After being atop the Premier League table for longer than any other team last season, the men from the Emirates will have been disappointed with a fourth place finish. They did however, end their decade-long trophy drought with a victory over Hull City in the F.A Cup Final. With a squad brimming with attacking talent (and World Cup winners), Arsenal will be looking to build on that victory at Wembley and challenge for the title in 2014/15. From top to bottom, Arsenal were a reliable source of Fantasy points last season and there’s no reason that will change going into the new season.
Wojciech Szczesny is the man in goal for the Gunners, and though he is undoubtedly an extremely talented keeper, he’s not always the greatest of fantasy options. Arsenal suffered a few heavy defeats to fellow title contenders in 13/14. While on the whole their defenders were solid fantasy options, their habit of conceding made Szczesny a shaky selection at times. He’s also likely to be one of the more expensive options in a traditional “dream team” format. As I write this piece, news ha come through that the Gunners have agreed a fee with Nice for Columbian World Cup star David Ospina; a keeper with the ability to go in and challenge for the number one jersey from day one. Watch this space on that front.
Defensively, Arsenal are perhaps lacking a truly top class centre back, but the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker served them well last season and should continue to do so. Arsenal seem to deal well with the lesser teams, so the clean sheet upside is there, plus, both are deadly in the air and will chip in with goals for your fantasy team. Behind Mertesacker and Koscielny is Thomas Vermaelen. Rumour has it that Manchester United are interested in him and Arsenal themselves have been linked with a bevy of talented defenders. Again it’s a watch this space type-deal as it’s likely the Arsenal defensive picture isn’t complete yet.
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In the full back positions it will be Kieron Gibbs and new man Mathieu Debuchy. Gibbs is under rated in my eyes, and if he develops the attacking side of his game he could move to the next level. Debuchy has a tough task replacing Bacary Sagna, who’s loss has been slightly under stated. He is a good player in his own right, though, and I feel he was a snip at £10m in today’s marketplace.
Arsenal’s real strength lies in their midfield where they have a bevy of options. Aaron Ramsey is the centre piece, and were it not for a lengthy lay off last season he would have surely been in the conversation for Footballer of the Year honors. The Welshman has become something of a talisman for Wenger’s side and his high energy displays, now capped of with goals, are becoming a trademark of his play.
Accompanying Ramsey in the middle of the park is Jack Wilshere. This is a big year for the young England man who seems to have stalled in recent seasons after having awful luck with injuries. Wilshere at his best is a nuisance to the opposition with his tenacity and ability to unlock a defense. Sadly, those days are few and far between of late, but the talent is definitely still there.
Santi Cazorla is another player who may start in a wide area, and is, yet again, a fantastically talented player. It’s a mark of the strength the Gunners have in central areas that he often finds himself on the flanks. German
World Cup hero Mesut Özil will play an advanced roll and if he finds the form he showed when he first hit the Premier League last season, he could steal the show in 2014/15. Keep an eye on his price tag in dream team formats, he may be under valued.
Arsenal have a multitude of other options in midfield with the likes of Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Thomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby. They will all see the field at various points, but not consistently enough to invest in for your fantasy team.
In attack, the Gunners look particularly strong but without that out and out goal scorer they crave; Olivier Giroud will be the central striker and you can pencil him in for 20 goals without too much worry; Lucas Podolski finished last season well and will be hoping to steer clear of injury and play a bigger role this season; Theo Walcott will return from his injury in September and will be another reliable option when he gets up to speed, with the usual goals and assists; Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain will play a big role coming off an injury hit World Cup with England. His versatility will get him on the field and he is another player who needs to be kicking on at this stage of his young career.
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Wenger’s big summer buy, Alexis Sanchez, is the new man in the fold. A hugely talented forward, coming off a good season with Barca and and excellent World Cup. It’s not entirely clear which position he will play in his new surroundings, but i’m not sure it matters. Wether it’s off of the central striker or in a wider area, Sanchez will be a threat from the outset. If Özil comes in firing, along with Ramsey and Sanchez, Arsenal will no doubt be able to cause some damage this season. But in a dream team format be wary as Sanchez may be as highly priced as some of the more seasoned EPL fantasy stars.
The Welsh talisman was simply sensational last season. His driving play from midfield and goals fueled Arsenal’s early run to the top of the table. He also capped of the season with a superb winner in the FA Cup Final on his return from injury. For whatever reason, the penny seems to have dropped with Ramsey and he’s finally looking every bit like a top player in this league. You certainly won’t get him at last seasons bargain price, but you can put him in your Fantasy team and be fairly certain he will produce on a weekly basis. He’s fun to watch and coming into his prime, the sky really is the limit for Ramsey.
Giroud’s Fantasy impact was vastly under rated last season. The burly Frenchman grabbed 22 goals in 51 games, and that was with a dry spell where his extra curricular activities lost him some game time to Yaya Sanogo. Giroud is a menace when he is at it. Strong in the air but also an exceptionally good Footballer when he gets it into feet; he’s a real asset for your Fantasy team. As I said above, you can pencil him in for 20 goals as he will still be the focal point of a prolific attacking unit.
Getting Sanchez is a real coup for the Gunners and he will add another dimension to their attack; there’s no doubt that he can be a fantasy star from day one. He has an eye for goal, a tireless work rate, and will chip in with plenty of assists. The fear is he will be priced that way from the off, making him a gamble if there is a settling in period. That being said, quality players can play in any league and I have little doubt that the Chilean is just that!
*Editor’s Note: For a more detailed breakdown of what Sanchez could mean to Arsenal, check out “Transfer Talk: Gunners Get Their Guy*
UNDER RATED PLAYER
I’m going to put Gibbs here because I think he can be a bargain fantasy contributor this season; he should be a marauding, attacking full back. He’s comfortable on the ball and gets in forward areas a lot, but the final pass or finish seems to be lacking. If he can add to the attacking side of his game he could be a real value pick up. He gets the same clean sheet points as his defensive team mates, but he will be cheaper and has the most attacking upside. Gibbs will be in many of my teams in 2014/15.
Another talented young German off the production line, Gnabry got some first team action last season and acquitted himself very well in the wake of Theo Wallcott’s injury. He chipped in with a goal or two and confirmed that he is a very exciting talent. That being said, he is unlikely to make a major impact this season and aside from an injury crisis he may go out on loan.
Signed from Auxerre at the beginning of last season and expected to be more of a project, Sanogo found himself playing in the Champions League and in the semifinal and final of the FA Cup in 2013/14. It was there for all to see that he is very, very raw but I do believe that there’s something there. He has the tools, but seems to be unable to bring it all together. At this moment in time, he’s further up the pecking order than perhaps he should be, and he could certainly see some game time provided Arsenal don’t secure another striker before kick off.
Campbell thrilled for Costa Rica in their astonishing World Cup campaign, and now has the requisite amount of appearances and international caps to finally make his mark at his parent club. He could be competing for the same spot as Sanogo, backing up Olivier Giroud, but in truth he is a much more polished and accomplished player. I really can’t predict what’s in store for the exciting forward this season, but if he does see the field he could be another explosive option for Wenger’s attack.