Well, the new season starts tomorrow and I, along with about 1.5 million others, will be playing fantasy football on the Premier League website. I am going to suggest some general things to keep in mind when making the final changes to your teams, suggest some things to steer clear of, and finally, give you some of my top picks.
General things to keep in mind...
First of all, one thing that every player needs to be aware of is the eight teams that are not playing in Week Two. These teams are Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Fulham, Man City, and West Ham, so make sure your team isn't loaded up with players from these teams.
Then again, its only one gameweek and you don't want to spend weeks, points, or your wildcard trying to sub these players back into your team after Week Two, you'll need to spend that time adjusting your team to this season's form players.
Second, be wary of players from teams that have made big changes, either to personnel or coaching staff. By this, I mean be careful of buying players from teams like Man City, Aston Villa, Chelsea, and even Stoke.
Everyone has heard the debate about how Man City will lineup, what the formation will be, who's starting, and where. This means that you are taking a big gamble in picking one of their players due to the chance that that player won't start or will be played in a less affective (or point earning) position.
Even Robinho, who is sure to start, will not be the focal point he was last season, as the team have bought so many quality players, and his point scoring may suffer.
Aston Villa have lost two of their most important players, Barry and Laursen, and have added Downing. Even though Downing won't be back playing until at least mid-season, we can't be sure how Villa will line up without these players and how effective they will be.
The only addition Chelsea have made to their team that will see significant playing time is Zhirkov, but with the change of manager, who will start, how they will play, and which players will thrive are yet to be determined. Though Terry, A Cole, Cech, and Lampard will all be assured of their spots, and are all good picks for your team, I would wait a couple of weeks to see how the rest of the team will function.
While Stoke haven't really made any ground breaking changes to their team, the main change with them is that the rest of the league will know how they play and will be better able to counteract them. Delap won't get as many points as he did last season, and neither will their big forwards, because teams will have figured out how to deal with that danger.
Next, don't waste your money on forwards and goalkeepers. Forwards and goalkeepers have to rely on so many things besides themselves that your money is generally better spent elsewhere. You can have the best goalkeeper in the world, but they will still concede if they have a leaky back line in front of them.
Alternatively, you can have the best forward in the world, but if he doesn't get the service he needs he will be ineffective. You also have to consider how good the opposing team's defence is and whether their strategy will rely on taking that forward out of the game. Though we know that Van Der Sar, Cech, Torres, and Rooney will score a lot of points, they are not generally worth their price tag.
Schwarzer ended up the top points earner for goalkeepers last year and there was only a 66 point difference between the top goalkeeper and the 15th best goalkeeper. Look to save some points here as the goalkeepers from the smaller teams may not get as many clean sheets but can make up for it in bonus points.
As for forwards, if you can afford Torres, get him, if not, then get Beattie, Crouch, or Agbonlahor. As good as any forward is, he is not going to score in every game, and when he doesn't, he's only going to get you two points for a start. Forwards are streaky and a lot of money can be saved by getting the in form striker rather than holding on to a world class forward that drains resources needed for the rest of the team.
Next, Look for players that play further up field than the position they are listed in. The further back from the forwards you go, the more points you get for a goal and also for clean sheets, so find the players that are listed as defenders or midfielders that actually play in midfield or forward. Some of these players include Zhirkov, Arshavin, Gerrard; and A Young, Ireland, Kuyt, and Cahill to a lesser extent.
Finally, take a chance on a few players. Grab some cheaper players that you think will explode this year. If you can find a few players that perform better than expected, this could raise you extra money to spend the rest of the season.
OK, things to stear clear of...
I've already mentioned the trouble with teams that have made big changes, the next thing to steer clear of is selection problems. Tottenham has some really good forwards, but with the addition of Crouch, who knows who will start? The same goes for Aston Villa's midfield when Downing is healthy; Man City and Chelsea I've already mentioned. The point is, if there is a question as to whether your player will start, pick someone else and wait and see.
Next, steer clear of the players who started off strong last year only to burn out at the end or the one-trick ponies. In the first category, I would put players like Bosingwa and Geovanni, who both started out the season as two of the highest scorers, but towards the end of the season both were earning much fewer points and began losing their spot in the lineup (Geovanni more so than Bosingwa).
I say this because when you look at last year's points standings, Bosingwa is fourth in Defenders and Geovanni is about 20th (but is much cheaper), so you might think that these are good picks, but when you realize that most of these points were scored in the first half of the season and that they were quite poor in the second half of the season when the rest of the teams had figured out how they played, or maybe they just got fatigued, they don't look as good as picks.
The one tricks ponies are players like Delap that scored a load of points because know one could figure out how to deal with his throw ins. One trick ponies could also be a whole team, like Hull at the beginning of last season. A lot of their players scored a lot of points in the first few months of the season when they made it up to fifth because they surprised so many teams, as the league got used to them, they were held to very few points and almost relegated.
The point of all this is that you can't just look at the points earned last season and expect it to be done again. The Premier League adapts well and you need to find these players that are starting strong or offer something different, but realize that the league will adapt and they won't always be so affective.
Finally, some of my top picks...
He's listed as a midfielder, though he pushes forward enough that he could be listed as a forward. He scored loads of points in the few months he was in the league and I can see him carrying this through to the new season. He is also 1.5 points less than Gerrard and Lampard.
Has an eye for goal and is third in points per game among forwards behind Torres and Van Persie.
Van Persie and Bendtner
Adebayor is gone and it is up to them to step up. They are presumably Arsenal's starters, but watch out for Eduardo as well.
Arteta, Cahill, Fellaini, Yakubu
With a fully fit squad, who knows what Everton can achieve. These players are all quality players who are sure to pick up points, as long as they stay fit.
I know I said steer clear of players on teams that have made big changes, but I think Valencia is the exception. He is a quality player who had a decent return while at Wigan. He had a mediocre team feeding him the ball and mediocre forwards to cross to, being on an attack minded team with quality all around him, and especially in the box, should allow him to rake in the points.
The usual suspects in defence: Terry, Carragher, A Cole, Ferdinand, Vidic
Any player from a big four club will be sure to get you some points, look for the form players from these teams. Also, depending on the strength of the Everton back line if Lescott goes, Leighton Baines is a quality wing back who gets forward often and takes a lot of Everton's free kicks.
Well, I've told you some general things to keep in mind, some things to be wary of, and some of my picks for the coming season. Let me know what you think.