A number of Arsenal players performed well in their auditions for Blank Gameweek 27 at Huddersfield on Saturday.
With Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Brighton not having a Premier League fixture in the next round of matches, the Gunners have been targetted as a team well-equipped to cover them.
We assess how Unai Emery’s men got on in Gameweek 26 and pick out some key players who could reward Fantasy managers in the near future in this latest Scout Notes article.
Huddersfield Town 1-2 Arsenal
Goals: Alex Iwobi (£5.4m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m)
Own Goals: Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m)
Assists: Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) | Adama Diakhaby (£4.5m)
Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) owners had cause to feel hard done by in Arsenal’s win over Huddersfield on Saturday. The Bosnian left-back continued to deliver on his attacking potential by providing an assist for Alexi Iwobi‘s (£5.4m) opening strike and had the second-most touches of any player in the match. He was also heading for a first away clean sheet of the season but was unfortunate to concede a stoppage-time own-goal to wipe that out and cost him six points before bonus. However, that unlucky moment should not put Fantasy managers off Kolasinac for appealing home fixtures in Gameweeks 27 and 28, when Arsenal host Southampton and Bournemouth respectively.
Also impressing for Arsenal, as much of their attacking play came from wide areas was Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) who assumed the right-back position from Stephan Lichtsteiner (£4.5m) in Hector Bellerín‘s (£5.4m) absence through injury. The FPL midfielder had the most number of touches in the game and created more chances than anyone else too, providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£9.4m) goal. The only downside of Maitland-Niles is the fact that he is classified as a midfielder in FPL and therefore, compared to Kolasinac, does not benefit as highly from any clean sheets that could come Arsenal’s way.
It was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s (£11.1m) illness that led to another divisive weekend of FPL action. Many managers had opted to hold the Arsenal man and not go for Sergio Aguero (£11.5m), with the Blank in Gameweek 27 in mind and a favourable fixture for the Arsenal man in Gameweek 26. However, that trust was not rewarded as Aubameyang missed his side’s trip to Huddersfield while Aguero bagged a second hat-trick in as many home matches.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery opted not to risk Aubameyang for Saturday’s journey to Huddersfield after the forward had done battle with an illness in the build-up to Gameweek 26. The Spaniard claimed he thought his top-scorer would be okay to play the match in his pre-match press conference but in the end, he was not even named among the substitutes, with Lacazette leading the line as the solitary forward. The fact that Arsenal won the game and, as expected, were afforded a decent number of chances, will certainly feel like a missed opportunity for the 25% in possession of Aubameyang. The main beneficiaries are those who are looking to sign him for Gameweeks 27 and 28 because he has now dropped in price to £11.1m.
Saturday’s goal-scorer Lacazette has quietly been building a case as an alternative to Aubameyang in recent weeks. In the last four Gameweeks, the Frenchman has boasted better minutes per chance and minutes per chance created than his colleague, every 42.3 minutes to 45 and every 85 minutes to 90 respectively. While Lacazette’s lead in both departments is slender, he still costs £1.7m less than his Gabonese team-mate, which means he has the potential to offer greater value for these next two fixtures. It must also be remembered that the recent interest in Aubameyang has been purely based around his fixtures rather than any outstanding underlying statistics, so it shouldn’t feel like it’s aiming too low to look at Lacazette instead. He has now started the last six matches in a row and has completed the last three, his longest spell of consecutive 90-minute appearances since Gameweek 11. You also have to go back to Gameweek 16 for the last time Lacazette blanked at home.
Iwobi was a particularly key player for Arsenal at Huddersfield in Gameweek 26. With Mesut Özil (£8.0m), Aaron Ramsey (£7.2m) and Granit Xhaka (£5.2m) absent through illness, knee and groin injuries respectively, the Nigerian was able to record his fifth start in seven Premier League appearances. He finished the game top of the charts for shots inside the box, two of them on target and one finding the back of the net. Iwobi’s opening goal also means he has already equalled his best total for attacking returns in a Premier League campaign. In both 2016/17 and 2017/18 he recorded three goals and five assists, the same as he has after 26 Gameweeks of 2018/19.
Coming into the starting XI to replace Aubameyang was the returning Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m) to play just behind Lacazette. It was the Armenian’s first start since the 3-2 defeat to Southampton in Gameweek 17. He lasted 75 minutes, creating just one chance.
Arsenal’s defence continues to prove questionable, especially away from home. They set up with a back-three of Nacho Monreal (£5.4m), Laurent Koscielny (£5.4m) and Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m), the latter two shaking off illness and a head injury respectively. While there was an element of fortune about Huddersfield’s late consolation strike, they deserved to find the net after pushing the Gunners in the second half. Emery’s men remain the only top-six side without a clean sheet on the road this season, struggling even to get one when facing the division’s lowest scorers.
“Yes (the lack of clean sheet concerns me), but we won. The clean sheet is important but above all is to win. You can take a clean sheet and draw only. We spoke before in the dressing room with the team, above all win, after take individual targets. The first is to score one more goal than them and after clean sheet. Every player worked well and the last action, unfortunately for us, they scored. Maybe they deserved it.” – Unai Emery
New manager Jan Siewert has already had some effect on Huddersfield since taking over for the Gameweek 24 defeat to Everton. 4-3-3 is definitely the formation he wants to play at the John Smith’s Stadium, as he deployed it once again on Saturday.
“I showed them the way they could play and, in two or three weeks it is a lot to do, but everyone is willing to do it.” – Jan Siewert
For the second match in a row, Elias Kachunga (£4.8m) was used as the central striker, while Steve Mounié (£5.8m) was absent from the matchday squad entirely again. The DR Congo international was not particularly effective against Arsenal registered zero shots and key passes, and only two outfield Huddersfield players who started the match had fewer touches of the ball than him. How long Kachunga keeps his place remains to be seen with other options available to Siewert, including new signing Karlan Grant (£5.0m) who has made two substitute appearances now.
There was a more encouraging display from Adama Diakhaby (£4.5m), who has now started each of the three matches under Siewert on the flanks of the front three. The Frenchman was the star man for Huddersfield against Arsenal as he had the joint-highest number of shots of any player in the match and was second for penalty box touches behind only Lacazette. It was his energy that inspired the spirited fightback for Huddersfield in the second half and he was credited with the assist for Kolasinac’s own goal. He had further chances to score, as did Juninho Bacuna (£4.2m), who has also started all of Siewert’s matches so far. Whether Diakhaby can sustain his performance from this match remains to be seen, as five of his six shots since Gameweek 23 were recorded in this match.
Jason Puncheon (£4.2m) has now started two of Siewert’s three games in charge of Huddersfield and his role appears unclear at this point. He played in the central midfield trio against Everton, was an unused substitute away at Chelsea and played on the flanks of the front-three against Arsenal.
As for the Terriers themselves, they are yet to pick up a point under their new manager but are making improvements in their underlying statistics. In the four matches prior to Gameweek 26, Huddersfield were averaging 8.5 shots per game, five in the box and two on target. Against Arsenal, they registered 15 goal attempts, seven of which were in the penalty area and five were on target. They were justly rewarded with a first goal in 597 minutes of football. With Newcastle (away), Wolves (home), Brighton (away), Bournemouth (home) their next four opponents, there is certainly the chance Siewert to continue improvements at the John Smith’s Stadium.
“I think the way we created the chances, and at least we scored, we showed that we are on the right wave. We showed again today that we can create many chances which made me very proud. This is exactly the attitude I want to see. We showed that we fight for each other and that we fight on the pitch.” – Jan Siewert
Finally, Ben Hamer (£4.0m) got his first start in the Huddersfield goal since Gameweek 3. He was given the chance to play against Arsenal after Jonas Lössl (£4.4m) was declared unavailable following an illness. With 12 days until the Terriers’ next Premier League match it would be premature to suggest Hamer has his place in the side back.
Huddersfield Town XI (4-3-3): Hamer; Kongolo (Durm 56′), Schindler, Zanka, T Smith; Bacuna, Hogg, Mooy; Puncheon (Depoitre 66′), Kachunga (Grant 83′), Diakhaby.
Arsenal XI (3-4-2-1): Leno; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi; Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Torreira, Maitland-Niles; Iwobi, Mkhitaryan; Lacazette.
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