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GW36 Preview: Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski could offer valuable points in closing weeks

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Now removed of the pressure associated with a title race, Arsenal seem to have gone back to playing attractive, attacking football, at least if the second half against West Ham and the Hull game which followed are anything to go by.

Also key to those Gunners victories has been the presence of Lukas Podolski (£7.8m) in the starting lineup, with the German managing to double his tally of Premier League goals output for the season in the space of six days last week.

Owned by just 2.3% of Fantasy bosses at the time of writing, the key problem with selecting Podolski for your team has always been the fact that he tends not to last the full 90 minutes for Arsenal, but he did just that against West Ham and was withdrawn with just seven minutes left against Hull.

Arsene Wenger appears to have noted that his side play better with another attacking threat playing off Olivier Giroud (£8.5m), and although both Mesut Ozil (£9.5m) and Aaron Ramsey (£7.2m) have returned from their injuries in recent weeks and both are worth considering for selection, Wenger surely has to keep Podolski in his team based on recent form.

The Gunners are now widely expected to sew up their usual spot in the top four in the coming weeks, as they host Newcastle on Monday, then face a home game with West Brom before going to Norwich on the final day.

Podolski will be key to that effort as they bid to go into the FA Cup final in the greatest possible mood, and having more than made his point to his manager in recent weeks, he could make your team a few more before the end of the campaign.

 

 

Elsewhere, another potentially decisive Premier League weekend will see Liverpool host Chelsea knowing that a win would place them within touching distance of the Premier League title.

Of course this will be a hugely difficult game for the Reds, but the form of Raheem Sterling (£5.8m) is proving impossible to ignore, and he could again be turned to in another clash which is sure to have Anfield rocking.

The fact that six clubs face double Gameweeks next week should be uppermost in your thinking though, especially given that Manchester City are one of them and are refusing to give up on their title challenge.

Sergio Aguero (£12.5m) has bounced back from injury and scored in the win over West Brom on Monday, and although City face a tough trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday and Aguero perhaps isn’t quite 100% fit yet, he is still one of the top performers in the division even when he’s not in full working order.

David Silva (£9.8m) got injured in that game and things don’t look good for him, but Samir Nasri (£8.6m) remains in fine fettle and he’ll be crucial if City are going to continue to have a say in the destination of the title.

Another side who double up in Gameweek 37 are Sunderland, and following their stunning win at Chelsea they’ll be bouncing into this weekend’s crucial game at home to Cardiff full of confidence.

Fabio Borini (£6.2m) proved his worth to the club with the winning penalty at Stamford Bridge, but perhaps it will pay to back winger Adam Johnson (£6.4m) to rediscover some of the form that he found earlier in the season and impress in a match which is bound to go a long way towards deciding who’ll stay in the Premier League for next season.

@Mark_Jones86

 

Gameweek 31 preview: Has Robin van Persie rediscovered Dutch courage?

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How long was that international break? About three years?

It certainly seemed that way anyway, but as Fantasy Premier League finally returns those internationals might well have helped one of its star men to rediscover his form.

A run of just one goal in his last six league matches has seen Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (£13.7m) lose plenty of support from Fantasy bosses, with his once seemingly unbeatable ownership percentage dwindling and now surpassed by Luis Suarez (£11.2m), who has also taken over as the Premier League’s top scorer.

Sir Alex Ferguson has notoriously been loathe to lose his players to international football over the years, but on this occasion he might just have welcomed Van Persie joining up with the Dutch team for two World Cup qualifiers in the past week, a week that saw the forward return to form.

Van Persie scored in the Netherlands’ 3-0 win over Estonia last Friday before following that up with two goals in the 4-0 win over Romania, and with those two matches both played at home the lack of travel time will mean that he’ll return fresh for the champions-elect in their early game at Sunderland on Saturday.

With Martin O’Neill’s side struggling and no doubt looking over their shoulders at the teams down below them – and now doing so without the injured Steven Fletcher, an early season Fantasy favourite who is now out for the rest of the campaign through injury – then the visit of Manchester United to Wearside isn’t likely to go down well with the locals.

The selection of Manchester United and Chelsea players should come with a warning this weekend given that the pair will meet in the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Stamford Bridge early on Monday afternoon, but Van Persie’s timely return to goalscoring form could come in handy here, and he’s likely to lead the line as United go for another win.

As for Chelsea, they make a tricky trip to Southampton from which it could be difficult to emerge with a victory.

The Saints have impressively beaten Manchester City and Liverpool at St Mary’s recently, and so Chelsea will know that a tough contest awaits them on the south coast. Having said that Demba Ba (£7.8m) has happy memories of the venue given that he scored there twice on his Chelsea debut in the FA Cup, and the Senegalese forward could be the man to back.

Arsenal could have things a little easier at home to Nigel Adkins’ Reading side, even without the injured Theo Walcott (£9.0m).

The absence of the Englishman could open the door for Olivier Giroud (£7.5m) to shine, but with Arsene Wenger confirming the fitness of Lukas Podolski (£8.1m) before the game then it could well be the German who impresses for the hosts in a game they’ll expect to win easily.

Elsewhere, Wigan’s usual end of season renaissance may have kickstarted with their late victory over Newcastle two weeks ago, and Roberto Martinez’s side offer some useful midfield options in Shaun Maloney (£4.9m), Jean Beausejour (£5.3m) and James McCarthy (£4.8m) ahead of their home match against Norwich.

Everton and Fulham will expect home wins against Stoke and QPR respectively, and that could spell more points for Fantasy favourites Leighton Baines (£7.6m) and Dimitar Berbatov (£7.0m). It is however worth noting that the Blues will be without the suspended Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar for the next two games due to suspension.

Pienaar’s old club Tottenham go to Swansea, where defender Jan Vertonghen (£6.3m) stands on the verge of surpassing 100 points this season, whilst Sunday’s game will see the usual interest in Suarez as Liverpool go to Aston Villa.

It could be a South American teammate of his who shines though, as after scoring twice and assisting two more in his brief career in England so far, the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho (£6.8m) has found plenty of admirers.

Against a Villa side who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 14 games he could make even more friends.

@Mark_Jones86

 

The #FYCUP starts on GW31 follow @FantasyYIRMA on twitter for updates and fixture announcements on Saturday Morning!

 

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Arsenal: Keep calm and carry on

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The final 17 minutes of Arsenal’s outclassing of Southampton on Saturday said an awful lot about both clubs at the beginning of this Premier League season.

For the Saints, a team battered and bruised by the late, almost heroic defeats to both Manchester clubs and given a stark warning of the quality throughout the division when Wigan won convincingly at St Mary’s, it was all about just getting to full-time without experiencing any more damage on what had already been a harrowing afternoon.

In the event, they ended up conceding a sixth goal to their former favourite Theo Walcott two minutes from time, but the lack of celebrations from the winger after biting the hand that used to feed him were repeated all around the Emirates Stadium. The locals were desperate for Olivier Giroud to score.

That desire and anxiousness wasn’t a slight on the abilities of a forward who scored 21 goals in helping Montpellier to win the French title last season, but more a reflection of Gunners fans in recent times.

The £12million Giroud hadn’t scored in his first three appearances for the club, he didn’t find the net in his 17 minutes on the pitch against Southampton and followed that up with a goalless 76 minutes back at his former club in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Cue red and white panic.

If an Arsenal fan hasn’t got something to worry about, then he or she must be doing something wrong.

It isn’t their fault, it has been ingrained in supporters ever since summer-long transfer sagas surrounding the likes of Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and now Robin van Persie, all of which were destined to end with the player escaping the club in the same manner that Usain Bolt accelerates away from his rivals.

After the inevitable parting of the ways became official whoever was left, particularly those who were viewed as replacements, simply had to hit the ground running. Supporters already felt let down by former heroes, and so they didn’t want to see mediocre performers enter in their place.

The longing for Giroud to be a success will go on, but fans should be mindful not to freak out too much as they hope for every touch from the new man to end in the back of the net. They should simply take stock, take a deep breath and take a look at the talents elsewhere.

The other two new additions illustrate this perfectly, and as long as Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla keep on impressing to the levels that they have been so far then maybe even the Arsenal fans who are thinning on top wouldn’t mind losing the hairs they’ll tear out of their head whilst worrying about Giroud. And they will still worry.

Podolski, Cazorla, a seemingly reborn Gervinho, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby Aaron Ramsey, Walcott for now, and potentially even Jack Wilshere one day, maybe. All of whom add up to a potent attacking force before you even consider a French international forward who could very easily turn out to be a roaring success. Throw them in alongside a now much tighter defence and suddenly Gunners fans have every reason to be rather content with life right now, if they allow themselves to be.

The Giroud side issue will be solved soon enough – the forward is too good a player for it not to be – and when it is then Arsenal fans might be best advised to avoid finding something else to worry about, to just to play it cool, to keep calm and carry on.

They have the good fortune to follow a very good team which will only improve the more that its shiny new components are allowed to click together.

It’s getting there, so just try to sit tight and let it happen.

@Mark_Jones86

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