In the interest of time I'm not going to rehash some of the 'big themes' we've already talked about in the off season but I will gently point you in the direction of the below:
- team previews
- general fantasy rules
- some thoughts (guesses) on the new bonus system
- goalkeeper rotation theory, and
- the value of goalscoring defenders
So onto week one. The strength of schedule and goal per game rankings are posted here and I'll be moving them over the weekend into a nicer format, on a permanent page so they're more accessible. I therefore won't repeat them every week in the preview column, instead just referencing the key highlights when needed.
In the early weeks it's tough to predict too much as we basing everything on last year, or on most sites, gut feeling. I try and avoid the latter so the below will be 90% based on facts from prior year, allowing small adjustments for new managers/teammates/girlfriends/haircuts etc, you know, the important stuff.
Clean Sheet Rankings
Full GPG predictions can be found here. I am ranking teams below based on their forecast GPG but I am bullish/bearish on different teams based on other events. I have left the data untouched but I'll chip in with my two cents if I see someone being over/undervalued.
Man City . . . 0.80 GPG prediction . . . 63% home clean sheet rate last season . . . the best bet for the week by far . . . without Tevez and Aguero, Mancini should focus on keeping a clean sheet and letting City's superior talent do enough to win the game . . . back line looks fairly settled with the only real question at left back (Clichy/Kolarov) . . . Kompany looks like the safest bet . . . Richards has a slightly higher upside but is less safe with Zabaleta ready to sub in
Liverpool . . . 0.89 GPG prediction . . . 47% clean sheet rate last season . . . Sunderland failed to score 42% of the time on the road . . . greatly improved under Dalglish and look like a really good unit this year . . . Jose Enrique (5.0m) is the obvious choice and he is going to be owned by every manager with a pulse very soon . . . if you have any intention of owning him in the near future, get him now. His price is all but guaranteed to rise from day one and he's a good play this week.
Fulham . . . 1.18 GPG prediction . . . 47% clean sheet rate last season . . . Villa failed to score 26% of the time on the road . . . could be an elite defense for mid-range price . . . finished last season strong and return almost the whole unit plus Riise . . . Hangeland and Riise are priced like elite options so you'll need offensive points to justify their price tags, which I'm not convinced about yet . . . Hughes looks like the safest option, evidenced by his 8th ranking in defender ownership . . . Schwarzer may well be my prediction for the best value keeper come year end.
Blackburn . . . 0.84 GPG prediction . . . 37% clean sheet rate last season . . . opponents failed to score 37% of the time on the road . . . took some backward steps under Kean last year, not sure if this defense is for real anymore . . . everyone is back but Samba has a knock and might miss out . . . Wolves are an improving team and have a full contingent of players . . . this prediction looks too generous and might be taking into account past success which is far from guaranteed under Kean . . . tread carefully here.
QPR . . . 1.16 GPG prediction . . . Bolton failed to score in 37% of their road games last year . . . conceded just 0.70 GPG last season . . . Gabbidon and Orr are forecast to play yet cost just 4.0m . . . if you're struggling for cash you might consider one of this pair to free cash up to use elsewhere . . . risky but provided you get a good squad, a 4.0m mistake won't cost you too dearly
Stoke . . . 1.26 GPG prediction . . . 37% clean sheet rate at home . . . Chelsea failed to score in 37% of their road games last year . . . it seems ridiculous to play anyone against Chelsea and I wouldn't advise it in GW1 when you're free to shop elsewhere, but the point needs making that on paper this is a decent matchup
Arsenal have a good fixture so
Fabregas Nasri Van Persie looks like a great captain option (yeh I just did the same lame gag in back to back paragraphs, forgive me it's Friday night). If fit, Van Persie could have been the most owned forward but the traditional question marks remain and so he is risky. I am a bit scared of a Fabregas-less Arsenal but if you like Wenger's side to roll on then Van Persie is a nice play this week (be sure to set that vice captain though).
It looks like Suarez might play for Liverpool thus making him an option this week. As with Van Persie, make sure you have a good replacement lined up. I'm more scared here as I could foresee a situation where he gets 20 minutes at the end of the game so only go here if you have no other options.
Rooney is always an option and I probably rank him as the safest premium option to open the season with. I am not however convinced that he will be worth 2.0m more than Hernandez, Suarez and Drogba in the long run. This week he's a decent option and if you own him you probably captain him but on paper at least it won't be one of his better games. It's a similar story with Nani though some are suggesting he might not even play. For me, he starts 26-30 games this year but I concede it isn't a nailed on certainty. Struggled on the road last year so again, might not be his best effort.
For Chelsea, Lampard is a doubt so the options look like Drogba or Malouda. I'm higher on Drogba than most but Stoke are a very good side at home and I for one plan to bring in DD next week. Malouda looks okay but I much prefer Silva and may even lean towards someone like Downing ahead of him based on the fixture.
I'm going to leave it there this week given the lack of empirical evidence we have to go on. I try to avoid pure guess work as much as possible so please forgive the above for being a bit 'chatty'. The next few weeks are going to focused on chalkboard analysis of how managers are deploying certain players along with trying to understand what has changed/stayed the same from last year.
Good luck with your opening team, remember not to take too many risks and not to pay too much attention to this week's fixtures. If anyone has any last minute thoughts/questions I'll be on Twitter and here well into the early hours.