Our pre-season focus switches to Crystal Palace, Everton and Newcastle United, all of whom were in action on Saturday afternoon.
We’ll look at any lessons learned from these clubs’ most-recent friendlies, detailing the goalscorers, the assist-makers and the minutes played by each Fantasy asset involved.
Sevilla 1-0 Everton
Mainz 3-1 Everton
- Goal: Lewis Gibson
- Assist: Kevin Mirallas
Faith in Everton’s Fantasy assets might be slightly wavering after the Toffees fell to back-to-back defeats in two 60-minute-long friendlies contested on Saturday.
It is important not to read too much into the results of these pre-season friendlies but Marco Silva’s side have scored just three goals in their six matches contested in July, with only one game remaining – against Werder Bremen next Saturday – before they get their 2019/20 Premier League campaign underway.
Most of Everton’s FPL options got at least an hour in the friendlies against Sevilla and Mainz, although it was two unpriced players, Lewis Gibson and Kevin Mirallas, who combined for their only goal across the 120 minutes: young centre-back Gibson prodding in from the Belgian’s corner against the Bundesliga side.
Everton’s Struggle for Goals
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m) is one of a cluster of semi-appealing FPL forward options in the £6.0m bracket this season, particularly in the first 14 Gameweeks of the season in which Everton meet only two of the ‘big six’ teams.
On just his second appearance of pre-season, Calvert-Lewin looked fairly sharp in the lone striker role against Sevilla in Silva’s now-familiar 4-2-3-1.
His deficiencies as a forward were underscored against the La Liga side, however, with the England under-21 international wasting Everton’s two best opportunities of the game – and assists for Gylfi Sigurdsson (£8.0m) and Lucas Digne (£6.0m) in the process.
Calvert-Lewin may have banked 11 attacking returns in 2018/19 but his below-par goal conversion rate of 11.5% perhaps highlighted his lack of a clinical streak in front of goal.
On Saturday, the 22-year-old forward spurned a one-on-one opportunity after being released by Sigurdsson and then drew a save from a Digne cross after the interval.
Calvert-Lewin also flung a boot at a brilliant Theo Walcott (£6.0m) pass when a diving header looked to be the better option.
The mid-price FPL forward will undoubtedly get goals next season but it’s the lack of ruthlessness that may well be prompting a move for Juventus striker Moise Kean.
Richarlison (£8.0m) is yet to kick a ball in pre-season, while Bernard (£6.5m) and Sigurdsson was relatively quiet at the weekend apart from the Icelandic schemer’s fine pass for Calvert-Lewin.
Silva said of his side’s goalscoring woes after full-time:
There were some good things, not during all of the 60 minutes but some good things, when we created two, three big chances to score, we should score.
We have played five games and it clear for everybody that today we didn’t create enough chances. In the five games, we scored three times: one direct free-kick from Joe (Williams), today from a corner and the other was from our right-back.
FPL defender Fabian Delph (£5.5m) made his second appearance in an Everton shirt and played the whole match against Sevilla in the Idrissa Gueye (£5.0m) role.
Gueye looks set for a move to Paris Saint-Germain but Silva doesn’t see Delph as his replacement, which would suggest the former Manchester City man faces a battle to secure regular starts at Goodison Park.
If Gana goes then we have to replace him directly and one player has to come in with that profile and, I said to you, one clear number six to come and to play.
They are playing well and trying to know each other but Andre and Delph are similar players and we need a different profile as a football player.
The Case for the Defence
While four goals were shipped on Saturday, three of them came in the defeat to Mainz.
Silva named a young Everton side for that encounter with the Bundesliga outfit, with his first-choice XI – barring a few absentees – lining up against Sevilla.
Jordan Pickford (£5.5m) didn’t have a massive amount to do from open play against the La Liga club and was only beaten by a second-half spot-kick, with Mason Holgate having shown naivety in fouling Lucas Ocampos.
In our first pressure we didn’t do well but there were some good things. In the end, they scored from a penalty after a silly foul. We cannot do that type of foul when we are almost four against one in that moment and before that, we should be more aggressive.
Discounting the Mainz game, Everton have conceded just twice in five matches and kept three clean sheets along the way.
The goals they conceded against Kariobangi Sharks and Sevilla were arguably as a result of individual errors from Holgate, a back-up centre-half who wouldn’t have been expected to be near the starting XI this season.
Holgate actually didn’t have a bad game alongside Yerry Mina (£5.5m) but the return to fitness of Michael Keane (£5.5m) and the addition of another centre-half in the transfer window – especially with an FA charge hanging over Mina – will be welcomed by those Fantasy managers who own Everton defenders in FPL.
Keane missed out on the OPEL Cup on Saturday with an eye injury but is expected to recover soon, while Leighton Baines (£5.0m) was also sidelined.
Reflecting on the two games overall, Silva said:
The players are playing tired. Mina just started this week, Dominic came just this week also and I know it is more or less the same for our opponents because they have players in many of the same conditions.
The second game was a little bit different, of course, many, many changes. Theo as a striker, Gordon as a striker and it will not be our image and so you have to look more at the first game and understand what has happened in the second game.
Everton XI v Sevilla (4-2-3-1): Pickford, Digne, Holgate, Mina, Coleman, Gomes, Delph, Bernard, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Calvert-Lewin.
Everton XI v Mainz (4-3-3): Lössl, Digne (Foulds 31’), Gibson, Holgate (Pennington 31’), Coleman (Connolly 31’), Schneiderlin (Hornby 54’), McCarthy (Adeniran 31’), Davies, Mirallas, Walcott (Gordon 31’), Broadhead.
Bristol City 0-5 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Andros Townsend, Jeffrey Schlupp, Christian Benteke, Max Meyer, Connor Wickham
- Assists: Patrick van Aanholt, Max Meyer, Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur, Andros Townsend
Crystal Palace recorded their first outright victory of pre-season with an emphatic five-goal demolition of Bristol City.
Eight different players delivered attacking returns in what was a strong a starting XI as Roy Hodgson could name, factoring in injuries and post-international duty breathers.
The absence of the supposedly wantaway Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) meant that Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.5m) was once again paired with Christian Benteke (£6.0m) in a two-man attack.
Schlupp’s Fantasy appeal was somewhat dented this summer when he was justifiably reclassified as an FPL midfielder but the ‘out of position’ tag remains for the time being, with the Ghana international playing alongside or just off Benteke in the first half on Saturday.
Straight from the restart after Andros Townsend (£6.0m) had put Palace in front, Schlupp doubled the visitors’ lead when latching onto Max Meyer‘s (£5.5m) pass and seeing his deflected effort loop in over backpedalling City defender Adam Webster.
Benteke said of his partnership with Schlupp:
It’s nice to have him up there because we are two different types of player; I like to come infield and he likes to run in behind.
Zaha’s future may dictate whether Schlupp’s stint in attack is anything more than temporary but even if the Ivory Coast international departs, then Palace would surely look to splash some of the cash they would receive for the in-demand winger-cum-striker.
The Eagles have already recruited Jordan Ayew (£5.0m), of course, and the former Swansea striker replaced Schlupp up front after the interval.
Jordan has been really professional during his time here and I think that’s why the club decided to sign him. I think he’s a good player and he will do well because he’s a different type of striker and that’s what we need.
Having signed him on loan last season, Hodgson is also clearly a fan of Ayew’s. The Palace boss said:
Ayew brings an incredible desire, work ethic and spirit to the team. I thought today he tried really hard – sometimes too hard – but he still did some fantastic things, not least of all defensively, he becomes that extra defender in midfield when you lose the ball.
Schlupp’s half-time withdrawal was reported in some quarters as being injury-related, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Meyer’s Palace career got off to a faltering start in 2018/19, with the German midfielder unable to cement a first-team spot and often overlooked by Hodgson.
The budget FPL midfielder made only 15 starts across the whole of the campaign, banking just four attacking returns.
Meyer’s future prospects in the Palace side may also depend on Zaha, with Schlupp having vacated the left-sided midfield role to join Benteke in attack.
Meyer was the man to fill the void on Saturday, although he was frequently drifting infield into central positions to influence play.
The German midfielder was a man-of-the-match candidate at Ashton Gate and was involved in four of Palace’s goals, ‘assisting the assister’ for two of them.
It was Meyer who teed up Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) for the blocked shot that Townsend turned in before Schlupp converted the German’s pass to extend Palace’s lead.
Meyer then finished coolly to make it 4-0 before having a say in the Eagles’ final goal, setting up Townsend to cross for substitute Connor Wickham (£4.5m).
Meyer said after full-time:
I played good today, we played well as a team which makes it easier for me to perform, and that’s why I can score today and I am very happy about that.
I remember I signed it was just one week before the first game, it was difficult for me because I didn’t know anyone here. But now it is better for me to have a whole pre-season, it is good for my fitness.
This is my second year, I am used to the Premier League and I hope I can do better this season.
I was pleased to see Max got that goal because he was in three or four times before that with good runs and good moves, but couldn’t quite get the final touch to make the goal.
Benteke scored his second goal of pre-season when nodding in Luka Milivojevic‘s (£7.0m) cross early in the second half.
The Belgian striker has started all four of Palace’s senior friendlies this summer (the 6-2 defeat to Barnet having mostly featured reserve and academy players) and played the first three-quarters of Saturday’s match before being replaced by Wickham.
Very satisfied with Christian Benteke, really pleased to see him score a goal as well, same goes for Connor Wickham.
All we can do now is hope those players will maintain their physical condition, will stay fit and of course, I’m still hoping we will add players to the squad because we are unbelievably thin on the ground.
Sitting in more than one in four FPL squads at the time of writing, Martin Kelly (£4.0m) is by some distance the most popular budget defender in the game.
Injuries to Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins (both £5.0m) paved the way for Kelly to string together a series of starts at the back-end of 2018/19 and the cut-price centre-half looked a good bet to start the upcoming season with Palace’s first-choice pair still struggling for fitness.
Sakho returned as a substitute at Bristol City to dent Kelly’s appeal somewhat, although it was Scott Dann (£4.5m) he replaced for the final 19 minutes.
The former Liverpool stopper understandably looked rusty on his return and it may well take several weeks for the Frenchman to get up to speed, so Kelly may have a stay of execution at centre-back for now.
People like Sakho and Jordan Ayew coming back, and in Jordan’s case his stay with Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations and in Mama’s case a long injury programme, I think we’ve got to be satisfied today that we got them back on the field today.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita, Van Aanholt, Dann (Sakho 71), Kelly (Woods 81), Ward, Meyer, Milivojevic (Dreher 81), McArthur (Riedewald 81), Townsend, Schlupp (Ayew 45), Benteke (Wickham 66).
Preston North End 2-1 Newcastle United
- Goal: Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m)
- Assist: Fabian Schar (£5.0m)
There won’t be too many Fantasy managers interested in Newcastle assets in the opening few months of 2019/20, with the Magpies sitting bottom of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 1 to 9.
Rafael Benitez’s departure and the sale of Ayoze Perez (£6.5m) furthered the gloom, although a 1-0 victory over West Ham United in Asia and the capture of striker Joelinton (£6.0m) provided some cheer.
Newcastle were brought back to down to Earth on Saturday, however, falling to a 2-1 defeat to Championship side Preston North End.
Paying the Penalty
Spot-kicks were a recurring theme of this weekend’s match.
Leading 1-0 early in the second half, Newcastle were awarded a penalty when debutant Joelinton (£6.0m) drew a foul with a clever touch.
With Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) having been one of nine players withdrawn at the interval, Miguel Almiron (£6.0m) – making his first appearance of pre-season after representing Paraguay at the Copa America – stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick but saw his effort saved by home goalkeeper Declan Rudd.
The game then turned when Newcastle gave away two penalties of their own, following a handball by wing-back Jamie Sterry and foul by Joelinton.
Paul Gallagher converted both efforts from 12 yards to hand Preston victory.
The new Newcastle number nine was denied a ‘Fantasy assist’ from his first two touches of the game with Almiron missing from the spot but there were promising signs from the £40m striker elsewhere on the pitch.
Not much can be drawn from a 45-minute showing but there were glimpses of what Joelinton may offer, with his work rate and first touch impressing.
A worry would perhaps be the fact that he looked to drop deep to link up play – a trait that was common at Hoffenheim last season.
Bruce said of the Brazilian’s debut:
I think he’ll be a big hit. He is full of life and full of energy and plays with his heart on his sleeve. He is not a typical Brazilian – all the silky skills that you associate – however, I think he will be an effective number 9.
Almiron ‘Out of Position’ – but not Ritchie
Ritchie’s reclassification as an FPL defender this summer generated talk that he could be an ‘out of position’ asset to monitor in 2019/20.
Bruce looks to be adopting similar tactics to his predecessor, however, using Ritchie as a wing-back in a 3-5-2/5-3-2.
The Scotland international was in his now customary position on the left flank, playing the first 45 minutes before being hooked at the break.
The new Newcastle manager has used a 3-5-2 in both of his matches in charge so far.
There were some things to note on the ‘OOP’ front, however.
In both halves, wingers were paired with FPL forwards in a two-man attack: the unpriced Rolando Aarons alongside Yoshinori Muto (£5.5m) in the first half, with Joelinton joined by Almiron after the break.
Bruce said of his second-half pairing:
The two of them will be a handful. After one minute, they combined, which could have won us the game.
It was nice to see Miggy [Almiron], it was the first time I have seen him live. He is a very good player.
Isaac Hayden (£4.5m) is by far the most-owned FPL midfielder on Newcastle’s books and the budget asset appeared in his third pre-season game in a row on Saturday, with talk of a move away subsiding slightly.
Hayden reportedly wanted a move south for personal reasons but both player and manager have hinted in recent days that he may well stay on Tyneside for the time being.
The thing is with me is that I’ve made it [the desire to move south] clear a lot over the last year but I respect the fans and the football club and I’m not going to talk about it anymore now.
I’m fully committed to the football club as I’ve proven over the last six months. My commitment has never been faulted. Whatever happens, happens. I’m here, I’m playing pre-season games.
The much-discussed Sean Longstaff (£5.0m) continued his comeback from injury with a 45-minute showing, while brother Matthew Longstaff (unpriced in FPL) shone before the break.
Perhaps the pick of Newcastle’s players was Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m).
The budget FPL midfielder was overlooked by Benitez for much of 2018/19, falling way down the pecking order in the centre of the park.
His ‘luxury player’ status meant that he was perhaps a liability in a two-man central midfield (Benitez opting for a 3-4-2-1) but in Bruce’s system, the inclusion of two workhorses alongside him will perhaps bring the best out of him.
Orchestrating play from deep and a threat from set plays, Shelvey drew a fine save from Rudd with an early low shot and took the corner that led to an excellent chance for Hayden.
The former Liverpool and Swansea playmaker scored from a direct free-kick after a foul on the marauding Fabian Schar (£5.0m), although the effort was one Rudd ought to have kept out.
Few Fantasy managers will be interested in the short term but he is a name to monitor in the midfield bargain bin later in the campaign.
Martin Dubravka‘s (£5.0m) absence was downplayed by Bruce after full-time, with the Newcastle boss saying:
We just wanted to have the goalkeeper [Freddie Woodman] to have some minutes, too. Darlow will probably play at Hibs on Tuesday. I just felt it’s important they rotate and have some game time, in case something happens to our number one.
Florian Lejeune (£4.5m), Christian Atsu (£5.5m) and DeAndre Yedlin (£4.5m) sat out with injuries.
Newcastle United XI (3-5-2): Woodman, Dummett (Clark 46′), Schar (Ki 46′), Fernandez, Ritchie (J Murphy 46′), M Longstaff (S Longstaff 46′), Hayden (Colback 46′), Shelvey (Lascelles 46′), Manquillo (Sterry 46′), Muto (Joelinton 46′), Aarons (Almiron 46′).
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