Just one week to go before the first game of the EPL season 2012-13 season kicks off, and most teams of you have already set up your Fantasy Premier League teams. Barring last-minute transfer deals (surely, there will be some) now is a good time to review your team, and choose the starting XI for Gameweek1. Fantasy Premier League rules state that a maximum of 3 players can be selected from a single EPL side. In case of some teams, that is too little, in case of others – that’s too much! Here is my take on the top 3 players to be selected from each EPL side:
Arsenal: (Trust me, i started alphabetically!) – Arsenal have had a busy summer transfer window (the most expensive in years!) and now possess a squad which finally promises to mount a title challenge. Arsene Wenger has assembled a line-up rich in offense, but slightly suspect in defense. With exciting players coming in and older players settling comfortably in their roles, the Gunners will be a team to look out – in the EPL and the FPL! With an average squad member price of just 6.3, Arsenal offer a host of players that deserve to be included in your line up. Owing to the restriction of only 3 team members, here are the top picks:
- Laurent Koscielny (£5.5m) – Regarded to be one of the most improved players across all Europe last season, the French International’s stock can only rise. Committed to his tackles, and excellent reader of the game, his interceptions are the best in the league. Has forged a great partnership with Thomas Vermaelen, and with Steve Bould appointed as the Assistant Manager at Arsenal, expect the Gunners’ to concede very few goals next season. Expect plenty of clean sheets, an assist or two, and a couple of goals as well from “Bosscielny“.
- Yao Gervinho (£7.5m) – A forward who plays like a left-winger, expect “Le Forehead” to come into his own. It is well documented that foreign players (especially at Arsenal) take a season to find their feet in the EPL. With impressive outings in preseason games, Gervinho will remind the EPL defenders why he was called The Crazy Dribbler by French newspaper L’Equipe. Stiff competition from Lukas Podolski might see him coming off the bench later in the season, but for now he’s in better shape than most of the Gunners’ – and a million pounds cheaper. Expect a dozen odd assists, and an improvement over the 4 goals he scored last season.
- Alex Song (£6.5m) – Arguably the second best player in the Gunners’ squad last season, the Cameroonian midfielder was a revelation. One half of the Gunners’ ceaseless midfield engine (along with the classy Mikel Arteta), Song has established himself as one of the best players in EPL. Originally stated to act as a Defensive Midfielder, Song manages to break opponents’ attacks, distribute passes in open play AND set up goals with equal ease. Nicknamed “Songinho” after his attacking exploits last season, Song has generated interests from Inter Milan & Barcelona. Song dished out 13 assists last season. Expect him to match that number, if not better it
Honourable Mentions – A fit Bacary Sagna (£5.5m), Mikel Arteta (a tad expensive at £8.0m) and a healthy Jack Wilshire (£6.5m – his tragic situation is Shakespearean, to say the least. A massive loss to Arsenal, and English football in general.)
Aston Villa: Coming off an awful season in which the Villans avoided relegation by only 2 points, new manager Paul Lambert will look forward to continue his Premier League success story which started with Norwich City. With relatively older squad, Villa offers few options, if any, for consideration in your FPL team. With their best players either injured or returning from injury, a defense which conceded goals with alarming consistency and offence that managed a negative goal difference, Lambert has his task cut out. Here’s the Top Three Villans for your consideration:
- Gabriel Agbonlahor (£7.0m) – The best player Villa had last season, Agbonlahor is expected to return in September. His absence will take away the Villans’ most consistent goal scoring threat. Darren Bent’s return from injury will make him the Villans’ best chance at scoring goals – till Agbonlahor’s recovery.
- Charles N’Zogbia (£6.5m) – The Congolese winger is a crucial part of Villa’s future, having signed a 5 year contract in July 2011. With 5 assists and a couple of goals, N’Zogbia is the Villan’s No.10 man – and they will be hoping he improves his performance. At 27, he’s yet to hit his peak – and Lambert will wish it happens next season.
- Ron Vlaar (£5.0m) – The former Feyenoord defender will probably make first team right away – as a possible replacement for inspirational Villa captain Stilian Petrov. A Dutch player in the classic European sense, Vlaar will play a big role if the Villans are to improve their woeful tally of 9 clean sheets in the EPL.
Honourable Mentions – Veteran goalkeeper Shay Given (£5.0)
Chelsea: The Blues have made a splash in the summer transfer window and with Roberto Di Matteo’s reign (seemingly) assured a two-year run, they will be hoping to challenge for the EPL crown once again. With younger players being bought in, RDM will be hoping Chelsea overcome accusations of being a doggedly defensive team and reclaim the attacking football that helped them achieve unprecedented success during Jose Mourinho’s heydays. Chelsea fans will be rubbing their hands in glee, having the happy problem of choosing from an array of attacking talents, anticipating goals and assists galore! i present my top picks from the Pensioners’ books:
- Petr Cech (£6.5m) – Perhaps the most underrated, yet most indispensable member of the successful Blues team, Cech as the goalkeeper is a sure selection. Performing at the highest level since the last 7 years, Cech has collected a room full of winners’ medals. No matter how many new players are bought in to bolster the attack, expect the Czech to walk out on the pitch to claim his position between the sticks. Ably covered by the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill, expect the Blues to have a stingier defense than last season.
- Juan Mata (£9.5m) – The diminutive Spaniard had a great first season at Stamford Bridge, so expectations will be high – and Mata looks like he will deliver. Fluid movement, an eye for goal & chart-busting 16 assists have ensured Frank Lampard’s imminent exit will not affect the Blues’ goal scoring opportunities. Mata has settled in at the heart of the Chelsea midfield and with pronounced attacking options, expect Mata to replicate the team leading assists charts – a more goals to show as well.
- Ramires (£7.0m) – Only 25 years old and having a contract that lasts till 2017, expect Ramires to play an important part in the Blues’ future. With many memorable performances under his belt, Ramires will aim to impose his brand of solid, box-to-box defensive play across England. A reasonable buy, he will distribute the ball to the plethora of attacking options that the Blues’ possess. Expect energetic displays, lung busting runs during a counter attack and some goals to boot from the man called “Blue Kenyan“
Honourable mentions – The ever dependable Frank Lampard (£9.0m), old boy John Terry (£7.0m) and best left back in the EPL (and quite possibly the world) Ashley Cole (£6.5m).
Everton: With nominal resources, David Moyes has churned out some of the consistent results in the top flight of English football. Considered to be one of the nicest, smartest & most economical managers around. Finishing in the top half of the EPL six years running, the Toffees will look forward to continuing that streak and possibly mount a challenge for a Europa League spot as well. Most important will be their quest to finish above their Merseyside rivals Liverpool for the second year in succession. Tim Cahill’s departure to Major League Soccer might just reduce their attacking options, Moyes’ men have enough grit to overcome any shortcomings with a solid, counter-attacking brand of football. Here are the Toffees’ top three:
- Leighton Baines (£7.0m) – Having made it to the PFA Team of the Year (2o12), Baines’ contribution has been immense for Everton. A solid left back, Baines is steady in defense and fluid in attack. In the 2010-2011 season, Baines contributed with 11 assists, 5 goals and 9 clean sheets. An injury in the latter part of the 2011-2012 season ended his chances to add to his tally of 4 goals and 2 assists. Expect more assists, 5 goals or more and more clean sheets.
- Marouane Fellaini (£6.5m) – The Belgian is Everton’s record signing, having been brought at 15million pounds. The dynamic midfielder has repayed Moyes’ faith and signed on an extension which keeps him at the Merseyside club till 2016. Running the show in the Toffees’ midfield, expect the Afro haired maestro to improve on his tally of 3 goals and 5 assists.
- Nikica Jelavić (£8.5m) – The Croatian enjoyed a spectacular start to his Everton career, scoring 11 goals in just 16 matches across all competitions. Having been bought in the January transfer window, Nikica wasted no time in adapting to the EPL. He was top scorer for the Toffees’ in spite of playing just 13 matches, bagging 9 goals. With 38 matches to play next season, you do the math…
Honourable mentions – Veteran midfielder Leon Osman (£6.5m), newly recruited striker Steven Naismith (£6.5m) and occasional goal scoring goalkeeper Tim Howard (£5.5m)
Fulham: Martin Jol’s men finished the 2011-2012 season in the top half of the EPL, tied with Liverpool on points, largely due to the exploits of explosive American midfielder Clint Dempsey. The biggest uncertainty is whether he will still be at Craven Cottage next season. With his trigger happy attack, the Badgers will struggle to compete for a Europa League spot. Though the team has some wonderful players to complement his incisive runs, a Dempsey sized hole in the midfield will be too big to be ably filled. Here are the top picks from the Cottagers’ roster:
- Clint Dempsey (£9.5m) – Talented enough to walk into most of the top EPL squads, he’s been courted by Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Tottenham, Roma, and Everton. But for all intents and purposes, i still consider him to be a Fulham player, and an excellent one to boot. 17 goals and 7 assists to show in the scoring department, he rightly impressed one and all. With time running out and his desire to play in Europe, expect the Texan to fire on all cylinders and haul Fulham to the top 8 of the EPL – if he remains at the Cottage next season.
- John Arne Riise (£5.5m) – The powerful left back is an EPL veteran, having plied his trade at Liverpool for seven years before joining AS Roma. In his first season back, he might not have scored cracking long-range goals which made him a fan favourite, but did contribute with 5 assists, impressive by any standards for a defender. After settling in nicely at Craven Cottage, expect the Norwegian to unleash his lethal left foot more regularly to score goals, while maintaining his tireless runs down the left flank.
- Moussa Dembele (£6.0m) – The young Belgian promises to be the Cottagers’ most attacking player next season, ably switching between roles as a forward or an attacking midfielder who plays across both flanks or in the centre. Having churned out 5 Man of the Match performances last season, expect him to double the awards next season, while trying to maintain his reputation of having the best passing game in Fulham, while exponentially increasing his tally of 2 goals and 3 assists.
End of Part I.