It’s easy to pick a football team. We all do it, regardless of which colour shirt we wear on a Saturday. This weekend alone, how many of you will be with your pals in the local boozer discussing tactics, formations and starting line-ups? We all know better than everyone else, agreeing to disagree it’s commonly announced.
This summer brings your opportunity to make you opinions matter though with the launch of Sky Sports’ brand new Fantasy Football game. Predicting your own fantasy football side gives you the ammo to say “I told you so” in that very boozer where you were forced to ‘agree to disagree’ last week. By sitting at the pinnacle point of the league table, there is no disagreement involved and ultimately your opinion means more… right?
Where you might think John Djourou is overrated, perhaps he’s a steal at £6.7m? Would you pay £8.0m for Andrei Arshavin? How about a £9.5m plunge on Arsenal’s Dutch genius, Robin van Persie? Once your team’s picked, you’re sitting on that rather thin line awaiting your fate – could you actually pick a team that would win your team points? Many will fail and give up by Christmas, but you’ll still be there to broadcast your opinions on who the most effective midfielder at The Emirates is while staring into your pre-kick-off pint. On the other end of the fantasia spectrum, you could be sitting top of the league boasting into your champagne after wrapping up a few quid worth of prize money and in this case, money really does talk.
In the words of Brucey: “Points make prizes!” so where are you going to earn your points? Well, pull up a chair, grab yourself a beer and get the lads round ready to see your Arsenal boys live on the box whipping your points tally up like a crème brûlée.
Saturday 20th August 2011 – Arsenal V Liverpool – Live on Sky Sports HD – 12:45 kick-off
The scene of last year’s extraordinary injury time palaver – depending on who you support – when Van Persie had nicked the three points for the Gunners, before Eboué decided to tackle Tom Daly-esque and concede that subsequent equalising spot-kick.
So who should you pick as Arsenal gun for revenge? Take a plunge on Andrei. He’s pricy at £8m and may well not feature during the long haul, but he does have five notches against the Merseyside outfit.
Prediction: (Arshavin) 1-1 (Kuyt)
Stat: 6 out of their last 11 meetings have ended 1-1
Sunday 28th August 2011 – Manchester United V Arsenal – Live on Sky Sports HD – 16:00 kick-off
Gone are the days of a Keano/Vieria brawl prior to kick-off. The modern game has arguably seen United’s red-nosed Scot befriend Arsenal’s geek-sheek professor, but nevertheless, the fans’ rivalry remains as strong as ever.
It’s bound to be competitive, and Arsenal are due a shock against the champions. With United’s Evra talking up a Nasri move to United, and Nasri more likely to join City, wouldn’t it just be ironic if the Frenchman ended up staying to repeat his double of 2008 against United? At £7.3m, if he does stay, he might well respond to his flirtations with United by snatching 3 points for Arsenal, and 10 points for you.
Prediction: (Rooney, Vidic) 2-3 (Ramsay, Nasri, Nasri)
Stat: Arsenal have played 17 times at Old Trafford in the last decade, but only managed 3 victories.
Saturday 17th September – Blackburn Rovers V Arsenal – Live on Sky Sports HD – 12:45 kick-off
Mr Samba – just which team’s shirt will be donning by the time this fixture comes round? Will it be blue and white, will it be red, or might it even be the white of Spurs? Personally, I’ve said for the last 18 months that he is tailor made for Arsenal’s laxy-dazy defence, but that’s my own pub banter slipping out.
At £5.4m, and languishing at a cheaper rate than such players as Phil Neville (£5.6m) and Martin Skrtel (£7.2m), he’s a bloody good steal wherever he is playing. For me, the entire result could hinge on what shirt he walks out the tunnel in. If he’s a Rovers player, Arsenal won’t score many but if he’s playing for Arsenal, The Gunners won’t concede.
As I choke on this smooth pint of bitter, I believe he’ll be at Arsenal and will score against the Lancashire chicken farmers.
Prediction: 0-2 (Samba, Van Persie)
Stat: Andrei Arshavin has scored in the last three Arsenal victories against Blackburn.
Sunday 2nd October 2011 – Tottenham Hotspurs V Arsenal – Live on Sky Sports HD – 16:00 kick-off
Ahh… the small matter of the north London derby arrives in early October. It’s never a dull moment when Arsenal meet Spurs, with either controversy, goals, or tempers generally the subject of the morning papers the next day.
We don’t know a great deal about Gervinho, but take a dip on him in the big game, as he could well etch his name into Arsenal folk-law for years to come. My crystal ball suggests that the derby will be the game when Gervinho really introduces people to his name as The Gunners counter Spurs’ attacking wingers.
Prediction: 0-3 (Gervinho, Gervinho, Van Persie)
Stat: The last time Arsenal beat Spurs when the date was an even number was on December 22nd, 2007, some 6 games ago.
Sunday 29th October 2011 – Chelsea V Arsenal – Live on Sky Sports HD – 12:45 kick-off
Arsenal feature again on Sky Sports HD late in the month as they come up against Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea. The Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge to face a side where in recent years, Chelsea have kept Arsenal’s attack at bay.
With The Blues’ strong defence and ability to win games by small margins, it will be a low scoring game. Consider both Chelsea and Arsenal defenders for this one, and in Thomas Vermaelen, you probably have a steady points haul at the cost of £5.9m.
Stat: The two sides have only drawn 0-0 twice since the Premiership began.
Sunday 19th November 2011 – Norwich V Arsenal – Live on Sky Sports HD – 12:45 kick-off
Norwich host Arsenal in November in the last of the currently released live fixtures. The Canaries will be facing a tough battle to stay up this season following successive promotions from League 1 to Premiership.
While goals would be the obvious point scoring tactic to aim for, I point you the way of Wojciech Szczęsny who would be expected to keep a clean sheet.
Prediction: 0-2 (Walcott, Song)
Stat: Arsenal beat Norwich 4-1 home and away the last time Norwich were in the top flight (2004/05).
With all those exciting fixtures in the battle for the Premier League title ahead, there’s only one place to be, Sky Sports!