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Ten talking points from the opening FPL gameweek

SoccerBy Colm Hayes
Ten talking points from the opening FPL gameweek

An interesting opening FPL weekend saw heavy hitters net from the spot, a short supply of clean sheets and some potential budget options getting off the mark early.

Here are ten talking points from the opening gameweek:

Penalties are king

Not a new concept to fantasy managers but one that was heavily reinforced during GW1. Sergio Aguero (£13.0m), Eden Hazard (£10.0m) and Riyad Mahrez (£9.5m) all netted from the spot on the Premier League's opening gameweek to showcase how valuable an asset penalty-taking is for heavy hitters.

Hazard had an extremely bright first half without turning his display into FPL points before fading in the second period. A baffling Michail Antonio foul had owners of the Chelsea star happy however, with the appeal of Oscar (£7.5m) seriously lessened after Antonio Conte's number one spot-kick taker was revealed.

Mahrez, on the other hand, was a way off his best during Leicester City's shock 2-1 defeat to Hull City. A number of misplaced passes were coupled with a surprisingly poor take-on success rate for the winger:

FPL bosses will be hoping that the signing of a new contract means that the Algerian will soon return to his best form, though it is a huge boost that the 29.4%-owned attacker will be taking penalties ahead of Jamie Vardy.

Owners of Vardy, who spurned some excellent chances against Hull, have gotten rid with almost 73,000 selling the England forward since Saturday.

Guardiola's 'false' full-backs

Pep Guardiola wowed the Premier League with his tactical innovation of turning full-backs into defensive midfielders while City had the ball (which was a very high percentage of the time against Sunderland):

With the signing of John Stones (available for just £5.0m in FPL), most managers will have stayed away from City full-backs due to the strength in depth in those areas at the Etihad. If Guardiola continues to have his team play this way, extreme caution is urged over investing in Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and Alexsandar Kolarov - the two Frenchmen were very restricted in their movements up the pitch against David Moyes' side, while it seems that Citizens full-backs will no longer be swinging in crosses.

That said, FPL darling Kolarov is one to monitor - the Serbian won a penalty during City's midweek destruction of Steaua Bucharest and if he locks down the left-back berth, may just break the shackles of Pep's tactics due to his attacking nature:

Liverpool midfield minefield

The amount of attacking midfield options available to Jurgen Klopp was always likely to frustrate FPL managers over the season. The Anfield outfit's Premier League opener was an immediate warning to bosses that fantasy points will be spread across the Liverpool attacking board.

The much-fancied Roberto Firmino blanked as Klopp's men put four past the Gunners, though an immediate transfer out for the Brazilian might be soon rued:

Those that have left Firmino go are likely to have made the straight swap to club-and-country mate Philippe Coutinho, who has risen in price to £8.1m as a result of the season's earliest bandwagon. Two goals, including a sensational free-kick, have persuaded a whopping 261,963 managers bringing in the undisputed star of GW1.

With Adam Lallana (£7.0m) scoring and assisting, while new boys Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane managed an assist and a goal respectively, the FPL outlook for Reds' assets is murky at best.

With Mane likely to miss this weekend's away trip to Burnley, at least, with a shoulder injury, the Liverpool situation may become clearer as the gameweeks pass by but for now it remains a slight lottery as to who might pick up the points for Klopp's side during a tough run of fixtures after this weekend [Spurs (a), Leicester (h), Chelsea (a)].

Clean sheets are hard to come by, unless you're Tony Pulis

Death, taxes and West Brom banking an away clean sheet. Those who didn't invest in the Albion defence were left rueing their decision as Pulis' men rebuffed Palace's uninspiring attacking efforts with ease. One of only two clean sheets of the opening gameweek (along with Swansea, whose fixtures turn sour after a potentially juicy home clash with Hull in GW2).

With Craig Dawson the only member of the West Brom defence costing more than £4.5m, investing is easy for those with a transfer to spare. However, the Baggies play at home three times (vs Everton, Middlesborough and West Ham) in their next four fixtures, with an away tie against Bournemouth in GW4. There is much more onus on Pulis to have his side play attacking football at the Hawthorns as fans despair over the Welshman's tactics, while away ties allow the gaffer to do what he does best; 0-1 victories.

Manchester United offer options across the board

In a great change of pace for FPL managers, last season's washouts United look to have fantasy options aplenty. Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Anthony Martial were all among the points, as bosses wait with baited breath for the club's first penalty under Jose Mourinho to see if the England man has relinquished duties to the Swede.

While Martial's two assists were relatively fortunate (a mishit volley for Rooney's header before a simple pass to set up Ibrahimovic), the now FPL midfielder is likely to offer good value at £9.5m.

A quiet first half for Ibrahimovic will have worried owners, though a sublime 25-yard strike will have eased fears:

One thing that is apparent with the Swede is that he will drop deep to collect the ball, invading Rooney's space while taking himself away from where FPL bosses want him - in the box. An audacious flick to put Rooney (who should have netted) through on goal highlighted the 34-year-old's ability from this position, however.

If Paul Pogba (£8.5m) is given license to bomb forward by Mourinho, he could become an extremely attractive option. Ibrahimovic requires teammates to make runs from central positions when he receives the ball deep, something Rooney is not going to do regularly. However, if the world-record signing is tasked with a more defensive role in the 4-2-3-1 system used by the new manager against Bournemouth it is Zlatan himself, along with Martial, who are likely to be the key United assets.

A late strike from Cherries full-back Adam Smith (£4.5m) highlighted his capabilities while wiping out United's clean sheet, much to the chagrin of the hoards of owners of David de Gea, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw. Nonetheless, the return of Chris Smalling alongside the impressive Eric Bailly should mean future returns while Valencia, in particular, looked very threatening in attack:

Boro could be the team of budget dreams

An Alvaro Negredo (£6.5m) goal from a Gaston Ramirez assist immediately highlighted attacking Middlesborough assets as the promoted side look to pick up points from an inviting run of fixtures [Sunderland (a), West Brom (a), Palace (h), Everton (a)] before the schedule for Aitor Karanka's charges turns a lot tougher.

Ramirez, at £5.5m, is definitely worth looking at for those who plumped for West Ham's Andre Ayew in their initial squad. The Ghanaian attacker cruelly faces four months on the sideline, with owners needing to use the week's free transfer immediately. Former Saints man Ramirez went very close to bagging a goal to add to his assist in Boro's 1-1 draw with Stoke.

Bellerin is the real victim of Arsenal's backline injuries

One of the two (alongside Toby Alderweireld) most expensive defenders in FPL at £6.5m, Hector Bellerin made nearly 30% of opening squads after an excellent 2015/16 campaign. Unfortunately, injuries to two of Arsenal's senior centre-backs, along with Arsene Wenger's reluctance to invest transfer funds, mean that the Spanish full-back could drastically fail to live up to his price tag in the opening gameweeks.

Lamela could rival Alli and Eriksen

A form player from the end of last season, Erik Lamela was somewhat overlooked for fantasy squads in favour of teammates Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen (though an abundance of transfers in mean ownership figures are now quite close between the trio).

An excellent header from the Argentine gained a point for Mauricio Pochettino's men at Goodison Park and many FPL admirers for the winger. With Harry Kane's slow start to last season well documented and the absence of Mousa Dembele as a creative force for Tottenham, Lamela's goal and £7.0m price have made him an attractive option.

Redmond glows for Saints while Tadic numbers don't produce

Having received glowing praise from new Southampton manager Claude Puel, Nathan Redmond immediately repaid his gaffer's faith with an equalising goal against Watford. On the other hand, the Saint's next most-selected midfielder Tadic sparkled without being able to turn a good performance into FPL points:

With a price difference of £1.5m between the two (£6.0m vs £7.5m), many managers are likely jumping off the Serb to snap up the former Norwich City winger. Despite this, Tadic's involvement in Southampton's attacking efforts and likely penalty-taking duties suggest that, should he continue in such creative fashion, the points will come.

DON'T PANIC

Finally, a reminder that FPL is a marathon, not a sprint:

Unless you had it planned, using your wildcard after GW1 may be a regrettable action - particularly for those who spent time over the summer picking their squad.

Keep calm and trust your initial selections - form is not guaranteed after one week. Using your free transfer on a player you think will produce is perfectly fine but making wholesale changes based on such a small sample size of matches could be disastrous.