With the World Cup firmly out of sight, attention switches back to the Premier League and the challenges that brings.
Whilst managers such as Pep Guardiola will be looking to retain the title, in living rooms across the country the budding fantasy football managers will be building their squads, hoping to steal an advantage by grabbing the next Mo Salah, desperate to avoid securing the next Alvaro Morata.
Games are scored differently depending on where one plays, but most likely is that players get points for assists, clean sheets, goals and the like. Sometimes you’ll lose points for bookings or red cards, a treacherous pathway has to be negotiated between tough defender who keep clean sheets, or ones who pick up too many yellows.
Normally you’re given a set amount of funding to complete the task, so if you want the likes of Mo Salah that means gaining an intimate knowledge of Cardiff City’s defence, just to make it affordable. Other games introduce a new twist, with Name Your Squad seeing you use the letters of your name to restrict who you can and can’t buy. Finding the letter ‘S’ is tenth in your name has never felt as satisfying.
Mo Salah is an obvious choice from last season with 32 goals, but which other players impressed, or indeed let sides down?
Mo Salah by Анна Нэсси (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Whilst the goals were spread amongst the usual suspects, when it came to assists there was only one team to pick your players from; Manchester City. They had four of the top five from the assist table, with Kevin De Bruyne leading the way on 18. Raheem Sterling weighed in with 17, Leroy Sane got 15 and Riyad Mahrez, at the time a Leicester player, got 13. Can Mahrez squeeze into that trio of title winners this season?
Across Manchester, Antonio Valencia was the best performing defender when it came to clean sheets, completing a Red Devils double with David de Gea as the best keeper. De Gea kept 18, whilst Valencia played in 16 of those.
Jan Vertonghen of Spurs also kept 16, whilst César Azpilicueta kept 15, along with Kyle Walker, Phil Jones and Nicolas Otamendi. It seems if you want to get fantasy league success, Manchester is the place to be. Ederson was the second-best performing keeper, followed unsurprisingly by Courtois at Chelsea.
Otamendi let himself down a little, amassing nine bookings through the season which will have cost sides points. Oriol Romeu might have been a cheap midfield alternative in some people’s squads; if he was, it would have been a mistake as he topped the bookings table with 11.
Oriol Romeu by Solent Creatives (CC BY 2.5)
Only two players were sent off twice, England fringe player Jonjo Shelvey proving his temperament is still some way off with two dismissals at Newcastle, whilst Wilfred Ndidi was dismissed twice for Leicester.
What of the new faces in the Premier League? Chelsea new boy Jorginho is likely to set you back too much to take a risk, whilst Riyad Mahrez surely won’t score as highly for Manchester City and he did for Leicester.
Manchester United have signed the Brazilian Fred and he looks a good bet up front for many sides. Who you go for now means very little of course, today’s big star can be transferred out tomorrow if you’re not happy.
Fantasy football has been with us for well over 20 years now and it goes from strength to strength, but just make sure you don’t end up being stuck with the next Oriol Romeu or Granit Xhaka.