Ladies and gentlemen, it is good to be back with Never Manage Alone! As most of you know, I split half my year working in Alaska as a fisheries biologist. This was without a doubt my busiest year yet! Although I am gutted I missed so much of the World Cup, I was delighted to find games being shown in the most remote of taverns and bars. With the other major event in the US past, the MLS Allstar match vs Bayern Munich (which I am gutted to have missed as well since it was in my home town of Portland), we can all now focus of attention solely on the upcoming 2014/2015 Premier League debut! Without further adieu, let's take a look at the Week 1 fixtures.
Week 1 Fixtures:
Manchester United v Swansea City
Leicester v Everton
QPR v Hull City
Stoke City v Aston Villa
West Bromwich v Sunderland
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Southampton
Newcastle v Manchester City
Burnley v Chelsea
As you can see, I have highlighted 4 of the best match ups consisting of Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Chelsea. But Everton aren't far off if you wanted to take a flyer on Lukkaku and there will be some value in players from Spurs, WBA, Stoke, Hull and QPR to round out for starting 11 and bench. But the bulk of your team should bring in as many players from those highlighted matches as possible. Let's jump over and review the potential players you will want for Week 1.
Week 1 Player Picks:
The biggest headache for any game week is choosing 11 players that will undoubtedly start and produce a decent return on points. But Week 1 is more difficult than most to predict as managers look to find their strongest team. This can be highly frustrating so I urge everyone to primarily pick players that will be guaranteed to start and leave the hunch picks to a minimum (never bad to have 1-2 differentials though!). Let's take a look at the potential candidates for your starting 11!
Asmir Begovic - Stoke City will host Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Villa are already being tipped to be the club in crisis this season and this match has 0-0 written all over it. Begovic is a fine keeper and a proven points earner in the YFF system. Amassing 212pts in the 2013/2014 season, Begovic is still affordable at 8.9mil and looks to have one of the stronger price v matchups for Week 1. He would be a fine addition to any managers Week1 team.
Ben Foster - My value pick keeper for Week 1 as West Bromwich face off against Sunderland at the Hawthorns. Foster comes into the game at 4.82mil after an up and down 2013/2014 season. But the benefit of taking the former Untied stopper are his price and matchup are well suited for a gamble this week. With the added bonus that his low price offers further investment for big names upfield, Foster could be a popular Week 1 choice.
W. Szczesny - The Arsenal number 1 is my premium pick of the week but only if you have the funds to splash 11.14mil on him. A home clash with Crystal Palace should return points for investment on Arsenal players despite the fact Crystal Palace finished the 2013/2014 season in fine form. I can't see CP getting too many dangerous chances against Arsenal and Szczesny looks nailed on for a win at least. In a week where picking a goalkeeper will be very difficult, the Arsenal stopper is at least a reliable abliet expensive choice.
David DeGea - Yahoo lists the United keeper as injured, although this injury happened during the World Cup as my knowledge goes. It has taken me a fair bit of time to catch up with all the summer news, so if DeGea is indeed healthy, which he should be, 9.04mil is an affordable price for a solid Week 1 matchup. Expect plenty of saves and at least a win against Swansea City. However, United's back line still look suspect so I'd be worried the Swans will sneak a goal in there.
Steven Caulker - QPR are back in the Premier League after that disastrous 2012/2013 campaign which saw them relegated to the Championship. The QPR of that season was highly questioned over their apparent scatter gun transfer strategy in which cash was nearly given away to a glut of foreign players. But this season Harry has done well by snapping up proven Premier League players such as Steven Caulker. With a highly successful fantasy campaign with Cardiff last season, Caulker's price fluctuated in and out of the premium category. But with a 2014/2015 season starting price of just 7mil, Caulker and his set piece target ability look a no brainer as QPR host Hull City Week 1. Buy him in cheap now, because it won't be long until his price reaches the heights of last season.
C. Chambers - The general theory is that Mert will be given a rest Week 1 due to his exploits in Germany's World Cup winning campaign. This offers the perfect gamble on Arsenal's Calum Chambers at only 5.45mil for a strong looking Week 1 fixture. WIth Vermaelen also sold to Barcelona, this represents a chance for the former SOT youngster to prove his worth in the starting 11.
Ryan Shawcross - With the Stoke City v Villa match likely to be a big fat 0-0, that isn't such a bad thing for a player in fantasy. Shawcross has proved to be reliable in the past for selected games and why not now against an unproven Villa side. With his occasional goal from a set piece and plenty of SOT for a CB, 7.93mil is a decent price for a spot in your starting 11.
Dejan Lovren - What a perfect set up, playing against his former club Week 1 and in front of the Anfield faithful? What's not to love? Dejan Lovren was just one of a host of Southampton players that swung aboard the Liverpool FC ship and will certainly be starting Week 1. I'd imagine the center half pairing we'd most likely see try to meld would be Lovren/Skrtel, so I don't fear that Lovren won't start this match. Having already scored from a corner in pre-season, at a touch higher price of 9.28mil, the chance for a clean sheet and a couple SOT is worth it.
Vincent Kompany - Although Manchester City don't face an insurmountable away match to a shaky looking Newcastle, I just tend to favor the home matches Week 1. However, with Mangala admitting he wasn't yet up to full fitness, one can expect Kompany, City's captain, won't start at 8.82mil. I just worry City take a big lead wuickly then slack off and allow a silly goal to squeeze through. But in the end, the option isn't a bad one, indeed, CIty have a very real chance to do some damage so here is one of the players I believe will be a lock for Sunday.
N. Taylor - Not exactly your first choice, especially away to Manchester United Week 1, but Taylor looks likely to occupy one of the defensive slots for Swansea City. At only 3.33mil, he offers as a great enabler if not bench rotation player for Week 1. If you find yourself needed to squeeze some extra funds, Taylor may be the perfect player who may just produce enough defensive work to make it a sneaky selection.
P. Coutinho - The young Brazilian, having stated he would use this season to prove his worth after not being selected for Brazil's World Cup, was sublime in many of Liverpool's pre-season matches. Although we can't fully use pre-seaon matches as a true indicator, we can gauge the work rate and desire of players. Coutinho is rightly tipped to make a major impact on the Liverpool squad and if he can stay in his preferred central role, I can't see why Coutinho can't be good for your starting 11 Week 1 @11.12mil.
Raheem Sterling - Another Liverpool youngster tipped to make a big hit this season at Liverpool and who has also had a very productive summer. At a much cheaper price of 9.15mil, Sterling's dynamism will surely reap the rewards against a depleted Southampton side. Sterling will surely benefit from Coutinho's sharp delivery so having both in your team Week 1 wouldn't be out of the question.
Aaron Ramsey - It was quite a break through 2013/2014 season for Aaron Ramsey just up until his injury midway through last season. However, Ramsey is fully fit and looking to pick up where he left off. Having matured into more than just a slick passer, Ramsey's goal threat is now firmly in the minds of other teams. At a premium price of 13.26mil, Ramsey is expensive but able to haul in huge offensive returns and well as doing a fair bit of defensive work. With Ozil being tipped for an extended break due to his Germany exploits, much of the creative sparkling will need to come from the young Welshman.
Erik Lamela - You have to ask just what went wrong for the 30mil purchase of Erik Lamela by Tottenham last season. After joining Spurs with high hopes and a huge potential, injury and fitness factored Lamela out of much of the season. But this is a new season, coupled with a new coach in Mauricio Pochettino who is also Argentinian, we can expect Lamela to play a much larger role in the squad. At a bargain price of 2.77mil, Lamela represents an excellent option for your bench, if not a necessary pick to enable the purchase of a few premium picks. I expect the young Argentinian's price will start to rise when he hits form.
Robert Snodgrass - Finally! Finally, Yahoo has listened to our cries and reassigned the winger class rightfully back to Midfield. Snodgrass being one of the unfortunate players classed as a forward in previous seasons, he can now be selected for a paltry 7mil in your Midfield! Although Hull City are away to QPR, Snodgrass should retain most of his set piece duty and thus make up for the slightly less desirable match up. Remember this guy routinely shot into the high premium category between 15-21mil in previous seasons.
Ashley Young - This is a real cheeky pick, but it wasn't so long ago that Jeremy and Neal's former blog dedicated the name "BF" to Ashley Young, immortalizing him as "BFAY" (he was fantasy gold so to speak). At an astonishingly reduced price of 4.94mil, Young makes a case for selection given his uplifted performances in pre-season. Some times a new manager will get the best out of the players you least suspect. This is certainly one player to watch this season.
Cesc Fabregas - I don't think this pick has been on many peoples radar but I think it is important to have a player from Chelsea for Monday's clash at Turf Moor. Fabregas was essentially brought in to be Lampard's heir. Given their midfield, you just can't see Fabregas not being the architect of the offense for Chelsea as he did at Arsenal for a number of seasons. Hazard will certainly occupy one of the wide slots, but his price is just too high for this match for me. Fabregas is still a bit pricey at 12mil, but I just have a feeling he will be the difference in their away clash with Burnley.
Daniel Sturridge - One of the first names on my team roster, Liverpool have been completely revitalized by the appointment of Brenden Rodgers. Facing a weakened Southampton side at Anfield affords the perfect opportunity for Sturridge to pick up where his stellar 2013/2014 season left off. With the quality of Coutinho and the ever impressive Sterling orchestrating the attack behind him, Sturridge looks spot on to slot in a couple goals. At a price of 16.28mil, he will be one of the top premium picks this week.
Wayne Rooney - He's been given the captaincy and will most certainly return to penalty duty with Robin van Persie likely short of match fitness since his slight injury. With a home clash against Swansea City, attacking returns look good for United, and you know LVG will strive hard to start with winning ways especially at home. Also taking his share of set pieces, Rooney even at 16.80mil looks a must have for Week 1.
Alexis Sanchez - There is a lot to think about when selecting a new player to the Premier League. While do believe Sanchez is going to be a huge fantasy asset this year, often times new signings need a period to settle. If I were to guess, Sanchez will likely play ~60 minutes as Wenger will look to ease his new boy in. Now by all means Sanchez has the ability to create a bit of quality in his appearance, I just feel Olivier Giroud for only 0.43 more @12.43mil is the safer, more proven option at this early stage.
Diego Costa - As I stated above, new stars to the Premier League often need a bit of an adjustment period. This of course is always diverse player to player, but there seems to still be a pattern. Diego Costa will certainly lead Chelsea's attack on Monday, but will set you back 12mil, a slightly risky selection in my mind. This is why I think Fabregas is the better Chelsea gamble, given his vast experience in the Premier League. I can't say Costa won't have a superb opening match, I just might wait to see what he does Week 1.
S. Jovetic - Not exactly a sure thing, but signs look good for Jovetic to get some action against Newcastle on Sunday. Jovetic is coming off a fine pre-season and highly affordable at 5.87mil. With Negredo out, most of the burden for goals will fall on Dzeko and Jovetic, which one starts on Sunday isn't quite clear, with Aguero probably not fully match fit yet, a forward pairing wouldn't be out of the question. His selection is a slight gamble, but one that could easily pay off given the player's low price.
Peter Crouch - Not the most popular pick by far, but an interesting alternative one for Stoke City's clash with Aston Villa. Crouch will surely lead the line on Saturday and will provide the attacking threat Stoke will need to turn this proposed 0-0 bore into a home victory. At a reasonable 7.46mil, Crouchy is my dark horse pick for the week. Same logic applies to Bojan as the aforementioned Costa, Sanchez, etc.
Well that's it folks, another Player Picks in the books! I am definitely glad to be back and writing just as the Premier League excitement is rising! My team thus far is still pretty in shambles but you can bet I will select a majority from the picks above. There are just too many combinations!
How are your teams shaping up? Who do you feel will go big Week 1?
Just a shot of me on one of my research vessels inside my rack. Yes that is the dinner or "galley" table in front of me ha!