All over the country, there is an air of anticipation and nervous tension. No, I’m not talking about the riots, instead, my focus is on the start of the new Premier League football season.
With the big kick-off coming this Saturday, fans ranging from Champions Manchester United all the way down to Welsh new-boys Swansea City, are all as excited as a looter in a Curry’s Superstore. Summer signings have been evaluated, season previews read and predictions, many from the heart rather than the head, have been made. For many a football fan, one important task of pre-season has also been carried out; this year’s Fantasy Football team has been picked!
Fantasy Football offers the average fan a chance to show off their managerial talent, something which normally only surfaces in the world of Championship Manager. With thousands of people playing on sites such as Fantasy Premier League or Sky Sports, the chances of winning one of the weekly, monthly or overall prizes are slim. Where Fantasy Football really comes into its own though, is with the ability to set-up Private Leagues, where fans can invite their mates to determine the Alex Ferguson’s and Avram Grant’s of their social circle.
Given a transfer kitty of £100m to pick a squad of 15 Premier League players doesn’t sound that tricky does it? But it is a lot harder than it looks. If you dive straight in and pick all the star forwards, you are left with no money for the defence. With a limit on the number of players you can select from one club, you are unable to fill it with all of your favourite teams’ players. Then there is the moral dilemma on whether or not to pick a player from a rival side. If you are a Liverpool supporter, do you stay away from United’s Wayne Rooney, or pick him with the notion that every goal he scores will come with the silver lining of fantasy points for your team?!
So what is the best way of picking your fantasy team? Well, club loyalties have to go out of the window. If you want to do well, you’ve got to pick the best players regardless of who they play for. The players whom you pick need to be regulars who will play every week, no point picking someone like Fabio Aurelio who will play one game then miss four. If there are players you simply must have in your side, pick them then see what money you have left. But bear in mind it may leave you with no option than to fill the rest of your team with never-been-tried reserves from Wigan or Swansea. A good tactic is to look at the transfer goings on. If you know a big club is after a player, get him in. In the current Official Premier League game, Newcastle’s Jose Enrique is relatively cheap at £5.0m. With a move away likely, Enrique will probably get more points than his price suggests.
As for positions, you must take into account how each position will score points. Goalkeepers and defenders need to consistently keep clean sheets, whilst contributing in an attacking capacity is a welcome bonus. Your midfielders should be creative. Last year, Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong impressed in a holding midfield role, but Fantasy Football- wise, he only scored 80 points. On the other hand, despite featuring less, the more attack-minded Adam Johnson scored 104 points, 24 more than the Dutch midfielder. Up-front is where the majority of your points will be scored. Rooney or Luis Suarez are obvious candidates. With money tight, good shouts for partnering them are cheaper options like West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie or Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge.
Once your team is picked and the season is started, the hard work really kicks in. With 15 players, you can swap or change your team on a weekly basis, whilst a transfer system allows you to delve into the market when injury or bad form strikes. The winners of the Fantasy football competitions come into their own with transfers, purchasing a striker just before he goes on a scoring spree, or selling a defender before his team start leaking goals on a regular basis.
No matter if you finish top or bottom of the fantasy league though; playing it gives extra excitement to the Premier League season. As well as supporting your favourite team, you find yourselves looking out for the performances of your chosen 15. More and more websites are offering the opportunity to join their Fantasy Leagues. So go on, give it a go. Are you the next Guardiola or the next Glenn Roeder?
Here is my team for the Official Fantasy Premier League 2011/12:-
Goalkeeper – Pepe Reina
Defenders – Jamie Carragher, Phil Jagielka, Vincent Kompany, Jose Enrique
Midfielders – Joey Barton, Luka Modric, Yaya Toure, Charles Nzogbia
Strikers – Luis Suarez, Darren Bent
Subs:- Dorus De Vries, Phil Jones, Jack Rodwell, Daniel Sturridge