Arsenal 4-0 Newcastle United
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m), Nicolas Pépé (£9.1m), Mesut Özil (£7.2m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m)
- Assists: Pépé x2, Bukayo Saka (£4.5m), Lacazette
- Bonus Points: Pépé x3, Aubameyang x2, Lacazette x1
Nicolas Pépé (£9.1m) set himself up as a potentially exciting differential option once again as he starred in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Newcastle – and is still owned by just 2.4%.
Back in the side after a Gameweek 25 benching, the Ivory Coast international was unplayable in the second half on Sunday, registering a goal and two assists. Also scooping maximum bonus, Pépé left the Emirates Stadium with a 17-point haul, his best since joining Arsenal in the summer.
While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m), stationed in his customary left attacking midfield role again, added his 15th league goal of the season in Gameweek 26, it Pépé could be the one Fantasy managers turn to for Arsenal’s upcoming appealing fixtures. As a midfielder, he stands to benefit to a greater extent from goals and clean sheets, while Pépé’s creativity makes him more likely to assist than Aubameyang.
After Everton visit north London in Gameweek 27 and Blank Gameweek 28 is out of the way, the Gunners face West Ham (home), Brighton (away), Southampton (away) and Norwich (home) between Gameweeks 29 and 32 – so Pépé may very well be on Fantasy radars already.
Also looking an interesting prospect for that impending run of games is makeshift left-back Bukayo Saka (£4.5m). Although he is technically playing as a reverse-out-of-position defender, classified as an FPL midfielder, his overlapping runs against Newcastle saw him do well in advanced areas.
No other midfielder priced at £4.5m has scored more points than Saka so far in Gameweek 26, which could make him a candidate to include on Wildcards.
Fantasy managers may just want to track his minutes in the coming weeks though, as Saka has played 90 minutes in just three of the last five Premier League matches, benched for Gameweek 22 and subbed at half-time against Burnley in Gameweek 25.
“It is getting natural with Bukayo (Saka). But he takes responsibility and takes risks in the final third. He’s a player that wants to make an impact and he has courage. He did really well.” – Mikel Arteta
However, it is worth saying that the centre-forward position at Arsenal is hard to call right now, possibly even for manager Mikel Arteta. Despite averaging 4.75 points per game in his previous four starts, Gabriel Martinelli (£4.6m) was left on the bench, with Eddie Nketiah (£4.3m) starting for the first time since a loan at Leeds United and playing 84 minutes.
“(Nketiah) has been training really well. He’s a kid that has a goal in him. I believe that we have a game (against Newcastle) with a lot of blocks and numbers behind the ball. He’s a very talented player to find goals and I trust him. That’s why I decided to keep him.” – Mikel Arteta
Meanwhile, if Arteta did not already have enough options to lead the line in Martinelli and Nketiah, Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m) came out of the blue to finally end his scoring drought. The Frenchman added a late goal and assist to ramp up the competition for places.
As much as the scoreline suggested Arsenal comfortably dominated Newcastle, this truly was a game of two halves. Mesut Özil (£7.2m) and Dani Ceballos (£5.2m) were also among top performers on Sunday evening, but, like Aubameyang, Pépé and Saka, they only really excelled after half-time.
Newcastle were arguably the better side in the opening 45 minutes, controlling large spells of the game while Arsenal struggled to piece much together. It was only after the Magpies came into the second period way off the pace that the Gunners found their groove.
“The goals we gave away were so not like us. We were excellent in the first half but as soon as switched from it, we didn’t start the half as we should, and we went sloppy and conceded goals we shouldn’t have.” – Steve Bruce
Arsenal were helped in their efforts by a mixed afternoon for Valentino Lazaro (£5.5m), who was making his first start for Newcastle. The FPL midfielder came in for DeAndre Yedlin (£4.4m) to play at right-back in Steve Bruce’s 5-4-1 formation and looked dangerous on the overlap in the first half. Having recently signed on loan from Inter Milan, Lazaro was straight onto taking corners and indirect free-kicks, asking questions with his forward runs too. However, a lack of concentration after the interval meant the 23-year-old was at fault for both of Arsenal’s first two goals, which came just three minutes apart.
Those who had been targetting Newcastle’s defence for budget investment might find it easy to be discouraged by a 4-0 defeat but there remain some reasons to consider them. As previously mentioned, the Magpies did an excellent job of controlling Arsenal for much of the first period. To do so away from home, with a number of new players in the side, bodes well for a trip to Crystal Palace next time out, whose Selhurst Park stadium has seen fewer goals than any other Premier League ground this season.
However, Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m) continues to epitomise the problems with Newcastle’s attack. He asked put plenty of questions to the Arsenal defence on Sunday evening but left the game with yet another blank.
In the 14th minute, the winger used his skill and pace to get around Ceballos following a Lazaro corner, but his squared ball to Joelinton (£5.5m) was a bit too behind the striker to get proper purchase on it. After more devastating runs lacking end product in the back-end of the opening period, Saint-Maximin went through in the second half and, with a fine effort, was unfortunate to strike the base of Bernd Leno‘s (£5.0m) post.
Arsenal XI: Leno; Saka, D Luiz, Mustafi, Bellerín; Ceballos (Torreira 82′), Xhaka; Aubameyang, Özil (Willock 90+1′), Pépé; Nketiah (Lacazette 85′).
Newcastle United XI: Dúbravka; Rose, Clark (Schär 83′), Lascelles, Fernández (Ritchie 75′), Lazaro (Hayden 74′); Almirón, Bentaleb, S Longstaff, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton.
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