You can read part 1 here.
- Manchester United
- Another off-season of more disappointment and controversy than forward progress. And while ManU may not the be the dominant force in the Premiership any longer, they are still one of the elite clubs and have to be taken seriously by fantasy managers. Rooney, though not a goal-poacher like RvN (we'll miss him), has been a 10pt a game player for two years in a row. If only we could pick him this week, but injury and suspension means he's at best a 1-gamer this week and then won't play again until mid-September at Arsenal.
So we turn our attention elsewhere, and that means Saha stepping up into a lead role he's never held at ManU (though he did it very well at Fulham) and a midfield that can be dazzling and disappointing in equal measure. Giggs and Ronaldo are the picks of the bunch as they take kicks and get in on the goals. But they are pricey. Scholes is back, but around here he's persona non grata.... absolute fantasy poison.
In the defense, Hienze looks a good bet. Reasonably priced and back from injury. Hopefully he can make the left back spot his own again and hold off Silvestre and Evra. If you care to splurge on a keeper, Van der Saar is a good bet, but there are slightly and much cheaper options there.
- Last year Boro struggled with serious injuries and European duties. This year looks to be another up and down year as they just can't seem to find an identity as a team. Are they a scrappy hard-to-beat team led by Boateng, or a quick high-scoring team run by Downing and Yakubu? If they figure out the latter, then those two will be fantasy must-haves, but my guess is that they will only find that form in flashes and will frustrate fantasy managers.
- Newcastle United
- The return of the 3-6-1! Newcastle have at least 6 top-quality midfielders, 4 of which could walk on to any fantasy team of mine. But is there enough room on the pitch, much less the team, for Milner, Solano, Emre, Duff, Parker, Dyer (remember him?) and N'Zogbia? And who will run with Ameobi up top? He's been scoring well in pre-season, but you figure that will end come the regular season unless they add another striker (and it won't be Kuyt, who is joining Rafa's Rotating RedsTM©®).
Their defense is a shambles, though there is a glimmer of home with Taylor back from injury. Yet somehow Given puts up the numbers year after year. He's a few bucks cheaper than the elite keepers, at least those from the elite teams, but he's still a few bucks more expensive than the bargains.
- In the late stages of last season, Pompey avoided relegation and became a fantasy darlings. But do can they maintain that form and that intensity over the course of a full season? If not, they'll be right back in the mess and won't have such a kind schedule to fall back on. The interesting choice here is Matt Taylor in defense. Well, it is interesting if he's not in defense, but pushed up into the midfield. He's expensive for a defender on a crappy team, but priced about right for a winger who takes free-kicks and PKs. My guess is that he replaces D'Allessandro on the left of midfield, especially if 'arry ever actually signs that Peruvian left-back who has been training with them.
- The first of the three promoted teams, of which I know much less about. However they have an American winger who takes kicks, and Neal just LOVES him some Bobby Convey.
- Sheffield United
- I know even less about this United, but I think that I am going to be betting on teams playing them all season long! I wish that list could start with Liverpool, but alas, they are 1-gamers (distracted by an away European match at that). So we wait.
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Last year's surprise package and this year's tip to "challenge the big three". Hell, everyone is getting on this bandwagon. What's a fantasy manager to do? Buy! Berbatov is a must-have. Defoe seems ready to step it up and will start with Keane injured for a few weeks. Dawson is a strong contender in the back, and that's saying something as "the rules" would argue against picking a central defender. Zokora, though a more deep-lying player, looks to be taking corners. And Lennon is an exciting player who could add some final product to his game this season. And then their is Jenas, who scored really well last season, is relatively cheap for that productivity, and could be taking free-kicks.
Their full-back situation is a bit in flux as they never did land the quality right-back they were looking for to replace Stalteri. But they have a new left back in Assou-Ekotto, who is young, but could be a starter. Especially if they move Lee over to the right as they have at times this pre-season.
- Here's one promoted team that may have a chance to stay up. Not sure about their defense, but they seem to have quality in the attack. Something that some current Premiership teams are lacking. Marlon King is tipped to be a forward who can make the step up and score at this level. On a slightly wilder gamble, defender Jordan Stewart has top-flight experience with Leicester, and will line up in the midfield and take some free-kicks.
But my sleeper, dark horse, Nigel Reo-Coker pick of the season is Ashley Young. You gotta like that he's being called a "Thierry Henry" type player. He's small, but quick and strong. A winger that will play striker (listed as a middie... hello, the rules, anyone?), takes kicks, and scores goals.
- West Ham United
- Speaking of Reo-Coker, West Ham come into this season full of confidence and having bolstered their squad. But Ashton's ankle break robs them, and fantasy managers, of perhaps their best player and biggest goal threat. Harewood had good season totals, but how many of his goals came in gluts? And how barern was he between those times? More than a few, and very. Benayoun and Etherington are quality middies with good fantasy potential. In defense they have Konchesky who should be a better fantasy performer than he is and now they have two right backs for the one spot. Tyrone Mears is listed as a middie, so even if he does become the starter, he's out for fantasy. But John Paintsil is maybe a bit more likely to start, and listed properly. So if he does get the job, he is a good bet.
- Wigan Athletic
- Finally, Wigan. 1-gamers this week, so not a lot of attention. But Landzaat could be a good fantasy bet long term if he can fill Bullard's boots. However their aquisition of Heskey has me down on them. He killed Birmingham last year, and could take down last-season's feel good story with him this year. Camara is another one, like Harewood, Roberts, et al, who scores in bunches or not at all. Scharner was a good bet last year when he played in midfield and attack, but if he lines up as a center-back he's probably not worth the money.