There was plenty of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) interest in Wednesday’s round of pre-season friendlies, with Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United all in action.
We’ve got all the goal, assist and line-up information in the article below plus brief notes on each game.
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WALSALL 0-4 ASTON VILLA
- Goals: Ollie Watkins (£7.5m) x2, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Aaron Ramsey
- Assists: Emiliano Buendia (£6.5m) x2, Wesley (£5.5m), Jaden Philogene-Bidace
The FPL hype around Emiliano Buendia (£6.5m) ratcheted up a few notches after the Argentine winger’s Aston Villa debut in midweek.
Pre-season form sometimes counts for nought when the real action gets underway and it’s important to stress that the Villans will be facing a better class of opponent than fourth-tier Walsall from Gameweek 1 and beyond.
Nevertheless, the early signs were positive from the former Norwich midfielder and his understanding with new team-mate Ollie Watkins (£7.5m).
Buendia supplied two excellent through-balls for the mid-price FPL forward to convert in a 45-minute showing at the Bescot Stadium, both of which came from central positions as he drifted in-field from his right-wing position.
Watkins can surely only benefit from having another creative spark behind him this season: three goals for the striker in 13 matches (and just three wins for Villa in 14 games) without Jack Grealish (£8.0m) in the starting XI in 2020/21 suggested that there was an overreliance on their talismanic playmaker.
It’ll be interesting to monitor Matthew Cash‘s (£5.0m) output, too, with the right-back linking up well with Buendia at Walsall and having a couple of efforts of his own.
Craig Shakespeare, in for the isolating Dean Smith, sent his troops out in a 4-3-3 at the League Two side, with Ashley Young (£5.0m) making his return at left-back.
Only goalkeeper Jed Steer (£4.0m) played more than 45 minutes, with youngsters Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Aaron Ramsey on target after the break.
Aston Villa first-half XI: Steer, Cash, Konsa, S.Revan, A.Young, J.Ramsey, Nakamba, Chukwuemeka, El Ghazi, Buendia, Watkins.
Aston Villa second half XI: Steer (Sinisalo 83), Guilbert, Hause, Bogarde, Chrisene, Hourihane, A.Ramsey, McGinn, Philogene-Bidace, Wesley, Davis.
COLCHESTER UNITED 0-3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
- Goals: Son Heung-min (£10.0m), Lucas Moura (£6.5m), Dele Alli (£6.5m)
- Assists: Steven Bergwijn (£6.0m), Son Heung-min x2
Son Heung-min (£10.0m) made his first appearance of the summer and, having only returned to pre-season training on Monday, made light of the lack of fitness work with an eye-catching display against Colchester United.
The same caveats around Buendia’s display also apply to Son, with the League Two outfit offering limited resistance.
But it was at least a positive to see Son enjoying his football amid the off-the-field negativity in north London, with Harry Kane‘s (£12.5m) future at the club still uncertain.
And in the absence of Kane, who is enjoying a belated post-season break following his involvement at EURO 2020, the South Korea international was given the nod to lead the line in Nuno Espirito Santo’s 4-3-3/4-2-3-1.
Son opened the scoring with a tap-in from a quick move involving fellow frontmen Lucas Moura (£6.5m) and Steven Bergwijn (£6.0m).
The Korean was front and centre of Spurs’ dead-ball situations and after thrice seeing centre-half Eric Dier (£4.5m) come close to converting his teasing set-piece deliveries, the premium midfielder eventually got his rewards when Lucas headed home a 15th-minute corner.
Son then claimed a second assist when crossing for Dele Alli (£6.5m) to bundle home from close range.
Alli was again occupying the hybrid number 8/10 role that he fulfilled towards the end of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, sitting on the left of a midfield three but getting forward to support the three-man attack in possession.
Tottenham Hotspur XI: Whiteman, Paskotsi (Lyons-Foster 66), Carter-Vickers (Fagan-Walcott 66), Dier (Tanganga 46), Omole (Cesay 66), Skipp (John 46), Winks (White 66), Lucas (Devine 66), Dele (Parrott 66), Bergwijn (Clarke 66), Son (Scarlett 46).
READING 0-3 WEST HAM UNITED
- Goals: own-goal, Conor Coventry, Ben Johnson (£4.0m)
- Assists: Issa Diop (£4.5m), Ben Johnson, Manuel Lanzini (£6.0m)
West Ham’s busy pre-season continued with a win over Reading and Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m) was once again in eye-catching form for David Moyes’s side.
While Michail Antonio (£7.5m) toiled up top, Bowen was bright in support of the West Ham striker and ended up leading the line himself after the half-time personnel changes.
His 38th-minute set-piece delivery led to the Hammers’ opener, with Issa Diop (£4.5m) jumping to meet an inswinging corner but the ball eventually bobbling in off the hosts’ Jeriel Dorsett.
Bowen had been denied on several occasions himself by Reading goalkeeper Rafael.
Said Benrahma (£6.0m) was lively upon his introduction at the break, while Conor Coventry – who scored for the second successive game – also impressed.
Perhaps the main cause of excitement from an FPL perspective was the performance of Ben Johnson, one of the select group of £4.0m defenders in the game.
Initially deployed on the left but switching flanks at half-time, Johnson was the provider of Coventry’s goal and then went on a slaloming run to finish the scoring after 77 minutes.
The budget Fantasy asset had earlier in the game created two headed chances for Antonio.
Johnson remains only a ‘watchlist’ name for now, though: Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) is still to return to training after his involvement at the European Championship, while Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) almost certainly remains first choice on the opposite flank.
West Ham United XI: Randolph (Martin 61), Fredericks (Cresswell 45), Dawson (Ogbonna 45), Diop (Alves 61), Johnson (Forson 83), Noble (Odubeko 61), Coventry (Ekwah 83), Bowen (Baptiste 74), Fornals (Lanzini 45), Oko-Flex (Holland 45), Antonio (Benrahma 45).
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