A bit of EPL fantasy analysis following the Wednesday Champions League action. The capitulation of Arsenal and Manchester City have left the two English clubs with difficult roads to qualify from the group stage.
Arsenal 0-2 Schalke 04
Arsenal sXI: Mannone; Santos Mertesacker Vermaelen Jenkinson (Gnabry 82′); Arteta Coquelin; Ramsey Cazorla Podolski (Arshavin 82′); Gervinho (75′)
The Gunners were under the management of Steve Bould as Arsene Wenger served the final match of his three-match touchline ban. Based on their play, it is unlikely The Prof’s presence would have made much difference. As Bould noted after the match:
Bould: ‘At West Ham I thought we looked really sharp. Since the internationals we have looked jaded. We have to pick it up again’ #AFCvSCH
— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) October 24, 2012
He also rather astutely noted that the Gunners could do with the odd first-goal:
Bould: ‘Scoring first will be a major plus for us. We’ve got behind in [a lot of games] and to keep coming back is tough’ #AFCvSCH
— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) October 24, 2012
The BBC has already written precisely what we were planning on discussing, so here it is from their match report:
[O]nce Schalke worked out Brazilian left-back Andre Santos was the glaring weak link in the Arsenal line-up, they probed ruthlessly and to great effect to end the Gunners’ 100% record in the competition.
Santos is not long for the starting XI with Kieran Gibbs due back following injury. The £5.7m-rated left-back is selected in 9.8% of Fantasy Premier League sides. EPL fantasy managers will not want him to miss the home encounter against Mark Hughes’ QPR side in gameweek nine as the Emirates has been a modest refuge for Arsenal this season. With only three home fixtures played in the League, Arsenal sport a 1-1-1 record with 7 for and 3 against. Gibbs has not played since gameweek seven and was part of the defensive unit that posted three clean sheets on the bounce to being the season. Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet in five tries since, allowing six goals along the way. Wenger’s last note on the defender:
On October 19, Arsene Wenger said: “Kieran Gibbs is out for Saturday because he went off against West Ham. He’s not healed yet. He has a little chance to be ready for Wednesday and a bigger chance for QPR.”
Wenger has previously said that Theo Walcott could be in contention for the QPR match after suffering a chest and lung injury in a shock challenge over the international break. The England man has not agreed a new contract but Wenger should have reached a point of frustration with his other attacking options that introducing Walcott would be the rational decision. Oxlade-Chamberlain was lost to a hip injury and missed the Shalke fixture.
Ajax 3-1 Manchester City
Manchester City sXI: Hart; Clichy Kompany Lescott (Kolarov 63′) Richards; Milner (Balotelli 77′) Nasri Yaya Barry (Tevez 71′); Dzeko Aguero
Arsenal’s loss may have hurt the Gunners chances of finishing top of their group, but they should still manage to qualify from the Group Stage. That is not the case for Roberto Mancini’s side who saw themselves rooted to the foot of the Group of Death and needing to win in three of the remaining three matches to have a realistic chance to qualify as Real Madrid’s loss to Borussia Dortmund saw the German side go top of Group D.
The interesting question will be what, if any, changes Mancini makes to his rotation. First-choice striker Aguero has not been able to propel City through the European competition and Carlos Tevez has shown better form in the league. Edin Dzeko could rest on his late brace in a substitute appearance in gameweek eight, but it is more likely the striker will simply build on his already impressive credentials as a super-sub.
In the short-term, with David Silva, Rodwell, Garcia and Milner all missing out (all but the last through injury, and the latter through suspension) it is possible that Aguero and Tevez could be deployed to the wings with Dzeko or Balotelli as the target-man. Certainly, both Argentine forwards have the skill on the ball to play a wide attacking role and Mancini will be expected to capture three points from the trip to West Ham.
That City again allowed opponents to carve through their defenses strengthens our position that EPL fantasy rosters are best stocked with midfielder and forwards, with EPL fantasy managers looking elsewhere to fill the ‘keeper and defensive needs. With 10.8% of FPL sides selecting Hart, 17.2% selecting Kompany, 9,7% Lescott and a further 8.1% Clichy, it appears our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Our actually choice for a City defender would be Micah Richards — 0.6% selected, £5.8m — as the England defender is quick up the field and anxious to make an impact in the opponents third.
With three matches still to play, we’re expecting Mancini to play his strongest side in each until City are mathematically eliminated. Until that time, expect to see Dzeko getting more BPL minutes, perhaps with start this weekend a just reward for his five-goal haul in 281′ BPL this term.