New Hub contributor Jon Proudfoot aka @FPLBrain has been playing FPL seriously for 3 years – 16k OR in 19/20, 28k in 18/19, 224k in 17/18. 2x Fantasy Telegraph top 500 prior to that. He wrote ‘The Universal Guide to FPL‘ to help beginners hit the ground running and others to improve their skills. Jon has a background in financial research and quantitative methods, and has played and followed football for 30 years.
Having watched every single match of Gameweek 1 (it’s the first week back, what do you want from me?!), here are some first impressions along with implications for Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
Fulham vs. Arsenal
Hardly a test for Arsenal as I’m sorry to say Fulham were extremely poor. Willian Borges da Silva (£8.1m), who I tend to disregard due to his seeming reliance on set pieces, was – you guessed it – fantastic on set pieces and pretty nifty in open play too. I need to start giving Willian more consideration as it’s hard to see him losing his spot after that, and it looks like he might just be an excellent fit in this Arsenal side. Surely the prodigiously talented Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) will still get plenty of run but he’s a ‘don’t touch’ for me for the time being while we see how this shakes out. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) continues to have middling underlying numbers but I can’t remember the last time I watched Arsenal and he didn’t score. They are very deliberately trying to get him into one-on-one situations over on the left side of the box as often as possible, and he’s extremely dangerous from there. I think he’ll continue to defy the underlying numbers to a meaningful degree. He could’ve easily had a second goal late on, and he’s almost certainly my captain at home to West Ham on Saturday. Let’s give them a couple more games before really sticking the boot in, but Fulham looked dodgy at the back and toothless going forward, which is obviously not too encouraging. It’s possible Alexander Mitrovic (£6.0m) could still be a decent option given his kind price and penalty duties, but aside from him I’d give Fulham assets a very wide berth. Unless Fulham can improve massively from here then I think they likely represent a high priority target in terms of opposition attacking returns.
Crystal Palace vs. Southampton
I think the way the game unfolded flattered Palace and vice versa. Southampton dominated the first half and if they’d scored first Palace would’ve had to come out a bit and that could’ve played into Southampton’s hands. Instead they ended up throwing the kitchen sink at Palace and Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) and co were able to expose them on the counter. I’m still pretty bullish on Soton and while Danny Ings (£8.5m) and Che Adams (£6.0m) narrowly failed to get off the mark (both were brilliantly denied by superb reaction saves from Vicente Guaita (£5.0m), the minutes for Adams (84) and performances from both were encouraging. Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) was a little lucky to stay on the pitch after a red card for a last ditch lunging tackle was reduced to a yellow upon VAR review (a ref using a screen and changing his mind – huzzah!), but also had some very good moments going the other way, playing nice and high up the right side, regularly joining in attacks and supplying the cross from which Ings nearly scored. Zaha looked back to his devilish best and if he’s left on the shelf when the transfer window closes then he’s a very legitimate FPL option at a reasonable £7.0m and particularly having been reclassified back to midfield. Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m) filled in extremely well for the recovering Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) but it’s still hard to see how there would be a place for him in the team once van Aanholt is back doing bits.
Liverpool vs. Leeds United
I won’t bury the lede – Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) (‘O captain! My captain!’) was fantastic. He looked at his zippy, hungry, buzzing best and he won’t be leaving my team anytime soon. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), Joe Gomez (£5.5m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) all looked a bit off the pace and/or complacent but that was partly due to how well Leeds pressed and harried them, and probably the Liverpool’s surprise or unfamiliarity with teams trying to play them that way. I’m sure they’ll round into form soon and you never know when Trent might ping a free-kick into the top bin so it’s still risky to be without him. Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) does look like he could run him close on the season though and van Dijk – the target of almost every Liverpool corner – is already off the mark, which is ominous. Just make sure you have at least one of them basically. I’m glad to already have Leed’s impressive captain Luke Ayling (4.5m) in my squad and will be keeping an eye on Patrick Bamford (£5.6m), Mateusz Klich (£5.5m), Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) and others after this encouraging start. Bamford would be a more compelling option if big-money signing Rodrigo (£6.0m) wasn’t such a potential threat to his starting position.
West Ham United vs. Newcastle United
Newcastle fan here, for my sins. Thanks to West Ham’s utterly turgid performance we start with a win for the first time in as long as I can remember. What I’m really looking forward to is hopefully seeing Callum Wilson (£6.5m), Ryan Fraser (£6.0m), Miguel Almiron (£6.0m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.5m) all playing together at some stage, but in Gameweek 1 it was the likes of Jeff Hendrick (£5.0m) and Andy Carroll (£5.5m) who were as influential as anyone for Newcastle. Hendrick is such a good glue-guy pickup on a free and he’ll probably end up starting most games even when everyone’s fit. Carroll put himself about well – as he usually does when fit – and helped created opportunities for Wilson and others, but he’ll probably be in and out of the side this season both on selection and fitness grounds. It’s hard to assess just how good Newcastle were versus how bad West Ham were (really, really bad I think), but you can only beat what’s in front of you. Wilson in particularly was impressively fit, quick and active given he’s only been with the club a couple of weeks, and looks a solid option whenever Newcastle have kind fixtures. Michail Antonio (£6.5m) looked decent despite the dross around him, as did Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) – who gets into the box so often for a guy who’s essentially playing as a defensive midfielder, is almost impossible to stop in the air when he’s found, and very nearly scored on one such occasion. I think I’ll keep him despite the horrendous fixtures, given his very particularly set of skills and with the better teams often being vulnerable in the air. Jamal Lewis (£4.5m) had a very solid debut for Newcastle, combining surprisingly well with St Max for someone who’s only just joined the club, and could be a decent option at 4.5m when Newcastle have better fixtures and preferably once Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) is back.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Leicester City
Incredibly Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) performance – after 70 minutes he was getting treatment from the physio and I thought he was about to come off. Fifteen minutes later he’d scored two penalties and ended up with 13 points. He’s clearly still a good FPL option but for whatever reason I tend to overlook him at the start of every season. Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) continues to frequently get into very dangerous positions and then to either A) smash the ball straight at the keeper or B) shank the ball into the fake crowd. If he can ever find a middle ground we might be in business. Timothy Castagne (£5.5m) (someone said it sounds like (George) Costanza and now I’m thinking that every time) looked excellent, he’s clearly a top class crosser of the ball and more unexpectedly he popped up in the box to head home. James Justin (£4.5m) had a shaky start with the lunge to take down a WBA player on the edge of the box, but actually ended up having a good game including winning a second penalty for Vardy just in case his FPL points to actual involvement ratio wasn’t already absurd enough. Not sure I’ll be rushing to bring in any more Leicester players but they looked pretty good. West Brom failed to impress – I didn’t see a great deal from Matheus Pereira (£6.0m), and unfortunately Sam Johnstone’s (£4.5m) strong penalty saving record isn’t going to make a difference when Vardy is booting his pens in off the post like that. Judging by this they might be a team to target for goals but perhaps that’s a little premature.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton
I think this one has already been discussed very widely elsewhere, but to largely echo all the other sentiments – Everton looked great, especially in the second half, while Tottenham were okay in the first half but were very poor after Dele Alli (£8.0m) got the hook from Jose Mourinho at the break. James Rodriguez (£7.5m) looked every bit a former football A-lister and was pulling all the strings with aplomb (making his price look quite enticing in the process), and Richarlison (£8.0m) was his primary target in this one but didn’t have his best day (to put it kindly) in terms of end product. I thought Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) led the line terrifically well. He should’ve had a tap-in first half if Richarlison had got his head up to find him unmarked, and he made his two Spurs markers look like ball boys as he rose to crush home the winning header. Big Dunc Ferguson will have enjoyed watching that one. Lucas Digne (£6.0m) looked excellent too, supplying a fantastic delivery for the goal. He’s a bit of an awkward price though I think – 5.5m would’ve felt like a bargain but 6.0m is just a half mill from van Dijk. For Spurs, Heung-Min Son (£9.0m) looked fine despite the lackluster team performance (and is up against the very attacking, somewhat defensively-suspect Walker-Peters next…), Alli was actually okay until withdrawn – but that’s obviously something of a concern – and Harry Kane (£10.5m) hardly touched it. Not what you want from your £10.5m forward. If I’d had a Spurs midfielder they’d probably be a Man United midfielder by now.
Sheffield United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
A flying start for Wolves and all of a sudden there’s just the Man City game between them and a fantastic run of fixtures from Gameweek 3. It was an exquisite side foot-volley finish from Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) for his goal (to no one’s surprise at this point), a great day for Romain Saiss (£5.0m) with the goal, another off the post and preserving his own clean sheet by heading one off the line. He certainly earned all 15 of his points and I’m pretty jealous of those that started with him. In an ideal world I’d have Jimenez and a Wolves defender from Gameweek 3 but I’ll probably have to settle for one of those at most. There’s no Europa League to distract or fatigue them this season and it’s hard to see how they wouldn’t have a great season, especially after coming out of the blocks this well. Daniel Podence (£5.5m) looked excellent again (as he did post-restart) and will be a standout option if he keeps starting. It does makes me a bit sad for Diogo Jota (£6.5m) who usually looks great too and has such a similar game to Podence. Seriously – why do they have both of these guys? One of them should be killing it elsewhere. Sheffield United will be fine, and in particular John Egan (£5.0m) continued his strong post-restart offensively, looking a real handful at corners. They’re going to struggle to score many goals (it would help a lot if they could snaffle Rhian Brewster (£4.5m) on loan…), and I don’t think they’ll top what they did last season, but they’ll end up in mid-table safety. It wasn’t a great start for Aaron Ramsdale (£5.0m) who was caught flat-footed for Saiss’ goal, especially with Dean Henderson’s (£5.5m) boots (and impressive underlying stats) to fill, so perhaps that will take the shine off the defenders somewhat as FPL assets. But let’s give it a few more games before jumping to that conclusion.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chelsea
Some parallels with the Liverpool Leeds game here, in that the heavy favourites did end up winning but the losing team showed a great deal of promise in the process, arguably outplaying Chelsea for much of the game. Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) was terrific all game, the epitome of ‘didn’t deserve to be on the losing side’ and Brighton created a lot of chances in the game. He was on all my early target lists so it’s slightly irritating that his absence from some pre-season match lineups led to me going without him, but I expect to have him in my squad sooner or later. Neil Maupay (£6.5m) continues to sort of look the part without converting chances as often as you’d like. He really should’ve been 6.0m not 6.5, he’d have been a nice option. Leandro Trossard (£6.0m) caught the eye a little again, but had Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.0m) to thank for his long-range goal, which should have been comfortably saved. The FML FPL guys call Kepa ‘Lettuce Hands’ and that’s really the only analysis you need of his goalkeeping. Replacement urgently needed (and on the way by the sounds of it). Especially if an upgrade arrives in nets, Reece James (£5.0m) is potentially a huge bargain, given his superb crossing ability, involvement in set pieces, high position and now apparently the ability to hit screamers every once in a while. It really just depends if he’s a regular starter or if he’s in a rotation with Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m). Timo Werner (£9.5m) looked excellent and would likely have scored if some of his teammates (Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.0m), I’m talking about you lad) had been up to his level when the opportunities arose to play him in. If he has penalties when Jorginho (£5.0m) isn’t in the side, he’ll be even more of a bargain than he already looks. Kai Havertz (£8.5m) had some nice early touches before fading and may need a minute to get going. It didn’t help him that he was asked to play right midfield (so that Loftus-Cheek could play as the number ten no less!!), where he looked lost at times, and he’ll be much better with some games under his belt and hopefully moved further forward and/or more central. I was doubled up with him and Werner and made my planned (unless Havertz had shot the lights out) move to Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) already. There’s a good chance I’ll bring him back at some point later in the season as I remain convinced that he’s an incredible talent.
Onwards and Upwards
Those are some of my first impressions from watching the opening round of games. I hope these observations are helpful, especially for those who didn’t have the opportunity to watch as much of Gameweek 1 as I did. Of course, things could and probably will look quite different after two or three more Gameweeks, and I’ll put out another Eye Test article around that time.
Personally I’m pretty happy with how well my initial squad has held up through the surprises and scrutiny that Gameweek 1 brings, and that combined with a healthy 79 points feels like a good foundation for the season. I will just be looking to chip away with sensible moves over the early weeks, with Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) and Phil Foden (£6.5m) firmly in my cross-hairs having already brought in Bruno. No matter how your team did at the weekend, don’t do anything too rash – just make one or two logical improvements if needed, (or even save your transfer) and I wish everyone the best of luck for Gameweek 2!
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