Manchester United’s demolition of Chelsea could be a positive omen for those amongst us who have invested in Leicester City’s attacking players.
The Foxes drew a blank against Wolves on Sunday but owners of Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) et al will be hoping that Chelsea’s second-half capitulation in Manchester is indicative of deeper defensive problems, with Brendan Rodgers’ side in action at Stamford Bridge in Gameweek 2.
United got their season off to a dream start but their victory, as we will discuss, was not quite as one-sided as the scoreline suggested.
Our final Scout Notes article of Gameweek 1 also examines the main Fantasy talking points on Tyneside as Arsenal edged past Newcastle United.
Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea
- Goals: Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) x2, Anthony Martial (£7.5m), Daniel James (£6.0m)
- Assists: Andreas Pereira (£5.0m), Paul Pogba (£8.5m) x2
Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) downplayed suggestions that he was Manchester United’s new first-choice penalty taker after scoring from the spot in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Chelsea.
Rashford won and converted a 17th-minute spot-kick to give the Red Devils the lead but afterwards said that there were ‘four or five’ United assets who could potentially step up from 12 yards.
The England striker said:
I wouldn’t say I’m the penalty-taker.
There’sfour or five players that are 100% comfortable being in that situation. For the keepers it’s more difficult, they don’t know who’s going to take it.
Paul Pogba (£8.5m) took ten of United’s 12 Premier League penalties last season, scoring seven of them, while Jesse Lingard (£6.5m) and Anthony Martial (£7.5m) also netted on one occasion each.
It is worth noting that Pogba, Martial and Lingard were all on the field when Rashford took this latest penalty, although it could be that United’s players are adopting a similar approach to Burnley’s Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes (both £6.5m) and taking penalties that they themselves earn.
Whatever the system, the suggestion that Pogba doesn’t have the monopoly at spot-kick situations is something of a blow to his Fantasy appeal.
Seven of Pogba’s 13 goals last season came from the spot and his expected goals total of 15.11 was halved when penalties were taken out of the equation (an xG non-penalty of 7.23, inferior to 31 other players).
Having occasionally played as a number ten under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba’s role in the double-pivot of a 4-2-3-1 would also seem to be detrimental to his goal threat – the Frenchman had just one effort on Sunday.
Assists will no doubt continue to flow, however.
The France international has reached double figures for those in the last two seasons and he began 2019/20 with another two, setting up Rashford and substitute Daniel James (£6.0m) for United’s third and fourth goals – his assist for Rashford’s goal being a superb lofted ball from deep, while his pass for James’ strike followed a lung-busting run upfield.
Speaking after the game, Solskjaer said of Pogba:
I think Paul can do many, many jobs. He can do the attacking midfield job. Today, he was more of the link player and when you’ve got Lindelof, Maguire and David at the back, they can feed Paul the ball.
Paul can do everything a midfielder can. Today, he was asked to play that sitting role and first half, I thought Chelsea pegged us too much back so he had to do loads of running.
That pass for the third goal was fantastic and the run for the fourth – I just wanted him to go all the way and open up his legs.
Lingard and Andreas Pereira (£5.0m) lined up on the right flank and in the hole of a 4-2-3-1 respectively, with Pereira providing the assist for Martial’s goal.
Most of the Fantasy discussion will surround Martial and Rashford, though.
It was, as predicted, the Frenchman who got the nod to lead the line, with Rashford stationed on the left flank.
Martial naturally gravitates to the left wing and Rashford tends to drift inside, however, and the two players are fairly interchangeable in the roles mentioned.
Martial was bang centre of goal when he bundled in Pereira’s cross from four yards but Rashford was the one making the dart in behind to capitalise on Pogba’s pass for United’s third goal.
While we have seen the two players frequently changing position in pre-season, Solskjaer’s post-match comments suggest the set-up at Chelsea is something he wants to stick with.
Talking of Rashford, Solskjaer said:
Marcus Rashford played that left-hand side striker role more or less to perfection more or less today.
Yes once in a while he’s caught out of possession defensively but that means we can counter-attack. His second goal was absolutely outstanding. That’s where we want him, running in behind. We don’t want him out on the touchline, crossing the ball.
On Martial’s tap-in, the Norwegian added:
That’s a number nine’s goal. Anthony knows what I expect from him and where I want him. I don’t mind if he drifts wide once in a while and tries a curler but that’s where the number nines get the goals.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire (both £5.5m) made their competitive United debuts and helped the Red Devils to a home clean sheet, which is already half of the number of shut-outs United kept at Old Trafford in 2018/19.
While there were some impressive individual contributions from both players over the course of the game, particularly Wan-Bissaka, to say United were rock-solid at the back would be stretching the truth.
Tammy Abraham (£7.0m) and Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m) both rattled the woodwork in the first half, while David de Gea (£5.5m) had to make a fine stop from Ross Barkley (£6.0m) and a half-dozen more routine saves from distance.
Chelsea were arguably the better team in the first half and it’ll be interesting to see how much joy United get against a less-obliging defence when they visit Molineux next Monday.
For owners of Leicester assets, Gameweek 2 is an appetite-whetting prospect based on Sunday’s evidence.
While Chelsea gave it a go going forward, they were repeatedly exposed at the back and Kurt Zouma (£5.0m) had a nightmare afternoon at centre-half alongside Andreas Christensen (£5.0m).
The Blues actually conceded fewer chances than United but the way they were sliced open in the second half will be of great encouragement to Vardy’s owners, given how easily Frank Lampard’s side were exposed on the counter-attack.
The imminent return to fitness of Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) will be a boon, of course, while N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) got another substitute’s appearance under his belt following a knee injury and his inclusion in central midfield ought to further shore things up.
Lampard had benched Christian Pulisic (£7.5m) to make way for both Barkley and Mason Mount (£6.0m), with Barkley stationed on the left to allow Mount to play as a number ten.
The experiment didn’t really work out and it may be that the two £6.0m-rated assets are left tussling for one spot against the Foxes next weekend, although it is worth reiterating how much on top Chelsea were in the early stages.
Mount, interestingly, took all five of the Blues’ corners and completed the full 90 minutes as Barkley was hauled off before the hour-mark.
Asked about his tactical decision involving Mount and Barkley, Lampard said:
Christian Pulisic is 20 years old. He will be a fantastic player for the club. He has got great ability. You saw little moments with his acceleration on the ball.
But I have also got other options in midfield and in those areas, and I don’t want to stick Christian straight into the fire without trying to help him along the way. It was one of those games where I felt it was better to start with Ross and Mason, who have been very strong in pre-season, and bring Christian on.
Pedro (£7.0m) and Abraham were lively early on, meanwhile, but, like so many of their teammates, quickly wilted.
Reflecting on the game, Lampard said:
We were clearly the better team for 45, maybe 60 minutes, but what was evident was we made individual errors that led to four goals out of their five shots. There’s
the harshreality for us.
If we go in half-time 2-1 or 3-1 up, as we probably should have done, if we were more clinical ourselves and had maybe a stroke of luck here and there, the game would be completely different.
What I felt on the pitch and in the dressing room afterwards, and although the players are obviously disappointed, there were lots and lots of elements of the game I liked. There were four or five elements I really didn’t like and they proved fatal for us.
Solksjaer, meanwhile, said that Alexis Sanchez (£7.0m) is nearing a return.
Alexis came in very late, so he’s had now almost two weeks of training and a game behind closed doors against Blackburn. So he’s getting close to full fitness.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, Andreas Pereira (James 74′), Lingard (Mata 85′), Martial, Rashford (Greenwood 85′).
Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson Palmieri, Jorginho (Kante 73′), Kovacic, Pedro, Barkley (Pulisic 58′), Mount, Abraham (Giroud 66′);
Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m)
- Assists: Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.0m)
Not one of Arsenal’s new signings featured from the start as the Gunners narrowly beat Newcastle at St. James’ Park.
Dani Ceballos (£5.5m), Nicolas Pepe (£9.5m) and Gabriel Martinelli (£4.5m) were all thrown on as second-half substitutes while David Luiz (£6.0m) remained unused on the bench as Unai Emery kept faith with the players that had played the bulk of pre-season.
Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) didn’t make it onto the field, either, although his ankle injury had improved sufficiently for him to be among the substitutes.
With Mesut Ozil (£7.5m) and Sead Kolasinac (£5.5m) also not involved for personal reasons, the Gunners’ starting XI had something of a makeshift feel.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), who played a chunk of pre-season on the right flank, led the line in Lacazette’s absence but there was the unfamiliar sight of teenagers Joe Willock (£5.0m) and Reiss Nelson (£5.5m) – plus Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.0m) – playing in the attacking midfield trio behind him.
As well as Nelson and Willock performed, there was an understandable lack of spark to Arsenal’s attack: indeed, only four Premier League clubs registered fewer shots on goal (eight) than the Gunners in Gameweek 1.
Aside from Aubameyang’s well-taken 57th-minute goal, Emery’s troops only had one other shot on target.
With the Gabonese forward in the side, of course, Arsenal always pose a threat.
Aubameyang looked to exploit Newcastle’s high defensive line in the first half but was afforded few opportunities, taking too heavy a touch with his first chance before stinging Martin Dubravka‘s (£5.0m) hands after a ball over the top from Mkhitaryan.
The Gabon international didn’t need to be asked a third time and coolly slotted past Dubravka following a cross from Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.0m).
Mkhitaryan had earlier blazed over and Granit Xhaka (£5.5m) flashed a header wide but the Gunners didn’t have one shot in the final half an hour, with Pepe and Ceballos unable to make much of an impression.
In truth, there was probably little to glean from Sunday’s victory and we will learn much more about Arsenal in the weeks to come as their new recruits begin to bed in and their absent first-teamers return.
When asked about the likes of Pepe and Luiz, Emery responded:
David Luiz did pre-season with another team and he is okay to play physically but he only trained completely with us yesterday. On Friday he did 30 minutes with us. I was thinking to give them
confidenceto work together because they were working well together, Sokratis and Chambers.
Nicolas Pepe came one week ago and physically he needs to get his best fitness to be ready to play 100 per cent for 90 minutes. I think that today 20 minutes is good for him.
And Ceballos is in the middle because he came before Pepe but he got an injury and he stopped training. But he needs to know the Premier League, so today was important for him and for us.
I also used Reiss Nelson and Willock because they deserved to be with us and to give them confidence can help us. It’s the same with Martinelli, he played the last 10 minutes because he deserved it.
On whether Ozil and Kolasinac would be ready to return against Burnley, Emery added:
The club is managing that circumstance. We want to be with them as soon as possible and with normality in training and normality to be ready to play. I don’t know now.
Arsenal at least kept a rare clean sheet on the road and have already matched
Calum Chambers (£4.5m) had a decent match at centre-half although the Gunners still occasionally looked suspect against a limp Newcastle attack and stiffer tests await in the next three Gameweeks, so a truer gauge of Arsenal’s backline will be how they perform against Burnley, Liverpool and Spurs.
On the subject of Chambers and his absent defensive contingent, Emery said:
Really, last year for Calum Chambers was a very good year because he played all the matches with Fulham. They played him as
centre-backin a three, in a two and they played him as a midfielder. From pre-season, he deserved to play today in the first XI and he was very focused and with Sokratis was also very serious.
I want to have very competitive players in each position. With David Luiz, with Holding when he is coming back to help us, with training regularly and playing with the under-23s because he will play again tomorrow.
And with Hector Bellerin, one month more. Today we also had Sead out and the injury to Kieran Tierney. I think we can and will want to become stronger defensively, but above all being one offensive team.
The Magpies battled gamely against their visitors, with Joelinton (£6.0m) going close with an early header before producing a tame shot when bulldozing his way through the Arsenal backline.
Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m) also struck the upright but any attacking threat evaporated after the break, with an ‘out of position’ Miguel Almiron (£6.0m), playing up front alongside Joelinton in a 3-5-2, unable to break his duck for the hosts.
Goalscoring looks a concern for Newcastle this season but it should be said that Ayoze Perez (£6.5m) and Salomon Rondon failed to score in the first ten Gameweeks of
Shelvey and wing-back Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) shared dead-ball duties but an injury to the former saw Ritchie move infield early in the second half and Jetro Willems (£4.5m) introduced on the left flank.
It was during this positional reshuffle that Newcastle
A lack of communication with him [Willems]. We wanted to play Matt Ritchie inside. He played there for two minutes until we got the information to him
. Wewere OK first half and unfortunately against a good team we’ve gifted them a goal, which is never easy to recover from. We left ourselves a bit exposed then but overall, I was pleased because there wasn’t anything in it.
I can’t remember playing against Arsenal and the goalkeeper has had
so littleto do but unfortunately, we’ve made a mistake which has cost us.
On the subject of Shelvey’s injury, Bruce said:
Shelvey had a knock. We don’t think it’s too serious – we’ll see tomorrow but that’s why it [the substitution] happened.
Newcastle United XI (3-5-2): Dubravka, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett, Manquillo, Hayden, S. Longstaff (Saint-Maximin 67′), Shelvey (Willems 54′), Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno, Monreal, Sokratis, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Nelson (Pepe 71), Willock (Ceballos 64), Mkhitaryan (Martinelli 84), Aubameyang.
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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