With last night’s Emirates encounter drawing a line under the double Gameweek, we look at the consistency of Arsenal’s in-form winger, while also turning our attentions to the renewed resilience at the Madejski and contemplate the merits of a recent change in formation by many Fantasy managers.
Prior to Arsenal’s double Gameweek, Theo Walcott’s wish for a central role at Arsenal seemed to have finally been granted. Starting the previous five as Arsene Wenger’s preferred frontman, Walcott’s out of position appeal saw his Fantasy Premier League (FPL) price rise significantly; over 137,000+ managers snapped him up prior to last Saturday’s deadline but the return of Olivier Giroud forced the former Southampton man back onto the right wing once again.
Walcott’s exploits across the pair of fixtures allayed any fears of a drop in Fantasy potential, though, as he served up a 36 point armband haul, thanks to a couple of goals, an assist and a single bonus point. While Giroud’s brace against the Hammers helped his own cause for a regular starting role, there’s an irony to the fact that Walcott’s returns from out wide have perhaps proved detrimental to his chances of a move back to the middle – regardless of position, it seems he’s more than capable of strong points scoring.
From a Fantasy perspective, confidence will remain high in a player who has finally stepped up in performance and banished the inconsistency that so often blighted his game. Walcott now sits on 121 FPL points – sixth in the midfield standings in spite of the fact he was afforded just one start in Arsenal’s first 10 fixtures. From Gameweek 12 onwards, he has scored or assisted in nine of his 11 starts and, in terms of first-team regulars, he sits third for points per game; his average of 6.4 is bettered only by Robin Van Persie (7.1) and Juan Mata (6.5) – all the remarkable, given that seven of Walcott’s 19 appearances have arrived from the substitutes bench.
Now up to 9.4 in FPL from a price of 8.5 as recent as Gameweek 18, Walcott is handed three home games in the next four (LIV, STO, sun, AVL) to continue racking up the points and, while the term “must-have” seems limited only to a former Gunner now plying his trade at Old Trafford, Walcott’s rise as a bona fide Fantasy force suggests that current cost will continue to escalate as his flourishing form proves more irresistible with every passing Gameweek.
Just last month, Reading’s fate was already sealed in the eyes of many. With a single win in their opening 19 fixtures, Brian McDermott’s side had offered little indication they were capable of upsetting the odds and a slip back into the Championship had an air of inevitability about it. In the last four Gameweeks, however, the Royals have suddenly found their form in sensational style – three wins have harvested nine points from Gameweek 20 onwards; a points haul beaten only by both Manchester clubs and equalled only by Liverpool.
The last two games in particular highlight the fighting spirit and collective show of self-belief amongst McDermott’s men – a stunning 3-2 comeback against West Brom in a game where they were two goals down with eight minutes remaining was followed by another resilient display, as they turned around a deficit late on to clinch victory at Newcastle; their first away win of the season. As confidence courses through the club, the Royals are set for a run of four home games in the next six (CHE, SUN, WIG, AVL) to bolster their bid for relegation – suddenly, Reading’s cut-price Fantasy assets are back on our radars as we look for ways to free up budget to spend elsewhere.
Right throughout the team, there seems to be potential. Adam Federici’s heroics between the sticks helped him register nine saves against the Magpies and the 4.4 priced keeper looks assured of a regular role with Alex McCarthy still sidelined with a shoulder injury. Ian Harte’s share of set-pieces bolster his potential at the back – costing 3.8, he’s averaged four ppg since returning to the first XI in Gameweek 18. Danny Guthrie, at 4.1, has started in “the hole” in the last five in McDermott’s favoured 4-4-1-1 and Jimmy Kebe at 4.6 is another midfield alternative on offer. Meanwhile, the 4.4 priced Pavel Pogrebnyak has notched in three of the last week and Adam Le Fondre has proved an ideal “super sub”, climbing off the bench late to score three times in the previous two as McDermott moves to a 4-4-2 when chasing games in the closing stages. Generally, Reading players have been utilised as no more than squad fillers, budget-balancers we are happy to bench, but those recent performances suggest they may well prove a value source of points if they can continue to prove the doubters wrong.
The Talking Point
As winter wildcards are wielded and Fantasy squads reshaped, the debate over 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) formations continues to rage across the site. As many of the costly midfielders start to pick up in performance, the former system has increased in popularity of late – of the eight midfielders currently priced 9.0 or over, for example, only two (Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard) failed to score or assist last weekend, though Hazard did, of course, end the previous Gameweek with a 19 point haul over Chelsea’s double. Indeed, Theo Walcott’s 18 point FPL return was the sixth time in the last seven that a premium priced midfielder has produced the most points in the Gameweek.
With runaway FPL leader Robin Van Persie set for a superb run of fixtures to continue his sprint away from the pack, the Dutchman’s 44% ownership is only likely to increase – a current 14.1 price tag is far from a deterrent for a player who has now produced returns in 18 of his 20 starts for United. With Van Persie pretty much a given for most sides over the run in, the issue is how to balance the budget over those remaining attacking slots.
The advanced midfield roles of mid-price pair Michu and Marouane Fellaini help free up the budget – their respective averages of 5.9 and 6.2 points per game are inferior to only two regular forwards; Van Persie and Luis Suarez. As mentioned above, Mata and Walcott have also excelled and while Bale has stuttered of late, his average of 6.2 ppg is only just edged out by Suarez’s 6.3; the Welshman’s five double figure hauls not only highlight his explosive potential but serve a reminder that patience is a necessity with him.
Steven Gerrard’s incredible run of form also affords us another premium midfield option – returns in nine of his last 10, yet the Liverpool skipper is still owned by less than 7% of FPL managers. He’s just 10 points behind Suarez, has spot-kicks in his locker and is 9.4 to the Uruguayan’s 10.5. David Silva’s 16 point haul against Fulham on Saturday highlighted his potential; with rest and rotation up front always a threat at City, the Spaniard’s security of starts means his owners are never anxious for the weekend teamsheets – he’s started the last 13 and has scored or assisted in seven of those fixtures. The same could be applied to Chelsea – Rafa Benitez has wasted little time in frustrating Demba Ba’s owners, though with the Senegal striker ineligible for European games, they will still expect him to see more domestic action than Fernando Torres.
The most popular alternative, of course, is to keep a pair of mid-to-low price rotating midfielders, allowing us to splash the cash up top. Suarez and Sergio Aguero both set you back more than any midfielder but, along with Van Persie, have the potential to run riot over the remainder of the season – we’ll be rolling out a Members article tomorrow assessing the best budget midfield options over the six Gameweeks. The mid-price appeal of the likes of Rickie Lambert and Steven Fletcher (the top two value forwards in the FPL game) affords us further consistent alternatives for our frontlines, while Daniel Sturridge’s arrival at Liverpool could also offer strong comparative value to Gerrard and Suarez.
Looking at the overall FPL standings, the current world number one, T.I, has two sub 6.0 midfielders in his squad, with a 3-4-3 his preferred formation; by comparison, the world number two Kelvin Travers rolled out a 3-5-2 last week and has three premium and two mid-price midfielders. Indeed, further assessment of the top five FPL teams highlights how different their approaches are; in terms of midfielders and forwards , only two players – Van Persie and Walcott – are in all five squads. Granted, there are many wrong and ill-advised tactical routes to go down when playing Fantasy football but, by the same token, it’s pretty apparent that, when considering these two popular formations, no cast-iron route to success has emerged just yet.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
Next Six Ticker
|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
|Up||Robles||WIG||C, Vs, £|
|No Change||Lloris||TOT||C, Vs|
|No Change||Foster||WBA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Vorm||SWA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Mignolet||SUN||B, Vs|
|No Change||De Gea||MUN||A|
|Up||Boruc||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Kompany||MCI||B, Vs, Rest|
|No Change||Vertonghen||TOT||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Luiz||CHE||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Boyce||WIG||C, Vs, OoP|
|No Change||Cuéllar||SUN||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Rangel||SWA||C, Vs|
|Up||Clyne||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Mata||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Hazard||CHE||B, Vs, Rest, Inj|
|Up||Maloney||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Y Touré||MCI||B, Vs|
|No Change||Silva||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Tevez||MCI||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Koné||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|Down||van Persie||MUN||A, Vs|
|Up||Lukaku||WBA||B, Vs, Rest|
|Down||Aguero||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Rodriguez||SOT||A, Vs, £|
|Up||Defoe||TOT||B, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Ba||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|A, B, C||Current Form|
|Inj||Injured/Returning from Injury|
|OoP||Out of Position|
“We have dynamic players with good movement, so if he can link with them fine. He can play a bit higher because his timing getting into the box is very good.”Rafa Benitez talks up the role that Frank Lampard can play in his Chelsea revolution