You can imagine a very strong Starting XI that includes Jack Wilshere replacing Frimpong/Rosicky. The issue continues to be depth. Targets for Arsenal in the transfer window can now be reassured that they will be moving to a team in the Champions League group stage. Will that be enough to get a big name like Eden Hazard? Hard to say. Regardless, it will be critical to find some cover at CB and CM. It might not be a bad idea to find another left back and another forward unless Bendtner will indeed be sticking around.
Only with some critical fortifications can Wenger and Arsenal ensure that their supporters don't go immediately from worrying about THIS YEAR'S Champions League to worrying about NEXT YEAR'S Champions League where Liverpool and Spurs will give them a run for their money even with the acquisitions suggested above.
The Home Teams
- Chelsea vs. Norwich - Norwich has done enough to earn points in their first two matches back in the Premier League. My guess is that the same won't be true this coming weekend. In Chelsea they face an opponent that is just more talented. With Hilario back-stopping Chelsea, I have to say I'm dubious about Chelsea getting a clean sheet even with a newly promoted opponent but you have to like Chelsea's chances of scoring a few goals and generally breaking out of their attacking doldrums. The big question for fantasy managers is what AVB will do with his starting line-up as Torres continues in his attempts to remember where the goal is. Verdict: Advantage Chelsea Attack.
- Wigan vs. QPR - Wigan hasn't been great so far in drawing its first two matches with newly promoted teams. With the third such match-up on the trot happening at the JJB this coming weekend fantasy managers must hope that the third time is the charm. In beating Everton last weekend, QPR managed to not look particularly good. I don't see Wigan scoring a ton of goals under any circumstances but a solid attacking performance combined with a strong defensive one could make a few Wigan players attractive. Verdict: Advantage Wigan Overall.
- Man United vs. Arsenal - As big a momentum boost as Arsenal may have gotten from their Champions League win, its hard to see them keeping it going on their trip to Old Trafford. With Song, Frimpong, Wilshere, and Gervinho unavailable and United's attack looking strong and likely getting Chicharito back it looks fairly grim for the Gooners. With the second team defense still featuring, I can't say I'm TOO optimistic about United getting a clean sheet but likewise, United's attack should be prolific with no holding midfielder available to stem the tide. Verdict: Advantage United Attack.
- Liverpool vs. Bolton - I can't say I have a great deal of confidence in my take on either of these teams so far. Liverpool, who I expected to be very good, was hardly dominant against a significantly weakened Arsenal team at the Emirates last weekend. Bolton, who I expected to struggle mightily, have been much better than expected in whipping QPR and keeping it close with City. My expectation is that we'll see some attacking in this match going both directions with Liverpool's winning the day. Verdict: Advantage Liverpool Attack.
The Away Teams
- City @ Spurs - My guess is that we've seen the blueprint for City's season. At home, they'll always be a threat to win with a clean sheet. On the road, they'll give up more goals but now have the firepower to win shootouts. On the road, City will definitely struggle to keep a clean sheet facing a team that a) needs points; b) went forward well on Monday despite not scoring; and c) generally has attacking talent. Still, while they'll very likely lose at some point this season, fantasy managers won't do well betting against City this season. Verdict: Advantage City Attack.
NUFC and Villa are both solid-but-not-spectacular options at home that favor their defenses while Rovers are probably slight favorites at home against an Everton squad that looked pretty bad last weekend.
We'll be back later today with Part 2: Player Picks.