We’ve already looked at the summer signings, which young stars are set to shine, the most in-demand players and the promoted picks, but here’s the most important one – which players are value for money in Sky Sports Fantasy Football.
Last season was all about Aaron Ramsey and Raheem Sterling making a mockery of their respective price tags of £5.8m and £4.8m to rack up 178 and 144 points apiece.
However, with both players seeing their valuations increased significantly, here’s a look at who I’m expecting to defy their relatively modest valuations this season.
Mathieu Debuchy - £6.1m
There are a few key principles in finding a bargain pick and Debuchy falls into the most obvious one – picking players who have signed for supposedly bigger clubs after the valuations have been set. This is especially applicable for defenders, with the majority of their points recorded due to team achievements. Don’t tell the Geordies but the number crunchers at Sky Sports Fantasy Football rate Arsenal well above Newcastle, with Debuchy their most expensive offering at £6.1m when the game launched in comparison to Per Mertesacker’s price of £7.6m. The French full-back should benefit from being part of a backline which kept 17 clean sheets last season compared to the Magpies' 10, while he managed four assists and a goal in his debut Premier League campaign.
Armand Traore - £4.8m
As with Ramsey and Sterling, another area to exploit is picking players who will defy expectations and establish themselves as first-team stars, while there’s also those who are utilised in more advanced roles than anticipated. This is obviously difficult to predict before a ball has been kicked in the Premier League this season – unless you’re a shrewd Sky Sports Fantasy Football manager. Stevan Jovetic (£7.9m) has made a case for a more regular starting berth with an impressive pre-season but I struggle to see him staying ahead of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko in Manchester City’s pecking order. Southampton’s summer sales open the door for their new batch of youngsters to shine, with the likes of Lloyd Isgrove and Harrison Reed (both just £3.8m) expected to be handed important first-team roles. However, I’m going for a left-field pick in Armand Traore, who is down as a defender but has developed into a wing-back or even a winger under Harry Redknapp’s guidance at QPR. The Hoops, who have been trialling a 5-3-2 formation in pre-season, should be fairly solid at the back with Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand recruited, while Traore bagged himself a couple of goals last season.
Erik Lamela - £6.9m
This spot was previously designated for Christian Eriksen (£7.6m) as I’m convinced he’ll produce this season but Lamela has shown promise of doing the same and is £0.7m less. The Argentinian provoked Spurs to splash nearly £27m on his services with 15 goals in his final season for Roma and has netted three times in pre-season. The chaotic rotation and a host of injury problems restricted Lamela to just three Premier League starts last season, while he also struggled to penetrate packed defences from an inside-forward role in the Europa League. With pace and an eye for goal, the 22-year-old should be better equipped to cope this season and has the potential to deliver. However, if you have the additional funds, his Danish team-mate looks a far more reliable pick, having already found his feet in English football with seven post-Christmas goals and eight assists resulting in 128 points from 23 starts.
Mark Noble - £5.4m
The West Ham midfielder somehow tends to go under the radar, making under three per cent of Fantasy sides last season despite being the game's 31st highest scorer at a meagre £5.2m. The 27-year-old is the definition of a well-rounded midfielder, contributing six assists and netting three times while racking up six passing bonus and eight tackling bonus points. That saw him register 138 points in total, more than the likes of Oscar and Philippe Coutinho and just three fewer than £8.6m-rated Mesut Ozil. As the Hammers’ penalty taker and one of the first names on Sam Allardyce’s team sheet, expect Noble, very much like Stoke duo Charlie Adam and Steve Sidwell, to consistently pick up points at a modest price.
Robert Snodgrass - £6.2m
The Scot’s value has dropped £0.8m after racking up a mediocre 110 points last season but it is worth remembering that he was part of a Norwich side which couldn’t buy a goal. Yes, Snodgrass must be held partially accountable for that but he still managed to net six times thanks to his ability to strike from range, particularly from set-pieces. His new side Hull look a solid outfit this season and, while juggling Europa League duties could be a real struggle, the Tigers should be a healthy environment for Snodgrass to significantly improve on last season’s tally.
Gylfi Sigurdsson - £6.4m
Swansea fans know just what a goalscoring threat the Icelandic attacking midfielder can be, having seen him net seven times in 18 appearances during a loan spell in 2011/12. He also managed to net five times for Spurs last season despite making just 13 starts and racked up 16 goals in one campaign for Reading, so he is far from a one-spell-wonder. At the same price as defensive midfielders Victor Wanyama and Javi Garcia, the 24-year-old is vastly under-rated.