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Guide to Picking your Premier League Fantasy Team

With the Premier League season just a few days away it’s time to make sure you’re all set for the upcoming season of Fantasy Premier League. Having a fantasy team that I stop checking in February because it sucks is a great way to add some fun and competition to the season with you and your friends. So if you haven’t done so yet, head over fantasy.premierleague.com and get yourself started.

Here’s the gist of the game. You get £100 million to spend and you need to pick 15 players (2 GK 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 3 strikers). As a veteran fantasy premier league player of several years, here is my best attempt to guide you in how to pick your team without actually giving away who I’ve picked for my own team.

Goalkeepers

The way the league has trended in the past few years, you really can’t go wrong with who you pick in this spot. The one thing you always wanted to do with goalkeepers is go cheap, but upon further review of the available goalkeepers shows they’re all cheap.

So how do you find one that stands out? Picking one up that gets a lot of saves is a good start, but that’s also a double-edge sword as the ones that make a lot of saves tend to play behind poor defenses and thus don’t keep a lot of clean sheets.

Last season if you picked Fraser Forester you were golden, but this year picking a keeper from Southampton is a much bigger risk as they’ve lost defenders Toby Alderweireld and Nathaniel Clyne as well as Morgan Schneiderlin protecting the back four. Losing players didn’t hurt the Saints last year, so if you believe they can overcome it this year, then by all means go ahead. But it’s certainly a bigger risk this season.

In reality, if you select any of the top-8 keepers in the game you can’t go wrong.

Defenders

Let’s get one thing straight–this isn’t your older brother’s Premier League anymore. Teams just don’t defend the way they used to. Gone are the days where you could rack up a guaranteed 18+ points by starting Everton’s Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, and Jolean Lescott every week. These days, if you don’t play for Chelsea you’re not likely to be picking up a clean sheet week in week out.

So how do you combat this for fantasy? Forget about clean sheets and look for value in defenders who may get you a penalty by giving up too many goals every few weeks but also get you big points for their ability to score. If you want to spend big on one defender then Barnislav Ivanovich (£7.0) is your guy, as he will keep clean sheets and score goals. If you want to spend but not as much as Ivanovich will cost, then of course Leighton Baines (£6.5) is always a good bet as he’ll get assists and score goals on set pieces.

06.12.2014.  Manchester, England. Premier League. Manchester City versus Everton. Everton defender Leighton Baines runs with the ball****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Leighton Baines is a nice alternative on defense.

To round out your defense, the key is value. Nathaniel Clyne looks great at £5.5 million, but remember his numbers are a bit inflated playing at Southampton last year. This year he’ll be at Liverpool with the ever-shaky hands of Simon Mignoet behind him. This brings us to Jose Fonte, at £5.5 million he’s a great option. He’s a goal-scoring threat on set pieces and plays for that staunch Southampton defense, but will be they be as tight after losing so many valuable pieces last season?

At the end of the day, when you’re looking for defenders, don’t focus too much on clean sheets but look for cheaper options who can get forward and score on set pieces, or full backs who get forward to get assists.

Midfielders

This is where your money gets spent. When filling out your team, your first selections should be some of the big midfielders such as Eden Hazard (£11.5) or Alexis Sanchez (£11.0), and the rest of your team will fill itself out. Putting both Hazard and Sanchez in your team will probably kill you financially, but if you could figure out a way to do it then kudos to you. If you don’t have at least Hazard, Sanchez, or Cesc Fabregas (£9.0) on your team, well, then you have no chance of winning.

Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring a goal after making it 3-0 during the UEFA Champions League, Group D football match between Arsenal and Galatasaray at The Emirates Stadium in north London on October 1, 2014. Arsenal won the game 4-1. ****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Your fantasy team needs a player like Alexis Sanchez.

Your next two (or three depending on what formation you plan on using) should go to the more middle tier midfielders that have some very high upside. Players like Santi Cazorla (£8.5) or Jordan Henderson (£7.0) fit that bill. You can also argue that Manchester United winger Memphis Depay could provide great value at just £8.5 but for me right now, that’s about £1.0 too high to take a chance on such an unproven player like Depay.

Since you don’t want to run out of money, you need to round out your midfield with very cheap options. You have to be careful here though–a player like Nemanja Matic would look very enticing at just £5.0 (he starts every week and will get you clean sheet points), but do you really want to waste one of your three Chelsea spots on a holding midfielder who won’t score?

The best option here is to scour the mid/bottom of the table teams to find value. You’re looking for guys who will play week in week out and maybe even score some goals. They may not be the most creative guys out there, but look for players who may be a team’s set-piece taker or one who takes their penalty kicks. Players like West Brom’s Chris Brunt (£5.5), Stoke’s Jonathan Walters (£6.0), Crystal Palace’s James Puncheon (£6.0), and West Ham’s Kevin Nolan (£5.5, if he can have a bounce back season) are good options for those spots.

Forwards

There are three different types of strikers in this game: the one who is great all season long (last season Sergio Aguero), the one who catches fire in the middle of the season, plays well for a stretch but fades a bit at the end (Harry Kane), and the one who plays well for just the first half of the season or second half of the season (Graziano Pelle 1st half, Saldo Berahino 2nd half).

10.02.2015.  Liverpool, England. Barclays Premier League. Liverpool versus Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane of Tottenham celebrates scoring his teams first goal****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

The key to success is having one of the expensive strikers who will play well all season (Aguero £13.0, Kane £9.5, Diego Costa £11.0), another striker with great value, and then guessing who is going to be the hot striker in the first half of the season, bailing on him at the right time, and finding the hot striker in the second half of the season.

At £9.5 Harry Kane is very enticing. The problem with him? Everyone else will have him too. But when you’re looking for your expensive striker you can get great value at £10.5 for Wayne Rooney who will be Manchester United’s lead striker this season, a position that he’s played just two other season–both the most prolific of his career.

Bench

This is important. Don’t waste any money on your bench. Don’t think “Oh I’ll have a good player on my bench in case someone gets hurt.” It’s stupid; worry about that when someone gets hurt.

Your bench guys are your bench guys, and they don’t get points for you so don’t waste your money on them. Scour the newly-promoted teams and find dirt-cheap midfielders and defenders who will play every week so you can pick up the two points in case of an emergency substitution and call it a day.

At the end of the day, the season will come down to what it always does: picking up the hot player at the right time and cutting ties with a player just before he gets cold. And of course, making sure you pick the right captain each week to maximize your points and set yourself apart from the rest of the teams in your league.

I can’t wait to get started.

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