After six weeks of tinkering since the late-June FPL launch, the Gameweek 1 deadline has finally arrived. Following last week’s watchlist article, these are the 15 players that have been selected to start to the 2019/20 season.
The goalkeeper slots were two of the final ones to be filled in the team. At the start of pre-season, it was Ederson, then Mat Ryan, followed by a brief stint with Hugo Lloris, usually alongside a non-playing option.
What changed was Aston Villa’s capture of Tom Heaton. In 2018/19, only Alisson and the aforementioned Lloris had a better save percentage out of goalkeepers to play at least 1000 minutes. He again ranked third in this metric in 2016/17, the year before a long-term injury limited him to just four Premier League appearances.
Quite simply, Heaton is one of the best shot-stoppers in the division and demonstrates an excellent piece of business by Aston Villa. £4.5m will be a bargain if he can replicate his performances in 2016/17 and 2018/19 at Villa Park this season.
Heaton’s departure from Burnley has also freed up Nick Pope to return in goal, following a long-term injury of his own last season. A standout 2017/18 saw only David De Gea better Pope’s save percentage. Again, an excellent shot-stopper is available for just £4.5m, hopefully combining a regular stream of save points with clean sheets every three or four games. It is arguably when these players emerge that the best value for money can be had in this position.
Therefore for flexibility purposes and with the intention of holding onto the first wildcard beyond the first international break, both Tom Heaton and Nick Pope have been selected for Gameweek 1. This does not necessarily signal a rotation pair, it is more about spending just £0.5m more to have a guaranteed starter as backup to Pope.
Two of the five picks were predominantly prompted by last season’s performances and their current ownership. You know the team I’m talking about, it’s the Liverpool defence – but which two have been chosen?
Virgil Van Dijk is the first in at a bargain price of £6.5m for a guaranteed starter with significant goal threat, who has a place in nearly half of FPL squads.
Deciding between Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (and indeed all three Liverpool defenders) is far from easy. All three are magnificent options in their own right so sometimes you have to go with who you trust most.
Alexander-Arnold will play almost every match but there is always a nagging doubt that Gomez will switch from centre-back to right-back in some games, particularly around physically demanding Champions League matches. This is not an issue for early wildcarders, but as mentioned, the aim is to hold onto it longer this season, having wanted a second one around Gameweek 8-9 in each of the last three seasons.
With this in mind, Andy Robertson is the second defender pick but there really is very little to split between the trio at this stage.
Third in is Aymeric Laporte. Any team able to keep 20 clean sheets in a season warrants a defensive spot and following the arrival of Joao Cancelo, Laporte is the only safe regular starter for the long-term.
Alongside him is Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Ukrainian is certainly a short-term pick, as Benjamin Mendy’s return to full training in the next few weeks will threaten his starting spot. However, at a price point stacked with plenty of potential value options including last seasons £4.0m hero Aaron Wan-Bissaka, taking one punt here shouldn’t do much harm with a full playable bench to call upon if needed.
In addition, this will provide time to assess the next best Manchester City option to maintain a triple-up as often as possible.
Lewis Dunk will mainly be a bench warmer as one of the better £4.5m defenders in the game.
Pick one was simple. As the top point scorer in 2018/19 and 2017/18, with high ownership and a small price drop to boot, it is difficult to make a case against Mohamed Salah.
Joining him is Raheem Sterling, who topped the points per match charts last season. It was between him, Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to partner Salah but City’s fixtures of Bournemouth (A) and Brighton (H) when Liverpool face Arsenal (H) and Burnley (A) just swung it the City man’s way to form an excellent captaincy rotation.
Tasked with meeting Brendan Rodgers’ demands of more goals from his Leicester side this season, Ayoze Perez‘s cut-price £6.5m valuation is very attractive. His price is arguably cheaper than expected, based upon him still being a Newcastle player when the game was launched in June.
Only six players classified as midfielders scored more than Perez’ 12 goals last season and all of those are at least £1.5m more expensive. A potential bargain is on the cards, but with plenty of similarly priced alternatives to switch to if it does not work out as planned.
With a lesser spotted 4-3-3 formation used in the majority of gameweeks until the first wildcard, Leander Dendoncker and Isaac Hayden complete the midfield. These were discussed in yesterday’s Q&A article as being the most likely to do well at their price point. But the important thing here is that both became first choice in December and never looked back.
A position in one in five FPL squads is indicative of Josh King and Callum Wilson‘s appeal after they netted a combined 26 goals in 2018/19. Fixtures against newly promoted Sheffield United and Aston Villa to start the season are far from straightforward, but they are about as good as they can be in such a competitive league.
Both King and Wilson have a place in my team from the off, with the option of selling or benching one for Dendoncker [Burnley (H)] ahead of Bournemouth’s home match against Manchester City in Gameweek 3.
The final player is the only starter not to be included in the Gameweek 1 watchlist article. It was only after writing the Q&A article on Wednesday that the extent to Diogo Jota‘s impressive second half of the season became apparent, as following the formation change, him and Jimenez effectively performed on par with each other. Like Perez, this may be another example of value for money at £6.5m.
Gameweek 1 Starting Lineup
Looking at the fixtures, the following lineup has been selected for Gameweek 1.
GK: Pope vs SOU (H)
DF: Robertson vs NOR (H), Van Dijk vs NOR (H), Laporte vs WHU (A), Zinchenko vs WHU (A)
MF: Salah (C) vs NOR (H), Perez vs WOL (H), Sterling (V) vs WHU (A)
FW: King vs SHU (H), Jota vs LEI (A), Wilson vs SHU (H)
Bench: Heaton vs TOT (A), Dendoncker vs LEI (A), Dunk vs WAT (A), Hayden vs ARS (H)
And now we wait for the inevitable disappointment come Sunday evening!