Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie provided cheer to many owners on Boxing Day, but the fixtures are less enticing this weekend, and tougher calls will need to be made to bring home big points in the last round of games in 2012.
Fixtures Analysis: Manchester United might be underperforming as a unit, but their attack is still delivering the goods and any home match makes them worth considering. Arsenal are back in action against Newcastle, who lost in the epic match at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Wenger’s side are in decent form and well rested compared to the rest of the league. West Ham were the other side to benefit from a Boxing Day break, and they could do well away at Reading. Stoke host Southampton, and Aston Villa take on Wigan in a match that could yield plenty of goals.
Transfers In: Wayne Rooney’s injury opens up some interesting possibilities in United’s attack over the next few weeks. Robin van Persie (13.9) is clearly a good man to have, but if his price-tag is off-putting then Javier Hernandez (6.9) is an excellent bargain. The rest of their side is both hard to call in terms of selection and form, so probably best to stick to the strikers, but if you do fancy a midfielder Michael Carrick (5.8) is well priced for the safest starter in the middle of the park.
From Arsenal, Theo Walcott (8.5) looks the most consistent pick in terms of returns now he is starting as a central striker, but Santi Cazorla (9.6) is also a good man to have. Kieran Gibbs (5.4) is another excellent choice, with his attacking potential bolstered by Arsenal’s greater solidity at home.
Reading’s trip to West Ham could see the home team do well after their midweek break. Jussi Jaaskelainen (5.3) and Winston Reid (5.1) offer the chance for defensive returns, whilst Kevin Nolan (6.6) looks the best choice of attacking players given the absence of Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll.
Stoke are bang in form and you could easily see Begovic (5.7) and Huth (5.8) pick up another clean sheet despite some absentees at the back. Southampton have been porous themselves, and Jonathan Walters’ (6.4) recent good form makes him worth considering.
Aston Villa’s previous two matches might seem to make them unworthy of consideration, having shipped 12 goals with no reply, but their form before then was ok, and the visit of fellow strugglers Wigan could see them return some points. Benteke (6.7) is a decent bet, as are Kone (6.5) and McCarthy (4.8) from Wigan if you fancy them to continue Villa’s miserable run.
Finally, Tottenham’s trip to Sunderland looks tricky on paper, given that Martin O’Neill’s team have just beaten Manchester City, but Gareth Bale’s (9.7) form makes him a good choice anyway.
Captain Choice: Robin van Persie for the armband is hardly an exciting choice anymore, but his ridiculous consistency and guaranteed starting spot make him the clear pick once again. For those who fancy someone else, Theo Walcott at home against Newcastle, who have generally not enjoyed their trips to the capital in recent times, is a decent choice.
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