Presenting the picks from the following squads: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Norwich City.
Liverpool: After a dismal outing last season, Reds’ legend Kenny Dalglish was sacked from the manager’s post. Brendan Rogers’ appointment is part of a long-term plan to take the Merseyside team to the glorious heights that made them the second most successful team in the history the English League football. Though Rogers’ has stated that the team will go through a transition phase, expect them to compete for top 4/top 6 finish – continued absence of European football is unacceptable for a club of Liverpool’s stature. With new players being bought in, expect the Reds to grind out results on their path to Europe. Here are the top of the Kops:
- Martin Skrtel (£6.0m) – With Jamie Carragher’s suspect defensive skills a cause for concern, all eyes will be on the Slovakian centre back Skrtel – called “The Terminator” by the Liverpool fans. Given such a massive responsibly, Skrtel will have to improve an already well-rounded game. Chosen to be the “Liverpool Player of the Season” last time around, expect him to deliver consistent performances, more clean sheets than the 10 produced last season, an occasional assist and a couple of goals.
- Steven Gerrard (£9.5m) – Until the day he formally retires, expect Gerrard to be a force to reckon with. Quite rightly considered to be the heart and soul of Liverpool F.C., the English captain bleeds Red (you know what i mean). An injury meant he missed the start of last season – he eventually played in only 18 EPL games. Still, the Reds’ captain scored 5 goals and provided 2 assists – numbers that would make a certain Downing turn red (you know what i mean). Easily the best English player in their Euro 2012 campaign, expect “Stevie G” to continue his industrious game, set up assists for teammates and score screaming goals.
- Luis Suarez (£9.5m) – Love him or hate him, the Uruguayan will be a focal point in Liverpool’s game. With a long-term contract signed that keeps him at Anfield till 2017. Though he tends to have a bad disciplinary record (5 Yellow Cards last season), he scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists – despite the 8 match ban. Expect Rodgers’ to help him improve his disciplinary record, his goal scoring while polishing an already technically sound game. Suarez will surely breach the 20 goal mark next season, making him a sound buy for your team.
Honourable mentions: Daniel Agger (£6.5m) – if he stays. Fabio Borini (£8.0m) – he will be involved heavily in Rodgers’ plans.
Manchester City: The reigning EPL Champions have a team that arguably looks most like a Fantasy Manager Team itself!! With unparalleled depth across all positions, Roberto Mancini will probably have to use an Artificial Intelligence generated algorithm to pick an XI all season long – although some players can be considered to have a nailed down a berth on the starting line-up based on last season’s performance. They haven’t bought in any new players – quite frankly they simply don’t need any additions to an already massive squad. With the most goals scored and least goals conceded, the Mighty Mancunians played a solid game all season long – with the occasional hiccup. Perhaps the second most difficult team to recommend players from, here are my top picks:
- Joe Hart (£7.0m) – The most expensive goalkeeper in the FPL for a reason, Hart displayed that he is truly the best English keeper in a long while. Ably covered by the best defense in the league, Hart’s goal was rarely threatened but he stepped up magnificently if ever the need arose. He has a habit of coming upfront during set-pieces during the final stages of a match – perhaps the only thing he didn’t accomplish last season was score a goal! With his position unchallenged at the Eastlands, expect Hart to be a profitable buy – despite the hefty price tag.
- Joleon Lescott (£6.5m) – Vincent Kompany is perhaps the best defender in the entire league. However, Lescott churns out similar performances for City. Statistics reveal only minor differences in their numbers – Lescott has scored only one goal less & provided one assist less than the City Captain. However, Lescott earned only one yellow card compared to Kompany’s 5. That and a price evaluation of £1.om lesser than Kompany makes him seemingly valuable purchase – as it provides an extra million that could be invested elsewhere. Expect the English defender nicknamed “Galactico” to deliver impressive numbers yet again.
- David Silva (£10.0m) – The most expensive midfielder in the FPL, Silva is employed as a “trequartista“. His mesmerizing skills have earned him the nickname “Merlin“. Oh, and he is an integral member of “La Furia Roja“. Enough exotic words to describe why the Spaniard ought to be an automatic selection for your FPL team. Suffer the price-tag but you will surely not regret the heavy investment.
Honourable mentions: Vincent Kompany (£7.5m) – the most expensive defender in the FPL (i’m beginning to see a pattern here), Yaya Toure (£8.0) – a relatively “cheaper” option at the price listed, Sergio “Kun” Aguero (£11.5m) – Had a dream start (and a blockbuster end) to his debut English season – expect him to deliver again. Voted the Manchester City Player Of the Season – an expensive purchase who might wreak havoc on your team budget – too bad the Fantasy League doesn’t have an option to be bankrolled by the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Manchester United: The Red Devils’ weakest squad in a long while managed to mount an impressive challenge for the EPL crown – falling only to goal difference in the end. Sir Alex Ferguson was left licking his wounds, and that is a dangerous prospect indeed. With a largely unchanged squad save for a few summer signings (and a few rumoured to be in the pipeline) expect record English League winners to come out all guns blazing and light up the EPL like only they can. Here are the top Devils to pick from:
- Wayne Rooney (£12.0m) – “Wazza” is the best English player today by a stretch. He announced his arrival at Old Trafford with a hat-trick in his debut Champions League match, 8 years ago and he hasn’t looked back since. Racking up goals and providing assists by the baker’s dozen, Rooney has matured into a central role at Manchester United. Coming off his best season yet for the Red Devils’, Rooney contributed to United’s ultimately unsuccessful title-winning cause by scoring 27 goals and 8 assists. Best of all, he only collected ONE Yellow Card all season. With Shinji Kagawa coming in, expect Rooney to be fed even more goal scoring chances. That means he can now aim for the 30-goal mark. Coupled with more assists for his team-mates and an improved disciplinary record – Wayne’s pick is a no brainer.
- Antonio Valencia (£9.0m) – The former Wigan Athletic player has been awarded the No. 7 jersey at Old Trafford. That itself speaks volumes about the bright future that lies ahead for the Ecuadorian. Coming off a season where he missed the start due to injury, Valencia was arguably the best United player after Rooney. Although Nani scored more goals, Valencia’s over all contribution to the Devils’ cause was immense. At 27 years old, Valencia has started to peak at the right time. Expect the versatile winger – who played as a right-back for a brief period during United’s injury crisis – to outshine his troubled Portuguese teammate and produce his best season yet for the Red Devils.
- Nemanja Vidić (£7.0m) – The Red Devils’ skipper missed out the Premier League after playing just 6 matches, owing to a knee injury. His absence played a major role in their title loss, which was cruelly decided on goal difference. Vidić has helped United accumulate plenty of clean sheets, and has been rewarded by being named in the PFA Team of the Year 4 times over the past 6 seasons. With a fit again Vidić back in centre defense, expect United to avoid mistakes like the match against Everton – which many claim to be the draw that cost them the EPL Title. A suspect disciplinary record might be the only part of the game that may deter his inclusion in your FPL squad.
Honourable mentions: Luis Nani (£9.0m) – Statistically the best midfielder last season, currently embroiled in a contract tussle that might affect his game, Shinji Kagawa (£8.5m) – Expect the former Borussia Dortmund play-maker to be thrown in to the deep end of the EPL right away – and deliver.
Newcastle United: The Magpies had a fantastic outing last season in their second season in the top flight after bouncing back from a shock relegation. Under Alan Pardew, the Toons played some of the most attacking football outside the top two, to finish fifth in the league and secure a Europa League play-off spot. However, inconsistent performances and a lack of defensive discipline meant they wasted too many opportunities, and also benefited largely from the other teams’ misfortunes. However, Pardew will look to iron out the flaws from their game and push for a top 4 finish next season. Although they have made few summer reinforcements, expect Newcastle to build on last season’s success and aim for a similar success. Here are the top Toons to look out for:
- Papiss Cisse (£9.5m) – Bought in the January 2012 transfer window, Cisse still proved to be one of the best buys across the League last season. Having scorched the scoring charts – with 13 goals (and as assist) in just 14 matches – Cisse has provided a glimpse as to why he was handed the legendary No. 9 jersey – to carry forward the legacy of the great Alan Shearer. One can only imagine the records that the Senegalese striker will rack up in a full season. He will link up front with his counterpart Demba Ba in what promises to be a lethal combination that will terrorize defenses across England.
- Yohan Cabaye (£7.0m) – The technically gifted French midfielder will be an integral part of Pardew’s vision for Newcastle’s success for a long while to come. Having scored 4 goals assisted on 8, Cabaye has turned out to be a worthy investment. At 26 years of age coming off an indifferent French campaign at Euro 2012, Cabaye will look to establish himself as a premier attacking midfielder in England. Considered to be an expert penalty taker, expect him to take his tally of goals and assists into double-digit figures. That would be an impressive feat for a man nicknamed “Dreamboat” by the Toon Army.
- Tim Krul (£5.5m) – Unnoticed by most pundits, Krul churned out his best performance for Newcastle United. Having played every single minute of his team’s EPL campaign, Krul made an impressive 114 regulation saves and kept 15 clean sheets – second only to Joe Hart in the league. At only 24, Krul is expected to blossom into one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The only flaw last season was a tendency to pick up Yellow Cards – he was the most booked ‘keeper last season (4 times). If he manages to curb this negative aspect of his game, Krul promises to be a great choice (or at least second choice) keeper for any FPL team.
Honourable mentions: The mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa (£7.5m), the versatile Ryan Taylor (£5.5m), and the best piece of transfer business across all leagues in the 2011-2012 season, Demba Ba (£7.5m) – who arrived at St. James’ Park (now called the Sports Direct Arena) for free.
Norwich City: The Canaries defied expectations and managed to secure a twelfth place finish in their first season back in the EPL, thanks to excellent management by Paul Lambert. Surprisingly, Norwich finished seventh in the goal in terms of goals scored – impressive for a newly promoted team. The fact that they conceded most goals outside the relegated teams is what prevented a top-10 finish. Lambert has since moved on to Aston Villa. New boss Chris Hughton is a former defender who will aim to plug the leaky defense as Norwich will aim to continue their rise among the English football hierarchy. Here are the top Canaries expected to excel next season:
- Grant Holt (£6.5m) – Holt the Hitman was easily the best Canaries player last season. He scored 15 goals and set up 2 – contributing to almost a third of Norwich’s goals. Having a powerful presence on the pitch, the Canaries Captain will look to continue his prolific scoring record. The only downside to his game is an appalling disciplinary record – 6 Yellow Cards and 1 Red Card last season means a lot of points are deducted from his overall contribution. Still, he will be the focal point of Norwich’s campaign and will the be the man to watch out for if the Canaries are keen to keep flying in the topmost league in England.
- Anthony Pilkington (£6.0m) – The versatile winger was deployed all across the field last season – as a second striker, a right-winger and a left-winger. He repaid Lambert’s faith by being the third highest goal scorer for the Canaries, and also contributed with a single assist. Not necessarily impressive numbers, but after finding his feet in the EPL, expect “Pilks” to come into his own next season. With Norwich aiming to attack rather than defend, the Irishman will be expected to add many more goals to his tally – and he promises to deliver.
- Steve Morison (£5.5m) – Another striker who impressed for the Canaries last season was Welshman Steve Morison. At 28 years of age, Morison is poised to be in great shape and perhaps the most legitimate challenger to Holt’s status as Norwich’s top striker. Although he enjoyed a fine goal scoring run while playing in the lower leagues, his first season in the top flight saw him take a while to adapt. Expect him to crack into double figures in the goals scored and assists department. A wise choice for third striker.
Honourable mentions: Wes Hoolahan (£6.0m) – Another Welshman in the Canaries’ ranks, the attacking midfielder is expected to lead the assists charts for Norwich. An expect penalty taker, look forward to Wes scoring more goals as well from the heart of the midfield.
End of Pt.II