Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Fantasy Football: Blue Pre-Season Notes

The glorified friendly (It's not entirely a coincidence I'm seeing it that way. Chelsea lost.) that is the Community Shield is over, and we're all geared up for the league season now. The game was interesting not only because it offered us insight into how the teams would shape up, but it was also between the two plum teams as far as the start to the FPL season is concerned.

For the uninitiated, Chelsea have a double gameweek against long time relegation battlers Wigan and promoted side Reading. Assuming they start this season playing like a team worthy of one that ended the last with the European Cup, their players are a must-have. Manchester City are Premiership champions and are great fantasy value on any given day, but the fact that they are at the right end of the most imbalanced fixture of gameweek one (home to Southampton) makes their players pure gold.

The fantasy football implications from the Community Shield were rather direct. Here are some things worth noting about the teams that took to the pitch at Villa Park.

Branislav Ivanovic's red card will not result in suspension, which must come as a huge sigh of relief for Chelsea and Ivanovic's FPL owners. This is precisely because said match was a friendly (there you go, it's not just that I'm bitter, it's the truth). But that doesn't mean the issues should be overlooked - Chelsea's defence is currently below par. It must have been tempting to stretch the limit of three Chelsea players for the opening gameweek, but after the pre-season friendlies, it didn't seem like a good idea to bank on Chelsea's defence. And now, it definitely isn't worth considering.

After a renaissance late last season, a wonderful EURO 2012 and a great performance against City on Sunday, Fernando Torres is now a very serious prospect to consider. Obviously, with a game against Newcastle and a null gameweek to follow, it'd take quite the gambler not to dump him immediately after gameweek 1, but I think it's safe to say he's the top pick of the opening gameweek.

For all the fuss over Aguero and Silva, the 'engine' of City's attack, the real value in the latter part of last season came from Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez, and it was the case in the Community Shield as well. Points per Pound spent, these players are more valuable than the 'engine'. Pick one or both of these two, and you could steal a march on your rivals.

Mata or Hazard? Quite a few of you must be scratching your heads over this one. They aren't overly different players in that they are both vibrant and creative. Prices equal. Mata still seems to dominate set piece taking though, so that makes him more valuable. Or if the above 'engine' stuff made sense to you, you can avoid this headache and look at Ramires.

City's new 3-5-2 was tried out in pre-season and against Chelsea, and seems to be working well for the Citizens. But there might still be doubters as to whether that will stick for the entire season. It also poses several dilemmas to people trying to pick City defenders (shame on you if you aren't). I direct those people to Rule 4 of this handy FPL guide. Pick Kompany or Zabaleta, in short. To those willing to gamble, I suggest Alexandr Kolarov.

That's what I gathered from the teams' pre-season fixtures and the Community Shield in particular, and I suppose a clear idea is forming in my mind (and hopefully yours) as to how I should approach picking players from these teams. If you get your Chelsea and Man City picks right, you could have a booming start to the season, and you would love that, wouldn't you?

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