The off-season is no time for dwelling on the past, unless you’re one of the canny fantasy football managers who strategized their way to a top-1000 finish. For the rest of us, there should be no time wasted ruminating on the mistakes of last season, on the disappointing triple captains, on the weeks spent with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott in your team for some unfathomable reason.
Just as Premier League managers are working feverishly to improve their side, many fantasy football bosses will be looking with interest to three new squads of players who have become open for selection. Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa arrive back in the Premier League after absences of varying lengths. There’s no doubt that there’s a fantasy football bargain or two somewhere in those squads.
Most expected Leeds United to top the Championship under the wisdom of Marcelo Bielsa, but it was Daniel Farke’s Norwich who defied the odds and impressed with their fluid attacking play. While Bielsa is preparing for another season as Championship betting favourites with Leeds, Farke will be contemplating how to adapt to life in the top flight.
Adaptation will be much easier if Teemu Pukki continues his fine form, with the Finnish forward finishing the season as the top scorer last year with 29 goals. Pukki’s inability to score prolifically in the Bundesliga or the SPL will raise concerns, although a possible price of around £6.0 could make Norwich’s main man a risk worth taking.
Include newly promoted defenders at your peril, but swashbuckling full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis look like the kind of players whose price could quickly rise once a bigger audience sees their potential.
It would be harsh to write Billy Sharp off as another Dwight Gayle/Cameron Jerome in waiting, a player attuned to the rigours of the Championship but lacking in Premier League skill. Nevertheless, it may be worth holding off on Sharp for a few weeks.
The more creative David McGoldrick could be the pick of the Blades’ attacking options. He may lack pace, but McGoldrick has the vision to rack up assist points even if the goals dry up.
Wing-backs always appeal, with Chris Wilder’s side well-accustomed to that system. Could one of George Baldock or Enda Stevens be this season’s Matt Doherty, in that you stubbornly keep them out of your team in the assumption that they have to stop scoring/assisting at some point?
Despite arriving via the playoffs, Villa’s squad on paper will have many journalists predicting Dean Smith’s side to enjoy the best fortunes of the promoted clubs. Fantasy football is also played on paper (at least before the season starts), so there are likely to be many benches filled with Villa players for the first game week.
Of those, Jack Grealish may be the most popular choice. Grealish notched a fairly indifferent 6 goals in 35 appearances last year, but the tricky midfielder is likely to draw many free-kicks and penalties from desperate defenders.
Ahmed Elmohamady’s versatility and Premier League experience could bode well for his hopes of securing regular football. Elmohamady has never been a goal machine, but he was often deployed in midfield for Villa last year. Simply by being further forward than advertised, Elmohamady’s chances of unwittingly deflecting in a Villa goal are greatly improved.
How many promoted players you sign ultimately depends on how you think the promoted sides will fare. Fulham and Cardiff offered little for fantasy football managers last season, with Mitrovic and Etheridge respectively excluded. Whichever side you anticipate coming closest to pulling a Wolves should be your first port of call for potential bargains.