Gameweek 1 talking points
English Premiership and fantasy football finally returned over the weekend with plenty of action-packed, exciting games and many impressive performances – plus a few surprisingly poor ones. Although it is far too early to read too much into these results, let’s consider a few talking points (as I write, the Chelsea – Aston Villa game is yet to be played).
Some things never change. Carrying on his amazing feats of last season, Manchester United’s Robin van Persie bagged two sensational goals in their imperious victory at Swansea. Danny Welbeck also impressed with two goals. Benteke, Aguero, Sturridge and new England cap Ricky Lambert also carried on their goalscoring form of last season. New strikers Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, Tottenham’s Roberto Soldado and Norwich’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel all netted on their debuts. Soldado at £9.5m and owned by 16.3% of managers, looks a safe bet to get plenty of points this season.
Of the midfielders, West Ham’s £7m evergreen captain Kevin Nolan also resumed where he left off last season by scoring. Frank Lampard and Yaya Toure scored classy free-kicks. Although Chelsea’s Eden Hazard looked sharp it was Brazilian Oscar who stole the show, capping a fine performance with a neat finish. The mercurial David Silva and Frenchman Nasri were both on target for rampant Manchester City.
Two young £4.5m England under-21 midfield talents made the headlines and could soon become regular starters. Everton’s Ross Barkley’s (7% owned) played well and scored a peach of a goal whilst Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse (0.2% owned) helped Saints to a creditable away win at West Brom. Although they didn’t score, I was impressed by Manchester City’s speedy Spaniard Jesús Navas, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and by Spurs’ skilful and inventive Nacer Chadli, a player with potential to help fill the huge void should Gareth Bale leave.
Arsenal’s Theo Walcott gave a surprisingly lacklustre display whilst his team-mate Santi Cazorla came on too late to make a difference. Like Chelsea’s Juan Mata, who didn’t play, he will no doubt begin to impress in coming weeks. Sunderland’s new signing Emanuele Giaccherini had a decent Premiership debut and is worth keeping an eye on.
And there were three cracking goals from full-backs! Everton’s Seamus Coleman, Norwich’s Steven Whittaker and Villa’s new signing Antonio Luna all got into good positions to finish well.
For cheap defenders, a more robust looking Southampton side offer good options including £4.5m pair Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne and the recently signed impressive Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren (£5m). Victor Wanyama has added steel and flair to the midfield. In my view, Southampton, will have a good season. The signing of Italian striker Osvaldo, now reunited with his former manager at Espanyol, makes Pochettino’s team strong candidates to be the surprise package of the season.
And before I forget, goalkeepers Mignolet and Begovic both starred in the Liverpool and Stoke match.
Has Mourinho Saved Torres?
A joyous Stamford Bridge witnessed the return of José Mourinho, now the ‘Happy One’, as Chelsea manager. Although not universally loved, Mourinho is a great character whose presence has already helped fill the void left by Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
My first talking point is whether Mourinho can make Fernando Torres world-class again? His 5-point haul is a decent start and he looked sharp and confident. Currently owned by a meagre 5% of managers, could he end up being a £9m bargain? It’s too early to tell and many FPL managers won’t want their fingers burned again. Proceed with caution!
The Van Persie Dilemma
Manchester United’s clinical exposure of the usually robust Swansea defence can be summed up in three words: Robin van Persie. Two sublime goals, 12 gameweek points, including 2 bonus points. Despite costing a hefty £14m RvP (a.k.a. ‘Van Pricey’), still made it into 46% of FPL manager’s teams and yet again delivered.
So the next talking point is will the 54% of managers who didn’t buy him live to regret it at the end of the season? It’s hard to say but bear in mind that diving in to buy RvP now might involve selling at least two players and disrupting your squad. And remember, if it’s any consolation, many top FPL managers last season didn’t have the sublime Dutchman!
How Nailed On Is Dzeko?
Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City put on a scintillating high tempo performance to destroy Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United 4-0. The only disappointment was Kompany’s groin injury which could sideline him for a few weeks. City could be forced to buy a back-up defender with young Nastasic still a week or more away from a return.
Fantasy managers will be alerted by the sparkling performances of many City players including defenders Kompany and Zabaleta, midfielders Toure, Silva and Navas and strikers Aguero and Dzeko.
My talking point is can Edin Dzeko, cheap at £7.5m and 11.5% owned, keep his place in coming weeks? Although a 4-point return is OK, he failed to score from 8 attempts, some of which looked gilt-edged. Can he continue to be so wasteful with Negredo waiting in the wings? We’ll see.
Wenger To Finally Splash The Wonga?
Paul Lambert’s hungry counter-attacking Villa side were so fast they looked like motorbikes racing towards the Arsenal goal. They managed to once again expose the Gunners defensive frailty. And this was evident long before Koscielny’s unlucky red card. Managers with Mertesacker (£5.5m, 24.9% owned) in their squads might be concerned about Arsenal’s lack of defensive cover with Vermaelen still injured.
My final talking point is whether, as we are being led to believe, Wenger is about to finally splash the wonga? Are new players about to be hastily signed to bolster the squad and appease the frustrated Arsenal faithful? Rumours suggest the Gunners, still interested in Luis Suárez, could attempt to prise the unhappy Wayne Rooney away from Manchester United. Other names being linked are Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye, Swansea duo Michu and Ashley Williams, Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, Porto striker Jackson Martinez and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Expect a worried Wenger to splash some cash in the coming days.
But, if we’re sensible, we won’t write the Gunners off in haste knowing that wily Wenger’s wounded sides can easily bounce back, as they have proved in previous seasons. Right now, a couple of good results against Fenerbache and Fulham could really help settle nerves at the Emirates.
So we have a few interesting talking points and things to consider from an exciting first week of the Premiership season. After big wins for the Manchester clubs and impressive performances by Aston Villa, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham plus good away wins for Southampton and Fulham, bring on Gameweek 2.