Quick Reminder, Real Life
Sort of an odd season at Stamford Bridge wasn’t it. Never REALLY in the race for first but never REALLY out of it either. The Blues big names down the spine of the formation - Drogba, Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien and Cech - were all less than their best for varying reasons but all were still above average Premier League players when they played. The names brought in to supplement that core also had their ups and downs. Florent Malouda had a great first half but only an adequate second half. Anelka and Kalou were effective in spells and invisible over other spells. Ramires wasn’t ready. Mikel may never be ready. Big winter signings Torres and Luiz cost a lot of money with mixed results at best. Luiz was by far the better of the two although he seemed to have a penchant for making one big mistake per match. Torres was an unmitigated disaster. Chelsea are clearly a team between “generations” of players with half a roster of players heading toward the downside of their careers a few decidedly on the upside and precious few healthy and at their prime. It just wasn’t enough to compete with United.
Quick Reminder, Fantasy
You expect a lot from Chelsea players when it comes to fantasy. Lots of goals, lots of clean sheets, and expensive prices. Of note, FloMal was one of the best players going for the first two months of the season. Drogba closed the season very well. Luiz scored some goals which will be a great addition to defending points if he can settle down a bit, hold on to a place in the starting line-up, and avoid the bad cards and fouls in the box. Anelka degraded throughout the course of the season leaving us to wonder what his fate will be this coming season.
- New Manager - Rough life when finishing second in the league isn’t good enough for you to keep your job despite none of your best players having an exceptional season. Still, Ancelotti is out and Villa-Boas is in with supporters hoping he’ll be the “next Mourinho”.
- Um? - With lots of money available and lots of big names being discussed, Chelsea have been curiously silent. Javier Pastore may still be on his way for far too much money but otherwise, they appear to have done their buying last January.
- Is Anyone Leaving? - Sort of odd that there has been so little movement with a new manager coming in. Usually the new guy ditches a bunch of players from the previous regime and brings in a bunch of “his guys” but in this case neither has really happened...yet. Look for an active January once AVB figures out what he has.
- Torres Re-charged? - Will Torres come back with a summer of rest? Will he come even close to justifying his price? Could anyone?
2011-12 Outlook, Real Life
Given the ages of Chelsea’s key players, you have to think that the only two who might be capable of a marked uptick in performance are Drogba, coming back from injury, and Torres, coming back from oblivion. Problem is that they play pretty much the same role on the field albeit with different strengths and weaknesses. If I were AVB I’d be much more worried about looking over my shoulder at Citeh catching up and surpassing me than I would be about catching United who were better last season, have done more to improve themselves via acquisition, AND have more high potential youngsters pushing up from the youth and reserve ranks. Looks like this season will be a fight for Chelsea to maintain their hold as part of the Premier League’s “Top Two”. And no, my opinion doesn’t change too much if Pastore finds his way to West London over the balance of the summer. Nice player but not someone I think is ready to turn the balance of the title race in his first season in the league.
Probable Starting XI
Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, ACole, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda, Ramires, Drogba, Torres
2011-12 Scouting Report, Yahoo Fantasy
- Fantasy Gold - Lots of fantasy gold here with Cech, ACole, Lampard, and Drogba both expensive and among the best at their respective positions both in the real world and in fantasy.
- On The Rise - Every season a variety of factors create opportunities for value buying in the Yahoo! game:
- Benayoun (returning from injury) was devalued greatly due to his injuries last season and could get more time than anyone thought with Essien injured and Ramires still with a ways to go before he’s a no-doubt-about-it first choice player.
- Luiz (relative newcomer) isn’t as cheap as a brand new defender to the league but his mixed performances combined with Chelsea’s inability to keep a clean sheet down the stretch last season kept his price at least reasonable if not actually cheap.
- McEachran (rising star) has been the great hope for Chelsea for a while now and was eased into first-team action by Ancelotti. AVB has been playing him in a more advanced role this pre-season with Lampard moved to a deeper position on the right in recent matches. Is this McEachran's chance to become Chelsea's playmaker and rise to fantasy relevance (if not prominence)?
- Traps - I’m nominating John Terry and Torres for this spot not because I don’t think both will be better than average Premier League players and fairly regular starters but both are incredibly expensive and unlikely to be as productive as they have been in the past due to varying combinations of age, injury, and competition for spots at crowded positions. Seriously, do we think AVB will bring Chelsea out in a 4-2-4 with all those strikers on the roster? You could also put Sturridge in this category, though to be fair, he's been given a chance in pre-season. However, it's just too hard to see him being given the nod over the likes of Drogba and Torres.
2011-12 Outlook, Official PL Fantasy
Studs: The entire team is full of ‘real life’ studs but let’s focus on ‘value’ for the money here. Malouda (10.5M) is the best bet if he can lock down a starting spot under AVB because he comes in 1.5M cheaper than Lampard. There is still uncertainty over who will fill the Essien role - will it be Benayoun (7M) Mikel (5M) Ramires (7M) McEachran (5M) or someone new like Modric? If it’s Benayoun - and he starts consistently - he’s a stud as Chelsea’s cheapest starting midfielder. That said, don’t invest in the Israeli from the get-go and wait for AVB to show us his preferred lineup... Luiz at 6.5M is cheaper than Cole, Ivanovic and Terry so he could be the main man at the back if he holds down a spot over Alex. At right back, Jose Bosingwa is the best value of all at 5.5M and I highly recommend purchasing him if he can somehow pip both Ivanovic and Ferreira to the starting now. At 5.5M he would be an absolute bargain.
Duds: Stay away from “Real Life” studs John Terry (7.5M) and Petr Cech (7M). They will play week in and week out, sure, but the prices just don’t make sense. If you need to splurge, Ashley Cole (7.5M) is locked in as the best left back in the league and will provide his trademark attacking runs which should benefit fantasy managers. Terry and Cech seem a bit expensive at this point. That said, the new EA Sports Bonus Points Index could be worth monitoring as both Cech and Terry scored well in that system last year - so if the bonus points start trickling in the first few weeks - one could be inclined to move these two from the “dud” to the “stud” category.
On the fence: Drogba (10.5M) and Torres (11M). They are cheaper than Rooney and RVP, but will they both start? Only AVB knows. Two of the best strikers in the world when in form, at one point or another in the season, it’s nearly impossible for fantasy managers NOT to own them. But form the start it’s a risky proposition unless AVB reveals his starting lineup (Carlo Ancelotti style) in his weekly press conferences. It’s a wait and see approach, then for these massive names and fantasy managers will be licking their lips if it becomes clear that one is a clear first choice and rotation doesn’t come in to play.