The World Cup impact wasn’t quite as severe as we had feared, but it was still there, as stars who went deep into the tournament such as Eden Hazard, Jamie Vardy and Romelu Lukaku came in from the bench rather than starting, while Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Vincent Kompany failed to feature at all in the opening weekend of Premier League.
What do you do now? Well, it depends first on how many of those big names you avoided, and how many you bought but stashed on your benches. Second, how did you do in the opening week? Did you earn a high score with deputizers you grabbed for the short term but are now looking like long-term holds? Or did you instead get off to a disappointing start with a glut of players who you don’t really want to keep?
Normally, I’d say it’s only one week, so don’t overreact. Then again, this is no ordinary season. If you did well and you don’t see too many holes in your line-up, you can afford to take things slowly. Ideally, stash that free transfer in your pocket, and wait to do a double switch before GW3. But if you need to, go ahead and use the transfer. Honestly, don’t be shy about taking a -4 hit. Desperate (post-World Cup) times call for desperate measures, right? My pre-GW1 thinking regarding the World Cup line-up uncertainty had willingness to take a few -4 hits here and there built into the early season formula.
If you are considering using your first half of the season unlimited wildcard chip now, though, that’s another level entirely. That’s Defcon 1 stuff there.
You really, really, really don’t want to do that unless your team is an absolute quagmire... or unless you’re personal friends with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. It’s simply too early to get a good read on the season based on one game. After all, Luke Shaw, N’Golo Kante, Jan Vertonghen, Joselu, Jeffrey Schlupp and Daniel Sturridge accounted for six of the 25 goals scored in the first game week. Do you know how many goals they scored all of last season combined? Eight! That’s it! So don’t overreact, okay? Easy there, calm down. Take a deep breath... now another one... and go ahead and bring things down to Defcon 3 or 4, alright?
So what players should you think about adding in, which should you start, and who should you captain? These are the ones whom I expect to go big in GW2:
The Citizens host a sophomore side that barely survived its freshman year — this one’s like grabbing cotton candy from a wee one in diapers. You’re not going to get many saves, but it would be a shock if Ederson ended up with fewer than six points. Manchester United’s David De Gea and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris are also good bets at the premium level, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much of a surprise if either of those two missed his clean sheet.
It’s usually better to go with home players, but any time a decent team is playing Cardiff, I’ll make an exception. Newcastle’s defense is better than most people are aware, and a solid chunk of that is actually because of Dubravka.
Joe Hart of all people got a clean sheet last week at Southampton. Yes, the same aargh Joe Hart aargh who kept only four clean sheets in 19 games with West Ham last season. It’s possible that Hart will continue between the sticks, but with Tom Heaton back to fitness, Sean Dyche should turn back to the pre-Nick Pope #1. Watford showed signs of life last week with a brace from Roberto Pereyra, but I think defensive-minded Burnley can keep the shutout streak going at Turf Moor against the Hornets.
The Three Lions’ #1 conceded twice to Wolves at Molineux in the opener, but that was thanks to Phil Jagielka getting sent off. Now the wiley veteran is suspended, and that’s probably not a bad thing. Either Mason Holgate or Yerry Mina should fill in, and that’s an upgrade. More importantly, the Toffees return home to Goodison Park against anemic Southampton who, as mentioned, failed to score at home in the opener against Joe Hart.
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City v. Huddersfield, £6.0)
Raise your hand if you left Mendy and his 15 points on the bench. Am I the only one? D’oh! I got three clean sheets and two assists from my trio of starting defenders, so normally I wouldn’t feel any regret. But missing out on Mendy’s clean sheet plus two assists at the normally unwelcoming Emirates?! Wow, simply wow. Lesson learned, just start Mendy no matter what. At home against Huddersfield? No-brainer. As long as Pep Guardiola doesn’t wring his neck first, of course.
Ben Davies (Tottenham, £6.0)
You’ll want to be sure to check team news to see if Danny Rose is in Mauricio Pocchetino’s plans at all, but Davies should probably be safe. (Similarly with Serge Aurier and Trippier on the other wing, and likewise with Davinson Sanchez and Alderweireld if you have eyes elsewhere in the defense other than Jan Vertonghen.) The Cottagers have no shortage of interesting offensive weapons, but Fulham is a promoted side, and Spurs are at “home” (still Wembley), so let’s not get too carried away just yet. Even though Vertonghen scored last weekend, Davies among Spurs defenders has the most consistent chance of adding offensive returns to a possible clean sheet. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Tottenham back line, I wouldn’t advise adding any of them in until things get more settled, but if you already have Davies, he’s certainly a great play this weekend (again, assuming he starts).
Leighton Baines (Everton v. Wolverhampton, £5.5)
The worry with Baines is that newcomer Lucas Digne will eventually take the starting left wing-back spot. But likely not just yet. I’m usually a big Seamus Coleman fan, but I was very disappointed by his performance in the opener. Coleman simply didn’t have it going forward on the right; he looked indecisive, ineffective and strangely slow. Baines played much better raiding up on the left flank, plus there’s a good chance he will be on penalty kicks and some other set pieces.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United, £5.1)
There’s no reason to make a rush on Shaw. As mentioned, he’s unlikely to score again. On top of that, he may be just a placeholder for Ashley Young. But if you already have Shaw, don’t hesitate to keep on rolling with him. If you don’t have Shaw, you probably don’t want to bother adding him in, especially since his price has already ticked upward.
Ben Mee (Burnley v. Watford, £5.0)
Mee not only picked up the clean sheet in the opener, he also nabbed two bonus points. Of the four defensive starters from last week, Mee had the most bonus addition last season. So if you hope for another clean sheet plus a little extra on top, Mee’s your man.
Raheem Sterling (£11.0), Riyad Mahrez (£9.0) and/or Bernardo Silva (£7.5, Manchester City v. Huddersfield)
During practice midweek, Kevin De Bruyne reinjured the knee that kept him out of 16 matches in 2016, and the reports are that it may be serious. That eases concerns that Sterling, Bernardo and/or Mahrez will rotate to the bench. Any among the trio provides an excellent option as the Citizens look to delight the home fans for the first time in this title-defense season. Of course, midfielders Leroy Sane and David Silva (along with forward Gabriel Jesus) would love to get a crack in the XI, so be sure to check team news as the deadline approaches.
Does lightning strike twice? I won’t mind finding out if Mane can keep the momentum going after his wonderful brace to start the season against West Ham at Anfield. Palace has a solid defense, and this one’s at Selhurst Park, but I’m not too worried about Liverpool’s explosive offense that travels well. If you don’t have Mo Salah, Mane showed why he is a great cut-rate play in the Reds’ midfield. He may not stay healthy the whole season, but you can worry about that when it comes.
Christian Eriksen (£9.5) and/or Dele Alli (£9.0, Tottenham v. Fulham)
Fulham loves to push forward, which is great not just for impartial (or partial) fans, but also for opposing offenses looking for space on the counter. Much like Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha at Craven Cottage on Saturday, Eriksen and Alli certainly won’t mind trying to take advantage at Wembley. You could take a flier on the cheaper Lucas Moura who is getting plenty of playing time in place ofwhile Son Heung-min is off at the Asian Games, but I’d wait until he actually shows us something.
Richarlison (£6.6, Everton v. Southampton)
The young Brazilian probably isn’t going to score too many replicas of the corner kick scrum goal he nabbed against Wolves. But the second score — a confident curler that finished a bold run into the box — is certainly something we can expect the Watford transfer to repeat a number of times this season, and any fixture against relegation-favorite Saints is tempting until they prove otherwise.
James Maddison (£6.5, Leicester v. Wolverhampton)
Though he failed to register a goal or assist, the young Mr. Maddison enjoyed a bright start at Old Trafford. Now he goes home to comfortable King Power Stadium against much friendlier competition.
Harry Kane (£12.5, Tottenham v. Fulham)
I know, I know, I know, Harry Kane never scores in August. But that has to end sometime, doesn’t it? What better fixture than at home against a newly promoted side? It doesn’t even have to be pretty. Could be a penalty kick... or a lucky deflection... or perhaps a goal-bound ball that may or may not actually nick the unfrosted tips of his hair. Call me crazy, but I think that the hex breaker happens now.
Sergio Aguero (£11.0, Manchester City v. Huddersfield)
There is some worry that Gabriel Jesus could be rotated in, leaving Kun on the bench. But I think Aguero keeps his starting spot and might even be joined by the youngster in a front two. As mentioned, it’s the home opener. And never forget that Aguero is a fan favorite:
On top of that, Kun shockingly failed to convert a 1-on-1 breakaway against Petr Cech over the weekend, so Guardiola surely wants to give his star striker a chance to erase that memory immediately. I don’t think Ben Hamer can stop him, do you?
Roberto Firmino (£9.5, Liverpool at Crystal Palace)
Firmino was the forgotten man in GW1 as Mane, Salah and Daniel Sturridge accounted for the four goals. Which, of course, means that it’s Firmino’s turn to get in on the action.
Jamie Vardy (£9.0, Leicester City v. Wolverhampton)
If Vardy can score as a sub at Old Trafford against mighty Manchester United, shouldn’t he be able to do likewise starting at home, “welcoming” newly promoted Wolves?
Marko Arnautovic (£7.0, West Ham v. Bournemouth)
Many fantasy managers have picked Arnie to build on his fantastic finish to last season though the Hammers face a stormy patch of early fixtures. But there’s a definitely a break in the clouds this week with a home game against the Cherries!
Cenk Tosun (£7.0, Everton v. Southampton)
Tosun should get plenty of chances up top linking with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Theo Walcott and Richarlison as the sorry Saints go marching in Merseyside.
How do your teams look after the first week? Who are you looking to add in for GW2? Do you have an obvious (or THE obvious) captain, or is it a tough choice? Am I crazy to tout Kane in August? Have you heard an update on KDB’s knee injury? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!