Lessons Learned: FPL Gameweek 1

In a brand new weekly feature, we’re going to be reviewing the Gameweek just gone by in order to pinpoint the foremost interesting lessons learned to take forward into the next FPL gameweek 

So, football has returned. Which, of course, also means that FPL is back, and with a bang at that.

Here are some of the key take-aways from the first week of the new season, for each team in the league.

Liverpool 4-1 Norwich – Don’t Underestimate the Canaries

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The scoreline looks convincing to those who didn’t watch the game, but in reality, this was much more of a contest.

Liverpool seemed lethal in attack; they created fewer clear-cut chances than Norwich, but when they got into goal-scoring positions, the fact that they would score was never in doubt.

The way that Norwich cut them apart was something that Jürgen Klopp might find concerning, with the Canaries playing multiple balls between the full-back and centre-back.

This is something that Daniel Farke’s side did exceptionally last season in the Championship, and this a promising sign that it might work again this season.

The likes of Emiliano Buendia should thrive on this ball, which often opens up a chance for either a goal or an assist: something which the Argentine did get, as he set up Teemu Pukki.

The one other concern coming from that game was the injury to Copa America winner Alisson. However, Adrian didn’t look too far out of place in the match.

Liverpool Lessons: Easily opened up with the ball in behind between full back and centre back. Looked deadly in front of goal, but may not create as much this season. Origi may rotate more with Firmino and Mané as the European schedule kicks in.

Norwich Lessons: Very good with balls through to full backs and wingers, which provides chances for assists and goals. Still looked a bit exposed coming back, especially if full backs are caught out of position. May concede a lot of goals from set-pieces.

West Ham 0-5 Manchester City – City ruthless as Hammers collapse

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Let’s be real, we all saw this game going only one way, especially with West Ham’s record on the opening day, and Man City’s recent dominance.

West Ham Lessons: Might prove to be fast starters in games, and heavily reliant on Lanzini and Haller. These two were doing a lot of the closing down for the Hammers in the early stages.

Don’t look for anything from the defence though. It might sound harsh, but nobody in that defence really shone.

Andriy Yarmolenko didn’t make the match day squad, with Manuel Pellegrini opting to start Antonio on the wing, and keep Snodgrass as a sub instead. However, a performance like that should prompt a rethink from the Chilean.

Man City Lessons: Formidable in front of goal again, with a lot of play going through the wingers. This is evidenced by not only Sterling’s hat-trick, but also Riyad Mahrez, who notched 2 assists.

It might be fair to say that new signing João Cancelo looks more like cover for now. And without Angeliño even appearing on the bench, Zinchenko might well be nailed on for the foreseeable future.

Bournemouth 1-1 Sheffield United – Blades showing class

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Bournemouth Lessons: Mepham is a possible threat from set-pieces, which could also increase Fraser’s viability despite his sloppiness in open play.

I would monitor them at Aston Villa; if they get outplayed as they did at the weekend, it may be a good idea to move your Bournemouth players on quickly. Especially when their biggest chance of the match went to Philip Billing, who we all know is usually nowhere near the attack.

Sheffield United Lessons:

Chris Wilder’s side fought well, and outplayed Bournemouth in large parts of the game. They showed impressive character to keep pressing for a goal, even when it appeared that the game might just get away from them.

Late goals were a theme of last season’s Championship season, and the will and persistence to get them is something that the Blades have clearly brought into the Premier League with them.

Keep a keen eye on David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson, they could be dangerous with more experience in this league. They did squander a few big chances between them, but if the chances are created, the goals will come soon.

Lundstram seems to be more of a defensive player, despite the midfield role. He still seems a good punt as a £4.0m defender, and did also create 2 big chances during the game. Perhaps more of a long passer of the ball, rather than a player who is directly involved with the attacks.

Burnley 3-0 Southampton – Clarets rampant as Barnes shines

The game in which an Austrian got his locomotive rolling…

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Burnley Lessons: Barnes looks alive to the start of this season, and could be a key differential with some of the fixtures coming up. Coming up against a shaky Arsenal defence, and a tired Wolves one, could be something he relishes.

Gudmundsson should start most games over Hendrick, especially after his goal. The Icelandic international showed us exactly what he was all about during the match, with the goal topping off a stellar performance.

Erik Pieters notched the assists for Barnes’ goals. The first was fortunate, and looked like a miscued clearance that somehow got to the Austrian. However, the second was an exquisite cross, finished off in a composed fashion.

The Dutchman was a good attacking force throughout the match, and still balanced this attacking with plenty of working back to fend off Southampton’s wing back Yan Valery, as shown here:

Heat Map for Erik Pieters vs Southampton

The Clarets recovered well from a poor first half, where they could have easily gone in 2 goals down, with 3 second-half goals in quick succession, which rattled their opponents.

It’s fair to say, Sean Dyche probably gave them a rocket at half-time, and you must have to have some strength of character to withstand that.

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Southampton Lessons: Redmond and Adams seemed bright on the wings, although Redmond seemed the most productive of the two. As a midfielder, he also seems the better punt of the two, if you were to pick one.

Crosses from full backs seemed as if they had potential, especially from Valery, who nearly provided in the first half for Che Adams.

The central defenders seemed shaky and nervous after the first goal, so I wouldn’t bank on clean sheets for these defenders. In goal, Angus Gunn should start most games.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton – Dominant Everton fail to finish their chances

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Crystal Palace Lessons: Martin Kelly will start games while Palace get Gary Cahill up to match fitness. For the moment, that makes him a very good £4.0m option, even if it’s only temporary.

Max Meyer doesn’t seem confident in front of goal. The German took way too long to release the ball on at least 2 occasions during the match, which could have been the goals to deide the game.

Also, the full backs didn’t seem to go forwards a huge amount, which limits van Aanholt’s potential for returns. However, a part of this might have been to do with Everton’s attacking full backs pinning them back.

Everton Lessons: Dominic Calvert-Lewin seemed ineffective, as he was for the majority of last season, but Moise Kean’s signing should sort this. Definitely keep an eye on the Italian.

Digne and Coleman flew forward, both finding themselves in shooting positions at various points in the game. This means that the only thing that really makes Digne stand out over Coleman is the fact he can take set pieces.

Richarlison and Sigurdsson were also very involved going forward, with Sigurdsson racking up 3 shots in the game, and Richarlison always seeming to be in and around the attacking moves

Watford 0-3 Brighton – Seagulls thrive in Potter’s new system

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To tell the truth, Graham Potter’s side made Watford look like they were a Sunday League team for parts of this game.

Watford Lessons: The team looked very shoddy in spells throughout the game, especially defensively, where they seemed to lack organisation from crossing positions.

Jose Holebas will take set pieces when Pereyra isn’t on the field, evidenced by his looping free kick which proved awkward for Mat Ryan to deal with.

Femenia almost caused an own goal with a cross, albeit from a set-piece routine. Apart from that, he didn’t cause a huge amount to happen, which puts him way behind Holebas at this point.

Brighton Lessons: Lots of potential with Potter’s 3-4-3 system, especially from Martin Montoya as a wing back. He seems to have been given much more freedom to go forward down the wing, opening the door for assists from crosses.

Heat Map for Martin Montoya Vs Watford

Lewis Dunk looks as if he is going to be the one responsible for bringing the side out from the back. He played most of his game around 30 yards from his own goal, and also played a sublime pass to assist Maupay.

An abundance of strikers in the squad has evidently brought some healthy competition; Locadia, Andone, Maupay and Murray all looked as if they were motivated by each other.

Pascal Groß was lively on the whole, putting the cross in that resulted in Doucouré’s own goal. However, he never looked quite comfortable playing from the right side, and would probably have preferred a free role behind the strikers.

Tottenham 3-1 Aston Villa – Long ball tactics working for Villa

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Tottenham Lessons: The Lilywhites left it very late on Saturday against Villa, but had lots of chances which were blocked or saved. Harry Kane eventually capitalised on Villa’s loss of concentration late on. He took 8 shots in this match.

Spurs looked like they struggled a lot in this game, and seemed like they weren’t quite 100% fit. Which, of course, isn’t a good position to be in if you’re going into a game with Man City in the near future.

Spurs looked fairly lacklustre throughout in this match and it was only when Christian Eriksen came on that they began to create some chances.

Danny Rose and Kyle Walker-Peters were caught out of position defensively on numerous occasions, and had the opposition had more quality in attack, they would have been punished more severely.

Shaky start for Spurs in reality but typical Kane performance, backing up his £11m price tag.

Aston Villa Lessons: Villa signalled their intent for the season early on, with Tyrone Mings’ tearing Spurs apart with a beautiful ball over the top for McGinn to score. This instantly makes both Mings and Engels viable, if this is how Dean Smith wants his side to play.

Tom Heaton seemed crucial to the leadership of the team, as well as coming up with some good saves. He was commanding his defence throughout the game, and was probably the reason why they stayed so resilient for so long.

Whilst the stats say that Villa conceded a mammoth 31 shots, don’t let this fool you. Villa actually defended very well, blocking the majority of shots and would have been good value for a 1-1 draw had the ball not luckily deflected it’s way into Kane’s path for their second goal.

Wesley seems to be there to occupy defenders, rather than score goals, shown by the move for their goal. It’s great to watch a striker do this, but unfortunately, it doesn’t earn any FPL points. I would avoid the Brazilian for now.

Leicester 0-0 Wolves – Jota wasteful against wide-open Foxes

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Leicester Lessons: The one-time Premier League champions had a hard time dealing with Wolves on Sunday, and they looked wide open at times. After all, they’ve tried to replace Harry Maguire with Caglar Soyuncu; a player with limited PL experience.

Wolves are one of the better attacking teams in this league, but it’s still worth monitoring this Leicester defence, as mistakes could come from their full backs being caught too high.

Again, though, this attacking play from Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell always gives potential for assists. They got into some great crossing positions on Sunday, as shown here:

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Heat Map for Ricardo Pereira vs Wolves
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Heat Map for Ben Chilwell vs Wolves

In attack, it seems that Youri Tielemans will have a free role, almost behind the current front 3 of Vardy, Maddison and Perez. In this role, he should be able to make the most of his creativity on the ball, without having to worry too much about his defensive duties.

Wolves Lessons: Nuno Espirito Santo’s side tore Leicester apart at times in the match, but Diogo Jota squandered a couple of good shooting opportunities from inside the area. Raul Jimenez also made a mess of a chance, deciding to shoot by himself rather than play a pass off to Jota.

Dendoncker had a goal ruled out by VAR, but will be lurking at corners and set-pieces, making him a good option. With his height being another part of his ammunition, there is more than enough potential here to convince those who have him to stick with him.

Defensive organisation seemed spot on, limiting the Foxes to a handful of chances. Whether this will deteriorate with tiredness is something that we will have to keep an eye on; Wolves’ Europa League adventure takes them to Turin, just 3 days after they face Man Utd.

Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal – Gunners shaky in defence

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Newcastle Lessons: The Magpies look set to take up a lot the the same tactics as they did last season under Rafa Benitez – parking the bus being one. It looks to be working to the same effect as well; more as a damage-limitation exercise than a genuine attempt to win the game.

They did create some chances in the first half, including Joelinton heading one wide, and Jonjo Shelvey hitting the post with a volley.

However, the Magpies couldn’t keep the pressure up, and didn’t make any notable attempts to win the game once they were 0-1 down either. Allan Saint-Maximin was introduced, but gave a performance as weak as the rest of the squad.

Arsenal Lessons: Avoid Arsenal’s defensive assets, at least until we see how David Luiz will get on. The team seemed shaky at the back, and vulnerable to counter attacks, especially with both full backs going forwards a lot in the match.

Heat Map for Ainsley Maitland-Niles vs Newcastle
Heat Map for Nacho Montreal vs Newcastle

However, this attacking play does make both full backs viable in terms of assists, as Maitland-Niles showed. On the other hand, he and Monreal did only create 2 big chances between them in the whole game.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got the only goal of the game, but Arsenal didn’t really create too much else for him either. Granted, Nicolas Pepe didn’t start the match, but there should still be the creative ability, in a side like Arsenal especially, to create more chances than they did.

Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea – Martial playing as United’s new number 9

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Man Utd Lessons: The main one to come from this game is that Anthony Martial (listed as a midfielder on FPL and priced at only £7.6m) is looking likely to play the season as the Red Devils’ new number 9, both in terms of shirt number and positioning. Despite Marcus Rashford stealing the show, Martial turned in a good performance, finishing with a goal to his name.

Obviously, Rashford was a massive danger to Chelsea, and a chaotic and disorganised Blues defence was never going to be able to deal with him. He seemed to have a field day; toying with the Chelsea defenders at every opportunity, and running well behind the defensive line.

Despite the scoreline, David De Gea ended up as one of the players of the match, with 7 saves to keep Chelsea at bay. Had it not been for him, as well as a couple of shots off the woodwork from Chelsea, United would have lost this game miserably.

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Yes, this is pretty much what United gave Chelsea…

Chelsea Lessons: Once again, it looks like the Blues’ blues at the back are prominent this season, as they were in the last, and the fact that they seemed to hold a ridiculously high line didn’t help against a team with such pace as United.

Kurt Zouma was hyped up to be one of the the better central defenders on the Chelsea roster this year, however he didn’t get anywhere close to living up to this hype. He looked terrified on the ball, panicking a lot, and often putting himself and teammates under unnecessary pressure.

Lampard looks like he wants to play out of the back this season, but selling David Luiz definitely isn’t the way to go about it. This means they will more than likely concede goals through Zouma’s lack of confidence on the ball.

In attack, Chelsea looked pretty promising with neat football being played and they opened United up on a number of occasions in the first half. Emerson got forward well, and put in 4 shots; 3 being on target, with the other hitting the woodwork.

Barkley started on the left and had a good chance to score (saved by DDG), but ultimately had a pretty poor game and was subbed off before the hour mark producing a question over his viability as an FPL asset. Time will tell.

Mason Mount also played well, but some of his naivety showed through at certain points where he passed the ball off instead of taking on a shot or continuing forwards. It may be interesting to see if he gets a start against Leicester, and monitor him from there, but I think he is currently (wrongly) preferred by Lampard to Barkley for that number 10 role.

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