Supporters of the English Premier League always look forward to the beginning of a season with much anticipation, but probably never more than this time. After a COVID-disrupted 2020-21 season played mostly in empty stadiums, supporters were starving for a return to the thrill of football played in front of live crowds.
And what a difference those live crowds make. None of the weekend’s matches ended in a draw, and seven of the ten were won by the home team, including upset wins for Watford and Tottenham, and a stunning 2-0 victory by Brentford over Arsenal. Even for those of us watching at home, the sounds of live fans cheering and singing in packed stadiums made the television viewing experience just feel right again.
Even better, it turned out be be a satisfying fantasy weekend for me too. I’ll walk you through my results below.
Here are my results In the Official Game:
Luke Shaw and Vladimir Coufal were disappointments, but I got clean sheets from both of my other defenders, and two points is all I will ever ask from Robert Sánchez. In midfield, Harvey Barnes and Emi Buendia fell flat, but Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes combined for four goals, two assists, and six bonus points. And both of my starting forwards hit the mark, Danny Ings bagging a goal while Michail Antonio scored and provided two helpers (and three bonus points). Plus, I didn’t strand any points on my bench — I hate it when I do that!
The result was 95 points, a sum that would normally place me towards the head of the peloton in a typical game-week. But Bruno and Salah, my biggest hitters, are both rostered by 55% of the teams in the game, so their outsized returns did little to distinguish me from the pack.
Many FPL managers (including all of the names atop the global leaderboard) also played their Triple Captain chips on one of these men, with the week’s top scorer finishing on 150 points. Consequently, despite my plump-sounding 95 points, I still landed at # 716,745 — not even in the top ten percent.
Here’s the leaderboard for our NMA mini-league, where I rank # 1,154.
I’m not planning any transfers for GW-2, instead preferring to roll my free transfer forward. But I think I’ll move Barnes to the bench and play Ivan Toney against a Crystal Palace side that conceded three goals to Chelsea. My team would therefore look like this:
I cut my fantasy football teeth on the now-defunct Yahoo game that Fantrax is modeled after, which is why the Fantrax platform has always been my wheelhouse. So after a poor 2020-21 showing, I was delighted with the way I came out of the gate in the current campaign. Here are my GW-1 returns:
Kai Havertz didn’t make the starting lineup and spent his seven minutes on the pitch generating negative points. And much like his club’s, Emile Smith-Rowe’s results were uninspiring.
But I got double-digit returns from every other player on my team except for David De Gea, who fell just short with nine. Especially sweet were Marcos Alonso’s 25. That massive return from a relatively thinly-owned player helped propel me into the top five:
Barely missing out on a top ten finish was NMA’s Fantrax wizard Stall, who placed 11th with 132.5.
I dropped Havertz and ESR on the barn door. After watching the Gunners play over the weekend, I don’t want any Arsenal assets for their home tie with Chelsea on Sunday. And selling Havertz was risk-free because his negative return means his price will drop. I replaced those two men with Matt Ritchie and Paul Pogba (ignore the points; they’re from GW-1).
Ritchie looked lively in the losing effort against West Ham, notching an assist and three accurate crosses. I like his prospects again this week against a Villa side that conceded three goals to Watford on Saturday.
If you saw the Man United game, then I don’t need to explain to you why I bought Pogba. He was at his imperious best against Leeds, racking up a remarkable four assists — more than he managed in the entire 2020-21 campaign. The Frenchman is notorious for his inconsistency, but I’m hoping he’ll again run riot over Southampton on Sunday.
The other transfer I’m weighing is Romelu Lukaku. His no-show for GW-1 dropped his price to $4.00. That is an extremely compelling value for the man who will be Chelsea’s undisputed first-choice #9, so the only questions I need to answer before bringing him in are 1) whom to drop, and 2) should I do it before the Arsenal game or on the GW-2 barn door.
With many of my NMA-11 players also present in my NMA-17 squad, it comes as no surprise that I had a great week here as well.
Again, Havertz, ESR, and DDG were my only players who didn’t reach double-digit returns, and I was able to fit both Salah and Fernandes into a team that also benefited from Alonso’s 25 point haul.
The result was a sweet 168 points, good enough for third place.
There are lots of familiar names atop the leaderboard here, and perennial powerhouse Team Captaingerrard also narrowly missed the top ten, finishing on 150 points.
Heading into GW-2, I’ve sold Havertz, ESR, and Kieran Tierney for reasons I explained above. In their places I barn-doored Pogba and Ritchie, as well as Said Benrahma, who notched a goal and an assist yesterday. I don’t love Benrahma’s matchup for GW-2 so he’s just a placeholder for now, but I wanted to at least lock him in before the adjustment, which increased his price by 50%. This is how my GW-2 squad looks right now:
Here again though, Lukaku will be a must-have at just $3.00. Do it now or do it on the barn door, but he’s a ridiculous set-and-forget value at this price.
Congrats to all of the managers who are leading our NMA mini-leagues! Are you one of them, or do you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again? Tell us how opening weekend went — how did you do?