Fantasy Football: Top picks
Arguably the most important decision confronting Sky Sports Fantasy Football managers ahead of the start of the season is which marquee signing to bring in and make captain.
With last season’s top scorer Luis Suarez gone, opinion is sure to be divided, especially ahead of one of the toughest-to-call campaigns in a long time awaiting us, not to mention plenty of exciting new additions to the Premier League.
Here, Sky Sports Fantasy Football tipster Tim Clement offers his thoughts on the game’s 10 most expensive players.
The Manchester United striker endured a relatively modest campaign last season amid injury problems and his side’s emphatic underachievement, collecting just 111 points. However, having netted 48 times in 76 appearances since arriving at Old Trafford, the Dutchman’s goalscoring prowess cannot be questioned. He was Sky Sports Fantasy Football’s top scorer in 2012/13 as he led United to the Premier League title, aided by his prolific record from penalties and free-kicks. If fit and United start firing again under Louis van Gaal, Van Persie is a must for Fantasy bosses.
Much like Van Persie, Aguero virtually guarantees goals when fit. The Argentine edges his Dutch rival in Sky Bet’s top goalscorer market as 4/1 favourite. However, injury troubles also heavily depleted his points tally last season as he racked up 166 as a range of problems restricted him to just 20 starts. This summer’s World Cup, where he was also struggling with a hamstring problem, means there will be little time for him to recover fully before the start of pre-season. As one of the world’s best in a side who scored more than 100 goals last season, Aguero is another must if he stays injury free. But that looks a big 'if' right now.
The Liverpool striker transformed himself from promising youngster to prolific poacher last season, netting 22 times in leading Liverpool to the brink of the title and prompting his price tag to soar. That tally saw him rack up 209 points, the joint sixth highest total in the game. The big question is how Luis Suarez’s departure will impact his form, with the Uruguayan not only scoring goals galore but also contributing 20 assists last season. Thanks to Suarez’s biting prowess, there is encouraging evidence as to how Sturridge will cope from the start of last season. The former Manchester City and Chelsea man netted four times in five games before his strike partner returned from suspension, offering good signs for this season.
Chelsea’s 2013/14 campaign was largely undermined by their lack of a prolific goalscorer so Costa appears the final piece of Jose Mourinho’s jigsaw. The Spain international enjoyed a phenomenal last campaign in leading Atletico Madrid to La Liga's title with 27 goals before breaking down towards the end of their campaign. The big question is whether he can replicate that form, having previously failed to score more than 10 times in a La Liga season and making little impact at the World Cup. At £9.5m, Costa is a costly gamble and will need to be one of the game’s top scorers to justify his price tag.
Arsenal have arguably secured the coup of the summer in Sanchez, landing a player with immense pace, skill and a fine goalscoring record. Despite predominantly operating from a wide role and in the shadow of Lionel Messi, the Chile star netted 19 times in La Liga last season and provided 10 assists. The 25-year-old undoubtedly has the tenacity and physicality to adapt to life in the Premier League and should thrive on the passing prowess of the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. However, at £9.5m, Sanchez is considered one of the most valuable players in the game, ahead of proven prolific duo Wayne Rooney and Yaya Toure.
With more than a decade of Premier League experience to his name, Rooney is arguably the most reliable pick in the game. The Manchester United striker has managed double figures in every season since moving to Old Trafford, including 17 from 27 starts last season. Robin van Persie’s presence tends to be a detracting factor given the Dutchman is first-choice penalty-taker but Fantasy bosses can be encouraged by Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation. The 28-year-old all too often dropped into deeper roles last season but should be charged with maintaining a more advanced role, supported by the creativity of Juan Mata.
The game’s most expensive midfielder was a driving force in leading Manchester City to the Premier League title, scoring 20 times and setting up nine goals. That haul saw the Ivory Coast powerhouse pick up a whopping 274 points, the second most in the game, and a place in 23 per cent of Sky Sports Fantasy Football sides. While last season was sensational, it was also somewhat surprising, given he had failed to net more than six times in any of his previous Premier League campaigns.
While it was not enough to see Chelsea secure silverware last season, Hazard did his best to compensate for his club’s lack of a prolific marksman, netting 14 times. That haul came on the back of nine from his debut Premier League campaign and 20 for Lille in his final season in France. The 23-year-old endured a disappointing World Cup, failing to find the net for Belgium but he has never been prolific for his national team. The addition of natural target men Diego Costa and Didier Drogba should aid Hazard’s cause, helping add to his goal and assist tallies.
As a leading striker in a side oozing creative talent, Giroud should score far more prolifically than he does. Being outscored by Swansea striker Wilfried Bony is pretty inexcusable and the Gunners have added another dimension to their attack this summer in Sanchez. In Giroud’s defence, he did contribute nine assists last season to take his points tally to 195. The Frenchman is a solid selection but looks unlikely to top the likes of Rooney and Sturridge in the scoring charts.
Questions have surrounded his £28m transfer but the stats certainly support Lukaku’s case, with 32 goals in 49 Premier League starts during loan stints and Everton and West Brom. The Belgium striker will be the first name on Roberto Martinez’s team sheet and, as a lone striker, enjoys support from a creative midfield and two rampaging full-backs in Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman. A disappointing World Cup, where he was limited to a rotation role, has tempered expectations somewhat but the 21-year-old should only improve on his tally of 15 goals from last season.