Fantasy Football Shambles

Good afternoon! FPL is back ladies and gentlemen and just hours after the transfer window has SLAMMED SHUT (copyright: Jim White) for Premier League clubs we are expected to pick our squad of warriors for the new fantasy football season ahead. Or, more accurately, our warriors for four weeks until we blow open the first wildcard. Let’s play FPL!

It’s hard to preview week one so I’m going to run you through my picks and justification. Remember, it’s all a game of chance really so try and have fun and take the rough with the smooth. Who am I kidding, it’s all rough. As I suggested in my preview a few weeks ago, the World Cup will be a factor. You can also check out how the Premier League teams are preparing for the new season here.

Goalkeepers

Really the choices here are to go with a premium goalkeeper and a very cheap option or a couple of mid-rangers. I am very interested to see who gets the nod to start at Arsenal, with both Leno and Cech coming in at £5m, which is something I will consider post wildcard. In the here and now though I’ve opted for Asmir Begovic (£4.5m) and Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m). Their fixtures dovetail home and away quite nicely and whilst neither are particularly known for their defensive resoluteness, they do at least host two of the promoted clubs between them in the first 4 weeks. Of course, the good thing with goalkeepers is that they at least get save points if they are busy, something Fabianski particularly excelled at last season.

Defenders

The most pricey defenders are £6.5m, but two of them are Chelsea defenders and I’m taking a watching brief on Sarri’s men whilst I try and figure out how they get on with a new goalkeeper and a switch to a back four that seems to include David Luiz. So I’ve gone a little bit budget with what I class as bargains but will probably end up being disasters. Luke Shaw is in at £5m – Man Utd hopefully still capable of defending despite their poor pre-season. Shaw has been a regular through pre-season and although he will probably be edged out for Ashley Young over time, that is future Dave’s problem.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is also £5m and is basically the budget Andrew Robertson (£6m). I worry Trenty will face competition from Nathaniel Clyne or anybody else who has had more of a pre-season but unless I can find a spare £1m somewhere else, I’m gambling on TAA. Joining the two full-backs is Everton centre-half Michael Keane (£5m). Basically, Everton have a great set of fixtures to start with and I’m hoping with a new manager to impress they will have somewhat of a bounce. Keane’s a threat from set pieces too, so he’s my choice. A slight drawback is that Mina has arrived to provide centre-half competition whilst as of this writing we still don’t know if Kurt Zouma is coming. That’s ridiculous. I’m banking on Keane keeping his spot for the foreseeable future but we’ll see.

My two subs cost a combined £8m so you know they are good. £4m is the cheapest price for a defender so it’s rare to see two who are expected to start the season in the team so welcome aboard Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace) and Jan Bednarek (Southampton). Both teams have decent fixtures anyway so if they are starting that’ll do me. Both are on the bench but hopefully ready to come in at a moments notice.

Midfielders

There’s only one place to start and that’s Mo Salah (£13m). The most expensive asset in the game has retained midfielder status and he would be hard pushed to better his points return from last season but as we saw in the World Cup, he usually finds a way to score. It’s interesting that he seems to have lost penalty duties which makes Sadio Mane an option at £9m, but I’m going with Salah for now. Alongside him, we have Christian Eriksen (£9.5m) who is a notoriously fast starter and he edges Leroy Sane out of my team. Sane is an explosive talent but I fear Pep’s rotation too much. My last expensive option in there is Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.5m) who is in there for little reason other than Everton’s fixture list and his set-piece prowess.

Filling the budget options are Ryan Fraser (£5.5m) and Ruben Neves (£5m). Bournemouth score plenty of goals, including five against Marseille at the weekend, and have a reasonable run of fixtures to start, whereas Neves at £5m has been taking Wolves’ penalties, although he did miss on Saturday. Longer term, Kenedy is only £5m and will be at the heart of anything good Newcastle manage but their first fixtures are borderline criminal.

Forwards

I’m going with Aguero at £11m, obviously, Gabriel Jesus is an option but Aguero surely has the shirt at the moment after his Community Shield goals. Last season Pep started with a 3-5-2, a formation he had to ditch once Benjamin Mendy was injured. I do wonder if he will go back to it once everybody is back to full fitness but the jury is out for now.

Alongside Aguero is Roberto Firmino, sensibly priced at £9.5m. I was in two minds whether to go with Sanchez in midfield instead of Siggy and pick a cheaper forward such as Charlie Austin (£6m) but Man Utd’s general turmoil has put me off that. Rounding off the forward options is Wilfried Zaha (£7m), who will surely be involved in anything good Crystal Palace do. The worry is he will be moved back to the wing at some point but for now, he is being deployed alongside a forward.

I should point out as a disclaimer I’m toying with a few combinations that involve the same clubs. So whilst I have Siggy, Fraser, and Zaha at the moment, it could yet be some sort of combination of Tosun, Josh King, Townsend, Richarlison or Milivojevic but I’ll make a late decision on that.

Captain

As is tradition, I will offer up some captaincy picks but with no form to really go with I’m going with Salah. At home to West Ham should suit him unless teams have worked out how to stop Liverpool’s front three over the summer, which I suppose you can’t rule out. Napoli hadn’t anyway.

Alternatives? There’s too much doubt over the starting team at Tottenham, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea due to World Cup hangovers so keep an eye on the press conferences on Friday. I will offer you Charlie Austin at £6m who seems to be a certain starter for Southampton, but will he stay fit?

The deadline is 6.45pm on Friday so make sure you’re all sorted by then. The site will be busy around then so expect delays. All that is left for me to say is good luck! Your arrows will be green this week as the only way is up!