It is nearly time to finalise your team. Bragging rights with friends and work colleagues are at stake, and that’s why it’s so important to take a little longer to make sure you have got your team well balanced and optimised to get you as many points as possible. That way you stand the best chance of taking home your mini league crown.
Last season, I managed to win not only my work league but also The Boot Room league. I finished inside the top 9000 overall which is inside the top 0.3%. I did this by sticking to a few principles, taking in lots of information, but also making a few mistakes along the way; so here are my top tips for this up coming season.
1. Have a balanced team.
The most important thing is to be flexible but also to have your money is the right place. There is no point in having all the most expensive defenders and then bargain basement forwards – don’t forget they are the ones who get the most points. For this very reason I play a 3-4-3, with one big hitting forward £9.5m+, a mid-price striker £7m+, and a budget striker. In the midfield again another big hitter with either three mid price or two mid price and one budget. In defence, I go with one premium £5.5m+ and all the rest under that price. What this allows is you to be able to jump on any in form player quickly without spending points on extra transfers.
2. Keep your transfers
This is a fairly simple one; try and roll your transfers over, this allows you far more flexibility in your transfers. You can then downgrade one player to upgrade another, whereas if you only have one transfer that upgrade wouldn’t be possible without taking a -4 point hit which really is worth avoiding. Sometimes it’s better to field 11 players that will start rather than take the hit trying to make transfers.
3. Look at the fixtures
If you can look ahead around 4-6 game-weeks you can avoid pitfalls. For instance, if the defender you are about to get in has to play all top four sides in a row it is highly unlikely that he is going to pick up many points. Again for attacking returns if there is a striker who has the bottom three as his next opponents he could well have a scoring spree. It is not something to live and die by but certainly has to come into consideration alongside individual and team form.
4. Set Piece Takers
When stuck between two players, one who takes the penalties, free kicks or corners can give your team an edge. An example this year would be Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey; they are the same price, in the same team, but Santi’s role as a set piece taker boosts his chances of bringing home the points. It is especially important when looking at cheaper players in smaller teams. Again this year an example being Troy Deeney, who is Watford’s penalty taker as well as being the main man. Jordan Henderson also looks good value at £7.0m, because without Gerrard, he is likely to take on set piece duties.
5. Look Beyond The Top 6
Take all the other things mentioned into consideration and don’t be afraid to pick players from outside the top six teams, especially in defense. It’s best to save money at the back, so teams that keep it tight and pick up clean sheets are a good place to look, Leicester and Sunderland are good examples. Also in an attacking sense one of the must have players for the first half of last season was Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea because of what he returned for his price. Charlie Austin last season gave great returns for his price helped by being on penalties and being QPR’s only real threat. Look closely and try to guess who that hidden gem is going to be.
6. Head over heart
Just a short one. Forget who you support and who you hate; two examples from me. Last season I decided not to hold off bringing in Aguero because he was playing Spurs. He scored 4. Enough said. The season before I refused to bring in Ramsey because I just ‘knew’ it was a fluke, he wasn’t actually that good. He was.
- A big hitter: Cech, £5.5m
- Clean sheets and lots of saves: Pantillimon, £5.0m
- Rotation: Jack Butland and John Ruddy, £4.5m
- The premium option: Laurent Koscielny, £6.0m
- Mid-price: Cedric, £5.0m
- Budget: Huth, £4.5m
- Must have: Eden Hazard, £11.5m
- Explosive: Theo Walcott, £9.0m
- Mid-price: Dimitri Payet, £7.5m
- Rotation: Riyad Mahrez, £5.5m, Matt Ritchie, £6.0m, Andrew Surman, £4.5m
- Fantasy legend: Sergio Aguero
- Must have: Wayne Rooney, £10.5m
- Mid-price: Christian Benteke, £8.5m, Graziano Pelle, £8.0m
- Rotation: Callum Wilson, £5.5m, Troy Deeney, £5.5m
It’s a tough set of opening fixtures for fantasy managers.
The opening game of the day sees Man United face Spurs; a game in which anything could happen – a strong United performance would make Rooney a must have. Bournemouth are at home to Villa so that may sway some people towards Callum Wilson. Owners of Everton defenders will be hoping for a good start against Watford. Leicester v Sunderland is the perfect start for Huth and Pantillimon owners. Norwich at home to Palace could see a good start for the London club with the likes of Bamford and Puncheon being good options. The late kick off on the day being Chelsea v Swansea, a tough game and a fixture in which Hazard has only scored once in eight appearances.
On the Sunday, Arsenal face a West Ham side who will have had Europa League duties on the Thursday. This points to a comfortable win for the Gunners. Newcastle, who are something of an unknown quantity under Steve McLaren, welcome Southampton to the North East; it shouldn’t be a fixture to put you off your Saints options. In a rematch of the final game of the season Stoke take on Liverpool; Stoke ran out 6-1 winners last time out, so anything could happen – both teams to score is likely. And finally, Monday night’s fixture West Brom are up against Manchester City. Despite the Pulis defense, City are still capable of scoring a few and Raheem Sterling is the standout option.
The two obvious choices are Hazard and Rooney. The safe bet is Hazard – his record against Swansea is poor, but how much does that really matter? On the other hand, Rooney has scored 8 in his last 9 against Spurs making him a fantastic option as well. For me, I’m going Hazard. I think the game at Old Trafford will be slow and disjointed and could end up being a 0-0 or 1-1.
Best of luck to everyone and don’t get disheartened if you have a bad first week, there is a very long way to go and it is a very tough week to call![separator type=”thin”]
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Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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