Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fantasy Football: Gameweek 1

So it's finally here - the new Premier League (and FPL) season is all set to begin. With each passing year, the drama and competition that precedes the season just keeps increasing, and so it has proved again, none of it without FPL implications of course.

For gameweek one, I'll show you guys some general notes for the season, and tell you who you should be looking at to begin the season with. Here we go!

Gameweek 1:

Arsenal v Sunderland
Everton v Manchester United
Fulham v Norwich City
Manchester City v Southampton
Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City
Reading v Stoke City
West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool
West Ham United v Aston Villa
Wigan Athletic v Chelsea
Chelsea v Reading

Chelsea with the double gameweek and Manchester City with that hugely unbalanced tie are the obvious gold to start the season.

The Big Boys

Manchester United
At the time of writing, news trickled through that Robin van Persie will join Manchester United. An objective look at this move suggests a decrease in FPL value of about 20% from Wayne Rooney's and van Persie's 2011-12 season, though it does suggest a lot more potential assist points for Shinji Kagawa. RvP at 13 seems overpriced (I balked at 12 last season but sucked it up as he scored every week) as he will never have a season as good as his last one, and no longer being the star striker means less of the goal share for him, so unless an oracle told you (or you're an oracle), stay away for now, there's little value for money here.
 

To begin with: United have a hard gameweek 1, but the fixture list eases out from then. More for the coming gameweeks than this one, you could get real points for money from Kagawa, Vidic and Valencia.

Chelsea
Chelsea's summer splurge on nifty midfielders suggests a shift in paradigm from the more efficient approach of the past, and that SHOULD mean more points from a midfield that didn't really set the world alight on the real or fantasy pitch last season. Value over the years has come from Frank Lampard but his new position should see a marked decrease (I'll be glad if I'm wrong here) in his goals and points. Hazard, Mata and Ramires will be the real midfield fantasy gold this season. Torres is still an enigma - Opening gameweek aside, stay away unless you're sure he's in form.


To begin with: Torres at Chelsea as been a disaster, but his EURO experience and his goal against City last Sunday have 'Make Me Captain!' written all over them. Don't ignore that neon sign, but make sure you have a contingency plan to sell him after gameweek 1 if he doesn't fire. A game against Newcastle followed by a null gameweek doesn't look good for his owners. Ramires is the value midfield pick. Based on pre-season and the Shield, I'd stay away from the defenders and keeper.

Arsenal
Arsenal's spending on Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla signals real intent, and I fully expected them to engage in the title race till at least March if not further. van Persie leaving was most bizarre, but money talks and it has loosened up matters for this team as far as FPL goes. It makes the above mentioned signings must-haves for most of Arsenal's games, and their defence really should hold up better this season so overall, not much lost for the side to be honest.


To begin with: Home to Sunderland yells out for you to try out all their latest signings, doesn't it? With a goal midweek for Spain, Cazorla's cries for attention shouldn't be ignored by you. And with RvP gone, Giroud is the alpha male striker, and should be the beneficiary of the array of midfield talent around him.

Manchester City

City's quiet in the transfer market is most unexpected given what's happened in recent seasons, but it is expected given the club is under pressure to comply with FFP regulations. Their only signing is Jack Rodwell, and it is unlikely he'll be any good, fantasily speaking. More interesting has been City's pre-season experimentation with the 3-5-2 formation, and the rock solid partnership between Aguero and Tevez with the monstrous Yaya Toure behind them that fired on City's late title charge looks like something to bank on this season. City have a couple of plum ties in the initial gameweeks so you probably won't go too far wrong with your picks.



To begin with: Ultra Lite Carlos Tevez is looking fitter and sharper than every before. He got more points than his more expensive teammates once he returned to City's starting lineup last season, and at 9.0, is a good bet. Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure are other players who represent value for money, much cheaper than the more touted Kompany and Silva (not saying you shouldn't go for them) and shouldn't be too many points behind. Never forget Joe Hart.

Tottenham
Ledley King's retirement was a huge disappointment for football, it's never good when a very promising career is plagued and eventually ended by injury. Andre Villas-Boas has shopped smartly in the transfer window though, and as with nearly every side, the new purchases are promising FPL prospects. As with the RvP-Rooney case though, the transfer could have a negative impact on both of Sigurdsson and van der Vaart's FPL performances from last season. Bale should remain largely unaffected.


To begin with: Spurs have arguably the most difficult opening match of any big side, but it eases on a bit from then, and it is from then that Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson might begin to pay dividends. You might want some of Brad Friedel too after Gameweek 1.

Newcastle United
First, hats off to the Geordies, who were without a doubt last season's heart-warming dark horses. Alan Pardew took Newcastle to unexpected heights spending a pittance, a la Arsene Wenger. Much like City, they've not been as active as some expected in the transfer market. The general value play hasn't changed much - assuming fitness, the points will be amassed by Cisse, ben Arfa and Cabaye. Again. The Toon will continue to be a disciplined unit, hard to beat and expect it to show in Tim Krul's points. Again.



To begin with: The opening fixtures are tough, but if you want to pick Newcastle, then go Cisse. ben Arfa isn't fit yet, so expect Cabaye to dominate the midfield points.

As Liverpool Football Club's initial fixtures are simply horrid, it's my humble advice that you simply stay away from their players for now.



The Other Guys

It's still unclear how Swansea will cope without Brendan Rodgers and Sigurdsson, but the noises from Spain about Michu are positive and if he proves to be the new Gylfi, please be all over him. I'd suggest you hold your horses, though there's no blame attached if you jump on the bandwagon straight away. Another one with a reputation here is de Guzman

Reading's double gameweek makes them good cheap fillers to have and nothing more (don't get carried away, remember they are a promoted side). Pavel Pogrebnyak and Ian Harte are the best picks from that side though as with Torres, choose wisely and with a plan - Gameweek 3 holds nothign for this team.

QPR should improve markedly from last season, and for a defender look no further than Fabio who is the ideal attacking full back I talked about earlier.

Fulham (Dempsey, Reither) and Norwich (Pilkington, Holt) haven't changed much from their usual tendencies. UPDATE: Clint Dempsey will not play Fulham's opening game


Tough initial fixture aside, it will take a lot to deter Fellaini, Naismith and Jelavic from putting up some serious points for Everton.

Sunderland's points will come from Sessegnon and Larsson (who might have less to aim at without Bendtner), and after gameweek 1, Campbell. Don't forget Louis Saha (new signing, if you weren't aware) who's made of glass but can be gold when he's fit.

Stoke City are simple to figure out (because they're generally a bad FPL team) - there is little value outside Matthew Etherington. Set piece taker, priced at the standard 6.5, is a Diet Version pick of more illustrious players who should put in a decent shift in your midfield.

As fillers more than anything, West Ham's Nolan and Vaz Te are decent picks.

Hunch of the Gameweek


You know that illogical vibe you get about someone though everything suggests you must stay away from him? For me, that temptation this week comes from Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar.

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