With the season drawing ever closer its time to look at the next 5 teams in the final pre-season preview. With the transfer window open for another 3 weeks, things have the potential to change but it is vital to at least get players who are featuring regularly right from the start of the season. Without further ado then, here are the next 5 team summaries:
Projected Team: Jensen, Alexander, Kalvenes, Carlisle, Duff, Gudjonsson, McCann, Eagles, McDonald, Paterson, Fletcher
Owen Coyle's men had a dream season last year, gaining promotion to the Premier League along with a couple of great cup runs. However, with limited funds in the off season the squad depth has been strengthened but the overall quality appears to be lacking somewhat. The Clarets were the second top scorers last season, but also had the 7th worst defence, worse than the likes of Plymouth and Barnsley. The arrivals of Edgar (4m) and Eckersley (4m) provide depth and one of the pair may even crack the starting lineup, but having shipped goals to the likes of Neil Mellor and Jay Bothroyd, the chances of stopping Torres, Drogba and Rooney look slim. Even at 4m their defence does not appear to be a good option, though Graham Alexander (4.5) has some value as a proven goalscorer from the penalty spot. The danger though is that in order to benefit you will have to play him every week which is not advisable and better value can be found elsewhere.
Former United man Chris Eagles could have been interesting, though at 5.5 he is well overpriced and due to inconsistency is not even guaranteed a spot in the lineup. Joey Gudjonssen (4.5) also has top flight experience with Villa and should be assured of first team football, thus making him a serviceable option off the bench (though again better value can probably be had elsewhere).
Up front its going to be two from Paterson (5m), Thompson (4.5m) and Fletcher (5.5m) with last season's top scorer Paterson likely to partner new arrival Fletcher to start the season. Paterson is a proven scorer and could have some value having bagged 19 goals last year, and such goal potential is hard to find for 5m. I would rate him right next to Birmingham's Cameron Jerome (4.5m) as the best sub 5m striker around.
Recommendation: Not too much value here, unless Coyle can turn his side into a solid Stoke-like outfit. Martin Paterson might be an option though if you need to save money on your strikers and is therefore my pick here.
Projected Team: Cech, Cole, Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho, Mikel, Zhirkov, Essien, Lampard, Drogba, Anelka.
With the arrival of Ancelotti comes big expectations for the new season, heightened by the victory on Sunday in the Community Shield. That game also brought into question the stability of Zhirkov, and more surprisingly, Bosingwa in the starting lineup. Malouda was preferred to Zhirkov which is a rotation that is likely to continue all year but more surprisingly was the inclusion of Ivanovic over the attack minded Bosingwa. It may be that Ancelotti thought Ivanovic provides a safer option but nevertheless it calls into question the value of Bosingwa who, despite his rampaging forward runs, now looks overvalued at 7.5m if his place in the team isn't assured. The pick in the defence may well be Cole (7m) who should feature every week and has the least competition at the back, aside from John Terry (7.5m) who will always play when fit. Zhirkov (7.5m) has the highest ceiling though the aforementioned rotation issue means I suggest holding back until these muddy waters run clearer.
The midfield is led by fantasy stud Frank Lampard (11.5m) who I have suggested is the best player in the league to have this year. The potential for him to shine in the diamond formation is clear and he should benefit from having even more playmakers around him with the inclusion of both Drogba and Anelka on a weekly basis. Elsewhere the midfield looks overcrowded and it is hard to settle on anyone to play every week. The best bet might be Michael Essien (8m) though he may sometimes be deployed in the holding role which will limit his fantasy effectiveness to the point of being grossly overvalued. Mikel (5m) could be a great bench option if he could make that holding role his, though with Ballack (8m), Deco (8.5m), Cole (9m) and Malouda (8.5m) all vying for places, it is likely that Essien gets pushed back sometimes to make way for more creativity. I always like to have the focal point of a team's attack and that is clearly Lampard, so your other 8m or so might be better spent on Arteta or Modric who are less likely to leave you empty handed on any given week.
Up front is where Chelsea look attractive with the league's top scorer from last season - Anelka - and one of the most unstoppable players in the league (when on his game) - Drogba. Both are reasonably priced at 10.5m with Anelka probably safer to get 15 goals, where as Drogba has the higher ceiling and could even top 20 if he performs all year. With little or no competition behind them, it appears as though both will feature in 34+ games, barring injury, and should both therefore contribute well to any fantasy team.
Recommendation: Who else but Frank Lampard? Expect another competition with Gerrard for the number one fantasy producer, with both surpassing 200 points with some ease. Zhirkov could be even better value though is he secures a berth on the left hand side of the diamond, as his classification as a defender would give him goals, assists and clean sheets on a weekly basis.
Projected Team: Howard, Baines, Yobo, Lescott, Hibbert, Neville, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill, Arteta, Yakubu
I am a bit unsure of this projected lineup as David Moyes has the most depth he has ever had up front and could therefore go 4-4-2 rather than 4-4-1-1. I think this is unlikely though as it would be too much restraint on Cahill and Arteta, who are unquestionably the sole of this team. The potential of the defence is largely dependant on the future of Joleon Lescott, whose on-again-off-again transfer saga to City is still ongoing. If he leaves now then Everton should have time to bring in his replacement (perhaps Upson or Distin) and the defence will retain some, though admittedly reduced, fantasy value. Baines (6.5m) had a superb season and would score over 150 if he continued at the same rate for 30+ games. If Lescott is not properly replaced though, he becomes a bit overpriced the likes of Evra or Sagna look like better value.
The obvious picks in the middle of the park are Arteta (8.5m) and Cahill (8.5m) though there is the potential for the pair to 'split the votes' and take each others' points. Cahill is the more natural goalscoring threat (8 goals vs 6 goals), and he often plays off the front man giving him plenty of goal scoring chances. Arteta however is in charge of free kicks and corners, racking up the assists (6 assist vs 5 assists). Both have struggled to stay fit in the past Arteta averaging 29 appearances and Cahill just 21 in the past three seasons. When the fixtures are good (which Everton's are to open the season) both players should be instrumental in everything good the Toffees do and I wouldn't really like to pick between them. Gun to my head I'd take Arteta over the long haul but Cahill can provide more value when he gets on a goalscoring run.
Up front there is some uncertainty thanks to a surprising amount of choice for David Moyes. Yakubu (8m) is of course the favourite to get most playing time but he too has struggled to put together a consistent season without injuries. When fit though, he is incredibly prolific, scoring a goal every 2.3 in the Premier League, which eqautes to 16 goals a season if he could stay fit. Needless to say this is incredible value for 8m, and the Yak is clearly confident in his fitness, having stated his aim for the season at 20 goals. The inconsistency of Saha (7m) and Jo (7.5m)'s minutes mean that they cannot be considered fantasy starters at this point.
Recommendation: Yakubu, while not cheap, could be undervalued and has as good a chance as any sub-9m forward to break into the top tier of fantasy strikers.
Projected Tean: Schwarzer, Konckesky, Hughes, Hangeland, Pantsil, Davies, Dempsey, Murphy, Gera, Johnson, Zamora
Looking to build on their excellent 2008/09 Fulham go into the season largely unchanged with their starting lineup looking very familiar. The two Europa League games have shown that this lineup is pretty secure with the only change being Etuhu and Baird filling in for Simon Davies over the two legs.
The strength of Fulham last year was their defence and this should largely continue this year though I expect to see some drop off, especially against the top clubs, who Fulham limited to 9 goals in 6 games last year (including 4 clean sheets). Like Everton above, their value is dependant on Hangeland staying put, which is looking less likely according to compatriot Riise. If he does stay then I think Hughes (5m) and Paintsil (5m) are great value, as is Hangeland (5.5m) himself who brings a real goal threat from set pieces.
Fulham's midfield is solid yet unspectacular with last year's star Danny Murphy (6.5m) who scored a very impressive 150 points. The former Liverpool man recorded his second straight 5 goal season, but managed to add to his assist total (5) and bonus points (26) to complete his impressive tally. It isn't unreasonable to expect this kind of production again this year though perhaps lower the expectations a touch due to the fact that Murphy will struggle to play 37 games again. Gera (5m) could be the value pick if he can establish himself in the first team and Baird (4.5m) could be even better value if he grabbed that final midfield spot as he is classed as a defender.
I am not a big fan of either Johnson or Zamora, who are both effective players but should not garner serious fantasy consideration.
Recommendation: Aaron Hughes gets very few plaudits but the former Newcastle man is as consistent as they come and should give you a steady income of points for just 5m.
Projected Team: Myhill, Mendy, Turner, Gardner, Dawson, Olofinjana, Geovanni, Marney, Ashbee, Cousin, Altidore
I was totally underwhelmed by Hull's team coming into the season and I still fear for their survival this year. The signing of Altidore gives the team a potential star but there is little else to savour in Phil Brown's team.
At the back, many will be drawn to Michael Turner (4.5m) who is decent value and has an impressive score from last year. However, a closer look shows that only 98 points came from defensive sources with the rest made up of goals and assists. Unless you plan to play Turner every week (not advised) then you cannot rely on these points and then Turner just becomes another average defender on a poor team. His teammates should garner no interest save for those needing a minimum player to bury on their bench.
I am equally uninspired by the Tigers midfield, at least until the return of Bullard (6m). Geovanni had a decent year last term but remember that 6 of his 8 goals came in the first 13 games with just 2 in the next 25. Unless you think the Brazilian can start a similar way then stay away as its unlikely he will discover a samba rhythm in Hull on cold winter evenings in December. As with the defense, the rest of the team are merely bench fillers with none providing any inspiration.
Up front comes the excitement with Jozy Altidore, widely regarded as the best US prospect ever to cross the Atlantic. On paper he has it all - pace, power, composure - but he is unproven and so we must not get carried away. He is yet to be added to the fantasy list but if he comes on at 6.5 or less then he might be worth a punt after Hull have got games against Chelsea and Spurs out of the way. Elsewhere, if he gets regular starts, Daniel Cousin has enough ability to warrant some bench consideration for 5m.
Recommendation: Altidore is the only Hull player of interest for me, and even then only if the price is right.
Stay tuned later in the week for parts 3 and 4 of the season preview and as always keep up to date with Twitter for the fantasy slant on all the transfer and injury happenings.