I’m really happy and excited to welcome you to my first of many articles to come for the Fantrax soccer blog. The primary aim of these articles will be to introduce you to the world of fantasy soccer, keep you informed on the latest news from the English Premier League and hopefully help you win a few championships.
Let’s begin with the basics, because let’s face it, in order to play any game, you need to know the basics. A regular fantasy soccer team consists of 11 starters and four bench players (3 forwards, 5 midfielders, 5 defenders and 2 goalkeepers). You choose any formation you want every game week. Just remember, you’re allowed a minimum of three defenders, a minimum of three midfielders and a minimum of one forward (and, of course, one goalkeeper). The main statistical categories are goals scored, assists and clean sheets. How many points a player receives for each depends on the position he plays. For example, Chelsea’s G* Thibault Courtois and D* Marcos Alonso would get four points each for a clean sheet, while M* Cesc Fabregas would get less and F Diego Costa none. Also, forwards get fewer points for goals scored than midfielders and defenders, while assists are worth the same for all outfielders (usually three points). Other categories usually scored are yellow and red cards (minus points), time played (less than 60 minutes – 1 point, more than 60 minutes – 2 points), penalty conceded for defenders (minus points), penalty missed (minus points), own goal (minus points) and saves for goalkeepers (1 point for each 3 saves, 5 points per penalty save). Again, these are the common scoring settings for fantasy soccer games, thus how soccer players are viewed in the fantasy world. Fortunately, Fantrax’s EPL game allows us to set, change and tweak many different settings and choose our own categories scored, so setting up a league becomes fully customizable.
Unlike other fantasy sports, where teams are chosen through drafts, fantasy soccer has always been a salary-cap game. Luckily, Fantrax offers you the option to conduct soccer drafts, as well, if that’s your preferred option. Personally, I like and play both. Regardless of how you decide to play, the logic is the same. Players have values, so the better you choose them, the better your chances are of winning. My general rule of thumb is to get a couple of established stars and then try to create a savvy mix of undervalued and high risk/high reward players. If you, for example, decide to spend most of your salary in a salary cap game on superstars like Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Agüero, Eden Hazard etc. (it’s impossible to achieve this in drafts), then you’re highly unlikely to get enough value from the rest to consistently win. And it will also be very annoying when players you spent so much money on have two, three, four games in a row when they don’t score or they don’t even start/play (trust me, that will happen). It’s a lot less painful when “average” players go through slumps, and they are also easier to replace. The player pool always has inexpensive mid-value free agents. However, if you have Agüero and you want to replace him with a cheaper forward, you’ll have extra money to spend elsewhere and not enough moves allowed to do so (salary cap leagues usually allow only one transfer per week).
Another piece of advice I would give you is to not pay too much attention to matchups. Yes, the odds are higher that a player from Bournemouth will score more fantasy points against newly-promoted Huddersfield than against Manchester City, but don’t take those odds for granted. Too many times I’ve left a player on the bench just because he’s facing a good defensive team, and too many times I’ve regretted that decision. It goes the other way around as well. Just because a bench player is facing a team that concedes often, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should immediately insert him into the lineup. What you should do is ride the “hot hand,” meaning if someone is in form and performing well, place him in your starting lineup and keep him there.
LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES
Summer is considered the dead part of the season for European football. However, for the alert follower, events such as the Under 20 World Cup, the Under 21 European Championship and the Confederations Cup have been showcases for some of the younger talents in the game. Soon after, you’ll read their names in transfer news, and those who reach the EPL will thrust themselves into the sleeper portion of my articles.
The transfer window opened on July 1, and with that some of the rumors have started becoming a reality. Everton has been the most active team, seemingly trying to shape a team that can do battle with the best. Ronald Koeman has recruited his countryman Davy Klaasen from Ajax. England’s U-21 number one goalie Jordan Pickford is now Everton’s No. 1, as well. The Toffies also signed former Barcelona prodigy Sandro Ramirez from Malaga in what could be one of the sneakiest bargain moves this offseason. And to top it all off, one of the most improved central defenders of last season, Burnley’s Michael Keane will fill the void left by last season’s John Stones departure. The rumor mill even has Mourinho’s castaway Wayne Rooney coming back to Everton (something that perhaps appeared far-fetched yesterday is close to being truth today). So for fantasy purposes, Everton players should be vaulting up ranking lists.
Southampton and Crystal Palace have new managers in the names of Manuel Pellegrini and Frank DeBoer, respectively. I see both as great hires. Pellegrini is well experienced in the Premiership and will keep The Saints relevant. DeBoer is one of the best young coaches in Europe, and while his success has been suspect, he should breathe some new life into a Palace team stuck in mediocrity.
[the_ad id=”384″]The top teams have been surrounded by speculations, as always. Champions Chelsea has been offloading youth academy products and collecting investment capital. Some of that is intended for Juve’s Alex Sandro in one of the most talked about potential moves in the early summer. Roma’s German international Anthony Rüdiger is another defender high on the wanted list. Both would be excellent signings. The team signed Willy Caballero to replace Asmir Begovic, who himself signed for Bournemouth in hopes of being No. 1 once again. Another developing story is the departure of controversial striker Diego Costa, who is bound for a return to Atletico Madrid. Chelsea wants a replacement before letting him go, with Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku the two primary options.
Pep Guardiola decided to let go of Zabaleta, Clichy, Sagna and Caballero among others, setting up a defensive rehaul. Many targets have been mentioned, such as Monaco’s left back Benjamin Mendy, yet the only confirmed additions are Portugal winger Bernardo Silva and Ederson. Silva had a terrific season for Monaco and proved his worth on international scale during the European U-21 Championship. He should be an integral piece in Pep’s plans for the upcoming season. As should be former Benfica goalkeeper Ederson. In my opinion, Claudio Bravo’s struggles last season were a mirage, but that didn’t stop Pep from completing a move for what he thinks should be the ideal goalkeeper for his system – a goalkeeper who can pass. Ederson was renowned in Portugal for his long accurate passes. He should be The Citizens’ new No. 1 goalie.
Liverpool made the biggest splash by agreeing to terms with Roma’s Mohamed Salah. The speedy Egyptian should fit right in opposite Sadio Mane. He will be looking to prove that his disappointing spell with Chelsea from 2014 to 2016 was a fluke. The Reds also signed Dominic Solanke, which on paper is just another transfer. However, it could pay dividends in the long run because the 19-year-old forward led England to the U-20 World Cup victory and was the best player of the tournament. Chelsea may eventually regret selling him to a rival.
Jose Mourinho has been reportedly frustrated at the lack of activity by Manchester United. Although there has been a lot of talk, Benfica’s Victor Lindelof is the only new signing. He required a hefty fee of 35 million euros (40 million US dollars) plus add-ons in bonuses that can inflate the fee for about 10 million euros more. Safe to say he’ll be hard pressed to justify all that money. I do believe he’s a very good signing. Many people raised their eyebrows when the first thing Mou did when he came over as United’s manager was bring in then-relatively unknown Villarreal central back Eric Bailly. It turned out to be a great move. So, I assume Lindelof’s signing will be no different. Other than that, Nemanja Matic’s transfer from Chelsea is all about done. It’s a matter of time when the Portuguese manager will reunite with one of his personal favorites from the Chelsea days. The Morata saga, on the other hand, seems to have no end. There have been astronomical offers for his services for two summers already, but Real Madrid is hesitant to give him up, knowing they would be a Benzema injury away from a life without a true striker if they were to sell. I tend to think he’ll remain a Galactico, and The Red Devils will have to look elsewhere for a replacement for Ibrahimovic, whose contract wasn’t renewed.
Note: The latest news has Manchester United reportedly agreeing on a transfer fee with Everton for Romelu Lukaku, practically hijacking his long anticipated move back to Chelsea and reuniting him with the manager who never trusted him and chased him away from Chelsea in the first place – Jose Mourinho.
After endless pressure, Arsenal seems to have finally come to terms with the fact that they need to open up the bank account and spend if they want to avoid a repeat of the previous few seasons. Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette has long been on their wish list, and although the price to be paid is high, the deal is all about done. Mahrez has also been rumored to be heading out of Leicester, and Arsenal has stepped up their efforts in the hunt for the Algerian, especially since Oxlade-Chamberlain is on his way out. If they were to sign both Lacazette and Mahrez, The Gunners immediately would become a title contender once again. Bosnian Sead Kolasinac has come over from Schalke 04 to enhance a rocky defense in the only confirmed move until now.
As for the other clubs, Tottenham has been fairly quiet, but that’s not going to last long. Bournemouth, however, has added Jermain Defoe, Nathan Aké and Asmir Begovic to their squad. Aké spent half a season on loan in Bournemouth during which he was so impressive that Chelsea’s Conte decided to re-call him in January. He didn’t get his opportunity, though, and was transferred to a team that really likes him and for which he will actually play. I’ll talk about Defoe in more detail later on.
West Ham has added experience in the back by signing Pablo Zabaleta and Jose Fonte. Watford boosted their squad with two English internationals – Will Hughes and Tom Cleverley, both underrated players. Leicester City and Stoke City have strengthened their midfields by bringing in Spaniard Vicente Iborra from Sevilla and free agent Darren Fletcher, respectively, while West Bromwich will look to solve some of its problems up front by acquiring Southampton outcast Jay Rodriguez.
Newly promoted sides have been unusually active and making record bids in hopes of remaining in the top flight for more than a season. Brighton signed Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan from Valencia in an attempt to fix one of their biggest weaknesses. Huddersfield made Aaron Mooy’s loan from Manchester City permanent. That was an important move, as he was a key cog in the promotion. They’ve also signed attacker Laurent Depoitre from Porto and Derby County’s Tom Ince. Ince is a player to keep an eye on fantasy wise. The only one not making too much noise, at least for now, is Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United, .
SLEEPERS AND PLAYERS TO WATCH
It’s still too early to put players in the bust category. Teams need to take shape before I get a clearer picture of who you should avoid picking. Until then, let’s focus on some sleepers.
I’ll start with Tammy Abraham. He renewed his contract with Chelsea, but that didn’t stop The Blues from shipping him off to Swansea on a season-long loan. I saw Abraham play during the U-21 tournament. He’s a true number 9, started all games for England, and despite having defenses focused on him as the only forward, he managed to make his presence felt. The Welsh side’s scoring problems have long been an issue. If Abraham gets a shot to not only start here and there, but adjust to the starting lineup by being there consistently, you will have yourself a cheap and valuable commodity. In salary cap leagues, you should wait and see how he’s going to be used. In draft leagues, he’s a last-round bench gamble with upside.
Next, I have Jermain Defoe. The oldy but goody keeps defying odds and refusing to give up the top 10 forward spot in fantasy circles. His role in Bournemouth won’t be any different than it was in Sunderland. The only difference is that his motivation might be higher, since Bournemouth is the team that sprung him to the big stage. The person he is, he will want to return the favor. You could do much worse with your third striker.
And last but definitely not least, Nathan Redmond. This is a player who had seen his playing time with Norwich City and Southampton fluctuate drastically since joining the Premier League until the second half of last season. Then everything just clicked and he was finally able to show what he’s capable of. A pacy dribbler if ever there was one, Redmond also has a great shot and a knack for making plays when it matters most. He took his great form from the end of the season to the U-21 Euros, and he didn’t disappoint. One of England’s best performers, he was a threat whenever the ball was at his feet, and a nightmare for defenders. He assists and he scores. He’s one of my favorite sleepers heading into the new season and will be a member of my fantasy roster.
That’s about it for now. Feel free to pose any questions or leave comments below. I’ll be more than glad to discuss the EPL with you. In the meantime, look for my next article a week from now.
G/GK = Goalkeeper
D/DF = Defender
M/MF = Midfielder
F/FW = Forward