Four Premier League Players Every Fantasy Football Team Should Have
It seems like just yesterday that Chelsea paraded their 5th Premier League title down Kings Road, and yet the start of the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League is already upon us.
Since the end of May you’ve likely spent your weekends visiting relatives, enjoying summer morning walks or leisurely breakfasts with your family. You might have taken up a new hobby or started volunteering at your local soup kitchen, or perhaps you’ve joined a book club to broaden your literary horizons.
But don’t worry, because from this Saturday on you’ll have 38 weekends of football to watch instead.
The onset of another season, however, doesn’t just bring the promise of Robbie Earle’s sartorial vandalism; it affords every one of us a fresh opportunity to build a Fantasy Football team that doesn’t get forgotten about by the end of October. Finally, we say to ourselves, “This will be the year I own my friends, outscore my family and have a legitimate reason to brandish my boss a degenerate failure in earshot of all and sundry. 2015-16 WILL BE MY YEAR.”
However, as Cormac McCarthy – or was it Charlie Sheen? – once wrote: “There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.” So to ensure your Fantasy Football dreams don’t wilt into abject disappointment by week 3, The18 has compiled its list of the four essential signings your Fantasy Team should have for the season ahead. We’ve recognized that there is, in fact, a limit to how much you can spend in Fantasy Football (it’s deliciously fitting that fantasy football conforms more closely to Michel Platini’s Financial Fair Play rules than the real thing), so we’ve plumped for a spine that delivers the greatest value for money, with an average spend in line with the official game’s £100 million squad limit.
Pick these four players and we 100% guarantee that your team may or may not do better than last year.
Forward: Troy Deeney (£5.5 million)
Watford’s Troy Deeney has been consistently prolific in the Championship for the last three seasons, averaging better than a goal every other game over a three-year period. He’s also an ever-present, never playing fewer than 40 league fixtures in his last four seasons at The Hawthorns.
Critics will argue that the gulf between Premier League and Championship is such that strikers struggle to replicate their lower-tier form at the top table. Charlie Austin (18 goals, 5 assists in his first EPL season), Rickie Lambert (15 goals, 4 assists) and Leonardo Ulloa (11 goals, 3 assists), however, have all proven in recent years that Championship form can be carried into the big time. At £5.5 million, Deeney is a low-risk gamble.
Midfielder: Memphis Depay (£8.5 million)
Eden Hazard was the standout performer in the Premier League last season, recognized not only in his PFA Player of the Year award, but also by dint of him being the highest-scoring player in Fantasy Football.
But that means he has a price on his head, one too rich for us. So we’re plumping for Memphis Depay as our must-have midfielder, for three very good reasons:
He scored 22 goals and 5 assists in 30 league fixtures for PSV Eindhoven last season, all from the left hand side of midfield.
He takes a mean free-kick, always a pre-requisite for Fantasy Football midfielders.
He’s listed as a midfielder, but all indications are that he’ll be playing up front this season: Louis van Gaal intends to deploy Depay centrally as a No.10 for Man United, in theory giving him many more goal-scoring opportunities.
The downside risk with Memphis is how well he’ll adapt to life in the Premier League: will he go the way of Ruud van Nistelrooy, or Alphonso Alves? Time will tell, but at £8.5 million for what is essentially an extra striker in your squad, Depay represents good value.
Defender: Branislav Ivanovic (£7.0 million)
Just as he is for Chelsea, Branislav Ivanovic should be the first name on your team sheet. The Serb played every single minute of the Premier League last season in a defense that keeps plenty of clean sheets. What’s more, Ivanovic is a threat from set-pieces and chips in with assists from his raids down the right flank.
At £7.0 million, he’s the most expensive defender in the game. But Ivanovic consistently delivers more points than far pricier talents: last season he outscored the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Raheem Sterling and Santi Cazorla, all of whom cost markedly more.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech (£5.5 million)
Goalkeeper is a funny position to select in fantasy football, not least because the one who keeps the most clean sheets doesn’t always score the greatest number of points. Equally, there’s little difference in pricing between the best and the rest.
Which is why we’re playing it fairly safe between the posts, as all good goalkeepers should. While Petr Cech will keep plenty of clean sheets, we also suspect Arsenal’s back four will provide plenty of opportunities for Chelsea’s former No.1 to show off his shot-stopping at the same time, racking up points aplenty.