Season Preview - Arsenal

Quick Reminder, Real Life

As we are all constantly reminded, Arsenal experienced what is becoming their typical season again last term. They looked to be contenders on a number of fronts from August until about February and then everything pretty much fell apart. The injuries mounted, the tragi-comic errors re-surfaced, and all was lost in about the time it takes to soft-boil an egg. Lest we forget all the positives, Luke Jack Wilshere matured significantly, Aaron Ramsey returned and at least showed signs of his pre-injury reputation coming good, Johan Djourou had a solid spell of being very good before an injury seemed to derail his progress, and Wojciech Szczesny showed enough that I won’t be terrified if he starts the season as the #1.

Quick Reminder, Fantasy

Robin van Persie was fantasy gold when healthy (which was more than usual). Samir Nasri was a stud in the first half but dropped off significantly in the second half. Cesc Fabregas was solid but nowhere near his fantasy peak, though he was still priced as an elite fantasy player. Wilshere reminded us that you can be both talented and effective but still be mediocre for fantasy purposes. The combination of injuries and attacking rotation - Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Niklas Bendtner, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Abou Diaby - meant that there was little long term value to be had but plenty of fantasy points still scored.

Summer Changes

  • Clichy Out - Manchester City do love them some overrated Arsenal players - K2, Kolo Toure, and now Clichy who hasn’t been good in a few years. The only question is whether Kieran Gibbs can stay healthy in his spot.
  • Fringe Players Out - Denilson has already left and you can expect that we’ll hear the same about Almunia, Bendtner, Eboue, and maybe one or two more.
  • Gervinho In - Wenger does love his speedy forwards who tend to play wide. Outside of the obvious question of whether he’ll make the leap to the Prem, the question is where he fits in the rotation that also includes Arshavin, Nasri (maybe) and Walcott who generally slot into the same spots in the line-up.

2011-12 Outlook, Real Life

Despite the rumors in the media that this summer is a disaster for Arsenal, so far that hasn’t panned out. Cesc and Nasri are still around and until we see how August plays out, it is hard to say that Clichy out and Gervinho in is a big step backward. What it also isn’t is a big step forward. The other thing to think about is that with Vermaelen theoretically healthy again (I never assume too much with Arsenal and injuries) they’ve effectively brought in one well-above-average central defender over and above last season’s team. Still, it looks like Arsenal are ticketed for 4th again with some possibility that Liverpool could pip them if things break right at Anfield and a slightly lesser chance that Spurs, equally inert over the summer so far, could surpass them.

Probable Starting XI

Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Gervinho, RvP, Arshavin (I’m assuming Cesc will be in Spain - if not, insert his name and push one of Gervinho or Arshavin to the bench).

2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
  • Fantasy Gold - For me RvP is the only one that really fits this category. He’ll start the season insanely expensive but its tough to find a price where he doesn’t deliver.
  • On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
    • Gibbs (new starter) should be a cheap way to at least approximate Clichy’s points for far less money (at least until he gets hurt)
    • Vermaelen (price depressed by injury) may not score as many goals as his debut season but he’s a great bet to return strong value on his low, low price.
    • Gervinho (newcomer) could come close to duplicating his Ligue One combination of Goals and Assists which would be great. The downside is he could be rotated or on the bench behind Arshavin, Walcott, et al.
    • Ramsey (rising talent) is finally back from that leg break. He put in some good performances at the end of last season, and in pre-season matches, Wenger has been experimenting with him as the furthest forward of a Ramsey/Wilshere/Song midfield. Seemingly, he's the Cesc replacement, if one is needed, not Wilshere.
  • Traps - Fab4 and Nasri (assuming they’re around) both have to re-prove to me that they’re worth the lofty price the Yahoo! game has placed on them.
    • Nasri was worth it only rarely in the second half of last season so I’ve yet to decide if it was the first half or the second half that was the statistical outlier.
    • Fabregas has also devolved due to injuries, a prolonged slump, or general malaise because he’d rather be playing in Barcelona. Given his price, I’m inclined to avoid him in non-obvious situations (e.g., if he’s playing at home to Norwich, I’ll probably bite the bullet but home to Liverpool, not so much).
    • Wilshere at some point he will likely take another step forward and his goal and assist totals will start growing and he could be great value in this format if you get in at the right time. However, there is no guarantee that such a time will come this season though. He seems destined for a deep-lying playmaker role and while he's the key to Arsenal's future success I just fear for his fantasy returns.
2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy

Studs: Without a doubt, Robin van Persie (12M) when fit, is the most dangerous Fantasy Premier League player from a points per game perspective in the official game. The importance of the ‘Captain’s Armband’ in the game can’t be understand, and thus RVP remains a perpetual “Stud,” week in and week out, regardless of opposition. If you can afford him, and he’s fit, he’ll produce the goods. Kieran Gibbs is only 21 years old but it looks like the starting left back position is his to lose, and coming in at 5.5M, he is potentially the CHEAPEST defender of any Top 4 team in the entire game. At that price, he’s worth investment despite Arsenal’s lack of clean sheets in comparison to Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United historically.

Duds: Look no further than last year’s surprise newcomer, Chamakh. The big Moroccan comes in at 8.5M - significantly cheaper than RVP, but fantasy managers should not be deceived by his high point total last season. RVP was injured for a majority of the first half of the year, and Chamakh was the striker by default. For 8.5M there are plenty of more valuable options in the game, including Odemwingie, Gyan, Defoe, etc. Cesc Fabregas is also a dud at 12M. At the time of this writing, the Club Captain is still a Gunner, but reports suggest he could be headed to Barcelona. Even if he stays, his lack of pre-season games, injury prone status, and unfit frame of mind don’t make for a great combination to start the season. Fantasy managers should avoid Cesc at all costs until they see the Cesc of old - hoovering up 3 BPs per game and spraying the ball across the pitch with ease (and a smile on his face) return. Will we ever see that Cesc again in London? Perhaps not, and that’s why the Spaniard is a dud. Take a look at Arshavin, Walcott, and Nasri as potential high-scoring replacements for 3M cheaper.

On the fence: I was very close to putting him in the “stud” category, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Andrei Arshavin could be a long term keeper as long as he holds onto a starting role this season. I’m assuming the Russian will flank RVP (with new signing Gervinho featuring in the other attacking mid / forward role in a 4-3-3) and at 9.0M the Russian is a proven fantasy commodity. I put him “on the fence,” rather than as a “stud” only because of Wenger’s propensity to substitute the Russian early in games last season and because of the other wide options (Walcott, etc.) present in the side. If, and it’s a big if, Arshavin starts 30+ games he could certainly improve on his 6 goal, 11 assist season from a year ago - which would be a good return in that price range. Keep an eye on this ‘retro’ pick - as he’s lost some luster in fantasy circles over the last 12 months. Gervinho (9M) is an unknown, but like Arshavin, if he gets the starts, could become a viable option. With Darren Bent (10M) only a million more, it doesn’t make too much sense to put all your fantasy eggs into the Ivorian’s basket just yet. And in midfield is where the real question marks surface - is Wilshere (6.5M) attacking enough? Will Ramsey (6.5M) fill the Cesc void? Will Walcott (9M) stay fit? And will Nasri (9.5M) run the show? All potentially good options during the season but with a difficult opening fixture list, all can be avoided for now.


  1. Anonymous12:38 AM

    Good analysis but I'd add a few things.

    It seems you have mispelled young Jack's first name. Btw from the prices you stated, am I safe to assume you are covering FF EPL from the official game from here on out?

    I would also add Frimpong to the list of rising star. He has really impressed in pre-season. If anything happens to Song (or Cameroon qualifies for ANC), I'd expect him to deputise for DMF role.

    Also Rosicky looks really sharp (almost unrecognizable from his disastrous form last season), he could be a good option for when players are injured. He always has a SOT or two in him + the usual crosses, CW, and occasional goal/assist. Attractive if price is right.


  2. FlyingHamster12:42 AM

    It's sort of foolish of Barcelona to fork over 40 million euros to get Fabregas when they have Thiago waiting to be Xavi's understudy. It's the sort of promise that Barcelona sort of made that they can't easily turn around, so they have to pretend they want the guy, even at the end of the month Fabregas continues to sulk at London.

  3. Anonymous5:59 AM

    Please disregard my question about official game coverage. I clearly need to l2read (headings).



  4. Arsenal deny plans to take team photo without Cesc, so maybe Fabregas will return as a fantasy factor after all? Staying tuned as the transfer saga rolls on...

  5. Fab4 not with the team in Portugal.

  6. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Top 4 is a myth. Is it really assured that Arsenal will allow fewer goals than Villa, Fulham, Everton? If the answer is no, then does Gibbs really look like that much of a bargain?