Welcome to a new feature here at EPL Talk. Every Thursday moving forward I’ll be bringing you Fantasy Premier League tips and tricks to help increase your weekly points tally. Before we get down to business, there are some things that it will be important for you, the reader, to know about this column.
The first thing you need to know is that these recommendations are focused on the fantasy game found on the Premier League’s official web site. I know there are lots of other options out there that might be of interest to you but this isn’t my day job so I have to pick my spots and ignore some of the nuances of other games as much as we’d like to be more comprehensive. Why the Premier League game? Because it’s the biggest one and the one that EPL Talk uses to bring its readers together for a private competition. Seems like a solid enough reason to me.
The second thing that you are probably wondering about is why you should listen to me and my recommendations on how to manage your EPL fantasy team. I’m entering my third decade of playing fantasy sports and I’m doing pretty well at it whether it be the Premier League, Major League Soccer, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, or anything else I happen to be challenged to play. In addition to playing more fantasy games than my wife can believe, my blogging partner, Jeremy Spitzberg, and I have been writing on the topic for 7 years here and have attracted a loyal following. Outside of our blog, we were Yahoo UK’s first Premier League Fantasy bloggers as well as having written about Fantasy World Cup for World Soccer Magazine. Credentials aside, we hope you give the column a read – we try to make it entertaining as well as being an informative and useful tool for fantasy managers looking for an edge.
The third thing that likely has you scratching your head is the timing of this first post. Why would you launch this column with the season heading into the home stretch rather than at the beginning of a new season? The first reason is very practical, the opportunity just came up and why wait? The second reason is that this is probably the time of the season that fantasy managers want help the most. Races in private groups are getting tight. Prizes are out there for the taking. Your attention is waning as the season enters its seventh month. A little help from this column may be just what you need to finish in the money – not that we’d endorse putting money on recreational activities like fantasy soccer.
Finally, you should also know a little bit about my biases. Most people in the media try to keep up the façade of being impartial. I don’t believe that’s possible if you grew up loving sports and specific teams so I go for the next best thing and that is full disclosure. I’m an Arsenal supporter and I’m from Philadelphia. What this means is that while I’m hoping for the best from Arsenal, I generally don’t expect it will happen. As such, I probably tend to overvalue players from Man United and be a little more negative toward Arsenal players than they probably deserve. If you’ve spent any time in Philly or know a passionate Philly sports fan, you’ll understand. If you don’t, take my word for it.
OK, enough of the introductions and on to the analysis which will come in six parts (sounds long, I know, but it will go quickly). First an analysis of the schedule and which matches should increase the value of the players on a given team over and above their normal value. The remaining five sections will call out the top players at each position – Forward, Midfielder, Defender, and Goalkeeper – and then finally the top candidates to be your captain. And with the prologue behind us, away we go:
· Man United – The Red Devils have two matches this match week thanks to Chelsea’s loss to Everton in the FA Cup. While both are on the road – not a strong suit for United this season – and one is with Chelsea, you still have to favor players who have two matches in a week over those with only one.
· Man City – The other side of Manchester features a home match with Fulham. The Cottagers have been on the rise recently but I suspect this will be a splash of cold water to the face as City look to solidify the three spot in the table.
· Stoke – West Brom have been fading into the sunset and Stoke should enjoy the comforts of home in this one.
· Rooney/Berbatov – Assuming you can’t afford (or spend the transfers) on both, the choice is a difficult one. Between fixture congestion, rotation, and form this has been one of the most difficult choices of the season. Since Berbs has been shy about scoring on the road and tends to get rotated more, I’m going to suggest you go with Rooney.
· Tevez – Sometimes these things aren’t very difficult. He’s at home, he’s scoring freely, and the opposition isn’t imposing.
· Doyle – With Blackpool the opposition, you know Wolves are going to score at least one at home and maybe more (whether that will be enough for a home win is another story entirely). Doyle is a solid bet to be the man doing it.
· Campbell – The other side of Blackpool conceding a lot of goals is that they tend to score in bunches as well. Adam’s suspension might slow that down a bit but I still believe this will be an open match and Campbell is great value if you need a cheap player.
· Carew – The big man has been rejuvenated since his move away from Villa and a home match against porous West Brom is just the thing to keep that momentum going with goals.
· Nani – A bit of a no-brainer between his consistently strong performances and United’s two matches. A must-have.
· Meireles – The match-up (@WHU) is solid and he’s been on fire for Liverpool. Great value still at 7.2.
· Toure – Silva is the better player in the real world but in this format Yaya has been more productive and as a bonus, he’s also less expensive than his Spanish teammate.
· O’Hara – We at the blog have a soft spot for Jamie O’Hara and we have particularly enjoyed his return to first team football with the move to Wolves. And again, we like the match-up with Blackpool to have a lot of goals in it.
· Barton – We probably wouldn’t want him on our real life team but that’s why they call it fantasy. For our purposes he’s home, inexpensive, and he’s been extremely productive.
· Vidic – Like Nani, a no-brainer as the most productive at his position, essentially an evergreen in the line-up and having two matches.
· Evra – Similar logic to Vidic but he hasn’t been as productive over the course of the season. Still, I’ll take two of his matches vs. one of just about anyone else’s.
· Kolarov – Not as effective in this format as in others but he’s been pushing up the field and attacking almost exclusively which certainly helps his value.
· Walker – Another “defender” who in reality does little more than attack. He’s cheap and has a solid return from the matches he’s played so far since moving over to Villa.
· Kelly – The third in our series of “defenders who mostly attack” – I’m not sure how I feel about the away match for a defender but he’s inexpensive, has the potential for a clean sheet, and gets forward for assists. All-in-all a solid combinations.
· van der Sar – Another no-brainer given the two matches but he is pretty expensive, you can only use so many United players and he hasn’t been THAT productive this season so while he is the logical choice, you may want to think twice.
· Hart – Expensive but he’s been worth it all season and the match-up is one that makes you feel good about a clean sheet.
· Friedel – I don’t expect attacking fireworks from Rovers on the road which makes Big Brad a solid investment at a reasonable price playing at home. Not the strongest endorsement ever but a solid third choice if you don’t have the money for Hart or EvdS.
Top Three Choices for Captain
· Nani – Easy choice.
· Berbatov – If you’re daring and think this is one of those weekends when he busts out and scores 3 or 4 in a match. The downside is he could be rotated for one and do nothing in the other.
· Campbell – Just a gut feeling with no real basis to it. Plus, I don’t think many people will get to the third spot on this list without already having chosen their man so there’s little risk in me putting an out-of-left-field recommendation in this spot.
I hope you enjoyed the maiden voyage of this column on EPL Talk. Please comment whether you like what you’ve read or don’t think much of it – I’m a big boy, I’ve heard it all but I do read the comments and attempt to make adjustments where good suggestions are made.
Neal Thurman has been writing about fantasy Premier League games for 7 years on the blog he co-founded with Jeremy Spitzberg as well as having written on the same topic for Yahoo UK and World Soccer Magazine and more generally on things soccer-related for Goal.com, Yanks Abroad, and Football365.com. To pay the bills and scratch other creative itches, he works as a management consultant on some pretty cool digital innovation projects for Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and the Federal government. He supports Arsenal in the Premier League, Philadelphia teams in the major American sports, DC United in MLS and is conflicted over what to do about the Philadelphia Union.
Editor’s note: The EPL Talk private league in Fantasy Premier League is currently ranked 12th (out of 223,046 private leagues worldwide). If you haven’t updated your team recently, please do so before Saturday morning. In the meantime, here’s the top 50 players in the EPL Talk private league.