As per usual, the latest Europa League action has helped give us clues about the next round of Fantasy Premier League.
Most notably, Eden Hazard (£10.9m) was left on the bench ahead of a hugely appealing home fixture against Watford, with the Chelsea man potentially the key differential captain this weekend.
Meanwhile, the waters were muddied further at Arsenal as both of their centre-forwards were heavily involved against Valencia.
We discuss all the Fantasy talking points from the semi-finals in this latest Scout Notes article.
Arsenal 3-1 Valencia
Goals: Alexandre Lacazette x2 (£9.4m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m)
Assists: Aubameyang, Xhaka, Sead Kolašinac (£5.0m)
Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) was the star for Arsenal as they beat Valencia on Thursday night. He scored twice as his partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) proved too hot to handle for the Spanish visitors. The Frenchman’s first goal of the night was netted after a square-ball from his Gabonese colleague, who added a crucial strike in stoppage time.
Lacazette’s goals came at just the right time for the Gunners as his exploits turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in just seven minutes. He was by far the most threatening player on the pitch and could have arguably netted at least a hat-trick, maybe more. Lacazette spurned several big chances, including a close-range header and two opportunities that brought saves from Valencia goalkeeper Neto. The volume of shots he had in the match certainly suggests he could offer serious points potential in Gameweek 37 – after all, you have to all the way back to Gameweek 16 for the last time Lacazette blanked in a home match.
“I had two more chances where I could have done better but thankfully Aubameyang scored the third one. If we can go to Baku [for the Europa League final] it will be special.” – Alexandre Lacazette
However, calling which of Arsenal’s front men will start their Premier League encounter with Brighton on Sunday afternoon remains something of a coin toss. With both Lacazette and Aubameyang playing the full 90 minutes against Valencia, it is very difficult to second guess Unai Emery at this point. After all, he very recently substituted Lacazette roughly an hour into a Europa League tie, suggesting he would start the following Premier League match, but the Spanish manager ended up benching him.
It certainly seems as if Emery will not be resting on Arsenal’s laurels in the second leg of this semi-final, which might impact the game-time of his attacking players in Gameweek 37. When asked how he would approach the return trip to Spain, the Gunners boss insisted that attack will be the best form of defence. The Europa League continues to increase in priority for Arsenal as they bid for Champions League football in 2019/20. Three consecutive defeats in the Premier League have seriously damaged their top-four chances and are two points short of Chelsea with two games to go. Therefore, it’s possible that both Lacazette and Aubameyang will have their minutes managed against Brighton with that second leg in Valencia in mind. That said, 27 of the Frenchman’s 35 goals in all competitions for Arsenal (77%) have come at home, so perhaps it might be him who starts against Brighton and is benched for Valencia.
“We need to play there thinking to win, thinking to score, thinking to take our moment in attack. They are going to feel strong with their supporters there. Aubameyang and Lacazette played very well. We managed to get in dangerous situations near their goal, and in the first half towards the end, we got in four to five times out wide. I still believe that the tie is in the balance, we know how tough it will be to beat Valencia again. And they will be looking to respond.” – Unai Emery
Despite the positive result, Arsenal still looked defensively vulnerable at stages of this semi-final first leg, especially in the first half. Ezequiel Garay missed from a few yards out, then Rodrigo was given the space to head across goal to set up Mouctar Diakhaby for the opening strike. Soon afterwards a loose Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m) header allowed Goncalo Guedes a chance.
“We started a bit nervous because we lost the last three games, I think that’s normal. We are human, but after that, we had a good reaction.” – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
There were further clues to Arsenal’s potential line-up against Brighton on Thursday night. Laurent Koscielny (£5.4m) might be touch and go for Gameweek 37 after he was taken off in the 82nd minute against Valencia, Emery now hoping he will be okay for Sunday. Meanwhile, Sead Kolaśinac‘s (£5.0m) 90-minute outing, plus a full match at Leicester in Gameweek 36, might see him rotated out of his left-back berth for Nacho Monreal (£5.4m), who only played 10 minutes against Valencia.
“I hope Koscielny will be ok for Sunday, I don’t know. But I don’t know for the second leg away he was very tired. He ran back 50 metres doing a sprint and it’s normal he can be tired and struggling. I prefer to change him to give also Nacho Monreal ten minutes after his small [calf] injury. Ten minutes
helpsus and him.” – Unai Emery
Meanwhile, Lucas Torreira (£4.7m) featured only as a second-half substitute for Matteo Guendouzi (£4.4m). That should probably see the Uruguayan start against Brighton.
“I was thinking with Matteo, he can have that and also with the combination with Mesut. After the first half, it was not playing like I was thinking. But, it is good for us and our composition with the team, the set up I think was for controlling the possession also. This is the reason. Matteo and Lucas can help us at the beginning or having an impact. Also, giving us different qualities. Both can play together, can play also one another. It depends on the match. Today I decided with Matteo to play the passes ahead for Mesut, for the strikers, also one side to another side. Maybe the match in the second half can be different.” – Unai Emery
Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Cech; Koscielny (Monreal 82′), Sokratis, Mustafi; Kolašinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi (Torreira 58′), Maitland-Niles; Özil (Mkhitaryan 75′); Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea
Goals: Pedro (£6.2m)
Assists: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m)
Chelsea fans might have been disappointed to see Hazard on the bench for their trip to Eintracht Frankfurt, but it was a development that will be particularly pleasing to his Fantasy owners. Maurizio Sarri opted not to start the Belgian to ensure that he had ample rest for the remainder of the season, with Watford up next. The 30 minutes that Hazard got under his belt on Thursday, which featured an energetic display, should see him fresh and ready for an appealing fixture that has firmly established him in the Gameweek 37 captaincy debate.
“Eden was on the bench because, in the last period, he played 10 matches in a row. It’s impossible to play that many. For us, this was match No59 I think, and Hazard also played eight matches in the national team. For a player, it’s impossible to play 70-75 matches in a season. And so, sometimes, Hazard like all the other players needs to rest. Or not to rest, but not to play for 90 minutes. This is the first reason. The second is that Eden usually is able to change the match from the bench, and so, for me, it was better to start with Willian and then to try, in the last 30-35 minutes, with Eden. But for Eden, it’s impossible to play 75-80 matches in a season.” – Maurizio Sarri
Alternative sources of investment to Hazard at Chelsea have been hard to come by in recent weeks but Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m) has been making a case for himself. The England international was arguably the Blues’ best player on Thursday night, coming back into the side after featuring only as a substitute against Manchester United. He inspired the fight-back after Chelsea went 1-0 down, forcing a save out of Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp before playing in Pedro (£6.2m) to equalise. Subsequently, Loftus-Cheek had two more excellent opportunities to score and will have done his chances of starting against Watford no harm at all.
He was replaced by Mateo Kovačić (£5.7m) in the 82nd minute with cramp, so is not really nailed on to start against Watford. Maurizio Sarri revealed once again that the club are still managing a back issue for him but given that he played just 14 minutes last weekend, he is still in with a shout of starting on Sunday afternoon.
“Loftus-Cheek is a very important player. He improved a lot during the season. When he is at the top, physically, he’s a very important player. He’s always in trouble with his back, and it’s not easy for him to have training with consistency. But in this match he was really fit. He played a very good match. He had a cramp in the last 10 minutes so he called me for a substitution.” – Maurizio Sarri
Meanwhile, Pedro has now been involved in seven goals in his last six starts in the Europa League. The Spaniard has scored four of his own and provided assists for another three, but very much remains off the Fantasy radar. That’s because his heavy involvement in European competitions has meant just one start in the last six Premier League matches.
“It’s very difficult because we have to play again in the Premier League in 62 hours, so it’s not easy to recover, especially in a very competitive championship like the Premier League. You risk
to pay.” – Maurizio Sarri
David Luiz (£5.8m) offered plenty of goal threat against Frankfurt and will be disappointed not to have come away with attacking returns. He rattled the cross-bar with one of his textbook free-kicks before directing a headed effort from Hazard’s cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, D Luiz, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Loftus-Cheek (Kovačić 83′), Jorginho, Kanté; Willian (Hazard 61′), Giroud, Pedro.