Season preview. Part 1

August 7, 2011

Arsenal

A few years ago, Arsenal players were always guaranteed a slot in your Fantasy League team. They’d regualrly turn teams over, wouldn’t slip up too often, and in Fabregas, and before him, Henry, there were players who you’d pick at the start of the season, and never even dream of dropping. They are slightly more unpredictable these days. Clean sheets are a rarity, and half arsed performances against “lesser” teams aren’t uncommon. Randy Crawford looks like a good buy, and has apparently impressed in pre-season. But other than that…..?!?!? Transfer issues need to be sorted out quickly if they’re to have any chance of a title shot. Fabregas looks like he’s been listening to too much Joy Division. He has to leave….doesn’t he? And don’t expect Nasri to stay quiet if Fabregas goes. He’s French. He’ll kick up a stink – I guarantee it.

  • Pick – Robin Van Persie. A prolific striker who needs to stay fit. He’s never played a full season. If he stays fit, he’ll score, and get bonuses galore – and Arsenal could retain top 4 status. Got 6.3 points per game last season, more than any other player.
  • Bargain – Aaron Ramsey. The most likely to benefit from Fabregas’ departure. Has recovered well from his injury, and at 6.5 million is a good mid-priced midfielder option
  • Avoid – Any of their useless goalkeepers. None of them seem to have hands.

Aston Villa      

The early upset at the appontment of McLeish seems to have died down. Yes, they’ve sold Downing and Young – but making around 15 million profit on those two players isn’t bad business. They’ve supplemented the loss of Downing with the purchase of N’Zogbia (at half the price), and will probably be hoping to get Gabby Agbonlahor to pick up where he left off two seasons ago. And in Mark Albrighton, they have a young talent from their academy to step into Ashley Young’s position. Defensively, under O’Neill, they were strong. Houllier changed things – dropping Warnock and Cuellar from a settled back line didn’t work.    McLeish will look to get his defence settled and solid again. Expect an improved top half finish.

  • Pick – Darren Bent. Guaranteed 15-20 goals a season
  • Bargain – Ciaran Clark. Could cement a place in the back four. Popped up with a few goals last season too
  • Avoid – Emile Heskey. No further comment needed.

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn’s manager – I forget his name – looks like a bad PE teacher. I’m absolutely convinced that the owners bought the club under the misaprehension that they were buying the worlds number one Kabaddi team. And, the stadium resembles a closed down factory. There’s nothing remotely attractive or likelable about Blackburn, particularly from a Fantasy League point of view. They have a Swiss cheese defence, a midfield full of Championship players and a Sunday League attack. Their best player (Samba) may well have moved on by the end of August. That won’t leave much. Robinson, their keeper, was their highest scorer last season. Which says a lot. You score points for shots saved – and Robinson had to make a lot of saves.

  • Pick – Morten Gamst-Pedersen. Has assisted every Blackburn goal in the last four seasons. You might have to check that stat. I might have made that up.
  • Bargain – David Hoilett. Could well start every game. Started scoring goals at the end of last season.
  • Avoid – Gael Givet. Has an impressive beard. His only redeeming feature.

Bolton Wanderers

The eternal mid table team with lots of good, although not spectacular, mid priced players. They don’t keep a lot of clean sheets, but are capable of scoring a few goals. Although don’t ignore Gary Cahill, who does pick up the bonus points regularly. This year a lot will depend on them finding a replacement for Elmander, who was shit for two seasons, then found his shooting boots last season, only to bugger off to Turkey in the summer. There is the possibility of landing Danny Sturridge on a loan deal again, and if this happens, it wouldn’t be too much of a risk to pick both him and Kevin Davies, freeing up more money to plough into your midfield.

  • Pick – Kevin Davies. Still can’t tackle, and loves getting booked. But – picks up lots of bonus points.
  • Bargain – Chris Eagles. Creative. And, with a season long injury to Chung Yong Lee, should start regularly.
  • Avoid – Paul Robinson. Everything a modern day full back isn’t.

Chelsea

It’s the start of the season – it’s time to pick your team – which squad do you look at first? If it wasn’t Man U, it was invariably Chelsea. You pick three players. You may have to tinker with the three players you pick initially, but ultimately you end up with three Chelsea players in your squad. In years gone by, if you didn’t pick at least one of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole or Didier Drogba, you weren’t taking the fantasy league game seriously, or, you didn’t know anything about football. I’m not sure it’s as straightforward as that this season. Lampard was injured for most of last season – and despite eventually scoring over 5 points per game – the clock is ticking. And is he really worth it at 12 million pounds? Cole will play every game, but clean sheets aren’t as regular as they once were. And who knows how the forward line will look once we get into the season. Reports suggest Torres still hasn’t remembered how to play, and Didier Drogba, 46, is finding it increasingly difficult to cover up that bald patch with his Croydon facelift.

  • Pick – Ashley Cole. If Chelsea shore up the defence a bit, Cole will score heavily. He’s a useful attacking force that can sneak a goal, and regularly assist
  • Bargain – Josh McEachran. It’s about time Chelsea developed some academy talent. This kid looks good. Could break into the team.
  • Avoid – Jon Obi Mikel. I have NEVER seen this bloke have a good game.
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