Gameweek 1 can often make a mockery of our careful Fantasy squad planning. All those hours spent tinkering with formations, reading up on the endless pre-season friendlies and analysing the salient data from the previous campaign can prove to be an exercise in futility when the Premier League season finally gets underway.
It was refreshing, then, to read of the many success stories among the Fantasy Premier League community last weekend and see FPL bosses’ groundwork rewarded with scores of approaching – or above – 100 points.
An average Gameweek 1 score of 53 points, although slightly down on last season’s opening-weekend mean, was all the more impressive given that there was such uncertainty over several teams’ starting XIs following the late return of their respective World Cup players.
While many FPL managers will be content with their lot and perhaps seek to roll a transfer for Gameweek 3, there has nevertheless been significant market activity since the Gameweek 1 deadline passed on Friday.
At the time of writing, eight players have risen in price in the last few days, all of whom delivered attacking returns for their respective clubs. Where there is a rise, there is almost always a fall: five FPL assets have dropped £0.1m as a result of their indifferent starts.
Just over 1.7 million transfers have been made on the ten-most-in demand FPL assets of this Gameweek, with still three days to go until the late-Saturday morning deadline.
A transfer used on a goalkeeper is never the most fulfilling one to make and, unsurprisingly, this market is currently the quietest of the four positions.
The short-termism that is prevalent in defence, midfield and attack is often lacking with the custodians between the sticks, with many FPL bosses having already decided on a set-and-forget option or a policy of rotating two cheap assets on a weekly basis.
Following his clean sheet return at the Emirates and a sea of blue/green on the season ticker ahead of him in the coming half-dozen Gameweeks, Ederson (£5.5m) is the most bought shot-stopper of the round. Having attracted almost 50,000 new owners since Friday night (most of them after full-time at the Emirates on Sunday), Ederson looks set to pass Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m) this week as the third-most popular FPL goalkeeper: the Brazilian trails West Ham’s number one by only 0.1% in the ownership stakes.
Six of the seven most-bought goalkeepers of this round kept clean sheets at the weekend, the exception being the shot-stopper with the second-highest numbers of “transfers in”: Ben Hamer (£4.0m).
The Huddersfield goalkeeper got the nod over Jonas Lossl (£4.5m) for the Terriers’ opening-day defeat to Chelsea after impressing in pre-season and was the only sub-£4.5m goalkeeper to start over the weekend, making him a viable, budget-freeing substitute option – it is certainly hard to imagine many of his new owners will be fielding Hamer for the trip to the Etihad on Sunday. Whether the former Leicester City custodian will feature long-term for the Terriers is open to debate: Hamer’s distribution in the 3-0 loss to Chelsea was poor, though David Wagner’s comments after the match suggested Lossl was himself struggling for fitness and form.
Julian Speroni and Artur Boruc, still the two most popular £4.0m-rated goalkeepers in FPL, have suffered a net loss of owners (presumably) as a result.
Joe Hart (£4.5m) and Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) both impressed in the 0-0 draw between Burnley and Southampton at the weekend and have attracted over 28,000 and 27,000 new FPL managers respectively. Hart’s security of starts must still be in question, though, with Tom Heaton (£5.0m) fit enough to be on the bench for Sunday’s encounter with the Saints.
The two most-owned goalkeepers in the game, David de Gea (£6.0m) and Jordan Pickford (£5.0m) are also the two most-sold assets in their position ahead of Gameweek 2. Those transfers seem somewhat short-sighted, with Manchester United and Everton facing Brighton and Southampton this weekend – both of whom failed to score in Gameweek 1.
Three defenders have already risen in price following their impressive attacking performances at the weekend: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.1m), Benjamin Mendy (£6.1m) and Luke Shaw (£5.1m).
Shaw’s goal in the 2-1 win over Leicester City on Friday night saw the United left-back instantly become the most-transferred in defender in the run-up to Gameweek 2, though the former Southampton full-back has since been passed by Wan-Bissaka and Mendy following their assists on Saturday and Sunday: the pair have attracted well over 200,000 new owners at the time of writing.
Wan-Bissaka was one of a number of viable £4.0m-rated defensive options available to Fantasy managers before the season had begun, but his assist, clean sheet return and maximum bonus points in the 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday has seen the youngster catapulted to the second most-owned defender in the game: 19.6% of FPL managers own the Palace right-back at the time of writing, with that figure surely set to exceed the 20% mark by the time the Gameweek 2 deadline passes at 11:30 on Saturday morning.
Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) and Jeffrey Schlupp (£4.5m) also delivered attacking returns in the victory at Craven Cottage, but they and centre-backs James Tomkins (£4.5m) and Mamadou Sakho (£5.0m) have only been collectively bought by 71,900 new managers – around a third of the number that Wan-Bissaka has attracted.
Mendy’s premium defender price has not deterred investment in the French left-back, meanwhile, with Kieran Trippier (£6.0m) – still the most popular defender in the game – and Nicolas Otamendi (£6.5m)’s combined 162,000+ sales accounting for a large chunk of Mendy’s rise in ownership to just below 15%.
Two assists and a clean sheet for Jose Holebas (£4.5m) in Watford’s 2-0 win over Brighton has led to over 122,000 purchases for the veteran left-back, whose Hornets side next face a Burnley team who will have been in Europa League action less than 72 hours before their Sunday meeting.
Away from the form-related transfers – Marcos Alonso (£6.5m), Andrew Robertson (£6.0m) and Jan Vertonghen (£6.0m) being obvious targets – the selection of Ryan Bennett (£4.0m) over Romain Saiss (£4.5m) in the Wolves’ defence on Saturday evening has attracted the attention of over 32,000 FPL managers looking for more bargain-basement defensive options that could possibly make a start. The acquisition of Leander Dendoncker (£4.5m), however, means that Bennett could be on borrowed time in the back three.
Phil Jones (£5.4m), missing from the United squad on Friday evening, is the only defender who has dropped in price at the time of writing.
With five price rises and four drops since Friday night, the midfield has been the hottest area of activity since our focus switched to Gameweek 2.
Ruben Neves (£5.1m) is the most-bought player of all so far, attracting almost 260,000 new owners, and joins Richarlison (£6.6m), Sadio Mane (£9.6m), Roberto Pereyra (£6.1m) and Paul Pogba (£8.1m) in seeing an early price increase.
Neves’ superb free-kick and assist in the 2-2 draw with Everton on Saturday evening were headline-grabbing returns for a midfielder in the budget bracket, though his modest record in the Championship last season (six goals, one assist) still nags in the back of the mind when assessing his FPL worth. That Neves racked up 12 points at Molineux on Saturday without registering a single touch in the Everton penalty area underlines his lack of threat in the box from open play but also his influence on the game from deep regardless.
The sight of Richarlison limping from the field after his brace in that same match hasn’t deterred over 161,000 new managers from recruiting the Brazilian. With Southampton the visitors to Goodison Park this weekend, a fit Richarlison is a formidable prospect against a Saints team that conceded 16 shots at home to a Burnley side not renowned for its gung-ho attacking play.
The 12 most-bought midfielders of this round all found the back of the net at the weekend, with N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) among that dozen. Kante’s slightly more advanced role in Maurizio Sarri’s set-up could be significant this season, with the French midfielder already matching his goal tally for each of the last three campaigns. The former Leicester City man is now the third-most-owned midfielder in FPL, sitting in 21% of squads.
Son Heung-min (£8.4m) is by far the most-sold midfielder of the round, having lost over 150,000 of his owners and dropping £0.1m in price. That the Korean international was in so many teams to begin with is perhaps a surprise, given that it was full knowledge that he would depart for the Asian Games immediately after Gameweek 1. Even more bewilderingly, over 1,450 managers have since drafted him into their squads.
That Son only emerged as an 80th-minute substitute in the win over Newcastle rubbed salt into the wounds of the Fantasy bosses who owned him.
Leroy Sane‘s (£9.5m) omission from the Manchester City starting XI on Sunday has predictably led to a mass exodus, though more surprising are Kevin De Bruyne‘s (£10.0m) sales: over 58,700 managers have ditched the Belgian, though that desertion has been off-set by over 26,200 transfers in.
Though De Bruyne started on the bench at the Emirates after his late return from World Cup duty, the Belgian is as nailed a prospect in the City midfield as any of his team-mates: De Bruyne featured in 37 of City’s league matches last season, starting all but one of them. No City player in any position made more appearances for the league champions than the former Chelsea and Wolfsburg man.
With Huddersfield to come to the Etihad this weekend, his sellers may rue the decision to ditch him: De Bruyne recorded more assists (18) last season than any Premier League player. A counter-argument to that, of course, is that Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m) may well be sharing set-piece duties with the Belgian this season after featuring prominently at dead-ball situations at the Emirates.
Christian Eriksen (£9.5m) has also lost over 50,000 of his FPL backers, despite creating more chances than any midfielder in the Premier League this weekend. That goalscorer Dele Alli (£9.0m) has attracted almost the same amount of new owners would perhaps suggest that the bulk of those transfers are linked and the managers in question are following the points somewhat.
Cesc Fabregas (£6.4m), Ramadan Sobhi (£4.9m) and Anthony Martial (£7.4m) are the other three players who have experienced a price drop this week.
All quiet on the attacking front this Gameweek, with not a single price rise or fall among FPL forwards.
Five of the most-bought strikers of the week all found the net at the weekend, with Callum Wilson (£6.0m) leading the “transfers in” stakes after attracting over 92,800 new owners.
Wilfred Zaha (£7.0m), Jamie Vardy (£9.0m), Raul Jimenez (£5.5m) and Joselu (£5.0m), each of whom was on target on Friday and Saturday, have all unsurprisingly increased in popularity too.
Manchester City’s favourable run of upcoming fixtures has seen plenty of investment in Sergio Aguero (£11.0m), despite the Argentinean forward blanking at the Emirates on Sunday: Aguero has been bought by 64,500 new FPL managers since the Gameweek 1 deadline passed and is now the second-most owned striker in the game, sitting in 32.2% of Fantasy squads.
Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) is still the most popular option in attack with his acquisition (45,990) and sales (44,395) figures effectively cancelling each other out after a so-so five-point return in the 4-0 win over West Ham United.
Harry Kane (£12.5m) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) have each been sold by over 50,000 managers ahead of Gameweek 2, though as we discussed earlier, it may be premature to ditch our big hitters in attack with such favourable fixtures just around the corner.
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