The big debate around FFS these days is surrounding the mid-priced midfielder(£7.5m and under), some say Taarabt, some say N’Zogbia and some even say Alex Song!
But here is a deeper look into the bewilderness of those mid-priced options.
Alex Song– The African Warrior, renowned for his tough tackling and passing perfection, is a fantasy favorite in the eye of our resident hammer Doosra, and to be fair he has a fairly decent case. Song, coming in at £6.5m this time round racked up 11 assists last season, helping him pick up 125 points in FPL last season. The deep-lying midfielders returns may have taken a hit, with the possible(likely) loss of Robin van Persie from the Arsenal ranks and no clear indication of how Premier League newbies Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski will adapt to life in an Arsenal shirt. Overall I don’t see too much value in the Arsenal midfielder, with the Gunners facing tough away trips to Anfield, The Britannia and The Etihad also coupled with London rivals Chelsea making the short trip to The Emirates, and all that inside the first six gameweeks. Uncertainty over how Wenger’s side will pan out leaves us questioning whether Alex Song will have as big an impact this season as he did in the last campaign for the Gunners.
Villa– Many were burnt last season and refuse to return but some are back for more, but despite only picking up 91 points last term with 2 goals and 5 assists in an injury hit season Charles N’Zogbia still remains a viable option with the Villains offering some very favourable fixtures early on and the managerial change, supposedly sparking Villa to life. Villa welcome Everton, Swansea and West Brom to Villa park in the first six along with trips to Upton Park, Newcastle’s fortress The Sports Direct Arena and a rather favourable game away at newly promoted Southampton. Many are alternatively looking at Stephen Ireland, and the possibility of the Irishman playing in behind Bent and at a cut price of £5.5m, compared to N’Zogbia, priced reasonably at £6.5m. But if you’re looking at a differential look no further than Marc Albrighton, priced at £5.5m this year after being out of favour with Mcleish the Englishman look set to be in the mix this year. All I can say is think twice before investing in the Villians, Lambert’s rotation headache last year coupled with the Villains previous Premier League season it could be a very frustrating for N’Zogbia, Ireland and Albrighton owners alike.
Ramires– After Spain’s early exit at the hands of Honduras prompting the early return of Juan Mata, Ramires in now seen as the only safe Chelsea midfield option in many eyes, and at a cut price of only £7.0m Ramires offers a different route into the Chelsea frontline. With Chelsea offering a rather luxurious double-gameweek many had their eyes set on Belgian Eden Hazard, but with rotation worries looming over the West London outfit many have opted to steer clear of the Chelsea midfield. Last season Ramires didn’t live up to full fantasy expectation, despite his wild runs into the box, the box-to-box midfielder only managed to pick up three goals and five assists in his 28 games for the club. But this time round looks like a nailed-on attacking threat with him playing on the right hand side of an attacking three behind Spanish Striker Fernando Torres, what more could you want…
Everton– After his highly anticipated move to Goodison went through yesterday many may turn a blind eye to Everton’s usual slow start and opt for South African Steven Pienaar, and despite a horrendous opening day fixture at home to Manchester United, the Toffees offer some rather favourable fixtures within the first six, with trips to Villa, West Brom and Swansea rounded off with home games against Newcastle and Premier League new boys Southampton. Pienaar impressed on loan at Goodison Park last season with 4 goals and 7 assists in only half a season, better than his previous season with Spurs. With Moyes bringing in Rangers Striker Steven Naismith to possibly play behind Jelavic therefore making Afroman Marouane Fellaini(£6.5m) a less attractive fantasy prospect than many has anticipated. But the big question on many minds is…Will Everton start slowly once more?
Newcastle– After the Toons impressive season last term there is no surprise that there has been a high increase in price this Term with Set-Piece specialist Yohan Cabaye coming in at £7.0m and fellow Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa coming in at £7.5m after his amazing streak of form at the back end of last season, which included 5 goals and 5 assists as he played on the right hand side of an attacking trio including Cisse and Ba. The Geordie outfit offer a mix of difficult and favourable fixtures it their first six, facing Tottenham(H), Chelsea(A) and Everton(A), but these are coupled with a trip to Reading, with Villa and Norwich arriving at the Sports Direct Arena. The possible change of formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 that Alan Pardew has been hinting at throughout the summer could also affect the fantasy returns of the French duo as both tended to offer more going forward in a 4-3-3.
Norwich– Not exactly the most luxurious fantasy options but the Norwich trio of Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Wesley Hoolahan all coming in at £6.0m they could be decent differentials in your mini-league, and the Canaries offer two favourable home games against QPR and West Ham, but also welcome Liverpool to Carrow Round, and also face tricky away trips to Craven Cottage, White Hart Lane and The Sports Direct Arena in the first six. But there is also a slight problem with rotation in the Norwich camp, and also question marks on how the point will be spread out in the Norwich midfield, unlike the previous season which saw Pilkington deliver with 8 goals and 1 assist last season. But if you think the fixtures offered in the first six aren’t enough to justify a £6.0m price tag, so you can always opt for set-piece maestro Bradley Johnson at £5.0m if you really do fancy some cover from Chris Hughton’s side early on.
QPR– The London outfit, boosted by a hamper of new signings, look a real fantasy prospect this year and offer some favourable fixtures including fixtures against Swansea, Norwich and West Ham but these rather friendly fixtures are cancelled out by trips to The Etihad and White Hart Lane, along with a London Derby at Loftus Road against Chelsea. The R’s attack looks set to be prone to rotation with many starlets such as Moroccan playmaker Adel Taarabt, Junior Hoilett and Asian star Park Ji-Sung. The main man attraction from QPR this time round is Adel Taarabt despite only picking up only 2 goals and 4 assists last term, a fresh start and Mark Hughes piling the pressure for him to deliver, alongside his fair share of set-pieces due to the 10 week ban of joey Barton is a rather exciting prospect, lets hope for more of this come the start of the season on the 18th August. Another to consider following his recent free transfer from Blackburn is Junior Hoillett but he has been priced a disappointing £6.5m following a good season last year, despite relegation he managed 7 goals, 6 assists and 14 bonus points at Blackburn and QPR fought off several major European Clubs to land the pacey Canadian attacker.
Reading– The Reading trio of Jobi McAnuff(£5.5m), Jimmy Kebe(£5.0m) and Danny Guthrie(£4.5) have all had their fair share of interest this summer with the Double Gameweek in Gameweek One. But most eyes are on Danny Guthrie, with the ex-toon man coming in at a cut-price of £4.5m is seen as a decent prospect, who offers decent attacking potential and is a decent bench warmer for those managers unwilling to spread the cash evenly amongst their squad. Brian McDermott’s side face Chelsea and Stoke in Gameweek One, followed up by a trip to Sunderland alongside a blank in Gameweek Three, a trip to West brom and home games against Newcastle and Tottenham round off the first six. But many fantasy managers are steering away from the newly promoted side, as many wait to see what budget options appear among the relegation candidates.
Southampton- Many have turned a blind eye to Nigel Atkins men given the Saints horrendous first few fixtures, as they face Man City, Man United and Arsenal in their first six, along with games against Wigan, Villa and Everton. The stand-out picks from the Soton midfield are Brazilian Guly(£5.5m) and playmaker Adam Lallana(£6.0m) with the latter picking up 9 assists along with 11 goals in a successful season for the Saints. Compare that to the returns of the former, as Guly also hit double figures scoring 10 goals and creating 9 assists. But most of the duo’s returns will depend on how Rickie Lambert performs in the Premier League, and whether he can better Grant Holt’s returns last term…
Stoke- Last term saw Irishman John Walters (£6.5m) played out-of-position and also given penalty duties allowing him to pick up 140 points, with seven goals and five assists, at home he managed to fire, but away from home he was far from impressive, so if you are willing to take him under your wing, be sure to have a decent option when this lad plays away. Anyhow, Stoke offer far from luxurious fixtures within the first six, facing Arsenal, Citeh and Chelsea alongside trips to Wigan, Reading and a home game against Swansea. But the big question is, will Walters continue to be played OOP and grab enough points to justify his £6.5m pricetag, that is for you to decide….
Sunderland- After the appointment of Martin O’Neill half way through last season Sunderland looked a real fantasy prospect, with Irishman James McClean(£6.5m) emerging into the side and starting 20 consecutive games and returning 5 goals and 2 assists in that period. But the main debate is McClean or Larsson, Sebastian Larsson, also coming in a £6.5m, is seen as the set-piece specialist, and this showed as the Swede scored 7 goals last term, along with two assists in 32 appearances. The Black Cats start off their campaign away at the Emirates before welcoming Reading to the Stadium of Light, followed up by a trip to Laudrup’s Swansea. After the International break O’Neill’s side face Liverpool and Wigan on their own turf with an away game at the Hammers in between. But the returns of both McClean and Larsson may of taken a turn for the worst, as Sunderland may end up having to play either Frazier Campbell or Connor Wickham with neither having bags of Premier League experience, however with a possible move for Scotsman Steven Fletcher the striker problem could be solved at the Stadium of Light, making McClean and Larsson even better prospects.
Swansea– Last season Swansea offered arguably the best value for money, with Michel Vorm, Neil Taylor, Gylfi Sigurdsson and many more being cut price options worth considering, this time around though the Swans key players have been subject to a price hike, with penalty taker Scott Sinclair coming in at £7.0m alongside the main bench warmer last season Nathan Dyer who has also rose £1.0m to £5.5m for the coming season. Scott Sinclair’s fantasy returns were heavily reliant on his penalty duties, with Four of his Eight goals coming from penalties last season. Dyer however got his fair share of returns, with 5 goals and 2 assists in the past campaign. The introduction of new signing Michu could offer some value at £6.5m, with the Spaniard scoring 15 goals from midfield at newly promoted Rayo Vallecano, with new manager Michael Laudrup looking fill the gap left by Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson her turned to the Spaniard and managed to snap him up for a cut price £2.0m. The trio’s returns will all be dependent on whether Michael Laudrup can continue to lead the Swans to playing fast, slick and more importantly, productive football.
West Brom– Mid-Table West Brom weren’t exactly centre stage when it came to fantasy returns from midfield last year, and many were burnt by Northern Irishman Chris Brunt(£6.0m), who only managed 104 points last term, with 2 goals and 8 assists but many of those came at times in which they were unexpected, against the bigger sides rather than in the easier fixtures. And the fixtures this time round are not too shabby, featuring home ties against Everton and newboys Reading and a trip to Villa, coupled with an Opening day Home fixture against Liverpool and trips to White Hart Lane and Craven Cottage round off the opening six fixtures. The managerial change at the end of last season saw Roy Hodgson take up the England job and the introduction of Steve Clarke, and the arrival of the ex Liverpool and Chelsea coach is set to have a positive impact on the Baggies, making them a harder side to break down at home and possibly getting Peter Odemwingie back into the form that saw him hit 15 goals two seasons back, all this could help improve the fantasy returns of Chris Brunt.
West Ham– The Play-Off winners are usually end up being the ones tipped for relegation come the start of the season but this isn’t the case for the Hammers, who offer numerous cut price fantasy options as did Swansea last season, and we know how well that turned out. With set-piece maestro Mark Noble coming in at a generous £5.0m Mr West Ham has gained huge interest from those on FFS, with many already dubbing him “Bargain of the season”. Noble scored 8 goals and produced 9 assists in a very productive season for the Hammers who managed 81 goals in their 42 games beaten only by Southampton. Scoring 12 of those was veteran Kevin Nolan who arrives back in the Premier League at £6.0m with him being a proven Fantasy talent, after his 2010-11 campaign saw him return 140 points with 12 goals to his name, although the Englishman will have to adapt once again to the pace of the Premier League. Big Sam’s men have the most favourable fixtures of the promoted sides, with Villa, Fulham and Sunderland all visiting Upton Park inside the first six, alongside away fixtures at The Liberty, Carrow Road and a London derby at QPR. And new signings can only improve the fantasy returns of the duo, especially is Big Sam signs Geordie Andy Carroll, with the long haired donkey getting on the end of Mark Noble’s set-pieces it’s a fantasy match made in heaven…we dream…
Wigan– Finally we come to the Lactics who sparkled towards the back end of last season and have brought us numerous fantasy options over the years, including the likes of Charles N’Zogbia, Mauro Boselli and none other…than Victor Moses(£7.0m). Many have failed, and that looked the case earlier in the last campaign, but later in the season he, alongside Shaun Maloney(£5.0m) sparkled in a new 3-4-3 formation inserted by Roberto Martinez, sparking wins against both United and Arsenal. Moses picked up 140 points last season, which included 6 goals, 6 assists and 16 bonus points in what was once again a below par season for Wigan, who once again found themselves among the bottom 5 come crunch time, but once again, they picked up form towards the end of the season, and found the results to keep themselves up once again, prompting interest in Roberto Martinez from Liverpool and Spurs. The introduction of Shaun Maloney on the right hand side of the front three saw the Scotsman gain interest towards the end of last season with him picking up 52 points with 3 goals and 2 assists. And once again he as seen as ‘value for money’ coming in alongside Hammer Mark Noble at £5.0m, also boosted by set-piece duties. Maloney though doesn’t offer the fixtures that Noble does, with games against Man United and Chelsea within the first six, Wigan also welcome Stoke and Fulham and face away trips to Saint Mary’s and The Stadium of Light before Gameweek Seven. But the question is…will Martinez’s change in formation continue to have a positive impact on the returns of the Holy one and Maloney?