On the one hand, plenty has gone to plan in the Premiership so far, with Liverpool and Manchester City joined by Chelsea both in the top three of the table and in goals scored. After a wonderful World Cup over the summer for Belgium, Eden Hazard is tearing up the league with a first-in-class 5 goals. And Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke once more finds himself near the top of the “Big Chances Missed” statistical leader board, again with a paucity of actual converted scores to his credit.
On the other hand, loads of things have gone off the rails. If you had predicted that Mo Salah would only have the third-most fantasy points not in the league, but ON HIS OWN TEAM (behind defender Andrew Robertson and fellow midfielder Sadio Mane), you can take a cookie from the genius jar. Similarly, if you pegged Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic to boast more goals than Sergio Aguero, Salah, Raheem Sterling, Roberto Firmino or Harry Kane, again you are a wizard with your crystal ball. And everybody had Watford and Bournemouth above Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United in the table, too, right?
What have we learned from the first five games, and how can we prosper from that information over the rest of the season?
- Turnover in the table has been extreme. We love to base our predictions — and player picks in our fantasy teams — for the early part of this season largely on what happened last season. However, there are always surprises. 38 games is a big sample size, but last year was last year. Watford has improved by 10 spots (from #14 up to #4), and Bournemouth has enjoyed a rise from #12 to #5. Meanwhile, Burnley has plummeted by a whopping 13 slots (from #7 to #20), and Newcastle has fallen from #10 down to #19. Fantasy gold can always be mined from unexpected places, while seemingly promising spots can often unexpectedly dry up, and those sources have become at least somewhat clear for this season.
- Following that theme, Manchester City is not going to waltz to the title this time around. The Citizens had a campaign for the ages in 2017-18, winning the league by an astounding 19 points in losing only twice and drawing four times all season. But the Sky Blues currently sit two points behind both Chelsea and Liverpool, with Watford nipping at their heels. Eight teams boast at least three wins, including the other usual suspects — Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham — along with Bournemouth. It’s going to be a real battle not just for the four Champions League spots as it was last season, but also for first place as it was most assuredly not. That means you will have to lower your expectations when it comes to the Citizens’ fantasy returns. City will very likely experience a tougher time not only against the other “Big Six” teams this season, but against the lesser sides as well — and that’s even before the Champion’s League weighs on them.
- New managers have largely breathed fresh life into their teams. When the brass makes a change at coach, the hope is that it will bring a healthy sea change, and that has been the case this season. Three of the four summer hires — Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri, Arsenal’s Unai Emery, and Everton’s Marco Silva — have pushed the right buttons, combining for 30 points through the first five games, compared to only 21 at the same point last year. It has been a rougher start for Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United with only 3 points (all three of which came only yesterday). However, the Hammers also had a poor start last season with just 4 points taken from the initial five weeks, so from that perspective things haven’t changed too much. If you held high hopes for players being inspired under new stewardship, you have been rewarded. If not, go ahead and come around to the new managers’ ways of thinking.
- Top defenders are more than worth their price in gold. Defenders usually get short shrift compared to the sexier forwards and midfielders, but the top points producers at the position can offer an immense bargain when considered up against much more dear players elsewhere in the outfield, even if they are viewed as costly when compared to others within the defender realm. In Official FPL, defenders account for four of the top nine individual scores overall, bringing extreme bang for the buck since none costs more than £6.8. Part of the explosion is because they’re absolutely racking up bonus points; Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso (9), Watford’s Jose Holebas (6), Liverpool’s Robertson (6), Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy (5), and Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier (5) have each claimed more extras than offensive stars such as Aguero (4), Kane (3), Sterling (3), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2), or Salah (0). And it’s not all about clean sheets, far from it in fact. Holebas and Mendy lead the league by themselves with four assists apiece, while Alonso, Holebas and Trippier have each scored a goal. If you don’t have at least three or four premium defenders in your sides already, you may want to rethink your strategy with respect to where you spend your money positionally.
- Rotation concerns are a problem, but only for some of the top teams. Of the big-name outfits, the most settled XI by far has belonged to Liverpool; amazingly, Jurgen Klopp has penciled in the exact same line-up at kickoff for four of the five games, as 10 players have started each time (all but Naby Keita, who came on as a sub once). Chelsea (Alonso, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger) and Arsenal (Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin, Petr Cech, Matteo Guendouzi, Skhodran Mustafi, Sokratis, & Granit Xhaka) each have seven players who have started the entire quintet, which is pretty solid on the reliability scale. Meanwhile, as expected, plenty of rotation has come from Manchester City, as only four of Pep Guardiola’s men (Aguero, Ederson, Fernandinho, & Aymeric Laporte) have started five times, but surprisingly the same can also be said for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham (Christian Eriksen, Kane, Lucas Moura & Jan Vertonghen), while just two (David De Gea & Paul Pogba) have turned the trick for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. So if you’re looking for reliable starts regarding players in your fantasy sides, you know which top-tier teams to turn to... at least for now!
How are you reacting to the above takeaways with respect to your fantasy teams? What other lessons have you learned that will impact your tactics going forward? Let us know in the comments!