Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Martin Odegaard (£5.9m), Alexandre Lacazette (£8.1m) | Erik Lamela (£5.7m)
- Assists: Kieran Tierney (£5.2m)| Lucas Moura (£6.6m)
- Bonus: Odegaard x3, Lacazette x2, Tierney x1
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are two of the eight clubs who are in Premier League action in a decimated Blank Gameweek 29.
The north London sides faced one another on Sunday, with Mikel Arteta’s troops prevailing.
A superb ‘rabona’ from Erik Lamela (£5.7m) – later to be sent off for two bookable offences – had given Spurs a barely deserved lead before Arsenal turned the game around with a deflected effort from Martin Odegaard (£5.9m) and an Alexandre Lacazette (£8.1m) penalty.
The local derby left more questions than answers for Fantasy managers, however, with injuries, benchings and early substitutions casting a shadow over many of our plans.
Of primary concern to most Fantasy Premier League managers will be the fitness of Son Heung-min (£9.6m), who limped from the field of play after just 18 minutes of the north London derby.
Owned by more than one in two FPL bosses overall and over 75% of the top 10,000 (often a better gauge of popularity among ‘active’ managers), his availability in Gameweek 29 looks in some doubt – which will be particularly galling to those without a Free Hit chip to play this weekend.
It’s been less than 24 hours since full-time at the Emirates, so a prognosis and timeframe for recovery has yet to arrive.
It was certainly too early for Jose Mourinho to make any judgement call when he spoke to the media after the full-time whistle:
That’s football. I don’t know how long it is. It’s muscular. Muscular is always not easy. He’s a guy that normally recovers very, very well from any kind of injury.
That’s an accumulation of matches. In the Europa League the other day, I gave him 30 minutes rest… but 60 is still 60. And when you are in so many competitions, some players they have more minutes than others, which is normal. It’s something that can happen.
Son has since been called up by South Korea, with national team coach Paulo Bento saying:
We’re still waiting to learn more about the extent of his injury and the test result. When we have more information, we will decide whether or not he will be travelling to join our team in Japan.
OUT OF AUBA
Anyone interested in or already owning Arsenal’s two most-popular Fantasy assets also had an uncomfortable watch.
Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) was withdrawn at half-time with a hamstring injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) was an unused substitute for disciplinary reasons.
Their manager explained before and after kick-off:
We don’t know [about Saka]. He was feeling his hamstring, so we will monitor that.
[Aubameyang] was going to start the game. We had a disciplinary issue, we have drawn the line and we move on. We have a process that we have to respect for every game, and that’s it.
We deal with the situation on the day. That’s been done, now we move on. We know how important Auba is to us and he will continue to be really important.
And so all eyes and ears will be on Thursday’s Europa League ties, with both north London sides in continental action.
First and foremost, both managers will be giving us a press conference – most likely on Wednesday – ahead of their second-leg matches against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos.
If we hadn’t had any update on Saka or Son by that point, then that could be a crucial moment for Fantasy managers looking ahead to Blank Gameweek 29.
It’s not just manager quotes we’ll be looking out for, however.
The respective teamsheets may well be key to assessing which assets from Spurs and Arsenal merit our consideration in Blank Gameweek 29.
The Gunners, in particular, have been at the mercy of Arteta’s tinkering around Europa League ties.
Above: Arsenal players sorted by starts from Gameweeks 24-28
In between Gameweeks 24-28, Arsenal have faced Benfica twice and Olympiacos in the Europa League.
Only Bernd Leno (£5.0m) and Granit Xhaka (£5.2m) have escaped a benching in the league over that period, with Aubameyang and Saka most notably rested in the win over Leicester City at the back-end of February.
Prolonged run-outs for key Arsenal players this Thursday will plant seeds of doubt in our minds ahead of Gameweek 29, although the positives are that there will be no travel involved (this is the home tie) and that the Gunners already have a healthy 3-1 lead from the first leg.
Above: Spurs players sorted by starts from Gameweeks 24-28
Spurs do have some jet-setting to do, as they take on Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.
Mourinho has also tinkered as the Lilywhites juggle commitments home and abroad but the difference is that his core group of ‘undroppables’ – Son, Harry Kane (£11.4m) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£4.9m), for example – remain rotation-proof domestically.
As soon as Bale hit his purple patch, he too was spared in Europe to preserve his legs for the Premier League.
It may not always be the case if Spurs go deeper into the competition but for Gameweek 29, rotation may be less of a worry.
Son’s injury aside, the aforementioned Bale is perhaps the biggest concern.
Mourinho has already expressed doubts over his ability to string together a succession of starts, while his pitch-time continues to be monitored: he hasn’t lasted more than 70 minutes in a league game this calendar year.
He was hooked after less than an hour of the north London derby for a miserable one-pointer, with Mourinho explaining:
Intensity. Gareth and Tanguy, we need more intensity in that game. We need to press more. We need to get more depth. We need to be more intense in the game.
Only one FPL midfielder costs less money than Emile Smith Rowe (£4.2m).
The Arsenal man has started 11 of the last 12 league matches that he has been available for, registering five assists along the way.
He didn’t bank an attacking return on Sunday but he was a nuisance to Spurs all afternoon, despite playing on the left flank to accommodate Odegaard centrally.
His superb display brought praise from his manager and reminded us what a bargain he is in FPL at present:
I think he had a magnificent performance again as well. I think he shows not only quality but his personality, his intelligence on the pitch, his energy. He gives us something different. Today in a derby you need some individual performances and for sure he had one.
Odegaard, himself a cheap-ish purchase who is on a share of corner-taking duties, also received his manager’s plaudits:
He’s got a real stamina and he’s so talented, but his work-rate is incredible. Not only that, he’s intelligent. The timing of his runs, when he presses, his body shape. I’m really impressed and he had an incredible performance today. He’s giving us something different and it’s making us better.
As for Spurs, this was another match against a top-half club in which they have flattered to deceive.
Arsenal were coincidentally the last team in the current top ten that the Lilywhites beat in the league, way back in Gameweek 11.
Since then, their victories have come against Leeds United (12th), Sheffield United (20th), West Bromwich Albion (19th), Burnley (15th), Fulham (18th) and Crystal Palace (11th).
Their record against teams in the top half in that time is:
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals For||Goals Against|
Kane doesn’t have attacking returns in any of those matches, Son just the one.
Lamela’s outrageous strike in the north London derby was the only shot that Spurs registered in the first 70 minutes, although a late flurry saw Kane rattle the post with a free-kick and have a headed effort ruled out for offside.
Up next in Gameweek 29 is ninth-place Aston Villa, which doesn’t bode well given what we have discussed above, but the consolation is that Dean Smith’s side are in pretty poor shape themselves; the Villains sit in the bottom half for form over their last six, eight, 10 and 12 matches.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cedric, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Smith Rowe (Willian 77), Odegaard, Saka (Pepe 46); Lacazette (Elneny 88).
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Doherty, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Reguilon; Ndombele (Alli 62), Hojbjerg; Bale (Sissoko 57), Moura, Son (Lamela 19); Kane.
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