The pre-season friendlies began to ramp up this weekend, with seven Premier League teams in action on Friday or Saturday.
We’ll bring you news on the games involving Norwich City, Arsenal and Brentford, plus Chelsea’s behind-closed-doors game against Peterborough, in a separate round-up later.
First, though, we assess how Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace fared in their first warm-up fixtures under their respective new managers.
You can find all our pre-season content via this link, including Scout Notes on every single first-team friendly that takes place over the summer.
LEYTON ORIENT 1-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
- Goals: Dane Scarlett
- Assists: Lucas Moura (£6.5m)
An inexperienced Tottenham Hotspur squad drew 1-1 in Nuno Espirito Santo’s first match in the Lilywhites’ hotseat.
Spurs’ international contingent runs into double figures and the likes of Son Heung-min (£10.0m) and Harry Kane (£12.5m) are among the group of players currently recuperating following their exertions for their countries this summer.
The north London side are handing their internationals three weeks break as standard following their busy summers, with England’s progress to the final of EURO 2020 meaning that Kane isn’t scheduled to return to training until the beginning of August.
Dele Alli (£6.5m), Harry Winks (£4.5m) and Steven Bergwijn (£6.0m) were the only Spurs players who made Ryan Mason’s Gameweek 38 starting XI who featured at Leyton Orient on Saturday, although Eric Dier (£4.5m) and Lucas Moura (£6.5m) did line up at Brisbane Road.
The headline news perhaps was the choice of formation, with Nuno opting for a 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 and not the wing-back system he mostly utilised at Wolves; the latter set-up would certainly rekindle a bit of Fantasy interest in Matt Doherty (£5.0m) and Sergio Reguilon (£5.0m).
The dearth of available senior centre-halves is, of course, one possible reason why the new Spurs head coach opted for a back four: Joe Rodon (£4.5m), Davinson Sanchez (£4.5m) and Toby Alderweireld (£5.0m) are all still on belated post-season breaks following their involvement in the European Championship and Copa America.
But Nuno did turn to a back four with increasing frequency in his final months at Molineux, so it’s not a given that he’ll bring the 3-4-3 along with him to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
A low-key game at Orient – a glorified training exercise, as these mid-July opening friendlies often are – saw teenage forward Dane Scarlett score Spurs’ only goal following a fine Lucas Moura (£6.5m) lay-off.
FPL’s generous pricing of Alli caught the eye upon the game’s relaunch although perhaps they were one step ahead of the rest of us, as the former MK Dons midfielder was operating in a disconcertingly deeper role in the Lilywhites’ engine room here.
Tottenham Hotspur XI: Hart (Whiteman 46), Paskotsi (Lyons-Foster 64), Carter-Vickers (Fagan-Walcott 64), Dier (Omole 64), Cesay (Eyoma 64), Winks (Bowden 64), Lucas (Mundle 64), John (White 64), Dele (Devine 64), Bergwijn (Clarke 64), Scarlett (Parrott 64).
CREWE ALEXANDRA 1-0 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) made a welcome return to first-team football with a half-hour run-out for Wolverhampton Wanderers at Gresty Road on Saturday.
The Mexico international hadn’t played for Wolves since fracturing his skull against Arsenal in late-November.
Against Crewe, Jimenez struck the woodwork with a deflected free-kick and showed no obvious signs of any psychological damage when climbing high to tussle for a header early on.
The Mexican striker was part of Bruno Lage’s first-ever Wolves starting XI at the weekend, with the first-half team about the strongest available to the new manager given that a number of internationals have yet to return to pre-season training.
The choice of formation was interesting to note, with Lage going with the same 4-4-2 set-up he used at Benfica and pairing Jimenez with Fabio Silva (£6.0m) in a two-man attack.
With the full-backs encouraged to get forward and new signing Francisco Trincao (£6.0m) roaming infield from a starting right-wing position, the early indications – as many thought – are that Lage will be more attack-minded than his predecessor.
The deployment of an ‘out of position’ Rayan Ait Nouri (£4.5m) as a left winger was also noteworthy from a Fantasy perspective, although the unavailability of Adama Traore (£6.0m), Daniel Podence (£5.5m) and Pedro Neto (£6.5m) perhaps forced Lage’s hand in that regard.
Traore, and potentially Podence, will be available come Gameweek 1.
Similarly, Morgan Gibbs-White (£4.5m) impressed in midfield and Ki-Jana Hoever (£4.0m) was stationed at right-back but the inevitable return of Wolves’ Portugal internationals may dictate how much game-time the budget FPL pair get next season.
Lage made wholesale changes at half-time, with a youthful side going on to concede the only goal of the game.
Back-up goalkeeper John Ruddy (£4.5m), set to play understudy to Jose Sa (£5.0m) in 2021/22, spoke about Lage’s front-foot tactics after full-time on Saturday:
First of all, he wants us to understand when we need to press high. We’ve got a lot of intelligent players who are aware of that anyway, so a lot of it is just making sure we’re in the right shape.
He definitely wants to be a front foot team and he also wants to get the ball down and play through the thirds. Whether that’s starting from the back or higher up, he wants everyone to be aware of the positions and the lines of the ball that he wants.
Fluidity is massive for it. Without movement and understanding between the players you are never going to create opportunities, but as you saw (against Crewe) some of the movement was superb.
It’s about recognising. If I’m a striker and the wingers come inside, can I pull out wide? It’s about the midfielders recognising that as well. And then obviously the man on the ball recognising which is the best pass to play.
He gets his point across really well. On the training ground he’s very intense, very intense. He wants you to work hard. He wants you to take the instruction. If we’ve done a couple of drills well then he’s happy, if not we’ll keep working. The last two weeks have been very tough in terms of the intensity and the workload.
Wolverhampton Wanderers XI: Ruddy, Hoever (Scott 46, Lonwijk 86), Boly (Marques 46), Kilman (Saiss 66), Marcal (Bueno 46), Trincao (Cundle 46), Perry (Otasowie 46), Gibbs-White (Estrada 46), Ait-Nouri, Jimenez (Cutrone 33, Samuels 86), Silva (Dadashov 46).
WALSALL 0-1 CRYSTAL PALACE
- Goals: Wilfried Zaha (£7.5m)
- Assists: Rob Street
Patrick Vieira’s reign got off to a winning start but Crystal Palace’s personnel shortage was laid bare at the Bescot Stadium.
With a cluster of players officially ‘released’ and awaiting contract offers or departing for pastures new, the Eagles are also without long-term injury victims Nathan Ferguson (£4.5m) and Eberechi Eze (£6.0m) at present.
The Athletic report that new signing Michael Olise (£5.5m) is nursing a back problem, while Luka Milivojevic (£5.5m), Cheikhou Kouyate (£4.5m) and Christian Benteke (£6.5m) weren’t involved in Saturday’s friendly at Walsall, having been granted extended leave – the latter two having represented their countries this summer.
Only 12 players priced up in FPL were in action in Palace’s first warm-up game under Vieira.
The bulk of the first team played in the opening 45 minutes at Walsall, with back-up options Jack Butland (£4.5m), Jean-Phillipe Mateta (£5.5m) and Jaroslaw Jach (£4.5m) the only senior players handed game-time after the break.
Vieira frequently turned to a 4-3-3 at former employers Nice and New York City and it was that system that he employed at the Bescot Stadium, with Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) and Jordan Ayew (£6.0m) flanking youngster Rob Street in a three-man attack.
There was a start for bargain-bin FPL asset Martin Kelly (£4.0m) at centre-half, although the Eagles will almost certainly add to their options at the heart of their backline in the coming month and it’s far too early to be getting carried away about his first-team prospects at this stage.
Zaha caught the eye against admittedly limited League Two opposition, causing havoc when cutting in off the left flank and forcing two saves – one a superb low stop – out of home goalkeeper Carl Rushworth.
The Ivory Coast international eventually broke the deadlock after a one-two with Street, finishing low past Rushworth from 12 yards.
The Eagles were scarcely troubled, save for an 85th-minute effort from the hosts that struck the woodwork.
Speaking after the game, Kelly discussed Vieira’s tactics – and provided some positive comments, from a Fantasy perspective, about Zaha:
Patrick’s come in with his coaching staff and he has a big emphasis on us keeping the ball more, and creating more chances with the players we’ve got in the top third of the field.
For us, it’s about working as a team to get the ball to those guys – our ‘danger players’ as such. It’s exciting knowing who we’ve got up there at the minute. We’ll keep working on it and trying to figure out how to get it to them.
We want to get Wilf [Zaha] in the part of the pitch where he’s most dangerous, and that’s out wide tucking in and getting into one-v-ones with the defenders. He’s been great at that, season after season, as well as Jeff [Schlupp] and Jordan [Ayew] out there.
It’s going to take time – it’s a new system for us and we know we’ve got the players, we just need the time to get on board and practice.
Crystal Palace first-half XI: Guaita, Clyne, Kelly, Tomkins, Mitchell, Schlupp, Riedewald, McArthur, Ayew, Street, Zaha.
Crystal Palace second-half XI: Butland, Quick, O’Brien, Jach, Hannam, Kirby, Boateng, Wells-Morrison (Steele 73), Rak-Sakyi, Gordon (Mateta 73), Banks.
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