It’s that time of the year again. As the start of the season approaches (and has arrived for those non-premier league fans), and the excitement and (mostly) false hope is raised to explosive levels, the emails start dropping in from newspapers, friends and family. It’s time to pick your fantasy football team.
This is a task of monumental significance, a brain-sapping experience that can raise the blood pressure to dangerous levels as you ponder over the risk of having a Swansea defender in your team or plumping with a Crystal Palace striker up front. Two months into the season and you’ll probably have lost interest, but for now, a new season brings new hope and determination to be the best fantasy football manager in the land – as after all, you know you’re the most knowledgeable person about football, and only bad luck has blocked your path to glory in the past.
As this is a Manchester City site of course, let’s have a look at the value of the City squad this year. I have used the Premier League fantasy football site, as not only is it one of the most popular, but it is free and in my opinion the best of the lot. Prices will probably be pretty consistent across the board anyway.
Not surprisingly Joe Hart is the joint most expensive keeper available. As keepers aren’t as expensive as many of the outfield players, it is probably worth going for a top keeper. Past history suggests that you will get good use out of Hart – he has stayed pretty much injury-free, and played every minute of last season’s Premier League campaign. City have had the tightest defence for three years running, though only time will tell if Pellegrini will use a more expansive system.
Leighton Baines is the most expensive defender available at £7.5m. Kompany is the most expensive City defender at £6.5m, but the better value may come from the cheaper full-backs Clichy and Zabaleta, both of whom scored more fantasy football points than their captain last season. The real value, fitness permitting may be Nastastic however, at £5.5m. He costs the same as Micah Richards but you’d expect him to figure more, unless City make a big-name signing like Pepe. With defenders you tend to get more from full-backs as they may get assists, unless you find a central defender that is a threat from corners. No City defender springs to mind though. If Micah Richards plays regularly he may score well through assists and the odd goal, but it is a gamble.
City are overloaded with talent here, so it’s hard to pick value. I wouldn’t choose Fernandinho at £8.0m as he may play well without scoring heavily – in other words his strengths may not lie in goals and assists. He should start most games though. With midfielders you always look for goals and assists. Navas at £9.0m is tempting (Bale is £12m, Mata £10.5m), as whilst he has a problem scoring goals (scoring none whatsoever last season), he created chances galore for Sevilla, and you can see him causing carnage in the premier league. I also think he may well pitch in with ten goals next season, whatever past history suggests. The only problem is how often he will play. You could put an argument forward to play Toure, Fernandinho, Jovetic, Silva, Nasri, Navas, Dzeko, Negredo and Aguero every game, but something has to give. The question is whether Pellegrini plays two upfront, but formations are flexible nowadays, so the likes of Jovetic could be more withdrawn. The safer option may be to go for Silva at £9.0m, and hope he can improve his goal-scoring record too. It’s hard to see Milner, Barry, Sinclair, Garcia or Razak playing regularly, and Yaya Toure may not seem value at £8.5m, but he only scored 5 fewer points than Silva last season, so him, Silva and Navas look the choice picks, though they don’t come cheap.
Aguero is £11m, Jovetic and Negredo are £9.5m, and Dzeko is £7.5m (Van Persie is £14m, Suarez £11m).
Dzeko stands out as the value, but how much will he feature? He could still score heavily of course without starting every game, so may be worth a punt, especially early in the season, with Aguero still not fit so not worth considering just yet. Negredo is the other value bet for me, as he surely has goals in him. Jovetic should score well points-wise, but may well have fewer goals in him. He may well have more assists however, but it will be interesting to see how Pellegrini uses him in the team. For me Negredo is the pick for the early weeks. Then it’s a case of wait and see.
Non-City players – where is the value?
Of course the real value will lie away from City. It will be found unearthing a gem from one of the “smaller” teams. Everyone is scouring the player list for this season’s Michu. The big names speak for themselves – you’ll have your own favourites there. Suarez seems poor value considering he’ll miss six games next season (as a minimum). The key will be to wait until the last minute – after all, it’s too risky to be picking players like Bale who might not stay in the country, and there’s plenty of players still to come in the opposite direction. African players are also more valuable this season, as there is thankfully no African Cup of Nations in January, for the first time in three years.
For me, Aspas at £7m seems good value for Liverpool, and I like the look of £8m Bony at Swansea. Basically, value may be found from new signings, as existing premier league players will be priced fairly accurately. Otherwise, you’re looking at a player that is going to have a breakthrough season. Take your pick of the Aston Villa youngsters for example, where value may be found (Ashley Westwood?). Ricky van Wolfswinkel is an interesting arrival at Norwich, but £7m isn’t overly cheap. Perhaps go for Leroy Fer instead, fitness permitting. Wanyama at Southampton is only £5m, though the excellent Morgan Schneiderlin is only £500,000 more. Bacuna and Tonev at Aston Villa are £5m each, and Cardiff’s new signing Steven Caulker is the same price, as is Campana at Crystal Palace, but I can see the London side really struggling. If Palace get another striker in, for example the likes of Odemwingie, then they could be a good choice for your “cheap” striker slot. Elsewhere, Deulofeu and Kone at Everton are tempting, maybe even Graham at Hull. Just don’t pick defenders from sides just promoted, defensive midfielders, and strikers in defensive formations. If you can find forwards that are listed as midfielders, all the better. Simple eh?
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