An armchair fan's stats-packed fantasy football guide


Arsene Wenger has labelled this Premier League season a "World Championship" of football's top managers and armchair experts will be finalising their fantasy league teams in a bid to compare to them.

Amid the usual analysis of goals, assists and clean sheets, we have tried digging deeper into the statistics for a last-minute guide to who is worth the big money and where the bargains lie.

Player valuations are from the official Premier League game, where managers select a squad of 15 rather than a team of 11 with a £100 million budget. An elaborate formula governs the award of bonus points in each game - bringing passes, tackles and more into the equation.


Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster warms up before the game

It's not just about clean sheets, with the bonus point system (BPS) rewarding saves, so Joe Hart and David De Gea (15 clean sheets each, 71 and 83 saves respectively) could be matched by Jack Butland (10/103) or Heurelho Gomes (11/121) - both half a million fantasy pounds cheaper at £5m. Southampton's Fraser Forster (£5m) had six shut-outs and 51 saves in half a season after injury.

Penalty saves are well rewarded, making West Ham's £5m spot-kick specialist Adrian an enticing option - he also had nine clean sheets and 99 saves.


Toby Alderweireld applauds the fans

BPS perhaps favours central defenders over full-backs - set-piece goals are more valuable than assists from the flanks, while a combined category for clearances, blocks and interceptions (let's call it CBI) helps those in the thick of the action.

Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld (£6.5m) was a statistical dream last season. To go with 13 clean sheets and four goals, the Belgian was ever-present bar one minute, recorded only nine fouls and one booking, ranked highly in passing and his CBI figure was an astronomical 476.

The ever-present Wes Morgan (£5m) had 15 clean sheets and 317 CBI, with Leicester team-mate Christian Fuchs (£5.5m) also faring well. Cesar Azpilicueta's (£6m) attacking instincts and 114 tackles should pair with an improved Chelsea defence while Daley Blind (£5.5m) led Manchester United in tackles - listed as a defender, the versatile Dutchman earns full clean-sheet points.

Budget Bournemouth pair Charlie Daniels (£5m) and Simon Francis (£4.5m) show up well in the stats - just bench them against the free-scoring big clubs. John Stones (£5m) should benefit from joining Manchester City.


Norwich City's Gary O'Neil and Arsenal's Mesut Ozil battle for the ball

Most of Leicester's title-winners still come cheap - Danny Drinkwater (£5.5m) completed 1,984 passes even in his side's low-possession system, adding two goals, seven assists and plenty of defensive work. Former team-mate N'Golo Kante is still just £5m, as is Everton's Idrissa Gueye - quietly impressive for abject Aston Villa - and both pack dominant defensive stats.

"Boring James Milner" may be a Twitter joke but it colours his real-life perception - but at £6.5m and coming off 11 assists and 68 tackles, don't overlook the now ex-England man. Glenn Whelan (£4.5m) played more minutes, 3,173, than any other Stoke player last term and made 2,070 passes and 177 CBI, but risks being marginalised by newcomer Joe Allen.

The more flamboyant options will pile up the points, though, and it could be worth splashing the £9.5m on Mesut Ozil (19 assists, 2,276 passes) or Dimitri Payet (nine goals, 12 assists, 290 crosses) or the comparatively low £7.5m on Cesc Fabregas, oft-criticised but statistically strong in Chelsea's poor season with 2,829 passes, seven assists and 103 tackles.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez is listed as a midfielder - your budget will dictate whether the chance to effectively pick an extra forward outweighs the £11m outlay in an area where bargains can be had. Manchester United signing Paul Pogba (£8.5m) led Serie A with 12 assists.


Sunderland's Jermain Defoe

Here it is more about the traditional numbers and big money gets you the big scorers, for example Sergio Aguero (£13m, 24 goals) and Harry Kane (£11m, 25). Jamie Vardy (£10m) is slightly cheaper if you fancy him to back up his 24 goals and overlooked half-dozen assists.

Olivier Giroud and Romelu Lukaku (both £9m) racked up 16 and 18 goals respectively and six assists each - but where will Lukaku be playing? Wayne Rooney is the same price and his range of positions makes him a tricky statistical proposition - but eight goals and six assists last season do not make a strong case, even combined with 1,144 passes.

Watford pair Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney fit the bill for a bargain third striker - Deeney is a fraction cheaper at £7m and though his 13 goals last season were two fewer than Ighalo, he added seven assists.

Jermain Defoe, also £7m, remains prolific in a poor Sunderland team, while Christian Benteke (£7.5m) had nine goals and three assists in limited action for Liverpool - could Crystal Palace's reported interest help him recapture his Aston Villa form?