The Premier League's 2014-15 official fantasy game has been open for about a week now and I've started to dive into some of their current prices. I'd say for the most part they are pretty fair; Manchester United's Robin van Persie is the most expensive player in the game at £12.5, which is too rich for me at this point given his injury history.
Speaking of injuries, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is the next-highest priced player at £12.0, followed by Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge at £11.5, Man City's Yaya Toure at £11.0 and then Man U's Wayne Rooney, Chelsea's Diego Costa at £10.5, and Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez at £10.5. Chelsea's Eden Hazard is the final double-digit priced player at £10.0.
When building your roster, you obviously need to figure out which top-priced players your going to lay out for, but I started to consider players at similar prices and deciding which ones I'd rather have.
Who is the best second-tiered striker, Olivier Giroud, Wilfried Bony, Edin Dzeko or Emmanuel Adebayor, who are all priced at £8.5? Alvaro Negredo and Romelu Lukaku are both prices at £9.0, which is crazy for two reasons: 1. Negredo absolutely fell off a cliff in 2014 and didn't even make Spain's World Cup squad (not to mention he's now out for three months), while Lukaku appears to be getting a chance to stay at Chelsea this season, which puts him behind Costa on the depth chart. I can't fathom Jose Mourinho is going to play both at the same time.
Adebayor was solid last season after Tim Sherwood replaced Andre Villas-Boas, but he started to struggle toward the end of last season. Bony was excellent and he has plenty of upside, although there have been numerous transfer inquiries for him and I don't love laying out that much of my budget before I know where someone is going to play. I like Giroud at this price, although do you think Sanchez takes some goals away from him or does he actually create more?
Dzeko is my call in this group. He was excellent toward the end of the season while Negredo struggled and with Aguero still kind of banged up (when is he not?), I feel Dzeko has the most upside of that group.
What do you think?
It's funny you ask, because Bony, Giroud, and Dzeko were my three strikers in the initial team I assembled. Since then, I've changed my setup, which required me to differentiate the trio. At the moment, I would probably rank them as 1. Giroud, 2. Bony, 3. Dzeko.
Giroud ranks first because he's cemented as Arsenal's center forward, a position that sees many chances come his way, and entering the prime of his third Premier League season. Although his pace and performances in big games leave things to be desired, Giroud still accounted for 16 goals and eight assists in the league last season, which totaled to rank him third among current strikers in the Premier League's official fantasy game. Also, I think having Sanchez around will help divert the attention of opposing defenses, set up more goal-scoring chances for Giroud, and keep the Frenchman fresher over the course of the season.
While Giroud is very good at bringing his teammates into play, Bony is an out-and-out goal scorer for Swansea City. In fact, across all 50 appearances he made for the Swans last season, he notched a highly-impressive 27 goals, evidencing a remarkable transition to the rigors of English football. Even though his supporting cast is worse than both Giroud's and Dzeko's, Swansea still controlled possession (57.3 percent, good for third) in most games and Bony also scored versus top competition like Arsenal (1), Everton (1), Liverpool (1), Manchester City (2), and Manchester United (3). Should he remain at Swansea, Bony is undoubtedly their talisman and could reach the 20-goal plateau once again.
Dzeko really came on to end last season, propelling Man City's title campaign while Aguero and Negredo were dealing with poor fitness and form, respectively. The Bosnian finished with 16 goals, but his assist-count varies depending on where you look. According to the reputable WhoScored.com and ESPNFC.com, Dzeko set up just one league goal, while the folks running the Premier League fantasy site somehow credited him with seven assists, a huge disparity. So while Dzeko took advantage of superb service to score goals, he didn't reciprocate with assists as frequently as Giroud. Sure, he could be an Aguero injury away from being City's No. 1 striker, but unlike Arsenal and Swansea, City doesn't rely as heavily on their center forwards to score the bulk of their goals (see: Toure, Yaya. Silva, David. Nasri, Samir). Additionally, I expect to see much more of forgotten man Stevan Jovetic this season following an injury-riddled Premiership debut.
Obviously, I don't believe Adebayor should be valued at the same price as any of Giroud, Bony, or Dzeko. His resurgence under Tim Sherwood was nice, but he's 30 years old and simply isn't as good as any of the aforementioned trio. Tottenham also have a new manager and Adebayor has proven to be pretty hot-or-cold in relationships with his previous bosses, so that's another concern.
If Lukaku is eventually sold to Everton, I think he could rival the production of players like Giroud, Bony, and Dzeko, although he does cost £0.5 more than each of the £8.5 triumvirate. The young Belgian really kicked-on at Goodison Park and works well with fellow attackers Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley. Chelsea certainly boasts superior playmakers than Everton, but it's hard to imagine "Big Rom" getting enough playing time under Mourinho. If he's a Chelsea player at the end of the transfer window, I fear Lukaku could rot on Chelsea's bench.
I think the potential transfer is what's keeping me weary of Bony. If he ends up at Tottenham (today's latest rumor) does he immediately start up front with Abebayor? Could we see Roberto Soldado in the mix as well? Speaking of Soldado, if anyone is willing to pay £8.0 for him in fantasy, good luck to you.
You may be turning me onto Giroud but I'm still a big fan of Dzeko early on. I agree that Jovetic could get more playing time, as long as he actually stays healthy this year.
There are a few lower-cost forwards that I'm looking at as well. Loic Remy at £7.5 could be a steal if he's able to make the move to Liverpool and fill in for Luis Suarez. I'm not expecting nearly the production that we saw from the Uruguayan last season, but Remy should be able to play over Rickie Lambert.
Connor Wickham at £6.0 seemed interesting to me given how well he finished last season. However, his value will be directly tied to another guy who I would consider in this price range, which is Fabio Borini, who is currently priced at £6.5. If he is able to get his move to Sunderland, instead of wasting a season behind Sturridge, Remy and Lambert at Anfield, I think he could be a nice low-cost addition.
Any other forwards you like in the lower-price range? Andy Carroll, Emmanuel Riviere and Danny Welbeck are each at £7.0. I should note I've never been much of a Welbeck fan, so I'd probably rank them 1. Carroll, 2. Riviere, 3. Welbeck, although that all depends on Carroll staying healthy.
Going even cheaper, I think Nikica Jelavic could be a steal at £6.0, and I wish I could say Jozy Altidore at £5.5 is another, but unfortunately that's not the case.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of formation new Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino deploys if Bony is brought in. He mostly opted for a 4-2-3-1 at Southampton, with Lambert playing centrally, although Jay Rodriguez made quite an impact (pre-injury) as a second striker out wide. That being said, if Spurs spend big money on Bony, I'm inclined to think he's going to be the starter up front, where he'd be surrounded by an improved supporting cast, including stud midfielder Christian Eriksen, compared to Swansea's.
You're right, another situation that'll be worthwhile to monitor is who Liverpool deems to be Sturridge's best strike partner. Lambert is the kind of target man that can bring down balls and add a physical presence to complement Sturridge, while Remy is a speed merchant who is fairly similar to Sturridge in that they both are unafraid to shoot from anywhere and beat defenders with pace. When it's all said and done, I think Lambert and Remy will feature in some sort of platoon, which could sap some fantasy value from both players despite whatever success they enjoy next to Sturridge.
There certainly are some lower-priced forwards that I feel could do a decent job for fantasy owners. If Swansea City ultimately sells Bony, they've already purchased Bafetimbi Gomis, who is coming off three straight 20-plus goal seasons for Lyon and costs a reasonable £7.0 at the moment.
In addition to Wickham, Jelavic, and Riviere, I think Peter Crouch's (£6.0) track record makes him a player that could flirt with the 10-goal range. Also, while Christian Benteke remains sidelined for Aston Villa, both Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann (£5.5 each) represent solid values.