After a long, drawn-out summer of Fantasy inactivity, the new season is almost upon us. We’ve just over a week to go now yet, for many, plans are still tentative, with the futures of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale still playing a significant part in how we assess the upcoming campaign. The uncertainty doesn’t end there, though, and with plenty of further questions to pose, we turn to the site contributors and moderators in the first in a series of opinion pieces leading up to the big kick off.
We get underway by garnering thoughts on Jose Mourinho’s installation to the Stamford Bridge hotseat. The Chelsea manager’s previous stint was famous for his Fantasy-friendly “Untouchables”, with many of the Blues first-team turning out to be automatic picks. This time around, though, the selection process seems a little less than straightforward and with Mourinho having plenty of options available, we consider who’ll be the mainstays of his side over the campaign.
Given that Chelsea have a double Gameweek coming up in the very first round I wish my thoughts on this were different. I would love to say that I think the Brazilian pair of the charming young Oscar and enigmatic David Luiz will be safe but I don’t believe their positions are as secure as I’d like them to be. Even Juan Mata, Chelsea’s player of the season just gone by, is probably going to be struck down by a bout of rotation along the way.
I don’t think Jose Mourinho has gone crackers and will begin to ignore his best players – but he quite simply has an abundance of options at his disposal and will use them as his side fight on multiple fronts. Name a player you expect to start and within seconds the Chelsea squad can throw another name back at you on parity.
I’m inclined to only think Petr Cech has got a safe spot in the team and Ashley Cole comes a close second – with all due respect to Mark Schwarzer and Ryan Bertrand. A few weeks into the season we might have a clearer picture as to who Mourinho will prefer and can maybe begin to consider adding the likes of Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic -or whomever- to that list. Until that happens, I will be vigilant and extremely wary, though Wayne Rooney will be a lock if Mourinho can prise him away from Old Trafford.
In Tommy We Trust says…
Over the years, the “Special One’s” teams have had a common bloodline ingrained into every squad he controls. These are simply described as power, pace and will-to-win at all costs. The basics and mental approach of his players are fundamental to Mourinho’s selection policy, with a stubborn cohesiveness installed in every player’s mind-set when they put on the jersey. Whether it was John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in his first stint at Stamford Bridge, Lucio, Wesley Sneijder, and Diego Milito at Inter Milan, or even in his previous regime at Real Madrid with Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Ronaldo – Mourinho takes talented footballers and elevates them to the next level. His quotes taken from our Moving Target article earlier this summer points towards instilling these values into this young Chelsea squad.
My selections that best fit these criteria are Ashley Cole, Ramires and Eden Hazard, with the latter attracting the biggest interest from Fantasy managers. The Belgian had a successful first season in the Premier League, with nine goals, 16 assists and 22 bonus points in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game – a total of 190 points saw him finish seventh overall. Hazard has recently insisted there is more to come, pointing out his record while at Lille. For me, he can take that next step in his career under Mourinho and become the world class playmaker Chelsea anticipated when bringing him to these shores last summer.
As for Cole, he is now a figurehead – mature in his nature and a cornerstone from Mourinho’s previous reign – he may be 32 now but Cole remains one of the best left-backs in the world. Ramires, meanwhile, is the typical midfield engine, twinning the positional awareness of Claude Makelele’s awareness with a strength and stamina that allows him to make those transitional runs from defence to attack. He may not replicate the Fantasy returns of those midfielders further up the field but if the assurance of starts is key to your initial squad selection then you can do much worse than consider the Brazilian.
Green Windmill says…
Unfortunately for Fantasy managers this is probably a list with just one name on it – Petr Cech (although as Iker Casillas can testify, even big name goalkeepers can fall out of favour with the Portuguese). Whilst Mourinho’s previous spell in charge of Chelsea seems to have garnered him something of a reputation for keeping rotation to a minimum, a glance through his Real Madrid teamsheets from last season tells a different story: Cristiano Ronaldo started more games than anyone else for Madrid but even he was missing from the starting XI on eight occasions. Given that a player of Ronaldo’s calibre is subject to being rested under Mourinho, Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba look set to be shuffled continuously.
With the embarrassment of riches available and the hope that a successful season would see them play around 60 matches, it seems unthinkable that Mourinho won’t utilise a strict rotation policy. Despite all this, even if double Gameweek 1 wasn’t a factor it would be a brave manager who didn’t fit at least one Blues player into their team. If we accept that rotation is inevitable, the key is then coping with it when it hits – a strong bench may well be essential this season.
It’s questionable whether there is such a thing as an “untouchable” in this new Mourinho era. To his credit, Jose has been candid and handed us Fantasy managers plenty of pre-season clues as to his thinking on his first choice XI. However, while we can be fairly certain that he considers the likes of David Luiz and Juan Mata key players, there is no question that their talents will be handed rests on occasions with Chelsea’s schedule set to pile-up as the months roll on.
The rotation policy will be clear to us almost from the off. The early double Gameweek offers an immediate poser with back-to-back home matches with Hull and Villa, proceeding one of the biggest fixtures of the season – the trip to Old Trafford. That’s three Premier League matches in the space of eight days, culminating in a game that Mourinho will surely prioritise.
There’s no doubt that Jose will be looking to get his strongest side on the pitch for the United clash – fresh and prepared for the challenge. That will surely impact on his selection for the Stamford Bridge clash with Villa and offer immediate clues as to his rotating cast.
I’d go so far to say that only Petr Cech and possibly Ashley Cole are placed to play all three matches – even in their case, Mourinho has options that could be brought in to do a job against Paul Lambert’s side.
Where does that leave us Fantasy managers? We have to make the decision as to whether the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku can provide value given that periods of rest and rotation will arrive. Whether the security of others in their price bracket can offer stronger returns. We also have to be prepared for frustration and play the long game – knee jerking because Hazard was rested to the bench is not a desirable scenario and one that, over the season, any Fantasy manager could regret.
Working with Jose is not going to be easy but it could undoubtedly pay off for those willing to strap themselves in for the ride.