The Community Shield final will provide Fantasy Premier League managers with an excellent opportunity to scout a number of key assets ahead of the new season.
Thankfully, the stars have aligned to show us two teams central to Blank Gameweek 1 plans on Saturday afternoon, namely Liverpool and Arsenal.
Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) and Sadio Mané (£12.0m) are sure to be heavily owned come the first deadline of the campaign, so watching them in a competitive setting beforehand will be of great use to us.
Meanwhile, the pricing, positional classification and fixtures on offer at Arsenal make Mikel Arteta’s men worth keeping a close eye on too.
In order to maximise what you are able to glean from the Community Shield final, we have picked out five key areas for Fantasy managers to monitor during 2020/21’s curtain-raising event.
What position will Aubameyang take up?
A large number of Fantasy managers are likely to be watching the Community Shield with their Blank Gameweek 1 captaincy in mind.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s (£12.0m) looks certain to be involved in that first armband debate of the campaign, fresh from his recent conversion to an FPL midfielder and ahead of a trip to newly-promoted Fulham on the opening weekend of the season.
35.5% of managers have already thrown Arsenal’s number 14 their side so far, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) and Timo Werner (£9.5m) owned by more than that, at the time of writing.
Whether or not Aubameyang manages to go into Blank Gameweek 1 as the best captain option could depend on how he performs at Wembley, but also what position he is deployed in.
With Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£8.5m) Arsenal future hanging in the balance and Gabriel Martinelli (£5.0m) injured, the only two options Arteta theoretically has for the centre-forward role are Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah (£6.0m).
Whichever one of these two the Arsenal manager elects to play through the middle of his 3-4-3 formation could have a big impact on Aubameyang’s Fantasy credentials.
If the Gabonese international can secure a centre-forward berth for a competitive fixture against Liverpool, it certainly strengthens the possibility that he could play there regularly in the Premier League this season. Such an eventuality, if he were to perform well, would do wonders for his captaincy credentials.
Although, do remember, even if Arteta were to station Aubameyang on the left at Wembley, that is still a position that he starred from in 2019/20, so it won’t be the end of the world to see him play there.
How will Liverpool’s defence look at Wembley?
Liverpool defenders have some work to do if they are to convince us of elite-level clean sheet potential in 2020/21.
The league may have been all but won at the time but, during Project Restart, they kept three clean sheets from a possible nine, only six teams registering fewer than that.
Meanwhile, eight different teams, including Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton, conceded fewer goals than Jurgen Klopp’s men over the same period (12) and only five teams gave up fewer big chances (20). Certainly not double-up inspiring stuff.
Whatever issues Liverpool have been having at the back since June, they appear to have continued into pre-season as well, if their friendly against Salzburg was anything to go by.
Klopp had to travel to Austria without Alexander-Arnold due to injury but the right-back was the only first-teamer missing from the back-four that went 2-0 down in the first half earlier this week.
Fabinho (£5.5m) and Joe Gomez (£5.5m) were the chief culprits while Neco Williams (£4.0m) was caught out of position on occasion. Things went from bad to worse when Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) was taken off in the 55th minute with a head injury.
Klopp has since provided relatively positive updates on the captain and Alexander-Arnold, but the Community Shield final is still a big occasion at this end of the pitch.
Will our favourite Liverpool defenders be fit for the start of the season, and how will they cope against an Arsenal attack that has been steadily improving under Arteta? Answers to both of those could have a bearing on Fantasy line-ups for Blank Gameweek 1.
“Hendo and Joel looking really good. Ox early stages but good. Shaqiri good. Trent, very close, we have to make a decision about tomorrow. Harry [Wilson] looks good. Virg looks good, he has a little cut there but should be fine.” – Jurgen Klopp
What will Arsenal’s defence look like?
Who would have thought we’d be eyeing up Arsenal defensive assets at the start of the new season? Well, 2020 certainly has been a year of surprises.
The primary point of interest for Fantasy managers revolves around the goalkeeper position now that Bernd Leno (£5.0m) has returned from the injury that allowed Emiliano Martínez (£4.5m) to showcase his points potential during Project Restart.
The latter could offer exceptional value this season if he were to hold onto his starting berth. Between Gameweeks 30+ and 38+, no goalkeeper with nine or more appearances had a higher figure for saves per 90 than Martínez (3.84).
The chips might be stacked against him going into Saturday’s curtain-raiser as Leno and Matt Macey were both given game-time against MK Dons earlier this week, in light of Martínez having to quarantine following his holiday to Portugal.
While the former Reading loanee is injury-free and out of isolation now, he has not been able to train over the last two weeks, which is why he is a slight doubt for Saturday’s final.
But it’s not just the goalkeeper position we’re interested in. There has been plenty of hype around centre-back William Saliba (£4.5m) ahead of the new campaign and Fantasy managers should be on the lookout for him too.
Even though Arteta is very settled on deploying a back-three these days, the staffing of that setup is not yet set in stone.
Kieran Tierney (£5.5m), David Luiz (£5.5m), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£5.0m), Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) and Shkodran Mustafi (£5.0m) are all capable of playing there but do not offer as cheap a route into the Arsenal defence as Saliba.
Mustafi is red-flagged ahead of the Community Shield final but a number of the other centre-backs got minutes against MK Dons.
Rob Holding (£4.5m) is one of these, who could be worth watching as well as Saliba, although the latter is reported to have made a better start to pre-season.
If Martínez is indeed kept out of the team by Leno, then knowing that an improving Arsenal defence can be reliably tapped into by a £4.5m option elsewhere could be handy.
With enough good things being said about the Gunners’ defensive prospects for 2020/21, a meeting with last season’s Premier League champions is the perfect litmus test for them.
Who will feature in Liverpool’s attack?
This could, of course, prove to be a rather redundant question given Jurgen Klopp’s team selections over recent seasons, but there are enough Fantasy managers interested in budget forwards that it’s worth asking the question.
Rhian Brewster (£4.5m) was initially linked with another loan move away from Anfield this season, after netting 11 times in 22 appearances for Swansea City in 2019/20.
However, as often happens in football, things have changed very quickly, especially since Brewster scored three goals across Liverpool’s two pre-season friendlies so far.
The young forward now looks likely to stay at Anfield this year, which begs the question: can he break into the first team?
Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) has been the first-choice centre-forward at Liverpool for some time and, while he struggled for goals more than usual last season, there is no denying he is a key cog in the Reds’ machine.
Brewster offers something entirely different, less of a false-nine and more of a natural goal-scorer.
“At the moment he is (in our plans), but we have to see what happens in the next weeks. We want to use Rhian, but we want to help him as well. It’s not decided yet – why should we? He will be involved tomorrow.” – Jurgen Klopp
In light of his pre-season exploits thus far, Klopp intends to use the player in some way during the Community Shield final. Fantasy managers will be hoping to see a start for the £4.5m man, but even if he were to star off the bench, it could still ask Klopp some difficult questions ahead of the start of the season. Or… it could only ramp up the interest in his loan signing…
Who are the Arsenal alternatives?
Fantasy managers may also find value attackers in Arsenal’s squad on Saturday afternoon, specifically those who join Aubameyang in the front-three.
As already mentioned, the rumours surrounding Lacazette’s future likely restrict Arteta’s options up-front to the Gabonese international and Nketiah.
If the latter can put in a strong display against Liverpool, it might just lock him in as the first-choice striker for the new season, which would certainly be helpful for Fantasy managers currently struggling to find too much to excite them in terms of forwards priced at £6.0m or less.
Nketiah has already made something of an encouraging start to pre-season, starting the win over MK Dons, finding the net and having another goal ruled out for offside.
There is more competition for the right-hand side of Arsenal’s front-three than there is for the striker slot, but Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) will certainly fancy his chances of regular game-time there this season.
The England youth international was involved in eight of a possible 10 matches during Project Restart, operating in a number of different positions, including on the wing or as a number 10.
That versatility seems to have helped Saka establish himself in the side and at £5.5m, if he stars at Wembley, it will be hard for Arteta not to include him for the Fulham game and could spark another year of value for the relatively cheap midfielder.
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