As the Premier League commences this weekend, I can’t wait for what promises to be a lively and exciting season ahead. With that, the joy of Fantasy Premier League has returned which promises to be an absorbing hobby for all football fans. On ESPN’s Fantasy Premier League, you have a 100 million euro price tag on all teams. Therefore owners must carefully find players that will lead their team to glory in May. Here then is a look at some steals and busts to watch out for in preparation of the new season. (Note-The following information is based off ESPN Fantasy Premier League which may have the worth of players vary with other websites).
Jack Wilshere (6.5 million). Last year was a breakout season for the young Englishman as he captivated Arsenal fans with his form. Considering he’s only 19, Wilshere has already become a mainstay at the Emirates and has made appearances for the national team. The 2010/2011 PFA Young Player is known for aggression, tenacity, passing, creativity and dedication which partly allowed Arsenal to remain close behind Manchester United for most of the season. The one thing that can be improved upon is his finishing in terms of goals and assists which were limited to his role which was primarily as a holding midfielder in the center. However, Wilshere is very versatile and can easily become an attacking threat which seems more likely now with the departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal will need Wilshere to penetrate more which could lead his fantasy value to soar.
Aaron Ramsey (5.5 million). Besides Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey could be another Arsenal youngster whose role could increase with the departures of Fabregas and Nasri. Blessed with skill and originality, the young twenty year old has shown glimpses of his vast potential with Arsenal. A devastating tackle on February 27th, 2010 by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross severely stunted Ramsey’s rise as he suffered a broken fibula and tibia. A couple of loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City allowed him to properly recover from the psychological effects of his injury. His performance and goal against Manchester United on May 1st. has once again inspired belief that Ramsey is now ready to take it to the next level at the Emirates.
Shay Given (6.2 million). Not too long ago, Shay Given was one of the best goalies in the Premier League and he had just made a big money switch to Manchester City. However, Joe Hart came into the picture and Given was shown the bench for most of his time at Eastlands. However, the patience of the 35 year old has paid off in a starter’s job between the posts at Aston Villa. Given can excel at Villa Park under new manager Alex McLeish whose affinity for conservative, defensive football is no secret. With defensive stalwarts like Richard Dunne, James Collins and a motivated Stephen Warnock, Villa could become hard to score on especially with an experienced keeper like Given in goal. Given, who is renowned for saving penalty kicks which truly counts in the Fantasy world, can be an absolute steal for your team.
Kevin Davies (6.2 million). When looking at the goal-scorers on Bolton Wanderers, there frankly isn’t anyone that really stands out besides captain Kevin Davies. Sure, there are strikers like the nomadic Tuncay who is on loan from the German club Wolfsburg as well as the Croatian Ivan Klasnic but frankly, they don’t offer the same promise as Kevin Davies does. With Johan Elmander leaving for Turkey and Daniel Sturridge looking like he isn’t ever leaving Chelsea again, Davies will have to step up again as the primary goal poacher up front. Considering the sharp decline in quality in strikers below those worth 7 million, Davies is a standout at his price.
Andy Carroll (7 million). Most of you are probably thinking how Andy Carroll could be a sleeper? At his price, owners could do much worse and I feel he’s a bargain. This is certainly a make or break season for Carroll as he looks to justify the 35 million pound deal he received which made him the most expensive British footballer ever. With a midfield that is truly bursting at the seams, Liverpool clearly has enough players to feed Carroll the ball. With his strength, good shooting skills and excellent heading ability, Carroll can become a fantastic goal poacher that will rack up fantasy points.
David Silva (7 million). David Silva’s first season with the blue half of Manchester was all City fans could ask for. With 4 goals and 9 assists, Silva has become an elite playmaker who is only entering the prime of his career at age 25. The sky is the limit with the Spanish midfielder who will hopefully link up with new signing Sergio Aguero often in terms of creating chances. His dribbling, vision and passing can’t be questioned and at his price, that is a steal for a midfielder of his caliber.
Other Names to Look Out for-Anderson(5.5 million), Ramires (6 million), Ali Al-Habsi (5.5 million), Charles N’Zogbia (6.3 million), Matthew Jarvis (5.5 million), Sebastian Larsson (5.4 million), Robert Huth (5.6 million) and Brede Hangeland (6.1 million)
Wojciech Szczesny (8 million). While Arsenal have made three signings this summer, they haven’t addressed their defensive issues especially in terms of their need for a center back. Szczesny’s form was never spectacular and Arsenal’s defense gave up just as many goals as did the likes of Everton, Fulham, Tottenham, or Stoke. The 21 year old has the starter’s role for now but that hasn’t stopped Arsenal from being linked with goalies on the transfer market. Overall, with Arsenal’s defensive woes which have only be worsened by injury, it looks like its going to be a long season at the Emirates. If you’re looking to spend a lot on a goalie, you’re better off paying a little more for a more proven keeper like Jose Reina, Joe Hart, or Petr Cech.
Jordan Henderson (6.5 million) and Steven Gerrard (7.8 million). Liverpool’s midfield right now is in the double digits which speaks to how difficult it will be for everyone to equally excel at Anfield. As a result, there will be players who perform well and there will be others who will struggle to make it into the starting eleven. In regards to Henderson, the young English midfielder may not be able to start often because there are more experienced, proven options. Liverpool has the luxury of being able to ease him in which means he may not have enough opportunity to live up to his fantasy price tag. In regards to Gerrard, his price would make sense if you were paying for the Steven Gerrard of five seasons ago. However, its 2011, and the 31 year old has struggled with injury since last season which has affected his statistics. Captain Courageous can still make a difference but with his injury issues, decline in form, and competition in midfield, it seems unlikely that Gerrard will justify his fantasy price.
Rio Ferdinand (7.6 million). The defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic has been one of the most consistent and intimidating partnerships in all of football for the last several years. While Vidic is still at his peak, the same can’t be said for Ferdinand who has been blighted with injuries mostly related to his back over the last couple of seasons. The 32 year old still possesses the skill and determination that made him one of the best defenders in the world but unfortunately his body is breaking down. Rio Ferdinand will still be a central player in United defense but with youngsters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones waiting for their chances to replace him, Rio Ferdinand just isn’t a reliable fantasy gamble.
Frank Lampard (8.3 million). Like England partner Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard has been one of the greatest British players for the past decade. For years, Lampard has been a consistent goal-scorer and has racked up countless assists. However, Lampard is now 33 and he truly began to show his age last year. He was out for several months with injury problems and while he did score 10 goals, his numbers overall were drastically down from prior seasons. Chelsea will still be heavily reliant on him in the upcoming season under new coach Andre Villas-Boas. However, Lampard has to be in the twilight of his career and he just isn’t worth his high price.
Nicolas Anelka (6.8 million). “Le Sulk” is now 32 years old and is another member of Chelsea’s aging squad. His time with Chelsea has been decidedly mixed. While he has shown his quality in front of the net, his petulance and ego have made him struggle to get along with teammates and coaches. Besides having to play with Drogba, Torres and Salomon Kalou, Anelka’s playing time may also be affected by the emergence of Daniel Sturridge and newcomer Romelu Lukaku. He’s a fantasy liability that you should avoid at all costs.
Mario Balotelli (7.2 million). Balotelli’s placement here really has nothing to do with his skills as a football player. He has incredible speed, potent finishing skills and technical attributes that could make him a top striker in the EPL. However, the young Italian’s erratic behavior and immaturity are red flags which greatly diminish his fantasy value. With the arrival of Argentian wonder-boy Sergio Aguero and the presence of Edin Dzeko, Balotelli may struggle to appear often in the starting eleven if his attitude doesn’t quickly improve.
Other players to avoid: Dirk Kuyt (8.6 million), Adam Johnson (6.7 million), Yossi Benayoun (6.5 million), Jamie Carragher (7 million), Glen Johnson (7.3 million)