Anyone who takes time out to have a gander at any of my ramblings on here will know of my slight obsession with all things football related. At this time of year in my household the focus turns to the upcoming football season and subsequently the highly coveted Fantasy Football title. My interest began at an early age, when I used to sit with my dad every weekend and look at the weekly performance section in the Telegraph. For the past few years, each season has begun in the same manner; I create a team, set up a league and nag the other members of the family until they sort their teams out a month in advance.
To say that we are a competitive bunch would be an understatement. With my dad taking bragging rights for the past two seasons, my aim is to make a comeback this year and write about my journey to the top along the way. More realistically, however, this will probably end up being a documentation of my trials and tribulations of picking the wrong captain, playing the new chips at the worst possible moment and transferring players out of my team in time for them to have their best game-week to date.
One feature of Fantasy Football that comes as both a blessing and a curse is the unlimited transfers up until the start of game-week one. Yes it means as transfers are made there are opportunities to put people in your team who previously may not have been available, but at the same time it does leave far too much time to overthink things and change your mind. With a budget of £100 million and a limit of 3 players from each side, you will never be able to get your dream team but it is this that makes it interesting. With the likes of Harry Kane, one of last season’s MVPs, going up substantially to £9.5 million it may be time to find a new surprise package on a budget.
After much deliberation my first draft is as follows:
Like many, this will probably change on several occasions leading up to kick-off but for now this is what it entails.
Goalkeepers (£9.5 million)
With limited opportunities to score or assist goals, goalkeeper is a position where I didn’t want to waste too much of my budget. Looking for players who have a higher plausibility of keeping clean sheets or who are capable of saving goals every now and then, however, is important. It is a position that I have changed several times but I have currently opted with Mignolet (Liverpool) and Boruc (AFC Bournemouth). With the most sought after keepers from the major teams such as Hart, De Gea, Cech and Courtois all costing £5.5 million, Mignolet was a touch cheaper and amongst the top point-scorers of last season. As Liverpool’s first-choice goalkeeper he is likely to start the majority of games and with the likes of Clyne being added to the Liverpool squad, defensively he should have some extra cover.
Choosing a keeper from a newly promoted team is always a risk, but with a budget of £4.5 million Boruc was one of the better options. Vorm was also on my shortlist, due to the injury to Lloris at Spurs, but with them being likely to dip in the transfer market he may not get much game-time. If nothing comes to fruition, however, he may be a good choice considering the price. Boruc has played for Southampton in the past, and has signed for Bournemouth following an impressive loan-spell at the club last season. With Federici also at the club there is a risk of rotation, but I feel that Boruc is the stronger of the two.
Defenders (£25 million)
When making a team it is incredibly easy to spend a small fortune on defenders alone. Players like Ivanovic and Terry who cost £7 million each have earned their price tags due to their proven ability to not only keep clean sheets, but also score and assist goals at the other end. With some expensive players to pick from later on, though, it was an area that I did not want to spend too much on but one where finding potentially consistent performers is important.
Clyne was the first in my team, and judging from the statistics he also went straight into a large number of other people’s too. At £5.5 million and as the joint third best defender last season during his time with Southampton, Clyne seems like a good option. Having scored 2 goals and with 2 assists to his name from last season, Clyne has the potential to improve on that this time around as part of the Liverpool squad.
My joint most-expensive defender is somewhat risky but I opted with Bellerin. The Arsenal defender was by-no-means the best performer numerically last season and is set for a battle with Debuchy for the right-back position in the Arsenal squad, but his attacking prowess made him one to take a risk on especially with the likes of West Ham and Crystal Palace in the opening two fixtures. With Bellerin favoured over Debuchy for the Barclays Asia Trophy Final against Everton, it could be a sign for things to come and he definitely has the potential to make a big impact.
Spurs’ new signing Alderweireld also seems like a fairly good option, being £0.5 million less than some of his defensive counterparts and having already experienced life in the Premier League with Southampton last season. Together with his fellow Belgian Vertonghen at the back, Alderweireld has the potential to solidify a Spurs’ defence which conceded 53 Premier League goals and get some points on the board.
To finish off the back line, I have opted for Leicester’s Morgan and Watford’s new signing Prodl. Both being at £4.5 million, they are amongst the cheapest in my team but both will have the potential of scoring a considerable number of points.Last season Leicester made a late dash to avoid relegation and Morgan became the highest scoring defender under £5 million in the process. Morgan has been performing well with Jamaica over the summer and with Ranieri at the helm going into the new season, the side with Morgan as skipper will be hoping to perform better this time around. Prodl, meanwhile, is a newcomer when it comes to English football and subsequently only time will tell to see how he settles in. Having played for Werder Bremen and the Austrian national team for the last few years, however, Prodl could prove to be Watford’s best signing if he remains injury free.
Midfielders (£42.5 million)
This is where things got interesting. With a premium put on some of last season’s top performers one would struggle to get them all in your team. With goals and assists aplenty to be had, however, it is wise to get at least one or two of them.
The first that made it straight into my team, and the majority of teams so far, is Hazard. The Chelsea midfielder was last season’s overall top scorer having scored 14 goals, got 10 assists, 19 clean sheets and 42 bonus points in the process. At £11.5 million this time around he is the most expensive midfielder but one that is well worth choosing.
With Sanchez out for at least the first Arsenal fixture, my next two choices were Silva and Cazorla. At £11 million, Sanchez is pricey but his 16 goals and 8 assists made it worth it last season. In his absence, however, Silva is a good option. With a price-tag of £10 million and with 12 goals and 12 assists to his name last season, the Spaniard was amongst the best. Juventus are apparently after the player so this may have to change if that move comes to fruition. At £8.5 million, Cazorla seems like a great choice. The Arsenal midfielder scored 7 goals and got 11 assists last season and played a huge part in their Asia Trophy victory earlier this month.
My two slightly cheaper additions are Crystal Palace’s Bolasie and Premier League newcomer Ritchie. Despite only scoring 4 goals last season, Bolasie showed his potential of being one of the biggest attacking threats in the Premier League. With his unbelievable pace, the midfielder has been able to bully defenders and get 12 assists in the process. He has become a target for a number of top 6 clubs, but wherever he plays next season he will continue to be a threat.
On paper, Ritchie may be a slightly risky option as part of a newly promoted squad, but he has the potential to make a real impact. Ritchie was a key performer for Bournemouth last season with 15 goals and 17 assists. If he can recreate such form against tougher opponents this season, then he’ll definitely be someone worth having in the team.
Strikers (£23 million)
Having spent a large amount of my budget on goal-scoring midfielders, I was left with £23 million to spend on strikers. With a chip to change to an attacking formation available, it may also be an area I will have to change at some point. At £13 million, Aguero was the first that went in my team. He is the most expensive player in the game but one that is worth the money when he is fit and on form. With 25 goals and 10 assists to his name, you are guaranteed to get goals from the City striker. As there is currently potential doubt regarding his fitness, Costa may be the better option for the first part of the season but it is worth keeping the funds available for Aguero.
With only £10 million to spend on two strikers left in the budget, there was a slight concern that I may have overdone it in the midfield area. There are, however, bargains to be had amongst the newly promoted teams. One of these is Jerome who is valued at £5 million. Now at Norwich, the striker has had plenty of experience at Premier League level with a number of teams including Birmingham City, Stoke City and Crystal Palace. Last season he also managed 18 goals and he will be hoping to get a few more with some decent fixtures to begin the season.
My last addition came in the form of Ighalo from Watford. With many opting with his strike partner Deeney for £5.5 million, Ighalo may yet be the surprise package. At £0.5 million less, the striker scored 20 goals last season and is currently one of their top performers during pre-season. Having turned down an offer from a Chinese side, Ighalo will also be keen to show exactly why he wants to stay at the London club.
With plenty of transfers still rumoured amongst the biggest teams it is highly likely that this team will change a lot over the next few weeks. There are already plenty of new names who I have not already included in my team such as Depay, Schweinsteiger, Payet, Ayew, Wijnaldum and Lens to name just a few. This may be something I regret when it comes to the start of the season, but only time will tell.
If you have made it this far, thanks for having a read and check back for more in the coming weeks.