One of life’s great unspoken pleasures for those of us blessed (or is it cursed?) with the football geekery gene is that annual tingle of excitement at gambling on a Premier League newbie in your Fantasy League team.
The sensible play is to sit tight, watch from afar, and gauge over a period of weeks whether a fresh overseas import is more Van Nistelrooy than Van Wolfswinkel, but most of us can’t resist diving in. It’s got to be done. So which of the dozens of top-flight newcomers should we consider including in our Fantasy League short list this year?
I’m a generous kind of chap. Here are five tips…
Dimitri Payet (West Ham United) £7.5mil
I was at the Boleyn Ground last week to see the Frenchman’s home debut, and he was outstanding. Flitting between the hole behind West Ham’s striker and the left wing, the skillful playmaker was innovative and lively.
He can cross a wicked ball too; and that’s why I think he’ll be a shrewd pick. The 28-year-old had 17 assists for Marseille in Ligue One last season, and 11 of those came from crosses – six dead balls and five from open play – and that wand of a right boot could cause Premier League defenders nightmares. If the Hammers have enough quality up front, Payet will supply a stack of goals.
Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa) £6million
If you need a bargain front man to free up cash to spend on a mega star you could do worse than look at Aston Villa’s new signing. Gestede, 26, is one of the best exponents of headed goals in English football (scoring 19 in the last two seasons) and he’ll be hoping to fill the gap vacated by Christian Benteke in the Midlands. With Emmanuel Adebayor tipped to join we don’t yet know if the six foot four Frenchman will be a regular starter, but Tim Sherwood’s side don’t have the toughest of fixtures in the early weeks, and this could make him a shrewd selection. As long as the new-look Villains feed him with crosses, Gestede is good enough to make hay against the likes of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Leicester and West Brom.
Memphis Depay (Manchester United) £8.5million
I’m excited about seeing the Dutchman in a Manchester United shirt. He’s still only 21 but the signs suggest he could be a very special talent. One key thing to note; he’s an exceptional free kick taker. Last season at PSV Eindhoven, Depay netted from seven direct set pieces, and overall he bagged an impressive 22 league goals. It won’t be as easy in the Premier League, but in a floating role behind Wayne Rooney or on the left wing he could be an astute midfield pick. If you’re expecting Louis van Gaal’s side to score more goals this term, the Dutch flyer is likely to be involved in plenty of them.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle United) £7million
Another signing from PSV is Newcastle United new boy Wijnaldum, who has impressed Toon Army fans during pre-season. He’s got a bit of the Clarence Seedorf’s about him, and operating in an attacking midfield spot, Steve McLaren will urge his Magpies side to give him the ball as often as possible. Still only 24, the Holland international has registered 14 league goals three times in his career to date (a fact that bodes well) and he isn’t averse to laying chances on a plate for teammates either. I fancy Wijnaldum to be a Fantasy League ‘steady Eddie’ this season, chipping in with regular if unspectacular points tallies.
Odion Ighalo (Watford) £5million
Hornets captain Troy Deeney is the obvious pick at Vicarage Road, but for a little less money you can get your hands on Nigerian international striker Ighalo, who could be a dangerous wildcard at the highest level. Outstanding in Watford’s promotion campaign the forward scored 20 goals (just one less than Deeney) but he did it in 1,482 less minutes. He’s the kind of player that scores all types of goals, with his head or his feet, and might have the attributes to shock a few people in the top flight. He’d be a risky signing, but may provide terrific value for Fantasy League money.
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