Arsenal’s ten-match winning league run at the Emirates came to an end on Sunday as Crystal Palace produced another fine away display to mathematically confirm their Premier League safety.
There was little joy for Fantasy managers investing in either defence but the points flowed for the most-popular midfielders and forwards on show.
We also take a brief look at Fulham’s second successive Premier League victory in the Scout Notes below.
Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Mesut Ozil (£7.9m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) | Christian Benteke (£6.3m), Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m), James McArthur (£4.8m)
- Assists: Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) | Luka Milivojevic (£6.4m), Christian Benteke, Scott Dann (£4.4m)
In a Double Gameweek in which many premium Fantasy Premier League assets have (so far) either blanked or delivered modest returns, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) did what they have consistently done all season and registered attacking points for their owners.
Aubameyang’s goal and bonus point mean he is now the joint-highest-scoring FPL forward of 2018/19, while Lacazette’s assist for Mesut Ozil‘s (£7.9m) equaliser kept up the Frenchman’s remarkable record on home soil: the Arsenal striker has banked an attacking return in each of his last nine appearances at the Emirates.
Aubameyang’s achievement is all the more remarkable given the downsides associated with him as a Fantasy asset.
Be it through illness, injury or rotation, Sunday’s 90-minute showing was only Aubameyang’s fourth start in Arsenal’s last nine league fixtures.
With Unai Emery fond of changing formation from match to match and indeed during games, we never can be sure where the Gabon international will be lining up.
Aubameyang started off yesterday’s match alongside Lacazette in a 3-4-1-2 but with the Gunners trailing at the interval, Emery made two substitutions and altered his team’s shape.
Off went Carl Jenkinson (£4.5m) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (£4.7m) to be replaced by Alex Iwobi (£5.4m) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m), with Emery reverting to a 4-2-3-1.
That meant Aubameyang was pushed out to the right flank on the opposite wing to Iwobi, with Ozil playing behind Lacazette in “the hole”.
Emery explained his half-time changes after the game, saying:
In the first half, we continued with the three central defenders because I think we can be more consistent with that.
In the second half, we changed to play with two and we can take more possibilities in the attacking third, in the build-up, but defensively we gave them more space to take the transitions.
Their goals are from set pieces and one second action, but also we know that we can be taking more risks in the second half. But when the score is like that in the first half and we are losing 1-0, I think we need to do that.
In truth, Aubameyang did little of note outside of his goal – but how often have we said that this season?
The Gabonese striker had only one penalty box touch/attempt (his goal) all game, with even defender Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m) having more touches in the opposition half.
As he proved last season, though, Aubameyang is among the most clinical forwards in the top flight.
Of strikers with more than 1,000 minutes to their name this season, the former Borussia Dortmund has the second-best goal conversion rate in the Premier League. Aubameyang was top for that statistic in 2017/18.
Lacazette was more involved than his fellow striker, registering nine penalty box touches and three shots, but two of his efforts were blocked and the other was off-target.
The Frenchman has started 12 of Arsenal’s last 14 Premier League games and, on paper, would seem a safer bet than Aubameyang to feature in Emery’s league line-ups.
In reality, no-one knows what the Arsenal manager will do in the Gunners’ second Gameweek 35 fixture and beyond.
Lacazette’s recent benching at Vicarage Road and Arsenal’s ongoing Europa League campaign makes second-guessing his involvement (or anyone else’s) nigh-on impossible, one of the main reasons why a large proportion of Fantasy managers have shied away from the Gunners’ two strikers – despite their consistent returns.
Emery explained his latest round of rotation and suggested changes will continue to occur for the rest of 2018/19, saying:
We changed because we are going to play a lot of matches. We have had some injuries, like with Aaron Ramsey, and we need to protect the players. For example, Xhaka asked to change in the second half against Napoli and today could’ve played, but with some risk.
We need to protect our players and to us other players. We are playing with a lot of players and they give us the performance, we lost today but we could also have lost with other players on the pitch.
Arsenal’s away form is also a bit of an issue, with Lacazette recording only one goal and one assist in his last six league appearances on the road. Aubameyang also has just one goal in his last half-dozen showings away from home.
With the Gunners on their travels in three of their remaining four fixtures, there would be understandable concern about not just minutes but FPL points in the season run-in.
Ozil is a prime example of Arsenal’s home-and-away schizophrenia.
The German’s goal was his eighth FPL return of 2018/19 but seven of them have come at the Emirates. Ozil, indeed, has only started one away league game this calendar year.
Ozil’s inclusion with Aubameyang and Lacazette on Sunday was perhaps one of the reasons why Arsenal’s defence was left so badly exposed, although the midfield shield of Mohamed Elneny (£4.2m) and Matteo Guendouzi (£4.4m) did little to stem the Palace attacks.
Mustafi lost Christian Benteke (£6.3m) and Wilfried Zaha (£6.9m) all too easily for Palace’s opening two goals, while James McArthur (£4.8m) was left unmarked to nod in Scott Dann’s (£4.4m) flick-on for the Eagles’ third.
Martin Kelly (£3.9m) had earlier blazed over following another Dann header, while Benteke skied a presentable chance high into the crowd and Bernd Leno (£4.9m) had to twice deny Cheikhou Kouyate (£4.7m) in the space of a second as Arsenal’s defence wilted.
That fragility at the back would potentially bode well for owners of Wolves assets ahead of the two clubs’ meeting on Wednesday, although Emery will at least have Sokratis (£5.1m) back from suspension and – fitness-depending – could well be able to call upon the services of Granit Xhaka (£5.2m) and Lucas Torreira (£4.7m) to add steel to the midfield.
Emery talked about his team’s defending after full-time, saying:
First, it’s because they have very good players. Second, it’s because today in the set pieces, we didn’t work and we weren’t strong like we were in the rest of the season. The first goal came from a free-kick, the third from a corner.
Today we struggled more than we wanted in these two situations and really the result can come, this result, through it.
Emery was also asked about Mustafi’s performance and replied:
In all the season I think he is being consistent. We speak about every match.
We can speak about players individually, but sometimes they can play very well, sometimes cannot play well. But I prefer to speak about the consistency in the season.
I think we are, every player, helping and every player is playing with a big performance and today also, when you can defend against a player like Benteke or Zaha, you can suffer more than maybe in other situations.
But if today we were better in the set pieces, maybe we could have won this match.
For all of Arsenal’s deficiencies, Roy Hodgson was right to point out how impressive his side had been.
Strike duo Zaha and Benteke terrorised the home defence, while the two banks of four in front of Vicente Guaita (£4.2m) limited Arsenal to just two “big chances”.
It was a very satisfying performance. Even a draw’s a result but to come and get a victory you have to give a really good performance. Your defending is going to have to be top-notch right through until the 95-96th minute and then you’ve got to make certain that when you do get the ball, you’ve got to hope that your two front players do what our two did today.
I thought they were really, really good and I thought we were good value for our three goals because we carried that threat I thought with the two front players. The midfield four and the back four were excellent at staying compact, staying narrow and we were able to reduce the clear-cut chances they were able to create.
Benteke, making his second successive start ahead of loanee Michy Batshuayi (£6.3m), surely cemented his place in the Palace team for Gameweek 36 by registering his first two attacking returns of 2018/19, with the Belgian striker also providing the assist for Zaha’s goal.
Hodgson said of Benteke’s display:
I think he’s more than just a goalscorer, his all-round performance today was fantastic. If he had played that way and someone else had scored the goal I wouldn’t be saying we should berate him in any way for not scoring.
It is good [that he scored], I agree. Front players need goals and of course, I’m sure it is a weight off his mind but the biggest weight off his mind must be that in tandem with Wilf today, he gave such a good performance.
Not only going forward, he did a good job defensively – both did – and our compact, narrow shape was also largely or certainly in part due to the fact that they dropped in so well and made it difficult for the Arsenal midfield players to get on the ball.
Luka Milivojevic (£6.4m) banked his fifth attacking return in six Gameweeks with an assist for Benteke’s goal, while McArthur is now the highest-scoring budget FPL midfielder under £5.0m after his own strike.
While Palace’s attacking assets caught the eye, they next face an Everton side with six clean sheets in their last eight Premier League games.
The Eagles are also back at Selhurst Park, where they have scored less than half the number of goals they have netted away from home.
Joel Ward (£4.3m) came into the Palace side at the expense of the benched Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m), while Dann – a Fantasy favourite of yesteryear – caught the eye at set plays.
The veteran centre-half had three attempts on goal from dead-ball situations, with two of his efforts inadvertently leading to big chances (one converted by McArthur) and the other drawing a save from Leno.
Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos (Iwobi 46′); Jenkinson (Maitland-Niles 46′), Guendouzi, Elneny (Torreira 68′), Kolasinac; Ozil; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Dann, Ward; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer (Townsend 80′); Benteke (Ayew 78′), Zaha.
Bournemouth 0-1 Fulham
- Goal: Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.3m)
- Assist: None
A week after their surprise 2-0 win over in-form Everton, Fulham produced another coupon-busting and Gameweek-ruining display at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
Callum Wilson (£6.7m) was the only “single Gameweeker” who was bought by more than 100,000 FPL managers ahead of Saturday’s deadline, while Ryan Fraser (£6.3m) was the subject of exactly 75,000 transfers in following his own double-digit haul at Brighton.
Both players were to blank on the south coast but how the pair emerged from this game without at least one attacking return each was a head-scratcher.
So often Bournemouth’s arch-creator, Fraser had more shots (seven) than any other player on show at the Vitality on Saturday.
Diego Rico (£4.4m) produced a superb save to repel Fraser’s 16th-minute effort before again denying the Scotland international when he was clean through on goal in the second – the diminutive winger firing the rebound wide.
Fraser also produced a teasing low cross that Joshua King (£6.5m) should have converted in the 14th minute.
Wilson, meanwhile, saw a header saved by Rico from point-blank range and was denied again by the uncharacteristically solid Fulham goalkeeper when firing low from 12 yards out.
We wrote in last week’s Scout Notes about the unpredictability of results at this time of the season especially and it was, quite simply, just one of those days where nothing went right for Bournemouth’s attacking assets. Two-point returns could have been double-digit hauls on another day, as Eddie Howe said after the game:
It was hugely frustrating, especially after last week when we were so good. We started the first half really well and I thought it was going to be a really good day for us.
We were sharp with the ball and created opportunities. With the amount of presentable chances we created, the fact we didn’t score after being so clinical last week is a difficult one to work out.
The Cherries weren’t helped by some bad luck, with three players succumbing to injury at right-back either before or during the game.
Nathaniel Clyne (£4.4m) didn’t make the match-day squad, while Adam Smith (£4.3m) pulled up in the warm-up and makeshift full-back Junior Stanislas (£6.0m) was substituted after just 22 minutes.
When you lose a player of Adam Smith’s quality before the game, it’s going to be difficult for the team.
Doubly so to lose Junior Stanislas, as well. He’s not necessarily a natural right-back but he’s played the position and done it very well. He uses the ball superbly and has the athletic ability to go box-to-box.
Upon his injury, we were then left with four centre-backs across our back-line, which is something we would never normally do.
Those injuries were difficult for us to overcome and we never fully got our rhythm back in the match. We just hope the injuries aren’t serious.
Nathaniel Clyne has been carrying a hamstring injury for a couple of weeks which is why he missed the game.
Nathan Ake (£5.1m) was again deployed at left-back, while Chris Mepham (£4.5m) moved over the right-back after the withdrawal of Stanislas.
Fulham’s mini-revival continued under Scott Parker and, while Bournemouth had plenty of opportunities, the Cottagers too carved out a lot of chances.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.3m) scored from the spot after being felled himself but he should have put Fulham 1-0 up when blazing wildly over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box.
Ryan Sessegnon (£6.0m) fired straight at Artur Boruc (£4.1m) from ten yards out, while Ryan Babel (£5.5m) nodded a Calum Chambers (£4.2m) cross over from close range.
Mitrovic will grab the headlines but he was again profligate from open play: the Serbian has scored on only four occasions in the last 22 Gameweeks, despite taking 76 shots (57 from inside the box) in that time – no FPL forward has registered more of either.
While there will be little interest in Fulham assets in the season run-in, Babel is a budget differential to consider for the remaining three Gameweeks (the Cottagers’ last three matches are against Cardiff, Wolves and Newcastle).
Since his Fulham debut in Gameweek 23, no FPL midfielder has had as many big chances as Babel.
The Dutchman was presented with another gilt-edged chance on Saturday, while no player on show at the Vitality made more key passes.
Parker said of his team’s display after full-time:
It was a fine performance after having to weather the storm a little bit against a very good Bournemouth side, certainly at home, we knew they would come out fighting, we knew it would be a quick start from them and we were under it a little bit, certainly first-half.
But I felt once we got through that we put our mark on the game really and second-half we really controlled the game and played some lovely bits, then we got our noses in front and saw the game out which was pleasing.
Tom Cairney (£4.6m) missed out at the weekend as his partner was giving birth.
Bournemouth XI (4-4-2): Boruc; Stanislas (Simpson 23′), Mepham (Mousset 76′), S Cook, Ake; Brooks, Gosling, Lerma, Fraser; King (Solanke 61′), Wilson.
Fulham XI (4-2-3-1): Rico; Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan; Chambers, Anguissa; Sessegnon, Seri (Christie 79′), Babel (Ayite 85′); Mitrovic.