Examining the Fantasy

Last season’s heroes. Rinse, repeat?

It has begun. Fantasy Premier League 2016/17 kicked off with entirely new layout and a bunch of fresh, quality signings who will likely become yet another legion of players to disappoint many overly optimistic FPL managers. Armed with the experience from the last, insane season of Leicester’s glory, I’ve made some analysis regarding first few fixtures and players that are likely to bring the much-needed big FPL points to the table. So, without further ado:

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Arsenal

Players to Consider: Petr Čech (£5.5), Hector Bellerín (£6.5), Laurent Koscielny (£6.0), Mesut Özil (9.5), Alexis Sánchez (£11.0), Olivier Giroud (£9.0)

Opening Fixtures: Liverpool (H), Leicester (A), Watford (A), Southampton (H), Hull (A)

Verdict: Apart from their first game, Gunners have a comfortable run of games at the start of the season, making them a very attractive FPL choice. Their last two games against Liverpool ended 0-0 (after both teams wasted gazillion of chances) and 3-3 (after both teams actually started hitting the target) – so this time, a lot of goals wouldn’t be surprising. Pick Giroud or Özil for your team. Or maybe even Alexis, if you’re feeling cheeky.

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Bournemouth

Players to Consider: Artur Boruc (£4.5), Charlie Daniels (£5.0), Jordon Ibe (£5.5), Callum Wilson (£6.5)

Opening Fixtures: Man Utd (H), West Ham (A), Crystal Palace (A), West Brom (H), Man City (A)

Verdict: The fixture list is rather self-explanatory: after a very good, maiden season, Cherries will most likely struggle to stay up – and the difficult opening to the season is unlikely to help them. Callum Wilson and club’s record signing Jordon Ibe could be decent, FPL squad rotation options later this season, but it’s hard to believe that they will score many points against this set of opponents. Unless you’re an FPL masochist – stay away.

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Burnley

Players to Consider: Tom Heaton (£4.5), Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (£5.5), Andre Gray (£6.5)

Opening Fixtures: Swansea (H), Liverpool (A), Chelsea (A), Hull (H), Leicester (A)

Verdict: Sad, but true: Burnley are fully expected to be cannon fodder. Neither the fixtures, nor their transfer activity so far are really warranting anything other than a sad campaign with months spent in the relegation zone. Championship’s Golden Boot Winner Andre Gray (23 goals last season) could provide a handful of goals and EURO 2016 participant Guðmundsson may add a bit quality down the wing – but big points won’t be here, move along.

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Chelsea

Players to Consider: Thibaut Courtois (£5.5), Branislav Ivanović (£6.0), Eden Hazard (£10.0), Cesc Fàbregas (£7.5), Diego Costa (£9.5)

Opening Fixtures: West Ham (H), Watford (A), Burnley (H), Swansea (A), Liverpool (H)

Verdict: The disastrous 2015/16 season has cut down the prices of many CFC players, making them quite attractive options – especially since their initial couple of games are looking fairly easy to go through. At EURO 2016, Eden Hazard looked back to his old self, so he should be the main choice for FPL. However, since it’s Antonio Conte’s time at Stamford Bridge, we may be looking forward to a good number of clean sheets by Courtois and Ivanović.

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Crystal Palace

Players to Consider: Steve Mandanda (£4.5) Scott Dann (£5.5), Andros Townsend (£6.5), Yohan Cabaye (£6.0)

Opening Fixtures: West Brom (H), Tottenham (A), Bournemouth (H), Middlesbrough (A), Stoke (H)

Verdict: Mathematically speaking, Palace have easier start than anyone else: but is the team any good? The Eagles struggled in the middle of last campaign and they still don’t have a big-name striker, as their bids for Christian Benteke (£32m) and Saido Berahino (£20m) both hit the rocks. Set-piece taker Cabaye and winger Townsend are the best offensive picks here – but few clean sheets from Dann and Mandanda seem more likely.

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Everton

Players to Consider: Leighton Baines (£5.5), Seamus Coleman (£5.5), Ross Barkley (£7.5), Gerard Deulofeu (£6.5), Romelu Lukaku (£9.0)

Opening Fixtures: Tottenham (H), West Brom (A), Stoke (H), Sunderland (A), Middlesbrough (H)

Verdict: Another team with a laughably easy set of early fixtures, Everton should once again rely on Barkley and Lukaku to provide goals and many FPL points. However, with the appointment of Ronald Koeman, the team’s defensive performance could drastically improve, as the Dutchman has a history of building solid backline at Southampton. Still, going after Toffees’ attacking players remains a more reasonable choice here.

Even at £9.0 price, Lukaku remains a great FPL option.

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Hull

Players to Consider: Eldin Jakupović (£4.0), Ahmed Elmohamady (£5.0), Abel Hernández (£6.0)

Opening Fixtures: Leicester (H), Swansea (A), Man Utd (H), Burnley (A), Arsenal (H)

Verdict: It’s not looking good for Hull. They’ve already lost Steve Bruce, who, after a failed attempt at getting the England job, is now the unhappiest manager in the UK. Also, they will be facing three Premier League powerhouses in their first three home games. Jakupović, the cheapest GK out there will feature in a couple of games due to Allan McGregor’s back injury, so he’s potentially worth the shot – but others? Not really, no…

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Leicester

Players to Consider: Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0), Christian Fuchs (£5.5), Wes Morgan (£5.0), Danny Drinkwater (£5.5), Riyad Mahrez (£9.5), Jamie Vardy (£10.0)

Opening Fixtures: Hull (A), Arsenal (H), Swansea (H), Liverpool (A), Burnley (H)

Verdict: N’Golo Kanté is gone. Riyad Mahrez could be gone this week. Robert Huth will be suspended against Hull. Jamie Vardy’s valuation skyrocketed and it’s hard to believe he’s worth £10 million. Other than that, Foxes have three good and two bad fixtures. If I wanted to bet on the reigning champions, I’d go after either their defenders (super-clutch last season) or Danny Drinkwater (easily the best cheap option amongst FPL midfielders).

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Liverpool

Players to Consider: Alberto Moreno (£5.0), Roberto Firmino (£8.5), James Milner (£6.5), Daniel Sturridge (£10.0)

Opening Fixtures: Arsenal (A), Burnley (H), Tottenham (A), Leicester (H), Chelsea (A)

Verdict: Even though The Reds are looking strong this summer, many of their players are also the epitomes of inconsistency – which is why Mané (£9.0), Coutinho (£8.0) and Wijnaldum (price unknown yet) are more or less of the table. Relatively best bets are Firmino (good goalscoring record last season) and Sturridge (assuming he doesn’t get injured right away). Milner, the set-piece taker seems a solid choice for a budget midfielder.

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Man City

Players to Consider: Joe Hart (£5.5), Nicolas Otamendi (£6.0), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.5), Sergio Agüero (£13.0)

Opening Fixtures: Sunderland (H), Stoke (A), West Ham (H), Man Utd (A), Bournemouth (H)

Verdict: To Agüero or not to Agüero? The most expensive FPL player will have a promising start against Sunderland but his next three fixtures are looking rather difficult. On the other hand, with Pep Guardiola’s trademark possession-style football, it’s likely that Citizens will cash in even more consecutive clean sheets than they did at the start of the last season. Tough choices here; though personally, I would draft Kun for my team right away.

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Man Utd

Players to Consider: David de Gea (£5.5), Luke Shaw (£5.5), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£9.5), Zlatan Ibrahimović (£11.5)

Opening Fixtures: Bournemouth (A), Southampton (H), Hull (A), Man City (H), Watford (H)

Verdict: Invest in the Armenian; snub the Swede – this would be about it regarding Red Devils’ new signings. With 15 Bundesliga assists to his name, Mkhitaryan arrives at Old Trafford as a potential revelation of the season; all while Ibrahimović has been already omitted from the squad going to China pre-season tour. Also, with over 40% of FPL managers picking him, David de Gea should be considered a rock-solid choice in goal.

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Middlesbrough

Players to Consider: Víctor Valdés (£4.5), George Friend (£4.5), Stewart Downing (£5.5), Álvaro Negredo (£6.5)

Opening Fixtures: Stoke (H), Sunderland (A), West Brom (A), Crystal Palace (H), Everton (A)

Verdict: Offering a wealth of FPL budget options, Boro’s prospects are looking decent – and so are their few initial fixtures. Former Manchester City target man, Álvaro Negredo, should be the main goalscoring threat while Manchester United enfant terrible, Víctor Valdés, will be looking to improve his new teams’ defensive record even further (last season: 22 clean sheets in Championship). Overall: the best pick out of all Premier League newcomers.

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Southampton

Players to Consider: Fraser Forster (£5.0), Ryan Bertrand (£5.5), Dušan Tadić (£7.5), Nathan Redmond (£6.0), Shane Long (£6.5)

Opening Fixtures: Watford (H), Man Utd (A), Sunderland (H), Arsenal (A), Swansea (H)

Verdict: It will be a difficult season for Saints. With Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mané, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pellè all out the door, there’s a lot of rebuilding needed before the team can replicate their great stints of 14/15 and 15/16. Tadić remains their most consistent assist producer, while Long should take charge of the lone forward slot. Could Nathan Redmond (6 goals and 3 assists for Norwich last season) be a dark horse here?

‘Schlong’, as people call him, should be Southampton’s main threat.

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Stoke

Players to Consider: Jack Butland (£5.0), Erik Pieters (£4.5), Marko Arnautović (£7.5)

Opening Fixtures: Middlesbrough (A), Man City (H), Everton (A), Tottenham (H), Crystal Palace (A)

Verdict: Stoke’s defensive record last season would’ve been much better if it wasn’t for a spring injury crisis that forced them to play second-rate lads in a bunch of late fixtures. This autumn, players like Butland, Johnson and Pieters will all be back and the shape of Mark Hughes’ team should only improve. Upfront, look no further than the master of scoring at Brittania Stadium – Marko ‘the other Zlatan’ Arnautović.

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Sunderland

Players to Consider: Patrick van Aanholt (£5.0), Wahbi Khazri (£6.5), Jermain Defoe (£7.0)

Opening Fixtures: Man City (A), Middlesbrough (H), Southampton (A), Everton (H), Tottenham (A)

Verdict: Sam Allardyce might’ve been replaced by David Moyes, but Sunderland’s approach isn’t likely to change: put nine men behind the ball and boot it forward to Jermain Defoe. They will be going to Etihad Stadium as lambs to the slaughter, but their three following games seem like decent chances to get some points on the board. Still, it would be better for FPL managers to wait before drafting any Mackems’ players.

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Swansea

Players to Consider: Ashley Williams (£5.0), André Ayew (£7.5), Gylfi Sigurðsson (£7.5)

Opening Fixtures: Burnley (A), Hull (H), Leicester (A), Chelsea (H), Southampton (A)

Verdict: After an awful 2015/16 season, Swansea are looking to recover under the guidance of Francesco Guidolin. Their first two fixtures are looking yummy and players like Ayew or Sigurðsson are likely to capitalise on that. The only issue for Swans could be the lack of a quality striker, as Gomis faded away quickly last season and does not come off as a decent pick now. As of Ashley Williams – couple of headed goals are always expected from him.

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Tottenham

Players to Consider: Toby Alderweireld (£6.5), Kyle Walker (£5.5), Dele Alli (£8.5), Christian Eriksen (£8.5), Harry Kane (£11.0)

Opening Fixtures: Everton (A), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (H), Stoke (A), Sunderland (H)

Verdict: Spurs are unlikely to replicate the achievements from the last season, when they came fairly close to winning the league. Regardless of that, Mauricio Pochettino and his team have a handful of class players to offer: Walker, Alli and Kane seem like particularly interesting picks for a FPL manager. Still, it has to be noted that the first couple of Tottenham’s games will be played without the midfield influence of suspended Moussa Dembélé.

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Watford

Players to Consider: Heurelho Gomes (£5.0), Troy Deeney (£7.0), Odion Ighalo (£7.5)

Opening Fixtures: Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Arsenal (H), West Ham (A), Man Utd (H)

Verdict: Watford are unlucky. Their fixture list looks absolutely terrible and it will take a miracle for Walter Mazzarri’s lads to get anything out of their first five games. Though the duo Deeney – Ighalo has been a reliable source of FPL points last season, it’s hard to imagine them pouncing against so many top 10 rivals. Cheeky (or insane?) managers could consider picking Heurelho Gomes for some bonus saves’ points.

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West Brom

Players to Consider: Ben Foster (£4.5), Craig Dawson (£5.0), Jonny Evans (£4.5)

Opening Fixtures: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (H), Middlesbrough (H), Bournemouth (A), West Ham (H)

Verdict: ‘Pulisball’, known for yielding numerous clean sheets for FPL managers, should strike again. West Brom clearly have some juicy fixtures ahead of them, so drafting one or even two of their backline members seems reasonable. The other thing we can be absolutely sure of is that none of their forwards or midfielders deserves being picked – even if Salomon Rondón plays the season of his life, he’ll be unlikely to end up with more than 10 goals.

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West Ham

Players to Consider: Adrián (5.0), Dimitri Payet (9.5)

Opening Fixtures: Chelsea (A), Bournemouth (H), Man City (A), Watford (H), West Brom (A)

Verdict: It’s all about Dimitri Payet. Last season, the Frenchman missed almost three months due to the injury and still managed to win 171 Fantasy points. This year could be just as good – if not better. Other than him, there’s really no other options in Slaven Bilić’s squad: Aaron Cresswell has a long-term injury, Michael Antonio is likely to play only as a right-back, Manuel Lanzini still struggles with a thigh problem and new signings Feghouli and Gökhan Töre don’t seem to have enough quality between them to deserve attention.

My selection for week #1. Foster, Evans, Pieters and Drinkwater shall be at the bench.

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