Last season was my first foray into the aggravating and depressing world of Fantasy Football, and my abysmal performance in my friends’ league should have warned me off a second stab. I spent most of the season in the cellar, eventually finishing mid-table only because some of the others in the league basically stopped playing. Of course, settling comfortably in the middle of the pack by virtue of not being as bad as everyone around you is probably the most accurate approximation of the Premier League, so give it some points for realism. I fear I’m still stuck in the Guardian mentality, which had a ridiculous system of +2 for every clearance, giving decent defenders in really poor teams the advantage over everyone else, so I expect my Telegraph team will change rather quickly once the season gets underway. I went with a 4-4-2, just because I don’t trust strikers.
Jussi Jaaskaleinen – £3.2 m
A real bargain at that price, he’s capable of some magic in goals. Even if the Bolton clean sheet record isn’t as strong as it was under Allardyce, I would hope a slightly more solid defense this season will give Jussi some help. Either way he’s certainly in Friedel’s league, and on a good day I’d throw him down against any Cech you got.
Vincent Kompany - £3.5 m
Another cheap buy (as is the rest of the defense), he played really well last season. Since Citeh’s big summer buys went almost solely to attacking players, I think he’s got his place in the team sewn up. He’s got the pace to keep the wingers in check, and on occasion he’s a threat going the other way. Cards might be an issue due to a sometimes-poor temperament, but I think he’s a keeper.
Ricardo Gardner - £3.4 m
Another cog in the hopefully solid Bolton defense, it’s his forward ability that sets him apart. Even if he doesn’t start every game, when subbed in he can wake up a side that has a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel. Honestly he should probably have been listed as a midfielder, but if I’m really lucky I can get the best of both worlds out of the error.
Michael Turner - £3.4 m
The best points-getter for me last season, this will probably be a mistake as he alone won’t be able to save Hull from being ripped apart again and again. Still, he’s an excellent player, and with a bit of luck, he might get sold to a better team before the transfer window shuts. Okay, that’s wishful thinking, but still a bargain.
Alan Hutton - £3.2 m
Within minutes of this selection I was questioning why the hell I chose him. I still don’t know. Maybe I just wanted a comedy Scot in the side? Either way, expect a swift transfer out in the coming weeks.
Steven Gerrard - £6.5 m
He may be the biggest tool this side of John Terry, but his influence on a game is incredible. Guaranteed goals, and probably more assists if he has to pick up some of the slack from the dearly departed Alonso, it will probably help that this year is (another) make-or-break for Benitez. Even if the augurs don’t look good for a trophy, it won’t be for lack of effort on Gerrard’s part.
Andrei Arshavin - £5.5 m
More than just THE footballer picture meme of the 2008/2009 season, Arshavin was probably the best signing of the year. He settled into the team quickly, and I can’t help but think he’ll only get better. No matter what Wenger says, the loss of Adebayor does hurt their goal-scoring ability, so I’ll expect a greater emphasis on the midfield and the wingers since van Persie has never struck me as the ideal target man. Plus, that Liverpool game.
Cesc Fabregas - £5 m
If Wenger really is moving towards a Barcelona shape-is-the-key system, then Fabregas will be the lynchpin. In any case, with 3,000 passes a game, one of them’s gotta be an assist, right?
Darren Fletcher – £3.3 m
There might be a bit of the Scottish romanticism here, but he’s a good player and without Ronaldo around, I expect he’ll fancy a pop from outside the box now and again. His performance in the Charity Shield (first half, anyway) makes me think this is real value for money.
Fernando Torres - £7 m
If he stays fit, he’ll be the focus of Liverpool’s attack and he’ll score a lot of goals. Bonus points come from games where his team is dominating, and he’ll slot a few extra in just for the hell of it.
Kevin Davies - £5.9 m
I don’t expect much from Elmander, so once again Davies will be the go-to man for a desperate side out of ideas. Everyone take a drink when he’s described as a “journeyman” and “workmanlike”, but he’s got a lot of skill to go with his strong-arm tactics. Points will be deducted for a surplus of yellow cards, as every season he has about 4 or 5 contenders for Most Atrocious Tackle of the Year, but it’s a risk worth taking. In a team that thrives on sloppy goalmouth confusion, he’s the king of the scramble. I’m not sure any player works harder for mid-table obscurity.
So that’s the team. I really intended to get past my Chelsea-dislike and drop Carvalho or Cech in, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Such is the irrational world of fantasy football, but since I expect the Blues to do well, I might get over my prejudice and transfer some in down the road.
2 days ago