Fantasy Premier League: Decisions, Decisions:

9 August 2019

Transfer window now closed, the Premier League is back tonight, starting with Liverpool against Norwich - leaving fantasy managers just a few hours to finalise there lines ups.

 Fantasy Premier League - Decisions, Decisions

It is just 88 days since Manchester City were crowned Premier League Champions following a 4-1 victory on the final day of the league season, at the AMEX Stadium, against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Take 20 days from that and you have the time that's passed since Liverpool's 2-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final in Madrid, courtesy of goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi.

And yet despite a wealth of activity during this summers transfer window, both in volume of social media posts and money spent - a staggering £1.41 billion was spent by Premier League clubs alone - there's a feeling that everything has changed, but nothing has changed.

Everything has changed because David Luiz will now line-up in Arsenal red, rather than Chelsea blue.

Because Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy managed to find the clubs chequebook this year (it was in the cheese room all along), where-as Chelsea were forcibly deigned using their's and will be forced to blood some exciting looking youngsters.

Tottenham Hotspur's new signing Giovani Lo Celso
In a contrast to last season, Spurs brought in five new players, including Real Betis' midfielder Giovani Lo Celso, initially on loan.

And because a supporting cast of teams outside the 'sacred top six' - the likes of Everton, West Ham, Wolves and Leicester City - appeared equipped to commit heresy.

But nothing has changed, because the fight for the title seems certain to be between the two juggernauts that are Manchester City and Liverpool, albeit Tottenham fans will argue they will have a fighting say this term.

No change, because despite being linked with many a big name throughout the summer, the feeling is that once again Manchester United's transfer window has failed to live-up to it's earlier billing - and to anti-United fans delight, the prospect of seeing Phil Jones in Red Devils red remains.

And no change, because Everton's night-club approach to transfer dealing - i.e. ask as many girls as you can and you're sure to go home with one - was evident once more.

We can't wait to see Everton's high-brass reaction, once they sober from their transfer day rampage to find themselves some £28 million lighter with only Alex Iwobi to show for it.

Decisions, Decisions

What all this means towards picking your Fantasy League Squad for the initial weeks of action is difficult to conclude.

If nothing has changed, does that mean you should stick to building your fantasy side around the big name and points scorers from Manchester City's and Liverpool's all too dominant seasons last time around? And can you afford to now?

Or given everything has changed, could there be more value to be found from the array of incoming talent that will be gracing the Premier League for the first time this year - the likes of Arsenal's Nicolas Pépé, Sébastien Haller for West Ham, Ismaïla Sarr who moved to Watford on deadline day, or Christian Pulisic who has the simple task of replacing Eden Hazard at Chelsea?

Chelsea will hope Christian Pulisic can fill the void left by Eden Hazzard
Chelsea will hope Christian Pulisic can go some of the way to replacing the now departed Eden Hazard

One thing that is definitely different is that this is the first time - in at least the Premier League era, which is when football began right? - that the transfer window has closed before a ball is kicked in anger.

The plus point to this is that your picks won't suddenly appear in a different coloured shirt, so you can plan with some degree of certainty this year.

But this does deal a hit to the stock market style fantasy managers who like to buy players who are rumoured for a transfer at a low price in the hope that the transfer will go through and provide them a suitable dividend.

*Note: the transfer window in other European Leagues remains open until the 2nd September, meaning some players could still disappear from this seasons game altogether!

My team - Fantasy Team Guiding Principles

Before I get into discussing my side and the reasons behind the individual players selected, I feel it would be useful to set-out a few simple guiding principles that are helping me come to the conclusions that I will make.

 1.) Try to avoid having attacking players facing off against your defensive players

This common-sense approach is all about maximising potential points score from all 11 eligible positions.

The last thing you want is your striker laying on an assist (plus 3 points) that will cost your defender a clean sheet (plus 4 points).

2.) Look to use players on teams that have home advantage as much as possible

Another sensible approach, is to look for players that will enjoy home advantage, especially for sides who establish a good record on their own patch.

3.) Look to utilise combination players 

The idea here is to pick players from the same side that compliment each other and is an approach that can be used for both attack and defence.

In defensive terms, this would evolve picking teammates who you think are likely to collect a clean-sheet that week - which is a high risk approach, but naturally comes with a high reward if they prove successful.

In attack, this means looking for players that have that telepathic connection, that supply each other with plentiful chances of scoring points.

Fantasy Football Team, Week 1
Gameweek 1's team selection

Final week 1 selection - solid defence

After some difficult deliberations, my final selection looks a little something like this with an attacking 3-4-3 formation employed. 

In goals, there is the cheap and transferable option's of both of Bournemouth's likely stoppers, paired with the sides leading centre-half Nathan Aké, based on the assumption that their opening two fixtures against promoted teams provides a solid chance for clean sheet points. 

A change in at least one goalkeeper is likely to be required before the South Coast sides game week 3 trip to the Etihad, but the rest of the defence is made up solid enough combinations, with the World's former most expensive defender Virgil Van Dijk paired with galloping fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold and the newly crowned World's most expensive defender Harry Maguire settled in alongside United's other new defensive recruit, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. 

Eyebrows may be raised to the fact the latter pairing start life on the bench - on account of a tough opening fixture against Chelsea - but it is envisioned that a flat back four featuring this quartet will become the norm.

Liverpool's Virgil Van Dijk
None shall pass VVD - or at least that's what Liverpool fans and fantasy owners will be hoping

The Midfield Pack

Moving things further forward, the triangular attacking thrust of the side can be seen through the Foxes 'Trio De Force' -  Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy. 

Vardy needs no introduction, with the record breaking hit-man finding the net 18 times last term. 

Albeit that represented a slight dip on the 20 goals achieved the season before, with Vardy set to enjoy the services of Tielemens for a full season following Leicester completing his permanent transfer from Monaco, the chances of another 20+ goals tally this season looks almost certain. 

Belgian international Tielemens, who initially joined on loan last January, was a big part of Leicester's turnaround in form under Brendan Rodgers and at a fantasy price of 6.5 million, the man who managed a total of 63 points in the short time frame looks tremendous value for any squad if he carries on from where he left off. 

Leicester City players Jamie Vardy and Youri Tielemens embrace
Will you be embracing the Leicester City combination of Jamie Vardy and Youri Tielemens? 

The other Leicester player to blossom under Rodgers and the introduction of Tielemens was former Norwich man Maddison, a precocious talent who impressed during his first season in the Premier League in scoring seven times and laying on the same number of assists. 

With Rodgers now able to implement his ideas over a full pre-season and no European football distractions, these two look likely to be regular starters in a Leicester side that will be looking to push the established order all the way. 

Another side that will be looking to do just same, albeit alongside the demands of the Europa League is Wolverhampton Wonders, what with Head CoacNuno Espírito Santo guiding the tangerines to an impressive seventh place finish on their return to the Premier League.

Some fantasy managers may have a concern that Wolves season has already begun in earnest, including a 4-0 away victory in Armenia last night, but whilst the 4,000 mile round trip ahead of their opening game at Leicester is far from ideal, their is an argument that the Wanders players might enjoy a competitive edge in terms of match fitness in these early games.

And with the West Midlands club looking to have games that shout 'goals' early on in the campaign, the inclusion of their key players from last season, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Rual Jimenez at relatively budget prices seemed to good to pass-up - the only major headache was who to start out of Neves or Moutinho this week, with Neves narrowly getting the nod. 

Wolvehampton Wanders' Ruben Neves
At just £5.5 million, does Wolvehampton Wanders midfielder Ruben Neves represent excellent fantasy league value?

Lead Gunners 

With that flank of the attack sorted, the opposite side sees a huge chunk of the fantasy budget invested in an all Arsenal pairing in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ivorian winger Nicolas Pepe.

At £11 million in fantasy pounds, Aubameyang arguably offers the best early value of the premium forwards, given he will face the defences of Newcastle (A) and Burnely (H) in the first two weeks, for Arsenal side that will surely need to score goals to overcome a suspect defence. 

Having netted 22 last term, the Gabonese striker looks to have cemented his claim to be the leading Arsenal striker over Alexandre Lacazette and should enjoy many a fruitful afternoon at the Emirates. 

This faith is further cemented, knowing that he will now have the service of £72 million man Pepe, available at what could prove a bargain £9.5 million in fantasy notes.  

Whilst unproven in the Premiership, the former Lille man boasts a fantastic pedigree, also netting 22 times in Ligue one last season alongside 11 assists, showing that he has the potential to light up the Premier League and make an electric partnership with his new Arsenal teammate.  

Lille's former player Nicolas Pepe who is now Arsenal's record transfer purchase
Nicolas Pepe likes what he's hearing.

So there we have it - my locked in side ahead of tonight's 19:00 deadline! 

What are you thoughts? What would you change? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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