Friday August 7

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Arsenal F.C.

For our 2015-16 Arsenal F.C. Fantasy Preview, we turned to community member, fantasy enthusiast and livelong Gunners fan A.Timberlake, who prepared an incredible piece for us. Enjoy!

Following successive FA Cup and Community Shield victories for the second season running, Arsenal come into the new campaign riding a wave of optimism and good form. Just as importantly, the Gunners have emerged from a fine preseason nearly free of injury, with Wilshere being the only casualty receiving a hairline fracture during training (Welbeck still rehabbing last year's knee injury and Sanchez is back in training). With the club and manager now the record FA Cup winners respectively, the challenge for both this season will be to mount a sustained title challenge. The last two seasons have seen Arsenal perform a footballing Jekyll and Hyde, putting together stellar half seasons which if extrapolated over a full season would have seen them finish as champions, but in actual fact saw them botch the other halves and ultimately fall well short of their rivals. Having proclaimed this his greatest squad since the ‘Invincibles,’ it is now up to Arsène Wenger and co. to fire straight off the blocks this season and to carry it all the way through until May. If they do not, there will be few excuses to be made. As is always the case with the Gunners, the health of the club’s star players will be key to any success.

After opening at home to West Ham, Arsenal face a moderately difficult start to the new campaign, playing both Liverpool and Chelsea in their next five matches. The good news is that the first half of the season sees Arsenal face the majority of their sterner tests at home, with only a trip to the champions to negotiate from last season’s top six. The Gunners must insure they aren’t playing catch up come the New Year.

Nickname: The Gunners

Manager: Arsène Wenger

2014-15 Finish: 3rd (75 points, 22-9-7 record)

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Friday August 7

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Manchester United F.C.

After a (relatively) slow start to last season that saw only three wins in their first ten matches and found manager Louis van Gaal on the (preliminary) hot seat, Manchester United went on a tear, losing only 2 of their next 22 matches. While they stumbled a bit in their final six matches, losing three and drawing two, it was still good enough to qualify for the Champions league this upcoming season. This offseason saw a flurry of activity for the Red Devils, who spent over £80m in transfer fees to bring on several world-class players while also sending out Angel Di Maria to PSG - and they reportedly aren't done yet as they are reportedly targeting Barcelona's Pedro and have also been linked to PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Real Madrid's Gareth Bale. Regardless of how the team looks at the close of the window, Manchester United have added quite a bit of strength to their squad this season, and will once again be in the hunt for the top of the table this season.

Nickname: The Red Devils

Manager: Louis van Gaal

2014-15 Finish: 4th (70 points, 20-8-10 record)

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Thursday August 6

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Tottenham Hotspur F.C.

Tottenham Hotspur F.C. and second-year coach Mauricio Pochettino come in to this season following a campaign that saw the emergence of Harry Kane, a 5th place finish in the EPL table and a visit to the League Cup finals. They will have their work cut out for them this season though, as their rivals at the top of the table have spent massive amounts this transfer window to improve their teams, and they once again have to contend with an increased workload as they participate in the Europa league once again. Tottenham supporters can take heart in the fact that even though Spurs haven't been spending the massive quantities that other EPL clubs have, the money they have spent has shored up a shaky back line (which was one of their few weaknesses last season), and it is reported that they are still in the market for another winger and a striker to back up Kane.

Nickname: Spurs

Manager: Ted Lasso Mauricio Pochettino

2014-15 Finish: 5th (64 points, 19-12-7 record)

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Wednesday August 5

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Liverpool F.C.

For our Liverpool preview, we are doing something a little different... @EdgeCommaThe, lifelong Liverpool fanatic, a good friend and great member of Soccer Captains community, has prepared an incredible Liverpool F.C. preview which I hope you will enjoy as much as we did! Without further ado...


If 14/15 was the hangover to Liverpool’s house party of 13/14 than 15/16 is surely going to be… what exactly? That’s the question everyone is asking about Liverpool at the moment. Their success in 13/14 came as the result of a high scoring, swashbuckling style which saw the club score 101 goals in 38 league games. Yet as prolific as Liverpool were in 13/14, they were equally anemic in 14/15.

The cause for this lies somewhere between the narrative, Suarez leaving for Barcelona, and the reality of: Suarez leaving for Barcelona, Sturridge breaking, trying to “bed in” a myriad of new players, and attempting to shift 50% of the team’s goals from the previous year off of two players and onto the backs of the team as a whole. A slow start to the season exposed the team’s defensive fragility, which, combined with the lack of firepower up top led to a string of poor results. These results necessitated a change, as the team was no longer capable of simply outscoring the opposition.

That change was to come as the manager eschewed his preferred 4-3-3 formation, to instead run out a 3-4-3; going so far as to play a natural midfielder as a converted centerback, and a winger as a false 9. While the goals were still hard to come by, compared to the previous year, the team was much more solid defensively and began to eke out modest victories. When all was said and done however, Liverpool ultimately failed to replicate their form from the year prior, scoring only 52 league goals and finishing 6th overall.

Why though, are we talking so much about seasons as far back as two years prior, in a preview for the coming year? Well, Liverpool find themselves in much the same position heading into this new campaign, as they did last summer prior to the season past. In 14/15 the team needed to immediately replace the 31 goals of Luis Suarez, and after a few weeks into the season, the 21 goals of Daniel Sturridge. Once again, the two highest scorers of the last campaign have departed. Steven Gerrard, has left for Los Angeles, while Raheem Sterling has been sold to Manchester City. The task to replace these goals isn’t as herculean as it was the previous year though, as they only scored nine and seven goals in league play respectively.

The similarities between the two off seasons aren’t solely reserved to replacing goal scorers however. Prior to the 14/15 season, Liverpool brought a grand total of eight new players into the squad, 3 of which could be said to be guaranteed starters. During this current transfer window, while fewer players have come in, seven, four of them are thought of as first 11 caliber. Is Liverpool poised on the brink of another slow start, while they wait for players to grow accustomed to each other and the system they are expected to play in?

Nickname: The Reds

Manager: Brendan Rodgers

2014-15 Finish: 6th (62 points, 18-12-8 record)

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Wednesday August 5

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Southampton F.C.

Southampton F.C. shocked the world last season: after a summer transfer window that saw the departure of five of their top players and their manager, it was widely believed that Southampton were destined for relegation. The Saints, under new manager Ronald Koeman, responded with an incredible campaign where they rose as high as second in the table before ultimately finishing 7th with 60 points and qualifying for the Europa league. During the summer 2015 transfer window, Southampton have once again shipped out some key players; the only difference being that this time around you aren't hearing relegation predictions as The Southampton Way appears to have won over pundits around the world. Koeman is a subscriber to the Total Football theory, and displayed the versatility of his squad last season by utilizing both a 4-2-3-1 (which he has used primarily thus far in the preseason) and a 4-3-3; he also found success with surprise 5-3-2 or 4-4-2 diamond formations in a few matchups as well. We expect to see more of the possession-oriented, attacking style this upcoming season.

Nickname: The Saints

Manager: Ronald Koeman

2014-15 Finish: 7th (60 points, 18-14-6 record)

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Wednesday August 5

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Swansea City A.F.C.

Swansea City A.F.C. enters their fifth-straight season in the Premier League. Last season in his first full campaign as manager, Garry Monk was able to guide the Swans to their highest ever finish in the Premier League (8th). Using a possession-based, high-pressure style of soccer, Monk and his men look to rise even higher this season and challenge for a spot in the Europa league.

Nickname: The Swans

Manager: Garry Monk

2014-15 Finish: 8th (56 points, 16-14-8 record)

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Tuesday August 4

2015-16 Fantasy Preview - Stoke City F.C.

Stoke City F.C. enters its eighth season in the Premier League with third-year manager Mark Hughes at the helm. In his first two years as manager Hughes has been credited with revitalizing the club and changing their identity from a boring, bruising, defensive-survivalist mentality to an attacking, possession-based style. Hughes' innovations have resulted in the two highest Premier League finishes ever for The Potters, and the supporters are completely smitten with the new swagger and swashbuckling style their team brings to the pitch each week. Should the club continue to improve under Hughes, who appears to be deploying a 4-2-3-1 thus far in preseason, there is a very real possibility that Stoke could find itself competing for a place in the Europa league this season.

Nickname: The Potters

Manager: Mark Hughes

2014-15 Finish: 9th (54 points, 15-14-9 record)

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