The new Premier League season gets underway in a few short days, which means most people should have their fantasy teams complete with only a few injury doubts and late fitness tests really impacting on final selections. That is, unless you`ve entered yourself into a drafted league. In which case, you pour over the football news websites for info on the members of your squad with an obsession only Captain Ahab in Moby Dick could understand. If Martin Olsson is your third defender, it`s probably a good idea to follow him on Instagram to see if the pictures he takes give you any insight into that shoulder injury he`s carrying…… right?
The premier Fantasy Football draft league this year is run by IEFSA over at Fantrax. Some of the top names in Fantasy Sports writing on the web are competing for charity over the coming season, and you should follow them all on Twitter here -> @EPL_MOstradamus @RotoWireAndrew @BenDinnery @FantasyYIRMA @GalinDragiev @SportsByGotti @TomSunderland_ @FuzzyWarbles @cjradune @nealjthurman @Ben_Jata @RotoZdroik @nikarg @DanRiccio590 @wrigavin @DFS_hambazaza @Smokey_Loogy
Check out the IEFSA website and for up to the second news and updates follow @THE_IEFSA on twitter. If you fancy giving this fantasy draft game a go, you can enter a qualifier league here too -> First Qualifier League
The draft was completed just over a week ago and I thought it was about time to explain how the ragtag members of my squad came together. The overall theme of my squad was `Out with the Old, In with the New`. In most other fantasy games, a lot of teams will have the old reliables as bedrocks of their teams. Aguero, Baines, Ivanovic, Silva, etc. But in a drafted league, it`s very rare that one team would be packed with such players, and in a draft where everyone knows their Jordan Ayews from their Andre Ayews, it`s even rarer still. So rather than getting caught in lots of bidding wars over players, I felt it was better to just pick out a few players and concentrate on landing them. And the players I wanted to land were all new faces to the EPL. The reasons I will go into individually, but at the outset of the draft I knew this season I wanted to take a chance on these type of players to propel me up the league table, rather than blowing my budget to outbid people on Costa and Hazard. Of course they could all flop, get injured, be loaned off to the championship, etc, and my team will end up propping up the table, but let`s see what happens.
I ended up with eight new signings to the Premier League, and a player who is playing with a new club this season. A very untested bunch. This meant that between the sticks I wanted a more proven performer. My first selection of the draft was the Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois. I had hoped to get him at less than the $31 I was eventually bid up to, but I was happy to have him keeping goal every week. Chelsea had the fewest goals conceded last year and 17 clean sheets (11 at home), I realize other keepers gathered more points last season, but if Chelsea get near to less than a goal conceded a game and almost half a season of clean sheets again this year, I’ll be doing okay. Also if the defence falters, I think Courtois is good enough to pick up the slack, plus Begovic is not a bad replacement if Courtois does get sidelined for any reason.
The most expensive member of my squad ended up being Memphis Depay at $49. Another player I had earmarked for selection. With RVP leaving and Hernandez and Di Maria looking towards the exit door, I thought the goals would fall to Rooney and Depay to collect, with Mata chipping in too. He had a great record for Dutch side PSV last season, 28 goals in 40 appearances. I`m hoping he`ll take to the premier league from Dutch football more like a Ruud Van Nistelrooy rather than like a Jan Vannegoor of Hesselink. Depay was to be my main forward and I would have preferred to have paid something nearer the 31m Man Utd did for him, and paying $49 probably hampered the money I wanted to spend on my defence later in the draft.
Next up was the midfield, and a player I had my eye on was Newcastle`s Wijnaldum. In Holland he averaged a little under a goal every three games. I`m also hoping that Steve McClaren`s knowledge of the English and Dutch games means he`s fairly confident he`ll adapt quickly to the Premier League. I paid $22 for Wijnaldum and would have probably paid a little more. The other midfielder I wanted was Swansea`s new Ghana international Andre Ayew. At 25 he should be coming into the best football of his career, and what has come before wasn`t too shabby as he averaged around one goal in four games playing in France. He plays more of a forward than a midfielder, and I expect him to shine at Swansea.
As a back-up forward I had hoped to get my hands on Leicester City`s Shinji Okazaki, but when @GalinDragiev brought his value up to $12 I felt I had to back off. Okazaki is one of Japan`s most prolific goalscorers and easily got to double figures in goals at Mainz in each of the last two seasons.
My most expensive defensive purchase was West Ham`s Carl Jenkinson at $10. He averaged more points per game in Fantrax last season than both Trippier and Janmaat, who went for $20 and $12 respectively in the draft, so I`ve got to be happy with that. Rounding out my defence I have two players who have joined Watford this summer and a new signing at Aston Villa.
Of the three promoted sides Watford came up with the leakiest defence and new manager Quique Flores has moved to shore things up at the back with a few new faces. Jose Holebas comes in from Roma, while Allan Nyom was signed from Udinese (though played in Spain with Granada) and with Flores having been a right back during his playing days, I’m banking on him having an eye for a defender or two. At Villa, Tim Sherwood has brought in Jordan Amavi as left back. He may be only 21 but the Frenchman looks a class act and should hopefully cement his place there. He was my next biggest defensive signing at $5.
Back to midfield and another big signing was the $25 I spent on Man Utd`s Bastian Schweinsteiger. He may have a `possibly injured` little red flag beside his name every week and with United`s heavier schedule this season there is always the risk of rotation in a crowed Man Utd midfield, but I thought he would have went for a bit more than $25. He had one of his poorer seasons last year at Bayern where he only managed 28 games and five goals. I actually consider Schweinsteiger the biggest ‘gamble’ of my draft.
Rounding out my midfield I have Fabian Delph to come in if a couple of my main midfielders are not firing. People often ask why certain players go to big clubs when it looks like they will struggle to break into the first team and could end up sitting on the bench for prolonged periods, or worse, just forgotten about as their once bright career disappears. But every player backs themselves to compete at the top level and they convince themselves that they can be the main man at any side. If Delph is willing to back himself to be a fixture at Man City, I can back him for a $5 bid. He`s clearly a talented young player and I see no reason why he can`t get at least the same amount of game time as players such as Milner, Fernando, or Navas even!
I also added new Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye for $9. The Senegalese arrives from Lille for 9m and scored 4 goals last season in Ligue 1. As a late addition post draft, I obtained the services of Villa`s Scott Sinclair, just as an extra body as players sit on the Injured Reserve list. He has been in good form in preseason and with Tim Sherwood brining an attacking style to the club, that means possible fantasy points at the right end of the field.
To complete my trio of forwards I have Danny Welbeck of Arsenal and Jonathan Walters of Stoke. Welbeck has yet to get a decent run in the Arsenal team, but with the Euros coming up I’m hoping he can force himself into some of Arsene Wenger’s plans and knock in a few goals. He is currently out injured. Walters on the other hand is never very far from Mark Hughes’ plans at Stoke City. He had his most prolific season scoring-wise last year, and something similar would be much appreciated from the $1 acquisition.
So that was the thinking behind my squad. Let me know what you think on Twitter @GarryIrwin, and look out for upcoming articles posted on The Notebook. For a breakdown of how each team drafted, Galin Dragiev covers all the bases over at Rotoworld in his comprehensive IEFSA draft review. Until next time, remember to join the qualifier league and to follow @THE_IEFSA on Twitter.