I review the points of interest from last night’s International Champions Cup friendly matches from an FPL perspective
Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool – Observed 90 minutes
Notes (Man City)
The most interesting take from this friendly match and likely the bit of information that could have the greatest implications from an FPL perspective, is the formation City used.
It took a while in all honesty to break it down as they’re so fluid, but eventually, I and my good friend Nick (FFAnalysts_Nick) worked out they were using a 352 formation.
By all means, not an entirely new system. For those who were paying attention last year and have good memories, City actually began last season with a 352 and it was only the bad injury to Mendy that forced them to change their system to the 433.
So, as you can see from the above graphic, this formation doesn’t include wingers, but rather the width being provided by the wing backs.
This could have major implications for how Pep plans to use Sterling and Sané in particular. My guess, is that in the games where City feel they can completely dominate the game, they won’t need a defensive minded WB and thus, will use Sané, but in the games where they may feel they can be hurt down the wings, they will use Mendy.
Sterling will likely be used up front in rotation with Jesus/Agüero, in the same role Southgate used him in for the World Cup for England.
We, of course, can’t be certain of all that, but I feel that the formation they use in the Community Shield will be the telling one in terms of how serious Pep is about using the 352.
City, despite fielding a very young side, dominated the ball regardless in the first half and played some good stuff without hurting Liverpool too much.
Riyad Mahrez was floating around the right hand side of the centre and the wing and got forward plenty. He demonstrated some lovely touches and passes and generally looked sharp and on his game.
He had a decent attempt from a free kick roughly 25 yards out, but it was comfortably dealt with, surprisingly, by Karius. He took just about every set piece there was to take.
In the second half, Bernado Silva came on for Diaz in the supporting striker role and Leroy Sané came on for Nmecha up front.
As soon as those two came on, City’s attacks were much sharper, as Sané’s pace up front looked to unsettle Van Dijk.
In the 57th minute, Silva received a pass, and with a lovely little turn in the middle of the park, created the space to release a lovely through ball to get Sané on his bike – up against Van Dijk, Sané breezed past him effortlessly and confidently slotted the ball low into the bottom corner from the left, past Kelleher (came on for Karius).
After that, Liverpool dominated the game.
Despite fielding a much stronger side, Liverpool took a fair while to get going. They weren’t closing down in their typical energetic fashion, and that meant City could largely control possession and the pace of the game.
Because they weren’t having that much of the game in first half and in the start of the second, Andrew Robertson was unable to influence the game in anyway. He was removed on 62 minutes for Moreno.
Lallana looked comfortable and back to his old self, floating around the spaces and demonstrating some good touches in tight areas.
Mané was already on at half time and looked extremely sharp, but it wasn’t until Salah came on in the 62nd minute that Liverpool, as a team, really woke up.
In the 63rd minute, a minute after being substituted on, Salah scored with a header after supposedly breaking the offside trap – it was shown on the replays that Salah was in fact just offside, but the movement, again, was excellent and it was an easy finish from close range
From that point on, Liverpool turned into the Liverpool we know. They were much more energetic, closed everything down and Salah and Mané were creating chances for each other left, right and centre.
A few minutes after scoring the goal, Mané produced an excellent run down the left, hit the byline, and chipped a ball to the back post with Salah running onto it to head it home – the shot was blocked by Humphreys on the line.
Moments after that, Salah got played in again and one on one with the keeper, just right centre of the goal, he chipped the ball beyond the keeper and onto the bar. He should really have buried that one but again, the movement and energy was electric.
Mané was highly impressive also and received numerous chances, which he fluffed until finally, right at the end, Liverpool were rightly awarded a penalty, and Mané stuck it in.
I personally think Salah allowed him to take that penalty, as he had been missing a lot and Salah was already on the scoresheet. I think generally, Salah will take their penalties but there will be times where he might let someone else have it.
AS Roma 1-4 Spurs – observed first 45 minutes (score 1-3 at HT)
No surprises in terms of the formation from Spurs, what perhaps was surprising, was how sharp they were.
After conceding an early goal, Spurs were fantastic. They responded very quickly with a rather fortunate goal it must be said, with Llorente finishing a close range header after Amos’ shot was deflected high in the air.
9 minutes after getting the equaliser, Lamela put in a fantastic curling cross from the left hand side which superbly found Lucas, who’s volley was parried by the keeper right into the path of the poaching Llorente who tapped home from 4 yards out.
10 minutes after that, Aurier receives it on the right hand side and puts in a brilliant cross, which found Lucas again and this time, he finds the back of the net with his head from roughly 8 yards out to make it 3-1. Lucas’ movement was excellent again for the goal.
Eriksen looked himself with no signs of any fatigue, gliding around the pitch creating space. In the 12th minute, he received the ball on the edge of the box and curled a beautiful looking shot onto the right hand post.
In the second half, Spurs made it 4-1, with Lucas getting on the scoresheet again after receiving the ball on the edge of the box, a lovely touch to get past his man and finishing with an accurate low finish into the bottom right hand corner.
Safe to say that the stand out performer was Lucas Moura with 2 goals and 1 assist (rebounded shot for Llorente’s second goal).
AC Milan 1-1 Man United – Observed first 45 minutes (score 1-1 at HT)
Luckily, I managed to catch both goals in this game as the match went on to finish 1-1.
United started the game excellently and in contrary to their first two friendlies, they were sharp and passed it around quickly and crisply.
Sanchez, once again, was sparkling and in the 12th minute, he gave United the lead. A long ball down the pitch from the GK was headed on to Mata who excellently flicked it through to Sanchez who’s first touch put him through on goal slightly left of centre, and he confidently slotted the ball beyond the keeper into the bottom right hand corner.
Just 3 minutes after however, Tuanzebe went to sleep and his marker, Suso, got away from him and was found brilliantly by Bonucci with a long through ball over the top, which was expertly dispatched by the Spaniard into the bottom corner with no chance for Grant.
Like with Man City, the main take away from this match, was the formation change to 352 and how much balance it appeared to give the team.
Shaw looked sharp on the left and was providing consistent threat from wide areas and the combination of Mata and Sanchez up front was working beautifully – Sanchez was the stand-out performer from what I saw.
If United stick with the 352, and it’s a good bet they will with recent reports from Sky Sports stating that an approach has been made for Harry Maguire, then I can see a combination of Sanchez and Lukaku up front doing some serious damage – from a United and FPL perspective, let’s hope the 352 sticks!
Atletico 1-1 Arsenal – 90 mins observed
This is the first chance I’ve had to view Arsenal under Emery and from what I saw, I can’t say that too much is different to how they played under Wenger.
Of course the formation looks set to be a 4231 now, but Wenger was no stranger to that tactic before he switched it to a 343.
For large spells in this match, Arsenal dominated possession, especially in the first half where they had 66% of the ball at HT. They also created plenty of attacks and generally played in that same attacking, fluid manner that they did under Wenger.
Lacazette looks like he could be the one who gets the number 9 role, with Aubameyang out on the left. Lacazette did okay. His movement is always very good but his hold up play needs work and he did get 3 chances, and failed to beat Oblak.
Aubameyang looked sharp on the ball and was neat and tidy with his contributions but didn’t really get much in the way of opportunities, with his only sight at goal coming when a corner found him deep in the box and he volleyed it into the ground and wide of the goal.
Ramsey operated deeper but seems as though he has the same licence to get forward as he did under Wenger. He also looked fit and sharp and provided 2 of Lacazette’s 3 chances.
Bellerin got forward a lot and looked very threatening, as he usually does, on the right hand side. His opposite number on the other side, Kolasinac, did not get forward as much and his contributions to the game were limited.
Arsenal’s goal came from the outstanding player in Smith-Rowe, who excellently guided a shot from range into the top corner (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a watch).
Defensively, they looked vulnerable, and conceded in typical fashion as Holding was beaten far too easily on the left of the penalty area by Correa, who found Vietto in space in the box and he expertly guided his header beyond Leno.
On the hour mark, the majority of the team that started went off, with only Kolasinac and Guendouzi staying on, and they switched to a 343.
Mkhitaryan was one of the players that came on, and replaced Nelson on the right hand side. He displayed some decent touches in possession, but Atletico were strong in the second half and didn’t allow Arsenal to dominate like they did in the first half, so Mkhitaryan’s influence was stifled.
If this game was anything to go by, we can largely expect the same from Arsenal this season. I think plenty of goals from good attacking play but I can also see the defence remaining somewhat vulnerable – it may take time for Emery to solve that problem.