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    Fantasy Football Column: Make Bruno Fernandes a priority signing and urge caution on Kai Havertz

    FANTASY FOOTBALL EXPERT: Make Bruno Fernandes a priority signing as Man United’s start up and keep an eye on James Rodriguez with Everton’s favourable fixtures… but steer clear of Kai Havertz as German finds his way at Chelsea

    • The first round for Fantasy Football managers brought with it mixed results
    • Liverpool defenders disappointed while non-Mo Salah owners paid a hefty price
    • James Rodriguez and Daniel Podence caught the eye as differential options
    • Bruno Fernandes stands out as the most effective use of this week’s free transfer 

    The quirky team-names filtered through, some straight out of the Fantasy playbook, others strangely unique, and finally we have been able to see the makeup of our rivals’ teams.

    Fantasy Football brings out a different side in people whether that be among colleagues in the office, in a friendship group, perhaps it is a family league for some healthy competition.

    Gameweek One always catches many players out – new players arrive as the shiny new things, not tried or tested, come with a high price point and players go big hoping they can hit the ground running.

    Mohamed Salah’s opening day hat-trick brought major rewards for his Fantasy Football owners

    Those who invested in Harry Kane and his Tottenham team-mates were left to rue a poor show

    Those who invested in Harry Kane and his Tottenham team-mates were left to rue a poor show

    For some debutantes that proved a worthwhile roll of the dice but for Kai Havertz owners, you fell right into the Fantasy trap.

    In this weekly column I’ll be breaking down what we learned from the latest round of games, how best to utilise the free transfer for our squads and the differentials that can make the biggest difference week to week.

    Biggest takeaways from GW1

    West Ham cannot defend. Leeds will score a lot of goals this season. And a happy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is great news for FPL players across the world.

    There was a lot to unpack from the opening round of games, where the average points total on FPL coming in at 50. The best performance of the week saw a Leeds fan finish with 142 points having triple-captained Mohamed Salah ahead of his hat-trick against the Yorkshire side at Anfield.

    Many of the results went as expected but a handful of this year’s FPL staples – Aubameyang, Timo Werner and Trent Alexander-Arnold – all fell short of expectations.

    James Rodriguez looked a step up in class for Everton but he needs to turn his influence into goals and assists

    Daniel Podence grabbed an assist as Wolves dominated Sheffield United in their 2-0 away win

    James Rodriguez (left) and Daniel Podence (right) both stood out as future differential options

    Everton and Wolves, in my mind at least, emerged with the most credit in the bank going into Gameweek Two. Carlo Ancelotti’s rebuild of Everton is working brilliantly right now and while I am yet to bring him into my team, James Rodriguez is one I will be keeping an eye on should he turn his overall influence into tangible points for goals and assists. You get nothing for purely being effective in this game.

    For Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo’s future was an area of concern but with that now sorted, and Raul Jimenez still at the club, they will again be a force to be reckoned with. It is Manchester City up next but from then on they have West Ham, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle and Crystal Palace.

    If Jimenez is out of the price bracket at £8.5m, keep a watchful eye on Daniel Podence who really caught my eye on the left of the three-man attack in their win at Sheffield United. 

    He provided the assist for the opening goal and given he is valued at £5.5m and selected by just 0.5 per cent of players, he has my attention looking ahead to Gameweek Three.

    Best use of the free transfer this week

    Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) – £10.5m

    Certainly not cheap but having been involved in 16 Premier League goals since moving to Old Trafford in January, plus the fact he takes the penalties for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Fernandes feels like a must-have.

    And more than 250,000 players are agreeing with me with the Portuguese the most brought-in player for Gameweek Two.

    It will take a sacrifice to get Fernandes into the side if he was not already sitting on your bench for the opening round.

    Sadio Mane’s price drop may see his ownership drop off while Gareth Bale’s impending move back to Tottenham could see interest in Son Heung-min wane.

    Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 16 Premier League goals since joining Man United

    Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 16 Premier League goals since joining Man United

    Fernandes is not cheap and many appearing to be cutting their losses on Son Heung-min (left)

    Fernandes is not cheap and many appearing to be cutting their losses on Son Heung-min (left)

    Fernandes is likely to be afforded room to press on in the midfield and provide the link between the midfield and attack.

    He didn’t feature in the pre-season friendly loss to Aston Villa but fear not, a mixture of resting up and being alongside his wife for the birth of their second child meant his involvement was not necessary.

    I can see the appeal of Marcus Rashford now that he has been re-categorised as a midfielder but this team runs through Fernandes and then, I’d argue, Anthony Martial.

    If budget allows go for the Portuguese midfielder. It is Palace at home first, followed by a trip to the south coast to face Brighton. A potentially lucrative start to the campaign for Fernandes owners.

    GW2 FIXTURES 

    Saturday September 19

    Everton vs West Brom

    Leeds vs Fulham

    Manchester United vs Crystal Palace

    Arsenal vs West Ham

    Sunday September 20

    Southampton vs Tottenham

    Newcastle vs Brighton

    Chelsea vs Liverpool

    Leicester vs Burnley

    Monday September 21

    Aston Villa vs Sheffield United

    Wolves vs Manchester City 

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    Three differentials that caught my eye

    Willian (Arsenal) – £8.1m [Selected by 14.6%]

    Differential and Willian seems somewhat strange given he has been such an ever-present for Chelsea since arriving in 2013.

    But with Aubameyang categorised as a midfielder this year and hopes that the cheap option of Dani Ceballos would work out, less than 15 per cent of players were left toasting the Brazilian’s hat-trick of assists at Craven Cottage in the first game of the new Premier League season.

    At 32 he still looks razor sharp. 

    While he is not among the cheaper options across the middle, he represents a £2-3m saving on some of the premium options that eat too far into the budget allocated.

    He recorded a 93.33 per cent passing accuracy ending in the final third against Fulham and with West Ham’s slapstick defence to come next, his first game as an Arsenal player at the Emirates, Willian is going to have the freedom of north London to produce another virtuoso this weekend.

    Liverpool and Manchester City follow in the next four and so a big-scoring GW2 performance could be worth a one-and-done transfer for this week.

    Willian's hat-trick of assists against Fulham bodes well ahead of a home game with West Ham

    Willian’s hat-trick of assists against Fulham bodes well ahead of a home game with West Ham

    Richarlison (Everton) – £8m [Selected by 10.6% of players]

    Hear me out, OK.

    When Richarlison won the footrace against Toby Alderweireld to race through one-on-one I was about to feel particularly smug as I prepared to write this column. He did the hard part taking it around Hugo Lloris in goal before his finish was truly horrible, high and over the bar.

    His strike partner Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in the only goal of the game but Richarlison remains the Everton player I think can represent the soundest investment.

    He took almost half Everton’s shots against Tottenham (seven of 15) and had nine touches inside Spurs’ area, a total of more than the rest of the starting Everton team combined.

    West Brom, Crystal Palace and Brighton in the next three games very favourable and if he continues to produce team-leading shot attempts and touches in the opposition box, points will follow.

    Richarlison failed to score against Tottenham but took almost half of the whole team's shots

    Richarlison failed to score against Tottenham but took almost half of the whole team’s shots

    Jack Harrison (Leeds) – £5.5m [Selected by 2.9%]

    Leeds may have lost against the champions at Anfield but they emerged from the weekend with immense credit from across the Premier League.

    Yes, Liverpool made mistakes defensively and while that is unlikely to persist, Leeds showed they can – and will – score goals at this level.

    There are better investment options in my opinion than Patrick Bamford (£5.6m) and I am urging caution on summer signing Rodrigo Moreno (£6m).

    The biggest differential for Gameweek Two could well prove to be midfielder Jack Harrison, valued at £5.5m and owned by less than three per cent of players.

    His goal and assist at Anfield caught the eye but for Leeds fans it was not surprising at all. He produced 87 key passes last season and 17 big chances were created in their promotion-winning campaign. Both of those stats were team-leading totals and he stepped up effortlessly in GW1.

    With fellow promoted side Fulham next up and then Sheffield United, who showed they are defensively not as sound as they were 12 months ago, after that, Harrison represents a smart way into this Leeds side.

    Jack Harrison (middle) represents real value for money in midfield ahead of a game vs Fulham

    Jack Harrison (middle) represents real value for money in midfield ahead of a game vs Fulham

    Take caution with new signings

    It is so easy to become awestruck by summer signings. I’ve been guilty of it in the past and it’s left me with a lot of work to do to close the gap in an FPL league.

    I have already explained in this column about certain players I would advise pumping the brakes on.

    Rodrigo at Leeds is one. Havertz at Chelsea is another. And new signings will only continue to emerge as the next best thing with Bale’s return and Thiago Alcantara’s switch from Bayern Munich to Liverpool a headline-grabber.

    All are immensely talented players but it was telling that of the debuts from GW1, it was those already battle-tested in the Premier League that caught the eye.

    Callum Wilson stood out leading the line for Newcastle, Willian made a seamless transition from Chelsea to Arsenal and Jeff Hendrick, swapping Burnley for Newcastle, was another who showed the value in trusting what we know to be true.

    Summer signings will come into their own but for now, stick to what you know.

    Kai Havertz is a fabulous player but Fantasy Football managers must exercise caution on him

    Kai Havertz is a fabulous player but Fantasy Football managers must exercise caution on him

    Rodrigo Moreno (left) is another who needs time to bed in at Leeds after joining from Valencia

    Rodrigo Moreno (left) is another who needs time to bed in at Leeds after joining from Valencia

    TEAM OF THE WEEK 

    The weekend of the full-backs as Romain Saiss, Reece James, Timothy Castagne and Lucas Digne forming four of a back five in the Team of the Week.

    Arsenal and Leicester were the big winners with two representatives each with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah the standout performer with a 20-point performance for Gameweek One.  

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