After some good old-fashioned rest and relaxation, it is nice to get back into the groove and put together my first column for the new Premier League campaign. I needed to catch my breath after a year culminating in my Spurs making it to the Champions League final. Sure, that result did not go as hoped, but I was still proud of my boys after a grueling season. So, I planned a little holiday for myself and, wouldn't you know, about a day and a half into the vacation, FPL went live, much sooner than anyone had anticipated.
No one is complaining though. However, forcing myself to resist all the chatter on social media proved a difficult task. I could feel my colleagues getting the jump on preparing for the new season while my head was literally buried in the sand. Well, all is back to normal, and the process of putting together that initial squad has begun.
Preseason content has already been flying off the shelf here at Rotoworld and, to add to the useful information already out there, I will be taking a weekly look at preseason results from around the league for the next month. No need to worry, this first edition is going to be pretty laid back. Many clubs have yet to get their official preseason underway, and for those that have, it is a bit early to do much analysis of position battles. This will change as another week passes, the column will likely double in size and I cannot wait to keep up with it all.
First, a list of clubs who did not have an official preseason match in this initial weekly roundup - Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Leicester, Manchester City, Newcastle, Watford and Wolves. All will join the fray this week.
Brighton - Life under new boss Graham Potter got underway against Austrian side FC Liefering and the Seagulls came away with a 2-5 win. One of the goals came from Lewis Dunk, in what is likely his final appearance for the club as Leicester City are set to spend big money on the center back. The other four goals were split up nicely among four different forwards. Glenn Murray and Jurgen Locadia found the net in the opening 45 minutes while Florin Andone and summer signing Leandro Trossard opened their accounts in the second half. Murray figures to be atop the depth chart when the season starts, but he is not getting any younger and we already saw his minutes carefully managed last season. Those minutes are likely to only drop a bit more this year. It is unlikely to see many managers start the season with a Brighton forward, but Pascal Groß could fight for your attention. He was the clear creator of chances in his 45 minutes of action.
Burnley - The Clarets played a behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham so I won't pretend to analyze the in's and out's of this match but there is still some pertinent information to take away. First, they beat the Cottagers 1-0, with the lone goal coming from a penalty chance converted by Chris Wood. New signing Jay Rodríguez nearly opened his account, putting the ball in the net early, but was apparently a hair offside. The biggest question for fantasy managers is the status at the keeper position. Tom Heaton looks to be the one on the transfer market, as rumors of a move have already circled and he was not a part of this match in any way. Nick Pope, the likely #1, and Joe Hart split the 90 minutes evenly.
Chelsea - The Blues have already played twice under club legend Frank Lampard, who is beginning the process of reshaping the squad in the aftermath of Eden Hazard's exit. The two games in Ireland last week included a 1-1 draw with Bohemians and 0-4 win over St. Patrick's. Most noticeable out of the gate was the transition from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 formation as it appears Lampard wants to use the model that worked best in his glory years. Much early buzz surrounds Jorginho as a potential "Lamps 2.0", as he looks to be the first choice penalty taker now that Hazard is gone. Should Jorginho show some additional attacking involvement in open play this preseason, he must be considered at only 5m as a lock for your MID5 or possibly a MID4 that rotates with your DEF4. Speaking of value, there is only one forward to choose from on the FPL transfer page at the moment, that being Olivier Giroud. Michy Batshuayi scored the lone goal against Bohemians, but Giroud scored a brace in his half of play against St. Patrick's. Certainly, if the Frenchman is racking up goals throughout the preseason and Chelsea do not find a big name to clearly take the striker role, then Giroud's 7m price tag looks extremely appealing.
Crystal Palace - The Eagles played twice last week, but only had one goal to show from it, after a 1-1 draw with Luzern and a 2-0 loss to Young Boys. That goal came just two minutes into the first game, with Christian Benteke getting on the scoresheet. It is now or never for a return to fantasy relevance for the Belgian. While attacking options this season will likely begin with trusted names like Wilfried Zaha and Luka Milivojevic, there may be a new name to monitor. Max Meyer did not have much of a fantasy impact last season but that has the potential to change this time around. He assisted the Benteke goal and was the clear creative spark in the second half of the Young Boys match, though no goals came from it. There aren't too many viable midfield options at 5.5m, but Meyer might make a case this summer. The search for Wan-Bissaka's replacement at right back begins, and youngster Sam Woods will try to impress. He got the start against Luzern and should be monitored until the Eagles go out and buy a new right back.
Everton - The Toffees were the first to begin preseason play, with a 1-1 draw against Kariobangi Sharks on July 7. They followed that up with a 0-0 stalemate against FC Sion on Sunday. Not too much to glean from these results. Many regulars were rested in the first game and minutes were split up rather evenly. Joe Williams scored the only goal Everton managed over two games, but the U-23 midfielder is unlikely to leapfrog all the players above him on the depth chart and become a fantasy weapon. Gylfi Sigurdsson is a popular midfield pick in early drafts of FPL squads, and he looked sharp in the second match, hitting both the crossbar and the post. Good on you, Gylfi. No need to waste those fantasy points now.
Liverpool - The Reds started their preseason schedule with a couple of games against domestic clubs in lower divisions before taking off for their US tour. Nine goals were scored between the two games, as Tranmere and Bradford City played hosts to the league giants. While all the goals would seem to offer plenty to digest, there is no bigger question than who will be the regular partner to Virgil Van Dijk in central defense. Joe Gomez started against Tranmere, with Joel Matip replacing him and playing the second half. Meanwhile, Dejan Lovren started against Bradford City. While we hope to get a clear indication of who will win the gig, it may take a few games to figure it out. Divock Origi was among the goals and, with heavy involvement in competitive action this summer for Sadio Mané, we could see Origi get a start or two when the season begins. James Milner scored a brace in the Bradford City win. He should continue to find minutes here and there this season, but it will be tough to crack a regular starting gig in midfield, especially now that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain acts almost like a new signing, ready to make an impact after a completely lost campaign.
Manchester United - The Red Devils started their tour down under, with a 0-2 win over Perth. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put out an initial XI with a mix of established veterans and promising youngsters, then did so again for the second half. One of the young names was new signing Daniel James, who put in an impressive shift. The goals came in the second half, with Marcus Rashford grabbing the first and James Garner (no, not that one) scored the second. Rashford is certainly one to consider as an FPL forward if Romelu Lukaku leaves and no clear all-world striker is brought in during the summer. Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his United debut in this one.
Norwich City - The Canaries started their latest top-flight stay with a 2-2 draw against DSC Arminia Bielefield. The story of the match here was injuries, unfortunately, with Ben Godfrey and Louis Thompson both hobbling off the pitch in the first half. Teemu Pukki figures to be the top striker option at Norwich to start the season, but fellow forwards Dennis Srbeny and new signing Josip Drmic supplied the goals here, the latter from the penalty spot. Mario Vrancic was a healthy scratch in this one.
Sheffield United - The Blades began their promoted season with a 0-1 win over Real Betis last week. Two different sides played either half of this one, with only the keeper going the distance. An impressive early display from the defense, keeping a clean sheet against a pretty good club in Portugal. This one came too soon for new signing Callum Robinson to be involved, so we were left with the veteran forwards we saw help them gain promotion last season, Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick, the latter scoring the lone goal of the game after a poor goal kick resulted in a gift for the striker.
Southampton - The Saints gave us exactly what we wanted as fantasy managers, a debut goal from a newly-signed forward. That being Che Adams, of course, who only needed two minutes to open his account with Southampton. That would end the scoring for the Saints as they drew 1-1 with SCR Altach. Not much else to glean from this one, as two pair of XI's played 45 minutes each.
West Ham United - And finally, not to beat a broken record but, we have a Hammers side that played a "split squad" game, a 2-3 win over SCR Altach. With Marko Arnautovic on the outs, West Ham are attempting to bring in a "big splash" replacement, but until they can pull off a move, they are looking for who can step up in the meantime. Michail Antonio, a name that seems to pop up at least once a season, got one the scoresheet here and looks to be the preferred option as of right now. Carlos Sánchez and Issa Diop provided the only goals here.