The Scout previews the new season
With just a month to go until the 2014/15 season gets underway, the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game is now open for registration. Before a ball is even kicked, Fantasy managers have plenty to consider after last season’s top scorer, Luis Suarez, agreed to move from Liverpool to Spanish giants Barcelona - having chalked up a staggering 295 points in 33 appearances, the Uruguayan’s loss will hit our Fantasy frontlines hard.
The New Arrivals
Liverpool scored 101 times on their way to second place behind champions Manchester City in the previous campaign and with Suarez contributing 30 goals and 25 assists, his departure will be sorely felt on Merseyside. Brendan Rodgers has been quick to hit the summer sales in his quest to strengthen in the final third, though, and has already snapped up Benfica wide man Lazar Markovic in addition to Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana – Southampton’s top two Fantasy assets of 2013/14 are priced at 7.5 and 8.5 respectively this term.
Manchester United have also plundered the St Mary’s side ahead of Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge. The Red Devils have splashed the cash on highly-rated left-back Luke Shaw (6.0) after a disappointing seventh place finish under David Moyes, whilst the arrival of playmaker Ander Herrera (7.5) will add to the creative talents of January signing Juan Mata (9.0) in midfield. With a schedule that pits them against just one of last term’s top eight in the first eight Gameweeks, the Old Trafford outfit could barely ask for a kinder start and Fantasy managers will be eyeing up their options at both ends of the pitch.
Arsenal and Chelsea have both benefitted from Barcelona’s close-season restructuring. Arsene Wenger has snapped up Alexis Sanchez in a sensational swoop that will significantly improve his side’s attacking options – intriguingly, the Chilean is available as a 10.5 midfielder, adding to the Gunners’ rich array of talent in the middle of the park, with the ascending Aaron Ramsey and the rested Theo Walcott also tempting investment at 9.0 apiece.
Down at the Bridge, Jose Mourinho has acquired former Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas (9.0) to pull the strings in the centre of the park and confirmed a deal for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa just yesterday after the Blues’ three recognised strikers scored only 19 times between them last time around.
Ronald Koeman’s first pair of signings for Southampton look very promising for Fantasy managers. Joining from Feyenoord over the summer, the Dutchman has returned to the Eredivisie in order to acquire playmaker Dusan Tadic and frontman Graziano Pelle (7.5 apiece) – both arrive in the English top-flight on the back of exceptional seasons; midfielder Tadic served up 16 goals and 14 assists for FC Twente, whilst Pelle produced 23 goals and six assists under Koeman at Feyenoord.
Further down the table, Newcastle have also made an impressive start to the summer transfer market. The Magpies failed to recover from Yohan Cabaye’s departure last winter and with top scorer Loic Remy returning to parent club Queens Park Rangers, strengthening in attack is a priority. Alan Pardew’s acquisition of former Ajax skipper Siem de Jong is regarded as a real coup and the capture of playmaker Remy Cabella from Montpellier will also go some way to addressing the lack of creativity that blighted the Tyneside team in the final few months of the previous season. Versatile enough to play up front, De Jong has been classified as a midfielder by FPL and will set you back just 7.0.
Hull City boss Steve Bruce has drafted in wide men Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince (6.0 and 5.5) to help improve upon last season’s sixteenth place and prepare them for a Europa League campaign, whilst Sam Allardyce has been busy in the market as he looks to bring a more attacking approach to West Ham United’s play. The arrival of Mauro Zarate (6.5) catches the eye up front, though raiding left-back Aaron Cresswell (5.5) delivered two goals and 14 assists for Ipswich Town in 2013/14 and his dead-ball delivery could be key to the Hammers’ prospects.
The Promoted Clubs
Leicester City return to the Premier League after winning the Championship by nine points over nearest challengers, Burnley. Up front, The Foxes’ main threat was David Nugent – available for 5.5, he’s the club’s first-choice spot-kick taker and produced 20 goals and 12 assists in the previous season. In the centre of the park, Danny Drinkwater (seven goals and five assists) and Anthony Knockaert (five goals and seven assists) are the stand-out options at 5.5 apiece, whilst at the back, Kaspar Schmeichel’s (4.5) save points could be a crucial factor to a defence that kept out their opponents in 18 of their 46 matches in 2013/14.
Burnley’s main Fantasy asset looks likely to be right-back Kieran Trippier (5.0). The former Manchester City graduate delivered a goal and 12 assists from 41 appearances last time around and with Sean Dyche’s side picking up 18 shut-outs in the Championship, hopes are high for Trippier’s prospects at both ends of the pitch. Looking at last season’s statistics, The Clarets main midfield threats are likely to be Michael Kightly (five goals and six assists) and Scott Arfield (eight goals and three assists) and, coming in at 5.0 apiece, offer a decent cheap midfielder for our Fantasy squads. Up top, 20-goal Sam Vokes is set to miss the start of the season with a knee injury, leaving Danny Ings as the obvious option – available for 6.0, he’s on penalty duties and arrives on the back of 21 strikes and seven assists last term.
Queens Park Rangers bounce back immediately after tasting relegation in 2012/13. Bearing in mind that a number of last season’s key players were drafted in on loan, Harry Redknapp has a busy summer ahead – right now, Charlie Austin (6.0) will be on the radar of many Fantasy managers after netting 21 times for the R’s in the previous campaign, while the 5.0-priced David Hoilett has top-flight experience with Blackburn Rovers and could be a solid budget midfielder. At the back, Redknapp is expected to strengthen significantly before the summer transfer window slams shut, though from the current crop, Robert Green (4.5) looks a safe option between the sticks for a backline that managed 16 clean sheets in 2013/14.
Ones to Watch
Kieran Trippier – the priciest defender amongst the three promoted clubs at 5.0, Trippier arrives with a reputation as one of the most attacking full-backs around. As mentioned above, a return of one goal and 12 assists serves notice of his marauding runs down the right, with Sean Dyche’s tactics affording him the chance to push forward and create from out wide. The Clarets arrive with the meanest defence of all promoted clubs, with just 37 goals conceded, and if they can adjust to their new surrounds, Trippier looks likely to be the star turn for the Lancashire outfit.
Dusan Tadic – the Serbian playmaker looks a canny acquisition by Ronald Koeman as Southampton look to recover from the loss of Adam Lallana. Likely to be fielded on the left, the versatile Tadic also offers options in the middle and, having registered 10+ assists in each of his last four campaigns, his creative endeavours will be instrumental to the Saints’ success. A set-piece specialist, Tadic faces only two of last term’s top eight in the opening 12 Gameweeks and early adopters could reap reward from the 7.5-priced midfielder.
Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal’s summer signing arrives on the back of the most successful spell in his career at Barcelona. Racking up 19 goals and 10 assists in La Liga last season, the Chilean looks at the peak of his powers and a hefty 10.5 price tag won’t deter too many Fantasy suitors, while his classification as a midfielder merely heightens his appeal – with Olivier Giroud struggling for consistency up front, Sanchez’ eye for goal hands the Gunners an alternative for the lone forward role next time around.
Marko Arnautovic – arriving at Stoke City last summer, the enigmatic Austrian was slow to find his form. As the season progressed, though, Arnautovic finally adapted to the rigours of the Premier League and was a key player in a Potters side that lost just three of their final 15 league matches. Three goals, five assists and eight bonus points in his final nine fixtures underlined Arnuatovic’s potential and priced at 6.5, he looks a contender for our initial squads ahead of a schedule which pits Mark Hughes’ men against only three of last year’s top eight in the opening 12 matches.
Christian Eriksen – the departure of Andre Villas-Boas sparked a turnaround in the Dane’s Fantasy fortunes last season. Eriksen managed a single assist under the former Tottenham Hotspur boss but with Tim Sherwood at the helm, finished the campaign as one of the most reliable midfielders around. Seven goals, eight assists and 20 bonus points in his subsequent 18 appearances (an average of 6.4 points per game) suggests that if Eriksen can replicate his form under new boss Mauricio Pochettino, an 8.0 price tag could be excellent value.
Mauro Zarate – priced at 6.5, the Argentine offers a budget-friendly route into West Ham’s attack. After seeing his side score just 40 times last term, Sam Allardyce has been tasked with bringing a more attack-minded style of play to Upton Park and with 18 goals in 29 appearances for Velez Sarsfield in the season gone by, Zarate brings a much-needed goal threat to the Hammers for the season ahead.