Our final look at the previous round of fixtures sees us reassess one of Swansea’s many Spaniards, acknowledge Liverpool’s options at both ends of the field, while bracing ourselves as wildcard-wielding Fantasy managers force player prices up over the international break.
Last term, it was all about Michu at the Liberty. Michael Laudrup’s acquisition of the former Rayo Vallecano player proved one of the canniest pieces of business in 2012/13 as the Spaniard racked up the goals in his debut season for the Welsh outfit and offered Fantasy managers a mid-price gem for their five-man midfields.
Initially, though, it was the acquisition of Pablo Hernandez from Valencia that was regarded as the real coup. Arriving in a £5.5 million deal, the playmaker added a real touch of class to the Swans’ wide areas but with injuries and indifferent form plaguing his displays, Hernandez flattered to deceive. Although he turned out 30 times in the league, the winger managed the full 90 minutes on only 10 occasions and, with three goals and eight assists to his name, registered 110 Fantasy Premier League (FPL) points – only fourth best in the Swansea midfield.
This time round, it’s been a little different. After an impressive pre-season, Hernandez has been the standout Fantasy performer for Laudrup’s side – Sunday’s goal and assist in the 2-0 win at West Brom highlighted his growing influence as he becomes more accustomed to the rigours of the Premier League in his second season on English soil. Having supplied the assist for Wilfried Bony’s consolation in the Gameweek 1 home defeat by United, Hernandez has played a part in all three of the Swans’ league goals so far – factor in two assists in two Europa League games and it’s clear his consistency is on the up.
Granted, while Hernandez is no Michu in terms of finding the net, he has targetted “seven or eight” strikes after his impressive start. Certainly, we’re not expecting double-digit goal returns but with a relatively budget-friendly price tag across the Fantasy games, he could be a real value contender over the campaign. Fantasy managers have been quick act on the back of his Hawthorns exploits – Hernandez has already risen by 0.1 since the weekend and as the bandwagon picks up pace, another price hike looks imminent over the break.
Perhaps, upon reflection, the Luis Suarez situation was somehow a blessing in disguise. The media circus surrounding the Uruguayan’s domestic suspension for the first six games of the season, twinned with Arsenal’s ultimately fruitless chase for his signature, kept the focus off the players on the field and allowed Brendan Rodgers’ side to quietly prepare for the campaign ahead.
So far, it’s worked wonders. Three successive 1-0 wins have sent the Reds to the top of the table and with options right across the backline and further up the field, there’s every reason to invest in Rodgers’ side ahead of a kind run of upcoming fixtures.
The arrival of Mamadou Sakho will further strengthen a backline yet to concede and put Kolo Toure’s owners on edge. The Ivorian’s current groin injury hardly helps but with Rodgers labelling the £15m Frenchman “a marquee signing”, he looks odds-on to become a regular alongside Daniel Agger at the back, with the new Bonus Points System boosting the Reds’ defensive appeal.
Philippe Coutinho may have yet to pick up the attacking points after a strong pre-season but his owners will be intrigued by Rodgers’ comments yesterday. After signing Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea, the Reds boss suggested the Brazilian could occasionally be moved to the centre behind Daniel Sturridge, with Moses capable of filling in on the left.
Sturridge’s prolific start, which has seen his bag the winner in all three Gameweeks, is making him an irresistible Fantasy force right now as managers scramble to acquire his signature. At 9.1 to Suarez’ 10.9 in FPL, Sturridge is doing more than enough to suggest he’ll be the better value of the two and could easily outscore the Uruguayan upon his return in Gameweek 6 at Sunderland, given his more advanced role. Suarez, with an ownership of just 0.5%, however, looks a real differential in the making for that Black Cats’ showdown.
The Talking Point
The first international break of the season always brings with it huge temptation. A two-week break affords the time to reassess our initial line-ups and contemplate the deadwood in our 15-man squads – for many, the lure of that first wildcard proves irresistible.
This season, the introduction of the new Bonus Points System in FPL has also proved significant. Plenty have been persuaded to restructure their sides and opt for some premium-priced options at the back; after three rounds of matches, only two midfielders, six forwards and three keepers have scored more than 17 points, compared to 14 defenders.
The influx of new signings over the last few days has also proved alluring. Mesut Ozil’s arrival at Arsenal and Tottenham’s acquisition of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela hands up top-class talents to consider for our midfields, while Samuel Eto’o’s switch to Chelsea and Romelu Lukaku’s loan move to Everton have altered the Fantasy landscape. Indeed, such is the multitude of in-form options up front, Robin Van Persie is losing owners despite a schedule which sees him welcome Palace, West Brom, Southampton and Stoke over the next six Gameweeks.
Since the weekend’s action, the frantic market activity has inflated several players’ prices. With Olivier Giroud also firing in the goals, the Arsenal man – along with Sturridge – has earned himself a substantial Fantasy bandwagon and could, conceivably rise the maximum 0.3 before the next round of matches. The likes of Yaya Toure, Hernandez, Jose Enrique, Pablo Zabaleta and Fraizer Campbell continue to acquire plenty new owners, while this afternoon’s addition of the new players is likely to spark further frenzy amongst the Fantasy fraternity, with the deadline still 11 days away.