Ryo Miyaichi catches the eye in his first start for Bolton. Daniel Sturridge saves Chelsea’s blushes at the Bridge, Royston Drenthe inspires Everton to a comfortable win over Blackpool, while the defensive woes pile up for Arsene Wenger as the Gunners are sent packing at Sunderland:
Subject of our Gameweek 25 Spot the Differential article, Bolton’s on-loan midfielder vindicated out recent praise with a goal in his first start. Miyaichi impressed coming off the bench last weekend against Wigan and was rewarded with a place in the Trotters’ first XI at Millwall yesterday, as Owen Coyle rang the changes after an insipid defeat at the hands of the Latics. The youngster wasted little time in endearing himself to the travelling support, outpacing the home defence before slotting home a composed finish with just over three minutes on the clock. Priced at 4.9, he could offer a decent cut-price midfield option if he can nail down that left wing role, though with trips to Chelsea and City up next, many will be reluctant to invest in Bolton options right now.
He’s been nothing more than a peripheral figure for the Trotters this term but the on loan Wolfsburg man was afforded a rare start by Coyle yesterday. The Bolton boss dropped both Martin Petrov and Chris Eagles for the Millwall game and Tuncay made his mark, setting up David N’Gog for his side’s second in the 2-0 win. Coyle also drafted in Tim Ream (priced at 4.0 in FPL) for his debut, with the US international partnering David Wheater in central defence; Zat Knight dropped down to the bench, as the visitors chalked up a rare clean sheet.
The forward came to the rescue for Chelsea, grabbing the equaliser against Birmingham to force a replay at St Andrews on Tuesday March 6. Sturridge has been woefully off-form over the last couple of months, having failed to score since Gameweek 17 but, with Bolton, West Brom and Stoke up next for the London outfit, has perhaps found himself back on Fantasy radars on the back of yesterday’s goal. Andre Villas-Boas’ side were poor once again, though; booed off the pitch at full-time, their performance will be a worry for any Fantasy owners, with those managers who are currently considering a punt possibly thinking twice now.
With Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba starting from the bench, Mata was the automatic choice when his side were awarded a first half spot-kick. He fluffed his lines, however, as Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle dived low to his right to turn the Spaniard’s effort onto the post. It’s perhaps unlikely Mata would have been handed the penalty if either Lampard or Drogba were on the pitch, though yesterday’s miss will hardly have helped his chances in staying ahead of the pair in the pecking order.
It seems the arrival of Steven Pienaar has spurred the Dutchman back into life. With Pienaar cup-tied for yesterday’s game against Blackpool, Drenthe was afforded a chance on the Everton left by David Moyes and was quick off the mark, netting inside 60 seconds to give the Merseysiders an early advantage. Drenthe soon followed this up with a corner-kick assist for Denis Stracqualursi five minutes later, as the home side took command at Goodison. Given the recent performances of Pienaar, however, it still seems that Drenthe will be consigned to a bench role when Everton return to league duties in Gameweek 27, with the latter’s defensive work and understanding with Leighton Baines on the flank looking likely to see him given the nod.
The Argentine is starting to acclimatise to the demands of the English game after a slow beginning to his loan spell at Goodison. Stracqualursi had made a single start in the first 22 Gameweeks of the season, with eight brief sub appearances also thrown in, but has featured in the first XI for the last three league now, grabbing a goal in last week’s win over Chelsea. He netted again yesterday, prodding home from a corner, and with big-money signing Nikica Jelavic still sidelined with a stomach problem, is making a strong case for further first-team contention. Everton have a blank Gameweek, followed by a (qpr, TOT, ARS) but, as their recent victories –and clean sheets- against City and Chelsea have suggested, Moyes’ side are starting to pick up pace in the second half of the season once again.
With Grant Holt afforded the day off by Paul Lambert, Steve Morison partnered Simeon Jackson up top for the Canaries. Wes Hoolahan grabbed the spot-kick duties in Holt’s absence, netting from the rebound after Kasper Schmeichel had saved his initial effort. Given they haven’t been beaten at home since Gameweek 12, yesterday’s 2-1 Carrow Road defeat at the hands of Leicester proved a huge surprise for Norwich, though- up next they play host to the champions, as United roll up in Gameweek 26.
Despite having excelled in his brief stint on the left flank in Gervinho’s recent African Cup of Nations absence, many had expected the youngster to drop to the bench upon the Ivorian’s return. Gervinho did, indeed, come straight back into the first XI but Arsene Wenger shifted Oxlade-Chamberlain over to the right instead, with a below-par Theo Walcott dropping to the bench. Oxlade-Chamberlain managed the full 90 minutes – though this was perhaps down to injuries to others forcing Wenger’s hand -and it’s clear that the Arsenal boss views him as a serious alternative to Walcott. With an FPL price difference of 6.0 compared to Walcott’s 8.8, the mid-price appeal of Oxlade-Chamberlain is obvious. A late own goal somewhat dampened his day but his performance was far from the worst in a dire Gunners display.
Arsenal Defensive Woes
This week saw Per Mertesacker sidelined with a long-term ankle injury, while Laurent Koscielny limped out of Wednesday’s 4-0 hammering in Milan. Arsenal’s options at the back were further decimated yesterday, ahead of the north London derby against Spurs. Wenger chose to omit Kieran Gibbs as a precautionary measure at the Stadium of Light, with Francis Coquelin slotting in at left-back for the Gunners. Coquelin’s day lasted just 10 minutes, though, as he limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury. Sebastien Squillaci was sent on, moving into the heart of defence, but failed to cover himself in glory- he deflected the Black Cats opener past Lukasz Fabianksi before being subbed off early in the second half with a knock. Alex Song dropped into central defence for the remainder of the game and, given that Aaron Ramsey was also subbed off with an ankle knock, Wenger has no shortage of problems for next Sunday’s derby.
A place at left-back has dented his Fantasy potential and with the emergence of James McClean on the Sunderland wing, Richardson’s best bet for a starting role may be as part of the Black Cats’ defensive unit. At the back, Martin O’Neill’s side have impressed of late; they had chalked up four clean sheets in six prior to last week’s league defeat at the hands of Arsenal but this time managed to keep the visitors at bay, in another intelligent defensive display. A deflected opener also served a reminder of Richardson’s eye for goal, suggesting Wayne Bridge faces a real struggle to establish himself in the Black Cats XI.