As another season of fantasy football approaches, Vincent Ralph ponders the problems of picking a new team.
It is a problem I face every year – but this year more than most. When it comes to picking my fantasy football team, do I stick with what I know or take a risk with what I think I know?
Do I spend big on the likes of Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Juan Mata…or do I sprinkle my side with potential bargains yet to kick a single ball in England’s top flight?
Last season I took a chance – if “chance” is the right word – on Eden Hazard and Shinji Kagawa. One paid off while the other most certainly did not.
But it didn’t take a genius to take that particular punt; even if the Japanese playmaker’s campaign was stifled by injury and games played out of position.
This season is no different. There are bargains to be had but risks to be taken. Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Wilfried Bony come to mind – two players you can sign for less than a top-scoring Dutchman…or an “angry and confused” Englishman.
And two players who, if they bring their previous form to the Premier League, could take it by storm.
So van Wolfswinkel is in – for now – while Bony isn’t. And I have gone for van Persie because last year I didn’t. He would get injured, you see. He would spend half his season on the side-lines and I would be playing with a man down (at least until the transfer window opened).
But the Manchester United striker’s fragility appears to be something very much of the past. So this season he is in.
I anticipate the breaking news proclaiming his extended absence just as August makes way for September.
In years past, Aguero was a certainty. But with the arrival of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic I am no longer willing to second-guess Manuel Pellegrini’s team-sheet. So as things stand, I am a striker light in the first draft of my managerial master-plan.
In midfield I am equally torn between familiarity and fresh faces. Fernandinho is a goal-scorer, but he is also a newbie. And while some find their feet in an instant, others lose them entirely.
So just as Jesus Navas is a lightning-bolt in a football strip, he is also an unknown quantity when it comes to the Premier League; as is Dejan Lovren of Southampton – a snip of a signing but a risky one, too.
Had Liverpool managed to secure Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he is one risk I would have taken from the outset. But instead my one risk so far will be van Wolfswinkel, while I eagerly watch 20 clubs' pre-season campaigns, checking hypothetical price-tags against the spaces left in my side.
Last season I almost picked Michu. I knew what he had achieved in La Liga and had an inkling but chose to ignore it.
This time I will go with my inklings; which is why I also have another player in mind. One that – just in case anyone from my mini-league is reading – I will keep to myself.
image: © Vincent Teeuwen