A 2-0 home loss at the hands of the champions was hardly the ideal preparation for Arsenal ahead of their double Gameweek. Sitting in sixth place in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger’s side are 21 points off the summit and brace themselves for a pair of all-London fixtures, as they roll up to the Bridge next Sunday before entertaining West Ham at the Emirates the following Wednesday.
Prior to discussing their potential, it’s also worth noting Arsenal’s fixtures following on from the double. Wenger’s side then have three home games in four (LIV, STO, sun, AVL) which are likely to offer them further chance to benefit – a factor which could well be crucial when weighing up any acquisitions. Our upcoming “Frisking the Fixtures” article attests to that, highlighting the value of snapping up the Gunners’ main assets not only for this Gameweek but over the next few as well.
An opening trip to Chelsea will afford Wenger a degree of optimism, given that the majority of the Blues’ home performances have been somewhat lethargic under Rafa Benitez. A total of 14 goals in six games in all competitions at the Bridge sounds reasonable but all those strikes have come in two matches – aside from the 8-0 hammering of Villa in Gameweek 18 and a 6-1 demolition of Champions League whipping boys FC Nordsjælland, the Blues have drawn blanks four times. Outside of the Emirates, Arsenal have been defensively strong – a total of nine goals against is joint-top for least goals conceded of any away side so far, with four clean sheets also accrued on their travels. A return of 15 goals scored over 11 road trips is a little worrying for their Fantasy owners, though.
Of the two games, the midweek match against the Hammers is the one that Fantasy managers will be targeting as their main source of points. Similar to Chelsea, Wenger’s side have been erratic at home but have shown they are more than capable of harvesting goals in any given Gameweek – they’ve hit five past Spurs, six past Southampton and seven past Newcastle at the Emirates. On the other hand, Arsenal have either notched once or failed to score in five of their 10 home games. At the back, their clean sheet prospects will be boosted by West Ham’s dire away form; Sam Allardyce’s side have scored just five times on the road and while they arrive on the back of a 3-0 hammering at Sunderland, they tend to keep it tight on their travels and have conceded more than a single goal in just four of their 10 away games so far.
The Likely Lads
Theo Walcott has already racked up over 20,000 transfers in ahead of the double – twice the number of any other Gunners asset. A move to the lone forward role has boosted Walcott’s appeal and with attacking returns in seven of his last nine, he’s been the most consistent Arsenal performer in recent months; a price of 9.1 looks set to rise, though Wenger’s side have still to come through a midweek FA Cup home replay with Swansea unscathed.
Santi Cazorla sits fourth in the midfielder standings; an indication of his impact in his debut season at the Emirates. In comparison to Walcott, he has scored or assisted in just three of the last nine, though – his returns have been far more erratic but a 23 point haul at Reading in Gameweek 17 (one of three sets of double figures) highlights his capabilities.
Lukas Podolski looks the safest forward in terms of game time. The German international has started all but two of his side’s matches so far but a role on the left of the attacking midfield three has somewhat limited his returns. The absence of Mikel Arteta means the role of penalty-taker is up for grabs – according to quotes from Wenger, Podolski is next in line, followed by Walcott, then Cazorla. Priced at 8.2, many are looking at swapping out Demba Ba for Podolksi after Chelsea’s double. While Olivier Giroud is similarly priced, the Frenchman has failed to start since Gameweek 16 and is likely to rely on time off the bench to make any sort of impact.
From an attacking perspective, Kieran Gibbs has been the most impressive in defence. The 5.6 priced left-back has registered five assists so far and looks a guaranteed starter over the pair of fixtures – Wenger’s decision to select Laurent Koscielny ahead of Per Mertesacker casts doubt over his preferred central defensive pairing heading into the weekend deadline; Koscielny will sit out a one-match suspension against the Swans on Wednesday, affording the German the chance to slot in alongside Thomas Vermaelen once again. While the Belgian and Bacary Sagna have both produced the goods in seasons gone by, neither player has any attacking returns to their name this term, suggesting their acquisition comes with a risk attached.
Wojciech Szczesny looks a safe bet heading into the pair of fixtures. The stopper has averaged four points per game so far – second only to Gibbs’ 4.3 ppg at the back – and at 5.3 offers a cheaper defensive alternative to the left-back.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has started the last six league matches and seems to have cemented a role on the right as a result of Walcott’s move up top. Coming in at 7.2 in FPL, the youngster has less than 1% ownership and has scored or assisted in two of his last three at the Emirates – the one blank came on Sunday, when he was sacrificed for Mertesacker after 11 minutes, following Koscielny’s dismissal against City.
Our final selection doesn’t come without substantial risk. Indeed, by the time you’ve finished reading this very sentence, Abou Diaby could have sustained another one of his injuries but the Frenchman looks the obvious deputy for Arteta alongside Jack Wilshere in the double-pivot. At 6.1 in FPL, he’s the cheapest of Wenger’s likely midfield starters over the pair of fixtures and his marauding runs from deep could come to fruition, providing he manages to avoid any problems over the next few days.