If your team is based around 11 7m guys then this article isn't for you. If however, like most fantasy players you like to have a premier player or two, then read on for some thoughts on how to pick your lynch pin.
The main advantage in my eyes of bringing in a premier player for your team is the fact you can captain him and bring in a unrivalled amount of points. For example, last year Lampard scored 226 points, which would give you 452 points if you captained him every week. Even at his steep price tag of 12.5m this season, a similar level of production would lead to a 0.952 PPMS and almost 12 points per game. This kind of production is just not possible from 2 or even 3 mid level players, even if you strike it rich with a cheap superstar like Stephen Ireland.
Factor in the chance to find a bargain to play alongside your stud (perhaps Larsson, Jimenez or Muamba) and the choice to grab a star player appears to be made for you. But who do you take? With over a tenth of your whole budget invested in one player, we need to make sure that this decision is a good one, and so here are the best options I think are available for the coming season:
5. Didier Drogba (10.5m)
Drogba was just about in the list anyway, and then he scored this goal, and news broke that he is set to sign a new deal at Stamford bridge. A happy and motivated Drogba is a threat to any defense and when the Ivorian giant turns it on, no one can stop him (see 2007-08 Champions League vs Liverpool). However, Drogba has played just 32 league games in the last two years, scoring an unspectacular 13 goals. The prior year (when happy under Mourinho) Drogba netted 20 league goals and 170 bonus points, and I think he can hit these heights again under Ancelotti. Drogba faces little competition to lead the line for Chelsea, and with Ancelotti's diamond formation in place, Drogba should not be left alone up front as he was under Solari. This is a risky pick and it might be worth holding off for a week or two to see how happy he looks but Drogba is selected by just 4.2% of players right now and could be a great way to get a jump on the competition.
4. Fernando Torres (11.5m)
Since his arrival in 2007-08, Torres has been as good as any striker in the league but has only played 49 games in those two seasons (scoring an amazing 38). Torres again played competitively in the off season, featuring in Spain's confederations cup squad, but he says he feels great and is raring to go for the new season (then again, what else would he say!). On last year's pace he would score 225 if he could feature in 32 games. which would put him in the pantheon of superstars with Gerrard and Lampard. Even if he doesn't hit those heights I think 200 points are in his range with 20 goals and 6 assists plus a decent haul of bonus points. Although trailing the midfielders in this list, Torres and Drogba have some extra value in that there aren't as many mid level strikers to fill your roster as midfielders.
3. Andrey Arshavin (11m)
Arshavin was arguably Arsenal's best player last season, despite only playing in 12 games after joining in the transfer window from Zenit St Petersburg. Arshavin scored 6 goals in those games and added an impressive 8 assists; numbers which we have only attributed to the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Ronaldo in past seasons. The departure of Adebayour should ensure some games in the front line for the Russian magician, who was sometimes marooned on the left last season. Arshavin is saying all the right things, and with Cesc and Van Persie fit, Arsenal should once again be a good source of fantasy points. At last year's rate, Arshavin would notch 280 points for the season if he featured in 35 games, though this is obviously too optimistic. However, he could certainly threaten 200 points, a feat only achieved by Lampard and Gerrard last year (and of course the departed Ronaldo). Considering he costs 1.5m less than his English counterparts, Arshavin could well be the best value of the premium players.
2. Steven Gerrard (12.5m)
With the question mark of his court appearance gone, the path is clear for another stellar season from the Liverpool captain. Gerrard is involved in most good things Liverpool do, and takes penalties and most corners and free kicks. His excellent 16 goals last term is going to be hard to match though with just 10 assists, I think this impact can be offset. Gerrard is a bonus magnet (35), trailing only Lampard in that category last year, and that should continue again this year (with Torres likely to steal a few due to extra playing time if fit). Gerrard scored 216 last year despite playing just 2623 minutes (around 29 games) which should be higher is he can avoid injury. Even if Gerrard falls short of the 16 goal haul from last year, the extra playing time should provide extra assists, appearance points and bonus points to allow him to match his total from last year.
1. Frank Lampard (12.5m)
What more can be said about Frank Lampard as a fantasy player. He topped 200 points for the second time in 3 years (and would have the other year but for injury). Double digit goals and assist are almost a given and Lampard attracts more bonus points than anyone else in the league. Scarily, the arrival of Ancelotti's diamond could make Lampard even more threatening providing him opportunities to play behind Anelka and Drogba with less focus on his defensive duties. I wouldn't count on another 46 bonus points but I can see Lampard's goals (12) and assists (10) both increasing to give Lampard another 220 point haul. Simply put, with the departure of Ronaldo I think Lampard is the essential purchase this year and you can confidently captain him and watch the points roll in all year long.
As always, let me know who you guys are basing your team around, and how you think the season will pan out. Also, follow news, tips and advice on twitter @plfantasy.