The curtain came down on Gameweek 7 at Old Trafford on Monday night as Manchester United and Arsenal played out a 1-1 draw.
We discuss what caught our eye in our latest Scout Notes article below.
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
- Goals: Scott McTominay (£5.0m) | Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m)
- Assists: Marcus Rashford (£8.4m) | Bukayo Saka (£4.5m)
- Bonus: Aubameyang x3, McTominay x2, David de Gea (£5.6m) x1
Midway through the first half of Monday’s clash between two erstwhile Premier League superpowers, co-commentator Jim Beglin remarked: “Are we watching mediocrity?”
The comment wasn’t even made in jest and anyone watching the first 40 minutes or so of this once-great fixture would have been hard-pressed to disagree.
It took 29 minutes for anyone to have a shot on goal and the sight of Marcus Rashford (£8.4m) falling on his backside when racing onto a Paul Pogba (£8.4m) through-ball not long before half-time summed up the contest in suitably farcical fashion.
While the final 50 minutes gave way to a more entertaining, end-to-end affair, the lack of quality on show just emphasised how far behind Liverpool and Manchester City these two clubs are.
From a Fantasy perspective, this is the time we ought to be lumping on Arsenal and United assets.
The two clubs sit first and second respectively in our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 8-14, with the Gunners’ favourable run extending into December: Unai Emery’s side are the only Premier League team to avoid one of the ‘big six’ over the next nine Gameweeks.
Which players are making a credible case for inclusion in our squads, though?
Aside from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), more of whom below, we are scrabbling around for names.
Daniel James (£6.2m) is available at an attractive price and has shown early-season promise, while United’s defence, one of the statistically better backlines of 2019/20, will likely bank a handful of clean sheets between now and December.
Apart from that, though, there are few other names that appeal – at least for now.
Dani Ceballos (£5.6m) is evidently a rotation risk, with Monday’s match seeing him benched for the second time in four Gameweeks.
The budget midfielder, who did make a positive impact upon his introduction at Old Trafford, has blanked in six of his seven appearances this season.
Nicolas Pepe (£9.4m) needs more time before we can make a proper judgement on his talents but on current evidence, there seems little going for him given that Son Heung-min (£9.7m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m) are available in a similar price bracket.
Pepe lined up on the right of a front three for Arsenal but his skied 30th-minute effort was typical of his overall output, with teenager Bukayo Saka (£4.5m) outperforming – and outlasting – him on the opposite flank.
Saka is an exciting prospect and one to monitor given his attractive FPL price but considering that Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) is expected back sometime after the international break, and the competition provided by the likes of Reiss Nelson (£5.4m) out wide, he is obviously far from nailed in attack.
Emery said of the young winger:
I think he’s working and improving, being mature and also playing matches in front each player and each team as tonight, young, as tonight, Manchester United. But his work is natural and he is improving. He is helping us now as an important player.
We are going to work with him with calm, with patience, but if he deserves to take minutes and to take confidence for helping us with his performance, that is fantastic for us.
The Gunners’ defence, meanwhile, was breached again and they are one of only four clubs to have not kept a clean sheet in the last six Gameweeks – although they were less shambolic in Manchester than in recent times and were only beaten by a deflected Scott McTominay (£5.0m) effort.
Rashford and Pogba were almost must-haves in the first three months of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign but their Fantasy stock has fallen considerably since March.
Having played in more advanced roles in the early Solskjaer era, Pogba now seems to be firmly considered a deep-lying playmaker by his manager and his only big chance of the season came from the spot in Gameweek 2.
The France international’s passing range means that he will still collect FPL points throughout the season but, given the areas where he is spraying the ball from, he may well ‘assist the assister’ more times than he will set up a goal himself.
Rashford made a surprise return from injury to claim an assist for McTominay’s strike but again failed to convince as a frontman, with his one shot in the box being that aforementioned effort where he fell to the floor.
A late free-kick was pushed away by Bernd Leno (£5.0m) and in truth, Rashford looks more of a threat from dead-ball situations than he does in open play.
Two of his three league goals this season have been from the penalty spot and less than a third of his xG in 2019/20 has come from chances in open play.
Asked about Rashford’s display after full-time, Solskjaer said:
Marcus makes defenders fear him with his pace. Sometimes he trusts his finishing and his shots – today he went for a shot, maybe another time he’ll take him on.
Rashford’s miraculous recovery meant that Mason Greenwood‘s (£4.4m) owners had to again make do with a substitute’s appearance, with the youngster registering his fifth one-pointer of the season when coming on for the final quarter of an hour.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m), meanwhile, missed out with tonsillitis.
With Emery packing his midfield with Matteo Guendouzi (£4.6m), Lucas Torreira (£4.9m) and Granit Xhaka (£5.3m) in the first half, United struggled to break Arsenal down.
This is a worry for the ‘easier’ games ahead as United are effectively built to be a counter-attacking side, given the pace they possess in James, Rashford and, when fit, Anthony Martial (£7.6m).
Probably as dangerous as they have looked this season is when they have taken the lead against Chelsea and Arsenal, with their opponents forced to attack and leave spaces on the break.
Reflecting on the game, Solskjaer said:
We got 1-0 up and we didn’t get the second goal that we wanted to get. That’s what this team needs to learn: to be more clinical at both ends of the pitch.
So many games, we have been 1-0 up, but we’ll learn, definitely. I think today was a steep learning curve for a few, because it was a bad goal to give away, but then again, sometimes, you make those passes and we play out and it looks good and, today, maybe it’s time that we learnt from it.
The goal that Solskjaer referred to saw Aubameyang race onto Saka’s pass to chip David de Gea (£5.6m), with VAR intervention overturning an offside flag that went up before the ball had hit the back of the net.
This was the latest in a string of typical Aubameyang performances: often isolated, sometimes frustrated and ultimately popping up out of nowhere to bank an attacking return for his owners.
The Gabon international hasn’t blanked once this season and no FPL asset has more bonus points after seven Gameweeks.
Aubameyang now has the same number of points as the more expensive Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) and more than the pricier Sadio Mane (£11.6m) and Raheem Sterling (£12.1m), with unquestionably better fixtures ahead in the medium term.
While there are many factors in his favour in the premium bracket (including security of starts), there are perhaps two things going against him.
Firstly, he plays for an Arsenal side that has created 45 fewer chances than City this season.
As attack-minded as Emery might be, Aubameyang simply doesn’t have the calibre of teammate or production line that someone like Sterling does.
Secondly, the Gabonese striker is perhaps benefitting from Lacazette’s absence at present.
While he will gain FPL points wherever he is stationed, would Aubameyang have been lurking in the areas where he scored against Newcastle, Spurs, Watford (twice) and United had he been farmed out to the left flank to accommodate Lacazette centrally?
Until the France international returns, at least, Aubameyang looks like red-hot Fantasy property.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; McTominay, Pogba; Andreas Pereira (Greenwood 74′), Lingard (Fred 74′), James; Rashford.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Leno; Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac; Torreira (Ceballos 55′), Xhaka, Guendouzi; Pepe (Nelson 74′), Aubameyang, Saka (Willock 80′).
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