Premier Fantasy 2011-12
The week leading up to the new Premier League season brings the usual scramble to pick a fantasy squad ahead of the big kick-off.
With a modified points system and different transfer structure, managers are going to have to think long and hard before selecting their squads.
The leading innovation for the new season is live scoring. No longer will you have to wait until well after the final whistle for your team points - you can now watch the stats update as-it-happens and follow how it affects your mini-league with your friends. Very few other fantasy games offer live scoring.
The points system for the new season has brought a level of parity for defensive players when compared with midfielders and strikers. With a smaller penalty for goals conceded - now only costing a point for every two conceded, offset with three points for a clean sheet - it means goalkeepers and defenders will play a far more important role in your squad.
So the key piece of advice is not to get too obsessed with the more pricey attacking players, as well-performing defenders, especially those who get amongst the goals, will score highly. But you can't deny that midfielders can provide goals and assists, making them key fantasy targets.
Ahead of the new season, we take a look at some players who might take your fancy.
Ryo Miyaichi, Arsenal, midfielder, £5.1m
This is a player who could go right under the radar after being granted a work permit to play in England. He joined the Gunners in January from Chukyodai Chukyo High School but was ineligible for a permit at that stage, forcing the club to loan him out to troubled Dutch club Feyenoord Rotterdam. With three goals in 12 electric performances he was dubbed "Ryodinho" after Ronaldinho and has also been referred to as the Japanese Messi.
Lauded by Arsene Wenger, Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere and other Arsenal players, Miyaichi could just, as the season progresses, be one of the bargain gems.
Shay Given, Aston Villa, goalkeeper, £6.2m
Could Alex McLeish, never known as an adventurous manager, return Villa to their former frugal ways at the back? Villa Park defenders have in the past been a wise choice in fantasy football but clean sheets and heavy defeats were more the norm last term.
Granted, they had a good goalkeeper in Brad Friedel last season, but perhaps a different manager and the signing of Shay Given can transform their fortunes again. Priced at £6.2m, Given is mid-range for a first-choice goalkeeper and if his pre-season performance against Manchester City is anything to go by he could be a money saving option.
David Luiz, Chelsea, defender, £8.1m
Luiz is hardly an unknown quantity now, as he showed in patches in the second half of last season that he could be as dangerous in attack as Chelsea are assured in defence.
John Terry is obviously the first-choice central defender, but in this game where defensive attacking points could prove to be as important to clean sheets, Luiz seems a solid investment despite his high price. Luiz scored twice in 12 games last season, with four clean sheets.
Bobby Zamora, Fulham striker, £5.8m
Zamora missed much of last season through injury, making only nine starts, but still managed to score five goals for the club. With two goals in the bag already this term in Fulham's Europa League games, the early form is promising.
His price is representative of his injury-affected season last term, but considering he was one of the leading strikers in the 2009-10 season there is every chance he will be a crucial fantasy player again - certainly on home turf.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool, striker, £7.6m
Priced at a very competitive level for a striker at one of the Premier League top clubs, Luis Suarez is certain to be a popular buy in the market. But how will his exploits in helping Uruguay to win the Copa America affect him? With hardly anything resembling a summer break, either he will be eased back into the side or could suffer burnout later.
Already in 32% of teams, Suarez is not going to be a player who few managers own. But he should be both a creator and scorer.
David Silva, Man City, midfielder, £7.0m
Silva really began to fully adapt to the English game in the second half of last season, but still only finished as the 18th highest-scoring midfielder in the game. At a price of £7.0 million he will be hot property and, despite squad rotation City possibly being an issue, he is owned by 23% of managers.
Silva made 30 starts last season, scored four goals and provided seven assists. If City are to mount a stronger challenge for the title this season, then Silva will surely improve on his points haul.
Tom Cleverley, Man United, midfielder, £5.0m
Much like Miyaichi at Arsenal, Cleverley could turn out to be a slow burner rather than a player to invest in immediately - but at £5.0 million this is a player who would cost little to hold as a bench man.
He spent last season at Wigan Athletic, scoring three goals and providing two assists in a struggling side. After a highly promising 45 minutes against Manchester City in the Community Shield and a call-up into the England squad for the cancelled game against the Netherlands, the promise is there.
Adel Taarabt, QPR, midfielder, £5.5m
The Championship's player of the season, it looked as though Taarabt would be heading to Paris St Germain this summer, but now the Hoops have decided to keep hold of a player who was the talismanic figure of their return to the Premier League.
The Morocco international scored 19 goals and provided 16 assists in 43 starts as QPR won the Championship title. QPR may not have strengthened the way some expected, but if this former Spurs player can make it in the Premier League he will be a fantasy steal.
Scott Sinclair, Swansea City, striker, £5.5m
A player who joined Swansea from Chelsea, it had begun to look as though Sinclair would not live up the promise of his early days on loan at Plymouth Argyle - but all that changed last season when he moved to Wales.
As important to the Swans as Taarabt was to QPR, Sinclair plundered 22 goals from just 42 league starts. He may only have been on hand to provide two assists, but play-off winners usually start like a train and if Brendan Rogers' side do likewise then Sinclair will be among the points.
Matthew Jarvis, Wolves, midfielder, £5.5
This Wolves winger struggled with the hype of winning his first England cap towards the end of last season, that substitute appearance against Ghana seemingly taking the player's eye off the ball.
Back for a new season and now surely with his concentration and composure back, Jarvis will be a menace on the wing as Roger Johnson adds solidity at the other end of the park. Few would think that Jarvis scored more points that David Silva last season, but with four goals and six assists he managed to achieve just that.
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