Welcome back everyone. I hope the World Cup kept you all busy over the summer but not so much as to fatigue you for the grueling Premier League season, which is now just three weeks away. The off season has been pretty quiet, and the big money deals normally seen straight after a World Cup have not really materialised as yet. This could complicate matters as last minute transfers may cause you to rethink your team but I think history has shown that arrivals from other leagues often struggle to hit the ground running so unless an undisputed star like Ribery, Higuain etc makes there where to the EPL, you will probably want to hold off anyway.
Without further delay, I have prepared two list of 'sleepers': those who I think will perform above expectations for the upcoming season, and those who don't quite warrant consideration yet but might if one or two things go there way. I have tried to stick to my statistical basis for the predictions but some are also based on a bit of a 'feeling' and so carry a bit more risk.
Under the radar
Theo Walcott (7m)
I can't honestly believe I am typing these words as I have been a major downer on Walcott's career to date, going so far last season as to call him Wenger's second worst ever signing after the disastrous Francis Jeffers deal (who incidentally may be back to bite me too as he looks to secure a deal at newly promoted Blackpool). Anyway, if Walcott can stay fit and keep a spot in the team his fantasy production is useful given the pundits love for Englishmen and his pace allowing him to catch the eye. At last season's production levels he would notch 7 goals, 5 assists, 12 bonus points and 155 points if he were to play 30 games this year. That would have placed him 6th among midfielders in last year's final stats. He isn't a lock to produce and I would want a decent bench player to reduce the risk of rotation but he definitely deserves some attention.
Charlie Adam (5.0m)
Adam managed 16 league goals last season and impressed many pundits following his arrival from Rangers, where to be fair he had enjoyed some success back in 2007. Still only 24, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Adam is still maturing and might be one of the select few who manage to transfer lower league form into EPL success. For 5.0m Adam will give you penalties, free kicks and a guaranteed play every week which as fantasy veterans know, is not to be taken lightly at this point of a uncertain season.
Lee Chung-Yong (5.5m)
There isn't much I don't love about Lee and although I obviously want him to stay at the Reebok, a move to Liverpool would put his value through the roof. Lee had a great World Cup to follow up his fine first season in England and stretching his numbers over a 30 game season would see him add 4 goals, 7 assists and 118 points. Those numbers are conservative given that he has had a full year to settle in to England along with the arrival of the once prolific Martin Petrov (see below) to relieve some pressure in Owen Coyle's side. At 5.5m there is little downside here and if he can catch the eye of the pundits he could enjoy a real breakout season.
David Silva (9.0m)
Okay it's hard to class a £25m signing as under the radar but Silva is currently held but just 3% of managers, likely due to a combination of his recent arrival and manager's distrust of new arrivals. Indeed, I preached caution above when it comes to new arrivals. However, Silva fits into that category of players who will simply excel wherever they play. At 9m you are backing Silva to outscore the likes of Kuyt, Milner and Valencia but I don't see that being a problem for the World Cup winner. City should be one of the higher scoring team this year and they absolutely need to qualify for the Champions League so should be going all out for Mancini or he could face the boot by Christmas. When the season draws to a close I would not be surprised to see Silva up with Lampard and fellow Spaniard Fabregas among the season's top points scorers.
Jonas Gutierrez (5.0m)
Gutierrez caught my eye during his time in the Premier League with Newcastle and I was surprised he stuck around in the Championship with them last year. After a so-so World Cup playing at right back under Maradona's somewhat unorthodox system, Gutierrez should resume his place on the wings for the Magpies and at 5m I like his upside. He should be able to contribute in all categories though he managed just 4 goals last term and 0 in 30 games in the EPL last time so his upside is probably somewhere around Steve Pienaar last year.
Sanli Tuncay (5.5m)
I liked Tuncay after his move to Stoke last season and many would consider that trust to be misplaced after failing to impress last year. However, I feel those criticisms are misplaced and Tuncay actually produced when he was able to get on the field. Expanding his stats over a full season in which he played in just 30 games, he would have added 8 goals, 4 assists, 23 bonus points on his way to 161 total points (more points than Steve Gerrard). I know not much can be gained from pre-season games against Newcastle Town but Tuncay's hatttick can't have hurt his grasp on a first team place in Pulis's side. At 5.5m he is great value and I like his to contribute to a team all season in a mid-price midfielder rotation role.
Thomas Hitzelsperger (5.5m)
I've always been a fan of 'The Hammer' and it seems he is back to old tricks after rifling in a free kick for the Hammers on Friday. He should play every week, contribute goals and assists and may even threaten the bonus category in a West Ham team that lacks too many players to catch the eye. Carlton Cole - who also played with Hitzelsperger at Villa - is already impressed and sounds like his ready to pay the mere 5.5m to get him in his team this year. Expect to hear the words "trademark strike" several times this year.
Just off the radar
Yaya Youre (5.5m)
Toure's fantasy success really depends on the role Mancini has in mind for the former Barcelona man. If he plays him alongside De Jong he should be able to get forward sufficiently to give some fantasy value at 5.5m along the lines of a Bowyer or Diaby from last season. If however, he is the anchor man then much like other talented defensive midfielders like Mascherano and Palacious, he will struggle to make a fantasy impact. At £28m though, he is at least assured to play pretty much every week.
Martin Petrov (6.0m)
It wasn't long ago that Petrov was shining in a so-so City side, turning heads with his direct style and powerful shooting on his way to an impressive fantasy total of 153 points. The arrival of stars like David Silva has rendered him surplus to requirements and he has been wisely picked up by Owen Coyle (to my delight). At 6m he isn't an absolute steal and does carry some risk (his knees have been unreliable to say the least) but if he can prove his fitness in the off season and continue his good form then he deserves at least a thought to make your opening day squad.
Solomon Kalou (7.5m)
Kalou is not 'off radar' in the sense that we haven't heard off him, more that we aren't picking him: his current ownership is just 1.3%. If you extrapolate Kalou's numbers over a season (playing a modest 30 games) then he would contribute 14 goals, 11 assists and 209 points, despite failing to catch the eye of the bonus pundits. Obviously the arrival of Benayoun hurts his value a touch, but with Drogba's fitness uncertain, Anelka should shift into a forward position giving Kalou at least a few weeks to prove his worth. Kalou's second half displays were as good as anyone last year and at 7.5m his value has a long way to go if he starts off this season in similar form.
Stay tuned for further posts on the forwards and defenders I like for the upcoming season, though they may not be up until the 1st August as I head back to China from Hong Kong, where my Twitter and Blogger access is blocked. As always thanks for reading and please comment below or @plfantasy.