The transfer window has just shut, bringing to a close possibly the greatest summer of spending ever seen in the Premier League. While big names, big fees and big clubs naturally catch the eye, there is a wealth of new players with low ownership, some of which have the capacity to deliver not just value but arguably outscore the heavy hitters. Here I’ve pinpointed 6 players who I’d characterize as credible differentials with considerable upside. All are below 7.9 in price, and all I would consider putting in my team if I only had a free transfer…
Steven Fletcher (7.0)
Fletcher is simply very good at one thing: poaching. With most of his goals coming from around the six-yard box, he makes Van Nistelrooy’s shooting look like David Beckham. Fletcher is particularly gifted in the air with numerous headed finishes. He was perhaps the only shining light in a woeful season for Wolves last year, grabbing 12 goals and 2 assists. Impressively, he demonstrated an immunity to fixtures, scoring against United and Arsenal to name a few. Having prospered with undistinguished service, Sunderland offer him the very real possibility of blowing that tally out of the water. With the signing of Adam Johnson, set to return soon after injury, Sunderland are ideally placed to service Fletcher by his favourite route: crosses. As partners in crime, he will have McClean and Johnson crossing from the wing, Larsson’s set pieces and Sessegnon supporting the striker with his personal brand of magic.
Of course, this is one differential that is rapidly ceasing to exist: Fletcher walked straight into the starting lineup just days after signing and scored twice in his debut in a tricky match away to Swansea, who hadn’t conceded yet. Both goals were classic poacher finishes. Fletcher is clearly sharp as a razor and hitting the ground running. In my view, he could be this year’s Papiss Cisse.
Arouna Kone (6.5) & Franco Di Santo (5.5)
Stereotypes have to be updated occasionally. Arsenal being poor at the back… Fulham only being good for home cleanies… Man City being chokers. For this particular differential, I think the relevant stereotype is that of Wigan being no-hopers. I won’t bore you to death with the glories of the formation change and Martinez’s positive football, but suffice to say, three games in, they are happily refusing to struggle. The difference this season is in the forward line. Last year, of the three forwards, Maloney played on the left, Moses in several positions including the right, and Di Santo as center-forward. With the sale of Moses and the arrival of Kone, Kone has become center-forward with Di Santo moving to the right. The effect has been pronounced – all three of the frontline have scored, with Di Santo notching twice and Kone scoring once. To see the full glory of the stats you should bag yourself an FFS membership, but suffice to say Kone’s stats so far at center-forward utterly blow Di Santo’s from last season out of the water. It may well be that both strikers have found their best positions.
In Chelsea’s galaxy of midfielders, Oscar has slipped under the radar somewhat due to the delightful distractions of Hazard and his understandable lack of early gametime. Even without knowing he has represented Brazil at virtually every level, become the first player to score a hat-trick in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final, scored in a friendly against Argentina, and provided all the goals in Brazil’s 2012 Olympic campaign alongside Neymar, you know from watching him once that he’s a supremely gifted player. He’s already been given two cameos of 27 minutes and 34 minutes against Wigan and Reading, though he stayed on the bench for the tricky visit of Newcastle. For me, Oscar is on course to become Hazard’s partner-in-crime in attacking midfield this season, with the two fluidly interchanging anywhere in the strip behind Torres. If we reasonably expect him to continue to be deployed against smaller teams, upcoming fixtures of qpr, STO, followed two weeks later by NOR, offer chances for him to explode. Definitely one to watch – this boy is coming to the back pages very soon.
Charlie Adam (6.8)
Adam going to Stoke is one of those transfers that seems like a perfect fit. Peter Crouch up front. A team built around crossing. A new central midfielder to sling in ‘Hollywood’ long balls. Liverpool were characterized as a failure last season and Adam has gone down with the ship in that regard with an ownership of only 1.3%. Adam’s record from last season is considerably better than you might expect. 2 goals and 11 assists is a particularly impressive return in a team which only scored 42 goals. Adam also played exclusively in deep central midfield in Dalglish’s ill-fated 4-2-3-1. At Stoke, he’ll be playing a little more advanced in the midfield two of a 4-4-2. There’s obviously very limited data from this season with only a 58 minute appearance, but his average position looks about as expected. Adam is on free kicks, while we may yet see if he establishes himself as a corner-taker. All these add up to improved assist potential relative to a season where he managed double-figure assists. He’s now 2.2 cheaper.
Pablo Hernandez (6.5)
With Laudrup’s Swansea playing sparkling attacking football and a good run of fixtures, any of their attacking assets has to be considered. Pablo Hernandez’s arrival is likely to oust Routledge playing on the left, instead of Dyer, particularly given that Routledge comes out inferior to Dyer on most stats so far this season. That’s not to say that Routledge has failed to deliver – with 3 assists and 1 goals he is currently a major scorer in FPL. Dyer and Routledge, as the wide midfielders in the attacking three, have prospered from Rodgers’ tactical change bringing them closer to the centre and increasing their involvement. The question is: what Hernandez can bring to the table? He certainly has some pedigree having played for Valencia, and his total time in La Liga yielded 19 goals and 22 assists from 139 appearances. It should be noted that a considerable fraction of these were off the bench – of his total appearances of 30, 27 and 33 in the last 3 seasons, he was subbed on for 11, 7 and 8 times respectively. If he can offer threat comparable to his compatriot Michu, he is definitely an option at 0.9 cheaper.
There is now a substantial debate about the most effective use of our two wild cards. I have been asked to add my ha’penceworth to this debate, so here goes.
The first thing to note is that the January wild card may be used at any time in game weeks 22 to 24 inclusive(from after 11:30 Jan 1 until and up to 11:30 Feb 2), that is 4 weeks grace, leaving 35, effectively 33 other weeks when you may deploy your other wild card, assuming for the sake of this article that no funny buggers are going to do two cards in a three or four week period!!!
There are two or three prime reasons for deploying your wild card. Firstly, you may have lost faith in your team, and feel the need to transform it with, shall we say, more than 4 transfers, implying at least a 12 point hit. Secondly, we managers are always keeping an eye on the overall value of our team, with a view to being able to afford more than 5 “big hitters” therein; and a suitable opportunity arises to chase one or more fast rising players over an extended period – say an international break. Thirdly, there may be a marked change in fixtures, where a previously favoured team hits a trough, while one or more other teams face a run of kind home fixtures. There is also “Injury Creep” to worry about, where one suddenly realizes that three of one’s team are injured, and there is only one substitute available, perhaps not even viable! On the wilder shores, there are also those who plan to “get the drop” on their rivals; choose a team for game week 1, and then wild card in game week 2. I wouldn’t advise the latter course to anyone but hardcore fanatics!
Starting in reverse order, here are some of the pros and cons of the various options. For those hardy souls, such as Tosey, who have gone very early, it will be difficult to choose which are the viable players, as most teams won’t show their true colours for at least two more weeks. Is Hazard the real deal? Is Adebayor match fit? Will Swansea, West Bromich Albion and Fulham maintain their form? On the upside, team values will soar, with Michu, Tevez and Hazard already guaranteed double rises, Dyer on the way, and plenty of tasty players on a single rise. Fixture wise, the picture is mixed, with only Everton experiencing a real upturn … In game week 4!
Injuries, etcetera … Ah, my Manchester of yesteryear! Koscielny! Ban der Vaart – what’s that all about? And last, but far from least, the hammer blow that is Aguero’s damaged knee. Well, if you have been really unlucky, and suffered fallout from all of the above … NOW is a good time!!!
The international break starts as soon as FPL is up again on the morning of Saturday September the 1st. This will be, in my opinion, the time when the majority of managers will wild card. Firstly, the aforementioned upswing in Everton’s fixture fortune. Expect an influx for Baines! Secondly, there are two whole weeks for any rises/falls to take effect – so transfers in of all the game week three scorers/assisters/bonus darlings are de riguer, while out go the losers/red card receivers/penalty missers!!! Team value, managed well, can and may well soar in this period! Thirdly, most of us can probably grit our teeth and get there without any hits!!! A big bonus, this one – if you have had to take a hit, you should probably try to keep your card! Christina is a big advocate of this strategy:
“Yeah, I wild carded with the first Int. Break last year as well, and it turned out well. Build some team value over the 2 weeks, assess possible injuries owing to International Fixtures and get clarity on Dempsey/Rvp vs Rooney/Adebayor/Ba vs Cisse and the Aguero injury.
Also makes it possible for me to get the Michu’s/Petric’s/Guthrie’s/Hazard’s of this world if they are still fit and the flavour of the month. Without any hits!
Someone mentioned that there is no swing in fixtures after gw 3, but I disagree. I want Everton/new players and since I don’t have any of them it makes sense for me to WC.”
The most obvious downside to this option is the actual loss of the card, for double game weeks/bad weather/injury freak outs etcetera. Also, I personally have found that the first dozen game weeks are my most difficult period, and the “comfort blanket” of the wild card, still in my pocket, I hope will help me navigate this!
The next International Break starts directly after FPL lockout on October the 6th. It is arguable here that Chelsea have a downturn in fixtures, while Sunderland’s, perhaps, brighten up. Furthermore, there is a long run of 14 game weeks without break, so getting one’s team set up at this juncture would be strategically sound. That also takes in the run-up to Christmas. If you are not going to keep your wild card for a rainy day, this is possibly the best time to use it, certainly in the first half of the Season, in my opinion. However – it does mean that you use it! Also, you have to get that far in one piece …
Immediately after the Third Round of the F. A. Cup, comes the January wild card: “The January Wildcard can only be used after Gameweek 21 starts (1 Jan 11:30) until Gameweek 24 ends (2 Feb 11:30); as the January wildcard isn’t available until after the Gameweek 21 deadline, the earliest these transfers will be active is Gameweek 22.” So the next possible use of the floating wild card is after FPL lockout on February the 9th. May we disregard this? What it would really mean is that you have made a mess of the timing or substance of your January wild card – or both!!!
However, we then come to the March the 16th. Lockout, which would set up your team for the final 8 gameweeks. If you still have your wild card here, then you would be blessed indeed, in my opinion …
Peripheral issues: if you have clearly made a bog of your goalkeeper selection, the wild card may be your only option. Ditto your forwards. Everything else – muddle through!
Remember, a wildcard is like a bee’s sting – effective, of course – but to use it is to lose it!!!
Ah the budget midfielder. The guy you turn to when you find yourself with heavy hitters everywhere and not a lot of wonga left to splash on filling your 15 man squad. In my mind, they come in 3 flavours:
-the 5.0 with attacking potential who you use in a rotation policy or as an option when a more expensive player has a particularly tricky fixture.
-the 4.5 who is nailed on and serves simply to be cheap filler, earning a couple of points consistently on the off-chance injuries/rotation cripples your side.
-the 4.5 who is a very risky punt but may just be a bandwagon in waiting.
I don’t need to tell you about Chelsea last season, nor do you need the details of who they’ve signed, unless you’ve been living under a rock or in Outer Mongolia for the last couple of months, so let’s get on with it shall we?
This looks to one of the safest places to predict, with the only debate at the minute being who will start between Cahill and Luiz, though given that Cahill seems to make Terry more assured, I’d say it will be him. Barring Terry all of Chelsea’s likely starting defenders, along with Cech are all 6.5 and any could be worthy of investment. Cech is an interesting option. Plenty of saves, possible peno saves and CS could all come his way if you can spare the money in the budget. Just make sure you have a decent back-up for GW3, I recommend Jussi. Personall I have opted for Terry as my Chelsea defender. I have done this for a few reasons. Firtly he is nailed on to play, frankly, like him or not John Terry IS Chelsea, if he is fit he will play. Second, he is a great threat from corners, and Lampard will always look to pick him out. Lastly, other than Kompany he can easily be switched to any other big hitting defender when needed (Vidic, Baines, Verm, Vertonghen to name just a few). That being said, unless Chelsea sign a rb in the next 24 hours, Ivanovic is a great option and also offers a great goal threat, whilst Cashley offers some assist potential.
This would be better dubbed, ‘minefield’. It’s impossible to predict who will start both games or 1, how long they will play for and their roles. One might say picking one has become a Hazardous Mata, arf arf. I have opted for Lampard. Although he may sit a little deeper, the Community Shield and the England game showed he will get forward when possible, plus he is on set-pieces and penalties, and he is nailed on for my money, Chelsea can’t replace him. Beyond him, Mata and Hazard are both 0.5 more. Mata is a proven talent who could score well, but he could be rested after doing both EURO 2012 and Olympic duty, whilst Hazard has talent, but is unproven at PL level, and falling flat on his face trying a trick v City did him no favours. Lastly, for those fancying a punt, Ramires for 7 million could be a great money saving option. Likely to play wide right of a front 3 he has endless stamina coupled with a bit of Brazilian flair, as his assist for Torres showed. Oscar and Marin will be eased in IMO and do not currently warrant investment IMO.
That s is a bit redundant to be honest. With Drogba gone and no forward signed it’s all on Torres, unless RDM fanices Sturridge up-top. Whether you trust him to deliver is another matter (or should that be Mata?)
Doosra Differential Punt
So here we are now with Reading. A team no one would likely have cared about but for cheap filler in rotations. Now thanks to Chelski being in the Super Cup Final, their players open the season with an infamous DGW (a double gameweek for the unitiated in the ways of FFS…..Wait, what are ye doing here??? Go away!!! ……… Are you gone? Good). Reading players have been given an boost to their fantasy prospects although the current uncertainty over their starting XI has really dampened enthusiasm again.
In goals, Adam Federici at 4.5 represents probably the safest route into the Reading defence. He acts as a very good filler alongside De Gea and Friedel and is one of the best options for an uber cheap rotation policy in between the sticks.
In defense, it has been hard to work out who will get the nod. Last season, they regularly fielded a back four (from right to left) of Cummings-4.0, Pearce-4.5, Gorkss-4.0 and Harte-4.5. 3 new signings have however thrown a real spanner in the works. Gunter-4.0 was probably brought in to be first choice at right back but a recent return from injury may prevent him from starting the season. Likewise Mariappa-4.0 certainly has a starting role at centre back in his sights but it is hard to guess which one if either of last season’s will make way. At left back we have Harte, a bandwagon which failed before the prices were even out due to the signing of Shorey-4.5. Rotation is quite possibly in McDermott’s plans for this position.
In the centre of the park, the hard working duo off Karacan-4.5 and Leighterwood-5.0 ply their trade. The signing of Guthrie-4.5 has also made it hard to know which of the trio will get the most minutes although their considerable defensive duties won’t make them the best of fantasy prospects even with the potential for the odd goal. It was down the wings where most of Reading’s assists came from last year and Jobi McAnuff-5.5 was the star man on the left and will continue in this role for the season. On the right flank, things are a bit more confusing. Kebe-5.0 was there last season and stood a chance of continuing this season with a threat from the new signing of McCleary-5.0. An injury to Kebe and the good form of HRK-4.5 (Hal Robson-Kanu for those newbies who stuck around) in preseason have left it up in the air as to who will start. It is also worth noting that HRK can play on the left and up top so could pick up minutes as filling in for injured/suspended players too.
Up top, Pogrebnyak-5.0 will take Roberts’-4.5 starting position and has been the the most popular selection from the Reading frontline so far due to his decent returns at Fulham in half a seaon. Similar to HRK, last season’s supersub striker, Le Fondre-4.5 is pushing Hunt-4.5 all the way thanks to his preseason form. All Reading strikers should be ignored due to their isolation from the even the low mid-price options from other sides unless you are planning to use 2 strikers and want to save heavily on the 3rd (although I can’t imagine there being many people looking to employ such a tactic)
I find Reading to be a tough team to wholeheartedly recommend due to the widespread uncertainty. Federici I think would be a good choice for most (except for those who have gone for Cech). Pearce was the standout centre back last year and would be my tip from the backline to do well. I think McAnuff is your best choice for attacking returns and there are plenty of midfield options to replace him (if he doesn’t deliver) with at that price. Pogrebnyak is too high a risk in my opinion. He does have the potential to score well with a DGW but at 17.0% ownership, if he flops, many owners will shift him out and that will cause his price to tumble. It is also difficult to find a valid alternative at 5.0 so money will have to be found elsewhere if you need to lose him.
Possible Starting XI:
Federici, Pearce, Guthrie, McAnuff, HRK.
DEMBA 1, DEMBA 2, WE’VE GOT MORE DEMBAS THAN YOU!! Therein lies the great conundrum,
that has had me tearing my hair out trying to write this preview. How the hell are the toon going
to line up this season? Our best run of form last season, was following the switch to 4-3-3 or 4-
2-3-1 (is there really any difference?). This saw Demba Ba being shifted out to the left side of
the attack, much to the chagrin of many a manager who chose the wrong Demba! This shift also
corresponded with my meteoric rise up the table as I brought in Dave and Barfa just before they
exploded. Common logic would suggest that we would continue with this formation into the new
season, especially as the expected signing of “the new Clarence seedorf”, Vurnon Anita gives us a
very strong midfield three, but then Pardew had this to say:
“Demba wants to play in a central role. He wants to get himself chances to score goals. And I
think that in 90% of the games next year that’s where he will play.”
If we choose to believe what Pardew says (and he has been known to tell a few porkies in his
time) then that means playing the double dembas up front in a partnership which will absolutely
terrorize defenses, and promote Ba in our thinking. If we are going to go with two up top AND
accommodate our three central midfielders, then the best I can come up with is the 4-4-2
With this formation, we would rely on our full backs to provide the width and so it is imperative
that we sign an attacking right-back. I’ve included Debuchy in my line up as I am convinced
(hopeful!) we will still sign him.
So, seeing as I was the first to write an article (about a month ago) about team prospects I thought I’d better update readers on the current situation at Villa.
I’m pretty happy with the predicted team/one I’d like to see in my previous article, but we now have a slightly clearer situation than a month ago.
The only thing we know for certain is that we will play four at the back: Lowton’s ‘slight ankle injury’ as described by Mat Kendrick from the Birmingham Mail should not rule him out for the opener at West Ham; and this therefore gives a high chance of the back four from the image below being played. Warnock and Hutton are sure to leave, and as we know, Cuellar is at Sunderland and Collins has gone to Upton Park.
There is still lots of debate about how we will play further up the pitch. In pre-season, we have played two up front, with a narrow diamond in midfield. Defenders have come short to gain possession from the keeper, and two midfielders have come deep to receive the ball (El Ahmadi + one of Bannan/Delph). This gives a dilemma, then, about who will partner Bent up front.
By Archie and Rick
Change is the only constant in Liberty Park – or so it seems. Two of last year’s star
performers, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Steven Caulker have moved to Spurs, their talismanic
manager Brendan Rodgers has shifted base to Merseyside, and now Joe Allen looks
increasingly probable to join him there. Michael Laudrup has taken over the reins, and
has brought in replacements for the players who have left as well. Chico, Michu and de
Guzman have all joined the Jacks in recent times, and Laudrup might also bring in another
midfielder if and when Joe Allen moves on. Swansea had outperformed even their own
expectations last season, finishing 11th in their debut season in the Premier League, the
highest position of the promoted clubs.
The new manager, Laudrup, is also in the Rodgers mould, preferring to play a 4-2-3-1
with short passes and possession based football, but the question persists – will he be as
successful in the hot seat as Rodgers was? Only time will tell, but at the moment, all we
can do is analyse, predict and speculate – on that note, let us proceed to the analysis of
Swansea’s fantasy prospects.