ARSENAL produced yet another statement victory on Sunday.
Following on from their win over Liverpool, the Gunners thrashed West Ham 6-0 at the London Stadium to underline their title credentials.
One notable aspect of the visitors’ performance was their set-piece supremacy.
William Saliba (£3.1m) started the rout with a header from a corner which opened the floodgates.
Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) converted a penalty soon after before Gabriel (£3.7m) connected with a wide free-kick to head home from close range, making it three set-piece goals in a 12-minute blitz.
In what was a miserable day for the Hammers, David Moyes would have been particularly disappointed to see his side comprehensively outmatched at set-pieces – an aspect of the game his teams usually prioritise.
In recent years, Arsenal have been synonymous with nimble, technical, diminutive footballers who ensure a certain panache in open play but can be overpowered in certain situations.
This season, however, Mikel Arteta’s side are arguably the most solid and robust in the Premier League.
They’ve conceded the fewest goals and the underlying numbers (expected goals against) suggest they have been most effective at restricting their opponents.
Couple this with their strength at set-pieces and the Gunners now boast a strong backbone rather than a soft underbelly.
From a Dream Team perspective, this is best exhibited by the lofty statuses now held by their first-choice centre-backs.
Gabriel banked 15 points against West Ham while Saliba pocketed 14 – the pair are the best-performing defenders of Gameweek 23 right now.
More broadly, both are now among the top five assets in their position in terms of total season points.
DREAM TEAM’S TOP DEFENDERS 2023/24
- Kieran Trippier – 191 pts
- Trent Alexander-Arnold – 179 pts
- Pedro Porro – 158 pts
- Gabriel – 150 pts
- William Saliba – 144 pts
The Brazilian centre-back has scored three goals this campaign – only Dan Burn (£3.5m) and Fabian Schar (£3.4m) have scored more among defenders at this stage.
Whereas Saliba is Dream Team’s leader in terms of clean sheets, having contributed to 12 in all competitions – Gabriel, Ben White (£3.3m) and James Tarkowski (£3.3m) are just behind the Frenchman on 11 each.
Looking forward, it’s potentially the perfect time for Dream Team gaffers to back Arsenal’s most-productive defenders.
In Gameweek 24, Arteta’s troops travel to Turf Moor to face a Burnley outfit that have mustered just 13 points since promotion before facing Porto in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
It’s worth noting that while the Portuguese side scored plenty in the group stages of Europe’s premium competition, they’ve registered 33 goals from 20 league games this term – below par for one of the Primeira Liga’s big three.
Given Arsenal’s defensive record, it would be reasonable for Dream Team managers to expect at least one clean sheet from Gabriel and Saliba – two would yield massive returns.
Arsenal are one of just three teams (Manchester City and Liverpool being the other two) with two fixtures to fulfil in Gameweek 24 so their best performers are likely to be popular recruits this week.
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