Monday, October 13, 2014

Adopt a Team: Arsenal Lineup

The first team we're "adopting" this week is Arsenal, and so we'll start with the basics and look at who's played so far and who's likely to keep playing in the future. At the back there isn't too much to talk about with a fairly clear first choice back four of Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Debuchy with Chambers likely providing the first bench option in both the middle and on the right with Monreal serving as Gibbs' understudy. Injuries have prevented that lineup from playing together all season, and that trend will continue with Debuchy (three months, ankle) sidelined for a sustained period. That will allow Chambers to continue his impressive start at the Emirates (after his GW8 suspension) and so at 4.6m he would be the clear short-medium term option to use here.

Despite the constant criticism of not spending enough money or being able to compete with the league's big spenders, Wenger has assembled a deep and talented midfield unit; one that is the core strength of this side (at least in terms of the attacking options). The easier portion to forecast is the piece that is of less interest from a fantasy perspective, with Flamini, Wilshere and Arteta essentially competing for two spots in the middle of the park.1 With Arteta currently sidelined (three weeks, calf), those two spots look settled, though their potential value is less clear and something we can touch on in the upcoming player stat review.

Despite the depth, the attacking trio was also shaping up to be relatively predictable with Ozil, Ramsey and Sanchez getting the lion's share of starts to date. Ozil (three months, knee) and Ramsey's (three weeks, hamstring) injuries throw that group into question with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla and Rosicky currently competing for time while Walcott and Gnabry will provide further options in a matter of weeks, or even days. One would expect Walcott to be given every opportunity to win a healthy share of playing time once he's fit, though unlike in previous years, he's unlikely to earn too many minutes in that lone forward role given the arrival of Welbeck. Ramsey looks close enough to a return that his replacement (probably Cazorla) shouldn't really be relied upon, but Ozil is out long enough to be ignored for now, and that should open the window for a returning Walcott to offer a differential option. That said, for 0.2m less, Ramsey is now held by a more manageable proportion of managers (18%) and there's no real reason to think his excellent start to the year wasn't legitimate and so he should remain a key option to consider.2

Up front, the intrigue about how Welbeck and Giroud can fit together is a moot point with the Frenchman sidelined until the new year with an ankle injury. Welbeck looked very promising in his first three games (the team understandably struggled at Chelsea) and will be well placed to excel if he makes that role his own. Perhaps Walcott, Podolski or Campbell vulture minutes here and there but from what we've seen and based on the transfer fee paid, Wenger clearly thinks Welbeck can lead the line for his team on a weekly basis and thus he becomes extremely intriguing for just 7.3m.

Despite Wenger assembling one of the best squads during his tenure at Arsenal, and indeed one of the best around the league, there remains plenty of reliable options here, aided of course by key injuries to Ozil, Giroud and Debuchy. In the next post we'll dig a bit deeper into exactly how players have contributed so far, and try and identify a couple of targets to focus on for the coming weeks.

1. Ramsey can of course play this role too, as he did in GW5, but it looks like his preferred role is behind the front man and he should generally be free to push forward rather than provide defensive support
2. We'll look at a comparison between him and Sanchez in the player stat post to see which player should be targetted going forward for the coming weeks and months

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