FPL Preview: Everton

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After showing such promise in the 2013/14 campaign under first-year manager, Roberto Martinez – one where they finished just off of a Champions League position – many thought Everton would naturally progress in year two under Martinez and solidify their spot as one of the top clubs in the Premier League. However, that wasn’t the case as the club struggled through a season mired with injury and inconsistency on their way to a highly disappointing 11th place finish.

“The Toffee’s” enter the 2015/16 campaign ready to put the speed bump that was last season fully in the rear view mirror. With essentially all their top talent returning and many of them now entering their third season under Martinez, Everton is a solid bet to bounce back and possibly challenge for a Champions League position. And speaking of that talent, Everton possesses several intriguing fantasy options that, when healthy, can make a big impact on your Fantasy Premier League teams.

Wether you’re playing the traditional FPL game, seasonal/draft format, or you’d rather grind it out in daily fantasy, the Blue side of Merseyside offers something for everyone. Let’s explore the fantasy outlook for the 2015/16 season.

Early Fixture Outlook 

vs. Watford, @ Southampton, vs. Manchester City, @ Tottenham, vs. Chelsea, @ Swansea City

Obviously that’s quite the gauntlet for a team’s first six fixtures, and if you’re a fan of the Toffee’s you’re hoping the club can at least manage a draw in a few of those early contests. But if you’re merely interested in the Blue’s for fantasy purposes, then it’s not quite all doom and gloom.

With the exception of the opening fixture against the newly-promoted Watford (where all your EFC players are in play), you’ll probably want to shy away from using any Everton defenders/goalkeeper, outside of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman (both of whom I’ll discuss more a little later on) due to the fact that their penchant for getting forward can often outweigh a few goals surrendered in defense.

However, while you might shy away from using some members of the EFC defense in the early going due to the potential of higher-scoring matches, that means several members of the attack are, of course, in play. Looking specifically at the home tilts against City and the reigning champs, Chelsea, I expect these matches to be highly competitive and could even result in a couple of shootouts. Both City and Chelsea have excellent defenses, but they often don’t perform as well away from home, meaning this could be a terrific opportunity to deploy some Everton attacking options early on.

Goalkeeper

Tim Howard (£5.0m)

Injuries and often times flat out poor play led to one of Howard’s worst seasons in the English top flight in 2014/15. In 32 appearances, the American totaled his lowest minute output (2835) in his nine years in the Prem. He also surrendered 44 goals, which was his highest total since the 2010/11 campaign and third highest overall.

The bright side to his down season is that it has caused his price to plummet all the way down to a very affordable £5m. At his best, Howard will be a keeper that lays a dud performance from time to time, but he also traditionally makes a boatload of saves; four times in his Premier League career he’s surpassed the 150-save mark, with two of those years (2013/14 being one of them) reaching 160 or more. The defense should be a tad more settled this year, so he should also have a chance at double digit clean sheets, provided he stays healthy.

My ultimate recommendation for Howard is that he’s probably best to use in a streaming situation (DFS would be ideal) due to his penchant for the blowup outings, but if you’re a “late round keeper” kind of person, you could do a lot worse than the now very affordable American backstop.

Defense

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Stud(s): Leighton Baines (£6.5m), Seamus Coleman (£6.0m)

The Everton back line boasts two of the brightest defensive stars in both real and fantasy football. Beginning with “Bainsey”, as the faithful like to call him, the captain struggled with an injury late last season as age now begins to creep up on him (30), but still put together a classic Baines-like campaign despite missing seven matches, and finished 6th amongst fantasy defenders. Baines’ calling card is the way he marauders down the left flank and continually whips the ball into the box. Last season he had an amazing nine assists to his name, which came on the back of a whopping 70 chances created. Another plus to owning him, is he is the primary free kick/penalty taker for the Blues. This means you’re likely to get anywhere from two to five goals from one of your defenders – not something you can say for most. As I stated earlier, he is aging somewhat so injuries may effect him more, but the bottom line is he’s still an elite fantasy defender. Draft him as such.

His running mate, Coleman, essentially provides the same attacking threat and opportunities for assists from crosses, and can, occasionally, find the back of the net as well (nine goals over the past two seasons), just doesn’t get the same opportunities as Baines.

Both defenders are elite options, and play key roles in Everton’s attack. They are also solid defenders and should also have a chance at double digit clean sheets. However, thanks to their offensive prowess, you can usually put clean sheets on the back burner when selecting one or both of them for your squads.

Sleeper: Phil Jagielka (£5.5m)

“Jag’s” was Everton’s top overall fantasy player last season, amassing 142 points. After seeing this, you’re probably wondering why I have him down as a “sleeper”. And the answer to that is simple: you can’t predict goals for anyone, especially defenders, and four unexpected goals is what propelled the English international to his lofty score.

Jagielka is a solid defender, and the pairing with young John Stones should continue to prove to be a good one, but I think a regression is in cards. None the less, he makes for a great match up-based selection who can probably land somewhere in between 10 and 15 clean sheets.

Midfield

Everton has a plethora of solid midfield options, but at this point I wouldn’t classify any of them as “studly”. The name that sticks out the most is probably the young Englishman, Ross Barkley (£6.5m). A knee injury robbed him of the first seven matches of last season, and probably played a role in limiting him in what was supposed to be his breakout year after bagging six goals and four assists the year prior. That breakout could still be very much on the horizon, so it might be wise to buy low while you still can. He has everything you want in a midfielder: power, pace, vision, instincts etc., he just needs to put it all together.

Outside of Barkley, Kevin Mirallas (£7.0m) is another name to remember, and  was another tragic victim of injury in 2014/15. Mirallas traditionally plays out wide in Martinez’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, and is terrific with the ball at his feat. Heath pending, he’ll push for double digit goals, four or five assists, and can make for a very nice second fantasy midfielder.

Sleeper: Gerard Deulofeu (£6.5m)

The fact that this young, Spanish midfielder is mentioned won’t be a surprise to Everton fans, as they undoubtedly remember his brief spell of brilliance while he was on loan from Barcelona back in 2013/14. Now back in Merseyside for good, we should be in for a treat if he sees any amount of regular playing time. Brilliant on the ball and gifted with tremendous pace, Deulofeu could set the league ablaze if he cracks the starting 11. And there in lies the fantasy dilemma for him this year. Due to the stacked midfield that Everton enjoys, he may not ever amount to much for seasonal/salary cap formats, but he could very well be a delight for DFS in the matches he starts. I feel his salary still allows for some upside, but that will only come if he becomes a mainstay in the first 11.

Strikers

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Stud: Romelu Lukaku (£8.0m)

2014/15 marked three seasons in a row this big Belgian has bagged double digit goals. Lukaku, still a mere 22 years of age, is growing into one of the finest young strikers the world has to offer, and is a breath away from joining the Premier League elite. Last season he mustered up 2.9 shots per game, and put 42 out of 76 shots on target (55%), displaying his ability around the net. He still has some work to do as he was dispossessed 2.2 times per game, but at such a young age he has time to develop his hold up play. The sky is the limit for this young man, and you can feel comfortable pulling the trigger on him late in the first round/early second in seasonal drafts.

Sleeper: Steven Naismith (£5.5m)

Naismith, by the naked eye, isn’t the most gifted footballer, but Martinez loves him and he always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time. The “Translucent One” saw his minutes increase from 1419 in 2013/14 all the way up to 2057 last year, and he rewarded that faith by finding the back of the net seven times, along with dishing out three assists. He often plays a central midfield role in the formation, but I have a feeling he could see less and less time there if Barkley matures and can stay healthy. Regardless of playing time, he always sees the field at some point and usually ends up being productive with the minutes he’s given. The salary cap price is great, but you can’t count on him being a regular. In seasonal formats, look for him later in drafts where you can snag him as a third or fourth striker/midfielder.

Projected Strongest Line Up/Opening Day Line Up

GK: Tim Howard

RB: Seamus Coleman

CB: Phil Jagielka

CB: John Stones

LB: Leighton Baines

CDM: Garreth Barry

CDM: James McCarthy 

CAM: Ross Barkley

RM: Gerard Deulofeu

LM: Kevin Mirallas

STR: Romelu Lukaku

 

 

 

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