The £4.0m defender discussion took an unexpected turn as Crystal Palace got their pre-season campaign underway this week.
Two of 2020/21’s potential bargain bucket options were at the heart of the latest developments at Selhurst Park, while a West Ham man also threw his name into the hat.
We’ve got all the latest talking points from another round of friendlies including an out-of-position FPL midfielder at Palace, the centre-forward position at West Ham and the Sheffield United central midfield.
CRYSTAL PALACE 2-1 OXFORD
- Goals: Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m), James McArthur (£5.5m)
- Assists: Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.5m), Andros Townsend (£6.0m)
Nathan Ferguson (£4.0m) missed Crystal Palace’s opening fixture of pre-season as he continues rehabilitation for a knee injury.
The news comes as something of a disappointment to the 19% of Fantasy managers who had already signed the budget defender ahead of the new season.
Roy Hodgson admitted after the win over Oxford that, while Ferguson did not look to be struggling during his rehabilitation, there was no time-frame on a possible return for the player yet, causing Fantasy managers to look elsewhere for a £4.0m defender.
“Rehab? Rehab. I don’t know what to call it really. It’s a tricky one because it was a knee injury, and an important one. It’s that difficult moment – when do you put him back into competitive training? When do you put him back in training which is a lot more intense than the type of training he’s been doing during his rehab? No-one’s got a 100 per cent answer to that. “At the moment, the sports science and medical department are wanting to keep him back a bit more. I’ve got to say, when I see him doing his one-to-one work with the sports scientist, with Michael, he looks fine, but, of course, we don’t know until he gets into a situation where he’s got to twist and turn, where he’s got to hold off challenges, where he’s got to accept a bit more weight going on that knee, how it’s going to really react. I have to be patient and wait for them to tell me that they think the strength is where it should be now, and he can come back into training. He’s looking okay from what I can see but we’d like to see him really in with us training every day so we can get an even better idea of what he’s able to do for us.” – Roy Hodgson
However, Fantasy managers may not have to look too much further beyond Ferguson, with Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m) earning a shot at his replacement in light of his involvement on Tuesday.
Admittedly, the 20-year-old did not start Palace’s pre-season opener but injuries to Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m), sustained during Project Restart, and James McCarthy (£4.5m), against Oxford, forced Hodgson’s hand.
Jairo Riedewald (£4.5m) was deployed in the left-back role for this outing in light of van Aanholt’s continued absence, but the versatile Dutchman was chosen as McCarthy’s replacement 20 minutes into Tuesday’s match, opening the door for Mitchell to come on and play 70 minutes on the left side of the defence.
How long that role can last is probably reliant on what happens in the central midfield department at Palace.
They were without captain Luka Milivojevic (£6.0m) against Oxford, while Cheikhou Kouyaté (£5.0m) was forced into a centre-back role alongside Scott Dann (£4.5m) because of injuries to Gary Cahill (£4.5m), Mamadou Sakho (£4.5m) and James Tomkins (£4.5m).
Meanwhile, a previous out-of-position hero in Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.5m) turned heads once again. The former Leicester man was deployed as a centre-forward against Oxford, playing 70 minutes there alongside Jordan Ayew (£6.0m).
Schlupp also managed to get his hands on taking a penalty in the second half, despite Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) being on the pitch and winning the foul that led to it – although he did fail to score. Furthermore, the absence of Milivojevic is likely to have contributed to Schlupp taking the spot-kick – if the Serbian were to be present, he probably would not have got near it.
Hodgson is likely also considering deploying Zaha up-front again this season based on his half-time changes. Ayew was replaced by Max Meyer (£5.0m), who dropped into Zaha’s left midfield berth, allowing the Ivory Coast international to push up into a centre-forward pairing with Schlupp. The duo linked up to find the net for Palace, Schlupp slotting Zaha in for the equaliser.
Wayne Hennessey (£4.5m) was an unused substitute and Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) watched the game from the stands as Stephen Henderson played the whole 90 minutes.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): S Henderson; Riedewald (Gordon 80′), Dann (Woods 70′), Kouyaté (Kelly 61′), J Ward (Inniss 70′); Zaha, McArthur (Kirby 75′), McCarthy (Mitchell 20′), Townsend (M Boateng 81′); Schlupp (Pierrick 70′), Ayew (Meyer 46′).
IPSWICH 1-4 WEST HAM
- Goals: Sebastien Haller x3 (£6.5m), Tomas Soucek (£5.0m)
- Assists: Grady Diangana x2 (£5.5m), Conor Coventry
Sebastien Haller (£6.5m) placed some uncertainty over Michail Antonio‘s (£6.5m) role at West Ham for the new season as he netted a hat-trick on Tuesday afternoon.
The Frenchman led the line in one of two simultaneous friendlies for the Hammers. Antonio spearheaded the attack in the other as first-team players were largely spread evenly across each game.
It is obviously early days, with three more pre-season matches to go but Haller has already made a statement about his intent for 2020/21. If he were to return to the West Ham first-team, centre-forward is probably the only position that can accommodate him, considering Antonio’s versatility.
Also of Fantasy note was the fact that Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) got himself on the scoresheet too.
The Czech Republic international was the subject of Fantasy clamour before West Ham’s fixtures were released but interest has waned since their horrible schedule was revealed – although seeing his name among the goals is certain to rekindle that bandwagon somewhat. We recently analysed his Project Restart form in THIS ARTICLE.
Two assists for Grady Diangana (£5.5m) probably further complicates the options in West Ham’s midfield department as he looks increasingly likely to stick around for 2020/21 after last season’s loan at West Bromwich Albion.
West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Alese (Cardoso 55′), Cresswell, Balbuena, Coventry; Soucek (Kemp 74′), Wilshere; Diangana (Lewis 74′), Anderson (Odubeko 80′), Yarmolenko; Haller.
WYCOMBE 1-5 WEST HAM
- Goals: Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m), Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m), Jarrod Bowen x2 (£6.5m)
- Assists: Pablo Fornals (£6.5m), Bowen, Michail Antonio (£6.5m), Masuaku
As already mentioned, Antonio was the front-man for this large win and, even though there was no hat-trick, he still managed to be involved in the action of a 5-1 win.
The versatile attacker saw a goal ruled out for offside, turning in Jarrod Bowen’s (£6.5m) rebound off the post. He then got a Fantasy assist when the former Hull man found the net later on.
Of all the players on display at Adams Park Stadium, it was Bowen who came away with most of the Fantasy spotlight as he scored twice and assisted Manuel Lanzini‘s (£6.5m) effort.
With Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m) playing at centre-back in the other West Ham game, Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m) impressed against Championship opposition, getting forward enough to register a goal and an assist.
There was also a 90-minute outing for Ben Johnson (£4.0m) at right-back, who is increasingly becoming a part of the £4.0m defender conversation. With Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m) not involved in either game, it was youngster Conor Coventry who staffed the right-hand side of West Ham’s defence in the other game.
West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): Martin (Anang 71′); Masuaku, Ogbonna (Akinola 71′), Baptiste, Johnson; Noble (Longelo 71′), Cullen; Fornals, Lanzini, Bowen; Antonio (Xande Silva 71′).
DUNDEE UTD 0-1 SHEFF UTD
Abandoned at half time
- Goals: Billy Sharp (£6.0m)
- Assists: Sander Berge (£5.0m)
As this game was called off after 45 minutes due to adverse weather conditions, and Dundee United rested a large number of their senior professionals, there is only so much we can learn from Sheffield United’s opening pre-season excursion.
Oli McBurnie (£6.0m), Jack O’Connell (£5.0m), David McGoldrick (£5.5m) and George Baldock (£5.5m) were all missing from the matchday squad, although there was no specifics over which of these were connected with injury or who was self-isolating after missing COVID-19 tests due to track and trace alerts.
“It’s something that’s quite common right now across the whole division. It’s definitely not exclusive to us, by any stretch of the imagination. Lots of people are in exactly the same boat.” – Chris Wilder
Aaron Ramsdale (£5.0m), making his second Sheffield United debut, had very little to do at Tannadice Park, sat behind a back-three of Jack Robinson (£4.5m), John Egan (£5.0m) and Chris Basham (£5.0m) while academy midfielder Regan Slater was performed admirably out of position as a right wing-back.
Taking advantage of McBurnie and McGoldrick’s absence was Billy Sharp (£6.0m) who found the only goal of the game and stood up to take a penalty, while Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) was on the pitch, although he struck the post.
Also filling in for the more likely starters up-front was Callum Robinson (£5.5m), who might leave the club this summer but, against Dundee United, he was an energetic foil for Sharp with his lively runs.
Meanwhile, Chris Wilder was able to choose what looked like a first-choice central midfield trio of Norwood, John Fleck (£6.0m) and Sander Berge (£5.0m). The latter is typically more comfortable playing a deeper role but with John Lundstram‘s (£5.5m) contract situation dragging on, the Sheffield United boss tried him in a more advanced central role in Scotland – which led to an assist for the Norwegian.
Sheffield United XI (3-5-2): Ramsdale; J Robinson, Egan, Basham; Stevens, Fleck, Norwood, Berge, Slater; C Robinson, Sharp.
NEWCASTLE 3-0 CREWE
- Goals: Andy Carroll (£5.5m), Christian Atsu (£5.5m), Federico Fernandez (£5.0m)
- Assists: Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m), Dwight Gayle (£6.0m), Dan Barlaser
Steve Bruce played two different Newcastle XIs in the 3-0 win over Crewe, making it difficult to glean too much from a selection perspective. There were still a few takeaways to consider.
Firstly, the chances of Andy Carroll‘s (£5.5m) involvement this season may be in a good place after he scored an excellent goal on Tuesday.
It was a game that did not feature Joelinton (£6.0m) or Yoshinori Muto (£5.0m) while Dwight Gayle (£6.0m) picked up an injury.
“Dwight’s picked up a knock. We hope that’s not too serious.” – Steve Bruce
It was Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) who got the assist for Carroll before Gayle set up Christian Atsu (£5.5m) for the second.
Dan Barlaser was the man taking corners for Newcastle in the second period, one of his efforts headed home by Federico Fernandez (£5.0m).
Newcastle United first-half XI: Gillespie; Dummett, Clark, Lascelles, Krafth; Hayden, Barlaser; Saint-Maximin, Almirón, Murphy; Carroll.
Newcastle United second-half XI: Darlow; Manquillo, Lejeune, Fernández, Yedlin; S Longstaff, M Longstaff; Atsu, Saivet, Shelvey; Gayle (Barlaser 63′).
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