The Scout Preview - Gameweek 1
With just seven days left until the 2015/16 season kicks off, the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) is now open for registration and preparations can begin.
There are already dilemmas to consider: the early availability of both Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero is in question after the pair’s involvement in the summer Copa America tournament.
The duo – who finished in the top three spots in last season’s FPL game – are now set for an extended summer break, with uncertainty already surrounding their pitch time for the opening Gameweek.
That’s just one consideration for FPL managers, who must also assess an array of new talent, jostling for a place in our squads.
The new arrivals
After seeing his side score a mere 52 goals as a result of Luis Suarez’ departure to Barcelona, Brendan Rodgers has hit the summer sales hard. The Liverpool manager has splashed out £29m on Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino (8.5) and acquired both James Milner (7.0) and Danny Ings (7.5) as he prepares for life without Steven Gerrard. In defence, Rodgers has also bagged Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton – available for 5.5, the right-back made more tackles than any defender in the top-flight last term.
Manchester United have drafted in the highly-rated Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven. The youngster is priced at 8.5 – the same as team-mates Juan Mata and Angel di Maria – and arrives with a reputation as a set-piece specialist, having scored more free-kicks than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues in 2014/15.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have plundered London neighbours Chelsea for a new number one. Petr Cech conceded just two goals in seven league outings last time around and has been handed a 5.5 price tag as Arsene Wenger’s side look to push on from the previous campaign’s third place finish.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has been quick to strengthen his defence over the summer. With Clyne and Toby Alderweireld set for pastures new and first-choice keeper Fraser Forster sidelined for a number of months, the Dutchman has acquired Maarten Stekelenburg (5.0) between the posts, whilst new right-back Cedric Soares is similarly priced. The Saints boast last season’s second most resilient defence, with just 33 goals against, and face only three of last season’s top seven sides in the opening 13 Gameweeks.
Swansea manager Garry Monk has raided Ligue 1 on a couple of occasions. Left winger Andre Ayew – who sets you back 7.0 – produced ten goals and three assists for Marseille in 2014/15, whilst new left-back Franck Tabanou (5.0) looks a strong rival for Neil Taylor, having served up a goal and five assists for St Etienne in the previous campaign.
West Ham United have appointed Slaven Bilic as the new man in charge after Sam Allardyce departed at the end of last season. The Hammers - who have already kicked off their campaign with a 3-0 first leg win over Lusitans in the Europa League first qualifying round – will be hoping new signing Dimitri Payet makes an instant impact. Available for 7.5, the playmaker notched 15 goals and 23 assists in his final two years at Marseille.
The promoted clubs
AFC Bournemouth prepare for their first ever season in the Premier League after clinching the Championship by just a single point from their nearest challengers, Watford. Eddie Howe’s men scored 98 times last term – more than any other side in the division – with the 6.0-priced Matt Ritchie producing 15 goals and 17 assists from midfield.
Fantasy managers will be hoping Calum Wilson (5.5) can provide value up front on the back of 20 goals and seven assists for the Cherries. In defence, raiding full-backs Simon Francis (one goal, six assists) and Tyrone Mings (one goal, four assists) offer points potential at a bargain 4.5 apiece, though the latter may take time to settle after arriving from Ipswich Town over the summer.
Watford are set for their fifth manager in the last 12 months after appointing former Atletico Madrid manager Quique Sanchez Flores to the hotseat.
The Spaniard has wasted little time in restructuring his defence, with Sebastian Prodl and Jose Holebas (both available for 4.5) arriving from Werder Bremen and Roma respectively. Prodl notched three times in the Bundesliga last term, though fellow centre-half Gabrielle Angela also offers an attacking threat, having produced two goals and four assists in 2014/15.
Troy Deeney could be the jewel in the crown, however. Priced at just 5.5, the striker produced 21 goals and nine assists last time out and is the Hornets’ number one spot-kick taker.
Norwich City make an immediate return to the top-flight after edging past Middlesbrough in the Championship Play-Off final. John Ruddy (4.5) offers a secure pair of hands between the posts for the Canaries, who will be relying on 5.5-priced midfielders Nathan Redmond and Bradley Johnson to maintain momentum from the previous campaign. Redmond produced six goals and 13 assists last time out, whilst Johnson netted 15 times and chipped in with a pair of assists.
Ones to watch
Simon Francis – the Bournemouth defender has been very kindly priced at just 4.5 for the season ahead. With manager Eddie How affording his full-backs plenty of freedom to push forward, Francis’ understanding with Matt Ritchie down the right was key to the Cherries’ title triumph and saw him create 76 chances for his team-mates – more than any defender in the Championship. Given that Bournemouth mustered 19 clean sheets in 2014/15, Francis looks a real prospect at both ends of the pitch.
Sadio Mane – an average of 204.3 minutes per goal was second only to Alexis Sanchez amongst midfielders last time around. Having cemented a regular role under Ronald Koeman towards the end of 2014/15, Mane has the potential to make a mockery of his 8.0 price tag – as evidenced by a stunning 23-point haul against Aston Villa in Gameweek 37, he’s more than capable of delivering explosive returns for Fantasy managers.
Dimitri Payet – it’s easy to see why great things are expected of West Ham’s summer signing. Not only did Payet provide 17 assists for his Marseille team-mates last season, he created an astonishing 133 chances – more than any player in Europe’s top five leagues. Priced at 7.5, Payet will be looking to take advantage of a schedule that sees the Hammers host Leicester, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Norwich in the opening seven Gameweeks.
Memphis Depay – despite finishing fourth in Louis van Gaal’s first year at the helm, Manchester United struggled in the final third and netted just 62 times. Depay’s arrival should bolster the Red Devils’ flagging attack – having served up 22 goals and five assists in his final year at PSV Eindhoven, the dead-ball specialist could prove a canny investment at a price of just 8.5.
Roberto Firmino – a total of 23 goals and 21 assists in his last two seasons at Hoffenheim highlights the potential of Liverpool’s big-money signing. Firmino will be tasked with sparking the Reds back into life after a hugely underwhelming 2014/15 campaign and with home clashes against Bournemouth, Norwich, West Ham and Aston Villa in the first seven round of fixtures, the 8.5-priced Brazilian has the chance to quickly endear himself to the Merseyside faithful.
Troy Deeney – Fantasy managers will be scouring the promoted sides for budget-friendly options after Charlie Austin scored 18 times for Queens Park Rangers last season. Watford forward Deeney may well provide the solution. Available for just 5.5, he produced 21 goals and nine assists in 2014/15 and also has spot-kick duties to further his appeal.