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Staff Picks: Best Fantasy Fixture for GW4

We put all of our heads together — separately — to predict which of this weekend’s games will deliver the biggest fantasy spoils. Which fixtures look promising and which players should you grab?

MLS: All-Star Game
Crisis? What crisis?
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We’ve got a fair amount of consensus from the NMA staff regarding the best fantasy fixture for GW4, with a trio of us picking the same match-up, and the remainder going with three separate games. Let’s take a look at the picks, the reasoning behind them, and the likely fantasy winners.

Arsenal v. Bournemouth (Chris_Manfredi)

I fully realize that backing Arsenal right now seems about as insane as someone selling Apple stock. But there’s a time for everything, and sometimes crazy comes good. Then again, how bizarre is it that I feel the need to back my Arsenal pick... at home... against Bournemouth... with a million reasons?

  • Arsenal is only back in existential crisis after losing at Stoke City and at Anfield, which — last I checked — are two pretty tough places to play. Now they return home.
  • The home fans may not be as welcoming as usual, but the Gunners were +23 in goal differential last season at the Emirates compared to -18 on the road for Bournemouth.
  • In the only Premier League meetings between these teams (the four games of the past two seasons), Arsenal has outscored the Cherries 10-4, winning thrice and drawing the other (an away game).
  • While the Gunners are in panic mode, don’t forget about the pressure on Bournemouth; the Cherries are three points behind Arsenal, having failed to win or draw yet.
  • Losing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should actually be addition by subtraction. Instead of Arsene Wenger stubbornly forcing Ox into a poorly constructed starting line-up that moves players out of their best positions, it should lead to a sensible scheme.
  • Arsenal still has, in case you’d forgotten, a wealth of world class talent. As long as they aren’t too jet-lagged to play, don’t be shy about taking advantage of everybody else’s hesitation. Alexis Sanchez may be a bit of a head case, but he’s a goal explosion waiting to happen. Mesut Ozil might look like he’s loping around half asleep, but there’s plenty of assists in those beautiful, lazy-looking feet. Aaron Ramsey simply has a knack for contributing however necessary. Laurent Koscielny is a defensive beast who loves to chip in up front. And Petr Cech makes saves with the best of them.

Southampton v. Watford (Darryl_2cents)

In a non-Champions League week I think the answer would easily be Man City v. Liverpool, but after long flights back to England for many players after World Cup qualifying coupled with rotation I'll go with this fixture.

An important part of building a team is having good mid-price and budget players. These two teams could provide us with solid options, each having two clean sheets in the opening three game weeks so I will be paying close attention. Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic, and Manolo Gabbiadini are Southampton players who can make a case for inclusion in our squads with good displays. Watford has even cheaper options, and the ones to watch are Kiko Femenia, Richarlison, and new boy Andre Gray.

Arsenal v. Bournemouth (David Brian)

I'm looking for Arsenal to bounce back from the thrashing they got from Liverpool, and to appease fans who are angry about the lack of spending in the transfer window. Investment in almost any Arsenal asset seems wise.

Manchester City v. Liverpool (jeffryfisher, our editor)

Saturday's lead game, ManCity hosting 'Pool is both the game to watch and the game in which I'm looking to invest. If Jurgen Klopp stays true to form, 'Pool will force an open, attacking game, which will also open opportunities for City on the counter. Therefore, I'd invest in attacking players on both sides but avoid defenders unless they have attack potential. Keepers are right out. 'Pool's stars (e.g. Sadio Mane) might be expensive because they've already put up some numbers, but MC's laggards might be more affordable after three weeks of mediocre earnings (I'm looking at you KDB; will this be the week that you earn your first assist?).

Also, I like this fixture tactically because, as the lead game, it offers fantasy managers a peek at the confirmed starting XI announcements in late-deadline formats (such as my Fantrax "NMA+Bench" league). Not only does such a peek tell us who's in (could I interest anyone in a bargain-priced Sturridge if confirmed to start?), but it can hint at roles assigned to "shifty" players (e.g. deep vs attacking midfield, flank vs center, PK duty etc), which can strongly affect their prospects. Particularly astute owners might even sniff out a switch to bus-parking strategy, in which case you can (with unlimited transfers) abandon the whole plan. Later matches don't give you that intel with which to steal a march on your rivals.

Newcastle v. Swansea City (Santiago Foldvari)

As an avid Newcastle supporter, many will view this as a slightly "homer" pick, but please hear me out. This game will either end in a dull 0-0 stalemate, or will result in a golazos fest. Either way, there will be fantasy points to pick up from both squads. The challenge comes from the big decision whether to back the defensive players or the offensive assets.

As someone who regularly rotates keepers on Togga, I am fine starting either. I think that even if they let in two goals, they'll have enough saves to avoid low scores. I'm a bit more hesitant on starting either Joselu or Tammy Abraham, so if i'm considering a cheeky Togga Perfect XI differential, I'd look at either of the playmakers: Matt Ritchie or Tom Carroll. Although I'm not yet ready to back either of the deeper lying midfielders, both Mikel Merino and the newly-arrived Renato Sanches will be players I'll be keeping a close watch on for selection in future weeks.

Arsenal v. Bournemouth (Stall express)

With Arsenal’s on and off the field troubles in the early season, It's not quite the standard out fixture we may have thought it would be, but it’s still my pick. The Gunners have lost two of the opening three games and failed to score in the last pair. What they did do in their opening home game was create chances against a side set up in numbers and with a defensive mindset. This week’s opponents Bournemouth have lost all three games (that last in controversy) and have looked too open without possession.

I take the view that recent events may effect the Arsenal side and that they may take a while to get into the game, but they simply have too many creative and fluid attacking players against a side having Bournemouth’s style. Getting over that late defeat to City, the visitors may have the bigger psychological challenge.

Sead Kolasinac may return to the left wing back role, and Alexandre Lacazette surely returns to his starting spot up front. Surprising some, Alexis Sanchez stayed an Arsenal player and is too much of a winner not to want to make a statement.

What do you think of our picks for best fixture? Which game are you putting the most fantasy investment in? Let us know in the comments below!