Balance is always a sought-after factor when managers are building their squad. Too top-heavy and goals will be shipped, but being too dependent on defensive discipline and positional rigidity will, naturally, limit chances in the final third.
Balance is even needed within each area, as an attack built around players of similar stature and style can be a little one-dimensional, which makes Arsenal in particular an intriguing case study as we look towards the start of the new Fantasy Football season.
As ever, the Gunners’ 2014/15 was a tale of two contrasting halves, with a slow start causing worry around the winter period, before a surge after January dragged the Londoners into the periphery of the title race, and to Wembley where they retained the FA Cup. With the momentum there changes have been minimal at the Emirates Stadium, and with Petr Cech the only notable arrival, Arsene Wenger will almost certainly be relying on the same crop of attacking midfielders and strikers to fire his side towards an ever-elusive Premier League trophy. Although the Gunners’ defence is intriguing, for differing reasons, it’s the final third that has got us thinking.
Two of last season’s top four midfielders hailed from the red half of North London. Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla were common names among the Fantasy Football elite during the run-in, where they were joined by Olivier Giroud, who was in excellent form with a 20% chance conversion rate, and towards the very end, Mesut Ozil. Chuck into the mix Aaron Ramsey, a fit-again Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere, and the limit of three players-per-club becomes more of a hindrance than ever… and we’re only looking at one half of the team!
Such a wealth of options is set to result in some rotation from Wenger. It’s only natural that the Frenchman will deploy certain players in certain fixtures, with European football and the club’s horrendous injury record set to result in changes. Thus overstocking on Arsenal attackers poses a genuine risk – even two may be too many.
Who to pick, then? Well, it’s not exactly a bold call, but Sanchez is without doubt the best choice. An arduous summer of Copa America action with Chile could result in a slow start, but with the ex-Barcelona man a workhorse as well as a gifted attacker, his desire to get on the pitch may be too great for Wenger to overlook. Beyond that, Sanchez slots into the midfield section of the game, but in truth he spends more time operating in an attacking role. Even when on the flank he’s more of an inside forward, while 10 outings as the main striker last term suggest that he is among Giroud’s main back-up options. Points make prizes, and with goals of higher reward for midfielders, the Chilean has massive potential.
Walcott offers, perhaps, the most intriguing option of all, though. The England international started the Community Shield victory over the weekend as Wenger’s main centre-forward, hinting that he will be deployed in that role on a frequent basis. Walcott has long called for a chance in his favoured area, and with pace in abundance he could be a threat in a counter-attacking system. A record of 97.6 minutes-per-goal last term was the best of any midfielder available, and with points for attacking returns increased for players in the middle third, a potential striking role makes the former Southampton academy star all the more appealing. However, at 9.0m he’s by no means a cheap option.
And while Sanchez and Walcott remain popular, Cazorla could be the one to avoid. As the season dragged on Wenger dropped Santi deeper and deeper as the title charge gathered momentum, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this could be a new role for the Spaniard. Although set-pieces always offer the chance for goals and assists, his assist tally of 11 and key pass count of 67 are likely to dip significantly if further from the action.
Ozil, with over ten games fewer than Cazorla and Sanchez, weighed in with a whopping 65 key passes last term, and with a full summer’s rest he could finally be fit and firing. The German is valued at just £8.5m (on a par with Christian Eriksen and only 0.5m more than Sadio Mane) and with his potential for points such a sum looks like an absolute bargain, especially as he created a chance every 27.8 minutes last term!
Further to this Aaron Ramsey ranked well for a central midfielder with a score 116 last term, and with defensive options such as Cech (5.5m) and Hector Bellerin (£5.5m) both cost-effective and popular, there is a genuine dilemma when looking at the Arsenal squad.
The numbers point towards Sanchez, while the wildcard could be Ozil, but rolled into the mix are Walcott and Ramsey, too. Over exposure is high risk, high reward, but with so many options and rotation guaranteed, it may be worth limiting yourself to two Gunners attackers at the most.
Written by Football FanCast and commissioned by Fantasy Football Scout, the tips, news and views site for those who don’t just play Fantasy Football.