The season kicked off with an explosive Gameweek 1 and the Fantasy Premier League market quickly followed suit, as managers rushed to seize upon early bandwagons.
In the first of a series of weekly articles for Fantasy Football Scout, we at whogottheassist.com will be reviewing and commenting on trends and behaviours in the market, looking at common themes and giving our view on the viability of the transfers taking place.
As the dust settles on the opening ten fixtures, these are the five targets earning the attention of FPL managers.
With a brace at home to his favourite opponents West Ham United (he’s now scored 11 goals against them), Lukaku had an outstanding debut in Manchester United’s 4-0 romp.
A 13-point return and maximum bonus made him the joint-top scoring forward for the Gameweek alongside Jamie Vardy and Sam Vokes.
Over 80,000 transfers in the last 24 hours points to a strong likelihood that owners will be further rewarded with a double rise – 0.2 in terms of team value and 0.1 in selling value.
An away fixture against Swansea City, which has captaincy written all over it, and with an ownership now in excess of 50%, Lukaku is as close as it gets to “essential” right now.
The main victim of the rush to bring in the Belgian is Harry Kane. The Spurs forward disappointed his 36% ownership with a one-point return as his August struggles continue.
Kane has already seen almost 70,000 sales in total, with 64,603 of those arriving in the last 24 hours.
But sellers could be accused of acting too impulsively. Six shots, five of which were inside the box, suggest that the “August goal” is not far away and they may well rue giving up on the England international so early.
Achieving a price rise last night (with almost 180,000 managers drafting him into their side), the Swiss midfielder is one of the first major bandwagons of the season.
As Xhaka is now seemingly on corners (he took all but one), which garnered two assists and helped return 10 points, one can understand the reasoning – particularly when he was priced at just 5.5.
He also offers a clear swap for those who own two of the weekend’s most disappointing assets.
Team-mate Alex Iwobi (2.8%) was omitted from the teamsheet on Friday night, while those holding Chelsea’s suspended Cesc Fabregas could make a similar move and save 1.5m in the process.
Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha is another to contribute to Xhaka’s ownership. The winger has lost over 67,000 owners and that will doubtless accelerate further following the revelation of his departure from Selhurst Park sporting a leg-brace.
Xhaka comes packaged with notable caveats. Occupying a central role in the Arsenal midfield, he isn’t renowned for attacking threat – his debut season in 2017/17 delivered just two goals, three assists and 85 points.
More significantly, the ball-winner is also notorious for disciplinary lapses. He saw red twice and was booked five times last season.
If he ends up surrendering corners and free-kicks to Mesut Ozil, Xhaka’s appeal would take an almighty dent and, of course, he takes up an Arsenal slot in our squads.
That might not be an issue now, but, as the season develops, we may require that allocation for big-hitting options.
Another early Sunday night riser, Hegazi rewarded his owners with a goal, a clean sheet and three bonus points.
This 15-pointer meant that the colossal Egyptian defender – who stands at 6 feet 5 inches – was the top-scoring player of the Gameweek.
Starting at only 4.5, he offers the cheapest route into a West Brom defence renowned for scoring goals from set-pieces. Indeed, Hegazi’s stellar performance has resulted in over 145,000 transfers-in.
Many have recruited him as their replacement for the suspended Gary Cahill, freeing up 1.5m and also taking advantage of West Brom’s kindly fixture run.
But those coveting Hegazi should be aware that this might be a short-term punt.
Hegazi’s place in the team could be under threat, with Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans both currently having short-term injuries.
Tony Pulis is also thought to be actively pursuing Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson.
It was a great weekend for Egyptian debutants, as summer signing Mo Salah bagged a goal and assist in his first Premier League outing for Liverpool.
That produced 11 valuable points, and a decent relationship already looks to be blossoming between him, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The “red roulette” of who will score is very much on once again.
An appealing home fixture against Crystal Palace in Gameweek 2 suggests that he could maintain his early form, a feeling shared no doubt by the 102,000+ managers who’ve brought him in since Saturday.
Perhaps not suprisingly, Philippe Coutinho has been deemed surplus to requirements in the clamour to acquire Salah.
The absent Brazilian has been one of the most popular like-for-like transfers in the first Gameweek, having suffered over 66,000 sales.
With a Salah price rise imminent, Coutinho owners who are yet to act could be driven to make the switch.
Two goals and 13 FPL points mean that the party is very much back on for Leicester City’s striker.
Over 107,000 managers have claimed their invite, and he is another to benefit from the Gabriel Jesus and Harry Kane fallout following their Gameweek 1 blanks.
Priced at only 8.5 this season – 1.5 million less than in 2016/17 – Vardy could provide further value ahead of a plum home fixture against Brighton.
As expected, the transfer market in FPL is extremely volatile over the early Gameweeks. We will continue to see bandwagons form and die at pace over during this initial period.
Xhaka and Hegazi are interesting early targets, and their early popularity is certainly unexpected. Both could grind to a halt should Hegazi come under threat from McAuley, or if Xhaka draws the wrath of the match officials.
Lukaku and Vardy, however, have proven track records from previous seasons, with the Man United striker seemingly set to dominate for overall ownership.
Salah is something of an unproven quantity in the Premier League, but has already demonstrated his potential to keep pace with Mane and Firmino.
Saturday’s haul, coupled with his 9.0 price point, means that he provides the obvious solution to the Coutinho exit plan.
Meanwhile, all the Kane sellers could be rushing to bring him back if he delivers the goods against Chelsea’s fragile defence.
Certainly, the Gameweek 3 home encounter with Burnley will be a concern. Kane frustrated against the Clarets last season, though Sean Dyche’s side may find it difficult to shackle him and a confident Spurs on the Wembley turf.
While we can scoff at the thought of shedding Kane so soon, it seems likely that we will choose a time to ride some of these heavy-hitter wagons at some point. The skill will always be to get on, and off, at just the right point.
This is a new series of articles written by Nick (Matamatics) and Tom (Individual), founders of ‘Who Got The Assist’ (www.whogottheassist.com, @WGTA_FPL on Twitter) – a website and podcast devoted to FPL.