Since the game launched on 12th July, I’ve changed my squad at least once everyday; I’m on my 14th team selection! I’ve printed off the fixtures, identifying the ‘easy’ ones, matching my players to these games; I’m trying to be clever, I think I’m over thinking, but I’m still not really sure!!
I need to select a team, knowing that each player has a high likelihood of being a starter, my ‘advice’ in my previous article (It’s a funny old game, of a game…) was “Pick players that are regular starters”, i.e. Nailed On! As an ‘aside’ I also said “Don’t worry about the All Out Attack chip… they’ll probably bin it off next season!”, but enough self indulgence – nobody likes a show off!!
What does ‘Nailed On’ mean, I hear you cry! It means they start most games, stupid!! For those (Pete) that like things quantified to the nth degree, let’s say – start nine out of every ten matches (ish).
So I’m going to attempt to critique teams / players I feel I hold sufficient knowledge to ‘advise’ on! In my ‘considered’ assumptions I’m looking at players – past game time, form, pre-season, potential transfers, ‘personal issues’ and ‘research’.
I’m going to focus on the teams that were in the Premier League last season. The promoted teams or ‘stocking fillers’ as I call them are out of my knowledge base. With a wife and two kids I only just have enough time to keep abreast of all things Premier League; the Championship is a poor relation in my eyes, like your Great Aunt that you never see, but comes round once a year and gives you three promoted teams!! So I’m not going to be a shyster and give you ‘fake news’ on them!
In theory, the rules are simple – ‘bigger’ teams with bigger squads on bigger salaries with bigger egos will rotate more – gotta keep everyone happy! Teams in Europe again are more likely to rotate to balance fixtures, fatigue, finances (I love a bit of alliteration)! Rotation, however doesn’t come into play this early in the season; teams like to get a strong start to build up something they call ‘momentum’ it’s integral apparently!!
Players with a high ‘Minutes Played’ figure last season is a further indicator – 2500+ is a good barometer of a high Nailed On likelihood. As for ‘personal issues’ some players currently aren’t happy, they want a move (curse you Ross Barkley) and some are just, well d*cks (Diego Costa)!
Okay, enough jibber-jabber, let’s get started…
Arsene Wenger reverted to the fashionable back 3 for the final eight games or so last season; they lost only one of those, so guess what? He’s sticking with it, and good to his word that is what they’ve been playing in pre-season.
Monreal (5.5) consistently played on the left side of the back 3 for these games, so you could assume he is Nailed On, but then Holding (5.0) played the right side of the 3, for the last four games! But surely he can’t be Nailed On with all the quality (ahem) and experience they have at the back!
I knew this wasn’t going to be easy!!
As for RWB, Bellerin (6.0) is surely a shoo-in and prefect for that positon! It’s safe to say Koscielny (6.0) and Mustafi (5.5) are Nailed On too.
In terms of LWB, take ya pick! It could be Monreal (5.5) or Chamberlain (6.0) who have both played there or more likely, new boy – Kolasinac (6.0)?
Now the mine-field that is the Arsenal midfield! Wenger is a big rotator of all, apart from Ozil (9.5) who is Nailed On (unless he’s feeling unloved by the fans, then he gets a month off)!
Then there is Alexis! Oh Sanchez (12.0), reaper of so many FF points! When he returns from his extended break and being ‘world class’ and all that (despite what Shearer says!) he’ll be Nailed On; It may not be for Arsenal though!!
Lacazette (10.5) starts for definite; Wenger doesn’t shell out 52.7 million to warm the bench! He has been played behind Giroud (8.5) in pre-season though, just to let you know! Just to clarify, also Cech (5.5) is Nailed On, obviously!
As for the rest, I wouldn’t say anyone else is Nailed On. Ramsey (7.0), Xhaka (5.5), Welbeck (7.5) and Giroud (8.5), if he’s not sold, will all get good game time, as for the rest – steer clear of!
Eddie Howe trades in common sense (we’ll let him off for signing Jordan Ibe for 15 million!) and largely sticks with the same nucleus of players he trusts and replies up on.
New keeper, Begovic (4.5) is likely take the #1 jersey over Boruc (4.5) who’s a bit… hmmm, how best to describe him – ‘shiny penny’ perhaps!!
The Nailed On players – Daniels (5.0), new / old boy Ake (5.0), S Cook (5.0), Arter (5.0), Stanislas (6.0), King (7.5) and Defoe (8.0).
As for the rest – Francis (4.5), Fraser (5.5), Pugh (5.0), Gosling (5.0) and Afobe (6.0), who had a great end to last season, will all get fair game time.
Another team with a steady and credible Englishman at the helm.
New signings Walters (5.5) and Cork (4.5) are going to go straight in and offer fair value for money especially Walters who has been classified as a Midfielder but largely plays in a more advanced, even forward role.
Their Nailed On bunch also includes – Heaton (5.0), Mee (4.5), Ward (4.5), Lowton (4.5), Hendrick (5.5), Defour (5.5) and Gray (6.5) (if he stays).
Under ‘normal’ circumstances the Chelsea starting line up writes itself; these aren’t however ‘normal’ times at The Bridge!
Hazard (10.5) is out for the start of the season (well until circa GW5, which is Wild Card territory), so let’s forget about him! Moses (6.5) is suspended for his theatrics in the FA Cup Final and Costa (10.0) is in the ‘dog-house’, for well… being himself!!
Conte likes a big main man up front and sticks with him for the duration (well, until Chelsea win the league!), so step up new boy Morata (price TBC) – Nail him On for the duration! In fact for all positions Conte seldom rotates, that may have to change this season with European football back on the horizon.
New signing Rudiger (6.0) will play as either the right side of the back 3, or RWB. Azpilicueta (6.5) will take the position of that not occupied by Rudiger. Moses will revert to the bench. Alonso (7.0) – yes, seven million for a defender and Cahill (6.5), last year’s top scoring defenders will be Nailed On as will Side Show Bob, I mean David Luiz (6.0)! That’s the expensive defence sorted – if you can afford it try and get one in your team, Chelsea are tighter at the back than my wife!!
Who takes the Hazard spot is the real talking point! There is much speculation whether it will be Willian (7.0) or Fabregas (7.0) – too close to call, probably Fabregas though as Conte seems to have more confidence in him, still a risk though! Kante (5.0) and Bakayoko (5.0) are surely Nailed On for the two defensive midfielder spots Conte loves – they won’t score many points though! I think Pedro (8.0) is also Nailed On, Conte loves his pace! Avoid Matic (5.0), as he is surely on his way out! Batshuayi (8.5) like an ‘old nag’ isn’t fancied either.
Frank de Boer has given us some good hints at how things are panning out at Palace. He desperately wants to keep Benteke (8.0) and Puncheon (5.0) is the new club captain, so both Nailed On.
This is not the case for new boy Loftus Cheek (4.5) who, he see’s as a ‘squad player’, he said “He’s an attacking midfielder obviously, but with his attacking ability he could also be used as a sitting midfielder. We will have to see what is the best position for him and also what will be the best for the team.” That said at 4.5 million, he’s probably worth a squad position punt – 16% of players also think so!
As for the rest, a new manager has his own ideas, so who knows for definite? He’s tried a back 3 in pre-season. Common sense would suggest that an attack minded manager would Nail On – Zaha (7.0) and Townsend (6.0) (careful though, playing at WB). Hennessey (4.5), Dann (5.0) and Ward (5.0) are surely Nailed On too. The rest, pick at your peril!!
Ah, my Mastermind specialist subject! Where to start with all the new arrivals! Koeman changes the team and formation as frequently as his pants, based on the opposition, which makes identifying Nailed On players a challenge.
Pickford (5.0) is clearly going to be #1. He doesn’t usually mess around with the defence so Williams (5.5) and Keane (5.5) will be the centre half pairing, Baines (6.0) at LB – a definite. When he’s fit again, Coleman (6.5) will walk back into the team, until a few days ago I would have said Holgate (4.5) would deputise but Koemans been and thrown a spanner in the works by bringing Martina (4.5) in on a free transfer! Both a bargain, but who will start out of those – have you got a coin?!
As for the rest of the team, nothings for certain! Klaassen (7.5), Gueye (5.0) and Scheiderlin (5.0) are likely starters and will all get ample game time over the course of the season, I think he will build the midfield around these guys. You’d expect this also with regards to Rooney (7.5) and Sandro (7.5) who will form some part of a front three. My advice due to both the plethora of new players coupled with Everton’s tricky fixtures until Wild Card time (GW5) is to steer clear and see how the ‘dust settles’!
Mirallas (6.5) is a quandary for me. Despite being in and out the team last season he racked up over 2000 minutes of game time and scored 119 points, not bad for a 6.5 million midfielder. Still too big a gamble though.
Of them all though Rooney represents a very favourable option due to his relatively cheap price, he may also command penalty duty!
Another team to perhaps steer clear of for the time being! A difficult start to the season coupled with a club in a bit of transition.
Vardy (8.5) always starts so Nailed On. That said if they purchase Kelechi Iheanacho, which looks likely he may not be! Mahrez (8.5) used to be, but wants out, so avoid. Ndidi (5.0) and Gray (5.5) are pushing for more game time in midfield but certainly aren’t certain! Drinkwater (5.0) is very likely to be Nailed On, but last years lowly haul of 69 points should be considered disappointing. Albrighton (5.5) is the most solid midfield bet and should provide fair returns in proportion to his reasonable price – I still wouldn’t though!
A leaky and ageing defence is an interesting quandary! Recently and expensively purchased Maguire (5.0) will start and is Nailed On with Morgan (4.5), Simpson (4.5) and Fuchs (5.0) especially so as Huth (5.0) is out for the first five matches or so. Leicester defenders are relatively cheap – be mindful though, the ‘pricing crew’ at FF aren’t stupid – they’re cheap for a reason!!
Big Kasper Schmeichel (5.0) is Nailed On, obviously!
An interesting one this! They are going to play 4-3-3 and Klopp has warned his senior Liverpool stars not to feel too comfortable in their starting roles this season as he builds a squad that can sustain a rotation policy. Cheers Jurgen, for giving us more to scratch our heads about!
A new left back in Andrew Robertson (not yet priced) means Milner (6.5) is likely to experience some of this ‘rotation’ Klopp talks of; still he’s in over 10% of teams currently! Deserved faith in a ‘stalwart’, perhaps? Because he takes the penalties is more likely!!
Mignolet (5.0), Matip (5.5) and Lovren (5.5) should all be considered Nailed On. But when you’re looking at Liverpool for players, you’re not really looking at their porous back-line are you! It’s the delicious array of talent they have in midfield!
Coutinho (9.0), Lallana (7.5), Wijnaldum (7.0) (who had a great end to last season) and Salah (9.0) (like Mkhitaryan last season, he’s a bit of an unknown quantity and therefore risk, but his high transfer fee will get some excited) are surely Nailed On. Mane (9.5), when he returns from injury will be too!
If the drawn-out and expensive looking Naby Keita pursuit bears fruit, Henderson (5.5) should be worried, Can (5.0) too!
Now, upfront! Firmino (8.5) played a mammoth 3062 minutes last year – that’s a lot, Klopp likes him (‘special fiend’ maybe), he’s Nailed On. Sturridge (8.0) c’est très intéressant – he’s mercurial that’s for sure! He has a great goal per game ratio but only a brave person would put him in with his poor injury record. Like a bad smell Origi (7.5) is always around and will get plenty of game time; he’s a ‘trier’, everyone loves a trier especially Klopp!
Add (a very cheap) Solanke (5.0) to the mix and with the title of Under 20’s World Cup Player of the Tournament under his belt, he will surely get game time too – not Nailed On though.
Well, that’s half of the League analysed, keep an eye out for Nailed On – Part Two in the not too distant future!
DISCLAIMER: these are the opinions of Stu Allen, and are not necessarily the opinions of FFUK, Arsene Wenger, or Alan Shearer. If any of Stu’s opinions are incorrect, well that’s life, ask Arsene.