What We Learned from Gameweek 1
Updated: Aug 16, 2021
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Thank you to Tim Miller (@millertimp) for submitting the below Community Submission. This article has been subject to minor edits to the formatting, but the written content remains almost untouched.
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Community Submission: What We Learned from Gameweek 1
Finally. Nearly three months from watching Manchester City crowned as league champions, our beloved English Premier League is back. This summer gave us plenty of amazing football with international tournaments happening on four different continents, but nothing compares with the beginning of a new season in the best league in the world.
Each week this space will look at some notable takeaways from the previous gameweek and sort through what can be learned to help us as we make lineup decisions and waiver moves going forward. Fantasy enthusiasts around the world will no doubt uphold the time-honored tradition of overreacting to early season trends and this article will be no different with the small sample size offered.
Promoted Teams Are Ready to Make Some Noise
Hope springs eternal for three promoted sides each August, and several teams have announced their arrival with a boom the last few seasons. This season, Brentford, making their first appearance in the top flight of English football in 74 years, came out of the gate swinging and caught Arsenal napping. There were a few players on Brentford to be excited about coming into the season and they did not disappoint from a fantasy standpoint.
A Sergi Canos goal and a big day from Ethan Pinnock were capped off with a clean sheet held down by David Raya. Scoring 22, 24.5, and 19 FPTS respectively, they are the clear standouts. But only Canos provided much help to fantasy owners this week, with the others' ownership below 20% on Fantrax.
Going forward, Pinnock is worth a speculative stash in deeper leagues and his ownership should rise following waiver wire deadlines. Raya is likely still a streaming option and next week’s fixture against Crystal Palace looks promising. Hopefully Sergi Canos will continue to perform, and highly drafted Ivan Toney will find his form for this potentially exciting team.
Similarly, Watford showed ready for the challenge of the top league as they took down Aston Villa 3-2. The Hornets relied on counter-attacking and long balls to stun Villa, striking in the tenth minute with Emmanuel Dennis, followed in the first half by a goal from Ismaila Sarr, assisted by Dennis. The two combined for 57.5 FPTS in Fantrax, making them the second highest scoring teammates in Gameweek 1 behind the otherworldly combination of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba (74.5 FPTS). This pair looks like a great stacking option and Dennis is likely available on your waiver wire. For now, that is.
As highlighted in The Draft Society Draft Kit by The FF Chaps and Drafterthoughts, Cucho Hernandez made good on his Premier League debut by replacing Dennis in the 66th minute and immediately taking a Tom Cleverly pass, cutting inside on his right foot and placing the ball in off the far post in the 67th minute to extend the Watford lead to 3-0. It is unclear if Dennis is injured as he was holding his left foot when he was subbed off. If Dennis misses time, Cucho could be in for an increase in minutes and could be worth a stash on your bench as a wait and see player.
The trend of promoted teams winning their opening match came to an end when Norwich City ran into the buzzsaw that is opening week Mo Salah and his Liverpool compatriots. It’s a tough way to start the season for sure, but Norwich still had a few bright spots worth mentioning. Pierre Lees-Melou, Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons led the way in FPTS, while Teemu Pukki disappointed in his return to the EPL. After getting off to a torrid start in his first go ‘round two seasons ago, he is now goalless in his last 14 games in the top flight. Pukki’s days as the starting striker may be numbered due to a positive cameo appearance by newly acquired Josh Sargent. Cantwell remains the most [rosterable] Canary, with Aarons, Rashica, and Gilmour close behind. The hardest part will be trusting any of them in your starting lineup in the next few weeks with Manchester City and Leicester due up next in the league.
Football is Better with Fans in the Stands
No offense to piped in crowd noise (or more accurately, yes offense to terrible piped in crowd noise), nothing compares to hearing 50,000+ screaming, singing fans living and dying with every missed opportunity, goal scored, or horrible call from the referee. Please allow me to get a little personal with you for a moment. I promise that sappy digressions will not happen every week in this column. I’m someone who enjoys watching football every chance I get. From area high school matches to my local Houston Dynamo MLS games, I want to watch them all. In 1998 as a high school junior, I recorded every World Cup game on VHS tape and watched the England versus Argentina match until it wore out and would not play anymore. The ability in recent years to watch every EPL match through NBC has been like a dream come true. I enjoyed watching every match I possibly could and the football on the field was still magnificent the last year and a half.
But there was something missing. Only seeing matches on TV, the noise that was added to simulate fan noise was okay, but far from great or even good. Saturday morning though, 6:30 am in my local time, was an extraordinary moment. Watching and hearing 76,000 people cheering as the newest member of Manchester United, Raphael Varane, walked out of the tunnel and carried his new jersey to the center of the pitch was magical. Announcing a player in that manner would have been exciting in a normal year, but after waiting to be back in person for so long, I could feel the energy and exhilaration when he took a selfie with the Stretford End though my television 4700 miles away.
There are numerous other examples of chill inducing moments from Gameweek 1. From Brentford opening their new stadium with a win over a favored Arsenal side to Spurs riding home momentum in an upset of reigning champions Manchester City. The much-celebrated debuts of players like Jadon Sancho and Cucho Hernandez and the home wins of Chelsea and newly promoted Watford made supporters go wild in the stands. I hope to make the journey to experience the incredible atmosphere that exists in every Premier League stadium myself one day, but until then, I for one am happy that fans are back and bringing unparalleled life to my favorite league.
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