Thibault Courtois – The reigning champions’ shot stopper is the most sure-fire pick in any draft. Not only is he one of the best keepers in the world, he also has a great back four in front of him and plays for an Italian coach who used to be a defender. That leaves him unoccupied most of the time, and he’s usually up for the challenge when called upon to make a save or two.
David De Gea – Playing for what should be an improved team overall, De Gea could have the most clean sheets since he joined Manchester United. Don’t forget, Jose Mourinho is a defense-first coach with a counter-attacking mentality, so his No. 1 priority is not to concede.
Hugo Lloris – For many years, Tottenham struggled for consistency. Mauricio Pochettino has finally changed that. And while most people see the Spurs as an offensive team, you’d probably be surprised to find out they conceded the least number of goals in the Premier League last season. Logically, you’d want to have that team’s goalie on your fantasy roster. Just be wary of the fact that Kyle Walker left, and although his replacement Kieran Trippier is very capable, he’s not as reliable defensively.
Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea’s full backs are two different types of players and both profit from Chelsea’s (Conte’s) style of play, which relies heavily on side backs participating in the offensive build up, as well as making deep runs into opposition territory. Alonso is worse defensively, but he’s more valuable of the two because of the ability to be in the right place at the right time and has a great left foot, which produces excellent curling crosses and free kicks.
[the_ad id=”384″]Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy – When Guardiola decided to part ways with most of his full backs, it was clear that he was up to something. He had set his eyes on two players, and City didn’t let up until they became Citizens. They will be hard pressed to justify the hefty price tags, but as far as fantasy is concerned, Walker and Mendy immediately become two of the best options you can roster. Although Pep’s teams are never going to keep a lot of clean sheets, Walker and Mendy are fast, strong and exceptional offensively.
James Milner – This is a player whose fantasy value comes purely from being the team’s primary penalty taker. How long that’s going to last, especially on a team full of technicians, is anyone’s guess. That, and the fact that Klopp likes to put balls into opposition nets more than he likes to keep them from entering his own, make Milner the ultimate high-risk, high-reward pick.
Leighton Baines – Baines’ forté is set pieces … all of them. Despite having slowed down at the age of 32, as long as that left foot works, he’s going to find a place in Everton’s starting lineup. He’ll likely drop below face value in most drafts because of the very limited upside. Unless you’re in a dynasty league, though, don’t let him drop too far.
Antonio Valencia – There might be better options out there on a game-to-game basis, yet no one can compare with Valencia’s durability. He’s on the field for 90 minutes every game and has come a long way for a player once considered injury prone. Serge Aurier’s arrival could cut into his playing and decrease his playing time, but I’m willing to take my chances with the Red Devil regardless.
Gary Cahill and David Luiz – Again, I begin with Chelsea players. After all, there is a reason why they won the title. Most soccer pundits couldn’t get their heads around Conte’s decision to acquire a player who previously already had a forgettable spell at the club. Well, it turns out he knew what he was doing all along. David Luiz transformed from a flamboyant risk taker to a stable, ball playing defender. His fantasy value has grown accordingly. The potential to blast long range free kicks is an added bonus, as is Gary Cahill’s ability to find the net on set pieces. I bet John Terry had some influence there. Cahill is a boring pick, but boring picks can still lead to glory.
Toby Alderweireld – Like I mentioned in my prior articles, the main objective when drafting a defender is to get a player who not only plays for team that doesn’t allow goals, but who can also add points through other categories, particularly goals and assists. The difficult-to-pronounce Alderweireld is the epitome of this statement. Aggressive by nature, he doesn’t take no for an answer. You will feel that on your fantasy team, too. If you draft him, chances are your team will prosper.
Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen – You can’t go wrong with Dele Alli, who can score in so many ways. The young superstar is the ultimate all-around fantasy performer. Eriksen, on the other hand, is in charge of all set pieces and is an assist machine. He even finds the back of the net from free kicks every now and then.
Kevin De Bruyne – Selling De Bryune was one of Mourinho’s biggest career blunders. Having proven his worth in Germany, he took his talents back to England. Although Manchester City’s rough season was somewhat reflected in his performances, you could hardly notice looking at his fantasy numbers. No. 1 in assists with 21 (Eriksen was second with 20), De Bruyne is a game-changer in every aspect. His skills are undeniable, and it’s scary to think what his ceiling is. Last season was just an introduction. The team is going to be better in 2017/18. A less turbulent campaign could translate into De Bruyne becoming the highest scorer in fantasy.
Gylfi Sigurdsson – After so many players from the top-tier teams, we finally have a small change of pace in the Icelander playing for a Welsh side (Swansea), which was on the brink of relegation last season. Sigurdsson is basically a copy of Eriksen, just playing for a worse team. And that might not be the case for long, as Everton seems to be waiting for Ross Barkley to be sold to Tottenham in order to finance Gylfi’s much talked about move to Goodison Park. That would increase his fantasy value even further.
Alexis Sanchez – The Alexis Sanchez transfer saga has rumbled on throughout the summer, yet he’s still a Gunner. Even an unhappy Sanchez is a top 10 fantasy Sanchez. So, as long he’s wearing an Arsenal shirt, he’s a well worthy (albeit risky) top 3 pick as a midfielder who scores like a forward.
Eden Hazard – The diminutive Belgian is a sight to behold with the football at his feet. He’s streaky, but when he’s on his game, he can decide outcomes on his own. Oh, and Eden is also Chelsea’s primary penalty kick taker. As long as the injury bug doesn’t strike, he’s going to be one of the best fantasy soccer players there is.
Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah – Jurgen Klopp’s attractive, attacking-minded football has its benefits. Apart from being fun to watch, his teams also score often. And that’s terrific for fantasy. The main scorers (assists and goals) in his formation are the wings. Mané was ranked a bit lower at season’s end because he missed a month playing for Senegal at the African Cup of Nations, and he was still a top 20 performer. Now, The Reds have another extra quick, dazzling dribbler to go along with him in Salah. The Egyptian is hoping the make a triumphant comeback to English soccer. I’m firmly convinced he’s going to be successful this time around, forming the deadliest duo in the Premier League, and in fantasy circles. I fully expect both of them to be top 20 performers when is all set and done.
Harry Kane – Not many anticipated Kane’s rise to stardom. He came out of nowhere and never turned back. A complete forward and a true No. 9 if ever there was one, he has disappointed everyone waiting for him to fail and start fading away. He does tend to have scoreless stretches, but he then more than makes up for it. He has scored at least 20 goals for three years running, has led the league in goals during the past two campaigns, and is also his team’s penalty taker. Enough said.
Sergio Agüero – This is a make-or-break season for “Kun.” Nobody doubts his effectiveness on the field. The problem is that he spends too much time off it. Guardiola brought Gabriel Jesus as a backup to Agüero while he was on the sidelines. However, Jesus proved he can easily take over as the starter, so now it’s time for the ultra-talented scorer from Argentina to show who’s who in the food chain. Despite the presence of Gabriel Jesus, I believe Agüero will have a great season and might even end up being the league’s top scorer everyone expects him to be every year.
Romelu Lukaku – It remains to be seen how Mourinho-Lukaku Part 2 unfolds. Judging by Part 1, it might not be too much fun for the Belgian. Nevertheless, he should be United’s main threat in front of goal, and an Ibra-like point total is possible if everything clicks. I’d say that’s the ceiling. This is a world-class scorer, so I like his fantasy potential; I’m just hesitant about the fit. That, and Rashford’s presence.
Alvaro Morata – Another newcomer, Morata has been on Chelsea’s radar since the winter. They preferred Lukaku, but they had to settle for the Spaniard, which I don’t see as settling at all. If anything, they might have even gotten the better player. He’s finally going to get the chance to start every match. Costa performed when it mattered most and was one of the best fantasy players. Therefore, Morata has some big shoes to fill. We’re about to see whether he’s capable. I’m jumping on the Alvaro Morata bandwagon. Are you?
Roberto Firmino – Lastly, we have an underrated player in the Brazilian Roberto Firmino. He tends to get lost in conversations, mainly because he’s not a true striker. He’s not, and that’s not a bad thing. He simply fits the system he plays in and knows how to play the game of soccer. Inconsistent playing time is an issue with Firmino, but if you miss out on the four above, he’s a great fall-back option.