We take a closer look at six more pre-season friendlies that involved Premier League clubs on Saturday.
Our latest Scout Notes article rounds up the goalscorers, assist-makers and key Fantasy talking points from the matches involving Burnley, West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Southampton and Watford, as well as documenting any injury updates from these half-dozen clubs.
Burnley 2-0 Parma
- Goals: Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m) x2
- Assists: Aaron Lennon (£5.0m), Matthew Lowton (£4.5m)
Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m) laid down another marker as the three-way tussle for Burnley’s two striking spots grows tougher to call.
Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood (£6.5m) are ever-presents for the Clarets in the Premier League this calendar year but the mid-price FPL forwards are now faced with a threat they didn’t really have in the first half of 2019: genuine competition up front.
Matej Vydra (£5.5m) and the now-retired Peter Crouch never really looked like posing a challenge to the duopoly in attack but, as Sam Vokes did in the first half of 2018/19, Rodriguez gives Sean Dyche a viable alternative to Barnes or Wood.
Wood has been the man in form in pre-season, scoring nine goals in seven appearances – although six of those strikes were against sides from the Football League.
Barnes, in contrast, didn’t find the back of the net once.
Rodriguez has himself scored on six occasions, with two of them coming in the second half of Saturday’s win over Parma.
The former West Brom striker nodded in Aaron Lennon‘s (£5.0m) deflected cross from point-blank range to give the hosts the lead before scoring a second headed goal when arriving at the back post to convert Matthew Lowton‘s (£4.5m) teasing delivery.
Rodriguez has more pre-season minutes to his name than any Burnley striker following his 73-minute run-out against the Italian side.
Wood – who volleyed over from another Lowton pass in the first half – and Barnes were each handed 45 minutes against Parma and it may well be that they resume their partnership in Gameweek 1, with Dyche having previously said that Saturday’s line-up isn’t necessarily the one that will take on Southampton next weekend:
I will be honest, most managers myself included, normally play what you think is the team in the last one, but I think it is tight this season. The last game of pre-season might not be the team that starts against Southampton.
Dyche added on Saturday:
We have had some minor injuries but nothing too major so we have adapted the team and with that team (against Parma) we looked at the minutes list and Barnesy was top with Westy next to him so that is why they played different amounts to let others catch up.
Dyche may have been discounting the behind-closed-doors friendlies against Fulham, Accrington and Tranmere when discussing the pre-season minutes of Barnes, given that the striker’s documented playing time on our spreadsheet was less than Wood and Rodriguez.
Burnley’s goalkeeper situation has been a complicated one this summer but Saturday may finally have given Fantasy managers some reassurance regarding the first-team prospects of Nick Pope (£4.5m).
The Burnley shotstopper returned on Saturday following a three-game absence through injury and played the full 90 minutes, with Joe Hart (£4.5m) watching on from the bench and new signing Bailey Peacock-Farrell not involved.
Tom Heaton (£4.5m), of course, has departed for Aston Villa.
Pope was the busier of the two goalkeepers as Parma posed much more of a threat than Nice did in midweek and indeed the Serie A side clipped the woodwork in the first half when Roberto Inglese headed against the bar from a corner.
While Pope and budget FPL defender Ben Gibson (£4.0m) returned from the treatment table, there were more injury woes for Dyche.
Robbie Brady‘s (£5.5m) comeback from a rib problem lasted just over half an hour as he suffered a recurrence of the issue, while Jack Cork (£5.0m) also limped off before half-time.
Centre-backs James Tarkowski (£5.0m) and Kevin Long (£4.5m) missed out altogether, which perhaps heightens the chances of Gibson featuring in Gameweek 1.
Dyche said after the match:
James had two points on a scan on his thigh that were really tight and we need to be careful with them. Kevin has a sore groin and it’s nothing too drastic.
Robbie got a knock on his ribs and had just come back from that, and Corky took a slip, but he’s fine.
Longy thinks he has got a really strong chance [of playing in GW1], he thinks it is settling down really well and so does Tarky.
Corky was a precaution but with Robbie we will have to wait and see. I don’t know how quickly that will settle down again.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Pope; Taylor (Pieters 67’), Mee, Gibson (Dunne 67’), Lowton (Bardsley 73’); Brady (McNeil 32’), Cork (Westwood 38’), Hendrick (Benson 73’), Lennon (Gudmundsson 67’); Wood (Barnes 46’), Rodriguez (Wells 73’).
West Ham United 2-2 Athletic Bilbao (2-4 penalties)
- Goals: Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m), Jack Wilshere (£5.0m)
- Assists: Pablo Fornals (£6.5m), Sebastien Haller (£7.5m)
There were goals at either end of the pitch as West Ham United rounded off their pre-season on Saturday.
In many ways, the Betway Cup match against Athletic Bilbao told us much what we already knew about the Hammers from a Fantasy perspective: promising up top but decidedly unconvincing at the back.
There have been 12 goals in total in West Ham’s most-recent two friendlies, with five arriving at the wrong end of the field.
The Hammers have conceded two or more goals in four of their six pre-season friendlies, which will further the appeal of Manchester City assets in Gameweek 1.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were 2-0 down after just 15 minutes on Saturday, with Sebastien Haller (£7.5m) slicing into his own goal before the visitors cut the Hammers apart to double their lead on the quarter-hour mark.
Roberto (£4.5m) continues to look shaky between the sticks as he deputises for the injured Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m), with the Polish shotstopper having again missed out with a groin strain.
Mark Noble (£5.0m) was also missing with a dead leg and Pellegrini said of the pair:
Most of them are progressing. Lukasz did an MRI today. He has a small injury, so we will see what happens with him during this week. Mark will start running probably in the middle of the week so we will see what will happen with him.
I think that for Mark, it is going to be difficult for him to play, but with Lukasz, it depends how he works on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On the flip side, West Ham’s front four continue to impress.
Haller, Felipe Anderson (£7.0m), Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m) and Pablo Fornals (£6.5m) started their third pre-season game in a row and look to be Pellegrini’s attacking quartet of choice going into the opening-weekend encounter with City.
Haller was involved in both of the hosts’ goals, ‘assisting the assister’ for Lanzini’s tap-in – Fornals claiming the actual assist with a bicycle kick – and then showing great persistence and nimble footwork to tee up Jack Wilshere (£5.0m) for the Hammers’ equaliser on 23 minutes.
Pellegrini is blessed with an array of talent in the attacking midfield options and discussed his options after the game:
I think we have different options. You saw in this game we played with Wilshere, Anderson, Lanzini and Fornals, but in the second half it was Antonio, Yarmolenko, Diangana and Snodgrass, or we could play with two strikers.
With Fornals, Lanzini and Anderson, the three of them can play in all the positions behind the striker so we have different options, not only with those three players, but with others. For the moment, we have a complete squad.
As a manager you want options and you can play in a different way. You can want more muscle or more technique, but for me you want players who always want the ball.
Fornals was again the central figure either linking up with Haller in attack or dropping deep and indeed the gangly striker looked less of a threat when the Spaniard was withdrawn at the interval.
Wilshere, meanwhile, flitted between supporting Declan Rice (£5.0m) at the base of the midfield and joining up with the front four in possession.
Pellegrini’s only change to his starting XI saw Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m) return at right-back in place of budget FPL option Ben Johnson (£4.0m) but West Ham’s defence looked particularly exposed on the flanks, with Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) struggling.
West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): Roberto; Cresswell (Masuaku 74’), Diop, Balbuena (Ogbonna 65’), Fredericks (Zabaleta 81’); Wilshere (Snodgrass 65’), Rice (C Sánchez 74’); Fornals (Antonio 46’), Lanzini (Diangana 74’), Anderson (Yarmolenko 65’); Haller (Chicharito 74’).
Crystal Palace 0-4 Hertha Berlin
Crystal Palace’s pre-season finished in dismal fashion as they drew a blank against a side that conceded five goals against West Ham United just three days earlier.
At the other end of the pitch, an under-strength Eagles defence were left worryingly exposed – positive news for those Fantasy managers considering Everton’s under-performing attacking assets in Gameweek 1.
Roy Hodgson’s side were again without their talismanic winger, Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m), who has been handed an extended period of rest following his involvement with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Cheikhou Kouyate (£5.0m) was also absent having represented Senegal in that same tournament, while Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.5m) – substituted at half-time of the 5-0 win over Bristol City a week earlier – was missing from Saturday’s matchday squad at Selhurst Park.
Jordan Ayew (£5.0m) replaced Schlupp alongside Christian Benteke (£6.0m) in Hodgson’s only change to his side from the win at Ashton Gate, so it may well be a very similar-looking starting XI that takes on Everton next weekend – barring further recruitment and the return to availability of those aforementioned players.
Palace had their chances, with Benteke having an effort chalked off for offside, Ayew and James McArthur (£5.5m) missing excellent opportunities and Scott Dann (£4.5m) underscoring his aerial prowess by heading against the bar.
A lack of dynamism highlighted both Zaha’s absence and Palace’s ongoing struggles in south London, however: only relegated Huddersfield scored fewer home goals than the Eagles in 2018/19.
Assistant manager Ray Lewington acknowledged that the Eagles’ counter-attacking style was not ideally suited to home games in which opponents sit back:
One thing could be that we’re a little bit more of a counter-attacking team than most, which means that we like teams coming onto us and when you’re at home, you’re going onto them. It’s not for the want of the supporters giving us great support every game and playing in a ground that has got a great atmosphere about it. We just hope we can put it right.
It could be argued that Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m), himself not renowned for his defensive credentials, was the only first-choice member of the Palace backline on show at Selhurst Park.
Joel Ward (£4.5m) continued at right-back as the Eagles seek to replace the departed Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m), while the absence of Mamadou Sakho and the injured James Tomkins (both £5.0m) saw Dann and budget FPL defender Martin Kelly (£4.0m) again deployed together at centre-half.
Sakho had returned from a lengthy lay-off against Bristol City and Wimbledon but it seems likely that he will be struggling for fitness in Gameweek 1.
Vicente Guaita (£4.5m) wasn’t overly tested for much of the first half but Palace conceded their first goal just before the interval and capitulated after half-time, with Hodgson’s experimentation with a diamond formation looking like a misstep.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita (Hennessey 45’); van Aanholt, Dann, Kelly, Ward; Meyer (Pierrick 83’), Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend (Dreher 83’); Ayew (Wickham 75’), Benteke.
Newcastle 2-1 Saint-Etienne
- Goals: Joelinton (£6.0m), Matthew Longstaff
- Assists: Fabian Schar (£5.0m), Sean Longstaff (£5.0m)
Newcastle United assets are hardly the flavour of the month following Rafael Benitez’s departure and with the Magpies having the trickiest run of fixtures (according to our Season Ticker) in the opening ten Gameweeks of the 2019/20 season.
The acquisition of Joelinton (£6.0m), Allan Saint-Maximin and Jetro Willems and some decent pre-season showings (bar the 4-0 hammering by Wolves) have made the overall picture seem not quite so bleak on Tyneside, however, and they may not quite be the pushovers many are expecting in the upcoming campaign.
Saturday’s victory over Saint-Etienne was, indeed, more convincing than the scoreline suggested.
Joelinton scored his second goal in as many games when converting Fabian Schar‘s (£5.0m) long ball over the top of the French side’s defence, with youngster Matthew Longstaff rifling in off the crossbar following a pass from brother Sean (£5.0m).
Joelinton, budget FPL midfielder Isaac Hayden (£4.5m) and substitute Yoshinori Muto (£5.0m) had efforts blocked, while the influential Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m) and Miguel Almiron (£6.0m) struck the woodwork.
Almiron was again a lively presence playing as an ‘out of position’ striker up front, although his finishing continues to leave a lot to be desired and his ongoing goal drought (he hasn’t scored a single goal for the Magpies) drags on.
Matthieu Debuchy scored a late consolation for the visitors.
Reflecting on the game, Bruce said:
Second half I enjoyed. First half was a typical pre-season friendly where everyone was asleep, but second half we played with energy and intensity. We could have been worthy winners by a few more. Overall I was very, very pleased.
Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) sat Saturday’s game out with a hamstring problem, meaning that Rolando Aarons again lined up as a wing-back on the left flank.
Willems replaced Aarons in the second half and is expected to provide the stiffer competition for Ritchie in the medium term.
Bruce said of Ritchie’s injury:
It’s his hamstring and, as I said at the time, if he’s going off, there is something wrong. Whether he’ll be right for Arsenal remains to be seen.
Attacking midfielder Saint-Maximin also made his debut and looked fairly promising but was seen limping off towards at the end of the game, while Christian Atsu (£5.5m) was among the substitutes for the first time this summer.
£4.5m-rated asset Hayden has played more pre-season minutes than any of Newcastle’s midfielders and looks set to stay on Tyneside, having been heavily linked with a move away for much of 2019.
He’s up for staying. We want to give him a new contract.
Newcastle United XI (5-3-2): Dúbravka; R Aarons (Willems 59’), Fernández, Lascelles (Dummett 78’), Schär (Clark 78’), Manquillo (Murphy 83’); Shelvey (Ki 73’), S Longstaff, Hayden (M Longstaff 74’); Joelinton (Muto 59’), Almirón (Saint-Maximin 59’)
Southampton 2-0 FC Koln
- Goals: Danny Ings (£6.0m), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£5.0m)
- Assists: Che Adams (£6.0m) x2
Southampton look set to start 2019/20 in a wing-back system after Ralph Hasenhuttl again plumped for three centre-halves in Saturday’s final pre-season friendly.
Nathan Redmond (£6.5m) and Che Adams (£6.0m) flanked central striker Danny Ings (£6.0m) in a three-man attack in the first half, with Adams moving centrally when Ings was withdrawn at the break.
Adams was one of the game’s stand-out players, with his work rate and harrying causing problems for the visitors.
The summer signing from Birmingham won an early penalty that Ings converted and teed up Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£5.0m) for the Saints’ second goal, having also supplied Ryan Bertrand (£5.0m) with a chance with a superb through-ball.
Ings missed a second penalty when Hojbjerg had been felled.
James Ward-Prowse‘s (£6.0m) Fantasy appeal is perhaps dented in this 3-4-3 system, although his role as the more defence-minded central midfielder is one that will likely change when Oriel Romeu (£4.5m) returns to the starting XI – the former Chelsea player having returned in Saturday’s game as a substitute following three games out through injury.
Of course, having all three of Romeu, Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse fit presents Hasenhuttl with a selection dilemma if he proceeds with just two central midfielders.
Winger Moussa Djenepo (£5.5m) made his Southampton debut as a 79th-minute substitute, while Jack Stephens (£4.5m) returned from injury and was preferred to Maya Yoshida (£4.5m) at centre-back.
Angus Gunn (£4.5m) played the full game in goal and looks the favourite to get the nod in Gameweek 1, having racked up the most pre-season minutes of all of Southampton’s goalkeepers.
Gunn made a couple of smart stops as the Saints recorded their second clean sheet of the summer, although centre-back Jan Bednarek (£4.5m) highlighted that Southampton’s aggressive press sometimes led to chances being conceded at the wrong end of the pitch:
I think it’s just to find the balance between high press, deep pressing and midfield press because there were some moments of the game where we could not press but we tried to do, we are sometimes a little bit too brave. I think that’s positive and when we find the balance we will be a really nasty opponent.
Southampton XI (3-4-3): Gunn; Bednarek, Vestergaard (Armstrong 75’), Stephens (Yoshida 63’); Valery, Højbjerg, Ward-Prowse (Romeu 63’), Bertrand (Cedric 63’); Redmond (Boufal 63’), Adams (Long 63’), Ings (Obafemi 46’, Djenepo 79’).
Watford 2-1 Real Sociedad
- Goals: Andre Gray (£6.0m) x2
- Assists: Will Hughes (£5.5m), Etienne Capoue (£5.0m)
Javi Gracia “thinks” that Gerard Deulofeu (£6.5m) will be fit to face Brighton and Hove Albion in Gameweek 1 after the FPL forward missed Watford’s final pre-season friendly with a muscle problem.
Speaking after the win over Real Sociedad, the Hornets’ boss said:
We have some players out with little problems but I think all of them will be ready for the next game. Gerard is maybe training with the team on Tuesday. I think he will be ready.
Roberto Pereyra (£6.0m) was also absent following his involvement with Argentina at the Copa America but Gracia says the winger should be involved at Vicarage Road next Saturday.
The Watford head coach said:
Pereyra finished later than the rest of the team. After three weeks of rest, he started to train. Now he is training in a hard moment. He is training some days with the team, others alone. He will be ready for the game [against Brighton], not at his best level, but he will be ready to compete.
Looking at the Hornets’ starting XI and system in Saturday’s pre-season friendly suggests very little has changed from the back-end of 2018/19.
Craig Dawson (£5.0m) was the only squad member involved against Sociedad who wasn’t on the books last season and the rest of Watford’s back four looked very familiar, with Ben Foster (£5.0m) lining up between the sticks.
Ken Sema (£5.0m) and Andre Gray (£6.0m) were perhaps the placeholders for Pereyra and Deulofeu but Gray is doing his best to stake a claim for a first-team place ahead of Gameweek 1, scoring twice as Watford came from behind to win.
The mid-price FPL forward scored his third and fourth goals of pre-season, first squeezing his shot inside the post following a fine run and through-ball from Will Hughes (£5.5m) and then racing onto a pass from Etienne Capoue (£5.0m) for the Hornets’ winner.
In truth, Watford were second-best for much of the game and didn’t create too many other clear opportunities.
At the other end, Foster had to make a handful of decent blocks, while Jose Holebas (£5.0m) cleared off the line and the visitors’ Mikel Merino hit the post.
The hosts had fallen behind to a first-half penalty after a foul by Sema.
Real Sociedad played better than us. In the first half, they played much better. Maybe in the second we controlled the spaces better, we competed better but always it is good to compete against teams like Sociedad with a high level. It’s important to get good results for the confidence of our players. The best thing is we have the possibility to improve many things. I am sure we will do it.