Yesterday we began giving you our thoughts on value-for-money selections for your Premiership fantasy football teams as you take the plunge entering Londonist's league (code number: 319926-64249) or one of the countless others on offer with the 2007/8 season getting underway this weekend. In the second and final instalment of our musings on the subject we'll soon tackle the remaining London teams, followed by those from around the country, but first, as promised in part one, we bring you our top recommendation, a player you simply must own for the big kick-off.
Manchester City: Step forward, Martin Petrov. It's not often that we punch the air when a club that we don't even support signs a new player but our fist was reaching jubilantly for the ceiling when the news came through that this Bulgarian international left winger was heading for these shores from Atletico Madrid. Why so excited? Well, you see, he can do this. And this. And all of this, including sticking away all those penalties. Not to mention the free-kicks. And even the corners. But is there a downside? Well, he is a bit prone to this and the reason Madrid are willing to let him go is that he's still on his way back from a serious knee injury that saw him be less effective for them than he had been previously in German football. Though he still found time for this. Let's be honest, though. When the goal of the month competition has turned into The Martin Show, you know you want to be turning to your mates with a heartfelt, "That's my man!"
Tottenham Hotspur: Alas, White Hart Lane was very nearly Martin's home turf, but it was not to be and at this rate poor old Aaron Lennon, when he returns from his own injury, will once again be asked to patrol its left touchlines on his wrong foot. The Spurs defence is still not an entity we'd be rushing to invest in heavily, especially without the also laid-up Ledley King, so our only just under the radar nomination is Jermaine Jenas who is showing signs that he might finally be turning into the dynamic box-to-box midfielder he's been threatening to become for so long. Even in less than top gear last term he bagged six goals (equal with Paul Scholes and one less than Steven Gerrard). Imagine him improving on that.
West Ham United: At the time of writing, many Hammers squad listings still include some former player or other called Tevez. Upton Park regulars tell us that, despite late season promise, they recently sold him for only £2m to a bloke who isn't actually in charge of a football club. Crazy, huh?! That Tevez (pictured above in his trademark East End titfer) might turn out to be a bargain if he can only find himself another team... Anyway, when you've got home-grown talent like midfielder Mark Noble who banged in a couple of goals in only 10 league starts to keep West Ham in the top flight almost single-handedly you can afford to be a little cavalier in your approach to foreign talent.
Manchester United: As with the rest of the top four, you're really coming here for your major stars. Cristiano Ronaldo is an obvious choice, but may have peaked last season and Wayne Rooney, who in a muted campaign still scored 14 to the Portuguese trickster's 17, might provide better value. Watford old boy Ben Foster will be an excellent goalkeeping buy if he can supplant former Fulham stopper Edwin Van Der Sar (who we're guessing doesn't watch that first Petrov clip often), but a more reliable squad choice might be John O'Shea, especially if he's classified as a defender. Operating mostly further forward last year he notched four goals, as many as Ryan Giggs and more than Michael Carrick or Darren Fletcher.
Picture of Carlos Tevez and his inter-railing friends via maggellan's Flickr stream.
Middlesbrough: The Teesiders' defensive ranks currently resemble something out of the opening of an episode of M*A*S*H, but it's to the attack that we're looking for our bargain in the shape of Turkish target man Sanli Tuncay. Or possibly the other way round. A couple of seasons ago we were telling anybody who would listen that he was clearly the answer to Chelsea's need for a line leader (instead they chose an Ivorian lad called Drogba). Give careful consideration to the scorer of 59 goals in 153 appearances for Fenerbache, including a Champions League hat-trick against Manchester United. If he's listed as a midfielder, as he sometimes operates in wide positions, rush to grab him.
Newcastle United: Big Sam will certainly tighten things up at the back, but you'd have to be interested in a guy who was only outscored by Drogba, Rooney and Blackburn's Benni McCarthy last season, wouldn't you? So the comparitively moderate outlay necessary to acquire the services of the ever-hungry Mark Viduka make unarguable sense, right?
Portsmouth: If, in your game, eight goal Matt Taylor, whose regular and entirely deliberate goals from ludicrous distances were scandalously overlooked come goal of the month time, is STILL listed as a defender, you know what to do. If you're not that lucky you might gamble on their rearguard being as hardy as last season, in which case new signing Sylvain Distin might even provide a goal or two as a bonus. However, we think the best value on offer is from midfielder Gary O'Neil who had a quiet campaign, but set up several goals and is always having an accurate pop at the target from in and around the penalty area.
Reading: Despite last season's nosebleed inducing finish, Reading's playing staff still tend to come remarkably cheap in fantasy terms. Take your pick from former Fulham keeper Marcus Hahnemann, dynamic cross-providing left back Nicky Shorey (who may yet fetch up somewhere even more salubrious), former Arsenal trainee midfielder James Harper, 13 goal striker Kevin Doyle and many, many more.
Sunderland: This is very much a personal selection, but we've been championing the many talents of mainstay midfielder Dean Whitehead since his early days at Oxford United. We were quite surprised he hung around with the Black Cats as they surged through the Championship and back to the big time, but he's once again entering the grand stage and, with more experience under his belt, might better the four goals he scored amidst Sunderland's cataclysmic exit from the Premiership two seasons back.
Wigan Athletic: We fear an equally apocalyptic demise, only this time around for the Latics, though that might force nominal defender Paul Scharner into his occasional striking role where he's shown he certainly knows how to hit the target. Forward Henri Camara also has it in him to net at the highest level, though he tends to do it only in fits and starts.