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Posted by John Culea on 07/28/2012

There are intriguing possibilities for fantasy managers assembling their 15-player roster for the August 18 Premier season-opener.

Over the next few days I will look at all Premier teams and some of their players that fantasy managers should consider. This will not be an all-encompassing list; however, it will include many of the new faces in the Premier League. Here is the first group of teams:

Arsenal:
• The Robin Van Persie sweepstakes remains the big question for fantasy managers who salivate over the Dutchie’s prolific scoring. Where will VP go? No matter the team, if VP stays healthy, he will fill onion bags wherever he plays. His fantasy salary is 9 million, tied with Rooney for the most expensive player at any position. One caveat in the RvP consideration: he has not played in any preseason games, so what kind of match fitness will he have and how might his inactivity factor into his past susceptibility to injuries?
• Other Gunner players for fantasy consideration include forward Podolski. The Pole is priced at 7.7 million; however, he is a mystery player who performs at the highest level in international play, yet struggles with domestic teams to the point of three years worth bench splinters at Bayern Munich.
Because of injuries, defender Mertesacker only played 21 games last season and in those matches he was not convincing. The tall, lumbering (read: slow) German who sometimes plays soft, has a 6.4 million price tag.
• Although injuries have also been the case for defender Vermaelen, he is a more reliable fantasy point-getter than Mertesacker and is priced at 7.3 million.
• The Arsenal player with the middle name “potential” remains Theo Walcott. The midfielder with an eight million pound salary drives fantasy managers and Gunner faithful crazy one minute and then can be capable of pure genius the next.
• While we have seen what Walcott can do, an unknown is French import Giroud. Arsenal and fantasy managers wonder if he will uncork Cabernet Sauvignon-like goals along with Podolski in the expected absence of Van Persie.
One additional comment on Arteta (7.3). His ball distribution was the closest to Fabregas and was sorely missed when he was out hurt. Arsenal needs someone to get the ball to the strikers.

Aston Villa:
• There are few players on AV that merit fantasy consideration. Darren Bent is the only player consistently capable of goals. Although injuries kept the striker out of 21 Premier matches, he still scored nine goals. AV was hopeless on offense with the second worst goal total in the league and barely escaped relegation thanks to 17 sleep-inducing draws. New manager Paul Lambert is not likely to find the success at Villa Park he achieved at Norwich City.
• The only other fantasy possibility is forward Gabriel Agbonlahor who is no threat anymore. He has an over-priced 6.4 million salary while Bent is a fair bargain at 6.9 million.
• Unfortunately, as of this writing, Bent and Agbonlahor are injured.

Chelsea:
• There are all sorts of roster possibilities at Stamford Bridge. Defender Gary Cahill has added millions to his 7.1 salary since coming from Bolton. He returns looking about ten pounds lighter after an injury kept him out of the Champions League final. John Terry has the highest salary for a defender at eight million. He will return points and does not appear to have lost the edge on his game or his propensity to be tabloid fodder.
• The most expensive Chelsea player is Lampard. At 8.5 million, Lamps should take most of the PK’s now that Drogba is gone. A tick below Lampard’s salary is newcomer Hazard, carrying an 8.4 million salary that indicates the ESPN “suits” believe he will have a big season.
• Interesting to see that newcomer Marin does not inspire confidence in those who determine fantasy value. His 6.6 million salary comes up as short as the Serb is.
• Juan Mata, who faded in the second half and had just about no playing time for Spain in Euro 2012, has an 8.1 million price tag.
• Forward Daniel Sturridge has had health issues and is priced at 6.6 million while the blonde enigma Fernando Torres’ 7.9 million is the price for fantasy managers wondering if this is his breakout season.
• Still to be determined as of this writing is the value for newly signed Oscar who is not on ESPN Soccernet’s fantasy list of players.
• A plus for holding Chelsea players is manager Roberto Di Mateo. RDM has been able to align his players whereas the despised AVB specialized in alienating players.

Everton:
• David Moyes is the quintessential miracle worker. Given a budget that has never bulged, Moyes must do his magic with a team that other than GK Tim Howard (6 million) has few fantasy candidates, especially if defender Leighton Baines (7.2 million) goes to another team.
• Tim Cahill, once a fantasy “must” has taken his over-the-hill career to the MLS.
• Rare Everton fantasy recommendations are striker Jelavic with a value of seven million or low-priced midfielder Fellaini at 5.5 million.

Fulham:
• The Cottagers have survived off the talents of Clint Dempsey. He scored 17 Premier goals last season but likely will be with another team when the campaign opens. For some reason, Dempsey has always been undervalued and that is true again this year. He carries an 8.3 million salary, 100,000 less than Antonio Valencia who was 49 points behind Dempsey and the same salary as Yaya Toure who scored 43 fewer points than the Texan.
• Hugo Rodallega transfers to Martin Jol’s team from Wigan and if the striker can find his form of a few years ago, his 6.1 million salary makes him a good gamble as a third forward.
• Stephen Kelly is a wise low salary pick for defense with his salary of 4.8 million and defender Jon Arne Riise (5.3 million) is a steady veteran.

Tomorrow: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, and Norwich City.

Comments

Posted by Qasim on 07/29/2012

Would you recommend Tony Hibbert as a right back from Everton? Also, is Mikel Arteta worth the 7.3 million he costs? If not, any alternatives below 8 million to replace him?

Comment:
As I wrote, my list will not include all players. As for Hibbert, he's OK but kind of pricey because he is more of a grinder in a defined role than anything. He has only had one Premier goal scored in the last ten years, so about the best you can hope for from him are clean sheets. Having Howard helps.

I should have included Arteta because his ball distribution was sorely missed when he was hurt. Arteta was the closest they to Fabregas they had and his value will go up if he can get the ball to his strikers.

A comment on Jack Wilshire; although I think even when he was healthy he was terribly over-rated, I wonder if will ever be fully fit.

Thanks for your comments.

Posted by Mike on 07/29/2012

Typo, MSL should be MLS

Thanks. Might have been a Freudian slip as it seems like it is Minor Soccer League compared with the Premier League.

Posted by Roger Dela Rosa on 07/30/2012

what about Chelsea's Essien? coming back from a serious knee injury, do you think he'll get PT in the crowded Chelsea midfield?

Too many guys in front of him and with Oscar it makes his PT even more doubtful. He will probably get in the FA Cup and Carling Cup, but those matches don't help fantasy managers.

Posted by Shakiul Rana on 07/31/2012

I believe Mark Hughes is not a Fulham manager
Comment:
You are right. Martin Jol is the manager. Thanks for the correction.

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About
John Culea John Culea is an American living in San Diego who became hooked on football while serving in the Navy for two years in London. A former TV news Emmy award-winning anchor/reporter, John manages the Premier Fantasy league MCMUARTN and goes by the Fantasy honorary title of "Sir John". John is a devoted Chelsea supporter and offers candid, often off-beat commentaries on the Premier League from an American perspective. He invites open discussion on his blog and can be contacted at sirjohnfantasy@gmail.com.

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