Weeks of pre-season conjecture and speculation were finally put to rest last week, as millions of FPL managers worldwide tinkered their last.
After steady growth over the past few years, it was great to see FPL continue to gently elbow its way into the football mainstream.
A goal goes in; random cheers or tears from people who support neither side. Fantasy Football is now very much a reality.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 12, 2017
We’ve already seen some 100-pointers in what was a whizz-bang opening Gameweek, only compounding the misery for those managers Lady Luck cruelly deserted...
Christ. Zaha injury, Cahill red, Fabregas red have all forced me into a -8 after only 1 GW 🤦🏼♂️ pic.twitter.com/A73FUxCdJe— FPL Gif (@FPLGif) August 16, 2017
This is traditionally the time we scramble for those players so comically undervalued by the boffins at FPL Towers, but look out for the fool’s gold among all that treasure.
Many of this Gameweek’s most transferred-in players already come with massive health warnings.
Granit Xhaka (ARS, 5.6) turned heads with his two assists against Leicester, but traditionally picks up more cards than attacking returns.
Ahmed Hegazi’s (WBA, 4.6) new owners might soon be wishing they held on long enough to pick up Kevin Wimmer (TOT, 4.5) who could well replace him when he arrives from Spurs.
Xhaka stats for 16/17:
2 goals & 3 assists
5 yellows & 2 reds
Hegazi won't play when Evans and McAuley are fit. https://t.co/hdwRTBw6QW— FPL Holly (@fplholly) August 14, 2017
As expected, Ben Davies (TOT, 5.5) rewarded those happy to have him from the start, but will soon make way for Danny Rose (TOT, 6.5).
Jamie Vardy (LEI, 8.5) is the game’s most transferred-in forward, but will struggle to run behind the parked bus of Brighton before he faces Man United and Chelsea.
The safe bets
That’s not to say some of the stars of GW1 don’t have long-term promise.
After restricting Swansea to a paltry four shots, Southampton’s defence remains ripe for investment.
A repeat of the 2013/14 season which saw Aaron Ramsey (ARS, 7.0) become essential may be asking a little too much, but Arsenal’s change in formation seems to suit him as he adopts a Lampard-esque role.
Pre-season form, coupled with his influential 23-minute cameo against Leicester has given us plenty of reasons for optimism.
Liverpool's attacking assets have been predictably enticing. Mohamed Salah (LIV, 9.1) looks tailor-made for Klopp's system and the apparent anointing of Roberto Firmino (LIV, 8.5) as penalty-taker-in-chief could soon see him replace higher-priced rivals in our FPL reckoning. The shadow of Coutinho's future looms large, however.
Mohamed Salah (5) had as many shots as the entire Watford side during his time on the pitch.
Picking up dangerous positions. pic.twitter.com/PvK0tpcWou— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 12, 2017
Elsewhere, the likes of Mkhitaryan (MUN, 8.1) and Kolasinac (ARS, 6.0) have made solid cases for inclusion.
But for those real gems, we need to look beyond that all-too-obvious first page on the FPL site and seek out players who kept a low profile in GW1, yet offer promise for the future.
Alas, those who sagely warned us that there was no such thing as a 90-minute £4.0m defender this season ended up being depressingly correct. At least we have the penny-pinching comfort of Rob Elliot (NEW, 4.0), for now at least.
That single bonus point registered by Nathan Aké (BOU, 5.0) may not seem like much by itself, but if he can do that as a defender in a losing side, without a goal or assist to his name, Bournemouth’s next clean sheet could see him comfortably pick up all three.
A lack of FPL returns won’t have Pascal Groß’s (BRI, 5.5) owners unduly concerned after seeing him take up what was essentially a number 10 role against Man City.
Huddersfield's Aaron Mooy (HUD, 5.5) has attracted plenty of interest thanks to an assist and three key passes against Crystal Palace.
Aaron Mooy in. £1.5m banked. Impressed me at the weekend. Assist. Set pieces & lots of crosses. Good fixtures. Worth a punt.
Aaron Mooy in. £1.5m banked. Impressed me at the weekend. Assist. Set pieces & lots of crosses. Good fixtures. Worth a punt.— #FPL General (@FPLGeneral) August 16, 2017
Despite that drubbing, those who put their faith in Palace's Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CRY, 4.5) will be happy they did - the on-loan Chelsea youngster started in the front three and looked very lively indeed.
Tim Fosu-Mensah (CRY, 4.5) showed enough to indicate he may be a solid long-term enabler, once Palace get past that daunting trip to Liverpool.
After so much pre-season hype, Victor Lindelöf has already been banished to Jose Mourinho's naughty step, opening the door for the Phil Jones (MUN, 5.0) to stumble into our thoughts as we look for a cut-price route into a lucrative Man United defence.
The emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV, 4.5) has provided us with a classic example of the kind of early-season risk/reward prospect that faces FPL managers every year.
The 18-year-old is creating a wave of excitement among FPL managers, as you'd expect from a budget defender with a knack for free kicks.
"He has been doing them every day in training, that is why he's on them," says club captain Jordan Henderson, encouragingly.
Downbeat updates on Clyne's recovery should see his understudy keep his place at right-back for now at least, and should he become a fixture in the Liverpool defence, he's surely destined to become one of those criminally underpriced must-have FPL players not seen since Riyad Mahrez cost £5.5m.
Those who gamble early could reap the rewards - or be stuck with just another youth player on their bench.
Clyne at LB and TAA continuing at RB? Could be FPL gold!https://t.co/TNVrEiVHtD— Let's Talk #FPL (@andy85wsm) August 16, 2017
Alberto Moreno (LIV, 4.5) remains the more likely of the two to keep his place long-term. His mere presence reduces Liverpool's clean-sheet potential, but if you re-adjust your outlook and see him a stubbornly attack-minded full-back for a defensively inconsistent team (like a Markus Suttner (BRI, 4.5), for example), you can't deny that's still £4.5m well spent.
Making FPL moves after a trip to the local has never been a good idea, but this season it could have consequences far beyond simply impulse-buying Christian Benteke...
Why do this? Imagine accidentally hitting use free hit.
Apparently can't be turned off once pressed unlike other chips. pic.twitter.com/0qmrJASosf— fᏢᏞ fᏒᎪuᎠ (@FplFraud) August 13, 2017
i don’t know, try it 😜— FPLPriceChanges+ (@FPLPriceChanges) August 16, 2017
Christian Eriksen (TOT, 9.5) finished joint-top for both shots and shots on target in GW1. Impressive as those stats may be, they really only tell part of the story of his imperious performance against Newcastle.
The Dane simply oozed confidence and was at the centre of everything positive Tottenham did going forward.
Dumping Harry Kane may be premature for now, but if the big man continues to blank, that £3m gulf in price will become increasingly hard to justify.
A brace against Palace was enough to convince over 100,000 new owners of Steve Mounie (HUD, 6.1) this week.
The chief target in an attack-focused Huddersfield outfit, a GW2 clash against an injury-hit Newcastle defence only adds to his appeal.
West Ham looked hapless against an admittedly ruthless Man United side last Sunday. Leaky at the back, missing the creativity of Lanzini and facing two away fixtures next, there’s little appeal in the Hammers ranks for now.
Top of the League
It’s not too late to become a part of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394). Amin Kammoun leads the way and must be feeling pretty satisfied with his 103-point haul in the first week of the season.
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