Manchester United shook the Premier League and Fantasy football world to its core last night with the confirmation they have agreed terms with Arsenal for the transfer of Robin Van Persie. With just two days to go before Saturday’s deadline, Fantasy managers have been handed a major dilemma as they weigh up the impact of the Dutchman’s departure from the Emirates and the possible knock-on effects for both sides in the season ahead:
Speaking on the transfer earlier today, Sire Alex Ferguson couldn’t hide his delight before going on to reveal that he expects to have the new boy available for United’s Gameweek 1 match at Everton:
It’s great to have a player of Van Persie’s qualities coming into the squad. He is on his way up from London, he will have a medical later this afternoon and we hope that goes according to plan. His agent is in talks with David [Gill]. Hopefully everything will be tied up by the end of the day. I am sure he will be available for Monday’s game
Van Persie’s career began at the age of 14 in the youth set-up of Dutch club SBV Excelsior, though he left for Feyenoord just a year later. Promoted to the first-team squad due to injuries to others, he made his debut in the 2001/02 campaign, providing two assists in 10 league matches, but Van Persie’s game time at the club was somewhat limited due to regular spats with then-manager Bert Van Marwijk. His final two campaigns produced 15 goals and seven assists from 51 appearances and, having refused to extend his contract, he was snapped up by Arsenal in May 2004.
Over his subsequent eight seasons at the Emirates, Van Persie has been plagued with injuries; indeed, only twice in his first six campaigns for Arsene Wenger’s side did he manage to notch more than 10 goals. Gradually shifted from a left winger to a more central role, he notched 48 times and provided 31 assists in 131 games between 2004-05 and 2009-10 but each of his first four campaigns were blighted by injury – toe, knee and metatarsal problems kept him sidelined for a significant amount of time.
Named Arsenal’s Player of the Year for his displays in 2008-09, the following season saw Van Persie installed as the lone frontman in a new 4-3-3 system after Emmanuel Adebayor’s departure to Man City but, having made a strong start to the campaign, he was sidelined for five months with an ankle problem soon after signing a new long-term contract. The Dutchman’s start to the 2010-11 campaign was quickly curtailed by another ankle injury in the opening month but, after returning to goalscoring ways in January 2011, Van Persie proceeded to demonstrate the sensational form that made him the most formidable Fantasy player around in the past season-and-a-half, with 48 goals and 21 assists from his last 63 matches for the London outfit. The 29-year-old has also featured 68 times for his national side and found the net on 28 occasions.
There are two schools of thought on the United situation and at the moment the move raises more questions than answers. On the one hand, a partnership with Wayne Rooney looks mouth-watering and could be set to boost both players’ Fantasy appeal – with last season’s top two Fantasy Premier League (FPL) players leading the line, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could be on course to top their 89 goals from the previous campaign as they attempt to wrestle the title back from City. Having added the creativity of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, Ferguson is clearly intent on banishing the ghosts of last term, which saw his side suffer the ignominy of being pipped to the title on goal difference in the dying seconds of the season.
Alternatively, the acquisition of Van Persie could, potentially, reduce the appeal of Van Persie and Rooney. When on the pitch last season, the Dutchman had a hand in 54.2% of all Arsenal’s goals in the league; with set-pieces and spot-kicks in the bag, he was certainly the more stable of the two players and produced the goods away from home far more consistently than Rooney – this, however, was playing as a lone frontman for the Gunners in a system that has served him so well over the past couple of seasons. The sceptics will point to his form for Holland, for example, to illustrate the fact that there are no guarantees that “Arsenal’s Van Persie” will offer the same sort of output as the one plying his trade at Old Trafford.
There are several factors for Fantasy managers to consider which will, in all likelihood, only be clarified at the season unfolds. Ferguson’s tactics will be a key factor – will he move away from his 4-4-2 to incorporate his two marquee signings or will Van Persie and Kagawa simply find a place within United’s default formation? Quite where the Dutchman will find his place in the set-piece and spot-kick pecking order is another matter of concern – will he usurp Rooney for penalties or free-kicks or will the pair share duties? Kagawa is also more than capable of executing stunning set-piece delivery and is likely to be in the mix here, too. Bearing in mind that the EA Sports Player Performance Index is considerably weighted towards goalscorers, the captaincy issue is also a major point of concern – a converted penalty could, in any given Gameweek, potentially see a six point swing between Van Persie and Rooney, depending on who has the Fantasy armband.
Rotation is also a major issue. Van Persie played all 38 of Arsenal’s games last term, with only one of his appearances coming from the bench – the same scenario seems unlikely at Old Trafford, with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez also pushing for game time. Ferguson will be desperate to avoid a repeat of last season’s European failure, where his side failed to get past the Champions League Group Stages and could be set for a “horses for courses” approach as his side fight for silverware on several fronts. Considering that Ferguson has just handed Welbeck a new contract and spoken of his expectations for a much improved season from Hernandez, it’s obvious the pair offer a greater threat to Van Persie’s starts than Marouane Chamakh ever did at Arsenal. As Ferguson went on to say this afternoon:
If you go back to 1999 season and we had Dwight and Andy and Teddy and Ole Gunnar – the four best strikers in Europe – and we are getting back towards that now. We have got Chicharito, we have got Wayne, we have got Robin, we have got Danny Welbeck and we have got Kagawa. That is a fantastic combination of players. Hopefully I pick the right combinations.
The Everton game aside, United’s opening schedule (FUL, sot, WIG) is surely set to attract significant investment. While Ferguson has hinted Van Persie should feature at Goodison, much may depend on the forward’s fitness – following his Euro 2012 involvement with Holland, he has featured only as a brief second-half sub against Cologne last Sunday for Arsenal and could well be eased into action, with plenty of alternatives on offer for United. Rooney could be the safer option to start off with, though as the Dutchman showed last term, there is no one quite as reliable in the domestic game.
From an Arsenal perspective, the move is set to boost the appeal of their trio of new signings prior to the Gunners’ Gameweek 1 home clash against Sunderland. Arsene Wenger admitted yesterday that there will be no influx of attacking players in light of Van Persie’s departure at the Emirates, having already acquired Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud in anticipation of the move.
Giroud looks set to lead the line in the 4-2-3-1 formation; a system he flourished in at Montpellier last term, with 21 goals and nine assists firing his side to the Ligue 1 title – priced at 9.0 in FPL and 8.7 in the Sky Sports game, his FPL price in particular now looks far more appealing with game time looking guaranteed. Podolski comes in at 8.5 in both games and, while he is likely to feature wide left, was handed spot-kicks in the club’s last game, though it’s worth noting that Mikel Arteta missed out with a knock and could also be in with a shout. Cazorla – at 9.0 and 6.7 in the two games respectively – is now likely to take over free-kicks and should also grab a fair share of corners, too. All three look very reasonably priced and are set to be hugely instrumental figures as Wenger seeks to push on from the loss of a club captain for the second season in a row.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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