After getting a glimpse of some new faces on Saturday, things will get a bit more familiar on Sunday when Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Southampton all start their campaigns. I think it’s safe to say that after these games conclude on Monday our EPL fix will be completely satisfied as we make preparations for next weekend’s ties.
Unfortunately, Sunday’s slate of matches although enjoyable for the average viewer, present a number of potential stumbling blocks for anyone trying to choose a lineup. The first of these is in trying to figure out who will actually play. Arsenal, Southampton, Liverpool and Man City all have tremendous depth and this will likely force players to make lots of changes right up until kickoff. The second challenge you’ll face will be in the selection of expensive players. Unlike Saturday, Sunday offers us a large number of high priced options and there sadly won’t be room for all of them. It will be crucial to get big points from the big bucks you spend, even an okay day from a heavy purchase may not be enough to help you walk away a winner.
Lock of the Day
Sergio Aguero (Man City) Forward – Salary: $10,500 – 16.6 FPPG (2014-15)
If he’s healthy he’s worth his dollar value on almost any day. The Argentine striker is absolute tremendous, so even with a cold I like him to score in the season opener should he suit up. Obviously track this situation closely to make sure he plays, but I have a feeling he will. Easily the best striker in the premier league, you’ll feel unlucky if he doesn’t score. He recorded 32 goals and 9 assists last season in all competitions and was out injured for stretches as well. He’s got jack rabbit pace, unbelievable spatial awareness and can finish in a variety of fashions. If you have doubts about this play, it might be that Tony Pulis and all his defensive genius can put together a solid game plan given the additional time to prepare. While this is very possible, Man City don’t get shutout often; meaning its highly probable Aguero plays a hand when they do strike the back of the net.
Worth Your Buck
Sadio Mane (Southampton) Forward – Salary: $8,100 – 10.8 FPPG (2014-15)
Describing Sadio Mane as fast would simply be selling him short. The Senegalese forward was fairly unknown prior to last season, but defenders around the league are definitely fully aware of him now. He posted a respectable 11 goals and 3 assists last season, but showed the potential to have a big season this year. While it is sometimes tricky to predict who Koeman will select each week, I expect Mane to start and provide an impact. Whether he’s used off the wing, or in a pairing with Pelle he’s the perfect complement to the more Rugged Italian and will add to his point total through crosses, shots and fouls drawn. On top of his skill set, a favorable matchup vs. Newcastle only increases the odds that this contest will see a number of goals.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) Forward – Salary: $8,600 – 10.7 FPPG (2014-15)
I know he gets a bad rep, but I’m a huge fan of this matchup against an injured West Ham side. The French striker can be frustrating at time, so much so, that I’ll guarantee he misses at least one point blank opportunity in this one. However, with the quality in his side you should expect him to receive plenty of service and capitalize on at least one opportunity. West Ham are a talented group, but Arsenal at home in the Emirates seems like a sure bet in the opener. The best part about Giroud is obvious his aerial exploits, which allow him to rise up and out duel defenders on headers. He’s got a pretty good pair of feet as well and won’t be shy in participating in the buildup to a goal as well. He’s physically a handful for defenders and is Arsenal’s top goal threat making him the obvious choice in a game I foresee Arsenal winning.
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton) Forward – Salary: $3,800 – 0.0 FPPG (2014-15)
I realize I’m picking a lot of Forwards to talk about, but on days like this you have to get your goal scorers right if you want any hope of winning cash. We haven’t seen Jay Rodriguez in over a year, but he’s got an incredible knack for goal and finding the right spots around the box. IF HE IS STARTING, I would strongly consider taking him so you can save some money on the most talented midfielders available. In the only game of the week I’d consider a lock, why not take a gamble with Rodriguez? It will likely be the only time all year you will play a forward for $3,800 and have any hope of seriously getting production from him.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (Arsenal) Midfield – Salary: $4,800 – 5.9 FPPG (2014-15)
Is this the year of the Ox? We’ve been waiting for Ox to really come out with a standout year and I’m hoping that’s this season. As always make sure he’s starting, but if so I believe this will be the year he comes out of his shell and begins to play a bigger role. He’s got tremendous pace, is effective on either wing and can be both provider and finisher. Arsenal’s style is simply made for wingers, who are giving a ton of responsibility on the ball during the course of a match. Responsible for playmaking, linking up with overlapping fullbacks, providing excellent service and supporting the striker as a goal threat; an Arsenal winger is expected to contribute in all facets of play. He scored a great goal last week in preseason and I hope he can carry that good form over into Sunday.
Traps to Avoid
Christian Benteke (Liverpool) Forward – Salary: $9,000 – 9.6 FPPG (2014-15)
Stoke trounced Liverpool 6-1 to end the season last year and I’m expecting this to be a tough game for Liverpool on the road at the Britannia. While it be nice for Liverpool to get revenge from the embarrassment of last season, I don’t think it will be an easy feat by any means. With that in mind, a 2-1 result in one direction or another seems likely, but I don’t see Benteke getting on the end of any of those. Stoke are a physical side who can be very tough to break down. Benteke will be in a battle all day long, forcing him to put in a tough shift for his side. If things play out in this fashion, I expect Benteke to draw the short stick while doing the brunt of the work, but being unrewarded on the score sheet.
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Forward – Salary: $6,000 – 0.0 (2014-15)
I’m really not confident in Liverpool if you couldn’t tell. I know most people will be looking at his price tag and thinking that they can get a good forward for cheap with the Brazilian, but I’d recommend one of the options at Stoke or West Brom around the price range instead. So many variables surround this Liverpool side that I think it’s the safest play to avoid them (unless you want to go with Coutinho, that I could get on board with). I don’t know if there is a tougher side to face than Stoke City in your EPL debut. After all, as the experts say, even Messi would struggle at Stoke on a rainy night…HAHAHA. Seriously though, Firmino was overhyped through a ridiculous transfer fee and although extremely talented, I think it will take him a few weeks at least to get completely acclimated.