This article is part of our FPL Roundup series.
The return of the Premier League over the weekend saw one of England's most-discussed attackers continue his return to top form.
After missing out on this summer's European Championship, Arsenal's Theo Walcott has responded in superb fashion for his club, netting five goals and serving out three assists this season. That includes his brace Saturday versus Swansea City, which helped the Gunners pull level on points atop the league standings.
While Walcott's play this term bares little resemblance to his performances last year, it's not the first time he's made a reinvigorated retort to an international slight. The last time England was involved in the Euros, Walcott was restricted to four substitute appearances, culminating in just 109 minutes across England's run to the last-eight of the tournament. Following that disappointment, Walcott racked up 14 goals and 13 assists during the 2012-13 campaign, and posted five goals and five helpers prior to tearing his ACL in January of the next season.
Although that injury, as well as confusion over his best position, contributed toward a year-and-a-half spell of uninspired showings, the 27-year-old has hit the ground running this term, starting all eight of Arsenal's matches on the right wing, where he made such a strong impact just before his knee problem.
With teammate Alexis Sanchez often dropping deep from his center forward position, Walcott's natural tendency for outside-in runs from the flank has made for a perfect partnership with the Chilean. In fact, following Saturday's game, Walcott and Sanchez lead all midfielders in the Premiership's official fantasy game in points, and no player overall claims more than Walcott's 55 fantasy points.
Meanwhile, no team has scored more goals than Arsenal, whose leading scorer still costs merely £7.8m in the Premier League's official game, making him the steal of the early season.
While Walcott's early tally looks mighty impressive, it could be even better had he not fallen victim in Gameweek 1 to a missed penalty – a fantasy deduction that riddled some of the league's standout performers over the weekend.
Six penalty kicks were rewarded in the nine games played across Saturday and Sunday, yet only three were converted. Opposing forwards Charlie Austin and Sam Vokes both scored from the spot in Sunday's game between Southampton and Burnley, and Junior Stanislas' first of two goals in Bournemouth's 6-1 trouncing of Hull was off a penalty, but stars Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Christian Benteke all missed penalty-scoring opportunities Saturday.
Benteke had found the back of the net in three of his five Premiership outings for Crystal Palace, resulting in a healthy average of 4.6 fantasy points per game heading into the weekend. However, after Saturday's miscue, the Belgian finished with a downright lousy minus-1 point return in Palace's agonizing 1-0 loss to cross-town rivals West Ham.
Meanwhile, Manchester City was left ruing what might have been as they drew 1-1 at home against Everton. That's because with Aguero sidelined to start the match, De Bruyne, making his return from injury, was trusted with the Citizens' first penalty kick, but couldn't convert. Later on, Aguero had a chance to equalize on 69 minutes, but he too missed a penalty. Although Nolito eventually saved Man City a point, one has to wonder how Aguero's third missed PK across all competitions at the club level could impact his confidence from there. Manager Pep Guardiola has insisted he'll stick with Aguero in those situations, but considering Saturday's miss came just days after he also failed from 12 yards in Argentina's World Cup qualifier, Aguero's fantasy owners should probably be worried about his penalty-taking ability.
Yes, he's widely viewed as the most lethal goalscorer in England, but his potential for point deductions from missed PKs marks a growing concern surfacing in fantasy circles.
Besides Everton, the chief beneficiary from Man City's penalty woes Saturday was opposing goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who, despite conceding a goal, still earned an eye-opening 17 fantasy points thanks to his two penalty saves and seven stops overall. That hefty tally matched the Dutchman's total from his previous six games combined!
Although that stat clearly evidences Stekelenberg's performance to be an aberration, Everton's play on the whole of this season certainly suggests they can compete with the Premier League's big boys. Such progression is representative of the club's successful offseason alterations. After finishing 11th in both of the past two campaigns, the Toffees rightfully sacked manager Roberto Martinez this summer, replacing him with former Southampton boss Ronald Koeman. In two years in England, Koeman coached the Saints to respective seventh and sixth-place finishes despite having his best players regularly poached away by bigger clubs.
Knowing his ability to deal with big-name departures, it should be of no surprise that defender John Stones' summer exit has bared no impact on Koeman's Everton. In fact, the Toffees have conceded just six goals through eight league games, giving them the second-best defensive record. In doing so, their average of 22.5 tackles per game places second as well. In losing just once thus far, Everton's 15 points are good for sixth in the standings, trailing only Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea.
While Koeman used some of the Stones money and help from Everton's rich new ownership to reinvest in his squad, the fact that Premier League workmen Ashley Williams, Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye represented the biggest arrivals to Goodison Park shows how Koeman's excellent management can succeed without a star-studded roster.
In his time at Southampton, Koeman's teams never finished outside the top five defensively, which was exactly the area where Martinez's Everton teams faltered in his final two terms. Now with Koeman at the helm, the Toffees are tight at the back and opportunistic up top, where striker Romelu Lukaku's six goals rank second league-wide.
Such balance has vaulted Everton toward the top of the table, highlighting the huge impression Koeman has made since signing on this summer.