FPL: Playing it safe in GW1

The Premier League is back! Friday sees the return of England’s top flight but that also means the return of Fantasy Football. Just over 24 hours after the transfer window slammed shut, the FPL deadline is looming. Dave Black tries to offer a helping hand ahead of the big kick off.

The Friday night deadline coupled with a Thursday evening transfer window means there is little time to dwell on what consequences any late deals may have. Therefore my strategy is to play it safe with solid if unsurprising picks. There’s plenty of time for experimenting in the coming weeks once we get a better idea of what a favoured 11 for every club looks like.

It goes without saying to look beyond week one if you’re playing for the long haul. If you have a squad of players all at home this week just remember they will be away next week. It’s always tempting to treat week one as a free hit but it’s perhaps not the most effective plan for the season.

With that, here are five selections to consider for your starting team.

1) Harry Kane (Tottenham, Forward, £11m)

There was an annoying statistic that Harry Kane just doesn’t score in August. Thankfully he put that particular coincidence to bed last season so he’s one of the first names of my team sheet as Spurs welcome Aston Villa this weekend.

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Tottenham will start as heavy favourites at home to a newly promoted side. Aston Villa have signed several players and there’s a possibility they will take some time to gel. This is also the first summer in a long time that Harry Kane has not had to play a tournament, which I think has contributed to his fairly lean August record. He’s looked very sharp in pre-season and when you add VAR into the mix, Kane’s penalty record is another factor.

There are a couple of drawbacks. Three reasonable home games in the first five fixtures are offset with two tough away games in weeks 2 and 4 which might lead to some up and down contributions. Another concern is that Son (suspension) and Alli (injury) will miss the first weeks of the season – will there be a lack of creativity around Kane? It might be enough to stop me putting the armband on England’s captain but he’s still leading the line.

2) Raheem Sterling (Man City, Midfielder, £12m)

Man City have an embarrassment of riches and if you’re new to FPL, nothing can prepare you for the harsh reality of Pep Guardiola’s squad rotation. I was torn between Sergio Aguero (£12m) and Raheem Sterling, but Aguero’s zero minutes in the Community Shield have spooked me out of selecting him here. Instead, I’ve opted for the identically priced Raheem Sterling.

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The advantage Sterling has is that, as a midfielder, his goals are worth one more point plus the offer of an extra point if Man City keep a clean sheet, which they often do. He seems a certainty to start having had a full pre-season and Leroy Sane’s untimely injury. Whilst I will probably be left stung by Aguero when he inevitably plays and scores a hat-trick, my policy of playing it safe means Raheem gets the nod from me. A budget option is Bernardo Silva, who is very reasonably priced at £8m.

3) Mo Salah (Liverpool, Midfielder, £12.5m)

Despite finishing as the top points scorer in FPL last season (259), Salah has actually dropped £0.5m in price. Those picking their teams based on the Community Shield may be having doubts but I prefer to look on the positive side. He got into so many good positions against the best team in the league – a home game with Norwich should lead to more of the same.

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His partner in crime Sadio Mane has only just returned to the fold but 90 minutes for Salah last weekend should mean he is prepared for the league opener. Liverpool will be heavy favourites to see off Norwich and with a relatively gentle set of fixtures ahead, I’d bet on Salah’s price only going back up over the coming weeks. He is, as of this writing, wearing the armband for me in week one.

4) Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth, Midfielder, £7.5m)

With Bournemouth hosting new boys Sheffield United this weekend, they will be confident of getting off to a good start. It’s fair to say there has been an attacking trio catching the eye in FPL and I imagine there’ll be arguments made for any of them.

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I’ve opted for creator-in-chief Ryan Fraser. At £7.5m he is cheaper than Callum Wilson (£8m) and offers a threat of goals and assists. Wilson was brilliant last season and there’s no reason not to expect more of the same here, whilst the third option is Josh King (£6.5m). King has penalty duties which may swing things in his favour, especially if you are penny pinching too, but based on open play Fraser or Wilson look the better options.

5) Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, Defender, £7m)

With Liverpool hosting Norwich it seems only sensible to add a defensive asset into the mix. When that defender spends most of his time in the opposition half as well as taking his fair share of set pieces, it seems even more logical. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are priced at a massive £7m, but I think they are worth every penny.

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You might be put off spending big on defenders with the threat of VAR ruining clean sheets up and down the country. Whilst that is a concern, Robertson (213) outscored all but three outfield players last season whilst Alexander-Arnold (185) only fell short due to injuries. For this week in particular, I think having a Liverpool defender is a must. Even Virgil Van Dijk (£6.5m) underlined his potential with an assist in the community shield. The scorer of that goal was Joel Matip (£5.5m) but he is less certain due to Joe Gomez (£5.5m) vying for the same spot. There is a risk of rotation there later in the season (Gomez has replaced Alexander-Arnold on occasion) but for this week that shouldn’t be an issue.


I don’t want to hedge my bets but just to flag up a couple of players I’ve got an eye on.

Chelsea are a bit of a mystery and at the moment, Ross Barkley (£6m) looks like good value based on his pre-season form. If he is a regular starter then he could be the bargain of the season, but with Loftus-Cheek to return from injury and Mason Mount breaking through, there are doubts there.

Also absent are Man Utd players, not helped by their opening fixture being at home to Chelsea. New boys Maguire and Wan-Bissaka are both priced at £5.5m whilst Dan James is £6m. With Lukaku out of the picture Marcus Rashford looks a certainty at £8.5m but it’ll be interesting to see if their form picks up after an indifferent end to last season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is £11m and let’s not forget he shared the golden boot last season. Back to back games with Liverpool and Tottenham in weeks 3 and 4 are the only thing hindering his inclusion at the moment but he is a proven goalscorer where ever he has been.

Join the OffsideRulePod league!

Don’t forget to join up before the deadline of Friday 7pm – the game can be found here and the code to join the league is 3wj1zy

That’s all for this week, all that is left is for me to wish you good luck with your teams. See you next week for more!

You can follow Dave on Twitter @CM9798



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