Fantasy Premier League: The big names you can't ignore
A successful team needs star players so which of the expensive strikers and midfielders offer the best value?
With just a few days to go until the start of the Premier League season it's time for fantasy football players to put the finishing touches to their teams.
One of the keys to a successful team is choosing the right big names to provide its backbone.
Fantasy leagues cannot be won without big-scoring stars from title challenging clubs that come with a hefty price tag. But which of the big-name "luxury" players offer the best value?
Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) £11.5m
Almost half of all Fantasy Premier League teams feature the striker, who joined Manchester United from Everton in a £75m deal this summer.
It's easy to see why. Although he costs £11.5m he more than proved his worth with an inconsistent Everton side last season, earning 221 points with the Toffees.
The stats suggest he could do even better at Old Trafford this season. The Fantasy Premier League Scout says Lukaku had a shot conversion rate of 22.7 per cent, up on the previous season and far superior to that of the man he is replacing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who converted fewer than 15 per cent of his chances.
United also have a relatively easy start to the season, notes The Scout. That "coupled with pre-season form and high ownership, make Lukaku a complete package who is both difficult and dangerous to ignore".
Gabriel Jesus (Man City) £10.5m
The 20-year-old Brazilian made an instant impact last season in the Premier League with seven goals in ten games before he was struck down with injury.
But what that cameo of a campaign showed is that he has an eye for goal and can cut it in the English top flight. Only Harry Kane scored more points per match last season, says Four Four Two. That means he doesn't carry the risk of new arrivals like Alexandre Lacazatte and Alvaro Morata, who are unproven in the Premier League.
It also became clear last season that Pep Guardiola really rates him and may even prefer him to Sergio Aguero, who costs £1m more. Jesus is poised for a breakthrough season in which he establishes himself as City's number one striker. With the quality he has behind him he will score goals galore.
Harry Kane (Spurs) £12.5m
Talking of Harry Kane, he has to feature on the list after accruing a mammoth 224 points last season, despite missing a chunk of the campaign through injury.
At £12.5m he is the most expensive player on offer this season. But as Premier League Scout says: "Ignore Kane and you will need two quality captain candidates to replace him."
He appears in 35 per cent of teams selected so far and it's easy to see why as he keeps proving the critics wrong and getting better and better.
"The stats clearly demonstrate that the 23-year-old England international has steadily improved since his breakthrough at White Hart Lane, as he bagged 21 goals in 2014-15 and 25 in 2015-16 before hitting a career high [of 29] last year," says Goal.com. "Such consistency means that Kane is considered a must-buy by many Fantasy Football aficionados."
Dele Alli (Spurs) £9.5m
Like his teammate Kane, Alli just got better last season and ended the campaign second only to Alexis Sanchez in the Fantasy Premier League scoring charts. Given that he is £2.5m cheaper than the unsettled Arsenal man he seems like an essential component of a successful squad for 2017-18.
He features on the Fantasy Premier League watch list of premium midfielders. The website even suggests that picking Alli makes having the rather more expensive Kane in your team optional
Kevin de Bruyne (Man City) £10m
"Arguably the most stylish player in the Premier League when he's hot, De Bruyne's 18 assists last season were a magnificent tally," says Dream Team FC. "He, along with David Silva, are the brains and the creative hub behind everything good at Manchester City."
Silva may be getting on a bit now and may find himself falling down the pecking order, but De Bruyne is sure to play almost every match for Guardiola's team.
He's more expensive than alternatives such as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, but it's safe to assume he will see more game time.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) £9.5m
Amid all the attention being lavished on new arrival Alexandre Lacazette and the unsettled Alexis Sanchez it's easy to forget about the merits of the German assist king Ozil.
"He may have been overshadowed by Alexis Sanchez, but Arsenal's Mesut Ozil still chipped in with his fair share of goals and assists for the Gunners last season," says Goal.com. "The Germany international was not firing on all cylinders and may have been affected by criticism, but he appears to be much more positive heading into the new campaign, which bodes well."
He's a cheaper option than De Bruyne and Eden Hazard at Chelsea. If Arsenal perform well next season it's safe to assume Ozil will be key.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) £9m
Assuming he doesn't have his head turned by Barcelona, the Brazilian playmaker will be key for Liverpool next season.
Jurgen Klopp is determined not to sell him and that proves how highly he rates the 25-year-old. The likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will provide the fireworks, but Coutinho is the heartbeat of Klopp's Liverpool team. He also takes the free kicks.
"The Brazilian was involved in – scored or assisted – more goals than any Liverpool player last season. Coutinho also ranked number one for shots on goal for the Merseysiders, and the £9.0m-priced schemer can justify his lofty 33 per cent ownership and continue as their go-to midfield option," says FourFourTwo.
Paul Pogba (Man Utd) £8m
This time last year Pogba was newly crowned as the world's most expensive footballer and people were falling over themselves to sign him. But after an underwhelming first season at Old Trafford the French star is available for just £8m this season.
Given that his performances last season were not as bad as many claimed that represents amazing value (although Cesc Fabregas at £7m also deserves a mention).
He finished seventh in midfield for shots on goal and created more chances than any United player last term.
"Heading into their second season, there is building anticipation of bigger things to come from both Mourinho and his record signing," says Fantasy Football Scout, which suggests "he could become a more pivotal figure with Ibrahimovic out of the picture".
He's likely to form a frightening partnership with Romelu Lukaku this season and show his true worth.