Welcome to the Gameweek 2 edition of AM’s Players to Watch. This week, I’ll (@Sean_Sullivan_1) be filling in for Nik and serving up your customary collection of players to target across the vast Fantasy Premier League universe.
Before we dive in, here’s some food for thought from Gameweek 1. Will start at Anfield, where the 2018/19 Championship Golden Boot winner Teemu Pukki spoiled the hopes of fantasy managers who rolled with a Liverpool stack at the back. While I entered the season viewing Pukki as someone to avoid, the goal has me rethinking my initial valuation of the Finnish striker. Pukki found a gap between TAA and Gomez, executed a deceive run against the momentum of stepping defensive line and capped it off with a precise finish. With Norwich City expected to be playing from behind in most matches, poaching goals may end up being a sustainable blueprint for success this season. The other storyline of interest is the Graham Potter revolution at Brighton. Under the pragmatic-minded Chris Hughton, we knew what we were getting on a match-to-match basis. Now, with Potter at the helm, things are going to be much different. The new manager deployed a 3-4-3 in the win over Watford, with Pascal Gross and Jurgen Locadia flanking Glenn Murray. Davy Propper was given freedom to get forward, new signing Leandro Trossard was left on the bench and substitutes Florin Andone, and Neal Maupay each got on the scoresheet. Position battles across the front seven suggest it’s too soon to make a move for any of Brighton’s options. However, if Potter sticks with an attack-minded approach, there’s value to be found since Gross is the only player priced higher than 6.5 in FPL.
Will begin with a look at the Gameweek 2 fixtures:
Saturday 17th August
Arsenal v Burnley
Aston Villa v Bournemouth
Brighton v West Ham United
Everton v Watford
Norwich City v Newcastle United
Southampton v Liverpool
Manchester City v Tottenham
Sunday 18th August
Sheffield United v Crystal Palace
Chelsea v Leicester City
Monday 19th August
Wolverhampton v Manchester United
Tottenham’s trip to Manchester City highlights this week's slate. It’s worth noting that while both clubs have high-powered attacks, there were just two goals scored across their clashes last season. When it comes to forecasting fantasy-friendly fixtures, none stand out more than Liverpool’s venture to Southampton. Arsenal has an enticing match at home against Burnley and Everton are decent favorites with Watford visiting Goodison Park. Looking elsewhere, though, the rest of the slate is harder to predict. Brighton v West Ham United, Norwich City v Newcastle United, Aston Villa v Bournemouth and Sheffield United v Crystal Palace are toss-ups in my opinion. My upset special is Leicester City pulling a fast one at Stamford Bridge since Chelsea has a short turnaround following their mid-week Super Cup defeat by Liverpool. Gameweek 2 also provides a cure for the Monday Blues, with Wolverhampton playing host to Manchester United on the first workday of the week.
With that in mind, here are some players to consider for Gameweek 2 ….
Adrian (GK – Liverpool): With Alisson set to miss 4-8 weeks due to a calf injury, Liverpool will rely on Adrian to provide cover. The former West Ham United number two isn’t a like-for-like replacement, but the Spaniard is more than a suitable stand-in. Adrian boasts 135 league appearances and 35 clean sheets from his time at West Ham. A proven, athletic shot-stopper playing behind a defense that doesn’t allow lots of shots, the 32-year-old is primed for a clean sheet against a Southampton side that managed just three shots on target against Burnley. At 4.5m, Adrian is arguably the cheapest, strongest option between the sticks in FPL.
Marcus Rashford (FWD—Manchester United): Manchester United takes a full head of stream into GW2. The 4-0 win over Chelsea saw Paul Pogba grab two assists, Rashford bag a brace and both Anthony Martial and Daniel James open their scoring accounts. Rashford was my FPL transfer this week because, well, he’s on pace to be a 9.0m forward much sooner than expected. Wolverhampton was happy to drop deep against Leicester City and, since that’s what I am hoping to see when United visit Molineux, Rashford should see enough chances to extend his goal tally. Let’s not forget that Wolves failed to keep a clean sheet in all 12 of their matches against the Top-Six last season. Upcoming games against Crystal Palace, Southampton, and West Ham United, as well as his role as the primary penalty taker, further my buy-now stance.
Sébastien Haller (FWD—West Ham United): The Hammers received a harsh wakeup call last Saturday in the form of a 5-0 thrashing by title-holders Manchester City. With that said, the result was anything but a surprise. This weekend presents a chance to rebound against a new look Brighton. The arrival of Graham Potter’s 3-4-3 formation did see the club allow 11 shots, four of which came inside the penalty area, against Watford. The situation is primed for club-record signing Sébastien Haller to demonstrate why West Ham shelled out a cool £45m for his services this summer. Haller scored nine of his 15 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt last season inside the penalty area, and his hold-up play was also the lone positive take away from the defeat by Manchester City. Selected by just 4.1% of FPL teams, the Frenchman represents an excellent alternative to fellow 7.5m man Raúl Jiménez, who is currently found in 21.0% of squads.
Philip Billing (MID—Bournemouth): We arrive at my scared money don’t make no money pick of the week. For those unfamiliar with Billing from his time at Huddersfield Town last season, the Dane has a lethal pair of shooting boots. Eddie Howe has taken notice considering the first corner of the match saw them executed a training ground set-piece routine drawn up to get Billing a first-time shot from the edge of the area. Although the sequence ended with Billing smashing wildly over the top, his second attempt of the match would have resulted in a goal of the week contender if not for an excellent save by Dean Henderson. Billing’s debut saw him registered two shots and two key passes, both of which were joint-bests among Bournemouth players, while a look at the heatmaps revealed he was their fourth-most advanced player throughout the match. If I had to wager on a longshot finding the back of the net this weekend, Billing would be my pick.
Captain Choice: Mohamed Salah (MID—Liverpool): You don’t need me to explain much here. Salah produced a goal as well as an assist against Norwich City, and Southampton shipped three to Burnley. If you’re still not sold on Salah, then consider the following facts. Salah has scored in each of his four matches against Southampton since joining Liverpool. In total, he’s returned five goals and an assist, with two goals and the assist coming across his two trips to the St. Mary’s. Don’t get cute, he’s a set and forget captain this week.