This year to run alongside our Roker Report Fantasy Football League I'll be writing a weekly column to keep everyone updated on how the League is doing, as well as offering some tips on players that fantasy managers should flock to select, as well as those that should be avoided like a bad dose of the plague. I'll also be keeping an eye on the title fight at the top, as well as looking through the League for teams who have had a particularly good week, and (so everyone's warned) checking for those players who have turned their stripes and picked a Mag!
My tips for the opening gameweek are:
Sunderland Player To Watch: Emanuele Giaccherini
A regular Italian international who featured, and scored, at this summer's Confederations Cup and a player who was highly valued at Juventus; Giac's CV is certainly impressive. From the limited evidence we have of the Teeny Tuscan in a Sunderland shirt, he should prove a handy fantasy points scorer. In the game against FC Midtjylland, he lifted a ball into the box to kick-start the move ending in a lovely Sunderland goal from Adam Johnson. Although this pass wouldn't have earned Giac any fantasy points, it hints at a crossing and passing ability that could earn the Italian a wealth of assists in the upcoming season. His performances out in Hong Kong, where he proved more than willing to have a pop at goal when opportunities arose, also hint to Giaccherini being a decent addition to any fantasy side. At 7.0mil he is also fairly competitively priced for a player who will hopefully chip in with a fair few goals and assists.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention another Sunderland player who could well be a shrewd addition to any Fantasy Football team - Giaccherini's fellow new-boy Jozy Altidore. The American scored a fantastic hat-trick for his national side tonight, and also priced at just 7.0mil (which is very reasonable for a striker with the potential to score as many as Altidore could) the fantastic Floridian would be a wise investment as an attacker.
General Player To Watch: Paulinho
Spurs' new Brazilian midfielder looks to be a lot more useful as a Fantasy Footballer than his compatriot Sandro. Whilst Sandro is undoubtedly an extremely talented footballer, his more defensive stye of midfield play means that as a fantasy player he brings little in the way of a points return. Paulinho is a different proposition. He starred in the Confederations Cup where he showed his ability to bring the ball forwards from deep, making him a possible assist-provider, as well as his impressive aerial ability at set-pieces with his goal against Uruguay. If he can chip in with goals from free kicks and corners then he could turn out to be a wise investment at 7.0mil.
Sunderland Player To Avoid: Sebastian Larsson
I feel a bit sacrilegious for saying it, but Sexy Swedish Seb is one to avoid. Although the stats have him as Sunderland's 5th highest fantasy points-scorer last season, I don't think Larsson will be much of a useful addition to your fantasy team this season. After a storming first year, it was noticeable that the quality of Seb Larsson's set-plays declined significantly during 2013/13. With new boys Jozy Altidore and David Moberg Karlsson both having demonstrated surprising levels of aptitude at taking set-pieces in recent weeks, it may be that Larsson finds his set-piece duties somewhat constrained this season. Add to that Paolo Di Canio's much publicised pursuit of a midfield playmaker with "the keys to the house" and it becomes hard to see where the Swede could be slotted into Sunderland's starting XI. So, sadly, Seb is one Sunderland player you shouldn't be investing in this season.
General Player To Avoid: Fernando Amorebieta
A talented defender, the former Athletic Bilbao man should prove to be an astute signing by Martin Jol, and will certainly be an improvement over Senderos at the heart of Fulham's defence. However, whilst in Spain the Venezuelan picked up quite the reputation for gathering cards. Over 47 matches in the in the 2009-2010 season, Feisty Fernando picked up an eye-watering 18 yellow cards and 2 reds. That's like Lee Cattermole on speed, after you told him that he wasn't allowed out after dark to smash up Mags' cars. So, for all his talents, Amorebieta will probably end up losing you more points than he gains as he goes about accumulating more yellow than the Norwich kit-man.
Don't Believe The Hype About... Joe Hart
I actually really like Joe Hart. I think England's Number O has been a tad unlucky in that the initial huge wave of hype that greeted his performances for Manchester City and England have led to somewhat of a backlash with people being often overly keen to point out his mistakes. The glee on which his errors, like recently against Scotland, can sometimes be pounced upon with seems, in my opinion, more of a reaction to previous claims from some England fans and sections of the media that Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in the world than an actual reflection on his abilities. Whilst he certainly is not in the league of Casillas or Buffon, he is still comfortably England's best goalkeeper and is amongst the best 'keepers in the Premier League.
However, this has led to his fantasy football price becoming somewhat inflated. 6.5mil is a hell of a lot to spend on a goalkeeper. I'm never one for investing too much in a top goalie, it only takes one goal (even in a comfortable victory) for the goalie's clean sheet bonus to be scotched, and therefore his contribution ruined.
Last season I had Mignolet most of the year; whilst he did get a fair few clean sheets, he also managed to get a lot of extra points for saves made, and was relatively inexpensive. Along the same logic, I'm recommending John Ruddy in goal this year. Norwich tend to be pretty miserly in terms of goals conceded, yet often on the back foot meaning that the talented Englishman should get a chance to make some saves and rack up a few points. And at 5.0 he's well priced, meaning that the money saved on not splashing out on the shinier alternatives of Petr Cech or Joe Hart can be spent on attacking players more able to make regular points contributions.
Join me again next week, where I'll pick through the rubble of the opening round of fixtures to see who in the League has done particularly well, and also have a look specifically at how our writers have done. I'll also assess how valid (or useless!) my tips for the week were, and throw some more out for next week. Good luck!