Having finished sixth overall in the 2012/13 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) standings, our hopes were high for Theo Walcott’s prospects at the beginning of last summer. The Arsenal winger produced 14 goals and 13 assists in just 24 starts and looked to have finally rid himself of the inconsistency that had blighted his previous campaigns:
The latter started the season slowly, with just two assists in his first three appearances before Arsene Wenger acquired Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in a real statement of intent. The German’s eye for a killer pass looked tailor-made for Walcott’s runs in behind backline defences but, in their first appearance in the same XI, it was Aaron Ramsey who hogged the headlines, scoring twice in a 3-1 away win over Sunderland in Gameweek 4.
Walcott picked up a pelvic problem prior to the club’s following game and whilst Ozil and Ramsey began to deliver the points, their team-mate spent the next couple of months on the injury list before being gradually introduced to the action via a handful of sub appearances. Climbing off the bench in four successive matches between Gameweek 12-15, Walcott still found time to tee up a pair of assists in just 63 minutes before he was finally handed a starting role against City in mid-December.
Wenger’s side left the Etihad licking their wounds after a 6-3 mauling highlighted their defensive flaws, yet for Fantasy managers, the day was all about Walcott after he produced a 13-point haul, courtesy of two goals and a single bonus point. The next four league games harvested three goals, an assist and six bonus points as the wide man’s bandwagon picked up in pace over the New Year before disaster struck. A knee injury in the FA Cup Third Round win over north London rivals Tottenham ruled Walcott out for the season and deprived us of his services just when he’d hit top form.
Those five appearances, which delivered three sets of double figures and helped Walcott average 6.9 points per start in 2013/14, underlines just why he was so sorely missed by Fantasy managers. Discussing his rehabilitation with the club’s official matchday magazine late last month, the wideman revealed that he’s somewhat hesitant to put an exact date on his potential comeback:
“I want to be back quickly, of course — but safely, too. I want to try and be back for the early part of next season. That is the goal, so there will be a lot of hard work throughout the summer and during the World Cup. It has nearly been four months now, and my recovery has been on track so far. At the moment I’m working on muscle strength and building muscle in my quad. I see the consultant soon, and hopefully he will give me the thumbs up to push on. I would love to be running in a few weeks.”
Providing all’s good and well, though, Walcott looks likely to be on course to return in time for the new campaign. Price-wise, he started last term at 9.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) but there’d be no surprise if he even dropped to 9.0 due to the fact he managed a mere 860 minutes for the Gunners.
Elsewhere in the Arsenal midfield, Ramsey’s excellent season will trigger a price hike across the Fantasy games but bearing in mind he missed over three months through injury, it remains to be seen whether the Welshman has done enough to be elevated into the premium bracket. Certainly, there seems no doubt that Yaya Toure, Steven Gerrard and Eden Hazard could all break the 10.0 barrier this time around after the trio all surpassed the 200-point mark in 2013/14.
Indeed, Ramsey’s price may ultimately determine how some view Walcott. If the Welshman can stay under 9.0, he may well be the main Arsenal target for many Fantasy managers, potentially affording Walcott the role of differential amongst our midfield options. On the other hand, if Ramsey is shifted into the same category as Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, it’d be hard to overlook a fully-fit Theo, firing on all cylinders, as our Arsenal midfielder of choice once again.