Arsenal come back from a goal down to run riot against West Ham at the Emirates. Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla all end the double Gameweek with double figures points hauls as the Gunners register their first win in four attempts. Elsewhere, Swansea progress to the Capital One Cup Final after a goalless draw with Chelsea, though Eden Hazard looks set for a spell on the sidelines after receiving his marching orders for assaulting a ballboy:
Giroud Stakes a Central Claim
Prior to the double, Olivier Giroud had started just one of Arsenal’s last seven league matches – as a result, just over 13,000 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers took a punt on the out-of-sorts Frenchman ahead of last Saturday’s deadline. A starting role at Chelsea on Sunday failed to provide any points but Giroud more than atoned for his failure at the Bridge by bagging a brace in last night’s battering of West Ham, to suggest he may finally be ready to nail down the lone forward role for the Gunners. It now raises questions over Theo Walcott’s likely role in Wenger’s XI – Walcott had started the last five up front before the trip to Chelsea but, having scored in each of the last two from a role on the right, his display – in addition to Giroud’s – could ironically persuade Wenger to keep him out wide now.
Podolski’s Run of Form
The German was far more popular heading into the weekend, with over 35,000 FPL managers snapping up his services for Arsenal’s pair of fixtures. Having missed out against Chelsea due to illness, Podolski returned to produce a devastating display on the left of the attacking three, with a goal and a trio of assists helping him to 17 points – the third double figure return in his last six matches. Those who had intentions to transfer out the 8.3 priced forward after the double will perhaps now be persuaded to hold – Arsenal have three home fixtures in the next four.
Arsenal’s Midfield Duo Both Produce
Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla also chipped in with a goal apiece, with the latter also providing an assist – the runaway leader in last week’s Captain Poll, Walcott returned a 36 point armband haul for his owners to continue a superb run of form which has served up returns in nine of his last 11 appearances. Podolski’s return on the left allowed Cazorla to revert to his usual role in “the hole” and his strike earned his a 12 point haul for the double, taking him to third in the FPL midfield standings – a goal or assist in five of his last eight suggests he’s a little more consistent than many give him credit for. This was the fifth time this season Wenger’s side have scored five or more in the league – in retrospect, Sam Allardyce will perhaps regret questioning the Gunners attacking capabilities prior to last night’s match.
In Other News
Given the task at hand, there was little sign of rest and rotation for Chelsea last night as the Blues looked to recover a two-goal deficit in the second leg of the Capital One Cup Semi-Final clash with Swansea. The single change was significant, though, as Demba Ba returned to the starting line-up to replace Fernando Torres up top for the visitors at the Liberty. Many will be hoping Benitez now benches Ba for the FA Cup Fourth Round clash against Brentford at the weekend, allowing the Senegalese striker to come back in time for next Wednesday’s league trip to Reading – with a game against former club Newcastle just three days after the Madejski match, though, Benitez’s tinkering could quickly prove disappointing for Ba owners once again.
Eden Hazard’s dismissal for a bizarre altercation with one of the home side’s ballboys looks set to see him suspended for three matches – the Belgian will miss the weekend FA Cup clash at Brentford and the subsequent league games with Reading and Newcastle. Certainly, the situation is likely to dispel any fears over rotation for Juan Mata and with Victor Moses away at the African Cup of Nations, Benitez may choose to hand Ryan Bertrand a start on the left of the midfield three, affording us the chance of a possible out of position budget prospect over the short-term. Alternatively, he may decide to utilise Ramires on the right and move Oscar left, bringing David Luiz back into central midfield alongside Frank Lampard. Moses’ country Nigeria drew their opener with Burkina Faso but if they progress past the group stages, he would be unavailable for the next two league games at least.
Michael Laudrup made three changes from the side that saw off Stoke last weekend. The Swans boss continued with his policy of fielding Gerhard Tremmel for cup matches between the sticks, as Michel Vorm dropped out, while fit-again Chico replaced Garry Monk at centre-half. Leon Britton returned in a midfield reshuffle which saw Michu move to the lone striker role, with Itay Shechter moving to the bench. The goalless draw means Michu has now gone four games without a goal for the Welsh outfit but with Sunderland, West Ham and QPR up nest in the league, his owners will be confident of a return to scoring ways. As confirmed by the Premier League earlier this morning, Swansea’s Gameweek 27 clash with Liverpool, scheduled for February 24, will now be postponed as it clashes with their cup final against Bradford – a new date is yet to be decided.
Mark Bunn’s Fantasy owners will be a little concerned after Norwich snapped up Lee Camp on a six-month deal from Forest yesterday. Bunn has started every match since Gameweek 14 between the sticks due to a thigh injury to first-choice keeper John Ruddy and his budget appeal has seen 3% of FPL managers acquire his services. With Ruddy’s return date still uncertain, Chris Hughton has revealed the thinking before the decision to bring the stopper back to Carrow Road.
“Lee will give us some really valuable experience alongside Mark Bunn with goalkeeper John Ruddy still out injured for a while. He’s a proven goalkeeper and he’s at a good age. He of course knows Norwich well having had a loan spell here a few years ago and the deal until the end of the season suits all parties. He will bring increased competition and will also allow us the chance to search for a loan move for Declan Rudd to get him some good first-team experience
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas