In World Cup years, the beginning of the Premier League can get off to a slow start because athletes need to have at least a month off from soccer related activities to recharge and prepare their bodies for the grueling demands of the English top flight. After that month off there is then another 5-6 weeks for everyone to get back into playing shape during an organized preseason.
Between the end of the World Cup final and the beginning of the Premier League season, there will be about three weeks before a ball is kicked to open play. This puts many teams between a rock and a hard place because with England and Belgium having played in the third-place game for the World Cup, around 40% of the players left at the World Cup on the final weekend hail from the Premier League. Among these guys, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City have particularly strong representations while Chelsea's most important player is also still in action.
Considering the cakewalk schedules that most of the Premier League, “big six” will have in their first five games, core players missing any time can open opportunities for fringe players and lead to wacky results to open the season.
But why does this matter to us? Well, as FPL Managers, we’re always looking for ways to get a leg up on the competition and starting off the season with the best team possible means taking advantage of every situation possible to produce the most productive/ valuable team possible. For example, I have Hélder Costa in my squad due to the rumors that Ivan Cavaleiro could be on his way out making Costa who was involved in 11 goals in the Championship an absolute steal at 5.0m.
Taking advantage of 6.0m Serge Aurier likely starting most of Tottenham’s opening games while 6.0m Kieran Trippier rests (and sees a drop in price) is one of many ways that we’ll go through trying to use the World Cup to your advantage while selecting an FPL squad for the opening weekend. The first half of the article will cover fringe players as well as what teams should perform well due to NOT having the majority of their starting XI in the world cup or having core players knocked out early while the second half will cover transfer rumors to watch as they could have major implications going forward.
Making the right moves at the beginning of the season can be the difference between finishing 10th in your mini leagues and coming home with the crown. Margins are thin which makes every week matter in a long season.
Please be advised that fixture evaluations below are based off of my fixture difficulty rankings shown below:
The first look at #FPL also means I take a crack at fixture difficulty ranks.
Spurs Chelsea, City and Liverpool lead the way.
Southampton assets have the most to gain with a strong start as does Everton.
Promoted teams and Newcastle drew the short stick. pic.twitter.com/loleDROMwQ
— Chuck Booth (@ChuckBoothSport) July 5, 2018
Teams that will need to rest key cogs:
Tottenham led the way with players left at the World Cup with nine and considering their lack of depth and rumors of an exit for Fernando Llorente, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Spurs get off to a rocky start despite their favorable opening schedule. International duty has run Harry Kane into the ground and Son Heung-min will miss the beginning of the season due to the Asian Games. Coupled with Kieran Trippier and Christian Eriksen during the World Cup and things could get dicey in North London.
With Tottenham not having many transfer links going around, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura will need to step up and pull the strings. If they can still remains to be seen which may likely lead to Tottenham not being able to take advantage of their easy start to the season. Verdict, tread lightly with Tottenham attackers but the defense should be usable.
The Red Devils will be facing an interesting conundrum to start the season with almost all of their top attackers and midfielders having played in the final days of the World Cup for their respective teams. Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, and Marouane Fellaini are all either still in Russia or played an integral role in their teams' performances during the tournament. Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof are also likely in need of rest leaving Alexis Sanchez (10.5m) and Anthony Martial (7.5m) as two midfielders worth owning to start the season.
Juan Mata (6.5m) and the United defense should also be in play because with Spain’s early exit, David de Gea will still be behind them. One underrated asset to watch will be Luke Shaw. Shaw performs admirably whenever he is given a chance and given Young’s workload for England combined with his age,
Chelsea is a team that is almost impossible to judge as the season opens. They finally got Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho but are in the middle of the domino effect from Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid. Will Los Blancos come knocking for Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois? That’s not a question that I’m prepared to answer at the moment but it’s enough to scare me away from having the Chelsea pair in my team until the transfer window slams shut in La Liga. World Cup champion N'Golo Kanté will also need a break to begin the season and if Chelsea is relying on Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater to open the season in their midfield, they’ll concede quite a few goals.
Up top, Alvaro Morata will start the season at striker but it will probably be a timeshare with Olivier Giroud which is bad for FPL purposes. Looking at the Blues, there is a lot to like about their opening fixtures but there is also a lot to be concerned about to stack them starting the season. Verdict, avoid to begin but if things begin to stabilize hop on board the Chelsea train with an early wildcard.
Teams to stack:
The Gunners had had a light workload at the World Cup with Granit Xhaka making it furthest at the tournament. Key players like Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin were left home while other guys like Danny Welbeck sat on the bench for their respective squads. But while the gunners failed to make an impact on the big stage, it will be an advantage in the early going where they will face Man City, Chelsea, West Ham, Cardiff and Newcastle. While rotation could factor in, PEA should be in teams to start the season as Arsenal’s fixtures are too good to pass up.
With a Lucas Torreira playing in a defensive role next to him, Xhaka should see an increase in output as his sole responsibility will be threading passes to a talented attacking core. A healthy Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also a very useful asset in FPL this season. Without getting into too many words here, Arsenal is set for a bounceback season and while the latter stages of the season may cause a rotation headache, they should blaze out of the gate.
Hailing Dejan Lovren in the World Cup final, who may not even start this season, Liverpool was another team that had most of their guys home after the group stage of the tournament. With Roberto Firmino also playing as a bench guy for Brazil, no one was truly taxed and even Mo Salah got to rest. Coupled with signing Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri, the best counter attacking team in the league has only gotten better.
Liverpool is set to steamroll teams this season making Roberto Firmino a better value than ever at 9.5m. Even with his price hike, Andrew Robertson should also offer value at 6.0m but the best value may be at the Liverpool right back priced at 5.0m. While I don’t have the slightest clue if Nathaniel Clyne will be the starter or if it’ll be Trent Alexander-Arnold instead but, both should see considerable time in a system that will make them worth the price even if they’re in a timeshare.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Both of these clubs are coming off of disappointing seasons. Everton finished eighth although they had Europa league aspirations while Southampton avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth. But with a new manager for Everton and continuity for Southampton, they will be two of the more intriguing teams to begin the season. Both have favorable schedules to open the season making guys like Cenk Tosun and Cedric very appealing for their FPL prices.
I’m more prone to put my trust into Everton attackers but the Southampton defense could provide value this season. With everyone in defense at 5.0 or under, Southampton is a good team to look at for clean sheets on the cheap. With attacking full backs to boot, this is where it gets tasty if Charlie Austin (6.0m) can knock a few into the back of the net.
For Everton, Theo Walcott, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tosun can bag the points under an attacking manager like Marco Silva. While the defense may be left out to dry, Silva has his sides attacking with the best of them and he has the talent there to make Tosun a steal at 7.0m. That price for a forward with an outside shot at 20 goals is insane yet he’s only in 11.9 percent of teams as of writing. That’s too low.
The World Cup will also allow teams like Newcastle and Fulham gain some early season upsets as the fallout of this tournament is massive. This is just the tip of the iceberg but it’s a good starting point.