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The opening weekend of this season’s Fantasy Premier League produced an entertaining start as an average score of 56 points suggests a healthy return for most managers.
Several key players are still missing from their sides’ starting XI while many teams will take time to find their feet. We did get a little glimpse into the managers’ thinking though so there’s a little more information to work with.
However, you can only learn so much from GW1. Many questions are still unanswered and the second round of fixtures brings with it a fresh set of queries as well.
So here’s a few insights to help you out.
CAPTAIN – SERGIO AGUERO | MANCHESTER CITY | 11M
Manchester City immediately flexed their muscles and brushed Arsenal aside in a convincing 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium with relative ease. It was an impressive start to the champions’ title defence but for their all-time top scorer Sergio Aguero, it proved to be a frustrating outing.
The explosive striker only managed two shots on the day and really should’ve scored from the second as he was sent clean through on goal courtesy of an error from Matteo Guendouzi. Aguero couldn’t beat the advancing Petr Cech though and that summed up his display.
Nevertheless, it there was little wrong with his movement and overall play. He got into the right areas but was heavily marked at times. With the Citizens to play Huddersfield at the Etihad Stadium this time, he could get a lot more joy – although there is a slight chance that Gabriel Jesus gets the nod.
City are likely to bombard the visitors and camp on the edge of their area. As a result, there’s bound to be plenty of balls slid across the six-yard box for Aguero to feed off. He scored 14 goals and picked up two assists in home games against teams outside of the top six last season. A goal glut is not outside the realms of possibility.
BENJAMIN MENDY (6.1m) was one of the standout stars of GW1. He seemed to operate like an auxiliary winger and regularly ventured into the final third. Having picked up two assists, his attacking threat is evident and should come to the fore again when Huddersfield come knocking. With City very likely to keep a clean sheet as well, he could easily deliver 12 points as captain even without attacking returns.
CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (9.5m) is another one, like Aguero, that some managers may be put off by after the opening week. The Tottenham playmaker only managed two points but his underlying stats were impressive. The Dane’s delivery into the box was exceptional as usual, particularly from set-pieces and he created five chances – more than any other player in GW1. With Fulham – who have injuries at the back – to play at home, he could come good.
DAVINSON SANCHEZ (6.0m) picked up an assist against Newcastle United as his flicked header from Eriksen’s corner found Jan Vertonghen at the far post. However, the former Ajax defender proved to be a nuisance from set-pieces a couple of more times in that fixture and perhaps should’ve scored from one of those opportunities. With Eriksen standing over dead balls, expect him to get more chances.
TWO TO WATCH
EDEN HAZARD | CHELSEA | 10.5M
Chelsea’s opening fixture against Huddersfield away came too soon for Eden Hazard but the Belgian who starred at the World Cup this summer made an instant impact off the bench in the second half and grabbed an assist in the process. He could well be handed a start against Arsenal and it will be interesting to see if he can carry forward his excellent form.
RYAN FRASER | BOURNEMOUTH | 5.5M
Only Eriksen (5) and Alexis Sanchez (4) created more chances in the opening weekend than Ryan Fraser. The midfielder also created more chances (42) than any of his Bournemouth team-mates over the course of last season and picked up an assist against Cardiff City at home. At 5.5m, he’s a real bargain and has good fixtures to come. He’s stated he wants to score 12-15 goals this season. Wouldn’t that be a treat?
TWO TO AVOID
KEVIN DE BRUYNE | MANCHESTER CITY | 10.0M
Like Hazard, fellow Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne also wasn’t included from the start last Saturday but was impressive when he came on and should’ve got on the score sheet had Aguero been inclined to square the ball for him. The midfielder has since suffered a knee injury in training and could be sidelined for a reported two months.
ARON GUNNARSSON | CARDIFF CITY | 4.5M
Few 4.5m midfielders are guaranteed starters. Aron Gunnarsson is one of them and that is largely the appeal of the Cardiff City man from an FPL perspective. However, he picked up a knock in the first fixture against Bournemouth and may only return later this month. His fixtures don’t look great from that point on though with back-to-back games against Arsenal, Chelsea and City to come.
Chelsea and Nigeria wide man Victor Moses has announced his retirement from international football.
The 27-year-old has played 37 times, scoring 12 goals, for the Super Eagles, which included featuring at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
Moses said in a statement posted on his official Twitter feed on Wednesday: “I would like to announce that after much thought I have made the decision to retire from playing international football.
“I have experienced some of the best moments of my life wearing the Super Eagles shirt and have memories with me that will last a lifetime. Nothing will ever compete (sic) to what it felt like to represent Nigeria.
“However I feel that now is the right time to step away in order to be able to focus fully on (my) club career and my young family as well as to allow the next generation of Super Eagle stars the opportunity to step up and to flourish.”
Nwankwo Kanu has backed Thierry Henry to prove a success in management – regardless of where he takes his first job.
The Nigerian played alongside Henry at Arsenal for five years from 1999 and admired him as he not only developed into one of the world’s finest players, but someone he believed was destined to also excel as a coach.
Henry recently resigned from his role as a Sky Sports pundit, having also been Belgium’s assistant throughout their impressive run to the summer’s World Cup semi-finals, to pursue a new career in management.
He was repeatedly linked with succeeding Steve Bruce – who remains in his position – as manager of Aston Villa, but for all of the plight Villa have experienced, Kanu believes his former team-mate would still have impressed there.
It is often observed that management has become so ruthless that one failure can end a career and that those lacking in experience should be particularly selective about their first job, but Kanu told Press Association Sport: “I don’t think any job is difficult for him.
“What he needs is the space and an opportunity to prove himself, so if they can give him that, why not? He can do it. It doesn’t matter. He’s Thierry Henry. He’s been talking on the TV; it’s time for him, when you talk the talk, you walk the walk. He needs an opportunity to showcase what he’s got.
“When he was new (at Arsenal, in 1999) he was not really the character of a manager, but as the years kept going by you could see ‘yeah, he’s got it, he can do that’. He’s been there, the World Cup (with Belgium) tells you all about him, and he can progress from there.”
Despite minimal managerial experience, the 40-year-old Henry’s one-time France team-mate Zinedine Zidane excelled at Real Madrid, and largely because of the profile he had as a player.
Henry may have to rely on similar strengths whenever and wherever it is he gets his chance and Kanu – who was in London to promote a fundraising fixture at the Petrolex Kanu Cup for the Kanu Heart Foundation – said: “He’s been there, done that. The players respect him, and he has a good record.
“He’s not somebody you can ask ‘what has he done?’. He could move to France, could coach people, bring the best from people. That’s what you need. An ex-international, in that role, counts for a lot.”
Kanu was speaking at the launch of Petrolex Kanu Cup 2018, the match raising funds for the Kanu Heart foundation. Taking place at The Hive Stadium on September 30, the game will feature stars like Sol Campbell, Robert Pires and Kanu.