Gameweek 21 is just around the corner so All Things FPL (ATFPL) presents the team news, focusing on Louis van Gaal’s selection dilemma, Manchester City’s injury situation, the Pulis-effect, and smoking in showers.
Louis van Gaal’s Selection Dilemma
It’s morning in Manchester and Louis van Gaal has finally woken from the injury nightmare that has blighted the start of his managerial career in England. He can now choose between players at the same position instead of being forced to use the only fit player in a position or even have several players playing out of position:
“I have to select what I want, but now I am forced to select. For a manager, that is not so good.”
Michael Carrick is likely to start again in midfield, Luke Shaw is expected to overcome a knock to play, Rafael can play with a face mask despite fracturing a cheek bone, and Antonio Valencia is expected to overcome a groin injury to be available for selection against Southampton. Only Ashley Young is confirmed out and Daley Blind will likely need more time to be match fit after returning to training this week.
Most importantly, Ángel Di María is likely to return to United’s starting lineup—the Argentinian is arguably the standout player at United, the one Van Gaal should fit others around. United’s manager now faces a problem he has seldom had at United; how to build his team with too many fit players to choose from and how to get the best out of Di María:
“We still have to find that out. It is about the composition of the team. We have to look for the best team also because all of the players were injured so I could not select the team that I want.”
Van Gaal has even gone back on his statement that Wayne Rooney is guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup:
“It’s dependable on how the balance in the team is. I need balance in the team. I’m looking for the balance. I hope to perform better because then the game shall be more attractive. I don’t know if I shall use him [Rooney] always because it’s also dependable of the form of the strikers.”
Fantasy wise, this makes selecting United players harder. Di María becomes, in ATFPL’s view, the best pick at United. Rooney’s position in midfield is questionable with Carrick, Herrera, Fellaini, and Di María back, not to mention the imminent return of Blind. That means it could be hard to predict the starting forwards and again brings the question of where Juan Mata fits in.
United’s opponents, Southampton, welcome Nathaniel Clyne back from an ankle injury and could hand former Werder Bremen winger Eljero Elia his Premier League debut on Sunday. Apart from injured Jay Rodriguez and Maya Yoshida and Sadio Mane (both on international duty), Southampton could field their best team. The big question is rotation and the fitness of their players following the FA Cup draw against Ipswich Town. They have to go to Portman Road for the replay next Monday, meaning they have three away games in seven days. How Ronald Koeman uses the squad will be key.
One Out, Three In
Manuel Pellegrini welcomes back three key players from injury, news that will go a long way to mitigate the disappointment of losing Yaya Touré for the African Cup of Nations. Skipper Vincent Kompany, Sergio Agüero, and Edin Džeko are back in contention for Manchester City’s game against Everton:
“Agüero and Džeko both are in the squad list. Also Kompany – the three of them.”
Whether any start remains to be seen as Kompany and Džeko both suffered setbacks on previous returns from injury and Agüero’s fitness will determine City’s success this season, both at home and in the Champions League. Should either of the strikers start, James Milner will no longer operate in the false nine role and David Silva could again become more of a playmaker than a finisher.
Things are looking up for Pellegrini and he was hoping that City’s good run continued:
“Hopefully we’ll be looking to open up a little gap of our own. All we can do is concentrate on our games and if we can get the results we want to get, it depends on how Chelsea do.”
For Everton, Leighton Baines is hoping to start after picking up a knock in the 2-0 New Year’s Day defeat to Hull City and Antolin Alcaraz returns from suspension. Roberto Martinez will be without Sylvain Distin, who is suffering from a groin problem. He joins a lengthy injury list, containing Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, James McCarthy, Steven Pienaar, and Darron Gibson.
West Brom’s Defence Under Tony Pulis
West Brom’s Tony Pulis era starts in earnest in Saturday’s match against Hull City. Pulis wasted no time getting his people in, clearing out the coaching staff—he is likely to have done the same with West Brom’s playing style. Fantasy Managers will be watching this game with interest to assess whether West Brom’s defensive assets are worth investing in to capitalise on the now clichéd Pulis-effect. His teams are organised, miserly at the back, and hard working, but Pulis admitted there was a lot of work to do:
“Everybody understands the position we’re in. The fact the club has been struggling and only won four games at the Hawthorns in 2014 means that something is wrong and has to be sorted out.
Just because I’m here now doesn’t mean we will stay up. There is a lot of work to do and we have to pull together to make sure the club stays up.”
He did, however, sound confident in his first media appearance as Albion’s head coach:
“It’s the right club at the right time. I’ve got a decent record of helping places turn around.”
Pulis almost has a fully-fit squad to pick from against Hull, with only Jonas Olsson out with an Achilles problem and Youssuf Mulumbu playing for Congo in the African Cup of Nations. Craig Gardner is back from injury.
For Hull, defender Michael Dawson is in contention after recovering from a hamstring problem, Nikica Jelavić is back after illness, and James Chester could feature. Gaston Ramirez, Sone Aluko, Mohamed Diame, Andy Robertson, and Liam Rosenior are all confirmed injured.
Smoking in the Shower
Wojciech Szczęsny starting place at Arsenal is in doubt after he reportedly was caught smoking in the shower after Arsenal’s loss against Southampton. Arséne Wenger was reluctant to comment on the matter but said that Szczęsny had apologised:
“He made a mistake, he is not the first one or the last one. I like Wojciech as a person and when he makes a mistake he stands up for it. I think he has contributed a lot to the good image of Arsenal and he learns from his mistakes. Of course he has apologised. He is a serious boy who works very hard, he doesn’t need all that.”
In other news, Wenger was happy to report that several players would be back in contention for Arsenal’s game against Stoke City…
“Aaron Ramsey is back in training, Mesut Özil is back in training, Mathieu Flamini is back in training – so we have got three players back. Olivier Giroud is back from suspension so we have got a bigger squad than last week.”
…but warned that Özil was perhaps not ready to start:
“He will have another training session on Friday for only the second time because he was sick earlier in the week. He is certainly available for selection for Sunday. Whether I start him or not I haven’t decided. He is an exceptional football player and he gives you continuity in your game. He is a very creative player and ideally you want all your best players available.”
Danny Welbeck, Abou Diaby, Serge Gnabry, Mikel Arteta, and Jack Wilshere are all injured.
In Other News
- Aston Villa have confirmed that captain Ron Vlaar mill miss the game against Leicester and is expected to be out for up to six weeks with a knee injury, but has back in contention Gabriel Agbonlahor, Joe Cole, Nathan Baker, Kieran Richardson, and Ashley Westwood. Leicester will be missing Esteban Cambiasso, Riyad Mahrez due to Africa Cup of Nations duties, Jeffrey Schlupp, and Danny Drinkwater is a doubt.
- For Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge is still injured while Joe Allen could be back in contention. In defence, Kolo Touré is at the African Cup of Nations and Glen Johnson is a confirmed absentee. Adam Lallana is expected to be out until the middle of February with a thigh injury. Liverpool opponents, Sunderland, are unable to field Sebastián Coates, ineligible to face his parent club, and could be without Lee Cattermole, Jack Rodwell, and Anthony Réveillère.
- QPR are without midfielder Sandro and defender Suk-Young Yun against Burnley who have Sam Vokes back but have doubts about Jason Shackell, David Jones, Michael Duff, and Matt Taylor.
- For the game against West Ham, Swansea will be missing the services of Wilfried Bony who is on African Cup of Nations duty, injured Jefferson Montero, and Ki Sung-Yueng on Asian Cup duty. Bafetimbi Gomis could start and new signings Nelson Oliveira and Matt Grimes could be handed their Swansea debuts. West Ham have Alex Song back from illness, but are without Cheikhou Kouyate (on African Cup of Nations duty) and injured Diafra Sakho.
- Crystal Palace will have to face Tottenham without Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie, both away on international duty, but could have James McArthur and Damien Delaney back from knocks. Tottenham have to assess Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela and could hand DeAndre Yedlin his Spurs debut.
- Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns but Newcastle, who visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday, have a slew of injures to contend with:
Krul’s deputy Rob Elliot (thigh) is still out, along with Rolando Aarons (hamstring), Mehdi Abeid (toe), Ryan Taylor (knee), Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Siem de Jong and Gabriel Obertan (both thigh). Sammy Ameobi has a knee complaint, while Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse are both away on Africa Cup of Nations duty. It remains to be seen whether Fabricio Coloccini (buttock), Daryl Janmaat (groin) and Jack Colback and Moussa Sissoko (both hamstring) will be fit after missing the defeat to Leicester City.