Guest post by @TaborTom
Gameweek 1 – Shrewd Moves
The wait is over sports fans. Tomorrow marks the return of the greatest league in the world and with that, also reinstates Fantasy Football as the single most important thing we will think about for the next ten months. For many, including myself, Fantasy Football has already taken its place at the top of said list. The fifteen drafts that we have all made throughout preseason must now be converted into one unbelievable team that will see us stand head and shoulders above our rivals in our mini leagues. Sadly, this is probably not the case as we all know when we choose between two players, the player you don’t pick always seems to do better than the one you did pick. Sod’s law eh?
All is not lost though, as I am here to (hopefully) help you get off to that all important solid start to your Fantasy campaign. With the likes of Hazard, Aguero and Rooney coming in at a premium price, the budget players selected within your team are as important as ever this season. Here, I roll out article number 1 in the “Shrewd Moves” series, taking a look at the differentials ahead of the massively important, Gameweek 1.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – £6.0m (6.2% ownership)
Next 3 Fixtures: West Ham United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Liverpool (H)
Pre-Season form: 2 goals
The England international has enjoyed a very hopeful pre-season with Wenger deploying him on the right wing, scoring 2 goals including the winner against Chelsea in the Community Shield last Sunday. Obviously, with the many midfield maestros that Arsenal have, rotation is a risk. However, the Ox’s pitch time was given a boost earlier in the week, with Wenger stating that he is likely to rotate both Walcott and Giroud upfront depending on their opponents. This leaves the right wing berth free for Chamberlain to claim as his own and I expect him to do so with aplomb, especially as he is looking to push for an England start in the upcoming qualifiers. Wenger may juggle his wingers around when Sanchez returns, however until then, Chamberlain offers a definite shrewd investment.
Matt Ritchie £6.0m (5.1% ownership)
Next 3 Fixtures: Aston Villa (H), Liverpool (A), West Ham United (A)
Last season stats: 15 goals. 17 assists.
The Cherries left winger enjoyed an impressive campaign last season and was pivotal behind their championship triumph, supplying 17 assists and 15 goals in the league alone. After being named in the Championship Team of the Year he will be looking to continue his rich vein of form in the top tier of English football. No Championship player managed more assists than Ritchie last season and with set-pieces in his locker, he is by far Bournemouth’s most creative player and will find himself pulling the strings on a regular basis. Fantasy managers love a trigger-happy midfielder in their squad and his 151 attempts on goal sees him top the charts for any midfielder in the championship last season. Coming in at just £6.0m in the Fantasy Premier League game, I expect Ritchie to justify selection in our squads, especially with the kind run of fixtures that are handed to the Cherries over the first 8 Gameweeks.
Robert Huth £4.5m (3.7% ownership)
Next 3 Fixtures: Sunderland (H), West Ham United (A), Tottenham (H)
Pre-Season form: 1 goal
After a successful spell on loan last season, the towering Leicester City defender put pen to paper on a three-year deal from Stoke City. The German centre-back arrived from Stoke for his loan spell after Gameweek 24 last campaign and played an essential part in the Foxes great escape which harvested six shut-outs in the remaining 14 Gameweeks, with five of these clean sheets coming in their final seven fixtures. Huth offers security of starts, with manager Nigel Pearson’s favourable formation being that of a 3-5-2 or 5-4-1, with three centre-backs. During his spell at Leicester last season, Huth was ranked joint-third amongst all defenders for total attempts (16) on goal. Being of a centre-back nature, the new Bonus Points System (BPS) also favours Huth. With an increase in BPS for clearances, blocks and interceptions, Huth may find himself picking up vital bonus points along the way.
Cedric Soares £5.0m (5.3% ownership)
Next 3 Fixtures: Newcastle (A), Everton (H), Watford (A)
Pre-Season form: 3 assists
With Nathanial Clyne’s move to Liverpool, the right-back berth at Southampton has been filled by Cedric Soares, following his transfer from Sporting Lisbon. Having obtained 15 clean sheets in each of the last two campaigns, Southampton’s defence is likely to arrive on our radars once again. Their kind opening run of fixtures (new, EVE, wat, NOW, wba, MUN, SWA) also encourages investment in their backline. In 92 appearances for Sporting Lisbon, Soares provided 12 assists, while he has also racked up 3 assists in pre-season already for the Saints, highlighting his attacking potential. Coming in at a relatively generous £5.0m, he is the cheapest nailed-on starter amongst Southampton’s defence and I expect him to provide the occasional assist as well as a decent haul of clean sheets over the campaign.
Troy Deeney £5.5m (8.5% ownership)
Next 3 Fixtures: Everton (A), West Bromwich Albion (H), Southampton (H)
Last season stats: 21 goals, 9 assists
Club captain and focal point of the Hornets attack, Troy Deeney is a very exciting FPL prospect. Having bagged 65 goals over the last three seasons in the Championship, he definitely has the ability to make a similar impact that the likes of Charlie Austin, Danny Ings and Leonardo Ulloa had last season. He is also the clubs primary penalty taker which adds to the advantages of his investment. Assured playing time seems a given and after averaging 2.9 shots per match last term, there is little to dislike about the Watford big man. With a favourable run of opening fixtures, I would back Deeney to net a few times over the first quarter of the season. After 9 assists last season, Deeney has also proven himself as a provider as well as a goalscorer. Even if he delivers half of the goals and assists in his debut Premier League season he’ll be good value at £5.5m.