Season preview. Part 2

August 8, 2011

Everton

Everton are notoriously slow starters. You take a risk dipping into the Everton squad so early in a fantasy league season. Invariably they’re in the bottom three till November – not winning – not even scoring, and letting in plenty of goals. They have a small, young squad. I don’t think they’ve bought anyone. Despite this, they seem to play better in the second half of the season. They’ll climb their way up the table after Christmas, and land in 7th place. Happens every year. Saha, like Van Persie, is a good striker, but unreliable with injuries. Their strength is in midfield. They possess lots of attacking, creative players who contribute more than their fair share of goals and assists.

  • Pick – Leighton Baines. The most expensive defender, but worth the 8 million pound investment. An attacking full back who takes penalties, free kicks, assists and scores. Come second half of the season, he’ll be keeping more clean sheets.
  • Bargain – Phil Jagielka. At only 5.5 million, this is a real bargain. It all depends on the start they make. Needs to stop scoring own goals.
  • Avoid – Jonny Heitinga. Might have played in a World Cup final, but isn’t favoured by Moyes

Fulham

Fulham’s season started about a month ago. They’ve been playing “competetive friendlies” since mid June, having won a place in the Europa League through the fair play system. This could lead to them running out of steam come March, but right now, they could be as good a place as any to start building your team. They don’t have an outstanding striker, although getting a full season out of Zamora may see him into double figures. Dempsey, Duff, Davies and Murphy all chip in nicely with goals and assists. Brede Hangeland scored 6 last term. Not only that, he picks up the bonuses regularly, and forms a dependable defensive partnership with Aaron Hughes.

  • Pick – Brede Hangeland. Should probably be playing for a Champions League team.
  • Bargain – Aaron Hughes. Doesn’t score the goals that Hangeland does, but they play very well at the back together.
  • Avoid – Steve Sidwell. Although a useful player, he will have trouble dislodging any of the midfield regulars 

Liverpool

Liverpool have more midfielders than most teams have players. Adam, Downing and Henderson at a combined cost of  £50 million have been added to the already impressive roster of Gerrard, Meireles, Kuyt, Maxi, Spearing and Lucas. Once Gerrard returns from injury you’d expect him to go straight back into the squad, but for the start of the season, Dalglish has got to pick four, possibly five, depending on his preferred formation, from the other eight?! Second guessing the starting line up on the 13th will be difficult. You’d maybe expect anyone who cost £20 million to be a certain starter, but last season Meireles and Kuyt were key performers, and Spearing and Lucas impressed. So who does he drop? Lucas and Spearing as defensive midfielders are best avoided anyway. Don’t expect Charlie Adam, last year’s top bonus point scorer, to be as effective as he was last season. He won’t be taking as many penalties or free kicks for starters. Luis Suarez has had a long summer with the Copa America, so may be rested for the kick off , so with the likelihood of Carroll leading the line, opt for Downing as a certain starter on their left side delivering crosses for the long haired nutter. Liverpool are expected to challenge for the top 4 again this season, or if you listen to any Scouser – to have the league wrapped up by February. They’ll be better than last season and their players shouldn’t be ignored. But, wait till October – by then the line up may be more settled.

  • Pick – Stewart Downing. Reasonably priced, and their only naturally left sided player. Assists to Carroll could mount up.
  • Bargain – Martin Skrtel. OK 6 million isn’t cheapo cheap, but Skrtel played every minute of every game last season, and their defensive scoring should improve this time round. Could be challenging for top scoring defender come the end of the campaign.
  • Avoid – Alberto Aquilani. Still a Liverpool player apparently

Manchester City

We all know City are a bottomless pit of cash. They arguably already have a squad capable of winning the title, but expect that to be added to by the end of August. Also, whereas before, Man Utd and Chelsea were always the fantasy managers favoured teams for first picks, this year, and with good reason, it’s Manchester City. Kompany was listed as a midfielder last season. As a defender, he probably would have reached the 170 point mark – there or thereabouts. Lescott seems established as his partner. Silva blossomed in the second half of the season. He seems settled now, and will play a big part in their title surge, and Yaya Toure is as good a box to box midfielder as there is anywhere in the world. There will be rotation, so it may be difficult to pin down the regular starters, but pick three of those four, and don’t be surprised if they stay with you well into the season. They have a relatively easy start compared with the other big teams. There’s a possibility they could win 8 of their first 9 games. And it doesn’t really matter about Tevez. He’s a conundrum – if he stays he’ll play, and probably give his all. If he goes – he goes. Saga over. After all – it is getting a little bit boring now. And, it’s not like they can’t afford to replace him. Aguero’s already there – and we may end up seeing Eto’o. Not a bad replacement.

  • Pick – Joleon Lescott. Good price. Him and Kompany seem to click, and he scores goals. Got almost 5 points per game last season.
  • Bargain – Edin Dzeko. City don’t really do ‘bargains’, but at 8.5 million, Dzeko could be a good striking option. Maybe this guy needed to bed in a little. January buys don’t always hit the ground running. This season is make or break – if it’s make – and you grab him early – it could work out well.
  • Avoid – Alexander Kolarov. Didn’t play that much less than Lescott or Zabaleta last year, but only managed half the points. A weak link.

Manchester United

Leave Manchester United players out at your peril. They’ve finished top 3 every Premiership season. They’ll probably win it this year. The usual challengers (Chelsea and Arsenal) look weaker, and the pretenders (Man City and Liverpool) maybe aren’t quite ready yet. Last season, however, they did at times, look unconvincing. They stumbled to the title. They lost games. Their defence wasn’t watertight, but they always, ALWAYS, when it really, REALLY, matters – score one more than the opposition. The bastards. So, guaranteed starters Rooney and Vidic should be considered. Rooney didn’t justify his price tag last season, but I have a feeling he will this. Pick a midfielder – any midfielder – even with likely rotation – they’ll still rack up the points. And when Hernandez is fit, expect him to become a permanent fixture. Defensively, they could still be shaky. Plump for Vidic and Evra ahead of Rio. And Rafael may become the permanent right back fixture once and for all this season. If he does – at his price – he is a must have. They’ve had more goalkeeping flops than success. Personally, I hope De Gea is the new Taibi. Unless, of course, I have him or some Man Utd defenders in my team. Then I expect him be the new Schmeichel.

  • Pick – Nani. There maybe more competition for places, but he was very good in the Community Shield, Scored 6 points per game last season. Could hit double figures in both goals and assists.
  • Bargain – Danny Wellbeck. With Hernandez out till September, and Berbatov unfancied, Wellbeck could start the season partnering Rooney.
  • Avoid – Rio Ferdinand. He’s a junkie prick with a bad back. Sue me.
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