My FPL Team: Barzino

Before I take you through the picks for my Fantasy Premier League team, I’ve got a confession to make… I’ve never completed a full season of fantasy football, or even made it passed Christmas.

I hesitate to use the word ‘relationship’ to describe my history with FPL, so instead I’m going to call it an ‘on-and-off fling’. A relationship requires love, attention and commitment, and in the four years since we met, I haven’t given enough of any of them. I ignored FPL for weeks at a time, I cheated with Soccer Manager and Fifa Career Mode and worst of all I left injured players as captain when my team needed me most.

But this time around I’ll be better.

Here are the group of players I’ve tasked with rebuilding my rocky relationship with FPL, one week at a time. No pressure lads!

 

THE GOALKEEPER

First up Hugo Lloris. In the world of fantasy league, a good goalkeeper is just as (if not more) valuable than any striker. They rarely get injured, so you can be confident that they’ll pick up the standard 2 points for playing 60 minutes plus, and there are 4 points up for grabs every time they keep a clean sheet – last season Hugo Lloris led the league in clean sheets (15), so it would he pretty much picked himself. Spurs playing at Wembley this season has scared many managers of choosing the Frenchman between the sticks, but I don’t think… well I hope… that playing at Wembley will lead to the unraveling of Spurs’ tight-knit defence.

 

THE DEFENCE

Public Service Announcement – There will be no Liverpool defenders included in this fantasy league team for fear of conceding 2 goals or more every week.

It’s risky business to choose a defender and goalkeeper from the same team because if that team concedes a goal, you lose not only one but two clean sheets, but as a wise man once told me, “without risk there is no reward”, so I’m taking  a risk and including Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld in my line-up. I’ve got to be honest, It was a toss up between him and his defensive partner Jan Vertonghen, I rate them both equally and clearly so does FPL as they’re both valued at a cool £6 million, with that being said Alderweireld just edges it for me because Verthonghen has picked up his fair share of injuries in recent seasons, so I can’t be certain he’ll play every game. Unlike most defenders Alderweireld isn’t a ‘yellow card magnet’, he was only booked once last season and hasn’t seen a red card in three seasons in the Premier League. I trust him not to let me down.

The second defender picks himself so I’ll keep it short. Last season Manchester United had one of the tightest defences in the league, most of the credit has (rightly) been given to their keeper David De Gea or Jose Mourinho’s defensive style of management, but Eric Bailly ranks high up on the list for reasons why the United defence was so formidable last season. £6 million is a bit steep for a defender who isn’t known to get on the score sheet too often, but I’m looking for clean sheets from my defenders, not goals, so Bailly is the perfect fit.

The First Of A Few New Boys. There are a couple of things I’m yet to see in life… flying pigs,… and a Tony Pulis’ side with a leaky defence. For that reason I’ve got no choice but to include a defender from Pulis’ West Brom side, and £4.5 million new boy Ahmed Hegazi is the cheapest so I’m going with him. There’s no guarantee that Hegazi will start – West Brom already have a settled back-line in Johnny Evans and Gareth McCauley and Pulis has never been an advocate of ‘change for the sake of change’. Admittedly it’s a risk, but it’s a risk that I’m willing to take. As you can probably tell by now, risk plays a big part in my decision-making.

Yup, Another Premier League First-Timer. Having watched Sead Kolašinac play a grand total of two times I’m convinced that he’s Arsenal’s best left back since Gael Clichy, I know that doesn’t mean much but it was enough to earn him a place in my team. His predecessor Monreal never really looked comfortable going forward, but Kolašinac looks equally as adept going forward as he does when defending – so I expect Arsenal to concede less and score more. My decision was also influenced by Arsene Wenger’s tactical switch to a three at the back formation, giving Kolašinac a licence to join in with attacks whenever the opportunity makes itself available…. expect plenty of assists.

 

THE MIDFIELD

The days of the out-an-out striker are dead. Teams are becoming less reliant on one man to score all of their goals and are expecting their midfielders to put up ‘Frank Lampard type numbers’ – For this reason I’ve decided to flood my midfield and be a bit more shrewd with my striker options.

Now For The Midfielders. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is like Kevin De Bruyne for managers on a budget (e.g. Me). Prior to his arrival in England, Mkhitaryan held the title of the assist-king in Germany, notching up 32 assists in all competitions, plus he bagged 25 goals as well (You know the man’s good when his 25 goal tally is only mentioned as a side note). At £8 million he’s relatively cheap, compared to the more pricey alternative plying his trade on the blue side of Manchester – probably because Jose Mourinho took until mid-November to decided that the former Dortmund man was fit to play. So the saying goes, One man’s trash is another man’s starting midfielder. 

Grant Xhaka is probably my riskiest pick (there’s that word again…). He picks up a lot of yellow cards and he’s guaranteed to get sent off at least once this season. However he’s also an unbelievable 5.5 million and a guaranteed starter for Arsenal this year. Arsene Wenger finally seems to have grown tired of playing Francis Coquelin, and is ready to give his £35 million man a chance. I see Xhaka’s partnership with Aaron Ramsey leading to a worthwhile return on my small investment.

Alongside Xhaka I’ve got another bargain buy in the shape of Paul Pogba. I know, I know, the word ‘Bargain’ and ‘Paul Pogba’ together in the same sentence (it’s just as weird to write as it is to read it). Whilst the £89 million that Manchester United splashed out on Paul Pogba last summer is anything but a bargain, his Fantasy League counterpart definitely meets the criteria. At just £8 million, Paul Pogba is the cheapest of the ‘super-midfielders’ (e.g. Coutinho, Hazard, Alli and Kevin De Bruyne) and an absolute steal! Last season he went through a couple teething problems on his return to England, unsure of whether he should be attacking or defending, dribbling or passing, scoring or assisting…. and I think Mourinho didn’t quite know the answer that either, but this year Pogba’s allowed to do whatever he wants! The signing of Nemanja Matic will set Pogba FREE! This year I expect Pogba to be the force of nature he was for Juventus and really take charge of games, whether that be through goals or assists.

 

You may remember right at the beginning of this post I said that I was staying as far away from Liverpool defenders as humanly possible, but I never said anything about the attackers…

 

As a Liverpool fan I’m fully aware of my team’s defensive shortcomings, but I’m also aware of my team’s strengths going forward, namely Sadio Mané. Last season Mane picked up 156 points, placing him a modest 13th on the list of midfielders in Fantasy League. Not very impressive to be honest… but when you take into consideration he missed the middle portion of the season because of the African Cup Of Nations and missed the latter stages because of injury, his points tally sounds a lot more impressive. At a cost of 9.5 million he is slightly pricier than Reds’ new boy Mohammed Salah, but I decided to go for Mané just because he’s more seasoned in the Premier League (4 seasons to be exact) and without AFCON to contend with, he’ll certainly be featuring in more games.

 

 

THE STRIKERS

Up top I’ve got one of the greatest Premier League strikers ever…. and Wayne Rooney. That was a joke by the way people… yeesh tough crowd.

But all jokes aside, I’ve got the utmost confidence in Wayne Rooney to chip in with his fair share of goals and assists this season. The 5 goals he got last season aren’t an accurate reflection of what he’s still got to offer a premier league side. Mourinho built a team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the focal point to his attack, so even when Rooney did get game time, the team wasn’t built to service his needs. At Everton, Rooney gets to be the big dog at his boyhood club with 40,000 plus fans screaming his name every other week, basically there’s no way he’s not getting goals.

But back to the world class striker. Everyone and their uncle has Romelu Lukaku in their FPL team, but I don’t. I’ve decided to go one better and sign up Sergio Aguero – one of the most consistent strikers the Premier League’s ever seen. The Argentine is guaranteed 20 goals a season, and might even get more now that he’s playing alongside a player of similar calibre in Gabriel Jesus. Do I really believe he’ll score more goals than Lukaku? Not really. But I’ve used up my 3 Manchester United picks on Bailly, Mkhitaryan and Pogba so that’s my story and sticking to it.

 

 

THE ‘MICHU PICK’

 

Michu
The ‘Michu Pick’ is named after former Swansea marksman Michu, a player who I took a chance on way back in the 2012/13 season, who ended up netting 18 goals from midfield. In previous seasons I’ve picked players like Charlie Austin and Dimitri Payet.

Every year I do a bit of research on the Premier League new boys and pick the one with lowest profile who I think is most likely to succeed (e.g. The ‘Michu Pick’), this year’s pick is Everton’s Sandro Ramirez. The former Barcelona man was a big hit during his one season at Malaga, scoring 14 goals in 30 games, and I expect him to push on this season and really set the league alight, especially playing alongside an unselfish striker like Rooney.

For the most part I expect to start Aguero every game and partner Rooney or Sandro, but on the odd occasion that Everton are playing against a team I think they’ll run riot on, I’ll probably drop a midfielder and play all three of my frontmen.

So those are the 11, I mean, 12 players that I’m counting on to fix my broken relationship with Fantasy Football.

P.S. This year I’ll be the player you deserve.

Barzino.

 

 

If you want to check out the competition I’m up against this season, check out Jack’s team. It’s alright, not quite as good as mine but the lad gave it a good go…

If you think your team’s as good as mine, prove it and jump in this league!

@TheSoccerSofa: 28619-220309

 

Who’s Your ‘Michu Pick’ This Season? Would Any Of The Players I Chose Get Into Your Team? Which Player Do You Think Will Rack Up The Most Points This Season?

As Usual, Comments Are Encouraged!

 

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