Quick Reminder, Real Life
Last season started out with an odd choice for manager (Houlier) who didn’t make it through the year due to health reasons. The team that had been excellent the year before regressed terribly despite a lot of the same talent and they hovered just above the relegation zone for a good part of the first half. In January they added Darren Bent as a front line of John Carew/Emile Heskey and Gabby Agbonlahor just wasn’t getting it done. The new acquisition helped them climb from the depths of the table to 9th. Still, a disappointing finish given the talent on hand and the expectations created in 2009-10 when they flirted with a Top 4 spot until well into the season.
Quick Reminder, Fantasy
BFAY (that’s Blog Favorite Ashley Young to the newly initiated), Downing, and DBent were exactly what you’d expect (very good) but also fairly expensive at this point. Albrighton and Clark were excellent values when they played. Friedel was a bit of a disaster in the first half but as tends to happen, his numbers improved along with the team’s fortunes in the second half. The forwards who started the season - Gabby, Carew, and Heskey - didn’t show much. Kyle Walker, a loan signing from Spurs, came on in the second half of the season and provided some good value when he was in the line-up. Left back Stephen Warnock disappeared after a very good 2009-10.
- Wings Out - BFAY and Downing have headed to bigger clubs leaving behind a gap in talent and a large pile of Manchester United and Liverpool’s money. The key to Villa’s season will be...
- Wings In - It is likely that the outbound wingers will be replaced by the promising Albrighton on one side and Charles N’Zogbia. Given the amount of money coming in, it really isn’t a bad bit of business for Villa if they can reinvest the additional money well.
- Keeper Swap - Out goes BBBF (that’s Big Bad Brad Friedel) and in comes not-so-big-but-still-very-good Shay Given. If you’re going to lose quality like Friedel, you could certainly do worse than picking up Given since you’re also getting a longer time horizon than the close-to-retirement Friedel will give you.
- Right Back? - With Walker back to Spurs and looking like he may start for them, you have to wonder who is going to fill the seemingly perpetual gap in that spot for Villa. Rumors have Allen Hutton heading to Villa Park and young American Eric Lichaj looked good in the Gold Cup but neither of those options are set in stone at this point. Even emergency RB Nigel Reo-Coker has moved on. At Birmingham, McLeish used converted center-back Liam Ridgewell at left-back, and might do the same thing here. Carlos Cuellar was the starter there last season until injury cost him the rest of the year. Also, Luke Young may get the nod at his natural position after filling in on the left for much of last season.
2011-12 Outlook, Real Life
Given the quality lost in Young and Downing, you have to think that Villa will also take a step back unless they’re playing possum and are going to splash some cash beyond what they’ve done so far. Bringing in Alex McLeish from hated rival Birmingham can’t make supporters feel good either since McLeish was available after seeing his side relegated on the other side of Birmingham last term. The great hope is that the youngsters who showed great promise - especially Albrighton and Clark - can take a further step up. A rebound season from a healthier Agbonlahor would help offset the loss of the two wingers. Overall, my guess is that they regress a little bit to the low teens - I’d guess 13th place if I had to put a number to it.
Probable Starting XI
Given, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Young, Petrov, Makoun, N’Zogbia, Albrighton, DBent, Agbonlahor
2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
- Fantasy Gold - I’m not sure there’s anyone on the Villa roster I’d consider “gold” per se. N’Zogbia, Given, DBent, Collins, and Dunne all qualify as extremely good though, call it “fantasy silver” maybe.
- On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
- Albrighton (new starter) should be promoted from injury replacement/occasional relief starter/late-game change of pace to fulltime starter. The only problem is that his cameos drove his price way up so unless he dips early in the season, he may not be a huge value.
- Clark (uncertain status) could pick up some time similar to Jack Rodwell’s role at Everton - a combination of 3rd CB and occasional HM. If he does start to get more time, you should consider him seriously because he showed the ability to score over-and-above solid all-around play.
- Delfouneso (rising talent) could get a shot at more playing time with Carew gone. At an extremely low price, he could be worth a spot start.
- Traps - At his current price of 15.00 (in the Yahoo game), DBent just isn’t worth it. He scores goals which isn’t a bad thing but he doesn’t get a ton of shots on target or other “phantom points”. I’d stay away unless the match-up is fantastic and/or his price comes down a bit.
2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy
Studs: New signing Shay Given should be the most popular fantasy signing in the game at his position - coming in at a pricetag of 5M, the Irish stud has loads of experience and big-save ability, and should be top of mind for any fantasy manager who doesn’t own Joe Hart. Managers should invest in former Newcastle and Manchester City man as we know that McLeish loves to build his teams from the back - and does his best to keep it tight. Super stud. Speaking of super studs, Charlie N’Zogbia (7.5M) is another new signing with loads of Fantasy Premier League experience. The former Wigan man should come in and make an impact right away in support of another stud Darren Bent (10M) who, despite his expensive price this season, always finds a way to score 15+ league goals and should be the main penalty kick taker at the club this season.
Duds: Aston Villa’s players are so cheap - there really aren’t that many duds to speak of from a fantasy perspective - other than potentially the formerly superb CB combo of Dunne and Collins who both come in priced at 5.5M. With Given 0.5M cheaper and surely do some save points and bonus points, perhaps Dunne and Collins aren’t as valuable as they have been in the past. That said, they are certainly NOT duds by any means - as they provide some attacking intent from set pieces - but from a “value” perspective, they are the closest thing in Villa’s starting 11 to potentially ‘over-priced’ since Warnock (5M) and Given (5M) should both start at 0.5M cheaper.
On the fence: It was really unfair to put Dunne and Collins in the ‘duds’ section when they really should be ‘on the fence,’ but I’ve decided instead to stick three mid-priced attacking options in this bucket: Albrighton (6.5M), Ireland (6M) and Agbonlahor (6.5M). I don’t think Agbonlahor will start every game but at 6.5M he could be a superb signing if Bent gets injured and/or McLeish starts both strikers for an extended run. Agbonlahor has speed to burn and has three times scored in double figures in the league. If he starts 30+ games (unlikely with Heskey and Bent around as well) I really do believe he’ll get 10+ goals and could operate very nicely as a slightly pricier third striker. Keep an eye on his playing time and form. Stephen Ireland is a player I have always thought was really top class. He showed it at Manchester City 2-3 years ago but has not done much since. If he combines well with N’Zogbia he could be a cheap entry point into a Villa lineup that needs to replace the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. Albrighton, like Ireland, will play a supporting role to N’Zogbia from set pieces but the youngster is quick and could score in bunches. If he gets hot, he could be worth riding for a 5-6 gameweek stretch.