Premier League Roundup: Gameweek 1
Premier League Roundup: Gameweek 1

The start of every season allows Premier League clubs to embrace optimism and dream about the journey ahead, but this weekend's opening round dealt last season's top two teams a harsh serving of reality.

After a fairytale, title-winning campaign, Leicester City was awakened by defeat at newly promoted Hull City, who managed to score twice despite not completing a pass in the Foxes' penalty box all game. While that result could certainly raise suspicions over a second season slump for Claudio Ranieri's side, the most eye-catching development for fantasy owners should be the fact that Riyad Mahrez was trusted to convert Leicester's penalty kick, not Jamie Vardy.

The Foxes were awarded an absurd 13 penalties last term, with Vardy scoring five and Mahrez making four. However, with Vardy's future at the club secured, Leicester now needs to keep Mahrez happy, and if that entails him taking over penalty duties, it could provide sweet, simple goals from his midfield fantasy post.

That'll be a situation to watch should it arise next weekend against Arsenal, whose inexperience in defense saw them ship four goals to Liverpool in yet another season-opening loss Sunday. With a familiar feeling of being unprepared for the new campaign, Arsenal's visit to Leicester pairs two teams with something to prove to themselves and their supporters next weekend.


Whereas last term's top two stumbled out of the blocks, the betting favorites to hoist the silverware this season, Manchester City, won while unveiling a revamped defensive platform for fantasy owners to consider.

Long questioned by some, especially after his poor showing at this summer's European Championship, Joe Hart was dropped from his starting goalkeeper position by new boss Pep Guardiola.

That decision allowed Willy Caballero to start against Sunderland on Saturday, and although Guardiola may be destined to ring his former Barcelona employers in search of a goalkeeper, Caballero's £5.0m valuation on the Premier League's official fantasy game makes him a bargain for the time being.

Speaking of which, there's no reason fantasy owners shouldn't have recent City recruit John Stones in their teams. The youngster also costs merely £5.0m, making him cheaper than 35 players at his position, and is seemingly a lock to start for the Citizens after Guardiola authorized his high-profile signing from Everton.

Stylistically, Stones has all the tools to develop under Guardiola, whose defensive acumen far exceeds that of Stones' former manager at Everton, Roberto Martinez.

One of Guardiola's innovations at Bayern Munich was using technically gifted players like David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich in central defense to maximize ball retention, thus limiting opponents' offensive opportunities. While Stones naturally fits the part, and Vincent Kompany is unable to stay fit, Guardiola seems to view Aleksandar Kolarov as his next project.

An attack-minded left back by trade, it was curious to see Kolarov at center back during the preseason, but he did little to suggest he can't play the position Saturday, finishing with 10 clearances and six aerial wins while completing 73 of 81 passes. Should Kolarov continue to start centrally, fantasy owners may have to dial back their expectations of his attacking numbers, but more regular playing time could benefit him at the expense of teammate Nicolas Otamendi overall.


Besides Leicester, last season's breakout team was Tottenham. After Harry Kane the year before, Spurs profited from the emergence of Englishmen Dele Alli and Eric Dier last term.

Both Alli and Dier's cheap prices made them fantasy darlings, but if you're looking for a Spurs sleeper this season, Erik Lamela may be your man.

Although his £7.0m price isn't overly cheap, it's still pretty affordable as a potential fourth midfield option in fantasy lineups, and his production lately definitely makes him worth a try.

Overshadowed by Kane, Alli and Christian Eriksen in Tottenham's attack last year, Lamela still totaled 16 goals and 10 assists across all competitions, and ended the Premier League campaign with two goals and four assists in Spurs' last six games.

The Argentine then scored twice for his country in Copa America over the summer and impressed during Tottenham's preseason travels before starting this season with Spurs' lone goal at Everton on Saturday.

While Kane and Alli still need to rebound from their horrendous showings for England this summer, Lamela is in the midst of a fantastic run of form and could prove to be Spurs' fantasy steal of this season.


Speaking of promising under-the-radar options, Nathan Redmond of Southampton looks the part.

After bouncing back and forth from the Premier League during his three seasons with Norwich City, the 22-year-old joined Southampton this summer to ensure his talents remain in England's top flight. However, after six goals and three assists last term, Redmond not only changed his club, but also his position. Under new Southampton coach Claude Puel, who helped Thierry Henry with a similar transition at Monaco, Redmond has been converted from a winger to a striker.

While Redmond can only hope to have a fraction of the success of Henry, an advanced central deployment obviously benefits his stock. What's more, though, is that Redmond is still designated as a midfielder for fantasy purposes.

If that's not enough reason to be intrigued, Redmond costs just £6.0m.

So, how did Redmond start the season? Well, with the consistent creative service of Dusan Tadic from behind, and veteran striker Shane Long alongside him, he fired five shots in the Saints' opening round draw with Watford, scoring Southampton's only goal along the way.


Another potential jewel plundered from a relegated club is Everton's Idrissa Gueye, who made a Merseyside move after being one of all too few bright spots for Aston Villa last season.

In fact, Gueye's defensive numbers were surprisingly similar to those of N'Golo Kante, who was selected to the 2015-16 PFA Team of the Year with averages of 4.7 tackles and 4.2 interceptions per game. In comparison, Gueye averaged 4.1 tackles and 4.0 interceptions per outing.

Although playing for a Ronald Koeman-managed Everton team won't require him to be as combative as was needed in Aston Villa's disjointed setup, Gueye opened his Everton account with six tackles and two interceptions against Tottenham on Saturday. He also won two aerial duels and made two clearances. Admittedly, those numbers don't apply to all fantasy formats, but in daily contests that reward statistical contributions more comprehensively, Gueye could offer a low-price, high-quality performer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Pitner
Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.
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