The monster of all fantasy football games, FPL launched a little earlier than normal this season. Now that the World Cup is over, it’s time to focus our attention on our bread and butter fantasy games. With that in mind, I’ve taken a brief overview of the prices and opportunities the powers that be have on offer. The following isn’t a player picks list (you will get that in the weeks to come) but more a look at my view on the big names, common thoughts etc to consider when building your drafts squads.
World Cup Hangover
Following any summer competition, physical and mental strains are always talked about but too often ignored by many fantasy managers. As understanding of the human mind and body improves, top sports teams continue to adjust their training and rotation so their best players peak when it matters most. The benefits of rest, a full preseason and managed minutes is something that modern day managers, coaches and physios will be weighing. All of this means that picking any player who played in Russia this summer in your FPL squads carries some risk, with those who went deepest being most affected.
I’m not listing all missing players, but the following played through the final week of the World Cup — Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Jamie Vardy, Harry Mcquire, KDB, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghan, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud. I would be surprised to see any of them in an opening day starting 11; I would not even be surprised to see some of them benched for two or more gameweeks as they recuperate and then train back to match-fitness. For that reason I would suggest avoiding them in your squads until we get positive news. Besides, Harry Kane doesn’t score in August anyway, right?
This brings us to the set of players eliminated in the round of 16 and the QF, including Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Christian Eriksen, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka among others. With this list, I would recommend taking a close look at the preseason friendlies to see which players appear, and for how long each plays. Consider that some teams are more heavily effected by the World Cup than others, so they may want to push one or two players into playing with a short break. Erisken for example springs to mind. With Kane, Alli and Son possibly missing, Spurs may need the big match Eriksen to lead the side. Again keep a close eye on the late pre season lineups.
Those who played in the groups stages and were eliminated early, such as any player from Germany for example (whooo hahahaha!) likely will be fit and ready to start.
Next up, pay close attention to the Community Shield between Manchester City and Chelsea on August 5th. Whilst still only a friendly, it tends to be one where managers play close to the starting 11 they wish to field on match-day one. Positive signs for owners of Kun would be to see Jesus not only not starting but ideally not even on the bench. For Chelsea, the appointment of Maurizio Sarri is a big deal for fantasy favorites like Michael Alonso. Sarri’s high press, high possession gameplan doesn’t really fit Alonso’s attributes, so there is plenty of thought he may be out of favor under the new manager. If so, then Emerson at 1m cheaper becomes an interesting option. Hopefully the lineup will tell us more.
The main man of 2017-18
For Mohamed Salah, a group stage exit at the World Cup helped fantasy and Liverpool fans, and so does his favorable fixture run to start the season. What was apparent in Russia was that he was playing with caution, very much within himself. It suggests his injury either wasn’t fully healed or that he was unable to play with freedom in his mind. I will want to see clear evidence in the preseason of a player not holding back before I commit 13m for him. Having said that, it’s a whole lot easier to start with Mo and then sell him than it is to not have him and then need to find a way to buy him later.
Leroy Sane 9.5m / Riyad Mahrez 9m
With much of the City front line attackers having played in Russia, we can expect both Sane and Mahrez to start the season in the starting 11. To me, the opening day at Arsenal has banana-skin written all over it, but beyond that fixture the champions have a very attractive run of games. Mahrez will have to adapt to a completely different style at City than he enjoyed at Leicester. He can expect to find less space in possession, but on the flip side much more possession of the football in Premier League games. Further, he is now just one among many big names. We will need to watch him to see if this inspires him or removes his confidence.
Sane meanwhile is a different matter. A young player developing under Pep and improving quickly, his omission from the German national team was a surprise for those who follow the Premier League. He will have a point to prove and fresh legs to prove it.
The only concern in the medium term is that Sane found himself involved much more in 2017-18 largely thanks to the injury to left back Benjamin Mendy. With the flying left back out, Pep needed the pace and wing play of Sane to open attacks, and Sane responded brilliantly. Mendy’s return from injury, along with City’s squad depth does pose questions on Sane’s starting spot as the season develops. However, for the opening cluster of games, his freshness, fitness and explosiveness should mean he starts most if not all of the games.
The man named Dave
Cesar Azpilicueta has been the most consistent FPL defender for a few seasons. Even in 2017-18 with Chelsea’s huffing and puffing, his 175pts return is impressive. Under Conte, Dave performed a role in the Chelsea back three. Now with the appointment of Sarri, we can expect Chelsea to return to a back four, so we may see Dave back in the fullback position. Capable of providing clean sheets, assists, bonuses and even the odd goal, he is brilliant value if you can afford him after spending all your money on the attacking side of your squad.
The other Dave
One player I have my eye in the blues defense is someone who keeps getting written off: Mr David Luiz. Priced at 5.5m, Luiz has shown an ability to come back when written off. I wonder if Luiz will find himself back in the starting 11 at the Bridge, because the million saved over the better Dave is one many would like.
The Welsh midfielder is one of the league’s more frustrating players. When fit, he is a pretty consistent performer in terms of points return. With Xkaka, Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil having played in Russia, he would seem certain to start the opening games — with one wrinkle: Ramsey has yet to sign his new Arsenal deal. There is plenty in interest in him from other clubs. If that interest is matched by the player, then Emery may choose to keep Ramsey away from his starting 11 thoughts. At least all transfers this year will be concluded before the season begins, so we won’t have a lingering August cloud as in previous season starts. If Ramsey signs the deal in the next week or two, I think at 7.5m he is a player who offers great value for as long as he stays fit.
Getting Jiggy with Siggy
There is no player currently in the Premier League that I have a bigger fantasy football crush on than Siggy. So often in his Swansea shirt he has brightened a rainy Saturday/Sunday afternoon with a fantasy haul. Much of that has been in the Yahoo/Fantrax game, but he offers great value in FPL too. With Wayne Rooney moving on, Siggy should be the only choice in the role behind the forward.
My rose tinted glasses see an Everton side who have an attractive early set of fixtures and a manager who has a reputation for building very strong attacking sides at home. On paper, Silva looks a manager who can get the best out of Siggy.
I do have worries –- I’m a fantasy manager after all. First worry is with one more of my all-time favorite fantasy players Leighton Baines. Baines is fit and may hold free kicks and penalties over Siggy. Second, Siggy did play in the World Cup so may miss some of the preseason. I will want to see him playing a couple times before the Wolves game.
Klopp’s goals from everywhere plan
As a Man Utd fan it’s never enjoyable watching Liverpool play attractive driving attacking football, but I can at least appreciate it and try and benefit with my fantasy football choices. On top of the front three, Liverpool’s attacking weaponry had a boost with the bombing runs from left back of Andrew Robertson and the set piece danger that is Virgil Van Dyke. Annoyingly, FPL have priced both at 6m, but again like the Chelsea defenders, they do offer great value. Even if when a clean sheet is lost, they may just pick up attacking points late in a game. The news that ‘Pool are buying Allison improves their defenders’ value even more.
Hornets with an early sting
Watford are a side that seem to have periods of form where their assets offer a short term haul of points. Catching that period is part skill and part luck, but with Watford having four home games in their first five fixtures, they are very much worth a gamble.
We have a number of options here. Ben Foster’s summer move sees him available for 4.5m. With that home fixture sequence, he has to tempt. In midfield, Will Hughes forced his way into the starting 11 and is available at 5m. Richarlison started to look an essential pick last season before dropping off completely. The young Brazilian is full of talent. At 6.5m I still think there is a little value there if he kicks on again this year. Finally, Gerrad Deulofeo at 5.5m has been hot and cold but offers perhaps the best balance of price/potential of the options.
Cheap defender trap?
Charlie Daniels, Simon Francis, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, James Tomkins, Cedric Soares, Issa Diop, Jose Holebas, Kiko Femenia and Pablo Zabaleta are all available for 4.5m. I fully expect to see many FPL squads littered with a mix of them. The trap worry is that this set of options may persuade you to buy five of them and invest all free funds in more attacking firepower. Just remember that they are 4.5m for a reason. Buy one, two maybe three but don’t moan expecting a consistent points haul.
An angry Red Devil searching for souls
Alexis Sanchez hasn't had a break from summer football in 9 years, so the man needed it. While Arsene Wenger often pointed out the player never wanted a break, it must have done his body and mind good. With Lukaku and Rashford not coming back into camp until 6 August, I expect Alexis to lead the United line and face a Leicester side minus Big Harry, having-a-party Vardy and now-at-City Mahrez. That’s pretty much the Foxes spine missing, so it looks to me to be a right place right time for Sanchez. No Pogba could also mean he takes pen duties. For all the talk that there is only one opening weekend captain choice, I see it differently.
With a new manager and a squad who were hardly involved in the World Cup, I expect a fast start form Arsenal. With that in mind, it’s hard to not take notice of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11m) and Alexandre Lacazette (9.5m). I like Auba more, but the saving on Lacazette is an issue.
There you have it, a very quick early view on some of my thoughts. How do you see the options on the table? Let us know you draft squads in the comments section below.