1. Are Chelsea’s Offensive Studs Ready to Pick up the Scoring Slack?
The Blues have six goals through three games. Pretty good, right? Well, sort of. You see, the defenders have half of the goals (Marcos Alonso two, David Luiz one), leaving the vaunted Chelsea offense responsible for a mere three scores.
Striker Alvaro Morata has gotten off to a strong start with a pair of strikes while midfielder Cesc Fabregas has chipped in with the other. But Willian, Pedro and Michy Batshuayi were expected to shine in the absence of star playmaker Eden Hazard and they have come up short. Is it necessary for the Belgian to return for things to kick back into gear up front?
2. Can Huddersfield and West Brom Keep Locking it Down on the Defensive End?
Huddersfield Town and West Bromwich Albion are the two shock squads sitting at 7 points in the table, right behind Manchester United and good for a second-place tie with Liverpool and Manchester City. They’re both doing it on the defensive side: The Terriers have yet to concede, and the Baggies have allowed but a single strike, an unlucky goal against Stoke City.
Ben Foster, Jonas Lossl and the defenders in front of them have been outstanding thus far, but the schedule has certainly done a favor for both teams. The Terriers and Baggies have each had two home games. Only one game among the pair’s combined six competitors could be considered tough, and that was a home match (Huddersfield v. Southampton). Otherwise Huddersfield has faced Crystal Palace and Newcastle, while West Brom took on Bournemouth, Burnley and the aforementioned Potters. Not exactly murderer’s row!
Both sides venture away from home, which you may worry would throw a wrench into things. However, the respective competition they will face has been toothless to this point, as the Hammers have scored only twice total in their three games while the Seagulls are still goalless.
3. Which of the Struggling Stars Will Finally Break Out?
Have there been disappointments so far? Is that a rhetorical question? Sadly there is absolutely no shortage of big-name offensive players who have played all three games but are eating a big fat donut so far with respect to goals and assists: Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea’s Pedro, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, Manchester United’s Juan Mata, Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum and West Ham’s Andre Ayew.
Also having played three games but languishing in single digit points (in Official FPL) is a slew of high-priced defenders: Liverpool’s James Milner, Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger, Everton’s Leighton Baines, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. They are joined by keepers Petr Cech of Arsenal and Burnley’s Tom Heaton who have made managers miserable as well.
Yes, you should keep telling yourself that it’s only three weeks. But while some of these stars will get things going, there will be others that will force you to tell yourself that it’s only FOUR weeks, and you won’t want to hear that.
4. What Manager is Set for the First Sacking?
Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez won the battle of desperation over West Ham United’s Slaven Bilic in Week 3, courtesy of a comprehensive 3-0 home victory. That leaves Bilic headlining the hapless managers list with Frank De Boer of scoreless Crystal Palace. The Hammers host Huddersfield while the Eagles travel to Burnley, so a failure to secure at least a point would likely seal the fate of either manager... or both.
But could there be an upset from Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe or even perhaps Arsene Wenger of floundering Arsenal? After all, the two sides face each other, and a poor home showing could easily doom Wenger, while a lopsided loss should do the same for Howe. Will Newcastle struggle again and push Benitez back into the muck? Which manager’s removal is coming soonest to shake things up on the pitch and correspondingly in fantasy?
5. Which New Players Will Slot Straight Into the Starting 11?
The transfer (and loan) window did not exactly close with a big bang. Even so, there were several moves in the latter days and hours that could make immediate impacts, such as keeper Tim Krul (Brighton), defenders Serge Aurier and Davinson Sanches (Tottenham Hotspur), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea), Kevin Wimmer (Stoke City) and Kieran Gibbs (West Brom), midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool), Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea), and Renato Sanches (Swansea City), as well as striker Wilfried Bony (Swansea).
Which of those do you expect to crack the starting line-up straightaway? On the flip side of that coin, which current starters should be quaking in their boots? Or is there no worry — has it become normal business to shell out tens of millions for back-ups?
And on the other flip side (wait, how many coins are we tossing here?), which players are poised to take advantage of the transfers away from their teams opening up a spot in the S11 for them?
6. Which Players Who Stayed Put Will Get Back to Business?
Plenty of stars who were rumored to move ended up staying put, including Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, Chelsea’s Diego Costa and Southampton’s Virgil Van Dyk. Will any of those players return to being fantasy forces as if nothing happened, and which will be part of a lingering bitterness that poisons the atmosphere?
7. Can We Get a Break from the Early Red Cards?
There have been nine red cards issued so far (including from double yellows). A red card per se isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it’s the timing of so many of them that has been extremely damaging, four coming before halftime and one shortly thereafter. They started out by ruining the fantasy performance of the player getting the early red (Chelsea’s Gary Cahill, Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey, West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic, Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and Watford’s Miguel Britos) with the points penalty and subsequent suspension.
But they also had a wider impact, hurting other players as their weakened teams in some cases allowed immediate goals, killing the chance at a clean sheet for their defenders and keepers (notably Chelsea against Burnley and perhaps even West Ham against Southampton and Newcastle against Spurs). In other cases, managers made substitutions in adopting more defensive formations which dented the production of offensive stars: Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus was removed at halftime for midfielder Raheem Sterling, while Kevin De Bruyne essentially moved back from midfield to defense; Watford’s defense-for-offense swap similarly removed much of Richarlison’s offensive aid as the Hornets failed to register a single shot on target against Brighton.
Now we’re all on edge, as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Who is it going to be this time? Which of our fantasy players will suffer? Or can we get a week off from the referees’ card books all too early in the games? (To be fair, the reds have been well-deserved. It’s really more an issue of whether we can get a break from stupid and/or dirty play.)
What do you think? Share your answers below in the comments and let us know if there’s anything else you have your eye on!