Season Pick and Punt - Mesh

It’s time for the penultimate instalment in our series of articles that offer up a Season Pick and Punt from each of the FPL Dugout Contributors. The Season Pick is a free choice whereas the Punt is limited to players with ownership of under 4%. Following in the footsteps of Marco, Sleno, Shiva and Kevo, it’s now Mesh’s turn…

The new Premier League season is almost upon us. The Fantasy Premier League game went live 3 weeks ago but the team selection headache has never gone away since.

The uncertainty surrounding Bale, Suarez and Rooney’s future at their clubs has not helped either.

But that may not be a big deal anyway as there are still 14 squad positions to be occupied with players who can consistently rack up the points during the season.

Choosing a Season Pick and Punt isn’t an easy decision. A lot of time has been spent mulling over the potential candidates before I’ve decided to go with Arsenal’s Theo Walcott as my Season Pick and Manchester United’s Luis Nani as my Season Punt for the season ahead.

And here is hoping they do not disappoint.

Season Pick – Theo Walcott

The Arsenal forward has bemoaned his achievement of finishing the club’s leading goalscorer last season has slipped under the radar having netted 21 goals in 43 outings in all competitions.

However, I’m pretty confident the 14 league goals he managed in 24 starts were greatly appreciated by his Fantasy Premier League managers, particularly those who always had faith in him until he hit his purple patch playing as a centre forward.

Distribution wise, Theo chipped in with 10 assists, and with only Santi Cazorla providing more for team-mates (11), it just shows how pivotal Theo was for Arsenal last term. And I wouldn’t expect any less this year.

Theo has come in at £9.5 in the game this season, a fairly reasonable price for an attacking wing man who can score goals from out wide, from the middle and he’s more than capable of making them happen as well.

Over 70 crosses were sent in from the corner spot by Theo Walcott last season, so it is now fair to say the English winger has become a regular set-piece taker at Arsenal.

And he’s continued to take them in Arsenal’s pre-season matches this summer where his scoring form has also been good, netting 4 goals in 7 games.

It is absolutely important and encouraging that Theo has had a full pre-season under his belt, which hopefully means he will be raring to go come August the 17th. Unlike last season of course where his preparation for the new season was hindered by taking part at the Euros and a niggling injury afterwards.

Theo, known for his lighting pace, has usually been derided for his lack of footballing intelligence, but he seems to have come of age now he’s utilising the attributes he’s got the way he should.

Confidently speaking, Theo is adamant his form last season wasn’t a one-off, vowing to build on that:

“I don’t want to stay at a steady level, I want to push on and push the club on so we realise our potential.”

Theo’s longing desire to play up top was justified by 14 league goals last season, all of which interestingly came from inside the box. But he now understands how influential he can be when operating from the right hand-side:

“I had a few games up front, but most of my goals were from the right. When things are going well, I wouldn’t change a thing. If I can contribute anywhere across the front line, then I will take that.”

Theo has also revealed hard work and intensive training have been the secret behind his exceptional finishing in front of goal:

“Even if there wasn’t a goalkeeper there [after training] I would put cones out in the goals and practise. The ‘keepers would stay behind most of the time and that helped me. I practised on my left and right foot. I wanted to do it – that is my desire to improve.”

Expectations are always high on Theo, but he’s proved he can meet them, and there’s no reason why he won’t live up to them again either.

Season Punt – Luis Nani

New manager, new life and a new era at Manchester United but it’s also a new challenge for the champions’ wing man, Luis Nani.

Due to being frequently injured, the Portuguese winger was barely seen in the red shirt last season with only 7 starts and 4 cameos off the bench.

The contract renewal issues didn’t help (and they are yet to be resolved either), which apparently caused a bit of disagreement between the player and the former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, hence the continued omission from the starting line-up despite being fit at times.

Nani has also missed the club’s pre-season tour in Australia and Asia having gone under the knife for nose surgery. As a result, there were concerns over possible breathing difficulties so he was left behind.

It’s all not good news, is it? So why is he my Season Punt?

Soon after he had his nose operation, Luis Nani started his pre-season preparations at an Adidas training camp in a bid to be fit in time for the new season.

And that seems to have been of a huge benefit for Nani. He was back in Manchester a week before the team arrived back from Asia. He’d been training with the reserves alongside team captain, Nemanja Vidic, and Antonio Valencia.

A Manchester United XI travelled to play Crewe at the Alexandra stadium where Luis Nani scored twice to seal a 2-0 victory for the Red Devils on an impressive first appearance of pre-season.

In a post-match interview with the Manchester United official channel, MUTV, Nani hinted that his desire is to stay at Manchester United and fight for his place:

“I hope to win the league again and, for my personal wishes, I want to be at my best and score a lot of goals… Like I said, I just need to be at my best and then everything will come together.”

Portuguese-based newspaper, The Record, have also claimed that Nani is going to be a big part of David Moyes’ plans at Old Trafford and he’s set to be offered a new deal.

Nani also featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Real Betis, and he was on the scoresheet once again to help the champions secure a 3-0 win.

United then travelled to Sweden for a friendly against AIK where Nani started on the left hand-side, and looked sharper than any United player, even those who were on the Asian tour.

He ran the show for 30 minutes before he was unfortunately forced off due to an injury, but Moyes said there was nothing to worry about.

“It was nothing serious. It was just protection, looking after the players and making sure we don’t make anything get worse.”

At £7.5, a player of Nani’s quality, who is unplayable on his day, could be a real punt.

He may be tentatively eased into action now he’s recovering from a niggling groin injury, but having closely watched his progress in recent weeks, I’ve been impressed by how sharp he’s looked, and I wouldn’t expect him to take long before he hits explosive form.