Fantasy Premier League managers were handed some promising news by Thursday night’s Europa League action.
There were some key assets rested by their clubs, while a hard-fought win in Turkey for Wolves was probably less than ideal preparation for this weekend’s trip to Manchester City.
We’ve got all the latest talking points from Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves’ matches in this Scout Notes article…
Arsenal 4-0 Standard Liège
Goals: Gabriel Martinelli x2 (£4.5m), Joe Willock (£5.0m), Dani Ceballos (£5.6m)
Assists: Kieran Tierney (£5.4m), Reiss Nelson (£5.3m), Martinelli
Owners of Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) were delighted to see him named on the substitute’s bench for the win over Standard Liège on Thursday night.
With an injury to Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) still ongoing, it had been thought that the former Borussia Dortmund man would have to start matches in all competitions, especially as he featured from the beginning in this season’s first Europa League encounter at Eintracht Frankfurt.
However, Unai Emery went with a youthful side to face Standard Liège, not using Aubameyang until the 79th minute and, it would seem he emerged from the game fresh and ready for heavy captaincy support against Bournemouth on Sunday.
Starting in his place was bright new prospect Gabriel Martinelli (£4.5m) whose performance was good news for Aubameyang while Lacazette is out.
The youngster scored twice, assisted another goal and arguably could have bagged himself a hat-trick with his persistent and relentless
This was Martinelli’s second start of the season, the first coming against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup and he now has four goals across those two matches.
Obviously, the quality of opponents he has scored against are not of the highest level but his form should still inspire plenty of trust from Emery to use him in matches outside the Premier League. That should also keep Aubameyang fresher for the top-flight encounters – excellent news for his Fantasy owners.
However, we should not get too excited about Martinelli emerging as a viable budget option just yet as he is yet to start a Premier League match and, with Emery favouring a lone striker, Aubameyang will likely block his route into the first team.
That said, Martinelli does possess the ability to play anywhere along the front-line, including wide areas so maybe his chance could eventually come that way.
“He played in the pre-season with us and every training he showed us he’s hungry to be with us and to have the opportunity to show his capacity. His patience is amazing. In pre-season he played in many positions, above all he prefers to play left-winger, he also played as a right-winger. I am using him as a striker because he played in that position in Brazil. [Centre-forward] is not the best position for him but the first thing in his mind is to help us and to achieve, with that opportunity, some minutes with us. Really, for example, I think his performance and aptitude were amazing tonight.” – Unai Emery
Also of interest to Fantasy managers were encouraging developments in the Arsenal full-back areas. After recent injuries for both, Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) and Hector Bellerín (£5.4m) started on the left and right flanks of defence.
Their contribution to the win was positive, with Tierney’s delivery especially looking excellent. He provided the assist for Martinelli’s first goal and looks ready to do damage in FPL. The local press are already heaping praise on him and expecting him to make his first Premier League start soon.
“Kieran after his injury is coming back with a good attitude. He played 80 minutes last week against Nottingham Forest with a good performance, tonight also I think we are a better competitive team with him and Sead Kolasinac in that left-back [position]. Really we are happy with him.” – Unai Emery
The return of Bellerín is also of note but not necessarily for what he can offer himself. After nine months out with a serious injury, he was still a little rusty going forward but still had plenty of pace about himself to charge down Standard Liège’s attackers.
Crucially, Bellerín starting at right-back meant that Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.1m) was deployed further forward on the right flank of attacking midfield.
That could be of interest if it were to happen on a regular basis in the Premier League as Maitland-Niles is classified as a defender this season.
However, he did not have the best of games against relatively poor opposition, although it has been a long time since he has played in an attacking role. Either way, we might get more of a look at him in this position if Bellerín is going to get more minutes again.
Another potential knock-on effect of the two full-backs returning could be an increase in clean sheet potential. Tierney and Bellerín each provided a steadying presence at the back against Standard Liège which could bode well going forward, although we have to remember the quality of opposition for this one.
Given that a number of youngsters and players returning from injury were used in this match, owners of Dani Ceballos (£5.6m) may be further concerned about his role in the first team.
He has started just two of the last four Premier League matches and, even though he scored on Thursday night, it is hard to say he is guaranteed a place in the first team on Sunday afternoon.
It is possible that Mesut Özil (£7.3m) could play some part although he seems very out in the cold at Arsenal right now.
Emery said after the match that those who played against Standard Liège deserved it more than the German…
“I am thinking every time the best players for the match, the best players in the squad to play and help us. When I decided he isn’t in the squad it’s because I think other players deserve it more. What does he have to do (to start)? Continue working. Tomorrow we have training, we will train with the players who didn’t play tonight. Sunday we have another match. We are going to decide the same, the best first XI possible to achieve our targets to win on Sunday and adapting to that difficulty against Bournemouth and carry on with our way.” – Unai Emery
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Martínez; Tierney, Holding, Mustafi, Bellerín; Ceballos, Torreira; Nelson (Aubameyang 79′), Willock (Guendouzi 74′), Maitland-Niles (Pépé 66′); Martinelli.
AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Manchester United
David de Gea (£5.6m) was the best player as Manchester United laboured to a point against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night.
The Eredivisie outfit were arguably the better side, creating considerably more chances and, were it not for the efforts of their goalkeeper, the Red Devils may have left the Netherlands on the end of another humbling defeat.
They were forced to play on a plastic surface due to their hosts’ stadium currently suffering roofing problems.
Whether the type of pitch can be used as a legitimate excuse for a pretty abject performance is hard to assess given that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are hardly on the best run of form right now.
“It’s a lot easier for them because they’re used to playing on these types of pitches. I think we did OK today and we defended well and we kept the clean sheet and that’s important. We trained well yesterday on this pitch. Today we tried to do our best and we did a good job and we created chances as well.” – Diogo Dalot
This draw in the Netherlands means they have not won a match in 90 minutes since beating Astana 1-0 on September 19. Since then, Manchester United have lost 2-0 at West Ham, drawn with Rochdale, Arsenal and now Alkmaar.
Truthfully, the Red Devils never looked like scoring on Thursday night as they continue to be short of options going forward. In fact, they did not register a single shot on target all evening.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began the night by deploying Daniel James (£6.2m) as a lone centre-forward, with Mason Greenwood (£4.4m) on the right and Marcus Rashford (£8.4m) on the bench.
However, the former Swansea City midfielder was isolated so the manager swapped him with Greenwood.
One of Manchester United’s best chances came from James’ run down the right, squaring it to Greenwood, whose effort was blocked.
However, James generally struggled on the right, proving that he is better deployed on the left, where Angel Gomes (£4.8m) spent the evening.
“(James) stretches them. We never got to grips with the astroturf until second-half. First-half, we took some time before we got control of the ball and the game. Dan can play down the middle, he has done before, that was a tactical tweak we tried. Of course, Mason’s more natural as a centre forward so we swapped them around.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Rashford injected a bit of pace after he replaced James 63rd minute and probably should have been awarded a penalty after he was clearly fouled in the Alkmaar box.
Jesse Lingard (£6.4m) had Manchester United’s best chance after fellow substitute Scott McTominay (£5.0m) played him through.
However, the England international, omitted from Gareth Southgate’s latest selection, blasted his chance wide.
His week went from bad to worse as he was forced off with a hamstring problem after United had used all three substitutes.
“I think he felt his hamstring, I don’t think he’s too bad. Probably not Newcastle but ready for Liverpool.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
The players who came in for the most criticism were central midfielders Nemanja Matić (£4.8m) and Fred (£5.3m).
Neither one offered anything in terms of defensive protection or controlling possession, which should ensure another start for McTominay in Gsmeweek 8.
He looked a lot more lively than Matić and Fred after coming on and would have got an assist had Lingard not snatched at his chance.
Who Solskjaer will pair with the Scottish international in midfield remains to be seen though, given that Paul Pogba (£8.4m) remains a doubt for Gameweek 8.
“Probably not, there’s an international break as well, it might be time for us to give him 10 or 14 days extra to be ready for Liverpool.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
There was a full debut for academy left-back Brandon Williams against Alkmaar, as Solskjaer continues to be short of options in defence.
Luke Shaw (£5.4m) remains a doubt while Ashley Young (£5.4m) and Axel Tuanzebe (£4.4m) deputising between them in recent matches.
That meant Williams was required to tide United over until their next Premier League match, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) also absent on Thursday night.
By all accounts, the 19-year-old was solid enough. It was clear in the early stages that Alkmaar were targetting Williams’ flank but he stood up to the pressure fairly well.
In the end, the hosts opted to direct most of their attacking play on Diogo Dalot‘s (£4.9m) side of the pitch, who had a relatively poor game.
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Williams, Rojo, Lindelöf, Dalot; Matić, Fred; A Gomes, Mata (McTominay 83′), Greenwood (Lingard 77′); D James (Rashford 63′).
Besiktas 0-1 Wolves
Goals: Willy Bolly (£5.0m)
Assists: Rúben Neves (£5.5m)
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo made just two changes to his side for Europa League action on Thursday, naming a strong line-up to face Besiktas.
Leander Dendoncker (£4.4m) and Adama Traoré (£5.0m) were the only players who started against Watford to get a rest from midweek action, although both featured in the second half.
That should encourage those who are doubling-up and/or captaining Manchester City players for Gameweek 8 as Wolves will have had less time to prepare for their upcoming encounter, and will have much less scope for rotation too.
“They are already recovering because Sunday we play. It was two minutes of celebration only. We are already preparing for the next one. We have a long season, Thursday, Sunday, it doesn’t stop. We travel back and the players that started the game won’t do anything on Friday, just active recovering with the coaches. Those that didn’t have minutes are going to train. Saturday we’ll try to prepare for the game on Sunday.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
Wolves’ trip to Besiktas will have certainly been a draining one on them as they spent much of the game holding a rigid defensive shape. By all accounts, they did an excellent defensive job, Willy Boly (£5.0m) making a fine stop to deny Mehmet Umut Nayir at the end of the first half.
Wolves have now kept two clean sheets in a row, but it must be said that the level of opposition (Watford and Besiktas) has not been particularly high. Neither of those sides have even close to the attacking firepower that Manchester City possess and, as already mentioned, the exertion of Thursday night may take a toll on Wolves at the Etihad Stadium.
“It’s about the way we defend. We are more consistent, more organised, we defended better our points of pressure. It’s not about individuals, it’s about working as a line, reducing the space. The team defends as a unit, tries to attack as a unit, sometimes we don’t attack as a unit, but everything starts with the defensive organisation.” – Nuno Espirito Santo
In truth, it was a relatively uneventful game with both sides stifling the other in open play, most of the chances coming from set pieces.
Nuno lined his side up in a 3-4-3 formation with Pedro Neto (£5.0m) providing some width on the left and Morgan Gibbs-White (£4.8m) on the right.
Their first real chance did not come until the second half though when Raúl Jiménez (£7.2m) headed over a Joao Moutinho (£5.4m) free-kick.
Traoré came on at half time and added some pace while Patrick Cutrone (£5.7m) offered some speed when he came on in place of Jiménez. He had an excellent chance which he fired just wide of the post in the second half.
In the end, set pieces proved to be the winner as Wolves technically scored from two of them late on.
Firstly, Romain Saïss (£4.4m) bundled home after Dendoncker’s initial shot was saved by Loris Karius – but it was ruled out for offside.
In stoppage time, Rúben Neves‘ (£5.5m) back into the box in the second phase of a corner fell to an unmarked Boly, who had time to set himself and slot past the goalkeeper.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI (3-4-3): Patrício; Saïss, Coady, Boly; Jonny, Moutinho, Neves, Doherty; Neto (Traoré 46′), Jiménez (Cutrone 79′), Gibbs-White (Dendoncker 62′).
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