The Scout Preview - Gameweek 1
Four of last season’s top six are on their travels as The Scout casts an eye over the first round of fixtures of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season.
Champions Manchester City open their title defence with a testing trip to Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon. Big-spending Chelsea make their way to promoted Burnley, Everton travel to Championship winners Leicester City, while Tottenham Hotspur visit West Ham United in Mauricio Pochettino’s first match in charge.
Elsewhere, Louis van Gaal makes his debut bow as manager of Manchester United with a home clash against Swansea City, last season’s runners-up Liverpool entertain Southampton at Anfield and Arsenal welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium in an all-London showdown on Saturday evening.
Louis Van Gaal’s arrival at Manchester United has seen a new 3-4-1-2 formation introduced at Old Trafford. With injuries curtailing the game time of Luke Shaw, Rafael and Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young has came to prominence as a wing-back for the Red Devils and found the net on three occasions over the summer. Further up the field, Juan Mata has been handed his preferred central role behind a front two, and with Robin van Persie yet to return to action after playing for Holland in the World Cup and Danny Welbeck picking up a knock, Javier Hernandez has partnered Wayne Rooney up front in the last two matches.
Tottenham have also lined up in a new system over the summer. New manager Mauricio Pochettino has rolled out the 4-2-3-1 that helped steer Southampton to eighth place last season and the Argentine has mainly fielded compatriot Erik Lamela in the centre of the attacking midfield three, with Christian Eriksen on the flank. Lamela has subsequently scored three times during the close-season and, with a mere 2% ownership to Eriksen’s 13%, could be a real differential for our initial 15-man squads.
Jose Mourinho has utilised new boy Cesc Fabregas in a variety of roles over Chelsea’s pre-season friendlies. The Spaniard has been fielded in the double-pivot and has also been handed the role in “the hole” behind a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, whilst Mourinho has also trialled a 4-3-3 system with Fabregas as the most advanced central midfielder. The summer signing’s versatility looks vital to Mourinho’s plans for the season ahead with a share of set-pieces and corners, Fabregas now sits in 20% of Fantasy teams ahead of next Monday’s trip to Burnley.
By the numbers
With the pre-season schedule finally coming to an end on Tuesday evening, The Scout assesses the top scoring performers over the course of the close-season.
6 goals - Lukas Jutkiewicz (BUR)
5 goals - Glen Murray (CPL), Stevan Jovetic (MCY)
4 goals - Yaya Sanogo (ARS), Diego Costa (CHE), David Nugent (LEI), Wayne Rooney (MUN), Charlie Austin (QPR)
3 goals – Marvin Sordell (BUR), John Terry (CHE), Marouane Chamakh (CPL), Wes Morgan (LEI), Aleksandar Kolarov (MCY), Ashley Young (MUN), Emmanuel Riviere (NEW), David Hoilett (QPR), Bojan Krkic (STO), Steven Fletcher (SUN), Connor Wickham (SUN), Erik Lamela (TOT), Roberto Soldado (TOT)
Encouragingly, each of the three promoted teams boast a frontman with at least four goals to his name over the summer. Burnley’s Lukas Jutkiewicz – available for 5.0 – has notched six times since arriving from Middlesbrough earlier in the transfer window and looks set to partner the pricier Danny Ings (6.0) for The Clarets.
Leicester City’s David Nugent and Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin have both found the net on four occasions – both set Fantasy managers back 6.0, with Austin set to host Hull City, Sunderland and Stoke City in the first five Gameweeks. The R’s David Hoilett has chipped in with three goals from midfield, though the recent arrival of Jordon Mutch could place question marks over his starting role under Harry Redknapp.
Wayne Rooney ended the summer as Manchester United’s top scorer after netting four times. The England star has quickly found his form under Louis van Gaal and with Van Persie looking likely to miss the home match against Swansea, Rooney currently sits in over 43% of teams – 11% more than any other player in the game.
Chelsea’s Diego Costa has been quick to justify the hefty fee splashed out by Jose Mourinho over the summer. The former Atletico Madrid forward has scored four times ahead of back-to-back matches against promoted pair Burnley and Leicester City, while Blues skipper John Terry has proven a menace in the opposition box and grabbed three goals during the close-season.
Sunderland boast a pair of in-form forwards ahead of the weekend trip to West Bromwich Albion – both Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham have netted three times. Bojan Krkic and Emmanuel Riviere have settled quickly in new surrounds. The former has grabbed three goals for Stoke City, though has mainly been fielded on the right of a 4-2-3-1, whilst Newcastle United’s centre-forward Riviere has also found the net on three occasions.
Ones to Watch
Steven Caulker – snapped up by QPR over the summer, the centre-half’s threat in the opposition box saw him score five times for relegated Cardiff City last season. Caulker fired more shots from inside the box than any defender in the previous campaign and entertains a Hull City side that scored 18 times on the road in 2013/14, making him a strong contender for points at both ends of the pitch.
Erik Lamela – handed the number 10 position in new manager Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, the Argentine netted three times over the summer; more than any team-mate. After spending much of last season on the periphery, Lamela looks poised to play a prominent part in Tottenham’s attack this term and will be hoping to take advantage of a West Ham defence that conceded at least twice in five of their seven summer friendlies.
Philippe Coutinho – the star of the show in Liverpool’s weekend destruction of Borussia Dortmund. Fielded in “the hole” behind Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho’s inspirational display suggested he could finally be set to play a major role for the Reds this term. At home to a new-look Southampton, he currently sits in just 8% of midfields ahead of the weekend deadline.
Ashley Young – a spate of injuries looks set to hand the midfielder a starting role for Manchester United’s home clash with Swansea on Saturday. Young has impressed as a wing-back over the summer period – only Wayne Rooney scored more – and with a price tag of 5.5, offers Fantasy managers a budget-friendly option against a defence that managed just two clean sheets in 14 matches under Garry Monk last term.
Stevan Jovetic – with Alvaro Negredo injured and Sergio Aguero yet to feature this summer, the Montenegro international has grabbed his chance to impress. Jovetic has netted five times for the champions and looks poised to retain his starting role for Sunday’s trip to Newcastle – bearing in mind the Magpies managed just six clean sheets last term, Jovetic’s 5% owners will be confident the 8.0-priced forward can keep his form ticking over.