FPL Gameweek 1 recap: Darwin’s impact and why Perisic didn’t start

Having already brought you the statistical summary of Saturday’s Gameweek 1 action, we now turn our attention to the wider Fantasy Premier League (FPL) talking points from the day’s fixtures.

Ivan Perisic (£5.5m) and Matt Doherty (£5.0m) missed out on the points bonanza in Spurs’ 4-1 win over Southampton, something that would have been made all the more galling for their FPL owners by the sight of positional rivals Ryan Sessegnon (£4.5m) and Emerson Royal (£5.0m) repeatedly bombing forward and picking up attacking returns.

Above: Spurs’ two wing-backs made a combined nine penalty box touches and had five shots between them

Perisic and Doherty collected mere one-pointers due to late substitute appearances and Antonio Conte’s post-match words suggest they’re not about to force their way into the starting XI before the two-games-a-week schedule starts:

“I think that I use common sense because in this moment we are starting the new season and the old players reach a big achievement last season to get a place in Champions League. In the last 10 games I think we played really well and we had fantastic results. My message was very clear that I trust a lot in the old players and in this moment they are more reliable than the new players because they need to continue to work with us and continue to implement football knowledge.

“With the old players, I am in a step forward. For this reason I prefer to count on the start on the older players but I think it was right after this game and the final result. At the same time I really enjoy and I am really happy because we have new signings that are going into our process and for sure they will help us to improve, but at the same time they have to know they have to fight and they have to give me the possibility to make rotations.

“Now we are going to play one game a week but in September we start to play every three days and for sure we need to have rotation but for a club like Tottenham it is very important not to drop the level, don’t drop the quality when you make rotation. That was the first target and I was very clear with the club and the club was totally in agreement with me.” – Antonio Conte

Dejan Kulusevski (£8.0m) was someone we feared might become more of a rotation risk with Richarlison (£8.5m) arriving but Conte’s above comments and the Swede’s fantastic display against Southampton should see his spot secured for the short term. Even outside of his goal and assist he was the pick of the Lilywhites front three.

Spurs striking on four occasions without any of them being scored by Son Heung-min (£12.0m) or Harry Kane (£11.5m) was a collector’s item, although Son did at least pick up an assist for Eric Dier‘s (£5.0m) goal. Kane perhaps looked a little below his best physically, cramping late on, although he and his sparring partner could quite easily have had attacking returns on another day, with one incident seeing Son blaze over when Kane had the goal at his mercy. The South Korean, in fact, matched Kulusevski’s expected goal involvement (xGI) figure for the match (0.71); fine margins, indeed.

Kane is among the most-sold assets of Gameweek 2, with many managers no doubt making the sideways Erling Haaland (£11.5m) switch.

As for Saints, plus ca change. New signings, a new formation, but the same capacity to wilt.

There were some positive things to note from an FPL perspective: budget midfielders Joe Aribo (£5.5m) and Stuart Armstrong (£5.0m) were both ‘out of position’ up front, the even-cheaper Romeo Lavia (£4.5m) looks like he will get plenty of game-time in the engine room, and set-piece whizz James Ward-Prowse (£6.5m) will get extra attacking license from open play if the formation stays the same, as evidenced by his goal here.

But things look as bleak as ever at the back.

“This happens when you are defending around your box. We are normally more active up front putting pressure on the ball. We know this but I was not expecting that we are so struggling. This was a little bit annoying I must say.” – Ralph Hasenhuttl on his doubts over the 5-3-2

Spurs XI (3-4-3): Lloris, Romero, Dier, Davies (Lenglet 86), Royal (Doherty 87), Bentancur (Bissouma 86), Hojbjerg, Sessegnon (Perisic 66), Kulusevski (Lucas 86), Kane, Son. Substitutes (not used): Forster, Spence, Sanchez, Bryan.

Southampton XI (5-3-2): Bazunu, Walker-Peters (Redmond 90+2), Valery (Stephens 46), Bednarek, Salisu, Djenepo (Perraud 72), Lavia, Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Diallo 75), Aribo, A Armstrong (S Armstrong 46)

A lack of guaranteed game-time is the main deterrent to Darwin Nunez (£9.0m) in FPL at present, along with a bit of a tricky starting price, but when he is on the pitch, he’s posing some real threat.

He’s yet to play more than 45 minutes for Liverpool since he joined, either in a friendly or a competitive match, and at Craven Cottage he was again named among the substitutes.

But as happened in the RB Leipzig warm-up game and in the Community Shield, he was in the thick of things as soon as he was introduced. Four shots arrived in that win over Manchester City last weekend, and another four were registered against Fulham, all of them excellent chances; on both occasions he was only present for the second half and on both occasions no Liverpool teammate could better his shot count, even over 90 minutes.

We all know what Roberto Firmino (£8.0m) brings to the table when he features and the two Liverpool forwards’ contrasting playing styles were writ large in the average position map below:


“All fine, that’s how it should be. In a situation like that when we don’t really find a way in front of the goal, you need this extra determination, and the difference as well, it makes it difficult for the opponent obviously. Yes, a great goal, could have scored another one as well, maybe two – crazy. So, he is involved in a lot of goal-scoring situations – that’s really cool and that’s where we have to bring him up. Now imagine we would play good, how often we could set him up then? Because that was obviously our main problem, that our delivery was most of the time not good enough, and that was alright – we had massive chances, it’s crazy. If I would watch it back, if you watch highlights, you could misunderstand this game completely because we had a few really good situations, but between these situations we just didn’t play well.” – Jurgen Klopp on Darwin Nunez’s impact

It’s still too early to assess his true impact on Mohamed Salah (£13.0m), amid concerns that the Egyptian will be pushed wider by the presence of a penalty box lurker rather than a Firmino type who drops deeper and opens up space for the wingers behind him. There was certainly plenty of that against the Cottagers, with Salah twice teeing up Darwin from the flanks, but then the pair were both plum centre when the Egyptian tapped in the Reds’ second.

There were fine margins for owners of Luis Diaz (£8.0m), who curled home one shot that was disallowed for offside and then slapped the woodwork with a legitimate effort from a similar position.

“Lucho is a great player, a fantastic player, but today he had a massive chance, super chance. Look, for offensive players on a day like this, it’s really not easy because they defend massively from how they get set up, how the deliveries are – and we didn’t play well enough to bring them in the right moments. But when we were there, then you can see immediately how good Lucho is, how one-one, crossbar or post, I don’t know exactly, but close. Yeah, brilliant player but he can play better than today – like all the South Americans.” – Jurgen Klopp on Luis Diaz

As for Fulham, they were meant to be understaffed and a soft touch defensively but defied the pre-match expectation with a display full of intensity.

Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) started behind Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.5m) as expected and impressed; there’s little doubt that he is the pick of the £4.5m midfielders at present.

But the headlines belonged to two-goal Mitrovic, who was excellent on and off the ball. His shot-to-goal conversion stats in previous Premier League campaigns suggest he’s not the most clinical of finishers but then again he’s going to get more chances playing under a forward-thinking manager like Marco Silva than he did under a conservative, tippy-tappy boss like Scott Parker in 2020/21. Being on penalties helps too, of course.

“For me, it’s not important what people say about him. I’m here to get the best out of these players. I’m saying every time that I get this question about Mitro in the Premier League, we have to keep playing our way, keep providing the chances for him, and in the box he will score.” – Scott Parker

Fulham XI: 
Rodák, Tete, Robinson, Ream, Tosin, Reed, João Palhinha, Andreas Pereira (Cairney 89′), Kebano (Solomon 66′), De Cordova-Reid (Duffy 94′), Aleksandar Mitrovic

Liverpool XI: Alisson, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Thiago (Elliott 51′), Fabinho (Milner 59′), Henderson, Firmino (Núñez 51′), Salah, Díaz (Carvalho 78′)

Much attention was focused on 29-goal striker Dominic Solanke (£6.0m) upon Bournemouth’s promotion to the Premier League but the Cherries do have another forward on the books in Kieffer Moore (£5.5m).

Moore was a big hit in what little game-time injury allowed him last season, with Solanke moving deeper or wider whenever his teammate was on the pitch.

That’s what happened on Saturday against Villa, with Moore the more central figure and Solanke drifting in from the left – although it should be noted that Moore’s goal came from his only attempt of the game.

“I thought, overall, his performance today was superb. Out of possession he was very, very good and then, of course, he’s always a threat in and around the box. For large parts of the game, he did brilliantly.” – Scott Parker on Kieffe Moore

A clean sheet wasn’t expected given the dearth of choice at centre-half and after Parker’s well-documented grips about a lack of investment but only four of Villa’s 15 shots came from inside the box. As we saw with Fulham last time in the Premier League, Parker does know how to cobble together a semi-competent defence.

Also impressing despite the lack of attacking return was debutant Marcus Tavernier (£5.0m), who was on set plays for the Cherries and who created a game-high three chances.

“Set plays, of course, some lovely deliveries. His general play as well… a real threat for us, certainly on counters at times. He’s powerful, technical. I was pleased for him, really.” – Scott Parker on Marcus Tavernier

For Villa, it was a second successive opening-day defeat to a newly promoted club.

Goal concessions that stemmed from set-piece situations were a concern but more of a worry would be the complete lack of creativity against a side who fielded a midfielder and a 2021/22 reserve at centre-half.

Popular pre-season bandwagon Leon Bailey (£5.0m) – who BirminghamLive rated the pick/least worst of Villa’s front three – at least lasted 90 minutes while all around him were getting hooked, with Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m) turning in the latest in a lengthening line of insipid displays.

“I think there will be a lot of focus on set plays, so that’s obvious, but from our point of view we lacked quality in the final third. We have controlled large parts of the game, we’ve had a lot of possession, we’ve got into a lot of good areas but our quality was off today. Our last pass, our last cross, that bit of inventive spark and we never nowhere near created enough today.” – Steven Gerrard

AFC Bournemouth XI: Travers, Smith, Mepham, Lerma, Kelly, Zemura, Pearson (Cook 71), Billing, Tavernier (Christie 86), Solanke (Stanislas 90), Moore.

Aston Villa XI: Martinez, Cash, Carlos, Konsa, Digne, McGinn, Ings (Watkins 64), Coutinho (Archer 82), Bailey, Ramsey (Buendia h/t) Kamara (Luiz 83).

Much Fantasy interest centred around Pedro Neto (£5.5m) for this contest but there was another midfielder in the same price bracket who caught the eye at Elland Road.

Brenden Aaronson (£5.5m) was arguably the star of the show, albeit while posting some unremarkable stats: one shot and zero chances created. But those numbers didn’t really do him justice. The Rayan Ait-Nouri (£4.5m) own-goal, which Aaronson thinks he touched, doesn’t show up as a chance for Aaronson in the Opta stats, for example, despite him being six yards out with an empty net in front of him.

This was an advert for both sides’ attacks rather than their defences, with Patrick Bamford (£7.5m) looking sharp and only being denied a likely double-digit haul by a superb Jose Sa (£5.0m) save.

Wolves were indebted to the heroics of Sa for their healthy clean sheet count last season but they looked even more open in their new back four system, particularly with their full-backs pushed high. And when Sa isn’t at the top of his game, as he wasn’t for Rodrigo‘s (£6.0m) equaliser, the defence doesn’t scream ‘shut-outs’.

The trio of £5.5m Wolves midfielders dovetailing with Hwang Hee-chan (£6.0m) in attack linked up well intermittently, with Daniel Podence (£5.5m) lashing in the opening goal of the game. The lack of a focal point in attack in the absence of Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) was telling, though.

“I think we were the better team, we created a lot of chances, and we didn’t score. It’s not about luck. I’m happy with the performance, but not happy with the result.

“I said before the game that we came here with big confidence, and we’ll score goals because the pre-season was good and we have confidence to play in this system. I was right to feel that confidence, and we continued to play.

“We scored, we created a lot of chances, and had three or four good chances to score in the game – if you remember just before half-time the chance of Leander – but we started the first 25 minutes very good. High pressure, good defence, winning a lot of the balls, trying to score, and we didn’t score, but Leeds scored two goals and we got punished for that.” – Bruno Lage

Leeds United XI: Meslier, Struijk, Koch, Llorente, Kristensen, Adams, Roca (Greenwood 73), Aaronson (Summerville 84), Harrison, Rodrigo (Klich 64), Bamford (Gelhardt 84).

Wolves XI: Sa, Jonny, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Dendoncker, Gibbs-White, Podence, Neto, Hwang (Campbell 85).

The most tedious game of the day was the evening kick-off at Goodison Park, which was settled by a Jorginho (£6.0m) penalty.

Everton scrapped for everything but ultimately looked like a team without an available striker on their books and playing Anthony Gordon (£5.5m) through the middle, while Chelsea seemed a tad off the pace. It wasn’t just Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) and Kalidou Koulibaly (£5.5m), who were coming back from injury and adjusting to a new division respectively, who were blowing hard either: Reece James (£6.0m) was short of his all-action best, although James being James still banked two bonus points despite picking up a yellow card. The England international spent time on both flanks and as a centre-half in this match, with substitute Marc Cucurella (£5.0m) emerging for a positive late debut.

Raheem Sterling (£10.0m) was the pick of Chelsea’s disappointing front three without tearing up any trees, only being denied a certain goal by a last-ditch Vitalii Mykolenko (£4.5m) block.

“The energy and defensive structure were great from start to finish. We created three or four chances and, on another day, we score one of those and don’t lose the game. I think the lads did well in attack, and their mobility gave them lots of problems. Anthony [Gordon] was generally the focal point, but [the front three] were mobile. I thought they did really well. Of course, if you have a number nine, you might score from one of the crosses in the first half.” – Frank Lampard

On the injury front, Koulibaly’s exit was merely cramp-related but Everton lost two centre-halves to serious-looking issues.

“Ben [Godfrey] has got a small fracture. He’ll be out for a while and Yerry Mina has an ankle injury and possibly will be out for a while.” – Frank Lampard

Chelsea XI: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly (Cucurella 75); James, Kante, Jorginho (Gallagher 90+8), Chilwell (Loftus-Cheek 65); Mount (Pulisic 65), Havertz (Broja 75), Sterling

Everton XI: Pickford; Godfrey (Holgate 18), Mina (Vinagre 70), Tarkowski; Patterson, Doucoure, Iwobi, Mykolenko; McNeil (Alli 61), Gordon, Gray,

No Premier League side registered more shots or conceded fewer attempts than Newcastle United on Saturday, although their reliance on a Fabian Schar (£4.5m) howitzer to break the deadlock perhaps showed why the Magpies are trying to, and need to, add to their firepower up top.

Wingers Miguel Almiron (£5.0m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.5m) are willing but often lacking in end product, although at least Eddie Howe has Callum Wilson (£7.5m) fit and firing for the time being – his goal against Forest made it 27 attacking returns in 40 league starts for Newcastle, a really impressive record.

Schar partnered Dan Burn (£4.5m) at centre-half for this one, with big-money signing Sven Botman (£4.5m) forced to watch on as Howe made the Dutchman wait for his debut in the same manner as he did with Bruno Guimaraes (£6.0m) in the winter.

“A difficult call because all four centre halves have been excellent pre-season. However I went with the two that played the majority of last season. Sven Botman has been excellent and it’s not a reflection on his performances.”

“Sven will get loads of opportunities to play. I was delighted to give him his debut today and he’ll be a top player for us, but  I don’t think this period – similar to Bruno  when he first came to the league – will do him any harm.” – Eddie Howe

Speaking of Guimaraes, he was, as expected, deployed deeper in the number six role in Jonjo Shelvey‘s (£5.0m) absence. He had one penalty box touch all game; compare that to Joe Willock (£5.0m), who had nine such touches in Bruno’s old number eight position.

Full-backs Kieran Trippier (£5.0m) and Matt Targett (£5.0m) hogged the set plays, with their chance creation helping them to bonus points.

As for Nottingham Forest, they put up a fight at the back but didn’t lay a glove on Newcastle in an attacking sense.

Budget defender Neco Williams (£4.0m) did at least start and played a part in two of the five shots that Forest had, while one of the cheapest forwards in the game, Sam Surridge (£5.0m), began the game up front before being replaced on the hour.

Forest didn’t look awful, simply a team struggling to adapt to a higher level and trying to six new signings into their starting XI.

“Newcastle were better than us on the day, and we respect that “I’m disappointed with the goals we’ve conceded, we gave the ball away too many times and our in-possession game wasn’t good enough today. Everything is at a higher level now and we’ve got to get up to speed.

“We need to keep learning as we go, it was good for the team to feel what the Premier League is about today but at the same time we believe in what we do and believe we can have an impact in games.” – Steve Cooper

Newcastle United XI: Pope, Trippier, Targett, Schar, Burn, Guimaraes (Botman 90), Willock (S. Longstaff 80), Joelinton, Saint-Maximin (J. Murphy 90), Almiron (Fraser 81), Wilson (Wood 90).

Nottingham Forest XI: Henderson, N.Williams, Worrall, Niakhate (Mighten 83), McKenna, Toffolo, O’Brien (Mangala 75), Colback, Lingard, Johnson, Surridge (Awoniyi 63).

FPL pre-season: Trossard hits hat-trick from wing-back role 2