We roll out our fifth article focussing on rotation pairs for the campaign ahead this afternoon. Having looked at Stoke and Swansea, Newcastle and Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Ham, Burnley and Hull, we now take a look at Southampton and Leicester:
Once again, this is a partnership that offers Fantasy managers a home/away rotation option over the entire upcoming campaign. Looking at the fixtures for the first 20 Gameweeks, however, a Southampton/Leicester pairing would hand you seven testing fixtures – ARS, MUN, MCI, LIV, MCI, CHE, ARS – highlighting a more difficult first half of the season which subsequently eases over the final few months.
As the ticker illustrates, the schedule does offer us some very viable away fixtures for five of those seven games, leaving only Gameweek 14 and 20 as troublesome, when Liverpool and Arsenal come calling.
Alternatively, Leicester also rotate with Hull on a home/away for 16 of the first 20 Gameweeks, leading us into the winter wildcard, whilst Southampton and Burnley alternate on 17 occasions. For each of these partnerships, there are only two occasions where both sides have a fixture marked as difficult by our ticker, suggesting they could also be viable to those on the lookout for alternatives.
It would be an understatement to say that the Saints have exceeded expectations since returning to the Premier League two seasons ago. Last term in particular, the Saints were a Fantasy goldmine in all areas of the park under Mauricio Pochettino and their defence picked up plenty of investment after delivering 15 clean sheets – seven at home and eight on the road.
There are concerns for the season ahead, though; a new manager, a plundered squad and the inevitable price rises for the remaining players. It remains to be seen whether Ronald Koeman can repeat Pochettino’s feat and the pre-season will shape our opinions somewhat but if a mooted move away for Dejan Lovren transpires, the Saints may struggle at the back.
Artur Boruc will surely continue as the number one and one look at last season’s statistics shows the Pole’s average of 4.3 points per game was greater than any backline option. Elsewhere, Jose Fonte’s goal threat came to the fore three times last term but his exploits are likely to ensure he’s amongst the costliest Saints defenders, whilst Calum Chambers or Nathaniel Clyne will be determined to nail down a regular role after both alternated for the right-back berth under Pochettino last time around.
The Foxes won the Championship with the third best defensive record in 2013/14 and amassed 18 clean sheets, nine at home and nine away. Essentially, then, Nigel Pearson’s side conceded in 14 of 23 home games in the Championship, suggesting they may struggle to keep out their opponents in the top-flight.
The son of one the Premier League’s most celebrated goalkeepers, Kasper Schmeichel, can expect to be kept busy between the posts and with save points seeming likely, he could find himself subject to our Fantasy attentions. Former Man United right-back Ritchie De Laet showed plenty of attacking intent last season and produced two goals and five assists over 36 appearances last season, while Wes Morgan – also with a couple of strikes to his name – offers a security of starts in the heart of the back-four.
The departures of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert robs the Saints of their top two scorers in last season’s Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game but Ronald Koeman has moved impressively in the summer transfer market. The Dutchman’s two signings so far have been widely regarded as good business; Graziano Pelle was prolific for Feyenoord with 55 goals in 66 games under Koeman in the Eredivisie, while dead-ball expert Dusan Tadic served up 16 goals and 14 assists in 33 games for FC Twente and has produced 10+ assists in each of his last four seasons.
If the new boys can settle quickly, they could be excellent Fantasy prospects from the off, given that Koeman’s side play only two of last season’s top eight in the first 12 Gameweeks. With Jay Rodriguez currently sidelined through injury, Koeman could turn to one of last season’s bit part players on the flanks – James Ward-Prowse showed a lot of promise under Pochettino and, as his record at Feyenoord shows, Koeman is a great believer in giving youth a chance.
Pearson’s side notched 83 times in the Championship last term – more than any promoted side – with 46 goals in front of their own fans and 37 on the road. Up top, spot-kick taker David Nugent’s 20 goals and 12 assists catch the eye – he’s just signed a two-year contract and looks like a certain starter, though Jamie Vardy, depsite an impressive 16 goals and 10 assists, may struggle for regular game time once Pearson strengthens in the final third.
In the centre of the park, there are potentially a couple of options on offer. With a nomination for Championship Player of the Year, Danny Drinkwater will be eager to make the transition to the top flight; five goals and seven assists last season suggest that he could well be of Fantasy interest, with a share of corners also boosting his appeal. Right winger Anthony Knockaert is first-choice for dead-ball situations and chipped in with five goals and seven assists, also bringing himself into contention as a cheap fifth midfielder.