We are just over a week away from the start of the EPL season, so I offer my initial Fantrax NMA-11 team as fodder for the masses. There’s still a week for me to tinker and adjust, as thinking changes, transfers come in, and lineups become more or less clear, but this is where I am for now.
A few high level thoughts that guide my initial thinking: First, the best match-ups to me are Liverpool and Arsenal in week one. Second, there are few players whom I want to invest in early at initial price points. Also, I’m looking ahead at spaces for what happens when the teams from Manchester return in week 2 (I’m looking at you Bruno Fernandes).
So I’ll walk you through some of my thinking for each choice, and (very anxiously) await your feedback.
Kepa Arrizabalaga - Chelsea - Kepa is a value choice for me for the week. I don’t see Brighton scoring lots of goals. Part of this is a hope that Chelsea is going to be an improved squad at both ends and will simply give up fewer goals. Kepa and the Chelsea defense did not have a good year last season. Of returning keepers, he gave up the 6th most goals and was way down the list on saves. I am watching Arsenal’s lineup as Emiliano Martinez certainly would be a viable option, although still probably second to Bernd Leno on Gunner’s pecking order when Leno returns.
Joseph Gomez - Liverpool - He is the cheapest way into the Liverpool defense as they host newly promoted Leeds. He is way behind other Liverpool defenders in terms of fantasy points, but I’m not willing to spend the big money on those big time defenders right now. I’m not 100% sure that he will stay in my lineup. Of the three defenders in my team, he’s the most likely to be changed. Among others, I’m keeping my eye on Jannik Vestergaard (who had a solid end of the season), Nico Williams (if Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t recovered) and Cédric Soares (who has potential to get forward).
James Justin - Leicester - A young wing back who found a place in Leicester’s squad at the end of last season and scored some points. He gets forward a lot. Leicester play away to newly promoted West Brom, so it isn’t a terrible match-up. I think (at least until Ricardo Pereira comes back) he has a place in the squad and could be a potential week in and week out player at a very good price.
Kieran Tierney - Arsenal - Tierney was one of Arsenal’s hopeful signings from a year ago, but it wasn’t until the season was ending that we started to see some of that promise. In the Community Shield match he found his way forward, and Arsenal look to be better defensively this year (yes, I’m an Arsenal fan and I’m hopelessly hopeful). At the lowest price and away to Fulham, he’s in my squad for week one, but with potential as a cheap buy-and-hold defender as the season progresses.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Arsenal - The Gunner’s top scorer was the first player in my squad (ok, I looked at Mohamed Salah too). I like the match-up for the week against Fulham. Having scored a brilliant goal against Liverpool, he should take momentum into the opening weekend. He is a player who can score in bunches, he’s on penalties, and Arsenal looked a like a cohesive team against the champions last weekend. He is pricey, and it was a tough choice between him and Salah, but the $3 price difference allowed a little more flexibility in other positions.
Michail Antonio - West Ham United - Antonio was the hottest player in the EPL at the end of last season, scoring in five of the last seven matches, including a four-goal wonder-game. Can he keep that form? I’m not sure, but West Ham were a much improved squad after some signings came in. I’m still looking at Hammer Jarrod Bowen if I need to free up funds; he is much cheaper and was also consistently excellent. West Ham are home to Newcastle, who really struggled on the road last year. Bowen is a better pick if you’re looking for a player at a good cost who could put up solid points for the year.
Daniel Podence - Wolves - Podence was one of the later additions into my squad, and I admit I’m still a little unsure about this choice. He ended the season fantastically, and with Adama Traore a question (still monitoring this), there is a better chance that he gets into the starting 11. The price is right, and if he were to find his way into a consistent place on the team, there is a possible strong upside to getting him early.
Adam Lallana - Brighton & Hove Albion - There’s a great article here about what he brings (or not). I like having players on set pieces, and I think Lallana quickly becomes that guys at BHA. It’s not the greatest match-up, and I’m philosophically normally against having players lining up against my own back line and keeper, but the price is really tempting, and I’m not sure where else to turn here.
Timo Werner - Chelsea - I know I said PEA was my first pick, but Timo is the most obvious. Of the transfers with potential to go big, he is top of the list (unless a certain Argentinian joins the EPL). He scores goals, 28 last year. Chelsea has been missing that pure scorer, but adding a player of his quality could make a massive difference. He is good pick for the opening week against WBA and also has potential to be a season-long top player in the league.
Sadio Mane - Liverpool - Mane just had another great season. The price difference between him and Salah made my decision in this selection. Mane is always capable of big games and he likes scoring at home. Against newly promoted Leeds, I felt like one of the two big scorers should be in my lineup.
Harry Kane - Tottenham Hotspur - After an injury filled season, Kane ended on a high note, scoring five goals in his last three games. Normally Kane starts slow in August, but we are starting in September, so I’m thinking he’s going to come out of the gates strong. I have a sense that he is playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, which makes him dangerous. I’m not sure what to expect of Everton this year, but for me it’s worth a risk.
With Manchester City and Manchester United not playing in GW-1, and with Fantrax’s habit of cratering prices of new-boy players at their first salary recalc, one has to be looking ahead at some of the players and bargains who will become screaming buys in GW-2. So I’m certainly not wed to my initial team.
There’s a week still between now and when games start. Transfers happen. Injuries happen. Week one won’t make or break your season, but it certainly helps to get off to a good start.
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So now that my lineup is out there, what do you think? Do I need Salah? Whom am I missing? Whom should I rethink? What other options are you looking at? Let the fun begin!