The final match of Gameweek 4 was a thrilling affair, with Arsenal fighting back from 2-0 down to rescue a draw in the north London derby.
We look at the game from a Fantasy perspective and analyse the performances of the five £9.0m+ options on show – all of whom delivered attacking returns.
Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) | Christian Eriksen (£8.8m), Harry Kane (£11.0m)
- Assists: Nicolas Pepe (£9.4m), Matteo Guendouzi (£4.5m)| Erik Lamela (£6.0m), Son Heung-min (£9.5m)
- Bonus: Aubameyang – 3, Guendouzi, Eriksen – 2
Unai Emery chose Sunday’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur to deploy Nicolas Pepe (£9.4m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) together from the start for the first time, with all three going on to bank attacking returns for their owners.
The premium Fantasy Premier League trio lined up as part of a 4-3-3, with Aubameyang on the left, Pepe on the right and Lacazette as the spearhead of the attack.
There was much to encourage Fantasy managers from their first game together as an attacking three, with Pepe’s pace looking like it could provide a real threat in the long term and Aubameyang terrorising makeshift right-back Davinson Sanchez (£5.5m) early on.
The trio certainly delivered from an FPL perspective: Pepe provided the assist for Lacazette’s well-taken goal on the stroke of half-time before Aubameyang finished off a superb pass from the excellent Matteo Guendouzi (£4.5m) to level the scores midway through the second half.
The premium front three racked up 17 shots between them, too, more than all bar three other teams managed overall in Gameweek 4.
There are still teething problems to iron out, however, and slight concerns for Fantasy managers looking to exploit the Gunners’ excellent run of fixtures from now until Gameweek 16.
As dangerous as he was on the left flank, Aubameyang being shunted out wide didn’t do much for his goal threat: the Gabonese forward had only one shot on goal before Lacazette’s substitution, after which Aubameyang had three attempts and scored from one of them.
The former Borussia Dortmund man was asked about his starting role in a post-match interview and replied:
As I always said, I like to play striker but when the team needs me on the wing, that’s no matter. I go and I try my best.
Aubameyang is more than capable of scoring points wherever he plays, of course, but made a habit of doing in spite of some unconvincing underlying stats in the first quarter of last season, when he was often stationed on the left flank.
Pepe was perhaps a little over-eager to impress, meanwhile, with his shooting and crossing often wild.
There is no rushing to judgment just yet after two 90-minute run-outs but a wait-and-see approach might be the best strategy for the time being, at least until the Ivory Coast international beds in.
Lacazette was the pick of the front three, not just for his goal but his overall work rate.
The Frenchman’s role necessitated him to drop back on occasion and help the central midfield against a dangerous Spurs attack (slightly off-putting from an FPL perspective) but it’s probably fair to say that he will have to do less of this in the coming months, with Arsenal avoiding all of last season’s top four until mid-December.
Emery gave his thoughts on the front three after full-time:
I think they played, working, trying. Lacazette scored, Aubameyang. We created a lot of chances. We get in the box. I think, this is the way.
With all three premium options starting, Emery understandably decided to proceed with caution and play three bona fide central midfielders in a 4-3-3 – meaning that there was no room for the in-demand Dani Ceballos (£5.7m), the fit-again Mesut Ozil (£7.3m) or youngster Joe Willock (£5.0m) in a number ten role.
With the likes of Watford, Aston Villa and Bournemouth on the horizon, however, that 4-3-3 would seem likely to become a 4-2-3-1 in easier games and allow the likes of Ceballos to return to the starting XI.
Speaking of his tactical decision, Emery said:
Having players, like for example today, ready to play in this match, like Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang, we need to also take the balance in midfield.
We need creativity and cover, and with our ideas and style, also good pressing against the other team. I think we did very good work. Sometimes maybe the balance needs to improve but mostly we did well.
Lucas worked amazingly well and after I decided to change him for Ceballos to give the team a fresh player and also use his capacity to help in attacking moments. Every player is working very well.
Matteo, Lucas, Ceballos when he came on, Xhaka… we made some mistakes, yes it’s true, but there are a lot of positives to speak about for the team.
Arsenal looked defensively suspect again and there won’t be too many takers in their backline given the evidence of last season and this, despite the upturn in fixtures.
Bernd Leno (£5.0m) may have made seven saves – including an excellent one from Son Heung-min (£9.5m) – but his handling was mostly unconvincing and ultimately led to Spurs’ first goal, with the German shotstopper spilling Erik Lamela‘s (£6.0m) effort straight into the path of Christian Eriksen (£8.8m).
The nearing return of Hector Bellerin (£5.5m), Rob Holding (£4.5m) and Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) may help address certain other problems but the Gunners’ issues are arguably less about personnel and more about Emery’s attack-first mentality, so a glut of clean sheets isn’t anticipated.
Spurs weren’t much better at the back, with the unusual sight of Davinson at right-back not helping matters.
Danny Rose (£5.5m) wasn’t convincing on the opposite flank either and Hugo Lloris (£5.5m) again had to bail out his defence in this fixture, making six stops.
No FPL goalkeeper has made as many saves as Lloris this season – a worrying statistic – and Spurs are one of five clubs without a Premier League clean sheet in 2019/20, although have faced Manchester City and Arsenal in two of their fixtures.
When asked about the shot count, Mauricio Pochettino said:
But that happens because it’s a collective problem, not only the defensive line. I think to try to find the balance again is the most important. To try to find that again we need that togetherness and to work really, really hard, altogether.
The team wasn’t settled. I told you from day one when we started the pre-season in London and moved to Singapore, that is why I wasn’t happy, I was a little bit worried about the situation, because we knew very well what was going on.
I am optimistic, happy, what is most important is to all be on the same page, with the club. That players have a clear idea where we want to arrive and how we want to move, clear minds like today Christian and different players, tomorrow they’re only going to be focused on Tottenham, not on thinking about different things that make management so difficult.
Going forward, the picture looked a little rosier.
Spurs were the more threatening side in the first half and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Son posing plenty of problems.
It was a fluid three-man attacking midfield behind Harry Kane (£11.0m) at times but it was Son who was getting up alongside the Spurs striker, with Lamela and Eriksen on the right and left respectively.
The South Korea international forced Leno into two flying stops and won the first-half penalty that Kane converted, while it was no surprise that Spurs looked a more cohesive attacking unit with an on-song Eriksen in the side.
If the Dane is still in north London come Monday evening, then he’ll be an FPL asset to watch in the medium term – he has delivered 20 or more attacking returns in each of the last four seasons, despite being below-par for much of 2018/19.
The problem with investing in Spurs’ midfield assets is the sheer weight of numbers and the risk of rotation.
Dele Alli (£8.4m) and Giovani Lo Celso (£7.4m) got minutes under their belt as they continue to build up fitness, while Lucas Moura (£7.5m) failed to even make it off the bench and Tanguy Ndombele (£6.0m) was sidelined through injury.
Kane is the most secure starter in the Spurs attack and scored his third goal of the season here, almost adding a second after the interval when seeing an angled drive crash back off the post.
It was a strange, almost Jamie Vardy-esque (£8.9m) performance in many ways as he touched the ball on fewer occasions than any other outfielder who completed 90 minutes, yet still could have easily come away with a double-digit haul.
On top of that effort that hit the woodwork, Kane couldn’t sort his feet out when Son found him six yards out and had a late appeal for a penalty waved away – although this was a soft-ish claim at best.
Reflecting on the Lilywhites’ attacking display, Pochettino said:
Not only the transition, the possession was even in the first half in the second half we gave them a little bit more because they tried to push hard and score, they dominated. But overall I am happy with the performance, it was great.
I thought the team recovered really well after half-time. We created a lot of chances to score the third goal. I thought it was very important for us, it’s not the table or the points, it’s to recover the good feelings after Newcastle and the summer and all that happened in these last four weeks. That is most important. Worse impossible, only we can improve.
We have positives, we have the quality and we need to build again to create the togetherness to perform in the way that team can perform. In the previous three games I think the team didn’t show all the quality they have.
Arsenal XI (4-3-3): Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac, Torreira (Ceballos 63′), Xhaka, Guendouzi, Pepe, Lacazette (Mkhitaryan 66′), Aubameyang.
Spurs XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Lamela (Alli 59′), Eriksen, Son (Lo Celso 79′), Kane.
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