Another double gameweek is upon us. Our Best XI was filled with double gameweek stars last week including the likes of Ba, Lambert, Puncheon, and Mata – and they certainly didn’t disappoint – all registering big FPL scores. And now we have another double gameweek upon us – this time it’s two London sides profiting – Arsenal and West Ham. Let’s preview the weekend.
I. Manchester United @ Tottenham: Andre Villas-Boas’ side were held to a 0-0 draw at QPR, but they controlled a majority of the possession and still created enough chances to have them confident going into this one against Sir Alex’s league leaders. We all remember the shocker at Old Trafford a few months ago – a 3-2 win for Tottenham through Bale and Dempsey in a 5-goal thriller, but should we expect more of the same on Sunday?
I don’t think so. Lindegaard was in goal on that day and I think that De Gea provides a better option for Manchester United, so I can’t see Tottenham scoring 3 goals again, especially if Nemanja Vidic recovers from his concussion. Vidic should play, and he was also absent from the Old Trafford encounter. De Gea & Vidic are big upgrades. Furthermore, Manchester United won’t be over-run in the centre of the park as Sandro is out with a long-term injury and he was terrific at Old Trafford in breaking up United’s play. The Gareth Bale vs Rafael matchup should be fascinating as well – Bale is in form but so is the Brazilian Right Back, perhaps the most improved player in the Premier League this season.
Those circumstances, combined with the form of Robin van Persie, point to a tight away win for Sir Alex’s men. Manchester United won 3-2 at Chelsea and 3-2 at Manchester City but 5 goals aren’t on the cards in this one. It will be tight, with a moment of brilliance from Van Persie perhaps the difference.
Prediction: 1-2 Manchester United away win.
II. Arsenal Double Gameweek [at Chelsea, vs West Ham]: In this space last week we promoted the likes of Luiz and Azpilicueta, Hazard and Mata, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Afforded 2 games to shine within one fantasy gameweek, their class was certainly on display.
Arsenal have slightly more difficult matchups than Chelsea did – an away trip to Chelsea (who have been poor at Stamford Bridge in recent weeks) and a home derby with West Ham are certainly not as easy as a Stoke/Southampton combination, but Arsenal’s fantasy assets could still profit nicely. Let’s take a look at the main attractions:
- Theo Walcott is the obvious option for Arsenal. Classified as a midfielder in the FPL but playing as a central striker or wide man in a front three, he offers the potential of an explosive score. Arsene Wenger is 99% sure Walcott will sign a new contract, and we are 99% sure you should stick the Captain’s Armband on him if you own him. Walcott has scored 6 fantasy points or more in 9 different games this season, and with 8 goals and 8 assists – leads Arsenal in both categories. That’s consistency. He’s done the damage in just 1,046 minutes played, averaging 6.1 fantasy points per game – the same as Luis Suarez, and just less than Gareth Bale and Juan Mata. He is just 17% owned and cheaper by a full 0.5m than teammate Santi Cazorla.
- Santi Cazorla started the season off with a bang, but has cooled off considerably since the busy winter period rolled around. 42 games played for Malaga in 2011-2012, another 11 for Spain in 2012, and already 29 for Arsenal equals 82 games played in the last year and a half for the little midfield maestro. Cazorla has always been accustomed to a winter break during his time in Spain but this season in England he wasn’t given one, and his performances have looked flat in recent weeks. Cazorla has returned 12 points in his last 4 gameweeks – for just 3 points a game. That said, he’s still owned by nearly 20% of fantasy managers. He’s capable of a big score – he scored 3 of his 7 league goals this year in one game against Reading in early December, but that was perhaps more of an aberration than a sign of any big score to come. At Malaga, assists were more his bread and butter than goals were, and while he provides a great double gameweek option, long term Walcott seems to present a bigger goalscoring threat.
- Wilshere (6.4m) and Diaby (6.1m) are potential cheap double gameweek alternatives for those without the funds to acquire a Walcott and/or Cazorla. Wilshere has taken his fare share of set pieces in recent weeks and scored against Swansea in the FA Cup, while Diaby is just making a return to full fitness after a long time on the sidelines. With Mikel Arteta injured, both will be relied on heavily, and could contribute a rare goal or assist in the coming weeks though neither are superb long term prospects.
- Kieran Gibbs is a superb asset – and has been all season for Arsenal. He was our Left Back selection in our mid-season Premier League best XI and is in marvelous form. Bacary Sagna (5.1m) is the cheaper option on the right but has not shown the same level of consistency and Carl Jenkinson has shown enough that he’s always available for a spot start here or there. Gibbs is the best bet at the back for Arsenal and his attacking returns – 5 assists this year – have been excellent.
Up front it’s a bit more difficult to predict. Podolski could be on penalties with Arteta out injured, but he is often substituted. At 8.2m he is affordable enough to take a risk on for one week only. Likewise, Giroud at 7.8m offers another option – though his gametime has been sporadic.
One of Walcott or Cazorla should be enough coverage for fantasy managers this week as I don’t expect much from the first match – at Chelsea, though home to West Ham could have 2-3 goals in it and fantasy managers won’t want to miss out on that potential return.
Prediction: 1-2 loss at Chelsea, 3-1 win vs West Ham
III. Studs & Duds: West Ham also have a double gameweek – with the first match against QPR and the second at Arsenal. The team has a defensive injury crisis at the moment – with O’Brien, Collins, and McCartney all out. O’Brien could make his return against QPR, however while Collins (hamstring) and McCartney (knee) set to miss both double gameweek matches.
That leaves Guy Demel and James Tomkins as near certainties to start both games for West Ham. Demel should start at RB and Tomkins should start in the middle. Long term, Tomkins will lose out to the Collins-Reid partnership, so Demel is a better fantasy acquisition, but in the short term they are both superb. If news emerges that O’Brien is still out, than 3.9m rated Daniel Potts should continue at left back. He is an extremely short term and speculative punt only for those who (for some reason) can’t afford Demel or Tomkins.
Joe Cole, Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan are all cheap midfielders with various qualities that could shine this double gameweek. All are studs as Noble is on penalties, Cole seems to be back in form after his disastrous time at Liverpool is over, and Nolan is one of those midfield goalscorers who may not ‘dominate’ the game for long stretches but somehow finds himself in the right dangerous spots in the penalty area.
Elsewhere, Luis Suarez is an obvious stud at home to Norwich. Daniel Sturridge is still not fully match fit according to Brendan Rodgers, but he will be pushing for an extended substitute appearance once again in this one, or perhaps hoping for a start and 50-60 minutes before an early substitution. Both are studs despite the extremely difficult fixtures after the Norwich match. RVP is a stud as mentioned up above. Tevez and Dzeko are studs at home to Fulham, despite Aguero’s return to light training. He will most probably start from the bench.
Southampton and Everton players are on the stud-dud fence in a game where I expect goals. You could do worse than Baines, Fellaini, Lambert, etc. this week. Newcastle are home to Reading so Cisse is a stud and Swansea are home to Stoke, so persist with Michu as a stud.
Duds this week are those star Norwich goalkeepers and defenders like Bunn, Bassong and Martin that have impressed so much this season. They won’t keep a clean sheet at Anfield.
IV. Gameweek 23 Best Eleven:
D: Gibbs – Demel – Zabaleta
M: Walcott – Nolan – Cazorla – Michu – Fellaini
F: Suarez – Tevez
Subs: Vorm – Lukaku – Wisdom – Chico Flores