With just one week to go until the big kick off, its time to run through the league, team-by-team, and assess who will play and who presents the best value. Today's post brings you the first 5 teams, with a further 5 to follow each day:
Projected team: Almunia, Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Diaby, Denilson, Fabregas, Walcott, Van Persie, Arshavin
It seems that Wenger has turned to the 4-3-3 to try and improve Arsenal's fortunes with Walcott (8m) and Arshavin (11m) the favourites to play alongside Van Persie up front. I have previously stated my admiration for Arshavin, and nothing has happened in the off season to discourage this. I think he provides a striker's tally of goals (getting 5 points a time) and adds enough assists and bonus points to replace Ronaldo in the new holy trinity of fantasy football. Walcott has never really done it for me and I think he will be the first to be dropped if Wenger wants to give Bendtner or blog-favourite Carlos Vela a run out.
Elsewhere in the midfield I am unsure of the role to be played by Fabregas (10.5) who on face value looks a bit overpriced. That being said, he will no doubt be a bonus magnet and could get some freedom to advance in the Iniesta-like role so long as Diaby/Song/Denilson provide him some protection. Denilson (7m) is a decent matchup pick but will struggle to match his 128 points from last year with the return of Cesc. Diaby (5.5) could be a good squad man, if indeed he locks up the holding role in Arsene's new look team.
The defense provides no bargains with four 6.5m defenders to choose from. I rate Arsenal as the 5th best defense over the first 8 weeks, which suggests 6.5m is a bit steep. Of the four backs to pick from Sagna had the best 2008/09 though I can't help feeling Clichy could have a bigger year offensively. Gallas is always a threat for the odd goal but is the most likely of these players to be dropped (for Djorou who would become a steal at 4.5m if he broke into the first team). Finally, Arsenal are still keen on Hangeland (5.5m) who would likely feature on a weekly basis and would also be good value here.
Recommendation: I can't look beyond Arshavin here who offers Gerrard/Lampard like potential for 1.5m less than the England duo. If a first team regular, Johan Djorou is a close second.
Projected team: Friedel, Bouma, Cuellar, Davies, Beye, Young, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Milner, Agbonlahor, Carew
Martin O'Neill's squad is pretty thin which can actually be an advantage for fantasy players as the chance for rotation is reduced. However, Villa had just the 10th best defense last year and have since lost Laursen and Knight, adding only the versatile Beye. The backs therefore look a bit overpriced at 5.5 and 5m, with only Davies contributing any significant non-defensive points last year (1 goal, 1 assist, 8 bonus). The fixtures look pretty good apart from the week 2 bye and the trip to Anfield in week 3, but I would stay away until the Villains can either strengthen the team or prove that Beye and co can replace Laursen.
In midfield, Young (8.5) is obviously the fantasy stud here and he managed an impressive 153 points last year, though his PPMS was just .508 so he isn't stunning value. The loss of Barry could give Young more free kick attempts and someone will need to take the pens which could fall to the feet on the English trickster. Unless both these events prove fruitful I would prefer Cahill, Arteta and Valencia who all cost the same, though Young's form is of course worth monitoring. Elsewhere, Milner (7m) looks to be good value though he may lose some minutes when Downing returns as O'Neill looks to rotate his wingers. Reo-Coker (5m) could be decent bench material if he holds down a regular place in central midfield to replace Barry.
With three decent strikers O'Neill can probably afford to rotate a bit up front though Agbonlahor (8.5m) figures to see the most minutes. His 11 goal return last year was a decent return but his ceiling probably isn't must higher which limits the value you can get here. Carew (8m) can probably approach double digit goals if fit, but again, better priced options can be found and I would only support the selection of the Norwegian big man if the matchups were very good.
Recommendation: Ashley Young should contribute again this year, though more in the Cahill/Modric range than Gerrard/Lampard.
Projected team: Hart, Queudrue, Johnson, Espinoza, Carr, Larrson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Carsley, Jerome, Benitez
Alex McLeish's newly promoted side had a solid defense last year in the Championship though struggled to score goals, finishing behind relegated Norwich in the scoring charts. They have recruited Christian Benitez (5.5m) as the proposed answer but to date the Ecuadorian looks more along the lines of Augstin Delgado than Antonio Valencia. The defense has also been strengthened but not to the point where they should garner serious fantasy starter attention. When the team is set, the 4m options - Espinoza, Carr, Parnaby - would be decent bench material and Hart could be used in a rotation strategy, as I outlined earlier.
The midfield looks industrious but fairly devoid of fantasy flare, aside from former Arsenal youngster Sebastien Larsson, who impressed during City's last stint in the Premier League (118 points, .886 PPMS). At 5m he could be good value once again, though with just 1 goal and 6 assists he didn't have the best 2008-09 upon which to build. He might be worth a punt but he isn't even guaranteed regular playing time so the likes of Jimenez (5m), Anderson (5m) or Neville (5m) might be better buys.
Up front, the aforementioned Benitez (5.5) is too unproven to consider, while journeymen Phillips (5m) and Bent (4.5) will likely lack both the playing time to make any fantasy waves. A potential option could be Cameron Jerome (4.5) who has featured in most of the pre-season games to date. For those looking to save a buck or two, Jerome is the best of the cheapest strikers available and even has a bit of Premier League pedigree, having netted 7 goals in just 22 games worth of minutes in 2007-08.
Recommendation: Jerome looks to be great value and could contribute 6-8 goals for just 4.5. Providing he establishes a first team place, he will be the ultimate bench striker as the season progresses.
Projected team: Robinson, Givet, Samba, Nelsen, Jacobsen, Gamst Pedersen, Andrews, N'Zonzi, Diouf, Kalinic, Roberts
In somewhat of a departure from his Bolton days, Big Sam has not made a splash with any steals this summer, although the potential arrival of Jerome Rothen would fit this bill. Allardyce has used a chunk of the Santa Cruz cash to bring in Kalinic (6.5) who has been hailed as the 'future of Croatian football'. Meanwhile the defense remains largely as you were which is encouraging as Rovers kept 8 clean sheets in Allardyce's 21 games in charge. Therefore Robinson (4.5) looks to be good value 'keeper and another rotation specialist. Along the back line, four players look like good value for the coming season, for two different reasons. Givet (4.5) and particularly Nelsen (4.5) are likely to be first team regulars, who are very cheap considering Blackburn's clean sheet potential. Warnock (5m) and Samba (5m) meanwhile should provide plenty of non-defensive point opportunities with Warnock looking especially valuable as he often features in a more advanced role.
Unless Gamst Pedersen (6.5)can rediscover his form from 2006-07 when he scored 155 points (6 goals, 12 assists) the midfield offers no-one of fantasy value.
Based on the hefty price tag paid for Kalinic we would assume he will start each week and based on the clips I have seen and his reputation as the next Davor Suker, he could be worth a punt at 6.5. His partner is less clear as McCarthy (7.0), Roberts (6.0) and Di Santo (5.5) will battle it out, with none of these looking particularly attractive right now.
Recommendation: Club captain Ryan Nelsen looks great value at 4.5m though new boy Kalinic could be interesting if he can net a couple of early goals.
Projected Team: Jaaskelainen, Samuel, Knight, Cahill, Steinsson, Taylor, Muamba, Davis, McCann, Davies, Elmander
Another unspectacular off season leaves Bolton pretty much as you were which should mean decent defensive bench options along with the odd purple patch for blog-favourite Kevin Davies (7m).
The new arrivals mean it isn't clear who will start for the Wanderers though Gary Cahill (5.0) will feature in most games. Extra depth should help the Wanderers' consistency and you should be able to rely on their defense to perform against the weaker sides. Whoever starts at left back - Robinson (4.5) or Samuel (4.5) - will be the value pick though Steinsson and Cahill both contributed decent non-defensive points last year and could still be good value at 5.0m. Matt Taylor could still be a good pick at 7m as he takes charge of most set pieces for the Whites. The rest of the midfield looks ordinary though Muamba (4.5m) is a good bench acquisition as he should be guaranteed to play every week and may even chip in with the odd clean sheet and assist. Up front, Davies is no longer undervalued (7m) and should only be selected if the schedule is favourable. Elmander (6m) has been a disappointment so far in his Bolton career though his career scoring record is impressive and if he hits form he could be a great value selection.
Recommendation: Gary Cahill, with 3 goals, 4 assist and 19 bonus points offers points in every category and should be assured of playing every week for the Wanderers. If Bolton's fixtures look good for a 5 week stretch (such as weeks 12 - 19) then I would feel comfortable bringing him in a starter for that period.
Tune in next time for Burnely, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham and Hull and as always log on to Twitter for fantasy slant on all the breaking news.