It's almost time for the season to start, which means that it's time to start picking your fantasy Premier League team. At SB Nation, we have the luxury of having fantasy football experts on staff and writing a fantastic blog that you should bookmark if you play at all: Never Manage Alone.
So rather than trying to give you fantasy advice this year from a Villa perspective, I thought it might be more helpful to our readers to bring NMA to your attention. With that in mind, it's always fun to read about Villa, so I asked Gavin Wright to answer a few fantasy questions about our beloved club and what impact they may have on the game this year.
7500 to Holte: We know that Aston Villa aren't all that relevant to fantasy football without Christian Benteke any more, but who from the club are you thinking is worth picking up this year?
Gavin Wright, Never Manage Alone: You're right that Benteke's transfer will be a big miss for Villa's fantasy investment this season, but there's still plenty of reason to think they're relevant, especially outside of the official premierleague.com format. There are a lot more scoring metrics available on the Fantrax & Perfect XI games we're covering that can make even the least flashy player a viable option.
For players that have the potential to do well across all of the fantasy games out there, we've got our eyes on your new trio of Jordans - Amavi, Ayew and Veretout, as well as returners like Gabby Agbonlahor and Jack Grealish (if he can cement a starting role).
Does the attack-heavy style of Tim Sherwood change your valuation of Villa's players?
It certainly did when he took over from Paul Lambert back in February. We saw the re-emergence of Benteke as a goalscoring force, and it's not difficult to imagine another striker who plays in at least somewhat of a similar style (Kozak, maybe Adebayor?) getting tons of chances to put the ball in the back of the net.
The counter-attacking speed of N'Zogbia/Sinclair/Agbonlahor is tough for even the best defenses in the league to deal with, so Villa attackers are certainly worth investment on weeks where the match-up is favorable (we tend to look at home matches as a good starting point, though Villa were a bit of an anomaly in that department last season). The defense is another story, though we are long-time fans of Brad Guzan and Micah Richards at NMA, so hopefully they can combine to deliver some much-needed clean sheets this season.
If there is one thing Villa could be good for, it's bargains. Who on the club might not be that great, but could still function well as the "I've got £5m and one spot left" player on your team?
The great thing about the beginning of a new season and a lot of new signings is that there are a lot of unknown entities and a lot of potential bargains. In the official Premier League game, there are no Villa players that cost more than £6.0M, which means the aforementioned Jordans are all priced to sell. As their prices (hopefully, for you) increase over the course of the season, though, some other potential options that could pay dividends are Alan Hutton and Ashley Westwood. We also like to look at players who take set pieces and anyone playing ahead of their listed position (Leandro Bacuna listed in defense and playing midfield is a good example) as having strong potential to deliver more points.
Our Fantrax league brings in all new players for £7m, so the same is true there. The more robust scoring categories (tackles won, successful crosses, etc.) have made Hutton, in particular, a great fantasy option over the past couple seasons. The Perfect XI game we're covering doesn't even operate with a budget, so your goal is just to pick who you think will perform best in a given week. There were a couple occasions towards the end of last season where Benteke and Grealish made the team of the week, so there's plenty of potential for Villa players to do well on that platform, as well.
Thanks to Gavin for indulging us in a bit of Villa talk! Make sure to check out Never Manage alone throughout the season. If you've read the site before, know that they've got a lot of new stuff and more in-depth coverage planned for this season. As Gavin alluded to, they're running leagues in the official Premier League game, Fantrax, and Perfect XI. You can find out more about those options here.
And of course, we'd love to have you join the 7500 to Holte group on the official Premier League game!