“Run the risk. If it works out, happiness. If not, wisdom” – Unknown
So then, one Gameweek into the new season and Fantasy Premier League managers already have big decisions to make.
For me, rolling the dice and going without Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) fell flat on its face. It would be naïve to think I was unlucky and those who owned the Egyptian were lucky ‘because penalties’ – FPL is not as black-and-white as all that. I think it was quite the opposite, to be honest. The quote above tells us one thing. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you don’t gain ‘wisdom’.
I have a sneaky feeling that the Salah of 2017/18 is back. I haven’t seen him this sharp and fit for a long, long time and that it is why it is dangerous to have ‘pre-conceived’ notions in this extremely dynamic game.
I have spoken a lot about ‘Upside Chasing’ and ‘Big Hitter Switching’ this season but I’ve also spoken a lot about ‘Adapting’. And when Salah puts in a performance such as he did against Leeds, you pay attention. You adapt. You re-align your thinking.
We’re not talking about any old FPL asset here. We’re talking about someone who finished in the top two overall Fantasy scorers over the last three years and has a proven ceiling of 300 FPL points (which was achieved largely without penalties).
Salah was struggling with an injury last season and I have a feeling Jurgen Klopp was playing him through it because there was a historic title on the line. It seems like he is over it now.
Now, I am not going to buy him this Gameweek BUT I am not going to go without Salah for a long time and am working towards a plan to get him.
He’s fit. He’s sharp. He looks hungry. Liverpool are due some penalties. He’s got increased assist threat.
Being stubborn will not make you a good FPL player. You have to respond to what you see on that television screen. I wouldn’t stick to a pre-determined plan of chasing fixtures by selling Salah if you had such a plan. In Gameweek 2, he’s facing Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.0m) for what it’s worth. His troubles between the sticks are well-documented, most recently by David in this match report of Chelsea’s win at Brighton. Shooting on sight might be enough for Salah
For those that got off to a bad start like me (43 points), don’t worry about it too much. I always said Gameweek 1 was somewhat of a shot in the dark with more unknowns than any round of the season. It is how you respond beyond Gameweek 1 that makes you a good FPL manager.
But, just a word of warning before we draw any drastic conclusions. We only have one week of data so far this season. We don’t know what the norm is yet, meaning we don’t know which match events are the anomalies either.
If, like me, you went all-in against Salah, don’t forget that you knew the risks and the opposition had a really good hand (not a lucky one but a good one) that came through. You learn from it and move on. The key is that you do learn from it. This is a game of temperament that you need to hold for a season.
There are a few other things worth mentioning about Gameweek 1 that I’ll take you through. There’s no structure here. Just think of it as me writing in my diary.
We need to talk about Raúl Jiménez (£8.5m). There are so many new ‘toys’ in the market when it comes to exciting, explosive strikers that we might tend to overlook the old, dusty pack of Uno cards which have never really given us a ‘laugh-riot’ game night but it’s never been boring either.
There is not much to think about here. Jiménez has been reliable for two seasons now. Yes, he slowed down at the back-end of Project Restart but still scored a steady four goals in that run. And it looks like Nuno has decided to go ‘sexier’ with his team this season. They looked more formidable in attack at Sheffield United, Jiménez looked incredibly sharp and it seemed like they created more than they usually do.
This did have a little bit of an effect on Wolves’ defence though and I thought they looked more open at the back than usual. As it was Sheffield United, they went largely unpunished. The upcoming fixtures pit Nuno’s men against Manchester City (home), West Ham (away), Fulham (home), Leeds (away), Newcastle (home) and Crystal Palace (home). It certainly looks like a night of Uno that’s going to be more fun than usual without the unnecessary disruption of European Football.
Remember that year in school when one of the less popular kids came back a changed person one summer before suddenly became a changed person one summer. Over the holidays he went home bought the best gym equipment, went on a shopping spree with a good stylist and became a cool kid virtually overnight. Well, in the Premier League this season, that kid is Everton.
Everything you knew about them last year is irrelevant. Yes, a certain Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.1m) was a troll during Project Restart and went on a horrible run. But that kid named Everton accompanied by their suave new stylist Carlo Ancelotti went shopping and bought a completely new wardrobe (read midfield) and you now need to view this team completely differently.
Out of nowhere, the Toffees look creatively competent. Having players who can switch the side of play so easily instead of others that are incapable of making a single forward pass makes a difference I guess. Add to that, they have one of the best ball-winners in Europe protecting that back-line in Allan (£5.5m). The team deserves our attention at both ends of the pitch and you must erase every bad memory you had with this kid last year when he trolled you no end.
Elsewhere, a pair of 4.5m defenders are already standing out to me as the pick of the lot. I’ve got Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m) and Luke Ayling (£4.5m) on my watchlist for this price bracket.
Lamptey, in particular, has immense potential. Brighton looked very encouraging against Chelsea, with Graham Potter instructing much of his team’s offensive play to travel through the full-backs. Lamptey showed us what he can do last season with an impressive performance against Liverpool and seems proficient in creating chances with great reliability.
Someday, we might even get to purchase a nailed-on defender from Arsenal at £4.5m or below. Now that the Gunners are much more solid at the back, I will be keeping close tabs on William Saliba (£4.4m) and Rob Holding (£4.5m) to see who emerges as the better option long-term. It is worth noting that Arsenal’s fixtures don’t become incredibly appealing until Gameweek 8, so we do have time to judge them, which is helpful.
After a major captaincy-fail last week, I really hope this week is easier on me. I am currently having a major heart versus head debate as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) seems like the obvious captaincy pick, but I also happen to be a Manchester United fan. I know the Arsenal man has an easier fixture, based on the defensive prowess (or lack thereof) displayed by West Ham last season and in Gameweek 1 but I also own Anthony Martial (£9.0m) and Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m).
My co-host Zophar told me on this week’s episode of The FPL Wire that West Ham made Steve Bruce’s Newcastle look like prime Barcelona on Saturday evening. I trust his opinion and that has me worried about how much damage Aubameyang can do in Gameweek 2. That said, Manchester United were really effective going forward last season once Fernandes joined the team and Paul Pogba (£8.0m) was fit.
So, with all that to consider, I haven’t yet made up my mind about my next captaincy decision. Traditionally I always like captaining a Manchester United player in the first good home game of the season. And we do play this game for fun, right?
*Looks through post-season notes*
“You love Tony gloves.”