Edin Dzeko is amongst the goals again as City clinch victory at the Emirates. The champions’ joy is somewhat tempered by a red card that will see Vincent Kompany miss the next two league games – Roberto Mancini is likely to appeal, however. Mikel Arteta is ruled out of Arsenal’s double Gameweek with a calf injury, Robin Van Persie and Patrice Evra are amongst the points again for United, while Daniel Sturridge finds the net just 12 minutes into his league debut for Liverpool…
Dzeko Stakes a Claim
The Bosnian netted for the third Gameweek in a row and continues to banish his “supersub” tag with a series of strong displays for City. Dzeko has notched just once over the last six times he has climbed off the bench but is starting to suggest he is deserving of a regular role – despite missing a spot-kick, his goal, supplemented by a bonus point, means he has returned 26 points over his last trio of fixtures. With a FPL price tag of just 7.4, he’s an intriguing option for Roberto Mancini’s side but with Carlos Tevez returning to form with a pair of assists and Sergio Aguero expected to come back from a hamstring problem imminently, Dzeko’s acquisition doesn’t come without risk. A home clash against a Fulham side that have shipped 23 goals on their travels looks appealing – if Aguero fails to make it for next weekend, Dzeko would seem certain of another start and could be in the points once again.
Kompany Sees Red
The City skipper faces a three-match suspension after his dismissal at the Emirates yesterday afternoon. Kompany is now set to miss the next couple of league matches against Fulham and Reading in addition to the FA Cup Fourth Round clash with Crystal Palace – meaning he will be sidelined until the Gameweek 25 home clash with Liverpool. Post-match reports suggest Roberto Mancini is set to appeal the sending off, however, with the City boss critical of referee Mike Dean’s decision to dismiss the Belgian:
“It was not a sending off – I have seen the TV replays and he goes in with his left foot with his right foot trailing behind. It was absolutely not a red card.”
Judging by reports this morning, City’s appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears. Matija Nastasic’s prospects certainly look to be boosted if Kompany fails to have the ban overturned. The 5.6 defender had started 11 of the previous 12 prior to being rested for last week’s match with Stoke but looks nailed-on, with Joleon Lescott likely to partner him in the heart of defence. While many will feel Kompany’s absence will be significantly detrimental to City’s clean sheet potential over those two league games, it’s worth noting they’ve been pretty resilient in his absence this term, conceding just one goal in the three matches their captain has missed so far.
Arsenal Defensive Uncertainty
Arsene Wenger’s decision to pair Thomas Vermaelen with Laurent Koscielny added doubts over Per Mertesacker’s game time ahead of Arsenal’s double Gameweek. Koscielny had deputised for the German in the previous two after the latter was ruled out with illness but kept his place in spite of Mertesacker’s return – Koscielny lasted just nine minutes before being dismissed and will serve a one-match suspension in Wednesday’s FA Cup replay with Swansea but with question marks hanging over Wenger’s preferred central defensive pairing for the games against Chelsea and West Ham, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna look the safest options, with Wojciech Szczesny also nailed-on in goal.
Arteta Out for Gunners
Post-match, Arsene Wenger admitted Mikel Arteta is set to miss the next three weeks with a calf injury – a blow for the Spaniard’s owners ahead of the double Gameweek. Arteta’s absence also means that Arsenal will now go into their games against Chelsea and West Ham without their first-choice penalty taker; the former Everton man has notched three times from the spot in recent matches and despite missing a penalty in the Gameweek 11 draw with Fulham, remained Wenger’s preferred option. After the Cottagers’ draw, Olivier Giroud revealed the Arsenal manager “has a list” of alternatives, – Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Giroud look the likeliest to get their turn, though it’s unclear as to the pecking order.
Evra’s Attacking Returns
A pair of assists from Patrice Evra maintained his recent form as the United left-back rose to the top of the FPL defender standings with a crucial contribution in the win over Liverpool. The Frenchman supplied the pass for Robin Van Persie’s opener before his off-target header was deflected beyond Pepe Reina courtesy of Nemanja Vidic – up to four goals and five assists for the season, Evra currently sits on 103 points and looks well positioned to retain his title of top scoring FPL defender for the second season in succession. In spite of just four clean sheets, Evra’s consistency of selection means he has missed just a single game for United this term; he continues to look the only guaranteed starter in Sir Alex Ferguson’s defence and with attacking returns and bonus in four of his last five, the 7.0 priced defender is set to pick up further investment as winter wildcards continue to be wielded.
United Injury Worries
Earlier last week, Ferguson had revealed he intended to alternate Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the United back-four, with Jonny Evans looking like the first-choice pick but the latter’s withdrawal due to a hamstring problem allowed the Serbian to partner Ferdinand against Liverpool. Vidic duly delivered his best Fantasy haul of the season, with an 11 point return accrued thanks to a goal and maximum bonus but the club’s official website reported he was subbed off with a knee problem late on. With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both coming on as subs, United have options at the back ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup replay with West Ham – post-match, Ferguson spoke of Evans’ situation:
“Jonny Evans felt his hamstring yesterday afternoon. I was at Nottingham [watching Forest v Peterborough] and got a message at half-time. He trained in the morning so it was strange. But Vidic and Ferdinand are experienced and you can’t say any more than that. They were brilliant.”
According to reports in the Times, Ashley Young is another concern for United. The winger is believed to have left Old Trafford on crutches after being subbed off at the break following a collision with Daniel Agger. Having started seven of the last eight , Young seemed to have cemented a regular role in the United XI – any potential absence could see Antonio Valencia return to the first-team fold. Valencia was dropped for the previous match at Wigan after producing a single assist since Gameweek 9 and with Shinji Kagawa back, in addition to a potential return for Wayne Rooney in midweek, Ferguson certainly has alternatives if the former Villa man is indeed ruled out.
Van Persie Nets Yet Again
Another game, another goal for Robin Van Persie as the league leaders won at Old Trafford for the eighth game in succession. Ferguson chose to drop Javier Hernandez despite the Mexican producing three goals and a pair of assist in his last two matches and while Danny Welbeck again drew a blank, “Robin Reliant” delivered once more. The Dutchman is now 26 points ahead of his nearest challenger at the top of the FPL standings and with a run of consistency that has produced a goal or assist in 17 of his 19 starts, he continues to attract major investment despite a price tag of 14.1. United’s upcoming schedule pits them against seven of the current bottom 10 in the next 10 Gameweeks, affording Van Persie plenty opportunity to rack up more significant scores.
Although Welbeck’s blank continued a run that has seen him score just once this season, his manager was more than happy with the forward’s contribution and explained the tactical thinking behind his selection:
“Danny was fantastic. I thought he gave them a real hard day of it, the two centre-backs. He and Robin, particularly in the first half, gave them a very difficult time. The reason Danny played was because we wanted someone who would drop on top of their centre-midfield player. He did that well and put in a great shift. He ran his legs off today and deserved the Man of the Match award.”
Liverpool Attacking Options Increase
Daniel Sturridge climbed off the bench to notch a goal on his league debut for the Reds to hint at his mid-price potential yesterday. Brendan Rodgers has admitted the former Chelsea man is not yet 100% fit and is likely to continue with this tactic as he builds up Sturridge’s match-fitness but it’s clear he’ll offer a real alternative in the Reds’ first XI, with a 7.3 price tag likely to entice many. Sturridge was handed the advanced forward role as Luis Suarez dropped deep to accommodate the new boy – backing up Rodgers’ intentions to change the Uruguayan’s role. Not surprisingly, Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for his new striker as he clung to the major positive from Sunday’s defeat…
“You have seen from a half-appearance (at Old Trafford) and 55 last weekend (when he scored on his debut against Mansfield in the FA Cup) that this boy is a goalscorer and what he needed was an opportunity. He got one goal (against United) and was unlucky with a couple of opportunities. He is going to be a terrific signing for us…I have been assessing him in training and he is coming back. If I thought he could have lasted the game I would have put him in. Sometimes you can rush them back too quickly and break them and I didn’t want to do that. He is certainly getting there with his work-rate every day. It is just a case of building him into it.”
The 2-1 Old Trafford defeat saw Steven Gerrard maintain his superb recent consistency – an assist for Sturridge’s consolation means the Liverpool skipper has scored or assisted in seven of his last eight matches. Now up to third in the FPL midfielder standings, Gerrard is proving a real differential with an ownership of under 6% and could prosper once again next weekend as Norwich roll up to Anfield – while trips to Arsenal and City may deter many, Liverpool’s schedule looks particularly enticing from Gameweek 26; with the 9.4 priced Gerrard now just 10 points behind Suarez after yesterday’s result. With Fabio Borini now fit and available, Rodgers certainly has plenty options in his attacking front three – Raheem Sterling’s game time continues to look less appealing by the week; he has now managed 90 minutes just once in the last five, with Rodgers clearly feeling fatigue has played a part in a series of displays that have harvested just a goal and assist in the last 10 for the teenager.