We continue our look back at Gameweek 16 with an analysis of two narrow wins for Arsenal and Burnley on Saturday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette failed to sparkle in north London, while injury and suspension to two more centre-halves may force Unai Emery into rethinking his wing-back system.
Burnley gained a much-needed three points with a win over Brighton, meanwhile, with James Tarkowski scoring his third goal of the season.
We’ve all the goals, assists, injury news, Fantasy talking points and manager quotes from the matches at the Emirates and Turf Moor.
Arsenal 1-0 Huddersfield Town
- Goal: Lucas Torreira (£5.1m)
- Assist: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m)
The first match of Arsenal’s much-discussed fixture swing failed to live up to expectations, particularly for those Fantasy managers sitting on one – or both – of Alexandre Lacazette (£9.6m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.5m).
The teamsheet for the visit of Huddersfield Town boded well for those gambling on a double-up of Arsenal’s premium strike pair, with Lacazette and Aubameyang not only both named in the starting XI for the first time since Gameweek 12 but also deployed alongside one another in a two-man attack.
Arsenal’s 3-4-2-1 formation of recent weeks became a 3-5-2 for this encounter, with Matteo Guendouzi (£4.5m) brought into the side as the third central midfielder and Hector Bellerin (£5.5m) and Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) continuing as wing-backs.
Not for the first time this season, though, an obdurate performance from David Wagner’s side frustrated their opposition.
The Gunners could muster only two shots on target over the 90 minutes, both of which came from the unlikely source of Lucas Torreira (£5.1m).
Lacazette and Aubameyang both missed gilt-edged chances in the first half as the strike partnership floundered, though it might be argued that the French striker had a perfectly good goal disallowed when flagged for offside – the intervention of Zanka (£4.5m) after Aubameyang’s flick on prompting debate about interfering with play versus “second phase” attacks.
Emery’s reluctance to field the two players together as a bona fide strike partnership has frustrated Arsenal fans at times but the struggles of the premium pair in this opening 45 minutes might have further strengthened his case for not doing so.
Lacazette and Stephan Lichsteiner (£4.5m) were hooked at the break as the Gunners changed shape, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) and Alex Iwobi (£5.5m) sent on at the interval to give the isolated Aubameyang some support.
Emery has now made 14 substitutions at half-time in the Premier League this season, with Lacazette featuring in three of those changes.
Aubameyang didn’t have much more joy in the second half, it has to be said, with one headed attempt and a couple of blocked shots the sum total of his attacking threat.
The Gabonese forward did at least bank one attacking return when his chipped cross found Torreira, who acrobatically scored the game’s only goal on 83 minutes.
While giving credit to Huddersfield for their dogged performance, fatigue may have been a mitigating factor for the Gunners after punishing matches against Spurs and Manchester United in the seven days prior to the Terriers’ visit.
Arsenal at least now have a seven-day turnaround before heading to Southampton, with the Europa League dead rubber against Qarabag on Thursday likely to see the blooding of young prospects and peripheral squad players.
The problems continue to mount for Emery at centre-half, meanwhile, a situation that could have implications elsewhere in the team.
With Rob Holding (£4.4m) ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL rupture, Arsenal lost Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m) to a hamstring injury in the second half of Saturday’s match.
Mustafi and Sokratis (£5.1m) also picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season, meaning the pair will miss the trip to the south coast next Sunday.
Emery’s options at centre-half are now limited to Lichtsteiner, the veteran Swiss international who is more suited to playing at full-back, plus Nacho Monreal (£5.4m) and Laurent Koscielny (£5.4m), both of whom have only just returned from injury.
Konstantinos Mavropanos (£4.7m) also remains absent with a groin problem, while it would be a big ask for youngster Zech Medley (£4.0m) to make the step up to Premier League level.
Speaking after the match, Emery said:
The injuries and yellow cards are coming with the matches. The important thing now is two days off for the players now, for us also, then coming back and thinking about Thursday and the Europa League, and for Southampton.
The players will be OK and we will prepare for the game with the players to find the same spirit level as today so that every player can help us.
I think [Mustafi] will be OK.
I don’t know how we are going to play next week, but we have players. Stephan played at centre back today and had a good performance in Manchester with good commitment. Koscielny is also coming back, Nacho Monreal too. We’ll have players.
Emery has settled on a wing-back system in recent weeks but a dearth of match-fit, senior centre-halves may make him reconsider switching back to a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 next weekend – a tactical move the Arsenal boss actually made at half-time of Saturday’s match against Huddersfield, even before injury struck Mustafi.
That system change could mean a move back to the left flank for Aubameyang if Emery wishes to persevere with Lacazette up top.
Kolasinac and Bellerin would also move back to being orthodox full-backs, though the good news for their owners is that when doing so against Wagner’s side on Saturday, the pair were still noticeably prominent in attacking positions.
Kolasinac racked up more touches in the final third than Aubameyang, who was the only Arsenal player to register more penalty box touches than the Bosnia and Herzegovina defender.
Torreira, somehow now Arsenal’s top-scoring midfielder in FPL, registered an attacking return for the third match in a row and Emery paid tribute to the Uruguay international after full-time:
Last week he scored and today he scored again.
He has quality and his interpretation of the pitch tactically, and his perception in attacking moments and defensive moments.
He’s very fast in his mind and his feet too. He can do very good work in defensive moments and, like today and last week, he can also get into the box and score like today.
Aaron Ramsey (£7.3m) and Mesut Ozil (£8.1m) missed out with ankle and back injuries respectively, meanwhile.
Although Huddersfield slipped back into the relegation zone, everyone associated with the club – and owners of their Fantasy assets – can take heart from their performance in this match.
Alex Pritchard (£4.8m) wasted the best of the Terriers’ chances when chipping over from inside the Arsenal box, while Aaron Mooy (£5.1m) was again impressive in midfield for the visitors.
Wagner’s side were once again well organised in defence and only Leicester City have conceded fewer shots on target than Huddersfield over the last six Gameweeks – this despite the West Yorkshire club facing the likes of Arsenal, Wolves and Bournemouth during this period.
Home matches against Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley in the next five Gameweeks would seem to offer realistic chances of clean sheets, for those investing in the Terriers’ budget defensive options.
It’s hard to take today, but I can totally see the positives. We limited them to few shots on target and a few half chances, but we still have to accept this result.
The players have to hold their heads high. We did a lot of things right defensively to give a top team a real fight away from home.
Huddersfield lost Jonathan Hogg and Tommy Smith (both £4.4m) to hamstring injuries in the second half, while Wagner also revealed two influential players picked up knocks:
As well as Tommy Smith and Jonathan Hogg injuries, Aaron Mooy and Terence Kongolo have knocks in the dressing room. We will help them recover as best as we can.
Arsenal XI (3-5-2): Leno; Mustafi (Monreal 66′), Sokratis, Lichtsteiner (Iwobi 45′); Bellerin, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Kolasinac; Aubameyang, Lacazette (Mkhitaryan 45′).
Huddersfield Town XI (4-4-2): Lossl; Smith (Hadergjonaj 60), Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo; Mooy, Hogg (Bacuna 52), Williams (Durm 70), Lowe; Pritchard, Depoitre.
Burnley 1-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Goal: James Tarkowski (£4.7m)
- Assist: Jack Cork (£4.6m)
Defences were on top at both ends of the pitch in a predictably tight match at Turf Moor, with most of the game’s opportunities coming from dead-ball situations and little quality to note from open play.
The fact that centre-halves James Tarkowski (£4.7m) and Lewis Dunk (£4.5m), who were both impressive at the back for their respective clubs, were the two players that had the most attempts on goal from inside the opposition box said much about the pattern of this scrappy affair.
Dunk and Tarkowski had three efforts on goal each on Saturday, all of which came from set plays.
The Burnley defender’s winner was befitting of the game’s overall quality, with Jack Cork‘s (£4.6m) shot being deflected past Matthew Ryan (£4.6m) via Tarkowski’s chest.
The recently capped England international also went within inches of putting his side two goals up in the second half, nodding a corner just wide of Ryan’s left-hand post.
Ryan made smart stops from Chris Wood (£6.2m) and Robbie Brady (£5.4m) in the opening 45 minutes as the Clarets had the best of the play, with Brighton not really coming into the game until midway through the second half.
That substitute Glenn Murray (£6.6m) had the Seagulls’ first attempt on target in stoppage time of this match was indicative of Brighton’s limited threat, although the willing Solly March (£5.1m) whistled two efforts just wide and Jurgen Locadia (£5.3m) ought to have scored when nodding Murray’s cross over from six yards.
That may well have been the disappointing swansong for Brighton’s Fantasy assets in many of our squads, with the Seagulls’ next seven opponents all ranked 11th or higher in the Premier League table: Hughton’s side sit bottom of our Season Ticker as a result.
The Brighton manager thought his side deserved at least a point from the game:
Our performance in some aspects was really good.
The only work we can be guilty of is our work in the final third and not getting enough quality shots on goal.
They’re a team that play a certain way and you know that second balls are going to be important. They’re strong when the ball goes into the box and ultimately that’s how they got their goal.
Despite their well-documented defensive struggles of this season, only six clubs have registered more clean sheets than Dyche’s side (four) and the improved performances over the last two Gameweeks hint that the Clarets are edging their way back to some kind of form.
The Burnley boss said:
The performances lately have been suggesting we are getting back to that edge, in terms of being resilient, but also creating chances.
We made two or three good ones today and with a bit more quality, who knows. But today wasn’t about that; it was about fight, spirit and organisation and I’m pleased those things paid us back today.
It’s nice to quieten down the noise and it gives the players that little bit of timely confidence that they can win games.
Slowly and surely we are remodelling our game and in three of the last four we’ve looked more like ourselves.
Up next for the Clarets, however, are away trips to Spurs and Arsenal.
Both clubs were without influential midfielders in Steven Defour (£5.4m) and Jose Izquierdo (£5.9m), who failed fitness tests ahead of the game.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Hart; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson (Lennon 72′), Cork, Westwood, Brady; Wood, Barnes (Hendrick 85′).
Brighton and Hove Albion XI (4-3-3): Ryan; Bruno, Balogun, Dunk, Bernardo; Propper, Gross (Stephens 79′), Bissouma; March, Andone (Murray 63′), Knockaert (Locadia 63′).
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