FPL is back, folks. The first week of the 18/19 Premier League season is in the books and the FPL scores are all in. It was a bloody fun week, with quite a few of the more popular choices in FPL doing very, very well.

Let’s have a look at the key points of the first gameweek of the 18/19 FPL season.

Gameweek 1: Key Stats

Most FPL Points: Roberto Pereyra, Sadio Mane (16)

Most FPL BPS: Roberto Pereyra (56)

Most Shots: Aleksandar Mitrovic (7)

Most Shots in the Box: Callum Wilson (6)

Most Key Passes: Christian Eriksen, Jose Holebas (5)

Attacking Returns for Defenders

This opening gameweek was certainly one for the defenders. There were 14 double-figure returns on the opening weekend – defenders were responsible for 8 of them.

Overall, there were 7 clean sheets kept in the Premier League this weekend, with a few of these sides also seeing their defenders bring through some attacking returns.

The most noteworthy of which were from the popular attacking full backs. Mendy grabbed two assists and three bonus points in a 15-point haul, with Robertson, Shaw, Van Aanholt and Alonso all notching double-figure returns.

A fair few players have defences like this – a welcome sight in any side:

FPL Gameweek 1 Defence

We also saw Wan-Bissaka grab 12 points following an assist and a clean sheet, as well as 3 bonus points. It’s just a shame that he was on everybody’s bench, so only an inordinately lucky few actually benefited from that haul. Schlupp played as a winger for Palace and grabbed 11 points while being listed as a 4.5m defender in FPL. Though this sounds incredible, it’s likely that his place in the team won’t last too long.

Holebas created both of Watford’s goals, claiming 2 assists, as well as 2 bonus points, tallying up to 13 points. He notched the most key passes of any player this week, tied with Christian Eriksen on 5. He also picked up his customary yellow card. Bloody loves them, he does.

Mendy was a particular highlight. He played so far forward for City in their 2-0 win away at Arsenal, providing a constant attacking threat. He had some dodgy moments defensively, though that’s to be expected with his relative lack of match sharpness, and the fact that he was basically playing up front.

Here’s his heat map from the game, essentially that of a regular winger:

Mendy Heatmap vs Arsenal 2018

He’s going to be a massively fun player to own this season. If you haven’t got him already, you really should be looking at getting him in.

Though gameweeks like this won’t come around too often, having attacking full backs in your side provides so much more potential for hauls like these. Mendy and Robertson are fantastic choices, with Van Aanholt being another favourite.

A Poor Week for Forwards

While the defenders absolutely raked in the points, the forwards bloody well didn’t. Here’s the forward line of my team:

FPL Forward Line

Of the 14 double-digit hauls from players in GW1, none came from forwards. The top-scoring forward was the perennial troll, Callum Wilson, returning with 8 points.

Looking at the premium forwards, we saw Aguero and Aubameyang both blank in City’s 2-0 win against Arsenal. Lukaku came off the bench for United and offered little outside of a missed clear-cut chance, while Harry Kane looked off the pace in Spurs’ win away at Newcastle. He managed 2 shots in that game, a considerable drop from his average of 5 shots per game last season. Dele Alli was more of a consistent threat, popping up in the box on more occasions than Kane.

Worries were there before the season, with him looking knackered towards the end of England’s World Cup run. There’s also the “August curse”, where Kane hasn’t scored in August so far in the Premier League. The former of these things put me off him personally, as well as the preference for Aguero and Aubameyang.

Firmino grabbed an assist for Liverpool, and Vardy scored in a short cameo of the bench, albeit a consolation in Leicester’s loss away at Man United. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, Wilfried Zaha scored but only managed 5 points, while other popular forward options like Arnautovic and King blanking.

There’s no need to kneejerk with these players. A number of them had fixtures where it was more of a bonus if they scored this week, like Arnautovic, Aguero and Aubameyang. Plus, you picked your players for a reason – one dodgy performance shouldn’t be mean that you bin them immediately.

Mid-Priced Midfield Punts Paying Off

A number of the mid-priced midfield options got off to a cracking start this week, with several of them being amongst the goals.

The star of the week was Watford’s Roberto Pereyra, who notched 16 points, the most of any player in the opening gameweek. He was certainly under the radar – he wasn’t mentioned in the article linked above and has an ownership of <2%.

We can see his touch map here, playing on the left but with license to drift inside, registering 7 touches in the box:

Roberto Pereyra Touch Map vs Brighton 2018
One interesting item to note about Watford was that they attacked heavily down the left-hand side. Here, we can see Holebas’ (left) and Janmaat’s (right) heatmaps, showing this preference:

Holebas and Janmaat Heatmaps vs Brighton 18/19 Season

Holebas’ attacking intent provides that license for Pereyra to crop up in attacking, central positions. He has a dodgy injury record and has been rather inconsistent, but I think he’s one to watch going forward.

Another star was Richarlison. Two goals, three bonus points, 14 points and a whole lotta love from the FPL community. He was far more prolific than we’re used to, scoring from both of his shots. He had the fourth-most shots of any player in the league last year, only scoring 5 times. If he crafts anything like that number of shots while improving his conversion rate, then we could have a genuine FPL star on our hands. Everton’s fixtures are bloody lovely, as well:

Everton Fixtures - 18/19 Season

Other mid-priced midfielders who returned this week include Pedro, Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota, with the first two scoring whereas Jota claimed an assist for winning a free kick. He had a relatively poor game but is still definitely one to watch in that price bracket.

Though he didn’t provide any attacking returns, Leicester’s James Maddison is one to keep an eye on. He really impressed against Man United, almost scoring after forcing a great save from De Gea, while also being central to their attacks and taking the majority of set pieces.

My current team structure includes two mid-priced midfielders (Bernardo Silva and Richarlison), with Salah and Mane taking up the other slots. Having two players in this price bracket could be very valuable going forward.

Can Kante Become a Somewhat Viable Option?

People will always have digs at those who own N’Golo Kante in FPL, with his owners generally being “casuals” that go for name value over actual fantasy football potential. He never really provides FPL returns, due to him being a ball-winning midfielder, often playing in a midfield two.

Under new manager Maurizio Sarri, he’s started playing higher up the pitch. He scored in Chelsea’s 3-0 win away at Huddersfield and had more of a license to go forward.

Here, we can see his touch map (attacking from right to left):

Kante Touch map vs Huddersfield 2018

Here’s his heat map:

Kante Heatmap vs Huddersfield 2018

He was the furthest forward of Chelsea’s midfield 3, with Barkley slightly deeper on the right and Jorginho sitting deep. Kovacic will be coming in for Barkley, another player not known for his end product. With that in mind, we could see Kante being tasked with making more of these forward runs this season. This was highlighted on Match of the Day, looking at Kante’s partnership with Jorginho:

Now, I’m not saying he’s going to go on and become Frank Lampard or anything, but it’s a noticeable change that’s worth keeping an eye on.

Liverpool’s Attack 

They’re bloody good, fucking hell. Get their players.

To actually make some sort of point here, it’s worth looking at how Liverpool’s forwards lined up throughout the match against West Ham.

Mane and Salah were generally positioned higher up the pitch in comparison to Firmino, who dropped a bit deeper, even favouring the right-hand side.
Liverpool Positions vs West Ham 2018
Here are the heat maps of both Mane (left) and Firmino (right):

Mane and Firmino Heatmaps vs West Ham 18/19

It’d be interesting to see if this evolves, seeing as Mane was generally higher when it came to areas like Expected Goals and Shots in the Box last season:

Firmino vs Mane Stats - 17/18 Season

Seeing as the majority of teams have a Liverpool defender and Salah, the choice between Mane and Firmino has been a key one to make. Firmino only had 1 shot compared to Mane’s 4, with both players managing 2 attempted assists. Having both Mane and Salah could be a viable move for the entire season.

It’s a Marathon, etc. 

This week could actually be quite discouraging for a number of players, considering that a lot of players scored exceptionally well. Among the FPL Twitter community, a few players even smashed the 100-point mark.

If you’re looking at your time and you don’t have Mendy, Robertson, Richarlison, Mane, et al – it’s worth remembering that this is the first week of thirty-bloody-eight. You chose your players for a reason. Barring exceptional circumstances, keep them.

TL;DR:

  • Opt for attacking full backs, they’re class. Robertson, Mendy, Van Aanholt, etc.
  • Don’t kneejerk on your forwards – you picked them for a reason.
  • Mid-priced midfielders are incredibly valuable, with plenty of them returning already.
  • Kante could be turning into a much more viable FPL option.
  • Potentially opt for Mane in the choice between Mane + Firmino as your third Liverpool asset.
  • Don’t kneejerk!

How did your team do? What were your personal highlights from the opening gameweek?

Also, credit goes to Fantasy Football Fix and WhoScored for the heat + touch maps. A great bunch.

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