Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield United
Goals: Chris Mepham (£4.5m) | Billy Sharp (£6.0m)
Assists: Callum Wilson (£8.0m)
Bonus Points: Sharp x3, Mepham x2, John Lundstram (£4.0m)
Bournemouth’s attacking assets failed to impress in a scrappy 1-1 draw with Sheffield United on Saturday.
There had been great interest in Callum Wilson (£8.0m), Josh King (£6.5m) and Ryan Fraser (£7.5m) ahead of Gameweek 1, each player in at least 19% of teams.
However, the Cherries were too slow in their approach play at the Vitality Stadium to truly cause the newly-promoted side many problems.
Eddie Howe deployed his side in a 3-4-3 system with Diego Rico (£4.0m) and Adam Smith (£4.5m) as the wing-backs but it did not get the best out of the forward players.
Wilson was the central striker with Fraser and King as inside forwards, but none of them managed more than one shot each.
In total, Bournemouth managed just three efforts on target at the Vitality Stadium, although at half-time they had not mustered a single one.
“I don’t think we got into any rhythm on the ball and that will be frustrating for us today. I think we’re usually a lot more fluid with our movements and our passing but we found it difficult to break them down. Every game is so different at this level. We’re going to tweak our system throughout the season.” – Eddie Howe
Wilson was in perhaps the most frustrating form given that he found himself in good positions when breaking on the Sheffield United defence but lost possession far too many times.
The centre forward’s passes in the final third were often wayward. His owners will be encouraged by the positions he took up, but less so by his ability to find any of those around him.
Furthermore, while they will be just about content with a five-point score, Wilson probably should have scored with his only shot of the game.
Bournemouth’s goal came after a penalty box scramble in which Wilson blasted a point-blank shot straight at Dean Henderson (£4.5m) with the goal gaping, claiming the assist only because Chris Mepham (£4.5m) bundled in the rebound.
Bournemouth’s attacking play probably also wasn’t helped by Howe’s selection in the middle of the pitch as he went with two central defensive midfielders in Jefferson Lerma (£5.0m) and new signing Philip Billing (£5.0m).
The latter was an especially surprising choice given that he registered just 60 minutes of involvement in Bournemouth’s pre-season campaign.
It is also possible that Howe was forced into the 3-4-3 system by his lack of winger options currently.
David Brooks (£6.5m) and Junior Stanislas (£6.0m) came into the season with long-term injury problems while new signing Arnaut Danjuma (£6.0m) missed Gameweek 1 with a foot problem.
“In the game last week he just felt a pain in his foot so he didn’t train this week so we’re still assessing the injury.” – Eddie Howe
Nathan Aké (£5.0m), Steve Cook (£4.5m) and Mepham were the three centre-backs chosen by Howe on Saturday.
Despite concerns over Bournemouth’s defensive capabilities this season, they largely stood up well to Sheffield United’s attacks.
The only reason they conceded a late Billy Sharp (£6.0m) goal was down to a rare moment of disorganisation in the box following a goal-mouth scramble.
“We went the three today we felt that was the best way to play in and out of possession. Didn’t quite play out as we’d hoped but at this level, you’re always learning. I thought the three centre-backs did very well, looked solid, aerially we did well, we competed and protected Ramdale very well.” – Eddie Howe
The fact that Bournemouth looked fairly solid for much of the game will be of considerable encouragement for owners of budget left-back Rico, who played 90 minutes.
With an injury to Lloyd Kelly (£4.5m) and Charlie Daniels (£4.5m) used only sparingly in pre-season, Rico could be set to start in Gameweek 2, depending on which system Howe goes with against Aston Villa.
Also of note was Rico’s involvement in set pieces in Gameweek 1. He shared corners and indirect free kicks with Fraser and played the same number of key passes in the game as the Scottish international.
Bournemouth manager Howe finally revealed to Fantasy managers who his first-choice goalkeeper was with his selection on Saturday.
After registering the joint-highest number of pre-season minutes between the sticks, it was Aaron Ramsdale (£4.5m) who started against Sheffield United. Howe was pleased with his performance so it looks likely that he’ll feature at Villa Park next week.
“Well, I came to that through evaluating all the goalkeepers during pre-season. I decided to go with Aaron, he’s done well, he hasn’t conceded a goal during pre-season and has looked really confident. I was delighted with his performance.” – Eddie Howe
As much as there is some encouragement about Rico, John Lundstram (£4.0m) already looks to be the toast of the budget defenders for the 2019/20 season.
As expected, he started the match in Sheffield United’s central midfield trio, but the 25-year-old was arguably one of the best players for the Blades.
In the first half alone, Lundstram could have had a goal and an assist to his name, which would have really drawn attention to him from the Fantasy community.
Early on, he played a fantastic ball into the box from deep which David McGoldrick (£5.5m) latched onto. The forward could not get enough purchase to truly trouble Ramsdale but the pass from Lundstram gives us an idea as to his capabilities.
Later in the half, the central midfielder let fly from distance, although he dragged the effort wide. At the start of the second, Lundstram found McGoldrick again, who fired inches wide with a fierce effort.
As predicted the more attacking option Luke Freeman (£5.5m) replaced Lundstram in the second half as they looked to chase the game. Chris Wilder made this substitution a lot in pre-season too and it is possible that Lundstram may come off the pitch with clean sheets intact from time to time in 2019/20.
“The three midfield players were really disciplined in terms of their approach. Shut off channels, cut off passes.” – Chris Wilder
As Howe mentioned in his post-match quotes, Sheffield United were hard to break down on Saturday which bodes well for their defensive potential in the Premier League.
They were helped by the performance of goalkeeper Henderson, who came close to stopping Mepham’s opening goal and produced an incredible save to deny a powerful Billing pile-driver in the second half.
Despite scoring just two points, there were some encouraging signs for out-of-position FPL midfielder Callum Robinson (£5.5m).
He started up front in Wilder’s 3-5-2 system and had several opportunities to score. He saw a fierce effort from distance well saved by Ramsdale in the 20th minute and was inches away from converting a George Baldock (£4.5m) cross in the second half.
More importantly, it looks as if his place in the side is not to be jeopardised by the signing of Oli McBurnie (£6.0m).
The former Swansea City striker came on for McGoldrick in the 63rd minute, allowing Robinson to play the whole game.
The introduction of Billy Sharp (£6.0m) in the 80th minute also did not affect Robinson’s pitch time as Wilder opted to forego one of his three centre-backs to facilitate the switch, Chris Basham (£4.5m) making way.
“I thought Callum was excellent. He got his shots away, he was lively. Callum and David McGoldrick have been the best front two in pre-season.” – Chris Wilder
Bournemouth XI (3-4-3): Ramsdale; Aké, S Cook, Mepham; Rico, Billing, Lerman, Smith; Fraser, Wilson (Solanke 90′), King.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Henderson; O’Connell, Egan, Basham (Sharp 82′); Stevens, Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram (L Freeman 78′), Baldock; Robinson, McGoldrick (McBurnie 63′).
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Lessons learned from Gameweek 1
- Liverpool 4-1 Norwich
- West Ham United 0-5 Manchester City
- Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield United
- Burnley 3-0 Southampton
- Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton
- Watford 0-3 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Aston Villa
- Leicester City 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal
- Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea