Just under two weeks until the Premier League kicks off and there are more questions than answers for your average fantasy football manager.
Alexis/Ozil/Giroud/Koscielny and their chances of a best role are of particular interest to me. Of all of the championship contenders only Arsenal have a settled manager and as important a settled squad. They may need a forward and central defender in most people's view, but they really do start the season at least with an advantage of familiarity. I'm sure there are medical reasons behind the decision if true and the club already have issues with the number of injuries they have suffered, so I understand the caution. With that I‘m of the view they should look to field the best 11 they can and utilise their squad as the season progresses rather than ease their players in while their rival learn their new systems and teammates.
For my FPL team this is a pain. Even with a tough set of fixtures I want to cover the Arsenal attack. Alexis is super expensive and Ozil was/is the more likely pick. I just have a big problem paying 9,5m for him and seeing him needing to find his feet in the opening weeks. Theo Walcott may start as a forward once again but he is only ever a short term solution with Giroud and a new signing to come in. I don't see a Liverpool clean sheet and Walcott should enjoy chances IF he starts.
Jurgen Klopp has commented on his disappointment in preseason with his team's finishing. It looked like the same story over the weekend in a game against AC MIlan. Klopp showed last season he does not pick players on reputation, he picks them on performance. Daniel Sturridge, he on a special fitness program played the opening 45 mins and Origi got the second 45. It was that second 45 where a player made an impact. Origi scored and looked sharp in winning the man of the match award.
Priced at an incredible 2.86m in Fantrax Origi is a very interesting choice. While an away day at Arsenal is a very tough game for pool from a fantasy football front I don't think it matters when deciding to go with him. Arsenal are predictable in that they will commit more men to attack than many team and play a high line in defence. Origi's pace and directness seems an obvious weapon to use against them.
With Mane, Lallana, Ings, Sturridge and Firmino all scrapping for places with our man we may need more evidence that he can start the Arsenal game before picking him. If the signs are clear he will start then in Fantrax he is a perfect pick. Heads up to FL Girl if this is the case as she had him in her 1st draft.
The pre-season hotshots
Andre Gray and Gerard Deulofeu are making their cases for being the form horse going into the season. It's long been a trap picking the attacking players scoring goals in friendlies but I fail to see how it can't be a good thing on paper.
Gray has been on fire with a goal rate up there with Messi/Ronaldo while Deulofeu has scored 3 in 3 playing as a false no9 for Everton. Manager Ronald Koemann's comments makes him seem a likely starter against Tottenham on opening weekend. Unfortunately called a forward in Fantrax he is listed as a midfield choice in FPL. Having said that with him under 6m in Fantrax he may be a player that opens doors for you with the very tough team budget.
My squads as they stand
My thoughts are coming around to wanting to stick with those players who have played reasonable to decent pre-season minutes and are likely to be sure starters for my sides. I also have a preference with players having ELP experience where possible but of course the bright light of the summer signings do appeal.
My FPL squad
Gabriel, Evans, Azpilicueta, Friend, Shaw
Deulofeu, Hazard, Townsend, Phillips, Fischer
Gray, Zlatan, Kun
I kind of like it, but obviously it will change a few hundred times yet. It is a squad allowing me to swap players due to fixture and form rather than just injury and suspension.
Midfield looks the weakest area. Hazard is fine but there are then 4 gamble type options. I do like all of them just they don't scream that they are likely to reward me with big fantasy hauls do they.
Finally despite my thoughts on Barkley, Deulofeu's form and price seems him pinch his spot for now.
Holding Zlatan and Kun is absorbing so much of my money. That Zlatan bicycle kick saw him hold his place. He has some great opening fixtures but we do have the choice of the Rooney who scored twice at the weekend and crucially took a penalty. I had assumed Zlatan may have taken those duties when on the pitch (he was subbed at HT) but he may be behind Rooney at the seasons start. Without pen's perhaps 11.5m is just too much for Zlatan.
If I do take Zlatan out what do I do? Well if Lukaku joined Chelsea again this week then I would bring him in and probably swap Hazard to Micki and spend the remaining 2m turning Deulofeu to Coutinho.
I also have the nagging gut feeling on Wayne Rooney and his start to the season being somewhat of an Indian summer for him. With our attentions on Zlatan, Micki and perhaps Paul Pogba, the old man could roll back the years when most players don't have him. Don't get me wrong, Rooney is not the player of 4-5 years ago but his 1st three fixtures are plumb and he has pens, perhaps free kicks and corners. It's a trap in all likelihood but one I may not be able to resist, especially when he frees up funds. I'm also asking myself If I think Zlatan scores around 15 goals this season, do I think Rooney matches him? If I do they the captain is the better pick right?
My Fantrax squad
Clichy, Shaw, Keane
Hazard, Micki, Phillips, KDB
Gray, Origi, Kun
It's a side I'm playing with at the moment. The Origi pick was just to remind me he is that cheap and to keep an eye. I've taken 1m man Leko out and added KDB. I will want clear information of his starting status and the game next weekend with Arsenal will be important in that regard.
I wanted to base my approach on Man City but guessing Pep's team is hard. Both Silva and Yaya are great prices as is new boy Nolito. I will want to double up on their attack but I don't know where everyone fits in behind Kun. Once again I continue to play with dropping Kun and strengthening other areas, but once again just feel he has too good a fixture to do so. For 21m I will want a brace or a score of 25 fantasy point and even for Kun that isn't ever a sure thing.
I suspect Zlatans price will draw me back in or perhaps Deulofeu and his under 6m price will do. Holding too much Manchester United isn't my plan but the prices so tempt. The Bournemouth game looks more difficult in reality than it does on paper. Many new players and a new manager facing a Cherrys side that were a handful last season. Feels like a Jose huff and puff game rather than free flowing wonderful football to me what about you?
Hopefully we will see a clearer picture of the leagues starting 11's in the friendlies this weekend.
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