Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Leicester hit a Jonathan Moss sized bump and Tottenham subsequently close the gap at the top to 5 points. We know for sure now that Villa are down, but which North-East side is joining them and will Norwich be there to follow them? 5 lessons learnt from a tumultuous Premier League weekend.

Sunderland prolong the relegation battle

The scrap for survival could have been settled this weekend, but Sunderland have given it a new lease of life. Combined with Newcastle’s win the tussling could continue right down to the final weekend. After looking sharp at times against Leicester last weekend, the Black Cats secured their first win in 7 emphatically. It felt a fair victory as Sunderland have clearly improved since their January additions. In comparison, Norwich have sort of been the opposite: scraping wins here and there despite looking just as poor as they have done all season.

Jermaine Defoe, as said before in this space, does very little to help his team win in his overall performances. But the fact of the matter is he gets shots off at a good clip and scores a decent amount of them and he’s probably been a net positive for Sam Allardyce’s side. After hosting Arsenal, they’ll face three iffy defences in Stoke, this weird iteration of Chelsea and Everton. For his price, Defoe looks a nice budget shout in those gameweeks.

Newcastle finally perform

Frankly it feels like Newcastle have won about 3 times all season. The league table tells us this is a lie and that at the Magpies have actually had 7 victories. Their most recent one over Swansea was crucial. Anything other than 3 points would have essentially sent them down but capitalising on a flagging Swansea squad and Sunderland’s win, Newcastle will now have the smallest of chances to escape. The gap to safety is only 3 points (with a game in hand) but it looks all the more gaping when seeing 3 of Newcastle’s final 5 fixtures are against some of the form sides of the division – Manchester City, Liverpool and then Spurs on the final day.

Andros Townsend made his presence felt on the scoresheet for the second time in as many games, which basically constitutes a blazing hot streak of form for a Newcastle player. The defence notched a clean sheet and it was well deserved after limiting Swansea to purely half chances. On the other end 3 goals probably flattered them as a couple of scrappy efforts found their way into the back of the net. All in all, I don’t feel so hot about picking up any Newcastle players, more because of their death row of fixtures than anything else. The overriding feeling is that it’s a shame we didn’t see a well-coached Newcastle team all season rather than their McClaren mess that last far too long.

Rashford an enigma going into next season

What with their cross-town rivals picking up speed again, the Champions League looks well beyond Manchester United now. It’s mostly just van Gaal trying to provide the illusion of competence now or, failing that, the sign that he’s building for the future. One example is his usage of Marcus Rashford, but evaluating the 18 year old’s true impact is difficult.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with Rashford’s performances to the naked eye. He’s quick and his finishes against West Ham in midweek and then Aston Villa looked clinical. The only issue is that he’s been so clinical, that it’s not quite representative of his attacking output. Many people pointed this out over the weekend but in the league Rashford is currently converting 50% of his shots into goals. That is an absurd percentage and clearly unsustainable. So while his price might look tempting next season, it might be best to wait until his finishing rates come back down to Earth.

Manchester City will be a problem next season

Remember how the confirmation of Manuel Pellegrini being replaced by Pep Guardiola threw off the whole Manchester City side? And how De Bruyne got injured around that time too and now he’s back City’s attack is humming again? Funny that. That swoon put them out of the title race and it the killer blow was probably the Leicester game where the winner would go to the top of the table. But Robert Huth and that Mahrez goal happened so now City will have to settle for duking it out with Arsenal to avoid playing a Champions League qualifier.

While Otamendi and Mangala’s developing partnership is promising the potential of City’s attack has returned to the mindblowing level it was at a couple of seasons ago. Although City are understandably not given many opportunities to showcase it they are absolutely lethal on the counter as Aguero’s second goal showed, which included some guy called Samir Nasri! Chelsea a bit of a joke right now but City have done and will do this to a lot of teams next season. Aguero and De Bruyne look like must haves for fantasy teams, regardless of the price.

Spurs are blowing past average teams

Stoke have had a nice season and will be very happy with another top ten finish under the management of Mark Hughes. Marko Arnautovic has been converted from talented headcase to regular contributor and Stoke also possess intriguing players who aren’t quite there yet like Giannelli Imbula. They’ve over-performed a little this year and will struggle to break into the Europa League in the coming seasons, but they’re a nice team who have their moments.

Tottenham ate them alive.

It’s stunning how Spurs have gone from a stale team going forward to this sudden onrush of incisive threat that comes at you for 90 minutes and won’t stop until it is satiated. Just as impressive is Dele Alli fitting into such a quality side in his ‘rookie’ season in the Premier League. Stoke had no shot of stopping them and it’ll take an otherworldly vintage Tony Pulis masterplan to stop them next weekend. If that doesn’t materialise, Spurs will overwhelm them just as they have to a bunch of oblivious midtable clubs.

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Midweek Review – from fantasybet.com

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Leicester win in sensational fashion against Liverpool, Manchester City are hot on their tails and Arsenal…are not. Here’s 5 things we learned from the midweek extravaganza:

It’s a sad sad situation

The West Midlands’ Premier League representatives, West Brom and Aston Villa, aren’t having the greatest of seasons. Tony Pulis continues to commit crimes to football, starting 4 CBs and 2 defensive midfielders against the might firepower of Swansea. But anything the Baggies are doing pales in comparison to the campaign their local rivals are having. Villa’s campaign has been so bad it’s basically transcendent.

Jordan Ayew, who’s been the one barely shining light in the past couple of months, surrendered his responsibilities in the game with a blatant elbow on Aaron Cresswell. West Ham finished the job against the sorry 10 men of Villa, but an even sadder picture was to be seen on the sideline. Do you recall Pepe Mel, West Brom’s forlorn manager in the 13/14 season? Imagine him with a French accent and an entirely different physical appearance, but with the same eyes. Those same, sad, suffering eyes. That’s Remi Garde. Let’s just expel Villa from the Premier League now?

Dele Alli’s points are no fluke

When Tottenham signed Dele Alli a year ago in the January transfer window, it seemed like a standard move to amass as much talent as possible by another Premier League. A loan move to a Championship club looked to be on the cards, or if he stayed at Spurs then a season of watching from the subs’ bench. Er, nope.

Not enough people seem to be recognising how amazing it is that Alli is ready to contribute this soon at his age. 19 year old midfielders starting week in, week out for a possible top 4 team? Yeah, that doesn’t happen too often. It’s also easy to dismiss Alli’s efforts, the goalscoring especially, as just a purple patch of form. Goals from central midfield are an elusive, inconsistent element in football and flash-in-the-pan stretches do occur for the likes of Mark Noble and James Morrison over the course of 38 games. However you only have to watch half an hour of Spurs play to see the runs Alli makes and the volume in which he makes them. Given Eriksen’s passiveness at times, Alli is essentially a second striker at times for Spurs.

It’s why Henderson still feels like a nice option in FPL to me. If midfielders get themselves into those positions over and over again, good things do eventually happen.

Guess who’s back, back, back

I’ve actually resisted writing about Leicester too often, just for the sake of being impartial. No longer. When Vardy’s long range strike went in my voice chords were briefly out-of-order and the second, albeit hardly as fashionable a goal as the first, led to another setback of my ability to speak without rasping. Vardy was 100% for the Stoke game and this game. You already know what happens when Vardy’s fully fit. He scores.

It wasn’t hard to notice that something was wrong with Vardy, from Boxing Day onwards. Even at Everton, where he notched 2 assists, he didn’t have that blazing speed that ripped through the league in the Autumn. After his month-long blip the England international is back and scarier than ever, if he’s now choosing to score from outside the box as well.

Nothing’s certain in FPL though. After Manchester City and Arsenal, Leicester have a pretty soft fixture list which looks ever so inviting for owners of Vahrez. However it might also present the first extended run of games where opponents hunker down against them and sit deep. Aston Villa got a result against Leicester’s doing this but that also came in the stretch where Vardy wasn’t quite his scumbag self so, who knows? It’s going to be so, so exciting to follow and you should definitely spend your Saturday morning/lunchtime watching events play out at the Etihad between the top two teams in the league.

Fraser Forster can help Southampton get back to what they do best

I didn’t watch Arsenal game against Southampton live — Leicester were busy doing things — but Twitter reports were suggesting that Forster was essentially performing some of the greatest saves of all time with alarming frequency to repel Arsenal’s siege. I was suspicious. Arsenal fans have a tendency to think every goalkeeper is having a career-best game. Then I saw the extended highlights and well, ok, Forster did evoke his performance for Celtic against Barcelona a few years ago.

The result was the essence of what made Southampton so good for half of last season, the means in which they got it was very different. Instead of limiting shots they instead relied on Forster saving them over and over again, yet they still came away with the clean sheet and a point so all’s well that ends well. A lot of Southampton’s defensive regression had been put down to losing Morgan Schneiderlin and that’s still true, but Forster’s return has led to Ronald Koeman’s team having their stingiest stretch with 4 consecutive clean sheets. That alone suggests it might be a tad too late to hop onto the Southampton FPL train, but getting their No. 1 keeper back – as it would for nearly every club – will lead to an uptick in their results.

Chelsea’s attack difficult to parse

Guus Hiddink has watched his team score 9 goals in their 4 matches prior to playing Watford on Wednesday night. They also put 5 past MK Dons in the FA Cup, but their Championship opponents elected not to play a midfield in that game, so it’s hard to put much stock into that game. Diego Costa is running a lot harder and snagged his typical goal vs Arsenal, Oscar has joined Willian on the 2015/16 list of productive singularly-named Brazilian players but it’s still feels wrong to place our fantastical managerial faith in this attack.

A trip to Vicarage Road is like quality control for Premier League attacks. Chelsea couldn’t ultimately crack it but they continued their promising play. Still, we’re left to ponder how valuable the team can possibly be in FPL. Their prices are all still bloated and will be for the rest of the season. Hiddink has certainly steadied the ship but what Wednesday night’s events proved, if anything, is that Chelsea’s attack can’t be counted on against any decent defence.

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Vardy is finally stopped, Everton and Crystal Palace provide some exciting Monday Night entertainment and the Chelsea dumpster fire continues to rage. 5 things we learned from the weekend:

Manchester City need to adjust to midtable revolution

Manuel Pellegrini has become accustomed to the occasional blip to an anonymous opponent. Last year Stoke stole 3 points at the Etihad after Mame Biram Diouf bagged the only goal of the game, literally sprinting the length of the pitch with the ball all the way into Joe Hart’s net. The soft core of the side has already been exposed many a time but this year it might be more vulnerable than ever.

Stoke were superior throughout in their weekend matchup, giving the type of performance – explosive and innovatory, all while maintaining a rugged underbelly – that the visitors increasingly fail to combat. It could be argued they were the unfortunate victims of Xherdan Shaqiri’s breakout game, who finally showed his potential. Yet it’s still a tough task recalling many games where Manchester City win despite adversity. The squad is full of front runners, Raheem Sterling and David Silva in particular often go quietest when they are needed most. With the rapidly improving middle-class of the Premier League Pellegrini must spark his side for these games, or risk witnessing these ‘blips’ become a regularity.

West Ham’s injury crisis is worse than Arsenal’s

Any recent passing interest in football will have provided you with coverage of the apocalyptic injury crisis Arsenal are attenuating to endure, while other clubs are prospering with fully fit and fresh squads at their disposal. In truth, the crippling Winter months affect almost everyone and almost always benefits the more privileged teams, such as Arsenal. Despite their conservative transfer activity, Arsenal still have strength in depth which others don’t.

One clear example is West Ham, who failed to convert what was a winnable game against a dour Manchester United team. We already knew Dimitri Payet’s absence would be painfully clear in a team that is starved for creativity outside of the Frenchman and perhaps Manuel Lanzini. The Hammers traveled to Old Trafford without Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, the two pace merchants that formed a successful tandem last year as well as Lanzini who has been far better than anyone thought. Not only do they miss that pairing but Slaven Bilic is then forced to play Andy Carroll who, at times, seems to have a detrimental impact on the team’s play. Victor Moses departed the first half with an injury and knocks to quality contributors, such as Pedro Obiang have all added up.

All of this combined with the success of some other mid-table clubs has made probable that they finish in the bottom half of the table once again. West Ham have a soft festive fixture list, but I’d be wary of them if they don’t have their non-ponytailed frontline back.

Watford show Norwich the benefit of defined attacking strategy

As Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo stretched Norwich’s defence to breaking point over and over again for 90 minutes, you could forgive Alex Neil for feeling a little helpless. The Scot cycled through his entire strikeforce, deploying the entire arsenal which resulted in one, solitary shot on target. Lewis Grabban started, Mbokani came on to assist him and then had to partner Cameron Jerome up front. Safe to say that the trio are not firing on all cylinders, with the entire team grabbing 4 goals in 8 league games. They, like Bournemouth, are the current main beneficiaries of terrible North-East football and Aston Villa’s perpetual crisis.

Watford, on the other hand, are loving life as they moved into the top half of the table. Watching them imparts a sense that the squad that has found its purpose in life. Troy Deeney was born to battle Sebastien Bassong and Ryan Bennett. Ighalo is everything that Saido Berahino should be, if he was ever released from Pulis’ clutches. Quique Sanchez Flores and his team know what they’re trying to do each game with results to back it up, Norwich are just trying to find a viable option up front.

Willian’s Chelsea contribution overstated

A few weeks ago when Chelsea were showing signs of rebooting their torrid campaign, Willian was proclaimed by some as the only attacking performer who had produced consistently throughout the season. The recency bias was in full flow at that time, as Willian had scored some sensational free-kicks in consecutive weeks that had helped Chelsea secure results in the Premier League and in Europe. The truth is he just hadn’t been as noticeably awful as his colleagues, a statement he enforced with his showing in the 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.

The dirty secret with Willian is that he’s possibly the most boring player to watch in the Premier League, considering his athletic and technical abilities. Whether this is his own fault, or that of a certain sharply-dressed Portuguese man in close proximity to the pitch, is debateable. It only takes a small amount of squinting to see Willian is just James Milner on fast-forward. That’s not a particularly bad thing, a winger who tracks back and is very selfless in their play can be invaluable, just as it was to Chelsea last season lest we forget. But his inability to do much damage against Charlie Daniels and other average fullbacks must be part of Chelsea’s inability to pick up the slack left by Eden Hazard and Diego Costa this season. One last thing when seeing his : Willian cost around £32 million.

Swansea must keep the ball to rebuild their season

Peculiarity was the theme of a drizzly affair at the Liberty Stadium. The season has taught us that Leicester winning 3-0 away from home is not unusual. The fact that it came against Swansea is also less surprising than it would have been 12 months ago. But there were more intricate details from the match that made for odd viewing.

The raw stats say that Swansea had 59% possession, although a lot of it was ineffectual Leon Britton dallying in his own half. Swansea are not like Crystal Palace waiting to pounce on the counter. They can do that, as they showed in their 2-1 win against Manchester United back in August. When teams need to bounce back, they’ll always revert to their core identity, which in this case for the Swans would be dominating possession to an even greater extent.

For all the criticism spun Van Gaal’s way at United, his style has led to the best defensive record in the league. With Ashley Williams not looking as infallible as usual, Garry Monk would be best served overloading the opposition half and playing some safe, possession style football as they enter an important stretch of games over Christmas.

Weekend Review – from fantasybet.com

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Sell high with Leicester?

It hurts to write this, it really does. A deep blazing pain strikes me, but I must say it: Jamie Vardy’s streak will end very soon. There are a few factors that feel destined to collide, ruining all the fun everyone’s had during Vardy’s incandescent Autumn.

For starters the next fixture in question seems slightly too good to be true. Swansea are in middling form this year and their defence offers less resistance than Manchester United, Watford and West Brom’s backlines, all of which Vardy scored against. Secondly, there’s just a disappointing inevitability to the streak ending in some 3:00 December game away to Swansea. It’s natural that the burning motivation will die off a bit after the charged evening at the King Power stadium last weekend.

Leicester will deservedly go to Wales as the favourites but dropping Vardy might be a sneaky way to gain an advantage over Fantasy rivals.

Manchester United’s attack isn’t even mediocre

Louis van Gaal’s side has given stilted efforts to break down the opposition all season. But this weekend was the most damning condemnation of United’s attack as they toiled without much urgency against a Leicester outfit that at the back is, quite honestly, soft. The visitors’ equaliser came courtesy of a Bastian Schweinsteiger header, unmarked after losing Shinji Okazaki at a corner. Leicester aren’t strong in this area but this was no strategic breakthrough – United simply took what they could get.

It’s been well documented, but the black hole Wayne Rooney is for this team is quite alarming. As a Leicester fan, the danger bells sounded quietly still from the stands – we know the name, the reputation, the history all stands – but the current product is tame. When facing Christian Fuchs on a breakway, all Rooney could do was flail and fail to win a free kick. Trying times.

Crystal Palace are bigger, better with Wickham

While Crystal Palace’s lineup with four wingers – Zaha, Puncheon, Bolasie and Sako – is fun to watch at times. They fly down from all angles, forcing many one-on-ones with fullbacks that have wildly varying results. It hasn’t been all that great though. This lineup, so heavy on individualistic wingers, has led to Palace having the fewest attempted passes per game in the league at 314, 50 less than the next ranked team. In other words, the ball is not pinging around the pitch at Selhurst Park.

To call Wickham a focal point for the Eagles would be overstating things. He’s an average striker, but his natural inclination to play like the big frontman he is should aid Palace’s attack. Zaha and Bolasie create plenty from the wide areas while Puncheon keeps things ticking over in a slightly calmer, less chaotic manner. In other words, they’re going to be dangerous all season.

Palace still seem to need some motivating for their best performances. Following a win at Anfield, Alan Pardew watched his team drop 3 points to Sunderland in a game you’ve already forgotten about. The latest installment was their best attempt to finally kill off Steve McClaren’s Premier League return. In some final other words, Crystal Palace are the most unpredictable side in the league.

Southampton disappoint with ambition

It seemed likely that the defence would take a knock given Morgan Schneiderlin’s departure this summer. The tireless Frenchman gave elite protection for the defence and a mostly diligent attack would do their part too. This much we knew. To counteract this the hope was that they could maintain or slightly improve what was a mediocre attack so they could once again threaten the Europa League spots.

In this regard, Ronald Koeman has been a disappointment. When managers begin to make decisions like putting Maya Yoshida at right-back, it whiffs of a slight lack of ambition. Manchester City away is essentially a free shot for managers and players outside of the top 6 or 7. There’s no expectations for any points. But it seems odd that Yoshida was selected at right-back tasked with going against Manchester City’s fluency with the ball.

It would be some stretch to say Southampton have truly regressed. Before the last fortnight, the Saints’ were unbeaten in 6 and are look on track for a top half finish. There’s just the tiniest sense of being underwhelmed when you watch them, perhaps the effect of having promising seasons consistently capped by selling multiple players to richer teams.

Tottenham have jacks of all trades, masters of none

We all know that Mourinho’s Chelsea could get a 0-0 draw against anyone from any era, 2015 Tottenham, 2009 Barca, heck 1970 Brazil would be stymied by this bunch if Terry and Co. fancied it enough. But it would be a fair assessment to say Spurs are a ‘good’ side that don’t excel in any one area. The question many would find difficult to answer is ‘Who is Tottenham’s best player?’

Is it Eriksen the main creator, or perhaps Kane who is proving he’s here to stay as a top-level striker? Is Lloris perhaps worthy of that title? Maybe Dembele’s underrated play from midfield that extends to all corners of the pitch is just as invaluable to the team as anything his teammates provide. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this. They have slowly carved out a team identity under Pochettino and the balanced approach means defences have no single player to key in on. However, and this is a nitpicky, aesthetic criticism for a side that’s lost just once all season, not having that star really seems to mainfest itself in these grinding games against stodgier teams. Spurs will hope that their democracy can lead them back into the Champions League for the first time since Harry Redknapp patrolled the White Hart Lane home dugout.

 

 

Leicester City – FPL Breakdown

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Leicester are a slightly intriguing prospect going into this season for fantasy football and for football of the real variety. Leicester’s Great Escape™ was well documented and now the club will be looking to consolidate this season to avoid having to repeat any heroics, as enjoyable as it was. Adding to the intrigue is the (re)sacking of Nigel Pearson, which of course in the context of fantasy football creates all kind of caveats relating to signings and who gets played each week. One good example already is Shinji Okazaki, signed days before Pearson was unexpectedly sacked, now at the mercy of Claudio Ranieri. Add this to Leicester’s evenly balanced squad in terms of point scoring and you have one big fat question mark of a club.

There’s positive intrigue too, however. In recent history there’s been a side, in their second season after being promoted, who have flourished unexpectedly. Crystal Palace, Southampton and Swansea were the beneficiaries from the past three years. Given that Leicester are the only candidate for this year, it provides at least one reason to monitor the club and also a ready-made explanation for any success.

A word of warning, the message that will run throughout this preview is ‘Proceed with caution’. Towards the end of last season where Leicester got on a roll they were playing 3 at the back. In all likelihood Ranieri will be playing 4 at the back, which will have a ripple effect on the whole composition of the squad. I’ll allude to this in regards to the players it affects in particular as we go through. There’s a lot of factors still yet to be settled with the squad so my overall advice is to hold off on anyone not a certainty for the first couple of weeks.

 First Five

  • Sunderland (H)
  • West Ham (A)
  • Spurs (H)
  • Bournemouth (A)
  • Aston Villa (H)

It’s a shame Leicester are such a question mark, because the fixtures are quite tasty. They retain this same flavour until we get to December and the Christmas period where with your Leicester players you should, like a wise man once said, drop it like it’s hot. But I find by December it becomes a war of attrition as everyone’s team is half dead with injuries. Even so, Leicester will likely hit a wall after November, so buyers beware.

Goalkeepers

  • Kasper Schmeichel (4.5)– Leicester’s goalkeeping rotation last year was at points a merry-go-round of sadness due to injuries and an elderly Australian man. But Schmeichel towards the end was absolutely on fire. Leicester have shown no signs of looking to upgrade here and are more focused on keeping the Dane, if anything. Certain to start barring injury. There is reasonable concern about the defence in front of him but it isn’t markedly worse than what his competitors (Guzan, Pantilimon) will see.

Verdict: A nice rotation keeper at his price, if you’re looking for two playable keepers. I’ve got him paired with Cech, for what it matters.

  • Ben Hamer (4.0)– Did ok in his starts when Kasper was injured last season but couldn’t displace Mark Schwarzer and his zimmer frame.

Verdict: Probably as useful as any 4.0 money saving option, which is to say not that useful at all.

Defenders

  • Wes Morgan/Robert Huth/Marcin Wasilewski (4.5)– I’ve seen a lot of people with either Huth or Morgan. The latter somehow has a 19% selection rate which made me laugh in a sort of ‘fucking hell’ way. I’ve gone for Morgan over Huth, because he’s the captain and Huth has an iffy injury history. They both go up for corners, so no Coloccini situations here. Wasilewski started with the pair at the back for some of last season but I doubt he gets many games in this campaign. He shits out yellow cards and does some dumb shit that makes you wonder how he wasn’t sent off last season.

Verdict: Can’t really go wrong with Huth or Morgan at 4.5. They’ll pick up a few more clean sheets as Leicester will hopefully be a little more settled than last season. Even if you are in possession of a ten foot barge pole, leave Wasilewski alone.

  • Christian Fuchs/Jeff Schlupp (5.0)– There is a certain Fuchs and Schlupp Conundrum here, which sounds like a 19th century German Novel. Fuchs, signed from Schalke on a free, is an attacking fullback with an eye for set-pieces although if Cambiasso returns this could be negated. Schlupp actually played on the left wing mostly last season and the two could play together. However Leicester have plenty of options in attack and there’s no guarantee for either to start. Like many things in life, it will come down to Ranieri’s preference.

Verdict: Both are tasty attacking options here but without knowing whose starting it makes the pick a little dicey. Fuchs is probably the starter, but keep an eye on Schlupp who, if played on the wing, will score some. Any FPL hipster like me who had him last season will know this. Leave it a couple of weeks to simmer before looking to bring one in is my suggestion.

  • Paul Konchesky (4.5) – Leicester fans spent half of last season crying out for him to be benched. He’s not at 4.0 so he can’t even be your bench mascot, which makes him even more pointless.

Verdict: LOL.

  • Richie de Laet (4.5) – A possibility. Albrighton was playing on the right of a 3-5-2 last season and may play there again this season, but de Laet is a conventional right back who ‘fackin’ runs about a bit’. There’s also the chance that Fuchs and Schlupp occupy both the fullback slots.

Verdict: If de Laet can get himself into the XI, he’s worth a pop at 4.5 as a semi-competent attacking fullback, who’ll likely be under the radar to many. But definitely a gamble if you’re planning on choosing him from the start.

  • Liam Moore/Danny Simpson (4.0) – Moore psyched many into grabbing him at the start of last season when starting for Leicester. He soon lost his place but now Pearson is gone (rumours of some dispute there) he may have a chance if Ranieri wants some pace in the backline. Moore can play some right back, but it seems Leicester have more suitable replacements with Albrighton and Schlupp/Fuchs. Simpson has legal issues at the moment and is unlikely to appear this season.

Verdict: Moore might be a nice look at 4.0. You can bench him but with a chance of appearing it’s not as if there’s a corpse on your bench. Pick up Simpson to give your team a ‘bad boys’ reputation in the mini-league.

Midfielders

  • Andy King/Matty James/Danny Drinkwater/Dean Hammond(4.5)– Not an enticing group by any means. James is out for the season as the red exclamation mark will tell you. Drinkwater works hard and could start a fair few games, but he’s likely to be in rotation and won’t be particularly productive either. An accurate fantasy representation of King would be for him to disappear if you played him. Once he takes the cloak of invisibility off he pops up with a goal now and then, although if you’re banking on Andy King to be your secret weapon I suggest you find another pastime. Hammond is a defensive midfielder who will play sporadically so have fun with that one.

Verdict: Hammond and James are evidently just fodder. Drinkwater and King are viable options for a fifth midfielder if you’re really cash strapped, but look at the 5.0s if you want something sexier.

  • Riyad Mahrez (5.5)– The Algerian international is growing on me as both a player and a fantasy pick, but not enough to be in my own side yet. When watching him, he often seems more influential than he really is, carrying the ball well without any tangible results. Having to create off the wing took its toll on him in some games,  but in the tailend of the season he had a short spell in the centre behind two strikers and predictably was more productive as a result. Leicester has a shedload of strikers to use which makes this a possibility next season too.

Verdict: Go for it. Look at his competition in that price bracket. Of the 4 players that scored above him (Ki Sung-yueng/Brunt/Colback/Larsson)  two had unprecedented years with points and can you really bring yourself to select Brunt or Larsson? Regardless of where Leicester are in the table Mahrez will have his part to play. The only thing to look out for is if Ranieri brings in a big box of wingers when he moves to Leicester, but otherwise you should feel confident he’ll start.

  • Marc Albrighton (5.0)– Meh. Did well from right-wingback last season and any Villa or Leicester fan will attest to his crossing ability. Less sure about his chance of starting than I am about Mahrez, and his tendency to hug the touchline doesn’t lend well to goalscoring despite him picking up a couple vs Chelsea and QPR last Spring.

Verdict: One of the better attacking options at 5.0, but I’d rather take Nathan Dyer myself. If he’s starting consistently, then maybe consider him but not worth going out on a limb for from GW1.

  • Anthony Knockaert (4.5)– Claudio Ranieri will have to take a serious liking to him for this pick to be worth it. There’s been some chatter as to a loan move away from here and it’s understandable. Knockaert loses the ball far too much and is…lethargic in his defensive duties.

Verdict: Doubt he scores more than 30 points this season. So it’s a no from me.

  • Others (4.5-6.5)– Cambiasso’s status is still up in the air as of when I’m typing this. Recent reports suggest he’s signing another 1 year deal, with the option of a coaching role. He was a timely goalscorer for Leicester but I’d question the likelihood of him repeating that. Will start every league game if he’s here and feels fit enough. Has some set-piece duties but he’s still a holding midfielder and will likely be 5-6.5. Leicester have also been in for N’golo Kante, a diminutive midfielder from Ligue 1, land of the 0-0. We look light in midfield so expect a signing or two, but central midfielders in a lesser side are hardly goldmines for points.

Verdict: Cambiasso really comes down to how much you like having bald players on your team. If he’s underpriced at 5.0 or mayyybe 5.5 then pick him up, but above that? Leave him. I reckon Kante would be around 5.0 and wouldn’t rush for him ahead of trusted budget options like Jedinak and Matic.

Forwards

  • Leonardo Ulloa (6.0)– Caused some waves last Autumn with a hot start, and then couldn’t buy a goal or even a start at points between December and March. I’ll say about him what I’ll say with every Leicester striker: No one has any idea who is going to play. Naturally this will turn most off of all the forwards listed here, but if you’re willing to gamble then Ulloa could be your man. As a sort of working-class man’s Pelle, he will get flick on assists to go with his streaky finishing ability.

Verdict: Personally I wouldn’t, just because of the no guarantee in regards to his place in the team. But at 6.0 you could do worse and I’d recommend sticking him on your watchlist. If he gets on a roll, try and at least ride out the rest of his form.

  • Jamie Vardy (6.0)– For some inexplicable reason, loads of people seem to think Vardy is a young talent. I don’t know if it’s because he never stops running but I see some discussing his ‘potential’ and whether he’ll ‘break out’. Nuh uh. Overpriced at 6.0, if you pick him you’ll be perplexed at his weekly 2 points but the lad plays with his head trained on his feet constantly and finishing is an afterthought in his style of play.

Verdict: Quick flow chart: Are we playing Manchester United in 2014? YES ⇒ Pick him. NO ⇒ Leave him alone.

  • David Nugent (5.5)– Prolific penalty taker but they’ll be harder to convert from the bench, where Nugent will probably be for a sizeable portion of the season. He was a Pearson favourite and although his personal performances weren’t anything to write home about, Leicester played a damn sight better with him.

Verdict: You’d have to be extraordinarily fortunate to pick this guy, play him and he returns more than 2 points. Save yourself the trouble and look elsewhere.

  • Andrej Kramaric/Shinji Okazaki(6.0)– Technically he’s very good and scored plenty of goals at his last club. Unfortunately this applies to both and with Vardy and Ulloa to compete with, it’s difficult to justify going for one where more certain options you could plump for are easy to find. Kramaric is really talented and Okazaki comes from decent Bundesliga stock so they have their pros, but I can’t talk myself into either.

Verdict: The Callum Wilson I have in my squad says there’s tastier options with less risk. Okazaki is a complete unknown to everyone unless you happen to watch a lot of mid-table Bundesliga sides but I did find this highlight mix, which is amusingly titled ‘Samurai Footballer’. Um, don’t expect that to be chanted at the King Power.

Overall Summary

Four that I’d recommend in particular are Schemichel, Morgan, Huth and Mahrez, there’s way too much uncertainty with the squad to be sure of anyone else. It’s advisable to keep a very close watch on Leicester in the first few weeks though. There’s a soft opening schedule to perhaps capitalise on and remember, Leicester might just be that next second season gem. If Ranieri can find his glasses and zimmer frame, that is.