FPL Preview: Arsenal

Arsenal finished the 2014/2015 English Premier League season strongly and rounded off their campaign with a second successive FA Cup victory. With the best signing of last season in Alexis Sanchez leading their attack, Arsenal fans have to be excited about the prospects of challenging for the title for the first time in years.

The other main reason for Gunners fans harboring title ambitions, is the addition of Petr Cech. The former Chelsea man is one of the best Goalkeepers in Premier League history, winning an impressive four league titles with Arsenal’s, West London rivals. Cech is their solitary signing so far this summer, however aside from another striker to push the enigmatic Olivier Giroud, the Gunners squad appears to be set.

Early Fixtures Outlook – West Ham, @ Crystal Palace, Liverpool, @Newcastle, Stoke, @ Chelsea

This looks to be a tricky set of opening fixtures for Arsenal, but one where their attacking options should flourish. The only real defensive powerhouse in this run is their perennial rivals, Chelsea, so look to furnish your team with a couple of the Arsenal attackers. The home games in this run of fixtures in particular look to be ones where Arsenal could really fill their boots and rack up the fantasy points.

Goalkeeper

Petr Cech is priced at £5.5m and looks to be a solid option as an elite Goalkeeper for your fantasy team. Playing in goal for Arsenal will be a slight downgrade for Cech in terms of who the defenders playing in front of him are, however, the Gunners had the third best defence in the league last season so the downgrade is very minimal. With the addition of Francis Coquelin as the defensive shield Arsenal have been missing in Midfield for years, Arsenal’s defence flourished in the second half of the season. They conceded only 11 goals in the final 18 matches.

Defender

Stud – Laurent Koscielny £6m
Koscielny spent the first few years of his Arsenal career being deservedly criticised by fans; his opening salvo in England was littered with errors. Since being joined at the club by the German giant, Per Mertersacker, Koscielny has been a stalwart in the Arsenal defence. The Frenchman registered a career high three goals in 2014/15 and with Petr Cech joining, Koscielny’s fantasy ceiling is looking to be as high as it’s ever been. He could finish as high as a top five defender in 2015/16.

Sleeper – Hector Bellerin £5.5m
The young Spaniard broke through into the Arsenal first team for the first time last season, registering two goals, one assist and seven clean sheets in just 17 starts. He made the most of an injury to former starter, Mathieu Debuchy & the underwhelming form of £12m teenager, Calum Chambers. If Bellerin can replicate his impressive form over the course of an entire season, he will be a must start for fantasy owners due to his threat going forward.

Per Mertesacker is arguably as good a fantasy option as Koscielny, actually scoring one more point than him last season. The only thing stopping me from anointing him as the stud on Arsenal’s defence is the fact that Father Time is rapidly creeping up on the gigantic German, who turns 31 in September. At £5m, Gabriel possesses intriguing upside as he has the potential to become an integral part of the Gunners defence if he is given the chance. The January signing from Villareal looked comfortable in his six appearances last season and Wenger will look to use him more as he adapts to a new league.

Midfielder

Stud – Alexis Sanchez £11.0m
The best signing of 2014/15 and an undoubtedly world class player, Alexis Sanchez proved his worth with 16 goals, eight assists and his committed defensive efforts contributed to 12 clean sheets. It’s a straight pick between Sanchez & Hazard for your teams elite midfielder and for me, the Arsenal man is the correct choice. In his second season in the league, the Chilean talisman should improve on last years, already impressive numbers as he is now fully integrated in an Arsenal team that finished the year in wonderful form.

Sleeper – Jack Wilshere £6m
Once the great hope of English football, Wilshere has battled injuries in the past two seasons and hasn’t registered 20 starts since the 2012/13 season. The way Wilshere finished last season, winning the goal of the season on the final day, will give the academy product renewed confidence to nail down a starting spot. In England’s, Euro 2016 qualifier vs Slovenia, Wilshere scored two excellent goals. This was the kind of prowess in front of goal, fans have been waiting for since he burst into Arsenal’s first team at 17.

Arsenal are quite frankly, stacked in midfield; Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Aaron Ramsey are all genuine starting options for your fantasy team. Depending on how Arsene Wenger elects to deploy his litany of midfield options, there is some excellent value to extract here. Cazorla & Ramsey are both priced at £8.5m and this may make more viable options than Sanchez for frugal owners.

Forward

Stud – Olivier Giroud £9m
One of the most polarizing players in the Premier League, the incredibly handsome Frenchman has scored 11, 16 & 14 goals in his three seasons with Arsenal and has looked more impressive in open play, each season. He is maligned for his performances against the big teams, but goals against Liverpool & Manchester United last season showed marked improvements from prior campaigns. Giroud finished 13th amongst all forwards last season, despite only starting 21 games. As Arsenal’s main striker going into 2015/16, he is a very viable option for teams not looking to break the bank up front.

Sleeper – Danny Welbeck £7.5m
I am not overly enamoured with Danny Welbeck as a fantasy option heading into the season, with Giroud firmly entrenched as the lone striker in Arsene Wenger’s preferred formation. The former United man could be used out wide, but again, Arsenal appear to stacked in that area of the pitch. Unless Giroud suffers from injuries again, Welbeck possesses limited upside and is not prolific even when he’s on the pitch.

Predicted Opening Day Line-up:

GK: Petr Cech

DEF: Hector Bellerin

DEF: Per Mertesacker

DEF: Laurent Koscielny

DEF: Kieran Gibbs

MID: Francis Coquelin

MID: Aaron Ramsey

MID: Jack Wilshere

MID: Mesut Ozil

MID: Alexis Sanchez

FWD: Olivier Giroud

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