Diego Costa and Wayne Rooney could be Premier League fantasy bargains
Segment 2 of ESPN FC Premier Fantasy is now upon us, which means there are three key factors to consider:
* You have unlimited free transfers until Gameweek 21 begins on Tuesday.
* After that time, another 30 transfers are available to you until the end of the season.
* All player values (and a few positions) have been reset based on Segment 1 performance and projected Segment 2 performance.
That last point is particularly important. There were a number of standout performers during the first half of the season, some of whom represented great value for money. Equally, there were big names who failed to deliver for their price.
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The new player values will reflect this, so Segment 1's bargains might not give you quite the same bang for your buck, while a few high profile players are now available at reduced prices.
Here's what we've gleaned from the Segment 2 shake-up.
Important note: All managers will need to re-select their squads based on the new values for the next Premier League game week, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 12.
PLAYERS ON THE MOVE
Three players have had their positions changed -- with some major consequences.
Tottenham's Eric Dier (£6m) has now been reclassified as a midfielder. He spent Segment 1 as a defender, gaining an extra three points per clean sheet while enjoying more freedom to roam forward and score goals; the three he netted earned him an extra two points each time.
The 84 points he accrued put him third in the defenders' chart. If he had been classified as a midfielder, his adjusted total would have been 60 -- enough for a mid-table ranking.
Conversely, Manchester United's Daley Blind (£6.6m) is now a defender. He managed 61 points while classified as a midfielder, despite being used by Louis Van Gaal as a centre-back. If United can build on their Segment 1 stability, Blind now looks a good value prospect.
Bournemouth's Josh King (£5.4m) has gone from midfielder to forward. His enhanced 45-point haul was relatively modest, but his new value as a striker is still relatively attractive -- if he gets consistent pitch time.
HOW THE MIGHTY FELL, BUT COULD RISE AGAIN
The first half of the season was notable for its unpredictability -- and some seriously under-performing big-name players and teams.
As a result, a number of stars have seen their values plummet, transforming them from expensive luxuries into real bargains.
Chelsea's Diego Costa was valued at £9.1m but is now just £7.8m. With a new manager prompting a big upturn in form -- the Spaniard has three goals and an assist from his last two starts -- he suddenly looks a steal.
Elsewhere at the Bridge, there are winners and losers. Eden Hazard started the season as the £10m top-priced player in the game. By last week, that value had slumped to £8.9m, and he now starts Segment 2 as an £8.2m man.
Even at that price, the off-colour Belgian offers little value, but teammate Oscar (£6.7m) certainly does.
The Brazilian is another thriving in the post-Mourinho era, with two of his three goals for the season (and his only assist) coming since the Special One got the boot.
Guus Hiddink has confirmed that Oscar is now the team's official penalty taker, making that £6.7m valuation even more attractive.
Wayne Rooney was £9m and now is £7.5m. He looks good value -- if United can continue to up their attacking game, that is. The man himself is improving. Over the last four gameweeks, he is second for both attempts (14) and touches in the box (32) and third for key passes (nine) amongst forwards.
Teammate David De Gea (£6.4m) is also worth a look. He actually held his original £7m value by the end of Segment 1, and most keepers' prices remain stable in the new valuations, although a few have risen from a low starting point.
De Gea's adjusted price looks very competitive for an experienced keeper in what is still a defensively strong side.
STILL CHEERFUL, NO LONGER CHEAP
If some big names shipped some major value, any number of cut-price players saw their stock rise as the season progressed, none more so than Leicester's Riyad Mahrez.
The Algerian started out at £5.9m, rose to £8.2m and is now valued at a whopping £9.3m; only Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku (both £9.4m) and Mesut Ozil (£10m) are more costly.
The Foxes are faltering and both Mahrez and his currently sidelined colleague Jamie Vardy (£9m) -- for so long the perfect mix of value and performance -- suddenly look like relatively high-risk investments.
Watford pair Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have also been seriously upgraded. They started Segment 1 valued at £5.1m and £5.5m, respectively. Ighalo is now £8.1m and Deeney £7.5m, reflecting their top-five status among forwards.
Their prices might be up, but both still look tempting in the short term. The Hornets start Segment 2 with trips to Southampton and Swansea and have a home match with Newcastle before January is out.
Everton's Ross Barkley ended Segment 1 with a £7.6m value and second place in the midfielders' table. He's now priced at £8.1m, which, for an ever-present and consistent performer with six goals and eight assists to his name, still represents good value.
Ozil's astonishing 16 assists meant his value leapt from £7.9m to £10.1m by the end of Segment 1. Priced at £10m for Segment 2, it is a lot of money for a man who will struggle to maintain such a stellar performance level.
THE PRICE IS ALWAYS RIGHT
Some players are worth their weight in gold -- or, as it is, ESPN FC Premier Fantasy virtual money -- regardless of any major price shifts either up or down.
The Manchester City trio of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure are cases in point.
Injuries kept Aguero's value remarkably steady throughout the first half of the season. He's now £9.2m for Segment 2, which, if he stays fit, is likely to rise sooner rather than later.
De Bruyne came late to the Premier League party and promptly caught most of his midfield competitors up as his value rose £0.6m to £9.8m. His new valuation of £8.8m looks decidedly generous.
Toure had an inconsistent Segment 1, which saw his initial £9.1m valuation drop slightly. But he finished the first half of the season strongly, with three goals in four gameweeks, and his new price of £8.2m is an attractive one.
Harry Kane has had a boom-and-bust season to date, scoring in batches and enduring droughts. Now valued at £8.4m after finishing Segment 1 on £9.3m, the Spurs forward still looks well-priced in a strong side that's fourth in the league for goals, attempts and minutes per chance.
For a man who was the must-have midfielder early in the season, Dmitri Payet's new £6.9m valuation is very tempting. Back early from a major ankle injury, the West Ham creator will likely be eased into the fray over the coming weeks.
But if he comes close to replicating his initial form -- five goals and four assists from the first 10 gameweeks -- it will be £6.9m spent very well indeed.