We run the rule over six pre-season friendlies involving Premier League clubs on Wednesday, picking out the main talking points on the field and off it.
Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive pre-season page for more information on the warm-up matches taking place ahead of Gameweek 1.
MK DONS 1-3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
- Goal: Son Heung-min (£10.0m), Dele Alli (£6.5m), Lucas Moura (£6.5m)
- Assist: Lucas, Son
Son Heung-min‘s (£10.0m) positive start to pre-season continued at MK Dons, with the South Korea international bagging a goal and assist at the Football League outfit.
We probably hadn’t expected Spurs to improve too much on their attacking output under Nuno Espirito Santo, latterly known for a more reserved style at Wolves, but the signs have been encouraging so far, even if the opposition has been limited ahead of Gameweek 1.
Son, Lucas Moura (£6.5m) and Steven Bergwijn (£6.0m) formed a dynamic front three at Stadium MK, with the Korean playing as the spearhead in Harry Kane‘s (£12.5m) absence and getting himself into a number of threatening positions.
A blazed shot from six yards preceded his dinked opener from a Lucas Moura pass, with another chipped opportunity later going begging.
Son had also been in excellent positions for a tap-in when Sergio Reguilon (£5.0m) and Dele Alli (£6.5m) saw the whites of the goalkeepers’ eyes, only for both opportunities to go begging.
Son said after the game:
I have said it before, it is an honour to play for this big club and I just want to continue.
I have one wish, for the fans to keep supporting us, we will work as hard as possible to make you happy. We have missed them.
I have only played two games in pre-season but it has been really positive. It is only pre-season but the energy is there, the positivity is there.
Alli is one for the FPL watchlist at his bargain price, too, even if his duties do involve dropping a bit deeper into central midfield.
Still, he was advanced enough to tap in Son’s pass to make it 2-0 and ought to have had a second when dallying in front of goal.
Matt Doherty (£5.0m) made his first appearance of pre-season under his former boss, although was an orthodox right-back rather than the gallivanting wing-back of his Wolves days.
Spurs XI: Whiteman, Doherty (Paskotsi 64), Carter-Vickers, Tanganga (Fagan-Walcott 86), Reguilon (Davies 64), John, Skipp (Omole 77), Dele (White 82), Lucas (Clarke 82), Bergwijn (Parrott 82), Son (Scarlett 77).
MANCHESTER UNITED 2-2 BRENTFORD
- Goal: Anthony Elanga, Andreas Pereira | Shandon Baptiste, Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m)
- Assist: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m)| Ivan Toney (£6.5m), Fin Stevens
Another under-strength Manchester United team drew 2-2 with Brentford at Old Trafford in a game full of memorable goals.
The likes of Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m), Luke Shaw (£5.5m) and Jadon Sancho (£9.5m) were all again absent thanks to their post-EURO 2020 breaks and none of them look likely to be heavily involved at Preston on Saturday, which leaves only a warm-up game against Everton on August 7 as the one remaining chance for match-fitness building.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said:
It might be too soon [for the returning international players against Preston on Saturday], maybe one or two sub appearances. Maybe we can start Diogo and Donny as I said before the game, so let’s see how the other boys who have come back feel on Friday night, Saturday morning.
It’s a difficult question to answer. Yes, the boys who have been here are working hard and we can see the benefit they’re getting but there are still players away so you don’t really know how they are, how much they’ve worked.
Every year when there’s an [international] championship it’s a difficult summer but we’ll work with the players when they come back.
Anthony Elanga and Andreas Pereira scored humdingers for the hosts, with one of the only first-team regulars on show, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m), setting up the opener.
Wan-Bissaka, maligned for his attacking attributes in the past, did catch the eye going forward, almost getting on the end of a cross from the left himself early on.
Ivan Toney (£6.5m), now only the second most-owned FPL forward in the game, claimed the flicked assist for Shandon Baptiste‘s superb first equaliser before the returning Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m), back after missing the last two pre-season friendlies, curled home to restore parity.
Mbeumo was stationed on the right of Thomas Frank’s 4-2-3-1 upon his introduction and was also responsible for a direct free-kick late in the game.
Also operating on the right flank, at least initially, was Mason Greenwood (£7.5m), with Elanga deployed up top.
With Edinson Cavani (£8.5m) back soon and Sancho potentially poised to cover for Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) on the left flank in Gameweek 1, a right-wing berth does look probable for Greenwood against Leeds on the opening weekend.
Manchester United XI: Heaton, Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Mengi, Williams (Dalot 45), Pereira (Garner 61), Matic (Hannibal 75), Greenwood (Shoretire 75), Mata (Pellistri 61), Lingard (van de Beek 75), Elanga (James 61).
Brentford XI: Raya, Roerslev (Stevens 75), Goode (Racic 75), Pinnock (Sørensen 61), Thompson (Gordon 75), Baptiste (Peart-Harris 75), Janelt (Valencia 75), Fosu (Mbeumo 61), Haygarth (Onyeka 61), Canós (Dervişoğlu 75), Toney (Forss 75).
EVERTON 1-0 PUMAS
- Goal: Moise Kean
- Assist: None
Everton’s summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen, Demarai Gray (£5.5m), continues to impress in pre-season.
Operating initially off the left flank of a 4-2-3-1 in Everton’s 1-0 win over Pumas but switching wings with Andros Townsend (£5.5m) throughout, Gray was arguably the pick of the Toffees as their stay in America came to an end.
The assist column might say ‘none’ but Everton’s only goal was created by Gray, who set Moise Kean through on goal – the former PSG loanee finishing at the second attempt after seeing a shot saved.
Lucas Digne (£5.5m) caught the eye with his forward runs and set-piece duties, and the importance that Rafael Benitez places on crossing, with one eye on Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s (£8.0m) return, is becoming obvious.
Digne had some positive words to say about his own fitness after the match, and the meticulous tactical approach of his manager:
I feel very well, I worked very hard during my holidays, with my team, and now you can see I am 100 per cent. I am behind the team and I will give everything for the team.
He is a very good manager, everybody knows him. We have to adapt ourselves to his style, which is different, and every player has to give their best for the team. We are doing a lot of video, a lot of tactical work. I think it is good for the team.
Benitez paid tribute to his new side after the game:
I would say the attitude of the players [is the most pleasing element of pre-season]. The way that we want to play, they have been trying to put in place in the games.
It’s too early [for everything to be implemented] but it was quite positive. There are a lot of patterns that we could see and the communication and understanding between the players was quite good.
Everton XI: Begovic (Virginia 46), Coleman (Kenny 46), Godfrey (Holgate 46), Keane (Gibson 71), Digne (Anderson 71), Davies (Allan 46), Gomes (Doucouré 46), Iwobi (Rodriguez 46), Townsend (Gordon 46), Gray (Gbamin 46), Kean (Broadhead 46 (Whitaker 81)).
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1-1 LEEDS UNITED
- Goals: Pascal Struijk (£4.5m)
- Assist: Jack Harrison (£6.0m)
There were positives aplenty as Leeds United’s regulars got their first pre-sesaon outing at Blackburn Rovers.
Raphinha (£6.5m) slipped straight back into threatening mode down the right flank of Marcelo Bielsa’s 4-1-4-1, while Jack Harrison (£6.0m) on the opposite wing also caught the eye.
Debutant Junior Firpo (£5.0m) showed attacking promise at left-back, if looking a little raw, while Pascal Struijk (£4.5m) was a real menace at set plays and grabbed Leeds’ only goal of the game with a late deflected effort.
There were a couple of interesting positional choices to note, although such is the versatility of a number of Bielsa’s squad that none of them should really come as a surprise.
A success story was Jamie Shackleton (£4.5m) at right-back, with Luke Ayling (£4.5m) only brought on later in the game.
Robin Koch (£4.5m) was comfortable as the midfield anchor, meanwhile, but an experimental run-out for Helder Costa (£5.5m) up front won’t give Patrick Bamford (£8.0m) any concerns for his place.
The newly reclassified Stuart Dallas (£5.5m) was used as left-back upon his introduction, while Rodrigo (£6.5m) was back in the number 10 role after a late-season stint up top in 2020/21.
Leeds XI: Meslier, Shackleton, Struijk, Llorente (Ayling 45’), Firpo (Dallas 61), Koch, Raphinha (Roberts 61’), ,Klich, Rodrigo (Greenwood 61’), Harrison, Costa.
WYCOMBE WANDERERS 1-0 LEICESTER CITY
Brendan Rodgers continues to experiment with a 4-4-2 in pre-season but Leicester City are still yet to score in three hours of football this summer.
The Foxes boss sent two different XIs out in either half at Wycombe, initially pairing Patson Daka (£7.5m) with Jamie Vardy (£10.5m) up top.
Daka was better than he had been at Burton but the seemingly good news for Kelechi Iheanacho (£7.5m) owners is that the new Zambian signing looks like he will need time to get up to speed in his new surroundings.
Second-half substitute Iheanacho, deployed in attack with a sharp-looking James Maddison (£7.0m) playing just off him, was perhaps a little rusty himself but at least did get opportunities, firing narrowly wide ten minutes into the second half.
Maddison had been plagued by a nagging hip problem towards the end of last season but caught the eye, saying of his fitness ahead of the game:
I’m feeling really good. Pre-season’s obviously always a tough period in terms of physically, but [I feel] good. When you have the break – and we had quite a long break – from the last game of the season to the first day back, you need that break.
You get that hunger back, the motivation to come back, and you come back ready and raring to go. It’s been a good break, I’m feeling really good personally. Training’s been really good. The lads look in good condition. I’m really enjoying it.
For prospective owners of Wesley Fofana (£4.5m), the Leicester Mercury report that Jonny Evans (£5.5m) is only at the ‘gym work’ stage of his recovery along with Papy Mendy (£4.5m) and Timothy Castagne (£5.5m).
Ryan Bertrand (£5.0m) is expected to feature at QPR this weekend after missing Wednesday’s defeat to Wycombe with a slight muscle strain, while Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) and Ayoze Perez (£6.0m) are back in training.
Leicester City XI: Iversen (Stolarczyk 46), Ricardo (Amartey 46), Fofana (Nelson 46), Söyüncü (Benković 46), Thomas (Sowah 46), Ghezzal (Albrighton 46), Ndidi (Dewsbury-Hall 46), Soumaré (Choudhary 46), Maswanhise (Suengchitthawon 46), Daka (Maddison 46), Vardy (Iheanacho 46)
ARSENAL 4-1 WATFORD
- Goals: Eddie Nketiah (£5.5m), Alexandre Lacazatte (£8.5m) pen, Kieran Tierney (£5.0m), Miguel Azeez | Philip Zinckernagel (£5.5m)
- Assist: Willian (£6.5m), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£5.5m), Nicolas Pepe (£7.5m) | None
A training ground friendly between Arsenal and Watford went the way of the Gunners on Wednesday.
Curling efforts from Eddie Nketiah (£6.5m) and Miguel Azeez were sandwiched by an Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) penalty and a Kieran Tierney (£5.0m) tap-in, with gloss added to the scoreline when Watford’s youngsters and second-string players were thrown into the fray.
Lacazette’s spot-kick came with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.0m) off the pitch but Nicolas Pepe (£7.5m) on it, while Emile Smith Rowe (£5.5m) provided the telling cross that led to Tierney bundling the ball in from close range.
Philip Zinckernagel (£5.5m) lashed home at the second attempt to briefly restore parity for the Hornets, who continue to hand minutes not just to all of their squad members but trialists too.
Arsenal XI: Leno, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Tavares, Lokonga, Elneny, Nelson, Willian, Nketiah, Aubameyang
Substitutes: Runarsson (for Leno 46), Bellerin (for Cedric 46), Holding (for Chambers 46), Tierney (for Tavares 46), Partey (for Elneny 46), Pepe (for Nelson 46), Lacazette (for Aubameyang 46), Kolasinac (for Mari 64), Azeez (for Lokonga 64), Smith Rowe (for Willian 64), Maitland-Niles (for Nketiah 64)
Watford XI: Bachmann (Elliot 65), Ngakia (Trialist 80), Kabasele (Agyakwa 80), Cathcart (Abbott 55), Masina (Trialist 65), Etebo (Wise 65), Louza (Lo-Everton 65), Zinckernagel (Gosling 45), Sarr (Baah 65), Dennis (Crichlow 45), King (Fletcher 45)