Last season, Arsenal ended Arsene Wenger’s 9 year trophy drought with victory in the FA Cup but at one stage last season it looked like they could even challenge for the Premiership title. Their hopes, and Mesut Ozil’s form, faded following Aaron Ramsey’s Boxing Day injury but they still hung onto qualify for the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season.
Arsenal fans will be optimistic about their hopes for the new season, especially with the exciting signing of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. Theo Walcott will miss the start of the season but when he returns to fitness, Walcott, Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could form a potent attacking trio. Even so, the Gunners they could find it difficult to keep up with Chelsea and Manchester City. Manchester United will also be a renewed force so the Gunners will be looking over the shoulders to make sure they can retain their top 4 place.
From a fantasy perspective there are a stream of options from the Arsenal squad:
Aaron Ramsey (midfielder) – The young Welshman had a breakthrough season in 2013/14 scoring 10 goals from midfield in just 23 League appearances. Ramsey added 9 assists and could be an excellent addition to any fantasy roster.
Alexis Sanchez (midfielder / forward) – Skilful Chilean Sanchez looks to be a perfect fit with Arsene Wenger’s philosophy of small players with excellent technique. His fast feet will be well suited to the Premiership and if he can repeat his goal haul of 19 from last season in Catalonia then he will be a massive success at the Emirates. If he’s classed as a midfielder in your Fantasy League that only makes him more valuable.
Arsenal defence (Koscielny / Mertesacker / Gibbs) – The Arsenal defence is always strong and helpful for clean sheets accumulating 17 last season. Any of these three would be fine Fantasy signings but new signing Mathieu Debuchy could come under pressure from another new man, Calum Chambers.
Mathieu Debuchy / Calum Chambers (defenders) – Arsenal have replaced the outgoing Bacary Sagna with two right-backs in Debuchy and Chambers. Debuchy is likely to start the season in the side but will be pushed hard by Chambers who was impressive in the second half of the season at Southampton. Debuchy could be a good fantasy add but owners will need to watch Chambers closely.
David Ospina (goalkeeper) – The Colombian World Cup keeper will start the season behind Wojciech Szczesny in the pecking order and shouldn’t have too much fantasy impact.
Yaya Sanogo (forward) – It’s difficult to pick out sleeper options in the Arsenal squad as most of their starting eleven are strong fantasy plays. Young striker Sanogo looked out of his depth at times when deputising for Olivier Giroud last year but his 4 goals in last week’s friendly win over Benfica could point the way for a breakout season for the Ivorian.
Mesut Ozil (midfield) – The German World Cup winner could have been listed among the key men but it says a lot about the expectation on Ozil that I think he could struggle again this year. He managed 5 goals and 10 assists last season but much more is expected of the club’s record signing. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that Sanchez will take much of the spotlight away and that he will bounceback but I didn’t see anything in the World Cup that suggested he was back to his best.
Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Lukas Fabianski (Swansea), Johan Djourou (Stuttgart), Nicklas Bendtner (released), Chu-Young Park (released).
Paul Lambert must feel like he is in a no-win situation. Criticized this time last year for building a young squad that lacked experience, Lambert has now faced the wrath of the supporters with some questionable summer signings who have experience but may have left their best days behind them.
The Villa squad should have enough quality to stay clear of the relegation zone but they are unlikely to threaten the top half of the table. From a fantasy point of view, the players of value are few and far between especially with Christian Benteke out until closer to Christmas with an ACL.
Ron Vlaar (defender) – The big Dutch defender had a magnificent World Cup especially in neutralizing the effect of Lionel Messi in the semi-final and he will be a key man for Villa at the heart of their five man defence. However, the vultures have been circling Villa Park and Vlaar may be snapped up by a bigger club before the start of the season. Villa should collect a few clean sheets and Vlaar could pick up some performance points to boost his fantasy performance.
Joe Cole (midfielder), Philippe Senderos (defender) and Kieran Richardson (midfielder) – Villa Park has turned into the Premier League retirement home over the summer and these three veterans will be looking for a final swansong before they hang up their boots. Of the 3, former England star, Cole could have the most fantasy value but it remains to be seen how much time he spends on the field.
Darren Bent (forward) – The former England striker has been out of favor at Villa for a long time and spent last season on loan at Fulham. However, injuries to Benteke and Libor Kozak presents Bent with an opportunity to reclaim his starting place. Bent has 96 career Premiership goals and could bounceback this season if given the opportunity.
Christian Benteke (forward) – Belgian striker Benteke missed the World Cup and will be out for months into the new season. As Villa’s undisputed star, he could be rushed back into action quickly and that will come with some definite rustiness when he finally does make it back onto the field. He won’t be a factor in Fantasy terms until January and even then he could be one to steer clear of until he demonstrates that his injury woes are behind him.
Jordan Bowery (Rotherham United), Marc Albrighton (Leicester City), Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg), Yacouba Sylla (Erciyesspor), Jed Steer (Doncaster Rovers), Antonio Luna (Verona).