A wildly unpredictable day brings joy for bargain third strikers and all manner of grief for most, if not all, of Chelsea’s assets.
Pep Guardiola again goes for two up top, with Sergio Aguero emerging triumphant, while Mohamed Salah also wins his personal duel with Sadio Mane.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace bomb, Southampton troll going forward and West Brom do what West Brom do.
Here are the notes from a memorable first Saturday of the season.
Budget strikers rip up the script
Anyone furtively checking scores on their phone during an ill-timed wedding yesterday would have been excused a brief snort of disbelief at the half-time score from Stamford Bridge.
Champions Chelsea three goals – and one man – down to travel-sick Burnley? If this is what the season’s going to be like, we’re all in for a bumpy ride.
But the carnage merely served to highlight the appeal of budget striker Sam Vokes, who hit a brace to defy all expectations that Burnley would continue their travel-sick ways this season.
Vokes made an emphatic case for a long run in the side as the lone striker now that Andre Gray has moved to Watford. He scored five goals in as many matches at the end of the last campaign and has clearly brought that form with him into the new campaign.
His 6.0 price sets him up as third striker material, although Burnley’s away fixtures remain deeply unattractive despite the shock win at the Bridge, with trips to Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and Man City to come before Gameweek 10.
A role as a rotation option with a midfielder looks the best way to maximise his potential from Burnley’s next four home matches against West Brom, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and West Ham.
Almost as shocking was Huddersfield Towns 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, with Steve Mounie scoring twice at Selhurst Park.
The Terriers’ record signing brought home 12 points for the 1.2% of managers who fell for his 6.0-priced charms based on a fine four-goal pre-season.
One win does not a season make – Hull City were fast out of the traps last year and look what happened to them – but the Terriers’ early schedule is kind enough for this result to offer solid hope of decent returns from their cut-price squad.
And the lively Mounie has already enjoyed decent overnight ownership increases on the back of a win that Palace will want to forget ahead of a Gameweek 2 trip to Anfield.
At least Alonso offers hope
All is clearly not well at Chelsea.
The Blues currently have three of the top nine most popular defenders in Fantasy Premier League, with the red-carded Gary Cahill owned by 14.4%.
Their schedule was always going to stiffen markedly after the regulation three points we presumed they’d pick up from the Burnley encounter. There’s much to consider now, although selling Cahill before his premium 6.5 price goes south is the obvious move made by 50,000+ already.
Much of Marcos Alonso’s ownership are currently holding firm, however, and the Spaniard underlined his all-round charms with a team-high five attempts on goal.
Victor Moses returns for the Gameweek 2 trip to Spurs, but the once mighty Chelsea squad is now just looking mighty threadbare.
Cesc appeal wanes as Willian stars
The dismissal of Cesc Fabregas, an 8.8%-owned asset, will have been equally hurtful, with added pain coming from the performance of his midfield counterpart Willian. The pair are both attractively priced at 7.0 in FPL and for many managers, it was an agonising choice between the pair. The 18.0% who went with the Brazilian were rewarded with an assist and a single bonus point.
It was Alvaro Morata’s goal that helped prompt an unlikely second-half comeback from Chelsea.
The new striker also chipped in with an assist and two bonus points for a 10-point haul from an impressive 31 minutes that could now destroy the brief differential prospects of his fellow forward Michy Batshuayi.
But with trips to Spurs and a rejuvenated Leicester City, plus home matches with Arsenal and Man City, to come over the next six Gameweeks, investment in previously sure-fire Chelsea assets suddenly appears to be risky business.
Salah sets the pace
The murk surrounding the Liverpool midfield might just be beginning to lift.
Philippe Coutinho’s exit looks almost inevitable, and his FPL exodus reflects that – only the suspended Chelsea duo of Cahill and Fabregas have lost more managers than the Brazilian’s 29,000+ since Friday’s deadline.
And in the fight for recognition between Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, it was the latter who emerged victorious.
Mane, 0.5 more expensive but owned by just 0.3% fewer managers than Salah’s 23.9% base, opened the scoring during a first-half in which his Egyptian team-mate struggled.
That all changed after the break, Salah scoring one, setting up another and securing a bonus to finish with 11 points from an eye-catching competitive debut.
But it was Roberto Firmino who arguably stole the show. With James Milner ruthlessly benched – perhaps with Hoffenheim in mind – the Brazilian striker scored from the penalty spot, set up Salah’s goal and sealed the maximum bonus for 12 points.
His 8.5 price tag always looked attractive, but a quiet pre-season and upcoming matches with Arsenal and Man City kept many managers away. There’s also the matter of Champions League qualification duties – which starts on Tuesday – to bring the threat of rotation into the mix.
But Firmino is a favourite of Jurgen Klopp and, with Daniel Sturridge still sidelined, the Brazilian’s minutes should be protected.
Watford finished off pre-season with two straight goalless draws, while Liverpool kept four clean sheets from eight outings.
A 3-3 draw never looked so unlikely.
Klopp’s decision to field bargain basement full-backs Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 4.5) in defence should have been cause for a few raised eyebrows and perhaps even spark investment.
Alexander-Arnold appeared to monopolise set-pieces, taking corners right and left. However, three goals conceded and further defensive frailties at set-plays dampen the appeal of the Liverpool rearguard.
Aguero wins round one
What promises to be a season-long battle for striking supremacy – both in Fantasy and the real thing – between Man City duo Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero has begun.
Both were selected for the trip to Brighton and round one went emphatically to the Argentinian.
The 11.6% who forked out the extra money on Aguero (11.5) pocketed nine points from a goal and maximum bonus, while Jesus (10.5) saved his 13.2% ownership base a bit of money and not a lot else as a yellow card kept him to just one point on the day.
Jesus’ owners might wish to check the underlying stats before making any hasty judgment calls. The young Brazilian led the way across total attempts (4), penalty box touches (8) and minutes per chance (19.5), suggesting that another day could well bring markedly different results.
And those other days could come sooner rather than later, with City’s schedule all the way to the end of October looking relatively promising, particularly with Liverpool and Chelsea, who they face in Gameweeks 4 and 7 respectively, fluffing their opening day lines in defence.
The threat of rotation in a Pep Guardiola side is always significant, although 31.4% of managers clearly feel that Kevin De Bruyne will be the exception to the rule. The Belgian had a steady three-point day and, like Jesus, was busy, firing in four attempts and averaging a chance every 22.5 minutes – almost twice the frequency of Aguero.
But it was David Silva who dominated as a creative force, serving up five chances for team-mates, while wing-backs Kyle Walker and Danilo got forward throughout the match and yet offered little in the way of assist potential as City consistently chose to move the ball back inside rather than exploit the width the pair provided.
Meanwhile, investment in City’s back line is healthy, and Guardiola now looks pretty set on three centre-halves and wing-backs. Rotation in those five positions looks considerably less likely than it does higher up the pitch.
Palace formation leads us a merry dance
The heavily-owned Wilfried Zaha (25.7%) was joined by many a manager’s bargain midfielder of choice Ruben Loftus-Cheek (12.1% and just 4.5 in FPL) in support of Christian Benteke up front for Crystal Palace.
That should have been a cause for much celebration, but the Eagles failed to deliver going forward despite a considerably improved second-half showing against Huddersfield Town.
Joel Ward was surprisingly preferred to Andros Townsend as a wing-back, while Frank de Boer shuffled his three-man pack at the back by drafting in loan signing Timothy Fosu-Mensah, which in turn freed up Luka Milivojevic to return to his more familiar defensive midfield role.
Loftus-Cheek’s performance at least promises much if he could retain an advanced role, while wing-back Patrick van Aanholt – at 4.3% the most popular Palace defender in FPL – also did his stock little harm, as an offensive option at least.
The Dutchman took the Eagles’ corners from both sides, succeding with four from seven. Last season, he was behind just 15 in 32 appearances.
Another day, another Southampton blank
Claude Puel lost his job at Southampton in part because of the meagre fare his team offered the home fans.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s first match at St Mary’s was similarly drab – it was the sixth straight encounter in which the Saints have failed to score at home.
Some 6.5% of FPL managers had convinced themselves that Manolo Gabbiadini’s late-season role of troll in chief was a distant memory, only for the Italian to endure a particularly wasteful afternoon in the goalless draw with Swansea City.
The forward had a team-high five attempts in his 69 minutes of pitch-time but failed to hit the target with any of them. His position as lone striker could now be under threat from Charlie Austin.
At least the popular Ryan Bertrand (15.7%) got in the bonus thanks to the four chances created, including a big glaring chance missed by Dusan Tadic.
The left-back also took three corners for the Saints, having been trusted with just 12 in 28 matches last season.
Baggies grind it out
New season, same old West Brom.
Tony Pulis’ side bagged a set-piece goal from a centre-half – Ahmed Hegazi – and then sat back and soaked up the pressure for a gritty three points.
The giant Egyptian is already attracting a lot of transfer interest – just under 40,000 and counting – on the back of yesterday’s monster 15-point haul, although his starting place is far from assured once Gareth McAuley returns – most likely after the international break.
Jonny Evans’ ongoing hamstring issues meant he missed out, but new signing Jay Rodriguez was another third striker to impress on the day, firing in five attempts (three of which were on target) and linking up well with his team-mates, creating two chances.
Those numbers are particularly impressive for a West Brom striker – an often thankless lone forward task – but the worry remains that Rodriguez could be shifted back out wide should Pulis decided Salomon Rondon needs pitch-time. The big striker allegedly slammed down his shirt at the frustration of being omitted from the day one XI.
For visitors Bournemouth, Nathan Ake sneaked into the bonus points despite the defeat, underlining the belief that he will be the bonus magnet for Eddie Howe’s men when they keep clean sheets or, like yesterday, even when they don’t.