Thursday night’s Europa League matches gave Fantasy Premier League managers team news clues ahead of Gameweek 10.
Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves all won their respective meetings but had to work hard for their results.
We’ve assessed the impact these exploits will have on FPL in this latest Scout Notes article…
Arsenal 3 Vitoria Guimaraes 2
Goals: Gabriel Martinelli (£4.5m), Nicolas Pépé (£9.3m) x2
Assists: Kieran Tierney (£5.4m), Lucas Torreira (£4.8m), Matteo Guendouzi (£4.7m)
Two superb free-kicks from Nicolas Pépé (£9.3m) rescued what was threatening to become a disastrous night for Arsenal in the Europa League.
The Gunners had twice fallen behind to their unheralded visitors, who arrived in London pointless and goalless, before the Ivory Coast international saved the day in the last ten minutes of a frantic affair.
Pépé was only brought on after 75 minutes, but his pace and direct running had an immediate impact before his dead-ball prowess sealed the deal.
He scored from free-kicks awarded for fouls on Lucas Torreira (£4.8m) and then Matteo Guendouzi (£4.7m) to maintain Arsenal’s 100% start to their European campaign; a record last night’s performance barely deserved.
Their Portuguese opponents frequently exposed the defensive shortcomings of Unai Emery’s side, opening the scoring after just eight minutes and retaking the lead almost immediately after young striker Gabriel Martinelli (£4.5m) had headed home an equaliser.
Only Joe Willock (£5.0m) was retained from the team that lost at Sheffield United on Monday, but a first start since September 1 for Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) and a defence bolstered by Hector Bellerin (£5.4m) and summer signing Kieran Tierney (£5.4m) suggested a good night ahead for the Gunners.
Instead, an increasingly restless crowd witnessed only sporadic bursts of attacking flair and a consistent vulnerability to the counter
Tierney had a particularly torrid start to the game as his positioning was twice revealed to be suspect and eventually led to the opening goal.
The left-back did at least grow into the match and it was his fine cross that produced Martinelli’s equaliser.
Far more disappointing was Lacazette. He was understandably rusty after close to two months out with an ankle injury, but he did little to suggest he’ll be replacing Bukayo Saka (£4.5m), who was an unused substitute last night, in the starting line-up for Gameweek 10’s fixture against Crystal Palace.
Pépé, however, might just have turned a corner.
Emery certainly hinted at that in his post-match comments.
“It’s important for Pépé. He can gain confidence from tonight. When he scores it’s good for him and the team. He’s getting better, playing minutes, playing matches and scoring goals like tonight and he helped us tonight to win this match.” – Unai Emery
The club’s record signing has struggled to live up to the hype since arriving in the summer, scoring only once and providing two assists in a run of starts since Gameweek 3.
Then again, that’s been enough for him to top the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) midfielder charts for Arsenal, with 29 points, and he can only have gained in confidence after making such a massive impact last night.
The Gunners’ schedule all the way through to Boxing Day is favourable – only a trip to Leicester and a trip to Manchester City look beyond them over those ten matches – and Pépé clearly has the tools to take advantage.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney; Torreira, Willock (Ceballos 45); Maitland-Niles (Guendouzi 45), Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Lacazette (Pépé 75).
Subs: Leno, Ceballos, Pépé, Chambers, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Saka.
Partizan Belgrade 0 Manchester United 1
Goals: Anthony Martial (£7.5m)
Assists: Brandon Williams (£4.0m)
An Anthony Martial (£7.5m) penalty was enough to secure Manchester United a workmanlike win in Serbia.
The Frenchman’s first start since August was the key piece of team news in a side that included six other changes from Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
Only stand-in skipper Harry Maguire (£5.4m), Marcos Rojo (£4.8m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.4m) and Scott McTominay (£5.0m) kept their places, although manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again opted for a formation involving three centre-halves and two wing-backs.
That contained the Premier League leaders for the most part in Gameweek 9 and it did a similar job on Partizan, who
United’s own attacking threat was even more subdued. Martial’s penalty, awarded when left wing-back Brandon Williams (£4.0m) was tripped in the area, was their only successful attempt all night.
It was also United’s first Europa League shot on target since the 89th minute of their opening game against Astana, which speaks volumes for the offensive threat of Solskjaer’s side at present.
The manager has been keen to use midfielder Martial as a central striker – out-of-position Fantasy gold dust that brought in 19 points and more than a million managers during the heady first three Gameweeks of the season.
Injury promptly put paid to all that and although he was again employed up
United’s schedule is seriously tempting. Aside from a nasty double
But Martial looks like he’ll need more minutes before he can be seriously considered as an option again, leaving the team’s defenders as the best way to exploit such a favourable run.
Only three teams have conceded fewer than the nine goals United have allowed in the league this season, with Maguire a generally steady influence at the back. Should Solskjaer continue to employ three centre-halves, budget options such as Rojo or the currently injured Axel Tuanzebe (£4.4m) could be worth a look alongside regular starters Maguire and Victor Lindelof (£5.4m).
All that being said, Solskjaer reverted to a back four after 60 minutes last night, resting Wan-Bissaka, moving Phil Jones (£4.8m) across to right-back and giving winger Daniel James (£6.1m) an extended run-out.
For those looking for a serious punt, Solskjaer’s post-match praise for the 19-year-old Williams was an eye-opener.
“Brandon was man of the match. He was absolutely excellent. Fantastic attitude, great attitude, great in the air, brave and he gets us a penalty by driving forward with the ball, so we have found a left-back there.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Whether he becomes a regularly starting left-back remains to be seen.
For now, like so many of his team-mates, he is probably worth monitoring rather than purchasing.
Manchester United XI (: Romero, Jones, Maguire, Rojo, Wan-Bissaka (James 60), Garner (Pereira 82), McTominay, Lingard, Williams, Mata. Martial (Rashford 60).
Subs: Grant, Lindelof, Rashford, Pereira, Fred, James, Greenwood.
Slovan Bratislava 1 Wolves 2
Goals: Romain Saiss (£4.4m), Raul Jiménez (£7.1m)
Wolves produced a stirring second-half comeback to make it back-to-back wins in Europe as Raul Jiménez (£7.1m) continued his recent run of good form.
The visitors took a while to adapt to the strange conditions in Slovakia, with a game supposedly being played behind closed doors actually involving 20,000 school children screeching enthusiastically throughout.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo made five changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Southampton, with Max Kilman (£4.0m), Ruben Vinagre (£4.3m), Matt Doherty (£6.0m), Romain Saiss (£4.4m) and Morgan Gibbs-White (£4.8m) all coming in.
But Jiménez again started up front and his match-winning penalty, awarded when he himself was fouled, made it seven goals from Europa League qualifying and group games this season.
More pertinently for Fantasy managers, the Mexican has also started producing domestically, with a goal and two assists from his last two starts.
Fatigue might be an issue in the long term, but rotation clearly isn’t at present. Jiménez has been an ever-present in the league and the club’s European exertions don’t seem to have overly hurt them so far – they have lost only one of six league matches following Thursday night action, although four have ended in draws.
A solid seven-match schedule, during which a Gameweek 11 trip to Arsenal will probably be the toughest test, looks like a good time to join the 10.1% of FPL managers with the in-form Jiménez in their squads.
Wolves had to dig deep for the victory in Bratislava. The hosts had much the better of the first half and went in ahead at the interval when a shot deflected off Conor Coady (£5.0m) and past keeper Rui Patricio (£5.2m).
The introduction of Adama Traoré (£5.1m) at half-time helped to turn the tide and the visitors were level when Morocco international Saiss scored with a shot which goalkeeper Dominik Greif should have kept out.
Jiménez then sealed the win, although Wolves had to withstand some late pressure to secure the three points.
Their cause wasn’t helped by the 87th
That might have made it harder for his team-mates, but the striker’s 3.3% ownership will be delighted to know that their man will now be suspended for the next European match on November 7, meaning he’ll not be subject to rotation issues in the two league games – away at Arsenal and home to Aston Villa – which sandwich that tie.
Of course, the flip-side of that for Jiménez owners means that he will almost certainly have to play in the next continental clash – which should only increase fears of fatigue for the Mexican.
Further Fantasy good news was delivered to the 5.9% of managers who own Ruben Neves (£5.4m) as the midfielder spent the night on the bench, while the 9.6%-owned Leander Dendoncker (£4.4m) was only introduced after 76 minutes.
Wolves XI (3-5-2): Patricio; Doherty, Boly, Coady, Kilman, Vinagre; Moutinho, Gibbs-White (Jota 59), Saiss (Dendoncker 76); Jiménez, Cutrone (Traoré 45).
Substitutes: Neves, Jota, Otto, Perry, Dendoncker, Traoré, Ruddy.
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