Image: Wikimedia Commons / Brad TutterowImage: Wikimedia Commons / Brad Tutterow
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Brad Tutterow

Boar Sport Expansion Draft: an abundance of pace?

Coming into our the draft on Monday, I knew that the best team wouldn’t be that with the biggest names, or the highest overall FIFA rating. What makes a team work so well is ensuring that there is a mix of experience and potential, consistent players, strong squad cohesion (especially important when bringing 18 new players together), and finally, an abundance of pace. Just under an hour and many excruciating decisions later, my squad was complete, fulfilling these categories to perfection.

I, like Sam and Luke, prioritised signing the big names first; the players who would bring in points and shirt sales. In my first three picks, I managed to secure Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the most well-rounded opening trio of players chosen in the draft.

Aubameyang, arguably the only truly special player in the current Arsenal set up, was an easy choice

It is somewhat impossible to describe Kevin De Bruyne’s game. His passing and vision is unmatched within the Premier League, earning him the title of the most consistent player in the division, and probably the best player overall. With Sam stealing Van Dijk away in the first round, I then opted for the second-best centre-back in the Premier League, Aymeric Laporte. His quality went somewhat unnoticed when he first came into the Manchester City side, but in his absence through injury, the error-prone Stones, Otamendi, and Ederson cost Man City countless points as Man City conceded more goals in LaPorte’s absence than they conceded throughout the entire season in 2018/19. For my third pick, I knew that I needed was a consistent goalscorer. Aubameyang, arguably the only truly special player in the current Arsenal set up, was an easy choice, having already scored 17 goals this season.

The best way to talk through the rest of my draft is to go position-by-position, explaining the reasoning behind my picks, and then compare them to their counterparts in Luke’s team.

Goalkeepers: Bernt Leno and Dean Henderson

Much like Aubameyang, Leno has consistently performed for Arsenal, going rather under the radar for many fans, having kept only seven clean sheets this season. Much of this, however, is down to incompetence from the men in front of him, specifically David Luiz and Sokratis, as shown by the very few mistakes Leno has made, and his shot-stopping ability that puts him in second-place for the most saves this season, behind only Martin Dubravka.

What is also necessary for any goalkeeper is a good back-up to keep them performing, or to replace them if they fail to deliver. Dean Henderson (England’s best goalkeeper, contrary to what Luke says) will perform that role perfectly. He has been the standout goalkeeper this season, keeping ten clean sheets for the newly promoted Sheffield United and looks likely to be a strong competitor for David De Gea’s spot when he returns to Manchester United. For Luke, whilst Pope and Guita may have performed well this season, I doubt their ability to perform at a higher level for a club anywhere above mid-table. When it comes to shot-stopping, I have the pick of the bunch.

I knew that I needed another equally-strong centre back to match him, for teams are undone by their reliance on one defender

Defenders: Laporte, Sanchez, Wan-Bisaaka, Cresswell, Betrand, Dunk

After acquiring Laporte, I knew that I needed another equally-strong centre back to match him, for teams are undone by their reliance on one defender. The much more physical Sanchez, who has managed to displace Vertonghen and Alderweireld at Spurs, fills this spot perfectly. The hot prospect of Wan-Bisaaka will provide attacking and defensive support (something Alexander-Arnold has not yet mastered) with his blistering pace and love for tackling. Aaron Cresswell, who will most likely leave West Ham if they get relegated, provides further attacking coverage on the left side. My two substitutes of Dunk and Bertrand also have important roles in the squad, with Dunk – a dependable centre-back – able to come on for the last five minutes to secure a 1-0 win, and Bertrand providing cover for the full-backs. Luke’s rather youthful approach has left him with an inexperienced, predominantly English defence, with no back-up centre-back. I would be very nervous about seeing play in the Euros.

Midfield: Moutinho, De Bruyne, Jorginho, Lundstram, Ward-Prowse

When I look at my midfield, what is immediately obvious is the plethora of top-flight experience these players possess. I have already spoken about De Bruyne, who will be supported by Joao Moutinho and Jorginho – two key players in their respective set-ups. After a shaky first season, Jorginho has now settled at Chelsea, dominating the pitch with his presence and replacing Kanté as the holding midfielder for the Blues. Moutinho offers his further playmaking skills and years’ worth of experience that would see him be my captain lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.

Jimenez adds further power to my front three and will unleash devastation upon any defence

Forwards: Adama Traore, Jimenez, Aubameyang, Ings, Deulofeu

When you look at my attack, there are two things that stand out: goalscoring and pace. With Adama Traore, this season’s breakout player, who possesses unparalleled dribbling, and Aubameyang both tearing up Premier League full-backs all season, I have no doubt that, in my team, they would be unstoppable. Jimenez adds further power to my front three, and when paired up with his Wolves counterpart, will unleash devastation upon any defence, with the duo teaming up for more goals/assists than any other pair in the Premier League this season. Danny Ings, who has scored 15 goals this season, will come off the bench as a super sub if my team needs a last-minute goal, whilst Deulofeu will finally be able to prove himself as the excellent winger I know he is. Luke has an equally deadly duo of wingers in Son and Salah, but I have my doubts surrounding Lacazette, who has lived in the shadow of Aubameyang since his arrival at Arsenal.

Overall, I am elated with my squad. My initial panic after failing to secure any Liverpool players quickly disappeared as I filled my roster. If my squad was to enter the Premier League against Liverpool next season, I would expect them to line up as follows:

4-3-3: Leno (GK), Cresswell (LB), Laporte (CB), Sanchez (CB), Wan-Bisaaka (RB), Moutinho (CM/Captain), De Bruyne (CAM), Jorginho (CM), Aubameyang (LW), Jimenez (ST), Traore (RW)- Substitutes: Henderson, Dunk, Betrand, Lundstraam, Ward-Prowse, Ings, Deulofeu

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