Last week I discussed my hopes for Arsenal's divorce from Alexis Sanchez. Unlike most divorces, this one seems like it at least has a chance to work out reasonably well for all parties involved. I have very little time for the notion, put forward in some media outlets, that Mkhitaryan just isn't a good fit for the Premeir League. That argument may hold water if a player is moving up a significant step in competitive level (e.g., Eredivisie to PL or MLS to PL) but of all the top leagues, the Premier League and the Bundesliga seems to be a pretty close approximation. If a player like Pascal Gross can thrive in the Premier League with questionable talent around him then there's no reason, other than Jose Mourinho's poisonous impact on wide attackers, to think a better player in the German top flight couldn't thrive in England.
Don't get me wrong, of the two players, Alexis is the more talented player and has the higher upside. The season he put together last term for Arsenal is better than anyone has any reason to expect from Mkhitaryan or just about any other player outside of immortals like Messi and Ronaldo in their primes. All other things being equal, if it were my team and I was going to bring one of the two into my club then I'd want it to be Alexis. That said, all other things aren't equal. Jose Mourinho kills wide attackers. Arsene Wenger has mentored some of the better wide attackers/attacking midfielders of the past 20 years in players like Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Fabregas, RvP (admittedly a hybrid CF/Wide Forward) and Alexis. All have hit their respective peaks under Wenger compared to the laundry list of elite talents that have hit their lowest valleys under Mourinho.
Again, my point isn't to try to imply that Wenger is a better or more accomplished manager than Mourinho. No matter how little I like Jose Mourinho the cartoon character/narrative figure, any attempt to compare resumes with Wenger even close to the Portuguese would be executed with Arsenal-rose colored glasses on. Given that this is, above all else, a fantasy-related column what I am saying is that while Manchester United are likely closer to a title than Arsenal with Sanchez/Mourino than Arsenal are with Mkhitaryan/Wenger that I wouldn't be at all shocked if Mkhitaryan turns out to be the better fantasy player for the balance of this season and going into next.
Above all else, it is worth remembering what an outlier that last season was for Sanchez. Over his previous five seasons at Barcelona and Arsenal, Sanchez averaged 13.5 goals per season in just over 30 matches per season. Last season, he went for 24 in 38. That's a massive uptick in productivity. In American sports, we tend to be suspisious of players who have massive statistical breakouts during the final year before they become free agents. I'd be worried that Alexis, due to being played as a center forward for much of Arsenal's season which seems unlikely at United given the investment in Lukaku and seeming to have an uptick in shot conversion rate last season, could suffer from a version of the same thing (as he already has this season where he's back to his Arsenal career average before last season of about 13 goals/season in 30 matches on 3.5-ish shots/match.
If you're in a draft league that allows trades and someone wants to offer you Mkhitaryan plus something useful for Sanchez then I'd jump on it. If you're deciding between the two in a league that doesn't allow trades then I'd suggest that the right expectation for Sanchez would be to end the season on about 15 goals total in the league (he already has 7). That's certainly not nothing but don't expect that rampant goal-scoring pace of last season.
What a disaster that turned into for all involved. Marco Silva, after a great start to the season, was shown the door after a collapse that seems to have roots in Everton's brazen recruitment of the Portuguese manager. Watford didn't get any compensation. Everton didn't get their man. Silva is out of a job and his reputation is at least somewhat damaged to the point where there's probably another stop necessary before a bigger club on the order of Arsenal, Atletico, or one of the Milan team might be interested. I'm still high on him but I can't say I'd be as excited about the prospect of Silva replacing Wenger as I would have been in, say, October.
Perhaps the biggest loser on the pitch as Watford have slumped has been Richarlison who has gone from early-season phenom to looking like he might end up as a trivia question along the lines of "what season was it when we thought Aaron Ramsey might be the best all-around midfielder in the Premier League for approximately two months?" I'd still take a chance on him in the transfer market but it's amazing how quickly the Richarlison-to-Spurs and Richarlison-to-Arsenal talk quieted despite both continuing to be linked to young wide attackers.
Ross Barkley at Chelsea
I'm watching the Carabao Cup as I'm writing this and Barkley has cut a similarly frustrating figure in a second blue uniform. He came in for Willian as an early substitute and just didn't do much in an admittedly small sample size. I have a lot of time for Antonio Conte as a manager but this just doesn't feel like a transfer that he's been dying for. I know this mirrors what I wrote about him last week but this comes with at least a little visual evidence after seeing Barkley on the pitch.
The Ukranian winger/wing-back has gotten some run for Manchester City in the absence as the injury crisis at left back at the Etihad worssens. Zinchenko played as you'd expect a winger to play at full back against Newcastle. He was so-so defending but was evident in creating attacking opportunities for teammates with three key passes. The two things working against Zinchenko as a fantasy option are that, despite his deployment in recent days, he is listed as a midfielder and it seems that City are closing in on Aymeric Laporte who can play left back and center back and will, almost certainly, start out at left back. If you need a one-match option then Zinchenko might be a solid stop gap who could pick up an assist and a single clean sheet point but don't look at him for much beyond Week 25 or 26.
He's been slow to get minutes but an assist in an incredibly brief appearance is a solid start to his fantasy Premier League resume.
Danny Ings moving?
The drumbeat for Ings getting a half-season loan to get some playing time under his belt seems to have quieted from early January but he got a few actual minutes against Swansea on Monday for Liverpool. If he manages a move to somewhere like Newcastle for the balance of the season, I'd be all over picking him up. He might even be worth a stash this week against the possibility of such a move and increased playing time. That will depend on the strength of what you have on your bench currently.
Enjoy the next few days as the calm before the last real draft fantasy storm of the season. Navigating the deadline day (or thereabouts) deals will make a significant impact on your fantasy squad for the balance of the season. As in real life, strong moves can propel you up the table. The wrong move (or no move) and you could be left wondering what happened as your rivals speed past you. If you have questions, I (@nealjthurman) and we (@rotoworld_pl) are happy to answer your questions on Twitter as you contemplate your next moves.