Neal Thurman

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FPL Draft Recap - Week 23

Monday, January 15, 2018


Kevin De Bruyne...

Mo Salah...

Andre Schurrle...

Henrikh Mkhitaryan...

Anthony Martial...

2015-2016 Eden Hazard...

 

Don't get me wrong, as an Arsenal supporter, I'm about as disconsolate as one can be about the state of my team.  They have misjudged the market and their place in it time after time while simultaneously failing to put the resources in place to identify the sort of young talent necessary to compete when you're no longer a financial superpower.  Despite all of that, and the miserable loss on Sunday to Bournemouth, I do have one thing to cling to which is the hope that they are, given the current situation, playing the Alexis situation as well as it can be played.  Here are three reasons I have such hope:

 

1) That list above.  Those are just some of the wide attackers who were either already established as very good before stumbling under Mourinho or improved dramatically after they parted company with the Portuguese manager.  Given the position Arsenal find themselves in with Sanchez, which is absolutely a situation of their own making and I'm not excusing the errors that got us to this point, where selling within the Premier League is the only way to get anything for Sanchez at this point, I'm going with the option that makes it least likely I'm going to be RvP-at-Man-United mad about the transaction.  I'm not saying that Sanchez WILL do poorly under Mourinho at Manchester United, I'm just saying that of the situations that seem to be potential landing spots - at City under a manager he's played for successfully before vs United under Mourinho who chews up wide attackers for breakfast - I'm going with the hope that things will go poorly between Mourinho and Sanchez.  

 

2) The Ozil Factor.  I don't know how I feel about the idea of keeping Mesut Ozil on huge wages if he isn't really dying to stay.  What I am pretty sure of is that Arsenal would like to keep him.  Despite his talent, there haven't been many "elite" suitors mooted as potential landing spots.  Manchester United was one of those potential destinations.  If Sanchez is newly entrenched at United and making a boatload of cash, it seems unlikely that United will be as aggressive in going after Ozil.  Maybe Arsenal would have preferred to keep Sanchez but, given that it was never going to happen, facilitating a move that might limit Ozil's list of attractive destinations is at least something of a win.  

 

3) Mkhitaryan. Part of the rumored summer negotiation for Sanchez heading to City was Raheem Sterling moving in the other direction.  Whether that was ever seriously considered or just reporters putting two and two together when looking at an even more stacked City attacking group isn't clear.  What is clear is that it would be in Arsenal's best interest to get a player back from this transaction if they can make it happen.  Is there risk around Mkhitaryan given what he's shown at Manchesster United? Absolutely.  If we've learned one thing from that list at the top of the page though, it's that the best risk that anyone in world football can take in recent years, it is reclaiming a wide attacking player who has struggled under Jose Mourinho.  It wouldn't be shocking to see Sanchez and Mkhitaryan switch places with cash going to Arsenal over and above the player and Mkhitaryan actually being the more productive player.  The rumors are out there that the player isn't particularly interested in going to Arsenal and I completely get that.  If Arsenal can leverage their newly acquired back office staff, including the man who originally recruited Mkhitaryan to Dortmund, to make this happen then I suspect it will go very well for Arsenal.

 

I recognize that some percentage of the people reading this will write it off as the fanciful meditations of a frustrated Gooner looking for some ray of hope.  Hopefully, a little actual logic crept through into the conversation as well.  What I do know is that sending Sanchez to City would make me angry when he jumped on the bandwagon that was already going to be successful and ended up lifting a couple of league titles and maybe even a Champions League trophy as well.  Even if none of the other above good things come to fruittion for Arsenal I know I'll be much happier watching Sanchez play out his final elite seasons clashing with Mourinho and the Manchester United supporters who will be expecting a disciplined defender who pumps out 20+ goals like he did last season when what they really have is a 15 goal player (not a bad thing from a wide attacker mind) who tracks back when he feels like it (which is some of the time but will be maddeningly inconsistent by Mourinho's standards).

 

Other Transfer-related Comments

  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - I had already inserted the Ox into my Official PL draft team when Coutinho left and was handsomely rewarded by the results against City.  My only nagging concern is that there's a hamstring injury waiting just around the corner for the former Arsenal man. 
  • Theo Walcott - The noise around him leaving Arsenal, either permanently or at least on loan to try to pump up his World Cup chances in the summer, are loud enough that they can't be ignored.  Based on what we've seen from Big Sam's Everton I'm not sure I'd be too excited to use a roster spot on Walcott unless I had a roster spot that was really unproductive.  It isn't that the Toffees haven't been scoring goals, that can happen, it's that they haven't even been getting shots on target.  Not sure how Walcott changes that math significantly.
  • Danny Welbeck/Alex Iwobi - With Sanchez all but gone, presumably one or both Arsenal attackers are going to get some time until a replacement is brought in from outside the club.  I'd suspect that Iwobi will get the first crack at it and I'd be interested in picking him up as a temporary option if I had a dead spot in the roster in midfield. 
  • Adam Lallana - Honestly, I don't think Coutinho leaving changes his prospects too much.  He'll get an occasional start as a very good deputy but only an injury or a Sigurdsson-back-to-Swansea-like move back down the table is likely to see him return to being an important fantasy player. 
  • Stoke City Players Under Lambert - You never know how well someone interviews and what contributes to an organizational decision to make an important, high profile hire like Paul Lambert going to Stoke City to replace Mark Hughes.  We know that Hughes' time rightfully came to an end as the results and the style were both pretty poor.  What is frustrating for supporters and fantasy managers alike who might have been hoping for a bump is that the man hired has very little track record of either success in the Premer League or improving style. He survived with Norwich in the Prem after winning promotion but it was hardly entertaining or hopeful.  He was pretty rotten with Villa and has been average at best in the Championship since leaving the Midlands.  I understand that Stoke City aren't a real destination club but there's some talent to work with that seems like it could have merited a more inspiring choice.  With Lambert at the helm it's hard to see much added value for any of the Stoke City players currently available in your fantasy league (meaning everyone but Shaqiri and maybe Butland).
  • Ross Barkley - He still has to recover and Chelsea surely need a boost but I have a hard timem seeing Barkley, a player who frustrated multiple managers with his decision-making and lack of progression as a player, becoming a Conte favorite given that he seems to value those two qualities.  I could certainly be wrong but it feels like it will be a frustrating rotation between Barkley, Bakayoko, and Drinkwater partnering Kante in midfield.  Maybe Barkley gets some time in place of Willian/Pedro or even with one of those two with Hazard playing centrally while Morata gets himself together but I wouldn't bet on a ton of that. 
  • Cenk Tosun - He looked solid against Spurs but he's a player who is always going to be dependent on the service he gets and, as we noted related to Walcott, there's been precious little of that at Everton all season.  I wouldn't mind having him on my bench in the event that the Toffees figure things out but anyone hoping for him to be a productive starter seems likely to be disappointed more than anything else. 
  • Georges-Kevin Nkoudou - I can't say I know a ton about him but I'm at least tracking him at Burnley.  They need to infuse their attack with something which means he's likely to get a chance.  Who knows if he does anything with that chance but if you're looking for a Hail Mary then he's at least worth tracking to see if he takes advantage.  
  • Alex Pritchard - Despite sounding more like a Modern Family character than a professional footballer Pritchard is worth watching.  He scored six and assisted on seven more in the Championship last season despite only 19 starts (11 substitute appearances).  At 21-years-old he has the sort of profile that merits some serious consideration for playing time at a club like Huddersfield where attackers are in high demand.  Aaron Mooy's influence has waned since his early-season breakout and Tom Ince seems to be a Championship player more so than a Premier League one.  It's always a bit of a lottery ticket with young, productive attackers coming up from the Championship but if your team needs a lottery ticket to come up then Pritchard might be worth taking a risk on in larger leagues where quality is in high demand. 
 
As a tonic for my Arsenal-related woes, I am taking solace in the fact that my draft fantasy team with my colleagues at Rotoworld and Fantasy Football Scout continues to roll along (sorry Jeremy) and the Philadelphia Eagles pulled out a huge win and are heading to the NFC Championship Game next weekend.   Like fantasy management, sports fandom requires a portfolio approach to ensure that there's something positive happening all (or at least most) of the time.  Things may be looking grim for Arsenal but the Eagles trajectory looks positive for years to come with Doug Peterson and Carson Wentz as franchise cornerstones and a lot of talent to surround them in the front office, coaching ranks, and on the field.  
 
Here's a thought, Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles owner for those who don't know), next time you run into Stan Kroenke at an NFL Owners Meeting, maybe ask him if Arsenal would be for sale.  You don't have crazy oil money but you seem to havve a pretty good handle on how to manage a sports franchise.  Just saying...
 


Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
Email :Neal Thurman





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