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2011 EPL Player Rankings: Rooney, Vidic, Van Persie Top Charts

Kevin King

Kevin King

Kevin is a suffering Tottenham supporter living in Buffalo, New York, where also suffers from being a Buffalo Bills fan. He covers Major League Soccer and the English Premier League for Rotowire.

Full disclosure, I listed Carlos Tevez, he of the 20 goals for Man City last year, as my "buyer beware" pick for last season. Whoops! To my credit, I did list Dimitar Berbatov as a sleeper, as well as PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale and told you to stay away from Cesc Fabregas and Rio Ferdinand. So without any further adieu, here are my EPL player rankings for the upcoming 2011-12 season.

Forwards



1. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United. It's hard to justify putting anybody else ahead of Rooney. While he had a subpar season by his standards last year, Rooney really settled in after a brutal start to the year. He has had a terrific preseason in exhibitions across the United States and at 25 is a solid bet to return to his normal brilliance.

2. Peter Odemwingie, West Bromwich Albion. The Nigerian, Russian from Uzbekistan ... whatever he is ... he's good. Odemwingie became a household name in England after an absolutely genius 2010-11 season in which he netted 15 times, including some absolute gems. He almost singularly holds the hopes for WBA, who would be a relegation battling side without him. At the very worst he'll get 15 again, and is still undervalued because he doesn't play for one of the English powers.

3. Darren Bent, Aston Villa. Bent just scores goals. It doesn't matter where he is, the underappreciated Englishman puts the ball in the net. Bent scored 17 between Sunderland and Villa last year, and now that he is fully settled at Villa, look for more of the same.

4. Andy Carroll, Liverpool. Carroll has looked great for the Reds this preseason, and most importantly, he is healthy. The stage seems set for Carroll to take the next giant leap in his career with a huge season at Anfield. He did score 13 last year despite battling injuries and being sold-off from Newcastle to Liverpool in January.

5. Didier Drogba, Chelsea. You just cannot leave someone with Drogba's talent out of the top five, and he enters 2011-12 with an axe to grind after a disappointing season in 2010-11 in which he went from 29 goals the year before to only 11. Health is the major concern with Drogba, and rightfully so, but he's more than capable of returning to that 20 goal mark if he stays relatively injury-free.

BUYER BEWARE: Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United. With a renewed Wayne Rooney and a budding superstar in Chicharito, Berba is likely to see less time than he did during last season's terrific 20 goal trek. Remember too, that five of those goals came in one game. Put that all together, and the Bulgarian star is due to take a step back ... maybe even a steep one.

SLEEPER: Fernando Torres, Chelsea. You hate to call him a sleeper, but after such an embarrassing end to his 2010-11 campaign, you have to. One goal in eight games after joining the Blues in January have many turned off by El Nino, but with a full summer to rest and clear his head, the real Torres will be back for Chelsea.

Midfield



1. Robin van Persie, Arsenal. Let's get it out of the way first, the standard line on RVP; "when he's healthy he can be the best attacking midfielder on the planet." It's an absolute truth, and you need to look no further than the numbers. He finished last season scoring 12 goals in the last 12 league games that he played in for the Gunners (seriously). RVP as your top midfielder is a no-brainer.

2. Samir Nasri, Arsenal (for now). Nasri hasn't won over too many fans in England with his brashness and arrogance, but the kid is a remarkable talent, despite a pretty tame finish to the season for Arsenal. Much of that can be credited to having van Persie back on the field, because when Nasri had to carry the load, he did so brilliantly.

3. Rafael van der Vaart, Tottenham Hotspur. The fans at White Hart Lane fell in love with the Dutchman after Spurs jumped on a last minute bargain to buy him at the end of the summer transfer window in 2010. All VDV did was finish the season tied for second in goals amongst all Premiership midfielders, and there's no reason not to expect a repeat performance.

4. Kevin Nolan, Newcastle. Right behind names like van der Vaart, Malouda and van Persie on the goal-scoring charts sits Kev Nolan. Though he seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 29, and definitely provides the most value of any midfielder in the Premiership from a fantasy standpoint.

5. Florent Malouda, Chelsea. Malouda seems to be the one constant for the Blues, no matter how many other things are out of whack. There isn't a better goal-scoring winger in the Premiership than Malouda, and with back-to-back seasons of 13 and 12 goals, you can definitely look for around that same number again this year for the Frenchman.

BUYER BEWARE: Charlie Adam, Liverpool. The Reds' restructured midfield may be one of the stories of the summer, aside from the continued drunken spending at Manchester City. Adam was absolutely terrific for Blackpool last season, and was their Mr. Everything. He scored 12 times for the Tangerines, but there is little doubt that his role will be a bit diminished, at least to start, at Anfield.

SLEEPER: Adam Johnson, Manchester City. City went out and outbid everybody else for the services of Johnson last summer, and he only managed to score four times in 31 league appearances. But Johnson excelled in Europa League play for City, and the timing seems right for this to be the year he takes a giant step forward.

Defense

1. Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United. This one isn't even close. Clean sheets, yellow cards, assists and goals all go into the fantasy value of a defender, and Vidic is far and away the best there is in the Premier League.

2. David Luiz, Chelsea. Luiz was absolutely unbelievable for the Blues after joining them from Benfica in the January transfer window. He was staggeringly good, netting twice in 12 appearances and almost redefining how a center back plays in England. 2011-12 figures to be an enormous season for the Brazilian star.

3. Leighton Baines, Everton. Baines had five goals and 11 assists for Everton last season, and may be the most offensively-gifted defender in the Premiership. You can't go wrong with Baines on your back line.

4. Patrice Evra, Manchester United. United will almost surely lead the league in clean sheets again in this season, and Evra will pile up the fantasy points because of it, despite not providing a whole lot of offense.

5. Sylvain Distin, Everton. Distin was gigantic for the Toffees in 2010-11, enough so that he has begun to get a look from some of the big clubs in Europe. Distin does extremely well on the Actim Index (think of it as sabermetrics for soccer). Again, don't expect a whole lot, if any, goals, but Everton get a fair share of clean sheets, and Distin gets his fair share of discipline.

BUYER BEWARE: Brede Hangeland, Fulham. Hangeland had a few monumental goals for the Cottagers last season, but the best bet is to consider it an anomaly that will have the giant Norwegian overvalued in fantasy leagues. He netted six times for Fulham in 2010-11. Before that, he had never scored more than once in a season.

SLEEPER: Christopher Samba, Blackburn Rovers (for now). Samba has always been a steady contributor of offense from the back in his time with Blackburn, but his name has burnt hot and heavy in the transfer rumors. He provides tremendous value since he doesn't play for one of the big boys in England, but his price tag will surely go up if rumored moves to either Arsenal or Spurs come to fruition.

GOALKEEPERS


1.Joe Hart, Manchester City. Hart made it known right from the opening game last August that he was the number one at City with a brilliant performance against Tottenham. From then on, he never looked back. Hart, England's number one for years to come, will get plenty of wins and clean sheets.

2.Peter Cech, Chelsea. There are times when Cech could stretch out on his goal-line with the Sunday paper and not be bothered by a shot, especially when the Blues take on the bottom rung teams of the Premier League. It's really a toss up between Cech and Hart for the top spot, and the deciding factor could be the price you can get them at in your league.

3.David de Gea, Manchester United. A bit of an unknown commodity, or he'd be right there with Cech and Hart for the top spot. De Gea has not disappointed in his early looks in the preseason with the Red Devils, and there doesn't seem to be a single detractor when it comes to how good this kid will be at United.

BUYER BEWARE: Heurelho Gomes, Tottenham Hotspur. Gomes has made some of the most mind-blowing saves you're likely to ever see. Problem, big problem, is that he'll fumble and flub saves that a school kid would make look routine. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has seen enough, and Spurs went out and signed Brad Friedel to sure up their goalkeeping situation this summer. Gomes is the number one, for now, but it's tenuous whether or not he'll even be with the club at the end of August. Stay far away.

SLEEPER: Ali Al-Habsi, Wigan. Looking to save some money so you can buy big at other positions? Al-Habsi is your guy. Wigan tend to play ugly, which means a lot of low-scoring games and clean sheets. Add to it the fact that Al-Habsi is genuinely a terrific and skilled keeper, and he's definitely the guy you want if you hate spending big on a goalie.