Anthony O'Shea

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Stag's Take - Gameweek 1

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Stag’s Take – Gameweek 1



It’s just 25 days since July 15th 2018, when Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup in Moscow amidst torrential rain and an umbrella crisis amongst the various assmebled politicians on-hand for the presentation. It has been a whirlwind run-in to today for Premier League teams as pre-seasons were heavily interrupted by the international absentees whilst transfer business and rumours dominated the headlines as the new pre-GW1 transfer deadline loomed large.



In the end, Premier League clubs spent a gross sum of £1,256,500,000 (Approx. $1,611,100,000) on attracting new talent, and that’s not even including potential add-ons! The biggest net spenders were Liverpool whilst Spurs actually made a net profit of £2.2 million as they failed to sign… uhm… anyone.



The disturbed pre-seasons, the new transfer deadline, and a few curious injury crises have made picking a GW1 squad much harder than previous years. This column aims to run you through the different decisions I’m trying to make for my own GW1 squad ahead of Friday evening’s deadline.





There are three typical approaches to stoking this position.


A. One elite goalkeeper (6.0/5.5) and 4.0 value fodder player (Think Ben Hamer, Julian Speroni, etc.)


B. Rotating goalkeepers – usually two 4.5 ones. The best option available early on this season is Alex McCarthy and Lukasz Fabianski. Between them you can field a GK at home to Burnley, Bournemouth, Leicester, Wolves, and Brighton consecutively in the first five gameweeks.


C. A starting ‘keeper and their sub. A good example would be Pickford/Stekelenburg, who would set you back 9.0 like two 4.5s would.


I personally prefer to take the easiest option and pick a good trustworthy goalkeeper. David de Gea (6.0) stands out. Manchester United’s ace finished last season as the Golden Glove winner with 18 clean sheets and, oddly for a Top Six ‘keeper, he was also in the top five ‘keepers with saves on 115. Obviously that’s a product of Mourinho’s tactics and given that they haven’t done much to address that this summer, that service should continue. The fact that de Gea is so good, coupled with the fact that United’s defence is an unpredictable mess at present, means that owning the Spaniard is by far the easiest way to make sure you benefit from Man Utd’s inevitable clean sheet points.


If you want a defender to ensure you enjoy the spoils from United’s clean sheets, I think Eric Bailly (5.5) will prove the safest option in the long-term.





Defence is all about trying to get the best of both worlds; reaping the rewards from attacks but notching up clean sheet points too. In recent seasons, the rise of the 3-4-3 formation has precipitated the ascent of some great wing-backs in FPL like Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses. Other teams play more orthodox set-ups like Everton’s Coleman and Baines have likewise been in high demand.


Andy Robertson (6.0) is a standout option in FPL this reason. Robertson caught the eye bombing forward for the Reds on the left flank enough to be the 18th highest scoring defender in FPL last season even though he started just 22/38 games. He racked up five assists and a goal in that period. About a third of his 1900 odd touches came in the final third, notching up a dozen attempts on his opponents’ goals. Seven of those shots were inside the box. “Robbo” is likely to up his assist numbers this season. He created eight big chances in Liverpool’s last campaign, which is a total just three short of the best in the PL, Cesar Azpilicueta, despite playing 1,357 minutes less. Robertson is a nailed-on starter in a side with an attacking intent and he’s really good at it. I think he’s essential.


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City haven’t continued their defence spending this season, instead it seems Pep is happy with his lot. Benjamin Mendy (6.0) is pretty much a new signing though, having missed a huge amount of last season. As an attacking full-back who is cheaper than his compatriot on the other side, Kyle Walker (6.5), Mendy looks like the best way to access Pep’s defence. Man City conceded the least goals of any team in the league last term, it would be folly to go without a City defender early in the season.


I had originally felt that a Chelsea defender was an essential, however the arrival of Kepa and the general uncertainty around the club in the lead up to deadline day has spooked me for now. I plan to Wildcard early (within the first five gameweeks, I think) to take advantage of the form teams and players. I’m happy to back up my beliefs by rejecting Chelsea defenders for my Gameweek 1 squad. If you are picking one, Antonio Rudiger (6.0) seems to have a safe position at centre-back and he poses a good threat from set-pieces. David Luiz (5.5) seems to have escaped Stamford Bridge exile again for now. He will probably be their cheapest starting defender in GW1.


FPL managers seek out OOP (out of position) players in FPL like the Holy Grail. A few seasons ago, Josh King rampaged as a forward even though the PL classified him as a midfielder; Marcos Alonso’s touches in the box surpassed Harry Kane often, making a mockery of his classification as a defender. Whilst we can’t be certain on who will play OOP this season, it seems like Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira (5.0) will be starting as a right-winger even though he is listed as a defender in FPL. For me, there’s no loss if he starts as a defender, but a lot to gain by having a differential OOP defender who is not afraid to shoot.


Expensive defenders proved themselves to be a cost-effective way of deploying budget last season and so to balance off my backline, I have two cheapies. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (4.0) looks to have secured the right-back berth at Crystal Palace, having started all but one of their pre-season fixtures in the position. He’s 100% in my team as a playing enabler. There are quite a lot of good options at 4.5 this season. Phil Jagielka (4.5) had looked like a steal after Ashley Williams left Goodison but now that Yerry Mina has joined, my feet have developed frostbite. James Tomkins and Shane Duffy/Lewis Dunk seem to be the standout candidates in that bracket now.





Mo Salah (13.0) is owned by 53.5% of managers in FPL right now. You get no prizes for being interesting, different, and ultimately wrong in FPL – I don’t see how anyone can conscionably go without the Egyptian in GW1, especially after he demonstrated that his finishing touch hasn’t deserted him over the summer months in Russia and on the beach.


Beyond Salah, every midfield slot is open for debate as far as I’m concerned. As of now, Bernardo Silva (7.5) is the second most valuable player in my side. The Portuguese has enjoyed a good pre-season and he was singled out for praise by his manager in the wake of the Community Shield last weekend. That’s enough to convince me that his starting place is safe in the short term (two or three GWs) at City. When he was on the pitch, he was very effective at stealing a goal or assist.


Pedro (6.5) seems to be in Maurizio Sarri’s good books at the moment having signed a one-year extension to his current contract in the last week. The ex-Barca man has been a very capable FPL asset in the past and having started the Community Shield, he looks to have secured a starting spot at Chelsea whilst Willian sorts his head out of nearly leaving the club (or did he ever consider it if it was his daughter that put those trophy emojis on Conte?).


Even as I write this article, with less than 24 hours to kick-off in the first game of the season at Old Trafford, I’m still not certain who will feature in my midfield. I am still considering trying to get a second Man City midfielder in (namely Leroy Sané) but as of now I have two cheap options from promoted clubs. Fulham’s Tom Cairney (5.0) looked fantastic last season in the Championship and he chipped in six goals and five assists for the club – a respectable tally at his price. He has scored 13 goals the season before. Cairney averaged 1.84 key passes per game in the league in ‘17/18, again a respectable tally. Ruben Neves (5.0) is sitting beside him in my midfield currently, but his ill-discipline (11 yellows last term) is very off-putting. His most enticing characteristic is that he appears to be the promoted champions’ designated penalty taker.





Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11.0) is a player I have described as “fixture-proof” this week owing to his fantastic form in spite of playing alongside Arsenal’s underperforming team at the tail-end of last season. However, after Sergio Aguero’s (11.0) Community Shield brace, I was forced to downgrade the Gabonese to his French teammate Alexandre Lacazette (9.5). Auba scored 10 times in a dozen league games for The Gunners last season, maintaining a record close to the 0.97 goals per game he held at Dortmund from 2016 to his winter window move in 2018. Lacazette just seemed to improve because of Auba’s presence and thus I’m trying to feed off Auba’s success for a cheaper price.


Interestingly, the most owned forward in FPL is Roberto Firmino (9.5), a player whom I have excluded purely because I have already spent so much of my budget on Mo Salah. This is a decision which may come back to bite me, but what I am trying to do is spread myself across the league’s top teams so that I benefit early on no matter what whilst also being in the position to sell another elite player to bet harder on whichever club happens to be in-form.


There are a plethora of strong mid-priced forward options. Josh King (6.5) has scored four times in pre-season for Bournemouth and he looks to be bringing back the form which saw him linked with summers throughout the summer of 2017. Marko Arnautovic’s rebirth at West Ham seems to have gone from strength to strength over the break since GW38 last May. The Austrian looks to be starting as a forward for Manuel Pellegrini in pre-season and he has been rewarding the new coach handsomely for his faith. The Chilean’s signings of Felipe Anderson, Yarmolenko, and Lucas Perez all seem like positive additions who will improve the flow of chances to “Arnie”. Somehow, Wilfried Zaha (7.0) is still at Crystal Palace. Once he finds form, the Ivory Coast international is phenomenal and capable of carrying The Eagles on his back… the question is, will he? It can’t have been an easy transfer window for him as speculation swirled around him constantly. I’m going to give him a chance to impress first, and I would place my faith in descending order of Arnie, King, and Zaha for Gameweek 1.




I hope this article has helped you broaden your mind ahead of Gameweek 1. I feel like all the stats have been published at this point and so now FPL is boiling down to its “meta” elements. Ensure you cover the top defences, choose Mo Salah, and don’t try to be a hero making obscure picks throughout your squad. If you do those three things, you’re already ahead of the curve for the start of the season. I will be writing a weekly column here on Rotoworld all season, doing my best to dissect the biggest debates raging in the minds of managers every week. Usually, this article concludes with a captaincy section, where I write an extended blurb on all three options. Today I will just provide a three name list since all the players on it have already been mentioned above.



Captains Corner



1. The main pick: Mo Salah v West Ham (H)


2. Slightly off-centre: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang v Man City (H)


3. Brave: Josh King vs Cardiff City (H)



Good luck this season. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!


Follow the entire Rotoworld Premier League team on Twitter: Neal | Steve | Andrew | Sean | Stag (me) | Ben | Galin | Nik |



Stag has been providing #FPL Tips since July 2015 and has been a contributor for since August 2016. He is a self-proclaimed wannabe fantasy football genius, a student, and die-hard tea enthusiast.


Fed up with everyone in your league having Harry Kane up front or Hazard in midfield? Join a draft league where there can only be one!




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