Saturday, August 11, 2012

Team Previews Part I: The Promoted

Following on from the earlier piece on what we can expect from the promoted teams, it's time to delve into the individual players and see who might have a fantasy impact this year. In the last couple of seasons we've seen the likes of Charlie Adam, Michel Vorm and Gylfi Sigurdsson emerge from relative  obscurity to become fantasy forces with close to must own status. Will we see the same this year?

On first glance, I think everyone's assumption will be no. Though they weren't perhaps household names, Adam and Sigurdsson were fairly well respected around the game having already enjoyed big seasons in the UK (Sigurdsson scored 17 goals with Reading in 2009-10 while Adam had enjoyed a couple of successful seasons with Rangers). This year's promoted class is a combination of unknowns and somewhat uninspiring familiar names with few players enjoying the kind of huge upside we can dream on. That said, I believe there is value here and it's highly likely that a couple of players from this group become at least useful squad members.

I will add a couple of suggestions for each team, as well as addressing any widely held players who I perhaps like less than the masses.

West Ham (aka Bolton 2.0)
Projected lineup: Jaaskelainen (4.5), McCartney (4.0), Tomkins (4.5), Collins (5.0), Reid (4.5), Taylor (5.0), Nolan (6.0), Noble (5.0), Collison (5.0), Maiga (5.5), Cole (5.5)

If the above lineup is right then McCartney could be a valuable commodity, even if West Ham don't project to be a particularly strong defense. The arrival of Collins and now Diame and Diarra indicate that Allardyce is aware on the need to strengthen at the back, with the midfield duo providing options should Big Sam wish to roll out a more conservative lineup. It isn't immediately obvious who will steal minutes from McCartney, but the market makers obviously have their doubts as indicated by his lower price. He was players' player of the year last season and just signed a two year deal so barring any other arrivals, he looks like one of the safer 4.0m options around.

Jaaskelainen is currently held by 8% of managers which seems high to me, particularly given the availability of Begovic/Sorensen for 4.5m. Perhaps the uncertainty of who will start there is pushing down their value, but even then I'd probably look to several other teams whose keepers are 4.5m or less before turning to Jussi.

Before the price list was released I had ear marked my old friend Kevin Nolan as a potential buy, simply because he has proven time and again that he is a natural goalscorer. I'm not a big fan of such terms but I can attest that is his final seasons at Bolton was clearly lacking match fitness, but when played he converted chances at a very high rate. He has 41 goals in the past three seasons, one of which was in the Premier League with Newcastle. He should deliver solid points returns this year and probably comes with a higher goals upside than most of his similarly priced peers. We've had plenty of solid ~6.0m players in the past but looking at this year's list, the offerings look a tad thin. The majority of options who had success last year have some questions over the starting place, which of course Nolan does not. I would have felt more comfortable with a 5.5m price tag but I still like Nolan as a 4th midfielder type and West Ham's good looking opening fixtures make him a solid option to open the season with.

I generally stay away from new signings without Premier League experience, unless they are proven to be genuine stars and thus Maiga won't be on my shortlist. He brings a decent, though unspectacular, scoring record from France with him but I see him more in the speculative flyer category rather than a genuine rising star of world football. He might pan out but I need to see him first.

Projected lineup: Davis (4.5), Fox (4.5), Hooiveld (4.5), Fonte (4.0), Richardson (4.5), Cork (4.5), Hammond (4.5), Guilherme (5.5), Lallana (6.0), Lambert (6.0), Rodriguez (5.5)

As with McCartney above, I don't love the prospects of this unit, but anytime you get a defender coming in cheaper than his teammates - particularly one at 4.0m - it bears mentioning. Fonte started 42 league games last year and the new arrivals have been minimal so he should continue to hold down that spot barring any further changes. I wouldn't plan on playing him often but if you like your squad to be  a mixture of stars and scrubs, you could worse than him for 4.0m.

Lambert will likely attract the most attention of all the Saints players, and rightly so given his 27 goals last term. What's even more encouraging to me were his 14 assists, suggesting he should be able to contribute consistent fantasy points, even when the goals aren't flowing. Add in a decent ability with free kicks and perfect penalty record and you've got a player who is deservedly on our radar. The issue, of course, is that last year was his first in even the second tier of football and the step up to the Premier League will be another big one.

You have to be encouraged by Lambert's size and power, which I'd anecdotally suggest transfer better across leagues than speed, and the penalties will certainly help even out his points. Jay Rodriguez is unarguably the more naturally talented player, and on paper at least, looks like an even better prospect (I'm a little surprised his price is lower than Lambert). He didn't score as many last year as Lambert (15) but they came in just 34 games and on 38 shots, as well as coming in a variety of ways. Lambert is the safer pick for sure but if anyone from the promoted sides is going to have a Adam/Sigurdsson type impact, it could well be Rodriguez.

Projected lineups: Federici (4.5), Shorey (4.5), Mariappa (4.0), Pearce/Gorkss (4.5/4.0), Gunter (4.0), Robson-Kanu (4.5), Leigterwood (5.0), Karacan (4.5), McAnuff (5.5), Pogrebnyak (5.0), Le Fondre/Hunt (5.0)

My knowledge of West Ham’s team is tantamount to my understanding of the periodic table: I knew all about it in high school but haven’t thought about it in detail for several years. Southampton would then be the laws of physics: I’m aware they exist and I’ve heard of the principle ideas but that’s about it. Reading’s lineup is quantum physics or string theory: in many cases I first heard of the players about a month ago and still can barely even pronounce some of the names. The following paragraphs are therefore going to be short.

The backline looks like it could be significantly altered with Shorey, Mariappa and Gunter all arriving over the summer. Assuming they didn’t leave their former teams to ride the bench, we can probably assume they will get first crack at the starting eleven to open the season. Mariappa stands out as coming with the lowest price tag and a relatively secure starting spot and looks like another decent third sub option. Reading don’t have the offensive firepower of West Ham or Southampton which could lead to a more cautious approach and with it defensive reward. I don’t love the unit but they have some Premier League experience now and 4.0m is always a good price for a starter.

McAnuff is a relatively well known prospect and he enjoyed a decent season last time out with 5 league goals and 11 assists. This may be a stretch, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that player scoring decreases in the same way and at the same rate as team scoring (ie promoted teams score just 70% as many goals as they did in the Championship). Averaging McAnuff’s appearances from last season over a 34 Premier League season (very few players manage to play every game), including an adjusting factor for a presumed decline, would give him 7 assists and 3 goals. 32 regular starters achieved those goals last year including the likes of Ben Arfa, M Petrov, Eagles and Hoolahan, all of whom were similarly priced to McAnuff. In short then, he’s probably fairly priced but the market makers have already baked in a decent amount of upside into his price. To justify inclusion you’ll want him to perform like a 6-6.5m player, which would mean seeing little decline from his stats from prior year, and that looks like a stretch to me.

I’m sure a few will be tempted by Pogrebnyak up top, thanks to his goal scoring record last season, averaging around a goal every 90 minutes. However, he scored those six goals last season on just seven shots on target, so unless you believe he could be one of the most clinical forwards of a generation (and yet was still not signed for free by Fulham), it’s almost inevitable that he will see some regression there. Throw in that chances will likely be fewer and further between in Reading colours than at Fulham and the gloss quickly comes of the Russian's coat. That said, 5.0m forwards are hard to find and with the midfield looking fairly deep this year, many may be tempted to sit their third front man on a regular basis. Right now I would probably say he is the safest of the 5.0m options, though higher upside can be found in the intriguing 5.5m group (Rodriguez, Cole, Maiga, Di Santo, F Campbell, Morison etc). I wouldn't be thrilled to have him around and would try and free up an extra 0.5m to get someone else but he deserves at least a presence on the radar. 


Bryan McKenna said...

Cheers Chris, will be interested to see your preview of Man City and your thoughts on the Tevez vs Aguero debate :-)

held5034 said...


I currently have Clyne in my lineup from Southampton. I do not see him on your list of projected starters, yet he has been starting every preseason game and has been getting up field quite a bit. Any thoughts?

Kalix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jacque_mofo said...

no ian harte ?