Despite the initial two fixtures, I think there is a very good argument to be made that you should invest in Arsenal players from the beginning of the season. At home to the defending champions, and away to the FA cup holders is not exactly the start Unai Emery would have wanted, yet I believe it is not as bad as it appears. Man City are extremely short defensively, and will be without three players who were key to their dismantling of Arsenal last season – De Bruyne, Sterling and Jesus. Chelsea are still adapting to a completely different style and system under the recently appointed Sarri and have yet to make the big splash in the transfer market that you might have expected. I doubt we will see the Gunners rout to routine victories over these two sides, but neither do I expect the embarrassing defeats we have come to expect.
Goalkeepers and Defence
The goalkeeper debate is very much up in the air as of now. Although you would assume Leno (£5.0m) has not been signed at 26 years old to warm the bench, the fact that Cech (£5.0m) was given the No.1 shirt makes me think he is also in Emery’s plans. I would wait and see if one of these options can nail down the starting spot before basing your GK strategy around either.
Defenders have the potential to provide a lot of value. In my previous article, I highlighted how I think Bellerin (£5.5m) could benefit under the defensive structure and style of play Emery will bring in. With other premium fullbacks priced at 6.0m and above, I think Bellerin has the potential to provide excellent value and might be slipping under the radar of most at just 13% ownership. Particularly once the fixtures improve for Arsenal, he is almost certainly going to be going into my side. Likewise, with Monreal (£5.5m) likely to miss the first weeks of the season, it appears that Kolasinac (£5.0m) will be Arsenal’s starting left back. If you are looking for a differential pick, he would be one to keep an eye on, especially if he can replicate the incredible attacking form he showed at the start of his Arsenal career. The rest of the defenders are less appealing due to uncertainty of minutes. Sokratis (£5.5m) looks set to start at centre back, but it is unclear who will partner him. In my previous article, I highlighted Chambers (£4.5m) and how this could be the season he competes more regularly for a first team spot. Mustafi (£5.5m) and Mavrapanos (£5.0m) shouldn’t even really be in your thoughts; I haven’t seen anything that overpriced since I realised Freddos now cost 65p.
The midfield might be the section I am in the greatest disagreement with the FPL community on. Mkhitaryan (£7.0m) is appearing with alarming regularity in a lot of squads I see, backed up by his 18.1% ownership. This makes him the second most selected Arsenal player. As much as I think he is a great player, who will probably provide great value through the course of the season, he is by no means certain to start. For just £0.5m more, Ramsey (£7.5m) is as nailed on as any Arsenal player and has a great track record in the Premier League when he stays fit. The Welshman beats Mkhitaryan in assists, pass completion, goals scored, successful take-ons and only just trails in chances created and key passes (all stats averaged per game). That was during the 2017/18 season, where Ramsey was given more defensive responsibility whilst Mkhitaryan was much more advanced. With a license to attack more, an almost guaranteed starter, and a great FPL track record, I think he is the better choice.
The only other midfielder of note is Ozil (£8.5m) who’s significant price downgrade reflects his mediocre points return of last year. The awkward price bracket makes the German a less appealing option. For just 0.5m more, Riyad Mahrez is available, and I have my doubts as to whether Ozil would justify the extra spend over the aforementioned Arsenal midfielders. However, he is a primary set-piece taker, and I feel a more organised and structured Arsenal are likely to profit more from dead-ball situations; he has shown his lethality from free-kicks in the past. There is also the ‘differential’ aspect, with just 3.4% ownership at the time of writing, that could entice a few who became tired of the template many FPL managers became drawn to last season. Finally, he will not be involved in any international competitions, meaning his footballing focus lays with the Gunners, and he undoubtedly returns to North London wanting to show what he is capable of.
Arsenal have only three forwards listed in the game. The one I feel should be in most sides is Aubemayang (£11.0m). He showed the instant impact he was able to have in the Premier League last season scoring 87 points (10 goals, 4 assists, and 12 bonus) in only 1056 minutes. Although there has been some fear about him being played on the left wing, this was an area he played for a decent chunk of that time last season. He has also played there in Germany, and still been able to register impressive goal tallies season after season. Obviously it would be ideal if he were to play centrally, but I don’t think he is significantly less appealing as a fantasy asset on the flanks. The positional uncertainty raises the question of Lacazette (£9.5m). I have seen a lot of talk of using the French striker as a cheaper alternative into the Arsenal attack, however you have to consider him in comparison first to other forwards in that price bracket. Mainly competing with Firmino and Vardy in the £9.0/9.5m range, both of those players are more central to their teams’ style and attacking plans than Lacazette is to Arsenal. It would be highly surprising if either were dropped, but I can easily see Lacazette being left on the bench in favour of Mkhitaryan. Further, as long as Aubameyang is on the field, the former Lyon man is not on penalties. He can also occasionally become a peripheral figure in the game, leaving him reliant on the whims of the rest of his Arsenal teammates. With an ideal team structure that, in my eyes, leans towards one ‘heavy hitter’ up front, Lacazette doesn’t fit the price bracket either. Finding the extra £1.5m mid-season to upgrade is always much more difficult than downgrading from Aubameyang, should Lacazette prove to be good value.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Welbeck (£6.5m) too, I guess…