There were, officially, 11 Premier League teams in pre-season friendly action on Saturday, although two more – Aston Villa and Arsenal – featured in a behind-closed-doors game that was barely acknowledged by either club.
We begin our round-up of the weekend action with this look at the two Merseyside sides, an injury-hit Newcastle United and the mystery match at the Emirates.
Liverpool 7-2 Blackpool
- Goals: Joel Matip (£5.5m), Sadio Mane (£12.0m), Roberto Firmino (£9.5m), Harvey Elliott (£4.5m), Takumi Minamino (£6.5m), Divock Origi (£5.5m), Sepp van den Berg
- Assists: James Milner (£5.5m), Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, Roberto Firmino, Curtis Jones (£4.5m), Harvey Elliott
Liverpool found the back of the net on seven occasions against Blackpool at Anfield but Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) wasn’t directly involved in any of the hosts’ strikes, leaving the Egyptian without a single goal or assist to his name from the Reds’ four pre-season friendlies.
Salah turned in a quiet display in his 62-minute run-out and he hasn’t particularly caught the eye in any of Liverpool’s warm-up matches, although pre-season form is hardly a reliable barometer of how a player will perform when the competitive action gets underway.
Still, he looked a lot sharper in his one and only pre-season appearance of 2019/20 (the Community Shield against Manchester City) and his goal ‘drought’ now extends back to Gameweek 34 in early July.
Perhaps Salah is missing the presence of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) down the Liverpool right, with the premium FPL defender having missed the whole of the Reds’ pre-season campaign thanks to illness and international duty.
The entire first-choice back four were absent for this one, along with the two understudies at full-back, due to their involvement in the UEFA Nations League.
It’s easy to dismiss the ropey performance at the back in the first half, then, with Liverpool falling two goals behind courtesy of errors from 17-year-old Billy Koumetio (not helped by a poor cross-field Salah pass) and the altogether more senior Alisson (£6.0m), who conceded a penalty.
Of more concern regarding Liverpool’s clean sheet potential would perhaps be Fabinho‘s (£5.5m) form in front of the back four, with the Brazilian incurring the wrath of his manager before being hooked at the break.
Fabinho had taken a while to get back up to speed upon his return from injury earlier this calendar year, turning in sub-par displays in defeats against Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Watford.
Jordan Henderson (£5.5m) could be back for Gameweek 1, at least, with Jurgen Klopp saying on Saturday:
Obviously Hendo was desperate to play a few minutes today as well, but it makes no real sense because he had to do an important session today for him.
If he would have played today, 10 minutes or so would have probably been OK. But that makes no sense. So that was not possible, but he trained in big parts of this week and will probably join full team training next Tuesday.
Timing-wise, not perfect that he cannot play today, but can train a few days later fully. But that’s how it is.
We will see how he develops, [there are] a few days until Leeds, how the boys come back from the national teams.
Sadio Mane (£12.0m) had got on the scoresheet at the third attempt to draw Liverpool level at 2-2 but it was Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) and Takumi Minamino (£6.5m) who caught the eye in the Liverpool attack, with the pair linking up well and combining for each other’s goals.
Minamino was deployed in an attacking midfield role for this one, with the Japan international excelling and twice going close to finding the back of the net before finally notching Liverpool’s fifth goal.
The returning Joel Matip (£5.5m) had nodded in a James Milner (£5.5m) corner for Liverpool’s first goal of the afternoon, with substitutes Harvey Elliott (£4.5m), Divock Origi (£5.5m) and Sepp van den Berg getting in on the act as the visitors wilted.
Klopp said of the match:
[The first half display] was because of a lack of aggression from our side, a lack of desire a little bit for this game – that’s how it is, playing around. The goals we conceded, yeah, that’s mistakes – it’s typical for pre-season games.
But so far I think we conceded pretty much all the goals in similar situations; losing the ball in the build-up, then it’s a counter-attack, it’s a free chance pretty much. We know that and it’s clear we cannot do it like this. We have to improve that. But we have another week to get the legs fresher.
Liverpool XI (4-2-3-1): Alisson (Adrian 62′); Milner, Koumetio (van den Berg 46′), Matip (Philips 46′), Hoever; Fabinho (Jones 46′), Keita; Mane (Origi 62′), Minamino, Salah (Elliott 62′); Firmino.
Everton 2-0 Preston North End
- Goals: Jonjoe Kenny (£4.5m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m)
- Assists: Theo Walcott (£6.0m)
On the day Everton secured the much-needed signing of a ball-winning central midfielder in the shape of Allan, the Toffees signed off their pre-season campaign with a 2-0 win over Preston North End.
The victory came at a cost, however, with Mason Holgate (£5.0m) lasting little over half an hour of the warm-up game before limping from the field of play with a toe injury.
Yerry Mina (£5.5m) was also missing but any hopes FPL managers may have harboured of a start for budget centre-half Jarrad Branthwaite (£4.0m) in Gameweek 1 were slightly dampened by Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti, who said after full-time:
Yerry started to train this week and he is going to be fit for Sunday. Mason had a problem with his toe. I hope it will be nothing serious. We are going to check tomorrow.
Ancelotti sent his troops out in a 4-3-3 for this encounter and the Toffees impressed against admittedly Championship-level opposition, with Richarlison (£8.0m) – newly reclassified as an FPL forward – playing on the left of a front three.
The Brazilian has done plenty of damage from that flank before, of course, and he looked very bright at Goodison Park on Saturday, somehow emerging from the 2-0 win without an assist to his name.
Richarlison “assisted the assister” for the Toffees’ opening strike, with Theo Walcott‘s (£6.0m) miscontrol landing kindly for right-back Jonjoe Kenny (£4.5m) to take advantage of.
The Brazil international then provided a telling cross for Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) to double the hosts’ lead, although the striker only scored at the second attempt after visiting goalkeeper Connor Ripley had blocked his first effort.
A Richarlison assist was thwarted again shortly after, with Yannick Bolasie somehow missing from two yards out after good work from his teammate down the left.
Ancelotti said of the change of system and the Brazilian’s display:
We tried a different shape and I think it worked quite well. Richarlison did well – up front we did well, we tried to combine well from the back. Sometimes we had more difficulties but the performance overall was good.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.0m) was tasked with playing the deepest role in the central midfield three on Saturday, with the impressive Bernard (£6.0m) and budget FPL asset Anthony Gordon (£4.5m) joining him in the middle of the park.
Allan could well be thrust straight into the engine room on the opening weekend, however, with his manager saying:
Tactically he is really good. Really strong defensively, he wins a lot of balls. He is aggressive and he is Brazilian, so he is able to do both – [contribute] with the ball and without the ball.
He came back fit [from the summer break]. He trained today [Saturday] and I think he has no problem to go into the team. He can play [at Tottenham].
Everton XI (4-3-3): Tyrer (Hansen 89′); Kenny, Holgate (John 31’), Gibson, Nkounkou; Sigurdsson, Gordon (Baningime 78′), Bernard (Adeniran 88′); Walcott (Bolasie 67′), Calvert-Lewin (Simms 82′), Richarlison.
Newcastle United 0-1 Stoke City
Newcastle United rounded off their pre-season in underwhelming style after succumbing to their second defeat to a Championship side in the last week.
The Magpies are rumoured to be lining up deals for Ryan Fraser, Jamal Lewis and Callum Wilson and reinforcements look to be badly needed in attack especially, with Andy Carroll (£5.5m) – not someone you’d trust to string together a series of starts – again getting the nod the lead the line on Tyneside, shanking a rare chance wide in the first half.
Fellow striker Dwight Gayle (£6.0m) had been in decent form after lockdown ended but now could be out until January, with Steve Bruce saying on Saturday:
Dwight got injured against Crewe some 10 days ago, has an operation today, which will rule him out for at least three or four months.
There are injury problems elsewhere, with the Magpies struggling at centre-half ahead of a meeting with Michail Antonio (£6.5m) and West Ham United in Gameweek 1.
Matt Ritchie (£5.0m), linked with a return to Bournemouth, is also now on the treatment table.
We know Fabian Schar dislocated his shoulder, that was only three or four weeks ago, so he ain’t ready.
Unfortunately Paul Dummett and Ciaran Clark, they aren’t ready.
Matt Ritchie picked up an injury only two days ago, so all in all we aren’t too serious but we haven’t had time to recover in terms of Clark and Dummett in particular. They are playing catch up a lot.
Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) missed Saturday’s friendly through suspension but will at least be available when the competitive action resumes.
Karl Darlow (£5.0m) got the nod between the posts in the injured Martin Dubravka‘s (£5.0m) absence and was caught a little flat-footed for Stoke’s winner, with Sam Clucas looping a header over the Magpies’ shot-stopper.
Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.5m) showed glimpses of brightness in his 73-minute run-out while winger Jacob Murphy (£5.0m) was again given a chance to impress, missing a one-on-one opportunity after the break but doing his chances “no harm” according to his manager.
Newcastle United XI (4-2-3-1): Darlow; Yedlin, Fernandez, Hayden, Manquillo; Barlaser (Saivet 82′), S.Longstaff; Murphy, Almiron (Atsu 73′), Saint-Maximin (Muto 73′); Carroll (Joelinton 73′)
Arsenal 2-3 Aston Villa
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) x2 | Douglas Luiz (£5.0m), Jacob Ramsey x2
As we mentioned in the introduction of this piece, there was little acknowledgement of this friendly from these two clubs beyond a line or two in passing online and there is no footage of the warm-up match, either.
What we do know is that, given the number of players from each club who are away on international duty at present, the two sides were not completely at full strength.
Teenage midfielder Jacob Ramsey, indeed, scored two of Villa’s three goals.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) furthered his case for inclusion in our Gameweek 1 squads with another brace, with Douglas Luiz (£5.0m) grabbing the visitors’ other strike.
Willian (£8.0m) and Dani Ceballos (unpriced) both reportedly featured following their permanent moves to north London, while Mesut Ozil (£7.0m) was also back in the fold after his late-season vanishing act.
Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) was involved, too, with William Saliba (£4.5m) part of an Arsenal backline that again conceded three goals; Mikel Arteta’s troops having beaten QPR 4-3 in a similarly underreported kickabout last week.
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