Premier League Football is back!
The 2021-22 EPL season kicks off at Brentford Community Stadium in a little over 48 hours from when I write this. We all know what that means! Off-season boredom smacks head-on into our first transfer deadline, so it’s time to get back to doing what we love best — managing our fantasy teams!
To help you succeed at that, below are NMA’s FPL player-picks for GW-1.
All 2020-21 Premier League season stats below are sourced from understat.
When it comes to Goalkeepers, I always hoard funds by picking budget options I think can earn nearly as much (possibly more than) the overpriced stars (YMMV). Although keepers like Alisson Becker (£6m, Liverpool), Edouard Mendy (£6m, Chelsea), and Ederson (£6m, Man City) are backed by strong defenses and have better clean sheet potential, my money is much more valuable invested elsewhere. Here are my budget keepers for MD-1:
Robert Sánchez (£4.5m , Burnley vs Brighton )
Brighton’s underlying defensive numbers last season were impressive, making the Seagulls’ under-priced #1 a logical fantasy pick. Brighton had the 3rd-fewest xGA in the league (39.91), with only Chelsea and Man City doing better. Graham Potter’s blue and white army were unlucky to concede the number of goals they did last season as untimely red cards and bizarre VAR decisions went against them. If Brighton’s on-field results reflect the brilliant underlying defensive numbers, Robert Sanchez owners are in for a treat.
Daniel Bachmann (£4.5m, Watford vs Aston Villa) & Ben Foster (£4m, Watford vs Aston Villa)
Watford’s fixture run from GW-1 to GW-7 is one of the easiest the Hornets will enjoy all season, making Watford’s goalkeepers good options. Ben Foster was Watford’s first-choice goalkeeper at the start of the 2020-21 Championship season but lost his place after an injury. Bachmann has had the starting role since, and although it’s likely to continue that way, there is still a question mark as Ben Foster still dons Watford’s #1 jersey. The very affordable GK pairing of both Bachmann and Foster captures Watford’s schedule while hedging that risk. By GW-8 you’ll know whom to drop.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m, Norwich vs Liverpool)
Without VvD behind him, TAA didn’t achieve the same lofty heights last campaign as in the one prior, but the right-back still scored twice and created seven goals to accumulate the second-highest defender points tally (160) in FPL, behind only his teammate Andy Robertson (£7.0m, DEF). Liverpool’s generous early fixture list means the Scouser is likely to get some clean sheets too. With TAA being the Merseyside club’s main set-piece taker, picking him is almost a no-brainer.
Luke Shaw (£5.5m, Man United vs Leeds)
Luke Shaw is currently the most-owned player in FPL, skyrocketing to a mammoth 53.5%. This indicates high expectations that fantasy managers have for him. The left-back scored once and created five goals for Man United, producing the second-highest number of key passes among defenders (72), making him the most creative defender in the league behind TAA. Man United’s easy early fixtures increase the odds of clean-sheets, making the Red Devils’ #23 a good FPL prospect.
Lewis Dunk (£5m, Burnley vs Brighton )
Lewis Dunk was EPL’s joint highest goal-scoring defender (five, tied with Kurt Zouma) last season, but he’s overlooked in FPL with ownership at 6.6%. Brighton’s easy opening fixtures and excellent underlying defensive stats make the Seagulls’ captain a brilliant differential pick.
Luke Ayling (£4.5m, Man United vs Leeds United)
Although Leeds has tough starting fixtures, Ayling is a promising value option and rotates very well when picked in combination with a Brighton defender. When Leeds has a tougher fixture, Brighton plays a relatively easy opponent and vice versa in GW-1 through GW-5.
Joël Veltman (£4.5m, Burnley vs Brighton)
Veltman could be the perfect partner to Luke Ayling. Both Veltman and Ayling are regular starters for their respective clubs and offer decent clean sheet potential when rotated for the first 5 game-weeks, which is more than one can ask for at this price point. If you can afford to pay the extra £0.5m, Lewis Dunk is an even better option, as the Brighton captain offers more attacking threat.
Konstantinos Tsimikas (£4m, Norwich vs Liverpool)
With Andy Robertson (£7m, DEF) set to miss Liverpool’s curtain-riser against Norwich due to preseason ligament injury, Tsimikas is tipped to start at left-back for Liverpool. Although James Milner could deputize instead, the Greek left-back is the favorite and is worth a short-term punt as he doesn’t hurt the pocket much at £4m.
Daniel Amartey (£4m, Leicester vs Wolves)
Injuries to Wesley Fofana (£4.5m, DEF) and Johnny Evans (£5.5m, DEF) opened the door for Daniel Amartey to start in the Community Shield, and he didn’t skip a beat! The Ghanaian international pocketed Riyadh Mahrez and helped keep Jack Grealish’s Man City debut quiet. After Amartey’s impressive performance in the Community Shield, the 26-year-old center-back looks set to start in the opening game against Wolves. Both Evans and Fofana are long-term absentees, so Amartey could be set for a protracted run in the team.
Mo Salah (£12.5m, Norwich vs Liverpool)
Expected Goals(xG): 20.25
Expected assists(xA): 6.53
It is hard to find a reason to not include Salah in your GW-1 team. He’ll be the first name on the team sheet of most FPL managers (and probably the most popular GW-1 captain choice). The Egyptian king finished a close second to Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot last season, scoring 22 goals from an xG of 0.59 per game. Liverpool’s easy initial fixture run includes Norwich, Burnley, Leeds, Crystal Palace, and Brentford in the first seven games, which makes Salah close to a must-have pick. The winger is arguably the best captain not only for this week, but for five of the first seven.
Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m, Man United vs Leeds)
After pipping Harry Kane to finish as the highest-earning FPL player in his first full EPL season, Bruno Fernandes could replicate that feat this campaign. Last season the Portuguese midfielder racked up 18 goals plus 12 assists at an xG and xA rate of 0.51 & 0.34 per game, and he made the most key passes (95). United’s favorable fixture run at the start of the season could see the former Sporting man hit the ground running. Don’t be surprised to see major point hauls from Bruno in the opening fixtures.
Son Heung-Min (£10.0m, Tottenham vs Man City)
With Salah and Bruno grabbing all the FPL attention, Son seems to have gone a bit under the radar. The South Korean has signed a new deal with Tottenham and looks set to take the mantle of Spurs’ talisman (and possibly even PK duty!) from Harry Kane if the England striker’s rumored transfer to Man City goes through.
The Spurs #7 scored 17 goals and created 10 last season, comfortably outperforming his xG of 11.02, which highlights his exceptional finishing skills. Although facing Man City and Wolves in GW-1 and GW-2 isn’t ideal, Son’s clinical scoring ability and likelihood of Spurs employing a counter-attacking style makes him a good pick regardless of fixture. Plus, in GW-3 Sonaldo hosts Watford, making him a shout for best captain that week. He’s a strong option for both the present and the near future.
Raphinha (£6.5m, Manchester United vs Leeds united)
Raphinha, valued at a measly £6.5m, could make a mockery of his price by the end of the season. The Brazilian got his first start for Leeds nine game-weeks into the 2020-21 season, and he has kept his place ever since, bagging 15 attacking returns. The twinkle-toed winger is a constant threat to any defense with his wizardry and creativity, making him one of the first names on the Leeds team sheet. Although his initial fixtures aren’t great, the fixture swing for Leeds from GW-5 makes Raphinha a good long-term pick.
Mason Greenwood (£7.5m, Man United vs Leeds)
With Marcus Rashford’s surgery side-lining him for the first 2-3 months and Edinson Cavani unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, Mason Greenwood could see a lot of game time coming his way in United’s attractive first 2-3 games. Although picking Greenwood is slightly risky, he could pay off very well; the Man United prodigy racked up seven goals plus two assists in the 2020-21 season despite being in and out of the squad. Man United’s relatively easy fixture run at the start could also play into Greenwood’s hands as his pinpoint finishing skills in combination with Bruno’s visionary passes have the potential to poke a few holes in the strongest of defenses, even more versus weaker opposition.
Billy Gilmour (£4.5m, Norwich City vs Liverpool)
Gilmour is arguably the best option at the economy price of £4.5m. If preseason is anything to go by, the Chelsea loanee is the main set-piece taker for the Canaries. The Scot has the potential to become the EPL’s break-out star this season, so he could also end up being the bargain of the season.
NORWICH— FPL Swede (@FPL_Swe) August 9, 2021
Free kicks: Dowell
1. Pukki (6.0)
Talisman and 26 goals last season makes Pukki potentially a great option when he has better fixtures. For now though, Norwich as a whole are a team to avoid. pic.twitter.com/quHCrOc3fR
There really isn’t a stand-out premium forward pick for GW-1. Having just returned to camp, and training alone due to isolation protocols, Harry Kane (£12.5m, Tottenham vs Man City) is unlikely to make the starting lineup for either team this weekend. And although the likes of Jamie Vardy (£10.5m, Leicester vs Wolves) and Timo Werner (£9m, Chelsea vs Crystal Palace) are decent options, there is more value elsewhere.
Danny Ings (£8m, Watford vs Aston Villa )
Like Son, Danny Ings has a habit of constantly outperforming his expected goals — a testament to finishing ability. Although Jack Grealish’s move to Man City has weakened Aston Villa creatively, Emi Buendía could fill that breach as the Argentine is expected to regularly cook up chances for Ings to finish. Aston Villa has the best run of opening fixtures, facing Watford, Newcastle and Brentford in GW-1 to GW-3, making Ings an excellent option.
Callum Wilson (£7.5m, Newcastle vs West Ham)
Newcastle has been blessed with an easy run of early fixtures, and Callum Wilson is the Tyneside club’s talisman and best FPL asset, scoring twelve goals and providing five assists (0.58 and 0.13 per game respectively). The former Cherry also normally takes Newcastle’s PKs, making him a persuasive FPL asset to own.
Michail Antonio (£7.5m, Newcastle vs West Ham)
When fit, Antonio is one of the best strikers in the league. The West Ham #9 amassed ten goals plus five assists (0.45 and 0.22 per game), making him one of the club’s best FPL assets. Supported by the creative Saïd Benrahma (£6m, MID, West Ham) and Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m, MID, West Ham), the English striker could get off to a flyer, with a relatively easy fixture run wherein the Hammers face the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Leeds and Brentford in their opening seven games. Antonio is also West Ham’s main penalty taker, which is always an added advantage when picking a player.
Ivan Toney (£6.5m, Brentford vs Arsenal)
Championship 20/21 goals: 33
Championship 20/21 assists: 10
Goals per game: 0.72
Returns per game: 0.94
Although Ivan Toney’s odds of scoring as freely as he did in the Championship are low, the former Newcastle striker is still a decent value as he is the linchpin of the Brentford attack. If Thomas Frank continues to employ his free-flowing brand of football, Toney is expected to get lots of scoring chances. The Englishman is Brentford’s prime penalty taker too, which adds to his value as an FPL asset.
If you haven’t yet, please join NMA’s FPL mini-league and one or both of our Fantrax mini-leagues!
Also see NMA’s comprehensive collection of preseason reviews and fantasy management resources!
What players have I overlooked? Are there other budget midfielders that are good options for GW-1? How many players from promoted sides do you have in your current draft? Which player will have the highest points this week? Which highly owned star will let us down? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!