As a tortured Arsenal supporter the arrival of another Premier League season tends to bring mixed feelings. Maybe this will be the year that the Gunners actually make a few canny low-budget moves that can launch them back into being legitimate top four contenders. More likely, I'm preparing myself for approximately nine months of agony as my mind tries to reconcile the powerhouse club of the first ten years of my fandom with what the club has become since. With that reality in mind, I tend to look for other things to root for to keep the misery at bay. My fantasy teams certainly serve that purpose when that part of my Premier League life goes well. I also try to find one or more clubs or players outside of the top six to that seems to have a good story or a potential to overachieve. Often my fantasy interests and looking for overachiever stories are linked as finding potentially undervalued players for the mid-to-late rounds of drafts.
I write all of this introduction as a set up for my excitement over the news that Leicester City is closing in on not only acquiring Youri Tielemans, one of my favorite non-Arsenal players over the second half of last season, on a permanent deal but they are also close to making a deal for Ayoze Pérez. Perez has been one of my favorite under-the-radar attackers of the past five years and getting him out of Newcastle's stale attack and into an attacking group that includes Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Tielemans, and Harvey Barnes is about as exciting as it gets outside of the Top Six. That group would terrorize defenses and potentially challenge the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea - all going through significant transitions - in the "goals scored" column. These purchases are probably predicated on Harry Maguire leaving for a massive sum which would put an already questionable defense further into question but that's the nice thing about having fantasy points as the desired outcome rather than actual Premier League titles. You can look at moves like this with a positive lens rather than just a shifting of resources that likely ends up in a similar position in the table at the end of the season. If these moves do end up happening Leicester City matches are going to be must-see viewing for Premier League fans who want to see entertaining matches.
Elsewhere around the Premier League
- Norwich City are looking like they have the best chance of making their return to the Premier League stick and/or being fantasy relevant. Their scoring rate in the Championship looks similar to other recent high-fliers among the newly promoted and they are committed to playing an attacking style. Look for Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendía, and Marco Stiepermann to be drafted higher than you expect for guys you've likely never heard of.
- Manchester City look set to capture Rodri from Atletico which will ensure that they have an heir apparent to Fernandinho/Ilkay Gundogan. The fee will be massive but fantasy managers should be set to ignore him because he is the least productive type of starter across nearly all scoring formats...a holding midfielder playing for a dominant team that holds huge possession advantages. He won't get significant credit for clean sheets and won't get a lot of opportunities to make tackles or intercept passes for formats that count those actions for points.
- Southampton aren't likely to nip at the heels of the Big Six the way Leicester City and Wolves seem likely to but theirs is another story I'm bought into. For those looking at fantasy production over the course of last season, it won't look great for many Saints players. If you're able to look only at their production after the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl then you see a different story. They look firmly mid-table with a few stars. Nathan Redmond looks set to finally make the breakthrough we've been waiting for and Che Adams and Moussa Djenepo could be productive new arrivals to buy in on late with Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse potential returning players who are set to outperform their draft position.
- The departure of Rafa Benitez from Newcastle looks like a massive dent to the fantasy prospects of Magpies players. It is hard to imagine a scenario where the new manager oversees a defense as tight as that build by the Spaniard and we've seen before at West Brom that Salomon Rondon can be a fantasy non-factor when playing for a bottom-half side. Matt Ritchie, reclassified as a defender and primed for a big fantasy season under Benitez, could lose much of that value if things start falling apart at St. James Park.
- Just a reminder of a few players who will be returning from injury that you should be considering - Andriy Yarmalenko, Manuel Lanzini, Rob Holding, Héctor Bellerín, and Callum Hudson-Odoi are all draft-worthy after layoffs of various lengths due to injury.