisov and MOL Vidi still to come. Going a little heavy-handed with team selection ensured that Chelsea got three points and eased pressure on the remaining fixtures.
That said, Chelsea could have won the game by a larger margin. Those who have watched all their matches so far in 2018/19 have revealed that the Blues are often lacking a killer instinct. The win in Greece was not the first time this season that Chelsea dominated possession but failed to make it show on the scoreboard. Last night they had 68% possession and fired off 22 shots, but just five were on target and they only scored once.
Part of the reason for such profligacy in front of goal was down to Álvaro Morata (£9.0m). The Spaniard did not have a particularly poor game as a whole, but his contribution will be largely remembered for missed chances. There was a first-half header in particular that he really should have buried.
“Alvaro has to gain confidence with one, two, three goals. I am not able to give him confidence. In this match, he has had three, four opportunities. He was unlucky. I hope for him that in the future I can try to help him, but the confidence can become only with goals. With two goals in two matches. I don’t know. I have to say also, for maybe the first time in this season Alvaro was ready in the box. He was on the ball and was active.” – Maurizio Sarri
Finally, there was an interesting story involving left-back Emerson Palmieri (£5.3m). Sarri left the Italian defender out of the match-day squad for the trip and did not explain why in his post-match press conference. Emerson then took to Twitter to explain that he wasn’t injured, before deleting the post shortly afterwards.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Alonso (Azpilicueta 66′), Christensen, Rüdiger, Zappacosta; Barkley, Jorginho (Fabregas 65′), Kanté; Willian, Morata (Giroud 81′), Pedro
ARSENAL 4-2 VORSKLA
Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang x2 (£10.9m), Danny Welbeck (£6.5m), Mesut Özil (£8.3m)
Assists: Alex Iwobi (£5.5m), Henrikh Mkhitaryan x2 (£7.1m), Stephan Lichtsteiner (£4.7m)
The stage looks set for Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) to light up Gameweek 6 for Arsenal after he was given the night off on Thursday. The Gunners ran out 4-2 winners over Ukrainian side Vorskla with the Frenchman an unused substitute.
He should line-up alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) for a third league match in a row on Sunday after Unai Emery substituted the Gabonese forward in the 57th minute.
However, there was much to be frustrated about for some Fantasy managers. Firstly, Aubameyang found the net twice in an impressive performance, having taken his time to find his stride when FPL points are on the line.
Furthermore, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.1m), once owned by 20% of Fantasy managers, returned to the starting line-up and demonstrated his credentials by registering two assists. A return to the Premier League first-team still seems a little unlikely though as he sustained a knock to his ankle against Vorskla. Alex Iwobi (£5.5m) had his minutes managed in the second half, while Mkhitaryan played the whole match. Also, Mesut Özil (£8.3m) was restricted to a 33-minute substitute’s appearance in which he scored his second goal in as many matches.
Emery made eight changes to the side that beat Newcastle in Gameweek 5. Aubameyang, Nacho Monreal (£5.5m) and Sokratis Papastathopoulous (£5.3m) were the three to keep their places. The latter performed well according to local press but the Gunners are still without a clean sheet this season after they conceded two goals late on.
“We are speaking before each match about having the mentality to not concede easy chances. Today was a good opportunity not to concede goals. But the last 20 minutes we need to do better on this competitive aspect. It was our disappointment today. We are conceding a few chances, it was the same in Newcastle and we need to continue to improve in this. In the last minute at Newcastle and in the last 20 minutes tonight two goals. Our challenge is to be competitive for 90 minutes, it is one thing to improve.” – Unai Emery
There was the first start in Arsenal colours for summer signing Lucas Torreira (£4.9m). The Uruguyuan central midfielder ran the show in the middle of the park until coming off with a knock in the 57th minute. The fact he was forced off is a great shame for Arsenal fans who are yet to see Torreira start regularly this season. He is now a doubt for Gameweek 6, but when he returns to full fitness he could be the key to transforming Arsenal.
Torreira arrived in north London with a reputation as a ball-winner but took on the role of a deep-lying creative player on Thursday night. Whether he can replicate that against a better quality of opposition remains to be seen, but he clearly has the ability to orchestrate and improve Arsenal’s attacking play. While he may be too much of a deep option to warrant consideration for inclusion in FPL squads, it’s clear he has the ability to improve the Fantasy prospects of the more forward-thinking assets at Arsenal. He also took set pieces and nearly scored from a direct free-kick.
“Lucas played well. He is playing with passion in his performance, each minute he plays he does very well. Torreira he got two hits on his leg. I hope tomorrow and Saturday he is good to be OK for Saturday.” – Unai Emery
Bernd Leno (£4.8m) also made his first competitive start for the Gunners.
“For Leno it was his first match also. We conceded two goals but not from a mistake from him. For him, he got minutes in the game and he can take confidence to also because he is continuing to play matches in the next week.” – Unai Emery
ARSENAL XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Monreal, Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner; Elneny, Torreira (Guendouzi 57′); Iwobi (Smith-Rowe 70′), Mkhitaryan, Welbeck; Aubameyang (Özil 57′).
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