Welcome to the first ever Rotoworld edition of AM's Player Picks.
Firstly, what on earth does "AM" mean? Well, it all started back in 2009 when I began writing my Assistant Manager blog on Blogspot with the aim of helping people pick their Yahoo Fantasy Premier League team. I didn't want my friends in my private group to know it was me, so I went with a pseudonym of AM (Assistant Manager) instead and didn't reveal my real name until some 18 months later. Still, even after this point the AM tag kinda stuck so I continued using it on NeverManageAlone.com and there doesn't seem any reason to get rid of it now we've moved to the next chapter here on Rotoworld.
Check out Rotoworld's Fantasy Premier League How To | The Week Ahead: Season Opener
Anyway, on to the interesting stuff. Yahoo have introduced a number of new features for their Fantasy Premier League game this season, including substitutes and double points for captains. These are new to us bloggers as well as our readers, and personally I haven't fully decided how I'm going to use the subs bench this season, but for Week 1 I think I'll "play it cheap" to ensure I have as much cash as possible for my starting XI. The bench may well come in handy for keeping discounted players as the season progresses, but I think a cheap fillers are the best way to approach the opening weekend. As for picking a captain, getting this right is going to be absolutely key - in fact, probably the deciding factor most game-weeks - so I'll be including my top captain choices in my player picks column.
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So, Week 1. As you probably all know by now, Week 1 is a double week for just two teams, Chelsea and Aston Villa. This a bit of a shame - I really dislike "two team double-weeks" as it limits your scope massively, so it's not an ideal way for a new fantasy season to kick-off, but needs must and you'll need to fix up your side with a number of players from these two teams to give yourself a chance of two rounds of points. The fixtures are as follows:
CHELSEA: home to Hull, home to Aston Villa
ASTON VILLA: away at Arsenal, away at Chelsea
You can instantly see that Chelsea are the pick of the bunch, as the Blues have been dealt two relatively easy home fixtures. The players and fans will already be buzzing due to the "The Special One"'s return, so you have to fancy them to dispatch Hull and they should also have too much quality for Aston Villa. With this in mind, you'll want to pack your Week 1 fantasy team with plenty of Chelsea players. There will be some rotation from Jose Mourinho but I'd imagine most of the big names will get 120 minutes minimum across the two matches, so given the fixtures they are still the team to back. Remember you get unlimited transfers in Yahoo's fantasy game each week, so there will be no problem swapping out your excess of Chelsea players ahead of Week 2. Villa themselves face two horrible away trips - firstly to Arsenal before visiting Stamford Bridge in midweek. Despite this there will still be opportunities for their players to earn points from shots, crosses, interceptions, defensive blocks, tackles etc., so they shouldn't be completely ignored.
Away from the "double game" teams, I'm also interested in Manchester City at home to Newcastle, Liverpool at home to Stoke and Tottenham away at newly promoted Crystal Palace.
Check out our Teams Season Previews: ARS | AST | CHE | EVE | MAC | MAN | SOU | TOT
So with all of that on the table, here are my Week 1 player recommendations ...
Petr Cech - Get Cech in your team. In my opinion he is the only goalkeeper worth considering for Week 1. He is guaranteed two games (unless he gets injured or sent off in the first match) and Chelsea should pick up at least one clean sheet. He is currently one of my potential captain choices for Week 1.
Ashley Cole - Most certain of all the Chelsea defenders to start both games, the experienced left back only has Ryan Bertrand for competition and he's yet to convince anyone that he'll be good enough to fill Cole's boots. Two clean sheets are possible here.
Branislav Ivanovic - The ever dependable Serbian is solid defensively and a massive goal threat from set pieces. He's a Mourinho type of player so I predict he'll make the right back spot his own this season, with César Azpilicueta playing the back-up role.
David Luiz / John Terry / Gary Cahill - Only one of these men are likely to get two starts while the other two will get one each. We await team news tomorrow for some solid info but at the moment I've gone with David Luiz in my team.
Ron Vlaar - Aston Villa's captain is guaranteed two starts and could be in for a very busy week, so expect points from interceptions, blocks, tackles and perhaps even a shot on target (most likely a header) when up for a corner. Don't, however, expect clean sheet points.
Antonio Luna - The summer signing will take up the left back slot and is known for his attacking qualities, in particular his pace when overlapping the left winger. He may not get much of a chance to show these qualities in two tough opening matches but there are certainly worse options for week one. I'd go with either Vlaar or Luna over any of the single game options.
Oscar - I expect 2013-14 to be the season Oscar comes of age in the Premier League and he should get two starts for the visits of Hull and Villa. Playing just behind the striker, he'll have shooting opportunties and we all know of his ability to play defence splitting pass, so it could be a big week for the young Brazilian.
Ramires - The box-to-box midfielder is a tireless worker and his runs from midfield have allowed him to pick up a handy tally of goals over his Chelsea career. Again, he's the type of player Mourinho will love to manage and he should start both matches.
Frank Lampard - In the twilight of his career and perhaps a touch expensive at over £15million, but seeing as the 35-year-old will remain on free-kick and penalty duty when he plays means he'd probably only need one start to return big points given the opponents his team are facing.
Aleksandar Tonev - Villa's exciting new midfielder is genuinely two footed, has a whole box of tricks, is a lovely passer and delivers a wicked dead-ball. He's one to watch through the first few weeks of the season and may even be worth a punt in Week 1 given his two games and cheap price.
Philippe Coutinho - With Luis Suarez suspended for the first six games, the creativity in Liverpool's midfield will need to come from young Coutinho, and he proved last season that he's perfectly capabale of providing goals and assists. He's the first of two "single game" player I currently have in my Week 1 line-up as Stoke visit Anfield.
Jesus Navas - And here is the second of the "single game" players. Navas is a perfect fit for the system Manuel Pellegrini will want to play at the Etihad and he should score solid points throughout the season, with plenty of crosses, assists, shots and a few goals; all for very little outlay. This is why he is in my team at the moment for the visit of an unsettled Newcastle side.
Theo Walcott - When Theo gets on a goal-streak he REALLY gets on a goal-streak. He's been on fire throughout pre-season and added another goal for England against Scotland yesterday, so he's well worth a look at home to Villa. It's tough to advocate spending £17million+ when he only has one game in a double week, but I'm here to alert you to these sort of options.
Nacer Chadli - "Hey dude, all you gotta to do is replace Gareth Bale, ok?". To be fair to Chadli, he's fast, tricky and strong so he appears to have the attributes to succeed in the Premier League - and his goal record in Holland was phenomenal for a winger - so Palace will need to be wary of a man most fans in England have never heard of.
Eden Hazard - In my opinion he's the number one pick of the week and should be in your team. The Belgium attacker has a season of Premier League experience behind him and should be looking to push on to be mentioned in the same breath as Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale when people argue about the best player in England. Chelsea's penalty taker when Lampard isn't on the pitch, he should get at least 150 minutes over the two games and for that reason he's currently edging out Petr Cech as my captain choice.
Juan Mata - Plenty of people are questioning whether Mata is fit enough to feature in both games, but I think he will and he is a fantasy-points-machine in Yahoo's format with set pieces and plenty of shots on goal.
Christian Benteke - Villa's powerhouse forward has been in hot form in pre-season since ending speculation regarding his future by signing a contract extension, and has to be considered. As mentioned numerous times, his team face two extremely tough matches, but he proved last season that he can score against the very best and he's probably the only attacker guaranteed the full 180 minutes in Week 1.
Romelu Lukaku - If you really want to go with one of the lead Chelsea forwards then I'd go with Lukaku over Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, but with three men fighting for one position it's too much of a risk for me.
Roberto Soldado - Finally, the striker Spurs have been crying out for has arrived at White Hart Lane. Soldado starts the season at a cheap price, he's facing one of the promoted teams and he's been handed penalty duty. What's not to like?
Edin Dzeko - Many (including me) thought Dzeko would be leaving Manchester this summer, but he's been the in-form City striker throughout pre-season and has probably done enough to earn a start against Newcastle. He's a risky choice with Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo around, but one that could help separate you from the pack of fantasy manager's loading up on double-gamers.
Daniel Sturridge - He'll lead the line for Liverpool in Suarez's absence and is another option in the "do something different category" against a limited Stoke side.
So those are the players I'm considering for my Week 1 Yahoo team. As suggested earlier in this article, I'm likely to go with at least 9 double-gamers, and it's very possible that I end up with all 11 come deadline. For now I have the following saved on my team page:
Starting XI: Cech, A.Cole, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Jesus Navas, Ramires, Coutinho, Oscar, Benteke, Mata, Hazard (C)
Subs: Elliot, Coates, Spence, Palacios
That's with £4.54million left in the bank so there's still some room to move things around if I feel the need as the deadline approaches. The only real doubt at the moment is David Luiz - I'm fairly happy with everything else, but last minute team news can always affect things you thought you had nailed down. Check back here on Rotoworld tomorrow for all the team and injury news coming out of the manager's press conferences to assist you with your final decisions.
How are you setting your team up for Week 1?