We round off our coverage of Saturday’s pre-season friendlies with a look at how Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Leeds United and Leicester City got on in their final warm-up matches before Gameweek 1.
Watford 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goal: Son Heung-min (£9.0m)
- Assist: Erik Lamela (£6.0m)
Son Heung-min (£9.0m) led the line and scored from the spot as Tottenham Hotspur rounded off their pre-season campaign with a defeat at recently relegated Watford.
With Harry Kane (£10.5m) away on international duty, the Korean was again given the nod to spearhead the Lilywhites’ attack in front of an attacking midfield trident of Erik Lamela (£6.0m), Dele Alli (£8.0m) and Lucas Moura (£7.0m) at Vicarage Road.
On paper, it seems that Lamela would be the placeholder for Kane, with Son moving back to the left flank, but the South Korea international has shone in pre-season in a central role and his energetic displays were in sharp contrast to the sluggish performance that Kane turned in for his country at the weekend.
The England striker has mitigating circumstances for his rustiness, of course, having been quarantined following a trip to the Bahamas, and even if half-fit, it’s difficult to see Jose Mourinho omitting him for the visit of Everton this weekend.
Son’s goal from 12 yards came after Lamela had been fouled and with Alli on the pitch, which, even if it is only a meaningless pre-season kickabout, may be an indication that the Korean is next in line in the penalty-taking pecking order whenever Kane is absent.
Alli had caught the eye in his first two pre-season starts, bagging a goal and two assists, but he was unable to replicate that form here, being moved into a deeper central midfield role in the second half as Tanguy Ndombele (£6.0m) was sacrificed for young winger Jack Clarke; Alli’s ball-playing skills perhaps required from deep as the two long-passing centre-backs – Eric Dier (£5.0m) and Toby Alderweireld (£5.5m) – were not on the pitch.
That’s not a position Fantasy managers want to see him in and it likely isn’t the plan long term but with Giovani Lo Celso (£7.0m) not featuring at all in pre-season, Harry Winks (£5.5m) withdrawing from the England squad because of injury and Ndombele locked in a never-ending battle to regain match-fitness, there is a lingering question over who gets the nod alongside midfield anchor Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£5.0m) in Gameweek 1.
Youngster Dennis Cirkin and Juan Foyth (£4.5m) both got 45 minutes at left-back in the absence of Ben Davies (£5.0m), who was away with Wales, while Serge Aurier (£5.5m) stepped into the void at right-back with Matt Doherty (£6.0m) and Gedson Fernandes (£5.0m) away on international duty.
None of the deputy full-backs turned in particularly convincing displays, with Cirkin giving away a converted penalty and Aurier’s distribution typically erratic, so there was little to worry prospective owners of Doherty and Davies.
Mourinho said after the game:
I would say that those are the positives, players who needed minutes had them, some players played 90 minutes. Also positive was that Watford took it very seriously. I liked that. They competed, they were aggressive, they made the game very hard, those are all positives.In the same way I wasn’t super-enthusiastic after winning three friendlies, wins that don’t give us any points, I’m not sad that we lost this one.
I said to the players at half-time, maybe in the Premier League if we are losing 2-0 at half-time, we have the second half to fight for the result. It was a game to give us minutes and a competitive mentality and I really liked the fact that in the last minute, we are fighting to try to score, and then Sonny makes a 100-metre sprint to stop the 3-1 on the counter-attack. So, overall, it was okay.
*With thanks to TopMarx for his observations
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): Hart (Gazzaniga 46′); Aurier, Sanchez, Carter-Vickers, Cirkin (Foyth 46′); Ndombele (Clarke 46′), White (Bowden 81′); Lamela, Dele, Lucas; Son.
West Ham United 3-5 Bournemouth
- Goals: Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m) x2, Felipe Anderson (£6.5m)
- Assists: Josh Cullen x2, Robert Snodgrass (£6.0m)
A West Ham United side who have kept only two Premier League clean sheets since David Moyes took charge in January were again exposed on Saturday, this time by a team who have just dropped down to the Championship.
The alarm bells were ringing upon the release of the teamsheets as Moyes, without the unavailable and influential Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) and Declan Rice (£5.0m) due to their international commitments, opted to name the attack-minded Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m) and the ageing Mark Noble (£5.0m) in a two-man central midfield.
Noble was overrun and Lanzini lasted all of 32 minutes before limping off but they weren’t the only ones culpable, with the back four unconvincing as ever and back-up goalkeeper David Martin (£4.0m) not doing his future prospects any good.
In a possible blow to managers who were looking for playing defensive bench fodder, Ben Johnson (£4.0m) turned in such a poor performance that he was hooked for Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m) with less than half an hour gone, a withdrawal that can’t have done the youngster’s confidence any good.
The return of Rice especially (providing he isn’t sold) will add much-needed protection to the back four but the Hammers haven’t recorded a single shut-out in pre-season and, given the fixtures that are to come, few Fantasy managers will be interested anyway.
Goals at the other end have been flowing at least, with Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m) continuing his fine form with a brace on Saturday – both strikes being set up by Josh Cullen.
Encouragingly, Bowen was loitering around the six-yard box for each one and he took his tally to four goals in three warm-up matches with that double at the weekend.
Felipe Anderson (£6.5m) added a late consolation with a header from fellow substitute Robert Snodgrass‘s (£6.0m) corner.
Michail Antonio (£6.5m) didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, and one of the form FPL players of the post-restart era rounded off pre-season without a goal to his name.
Antonio was paired up front with Sebastien Haller (£6.5m) as Moyes plumped for a 4-4-2 but the recently reclassified forward saw little joy against the Cherries, eventually being replaced just after the hour mark.
West Ham United XI (4-4-2): Martin; Johnson (Fredericks 26), Diop, Ogbonna (Balbuena 63), Cresswell; Bowen (Masuaku 63), Noble (Wilshere 63), Lanzini (Cullen 32), Fornals (Snodgrass 82); Antonio (Felipe Anderson 63), Haller (Xande Silva 82).
Leeds United 3-1 Pacos de Ferreira
- Goals: Pascal Struijk (£4.0m), Pablo Hernandez (£6.0m), Helder Costa (£5.5m)
- Assists: Barry Douglas (£4.0m), Patrick Bamford (£5.5m) x2
With at least half a dozen possible/probable starters away on international duty, including new signings Robin Koch (£4.5m) and Rodrigo (£6.0m), a patched-up Leeds United side saw off Portuguese outfit Pacos de Ferreira in their final warm-up match before Gameweek 1.
Two budget FPL defenders combined for the Whites’ opening strike, with Barry Douglas‘ (£4.0m) free-kick being nodded in by the ‘out of position’ (at least, in Fantasy terms) Pascal Struijk (£4.0m) two minutes after the visitors had gone in front.
Patrick Bamford (£5.5m) went on to claim a brace of assists after the break, first teeing up Pablo Hernandez (£6.0m) for a net-busting strike from distance and then providing a lofted through-ball for substitute Helder Costa (£5.5m) to convert.
The fluid 4-1-4-1/3-3-1-3 Bielsa set-up was again in evidence, with the hosts putting in an improved display after the interval and Hernandez looking more effective when moving into a central role from his original position on the right.
Douglas may well get the nod in Gameweek 1 if Bielsa opts to use Luke Ayling (£4.5m) at centre-half over new recruit Koch, although the longer-term prospects don’t look quite so positive for the bargain-bin defender.
Few will be wanting him to be anything other than emergency bench fodder this weekend anyway, given that reigning champions Liverpool are providing the opposition.
Leeds United XI (4-1-4-1/3-3-1-3): Casilla; Douglas, Ayling, Casey, Davis; Struijk; Hernandez (Gotts 73′), Shackleton, Roberts (Costa 45′), Harrison (Poveda 70′); Bamford (Cresswell 88′).
Leicester City 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
- Goal: Daniel Amartey (£4.0m)
- Assist: None
An under-strength Leicester City side drew their final warm-up match against Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, with only a handful of first-teamers featuring.
Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) and Demarai Gray (£5.5m) flanked Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) in a strong-ish looking three-man attack but there was little to report from the long-serving striker, who forced an early save from distance and then took one of his trademark tumbles in the opposition box without reward.
Ayoze Perez (£6.5m) chalked up his first pre-season minutes as a substitute but there was again no James Maddison (£7.0m), who looks to be a major doubt for Gameweek 1 given that he was only training in the ‘rehab gang’ with fellow absentee Ricardo Pereira (£6.0m) last week.
Daniel Amartey (£4.0m) made his return after a lengthy period on the sidelines, nodding home the Foxes’ only goal from a corner following a goalkeeping howler.
Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) was deployed as a centre-half for this one and it’ll be interesting to see if he is again given the nod alongside Caglar Soyuncu (£5.5m) in Gameweek 1, with Jonny Evans (£5.5m) suspended and Wes Morgan (£4.5m) nursing an injury – although Filip Benkovic (£4.5m) is a more natural fit and James Justin (£4.5m) could potentially deputise.
Brendan Rodgers has favoured a back four in pre-season over the wing-back system he ended 2019/20 with, although the knowledge that Evans will be suspended for Gameweeks 1-3 has perhaps forced the Leicester manager’s hand, given the lack of options at centre-half.
Leicester City XI (4-3-3): Stolarczyk; Daley-Campbell (Leshabela 84′), Ndidi (Amartey 62′), Knight (Johnson 62′), Thomas; Mendy, Choudhury, Dewsbury-Hall; Gray (Perez 71′), Vardy (Iheanacho 75′), Barnes (Albrighton 71′).
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