Preseason Roundup - Week 1

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No rest for the weary, folks…the Premier League is BACK for the 2022/2023 season as we have already had about a week of preseason action take place. Not every club has begun their preseason schedule, but most have, and the idea is to provide a weekly summary over the next month of the activity going on literally around the world.

As is the nature with preseason friendlies, some higher-profile matches provide the same kind of comprehensive information that you would expect from a regular season Premier League match, but sometimes, in the smaller games or friendlies played behind-closed-doors, information is quite limited. The goal here though is to provide as much insight on the things that matter, for those wondering what to expect in terms of player form and position battles ahead of the upcoming season. So, enough with the fanfare and let’s get caught up with the first week of results from preseason friendlies…

Arsenal

July 8th FC Nurnberg 3-5 Arsenal

The biggest signing for the Gunners this summer to date, Gabriel Jesus, saw his first action in Germany Friday night. He began the match on the bench but would come on to bag a brace. Eddie Nketiah, who was Arsenal’s center forward of choice at the end of last season, and so far in two preseason matches, he is doing everything he can to earn regular playing time despite the presence of Jesus. Last week against Ipswich Town, he registered a pair of goals and an assist in a 5-3 win. Against Nurnberg, it was more of the same from Nketiah, as he got the start and assisted on three of Arsenal’s five goals, including one teed up for Jesus. It was telling that Jesus didn’t replace Nketiah, but instead shared forward duties for a spell before Nketiah was eventually replaced.

As will be the case for just about every club, it is a bit too early to draw conclusions about position battles and who the manager is favoring, but the starting XI for this one, save for Kieran Tierney, had the appearance of second-choice players at every position. Eventually though, Jesus, Gabriel and Gabriel Martinelli made appearances as substitutes but are likely starters in Week 1, with perhaps Martinelli a slight question mark. Bukayo Saka has one wing locked down, so Martinelli will have to have a solid preseason to fend off any of his competition. He helped his cause with an assist on Jesus’ second goal.

Aston Villa

July 9th Walsall 0-4 Aston Villa

Villa got their preseason under way on Friday night with domestic friendly against Walsall before they take off for their Australian preseason tour. Villa made things look pretty easy against the League Two hosts, scoring a pair of goals in either half while having an easy go defensively. The XI did not include what would at this point be considered regulars, but a couple of other players on the fringe made some noise in the first half, which is worth monitoring for potential budget options in the FPL game. Minimum priced forward Cameron Archer found the net. The young striker had a brief debut in the league last season, playing 24 minutes in three substitute appearances. Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings are still well above Archer in the depth charts, but if anything were to happen to one of that duo, Archer will be looking to break through.

What may be more of an impact on who will line up to begin the regular season was the performance of Leon Bailey. The wide attacking player brought in last summer, expected to grow into a star player, but found his first season in the league rather difficult, falling out of favor once Steven Gerrard took over managerial duties. However, if Gerrard likes what he sees in Bailey, the Jamaican international could make an impact this season, going for a savory FPL price of just 5m. He scored the opener against Walsall, just seven minutes in. Plenty of regulars would come on in the second half, including Watkins and Douglas Luiz, the duo responsible for scoring Villa’s final two goals of the contest.

Bournemouth

Preseason begins July 15th

Brentford

July 9th Boreham Wood 0-2 Brentford

The Bees began the first of four preseason contests with 5th division side Boreham Wood, who play on a ground that has seating that goes about eight rows deep around the pitch. In other words, a delicate way of saying they are a very small club. Brentford had a mix of nailed starters and fringe players in their XI. One popular player, perhaps the most popular FPL outfielder pick not named Ivan Toney, is Bryan Mbeumo, who scored the first goal of the match by converting a penalty (a duty reserved for Toney were he on the pitch). Drawing the foul to set up the penalty for an FPL assist was Yoanne Wissa, who, at 5.5m, is one to watch as a player who can make an impact.

Perhaps, in an otherwise not-too-newsworthy match, the biggest headline would be the scorer of Brentford’s second goal, Josh Dasilva. He blasted a ball into the net through a crowded box at the very end of the match. Dasilva, who endured a long injury spell in Brentford’s promotional season, was considered one of the Bees best talents this time last year. He was just about to break into the XI in the second half of last season, but the arrival of Christian Eriksen made Dasilva the odd man out in Brentford’s midfield. A strong preseason could see him make the XI in Week 1, if not, soon thereafter. Those looking for a minimum priced midfielder in FPL who may actually play and helps free up cash elsewhere should keep Dasilva in mind.

Brighton

July 9th Brighton 0-0 Union Saint-Gilloise

While most top tier clubs had no issues finding the net in the opening slate of preseason friendlies, Brighton were kept out of goal while at home against Belgian outfit Union SG. One of the biggest position battles to monitor around the league this summer is the striker spot for the Seagulls. Neal Maupay had been the anointed star for the role when Brighton were first promoted, but after a few seasons, it appears the Seagulls are tired of squeaking out 1-0 results and are looking for another talent to supplant the Frenchman. That may come in the form of Denis Undav, who, after being brought in in January only to be immediately loaned back to his previous club, is looking to make noise this summer. That former club happens to be who Brighton took on in this goalless affair, Union SG, and in terms of Undav’s first half performance, it did not go well. Undav was quoted himself post match, pointing out his disappointing display, while it was young Julio Enciso, just signed this summer, that looked livelier in his second-half shift. Undav and Enciso go for 5.5m and 5m respectively in the FPL game. If either nail down the starting role, they should see plenty of investment based on price alone as a budget forward.

Chelsea

Preseason begins July 16

Crystal Palace

July 9th Crystal Palace 5-4 Millwall

Patrick Vieira went against the grain and decided to name a strong starting XI against Championship side Millwall and, while it got to showcase the attacking talent on the Eagles squad, it begs the question - “What happened to the defense?”. Palace leaned on the defense for many of their positive results last season and we saw the likes of Vicente Guaita, Marc Guehi, Joachim Andersen, Nathaniel Clyne and Tyrick Mitchell in the XI here, only to have four put past them by Milwall. That is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

There are no heavy position battles going on, beside the already established carousel of strikers that makes thing difficult for fantasy purposes, but the big question mark is how to fill the void left by Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher. The natural fit may be Eberechi Eze, who could play alongside Michael Olise as two young attacking midfielders with plenty of upside. Eze got the start in this one, after battling through injury last season while Olise was the one sidelined here with his own knock. Hopefully, there will be time to see them play in tandem before the season starts, with the Eagles playing against Liverpool in Singapore coming up next. Eze did score in this one, with the always-involved Wifried Zaha providing the assist.

Everton

Preseason begins July 16th

Fulham

Preseason begins July 16th

Leeds

July 7 Leeds 4-0 Blackpool

Speaking of bargain-priced forwards, Leeds United, who are still waiting for the full fitness of ace striker Patrick Bamford. Joe Gelhardt, who we saw spot start during last season, was given the nod against Blackpool and fellow FPL forward, priced at a minimum of 4.5m, Sam Greenwood also in the XI, playing behind Gelhardt. After a horrific first season with the club who coughed up goals on the regular, while contributing very little going forward, it was a promising clean slate showing from left back Júnior Firpo in this one. He assisted Robin Koch for their opening goal and then would himself score their second. It may take a while for anyone to trust Leeds defensively, but former Barcelona product Firpo certainly has the pedigree to make some noise this season. After last season, the only way for him to move is up.

Rodrigo was also squeezed into this XI, in an uncustomary wide attacking role, but did register a goal against Blackpool, with Gelhardt playing the provider. Jack Harrison was also quite active in this one, particularly in set-piece work and was the assister on Firpo’s goal. Meanwhile, off the pitch, speaking of Barcelona, Raphinha appears ready to join the legendary Spanish club, so not only will that open up a position, which new signing Luis Sinisterra could grab, but also floods the club with plenty of transfer cash from the deal. There could be a lot of movement with this club, after barely surviving relegation and now their star player departing. Leeds are another side headed to Australia to finish out their summer friendly schedule.

Leicester City

July 9th Leicester 1-2 Notts County

The Foxes began their summer with a behind-closed-doors friendly against 5th division side Notts County, and Leicester came up with a loss here. There was very little to glean from this match (when you can’t see it, it’s a bit hard to analyze it) but what the team sheets told us was that Brendan Rodgers was not looking to use his star players here for the most part. Only a few players we have seen get regular playing time participated in this one, and of those few, a pair did combine on Leicester’s lone goal, as Patson Daka assisted Harvey Barnes’ strike.

Like Leeds, but not quite as dire, Leicester had a pretty disappointing defensive record last season which is why they are out of European action for the upcoming season. Much of the blame could be assigned to injuries at the back, some of them long term. FPL has been kind enough to price all their defenders (who are in serious contention for regular starts) a 4.5m price tag. Should Leicester, who are entering this season with their back line pretty much now fit, improve on last season’s defensive record, there are bound to be some nice bargain picks in there, particularly among their fullbacks. The question is, which two will emerge as regulars in a fight that includes Timothy Castagne, Ricardo Pereira and James Justin. Let us also nor forget Luke Thomas, who clocked nearly 2000 minutes of pitch time last season while the other trio of fullbacks were spending the majority of their time in the physio room. The Foxes still have five friendlies to play to give us an idea of who to expect to start.

Liverpool

July 12th Liverpool 0-4 Manchester United

The Reds just started their ambitious preseason tour last night in Bangkok. It did not go swimmingly. Both sides had a few regulars in the starting lineup - Alisson between the sticks, Jordan Henderson as the midfield anchor and Luis Díaz playing his preferred left wing. However, it was United who rolled all over Liverpool in this one. However, considering the Reds made about twenty or so substitutions in this one, to give everyone a bit of playing time and to appease the Thai crowd, it was not a normal scenario from which to draw much panic from. What matters most is the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Mo Salah got some minutes and came away fit. One question that linger over the next few weeks is what kind of role Diogo Jota may have. With Diaz coming in January and now Darwin Nunez coming over from Benfica this summer, someone is the odd man out here, and it’s not Mo Salah. We will see the Reds in action next on Friday in Singapore against Crystal Palace.

Manchester City

Preseason begins July 20th

Manchester United

July 12th Liverpool 0-4 Manchester United

Well, this result looks familiar. The Erik ten Hag era is now officially underway and he wasted no time in naming a strong side. Perhaps the idea is to get a look at the “expected” starters first, then turn toward other options as he sees fit, but considering the result here, he has to be pleased with the start. Cristiano Ronaldo was absent, giving Anthony Martial a start to lead the line, but the remaining ten players were all regulars for last year. The Red Devils put three goals on the board in the first half with this starting XI. Jadon Sancho got the scoring started, followed by a goal from the not-oft-attacking Fred then wrapped up the half with a strike from Martial. With a new manager, big expectations and a roster chock full of players who many would consider as under-performers last season, the look of this XI versus what ten Hag has planned by the end of the summer window could be two very different looking teams. Ronaldo, after rumors of an exit, is apparently “not for sale” according to ten Hag and David De Gea seems safe, especially with Dean Henderson on another loan spell. Otherwise, it’s the wild, wild west. Even new signing Tyrell Malacia, who is definitely gunning for the left-back job, was joined up with the club in time to make an appearance in Bangkok.

Newcastle United

July 9th Newcastle 5-0 Gateshead

Gateshead are another 5th tier club given a chance in the early days of preseason to take on a Premier League side. This match was actually played at Newcastle’s training ground rather than St. James’ Park. Eddie Howe did name a strong side and basically played two 45-minute sessions with two different XIs. Joelinton scored a goal from the spot and added an assist. Sean Longstaff came away with the same stats. Miguel Almirón, meanwhile, bagged a brace and Matt Ritchie, still floating around this roster, chipped in with a goal himself. Allan Saint-Maximin pitched in with an assist. Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow were between the sticks for the first and second halves, while assumed first-choice leeper Nick Pope was kept out. Sven Botman was also left out of both XI’s.

Nottingham Forest

July 12 Burton Albion 0-1 Nottingham Forest

Recently signed from Liverpool, Neco Williams was not in the XI. However, considering his transfer price tag, he is pretty much assured a starting spot in the Forest defense, so for those looking for a 4m defender in FPL that will actually play, look no further…we definitely have at least one, for now. Forest, like most promoted sides, will likely go through a significant makeover between now and the transfer window, but, considering the fixtures are unkind for all three promoted sides this season, there does not feel like a rush to run out and find those sneaky players who will produce for very little cash. Taiwo Awoniyi, one of the major signings thus far for Forest, got action in this one, being handed a start, while Brennan Johnson, the only attacking player in this side getting any fantasy attention at the moment, was left out. The lone goal came ten minutes into the second half with a Cafu corner being headed home by veteran center back Steve Cook.

Southampton

Preseason starts July 16th

Tottenham

Preseason starts tonight, July 13th, in South Korea

West Ham

July 12th Ipswich Town 1-2 West Ham

July 12th Boreham Wood 1-1 West Ham

The Hammers went with a split squad to play a pair of friendlies last night. By the looks of the team sheets, the higher-tiered players in the squad, for the most part, were involved in the victory at Ipswich, while those farther down the pecking order took on Boreham Wood. In the Ipswich game, Kurt Zouma got the scoring started with a goal assisted by Michail Antonio, two names we are quite familiar with the match-winner coming in the second half from fringe youth player Daniel Chesters.

Probably the biggest name involved at Boreham Wood is Said Benrhama and, wouldn’t you know it, he was the one to grab the Hammers’ lone goal. Manuel Lanzini was also in this XI and given the armband. Perhaps the biggest news though was a second half substitute appearance from Angelo Ogbonna, who has been out of action with a ruptured ACL since last November, came on for the final twenty minutes and change here as he works his way back into contention.

Wolves

July 9 Wolves 3-0 Burnley

This was another behind-closed-doors friendly in the early going of the summer so information coming out of the contest is scant at best. Wolves were not bothered so much as to tweet out a Starting XI for this one but we at least know the names of those who scored the goals. Morgan Gibbs-White, who has been on the fringes for a while now but is reaching the age where now is the time to make a mark, scored the first goal. Chiquinho, who only played about 200 minutes in the league but did notch three assists in that time, scored the second. Daniel Podence, who, with two goals and three assists last season, was Wolves’ most “productive” winger, scored the third. Wolves will begin a preseason tournament on July 20 in Spain. Hopefully, those matches will offer a bit more information.