The World Cup was absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, it has left Premier League teams seeming rather naked without their clothes. The players who saw significant action for France, Croatia, Belgium and England are all extremely unlikely to start the first game or two (or three), so we’re left with memories of a certain Cosmo Kramer when he decided to mix things up in the undergarment department.
So that has left us scrounging for news, unsure of what direction to go with our teams. Should we load up entirely on players who are going to start early in the season? Focus instead on the long term and be willing to take some hits with stars who will surely pay off later? Do something in between? If going with option A or C, are any of the replacement players worth grabbing? What line-up news looms large?
Note that the week kicks off on Friday — do not miss game-week 1’s transfer deadline Friday at 7:45 pm! (British Summer Time)
Manchester United vs Leicester
Given their World Cup exploits, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are unlikely to start (or even play in) the opener for the Red Devils at Old Trafford, leaving the squad a bit thin, but hardly bereft of talent. The home fans will love to see how incoming transfer Fred plays in his first Premier League fixture.
Harry Maguire is the only Leicester star who played significant minutes deep into the World Cup, so Yossi Benaloune may see some action in his stead. Jamie Vardy hardly exerted himself for the Three Lions, so he should not have a problem starting. With respect to Maguire, one also wonders if Claude Puel will need to hold him back if he leaves via transfer (Manchester United, of course, being one of his rumored suitors). Foxes’ fans will have their eyes on exciting new signing James Maddison if he plays.
I don’t really have anything to say about the Magpies, as their expected starting XI is basically what you would have expected toward the end of last season.
On the other hand, the visitors are in full Kramer mode, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, and Hugo Lloris all having made it to the 7th game of the World Cup. So aside from Davinson Sanchez, Eric Tier, Son-Heung Min and Christian Eriksen, this is going to be mostly a B side from Spurs. If you’re betting on Spurs to win this away game against a feisty Newcastle team, please be sure not to bet the house.
Huddersfield did welcome some transfers, but... it’s Huddersfield. Don’t get too excited now, o.k.? This is still basically the team that barely (but impressively!) survived last season. If you have fantasy designs on the Terriers, um... have you read any of our advice? Ever?
For mighty Chelsea, meanwhile, midfield superstars Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante, as well as striker Olivier Giroud, will not be expected to start due to World Cup fatigue. Gary Cahill didn’t see too much action, but it doesn’t seem as if he’s in new manager Maurizio Sarri’s plans, giving David “Sideshow Bob” Luiz a shot to impress. Keeper Thibaut Courtois is also out of the picture, but of course it has nothing to do with Belgium’s summer success. Amazingly, despite coming over only a couple of days ago, the new most expensive keeper transfer ever, Kepa, is expected to start between the sticks. Ruben Loftus-Cheek didn’t play too much in Russia, so he should be fairly fresh, but he will likely only be a substitute option anyway. Jorginho, however, should get the start, and Blues’ fans are raring to see him make an impact.
Incoming transfer Diego Rico is suspended for the first three games, giving Charlie Daniels a chance to hold onto his starting wing back job. Jefferson Lerma was a pricey purchase by the Cherries, but given that he was such a late addition (announced on Tuesday), it would be difficult to imagine the defensive midfielder integrated into the starting XI already. Joshua King seems nailed on for a start up front after an impressive summer, with the question being whether he’ll be paired by Callum Wilson or crafty old veteran Jermain Defoe.
Surely you don’t have too much fantasy investment in Cardiffbut if you do, you’ve probably got a cheap sure starter such as Sol Bamba, Lee Peltier, or Joe Ralls.
The Hornets should be deploying a few new faces such as Ben Foster (from West Brom) and (if he passes his late fitness test) Gerard Deulofeu (from Barcelona, though of course you knew him at Everton). But mostly you’ll be seeing familiar faces such as Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucore. Yay?!
And they’re playing Brighton. Blurg, what a miserable game. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll even bother watching the highlights. If you took a flier on Pascal Gross, or Glenn Murray before his inevitable injury, good on you.
This one, though, I get get on board with. These are two legitimate mid-table teams. I’m excited to see what Fulham can bring. Crystal Palace had a great run to finish last season, and I think we all want to know if they are for real.
Callum Chambers came over on loan from Arsenal and may get a quick start with the Cottagers. There’s a new keeper in Fabri; he could be something. Tim Ream is an AMERICAN (woo hoo!!!) in the Premier League following in the footsteps of Clint Dempsey... in that he’s at Fulham, not that he’ll score any big goals. The offense is legitimately interesting with the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Andre Schurrle, Ryan Sessegnon, Jean Michael Seri, and Dean Cairney.
Palace is basically the same team as last season, only without Ruben Loftus-Cheek who returned to Chelsea. It even looks like Wayne Hennessey won the keeper job over Vicente Guiata. But again, after escaping what looked like guaranteed relegation, this team has excitement written all over it. Or at least over part of it. Most of the back, maybe.
Ooh, Wolves, yay Wolves! Do you have Rui Patricio, Diogo Jota or Ruben Neves? If not, why not? At least one of them has to pay off this season, right?
Keeper Jordan Pickford is the only Toffee who made a deep run in the World Cup, so Maarten Stekelenburg will be expected to fill in for the early stages. The team has looked dreadful in the back during the summer, so you may not get much in the way of clean sheets, but the offensive returns of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman are always tempting. Everton went absolutely insane at the end of the transfer market, but this game comes too soon for the likes of Yerri Mina and Andre Gomes. But who’s excited to see Richarlison??? Can he click with Cenk Tosun, Gylffi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott?
Dusan Tadic is gone. Otherwise, there is simply nothing of note to say about Southampton. Wait, there is something: Southampton didn’t sell anybody to Liverpool this summer! That’s something, isn’t it? How did that (not) happen?
Burnley is in crisis mode at the keeper position, with Nick Pope out with long term injury (about three months) and Tom Heaton facing a shorter time on the sidelines. Is emergency addition Arrgh — Joe Hart — Arrgh actually going to see playing time between the sticks? Who loves watching a train wreck???
Croatia’s only EPL player, Dejan Lovren, is set to sit this one out, with Joe Gomez taking his place. Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold should both see the XI, but TAA’s spot is less secure, so be wary. It’s also unclear whether big new signing Fabinho will start or merely be a sub with Georginio Wijnaldum getting the call instead. But for the most part, you’re going to see the Reds’ big guns, don’t you fret about that.
West Ham is going to be a new-look team, but of course it’s a bit opaque as to exactly how fresh things will be. Felipe Anderson and Jack Wilshere are both about as close to 100% as you can get to be out there for the whistle, while Andriy Yarmolenko is a bit more in doubt.
Arsenal was the only “Big Six” side not to have anybody feature prominently in the finals of the World Cup, which should help its cause early in the season. Danny Welbeck was their only player on one of the final four teams’ rosters, and he could be on the way out in that awkward period between when the entry deadline ended and the exit window remains open. The big question is whether Petr Cech or newcomer Bernd Leno will start in goal, but with two tough opening fixtures — v. Manchester City, at Chelsea — you’re probably looking elsewhere in fantasy.
Pep Guardiola may need to rest Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph after their summer exertions (and subsequent well-earned rest). Bernardo Silva is getting plenty of fantasy love, and Pep Guardiola still has plenty of talent at his disposal with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and newcomer Riyad Mahrez expected to surround Bernardo in a lethal front four. Otherwise, though, does Ilkay Gundogan see action? Or David Silva? And do they rotate in the second game? And when do Sterling and KDB come back into the picture? Pass the pink stuff, I think I’m already getting indigestion.
With all of the injury/fatigue uncertainty or confirmed absences, I absolutely hate my Official FPL team. I’ve gone back and forth, changing my mind over and over, letting go of players I was high on, going after players I was low on, abandoning my own advice from only a week ago, it’s simply horrible. I love the World Cup, but I loathe the post-World Cup Premier League opening-week hangover. It’s always a balance between short-term and long-term thinking, but I’ve really gone against my usual philosophy in adopting the former more than the latter, a rather uncomfortable middle ground. I feel so dirty. I’ve truly never hated my Week 1 fantasy team more. And yes, I’m resigned to probably having to use my free transfer around Week 4... unless, wait, maybe I can get lucky... oh, I don’t know. Bah!
My horrible, self-loathing FPL team:
PVA / TAA / Robertson
Fraser / Mane (V) / Alexis Sanchez (C) / Siggy
Aguero / King / Mitrovic
Bench: Fabianski / B. Silva / Mendy / Wan-Bissaka
Fantrax is always another story, where the season opening team is always about Week 1 and Week 1 only. I don’t love my team, but I don’t hate it. I’m at peace with it, and it’s growing on me. My not-so-miserable Fantrax side:
Baines / Coleman / Robertson
Fraser / Jota / Alexis Sanchez / Siggy
Firmino / King / Mane
What players in your fantasy teams are locked and loaded? How many chambers do you have open in the cylander awaiting the latest reports and flights of fancy as the deadline approaches? Please be sure to keep us abreast of any late breaking news updates in the comments!