An entertaining 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road is the focus of our latest Scout Notes article, as we run the rule over Manchester City’s Gameweek 6 opponents and assess Arsenal’s latest away-day display.
Watford 2-2 Arsenal
- Goals: Tom Cleverley (£4.9m), Roberto Pereyra (£5.8m) | Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) x2
- Assists: Gerard Deulofeu (£6.2m) | Sead Kolasinac (£5.4m), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.1m)
- Bonus: Aubameyang x3, Deulofeu, Cleverley x2
There have been, to varying degrees, significant changes at Watford and Arsenal since we last wrote about these two clubs in a Scout Notes article.
The struggling Hornets dispensed with the services of Javi Gracia during the international break and reappointed former boss Quique Sanchez Flores, who returned to Vicarage Road after a three-year absence.
While perhaps not quite as seismic, Friday afternoon brought the news that Arsenal will be without Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) until October, an injury blow that has implications for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) and Nicolas Pepe (£9.4m) as Fantasy assets – something we will discuss further down this article.
Sunday was our first look at Watford in the second Flores era and the impressions were fairly positive, even if the Spaniard’s pragmatic reputation and defence-first policy have so far done little to stem the flow of goals being conceded.
Miracles can’t be expected after one week, of course, and there’ll be many Fantasy managers hoping that the Hornets are still penetrable when they head north to the Etihad next weekend.
Flores lined his troops up in a 4-2-3-1 for this game, with Kiko Femenia (£4.4m) and Jose Holebas (£4.8m) as his two full-backs.
Watford looked particularly vulnerable in the wide areas during the last 25 minutes of the first half and it was no coincidence that both of Arsenal’s goals during this period were assisted by the Gunners’ overlapping full-backs, with Sead Kolasinac (£5.4m) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.1m) supplying the passes that Aubameyang converted.
Pepe had earlier fired a warning shot narrowly wide of Ben Foster‘s (£4.9m) goal when cutting in off the right flank and Aubameyang was inches away from turning in Mesut Ozil‘s (£7.3m) low pass from the same wing.
What makes it difficult to appraise Watford’s defensive credentials going into Gameweek 6 is that: a) they shaded possession for much of the game and that: b) Arsenal’s brief threat mostly came on the counter-attack – neither scenario being likely when the Hornets take on Pep Guardiola’s side next Saturday.
No Premier League side allowed fewer shots than Watford in Gameweek 5 and in truth their backline had a quiet second 45 minutes as the two-goal deficit elicited a second-half siege from the hosts.
Flores said after full-time:
We had to care about the defence this week and we didn’t prepare to have 31 attempts at goal. It just happened. We just kept switching the play in the second half and this is how it happened. Sometimes this is possible.
While lone striker Andre Gray (£5.9m) and wide-right midfielder Will Hughes (£5.5m) struggled to make much of an impression in the 4-2-3-1 and were ultimately hooked early in the second half, two Watford attackers who caught the eye were Gerard Deulofeu (£6.2m) and Tom Cleverley (£4.9m).
Deulofeu being stationed on the left flank may be off-putting to some Fantasy managers given that he is an FPL forward but he was Watford’s biggest threat all afternoon, causing Maitland-Niles lots of problems and repeatedly cutting inside to fire off shots – a couple of which flashed narrowly wide of Bernd Leno‘s (£5.0m) goal.
While his assist for Cleverley’s strike was a fortuitous one – the former Everton and Barcelona man intercepting a farcical pass out from Sokratis (£5.0m) – Deulofeu deserved his first attacking return of the season and it will be interesting to monitor his displays for when Watford’s fixtures really ease up in Gameweek 10.
Cleverley is not a name we Fantasy managers have considered for a long, long time (if ever) but his performance on Sunday was eye-catching, particularly as he was stationed in an advanced number ten role and given that he is now available for less than £5.0m.
This isn’t merely a kneejerk response to him scoring a goal – the all-action, high-pressing Cleverley was a threat all afternoon, forcing Leno into an early save and having as many shots as the entire Arsenal team managed combined.
Todd Cantwell (£4.8m) remains the stand-out sub-£5.0m midfield option but having another attacking midfielder available in this price bracket would be a welcome prospect for those of us trying to scrimp in midfield; time will tell if Cleverley can replicate this display and indeed become a regular starter in his new manager’s team.
Flores has plenty of attack-minded options available to him, of course, and it was interesting to note that FPL midfielder Ismaila Sarr (£6.4m) was thrown on up front in the second half, with Roberto Pereyra (£5.8m) replacing Hughes on the right.
Troy Deeney (£6.3m) – scorer of 13 goals in Flores’ previous spell in charge – will surely have a big part to play when he returns in November but there was no sign of Danny Welbeck (£6.0m) in the matchday squad, with his absence so far unexplained.
In Deeney’s absence, it was Pereyra who stepped up from 12 yards to draw the scores level at 2-2 after David Luiz (£5.9m) had chopped the Argentina international to the floor.
After keeping a rare away clean sheet in Gameweek 1, Arsenal’s defence has reverted to type and is now looking as unappealing as ever from a Fantasy perspective.
Watford had 31 shots against Unai Emery’s side, the most the Gunners have allowed in a single game since Opta began collecting this data 16 years ago.
The north London outfit have now allowed more attempts on goal than any other Premier League club in 2019/20.
The blows were self-inflicted, too, with Luiz needlessly giving away a penalty and Sokratis gifting Watford possession in the Arsenal area to hand the Hornets a route back into the game.
These weren’t isolated incidents, with Matteo Guendouzi (£4.6m) twice very nearly costing his team goals with individual errors and Emery’s insistence on his side playing out from the back looking like Watford’s best chance of scoring.
When asked about the tactic, Emery said after full-time:
Yes, but after their goal, we tried once more and we broke their lines and we get into the attacking third with space. We didn’t achieve good chances in less moments we did that, but we need to repeat and we need also to have the capacity and to improve with being able to break when the teams want to press us like today.
For those with Aston Villa, Manchester United and Bournemouth attacking assets, there were plenty of encouraging signs ahead of their encounters with the Gunners over the coming three weeks.
There wasn’t much to crow about further forward but this was one of Ozil’s better away displays (faint praise), with the German – occupying the number ten role in a 4-4-2 diamond – ‘assisting the assister’ for Arsenal’s second goal having almost supplied a goal for Aubameyang shortly beforehand.
This wasn’t really a game to judge Dani Ceballos (£5.7m), given Arsenal’s loss of control in the second half.
The on-loan midfielder will perhaps come into his own when the Gunners boss possession (as they did in Gameweek 2 and as they will expect to do in many of their upcoming fixtures) but, after playing a key role in the opening goal and showing glimpses of promises in the first half, the Spaniard was a bystander and eventually replaced on the hour-mark.
Asked why he had substituted Ceballos, Emery replied:
But today it was very, very hot. We needed in the second half, some fresh players. We were struggling second half and I was thinking how we can improve with three players, fresh players, for give us more energy and give us also more capacity to be strong physically and tactically and also technically.
Pepe again failed to convince as a price-point rival to Kevin De Bruyne (£9.8m) and Son Heung-min (£9.5m) although he had little opportunity to impress after the break and it is still too early to fully appraise his long-term merits as a premium midfielder.
Aubameyang, however, again proved how lethal he can be with precious little service and indeed how more dangerous he is when deployed centrally rather than out wide, as will presumably now be the case for the next month with Lacazette sidelined.
The Gabon international’s goals came from his only two proper chances of the afternoon and his impressive conversion rate is one of his many redeeming qualities going into Arsenal’s favourable run of fixtures from Gameweeks 6-16.
No FPL forward scored as many goals against non-big six sides as Aubameyang in 2018/19, while the Gabonese striker now has 12 goals to his name in his last dozen Premier League starts against all opposition.
Watford XI (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Holebas (Janmaat 78′); Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes (Pereyra 63′), Cleverley, Deulofeu; Gray (Sarr 54′).
Arsenal XI (4-1-2-1-2): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac; Xhaka; Ceballos (Willock 60′), Guendouzi (Torreira 67′); Ozil (Nelson 71′); Pepe, Aubameyang.
All prices given were correct at the time of writing (Sunday night).
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