While the World Cup has only just turned from round 1 to round 2 of the group stage, many of us already have an eye on next season’s Premier League with the announcement of the 2018-19 fixtures. Let’s take a look at a few very early thoughts when considering the opening 6 game-weeks.
Champions’ early advantage
Manchester City didn’t need to much help with the fixture list last season did they? I’m pretty sure those in the peloton were hoping to see a tough start for the title defense. Well, they haven’t got one.
A set of games that must have brought a smile to Pep’s face. There has been plenty of talk already that they may run off six straight wins, but the opening fixture won’t be as easy as last season. Unai Emery is an extremely good tactical manager and will have had a solid month to plan for the champions visit. On top, much of the city squad will have missed the start of preseason due to the World Cup.
City have started both seasons under Pep’s management with a fast start, so holding a full set of three City players looks a must. With many of last year’s stars likely to be much more expensive this time, a trio may though be tricky to settle on.
The one obvious player not affected by the summers Fifa Word Cup drama is Leroy Sane. The young German winger had an excellent 2017-18, continues to develop in a very positive way, and it was a surprise to see him not travel to Russia. He would seem certain to be heavily involved in City’s opening six matches, and we will wait with interest to see how FPL in particular will price him. He ended last season at 8.7m and 179 fantasy points, so a starting price at 9m or over looks likely.
Another Citizen to watch is defender Benjamin Mendy, who sat out France’s first game. He spent almost all of last season injured, so he could be cheap-as-dirt. If he appears to win a starting role in the new season, then he could be a screaming bargain.
Banana skins for the Red Devils
With city’s easy start, last year’s runners up Manchester United are under immediate pressure to keep up. They were handed the following:
...A mixed bag for sure. It’s a run of games where dropped points looks very possible. Make no mistake, the club will expect the title. It will be a tough challenge as United had such a flat look to much of their football last season. The full backs didn’t offer enough coming forward, the best central defender, Eric Bailly, was missing for unknown reasons, the midfield star Paul Pogba was hot and cold during games, and Alexis Sanchez looked as grumpy at United as he had been in his final months at Arsenal. Jose Mourinho took plenty of criticism, and the bottom line is that it’s up to him to find a solution. However, like him or not, he is a proven world class manager. In what is a season that may define his Old Trafford career, he may find some answers.
Talking of Managers whose season may define him brings me Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. Klopp’s Reds have been brilliant to watch, treating us to several wonderful moments. Still, it’s three cup-final defeats and no title challenge yet.
Also a mixed bag of games, but not a set that will put people off selecting Salah at all. In fact, with the Liverpool squad getting stronger, investment in their players look a sensible plan.
Gunners’ trials ahead
It was a hard season for Arsenal fans last time out, and the fixture list is far from kind to start 2018-19:
Oh dear, not a list to bring a smile to the face. Clubs with new managers, two of the title contenders, and sides managed by Rafa and Neil Warnock. None of this will be easy.
Arsenal will need a sharp preseason and some thoughtful summer signings to add quality to a stale looking squad. Emery is an excellent manager, someone who gets the best from his players and often gets them playing above themselves. No team will want to face the Alexandre Lacazette/Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang double act, and Mesut Ozil has the quality to supply them the chances. Having said that, I don’t expect to see the Rate our Teams post full of Gunners for the opening weeks.
You know the story: Tottenham’s Harry Kane cannot score during the month of August, but it’s simply a case of when, not if that pattern ends.
Newcastle (a), Fulham (h), Manchester United (a), Watford (a), Liverpool (h) and Brighton (a)
Again, not a great run of games, but this time I think Kane’s August problem ends this season. Of course it would surprise nobody if it ends in a goal glut. The question may be more: Do we think Kane at his likely 12+m price can fit into our teams with room for Mo Salah and some City boys?
I’ve been impressed with the management of Marcus Silva, and I think Everton fans will come round to the same view by the season end.
Wolves (a), Southampton (h), Bournemouth (a), Huddersfield (h), West Ham (h) and Arsenal (a)
Wolves on opening day has an uncomfortable look to it, as does game 6 at Arsenal, but overall it’s a nice run of games in which to find a little piece of value.
Cenk Tosun maybe one of the better value forwards in the opening weeks, which could open up funds. Old fantasy favorites Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman immediately come to mind (after last year, we hope to see their prices drop), and I need no excuse to select Gylfi Sigurdsson EVER. Finally, Silva likes a wide attacker pushed up the pitch, so Theo Walcott fresh from a summer off will get some love.
One of the most popular tactics every season in FPL is to look for a pair of less-fancied clubs whose fixtures interleave to provide a run allowing you to sub one player for another. Crystal Palace and Bournemouth take the eye. If, as an example, we buy the midfield set-piece duo of Luka Milivojevic and Junior Stanislas, we can have the following six fixtures with the rotation:
Cardiff, West Ham, Everton, Southampton, Leicester and Newcastle.
If you are bolder, then maybe you could go with both keepers during this run and beyond.
Opening day and first captain choice
For games like Fantrax where we can pick a fresh side weekly, it’s all about the opening day:
- Arsenal v Man City
- Bournemouth v Cardiff
- Fulham v C Palace
- Huddersfield v Chelsea
- Liverpool v West Ham
- Man Utd v Leicester
- Newcastle v Tottenham
- Southampton v Burnley
- Watford v Brighton
- Wolves v Everton
Straightaway, Liverpool’s and Man United’s home fixtures catch the eye. That will make Mo Salah the obvious captain choice in FPL. I wonder though, do you think the FPL bosses will elevate him from midfield to forward?
Arsene Wenger often talked about Alexis Sanchez’s international commitments not helping him. With Sanchez having had his first summer off for a number of years, I think we will see a sharp player in August. While on the subject of energy, Jose made suggestions about resting Lukaku after the World Cup, meaning that Marcus Rashford could tempt, as will whichever player United buy to replace Martial if he leaves.
Finally, when the World Cup ends, we can get ready for the transfer window panic to start. With all deals needing to be completed before the season starts, we are sure to have plenty of new players to choose from.
How do you see the opening six weeks? Who are the players / teams already in your thoughts? If you’re new with us for the World Cup, welcome! If you haven’t played the EPL games with us before, I hope you’ll hang around for a couple weeks after the final so you can join us. Feel free to ask about our community in the comments!