With our second double Gameweek in view, Arsenal’s assets at both ends of the field dominate our Watchlist thinking. The Gunners ease out of their pair of fixtures into a stretch of home matches, reducing any apparent risk involved in short-term acquisition, as Arsene Wenger’s main protagonists top the rankings across three positions.
You can view our current standings in your sidebar and read on for the details behind the recent movements and the factors at play behind our thinking.
With the double to come, giving the Gunners four home matches in the next five Gameweeks, it’s no surprise to see Wojciech Szczesny climb to the top of our goalkeeper rankings. At 5.3, the Pole, along with Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, offers a secure route into Arsene Wenger’s back four for that favourable run.
In truth, Simon Mignolet is unfortunate to be toppled by the Arsenal stopper. With the Belgian helping Sunderland to their eighth clean sheet of the season with the win over West Ham, Mignolet continues to flourish as a Fantasy asset and is now the second ranked keeper in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game. With fixtures remaining kind and no real stand out contender in the Sunderland defence, Mignolet remains a strong option as a mid-price one-stop shop selection.
In many respects, those top two stand alone – ahead of the other contenders by quite some distance, not least because they are arguably the favoured defensive acquisitions for their respective teams.
The same cannot be said for both Asmir Begovic and Michel Vorm – there are potentially cheaper and more profitable options within the Stoke and Swansea back four which will doubtless have Fantasy managers thinking twice. Begovic may well be ranked as the top FPL keeper on show but, with just a single clean sheet in the last six outings, the form of the Stoke defence is a concern. The fixture list does fall in their favour, however, with the Potters facing up to Wigan, Reading and West Ham at the Britannia in their next three home matches: that should offer plenty of opportunity for Begovic to reinstate himself as the prime keeper option, although the availability of Marc Wilson, as a 4.0 defender, will likely reduce his stock considerably. Wilson is said to be just a few weeks from a return to contention and will be a top Fantasy target once reinstated in Tony Pulis’ rearguard.
As for Vorm, he has Ben Davies playing in front of him and available for just 4.2 but, with Stoke and QPR arriving at the Liberty Stadium next, and trips to Sunderland and West Ham in the sandwich, the Dutchman has obvious appeal as a keeper option.
West Ham’s Jussi Jaaskaleinen has some favourable opponents on the horizon while this week’s double Gameweek also reinforces his potential. Again though, the availability of prime defensive options, in this case Guy Demel at just 4.0, dents Jaaskaleinen’s appeal somewhat.
For views on effective goalkeeper pairings, our Wildcard article discusses our pick of those on offer, featuring the cast mentioned above and more.
In defence we find Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs holding firm, despite Sunday’s 2-0 reverse to City. Like Szczesny, Gibbs benefits form a run of Emirates matches and appears to offer good value on his 5.6 FPL price tag.
He holds off Everton’s Leighton Baines and Chelsea’s David Luiz, then, both of whom continue to offer strong attacking presence and the promise of goals and assists from both open play and set-pieces. Baines returned his first clean sheet in 16 league outings with the 0-0 at Swansea and, over the next three, appears to have the platform to build on that progress. As for Luiz, he got shifted back into defence at Stoke but will be expected to take up a midfield role now that John Terry is available to marshall Rafa Benitez’s rearguard.
City’s Pablo Zabaleta and West Ham’s Guy Demel complete our top five – two players at different ends of the price spectrum. Matija Nastasic runs Zabeleta close for the pick from the City defence but the Argentine’s raids forward are enough to make him our preferred option. As for Demel, he looks exceptional value at just 4.0 to offer coverage of Sam Allardyce’s backline for their forthcoming run of decent fixtures. West Ham will have to improve markedly on their defensive showing at Sunderland in order to offer returns, however.
Swansea’s Ben Davies is another outstanding option in the budget bracket and has a favourable four Gameweek spell, starting with the weekend clash with Stoke. We also like Wigan’s Emmerson Boyce, although there is some concern that, with the injury to Ivan Ramis at Fulham, he may well be forced back to centre-back role. Much depends on the availability of Antolin Alcaraz – it’s believed that he is close to a return after months on the sidelines.
Below this, we have more expensive options – notably United’s Patrice Evra who has stormed to the top of the defender FPL standings, despite keeping just four clean sheets all season. United’s back four remains questionable, although the fixture list is kind to Sir Alex Ferguson’s men and may tempted investors to look at Evra, despite a hefty 7.1 price tag. With rumours circulating that Nemanja Vidic has suffered further ligament damage in Sunday’s victory over Liverpool, there will be continued concerns of further fragility but, at the same time, the likes of Jonny Evans could also earn interest, with his start more assured – again, though, we await prognosis on the hamstring problem that kept him out of Sunday’s game against Liverpool.
Theo Walcott finds himself labeled as the “most wanted” going into Gameweek 23. The winger turned forward faces up to Chelsea and West Ham having returned in seven of his last nine league outings. Potentially devastating, Walcott will be expected to flourish over Arsenal’s four home fixtures in the next five Gameweeks.
Team-mate Santi Cazorla slides into relative obscurity as a result of Walcott’s ascent and the Spaniard, whilst fancied for Gameweek 23, seems unlikely to tempt Fantasy managers to double up in the mid-term, with the likes of Gareth Bale and Juan Mata remaining strong in the same price bracket. Neither can compete with Cazorla on fixtures but, with Walcott offering the coverage of Arsene Wenger’s attack, both Bale and Mata will likely retain their position in many squads, whilst earning a share of new owners.
That pairing can’t quite rival both Michu and Marouane Fellaini for value and goal threat, however. Deployed in advanced roles for Swansea and Everton respectively, the duo have always looked like season keepers and, with strong fixtures ahead of them in the short-term, we have to expect further returns from both.
Outside of the top six, we find two more heavy-hitters as both City’s David Silva and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard struggle to break the template midfield. Gerrard’s form remains superb but, with both Luis Suarez and now Daniel Sturridge offering coverage, the Liverpool skipper’s appeal takes a dent. As for Silva, he has simmered with a run of four assists in the last six matches but, with Edin Dzeko a mid-price option up front, the Spanish playmaker is struggling to establish himself as anything but a differential right now. Silva still has a modest 5% ownership.
The mid-price bracket remains flooded with differentials, with Kevin Nolan, Jon Walters and Stephane Sessegnon all viable routes for those opting to break up the template and seek out something a little different. You can add Adam Johnson to that list, with little to choose between the former City winger and his team-mate, Sessegnon.
There’s a shake-up below the top two of Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez, with both City’s Edin Dzeko and Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski emerging as excellent short-term options. Dzeko faces up to the obliging Fulham defence this weekend having scored four goals in three league starts, while Podolski looks set to take on spot-kick duties with Mikel Arteta out and, in addition to his double Gameweek, enjoys the aforementioned run of Emirates encounters over the next month.
Those two topple Demba Ba who slips in our reckoning, at least until we form a view on the severity of the rotation problem at the Bridge with Fernando Torres. Daniel Sturridge, a player formerly the victim of few opportunities at the London club, now becomes a serious factor in our Fantasy seasons and takes his place in our Watchlist rankings. A goal at Old Trafford on his Liverpool league debut signaled Sturridge’s intent and, once he’s established and confirmed fully fit, we expect to see the former Chelsea man climb further and dent the appeal of Luis Suarez, given the significant price difference between the pair.
Steven Fletcher and Rickie Lambert head up a pack of excellent mid-price differentials, with Romelu Lukaku and the budget friendly Pavel Pogrebnyak offering further options for those shopping for a cheap third striker in a preferred 3-5-2 FPL set-up.