After every Gameweek over the course of the 2020/21 season, we'll ask the higher-scorer in VAVEL's in-house league for their reflections.
This week, it's James Williams, who scored 78 points.
Salah silences the doubters
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) has become a fixture of fantasy football squads over the past three seasons, regularly topping the points charts for his outstanding attacking contributions. Always a reliable captain choice and a key member of the reigning champions’ front three, it therefore comes as a surprise that he featured in only around 30% of managers’ teams for the start of this season.
An underwhelming pre-season, including a poor performance in the Community Shield, coupled with a potentially tricky opening fixture against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United led to some unease over the Egyptian’s fantasy prospects for this season.
Competing with the newly reassigned Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (also £12.0m) as the most expensive and desirable attacking midfield option with both Manchester clubs not playing, many considered the Gabonese international a superior captain candidate with his away fixture with Fulham. Almost twice as many managers – approximately 1.5 million to Salah’s 800,000 – put the armband on the Arsenal forward and were rewarded with a solitary goal.
Salah, however, surprised everyone and punished those who didn't put faith in him. With three goals, he provided Liverpool’s most potent attacking threat throughout their end-to-end tussle with Leeds, taking home the match ball and three bonus points. He was the outstanding performer of the weekend with a whopping 20 points compared to Aubameyang’s seven. The moral of the story: don’t bet against Mo Salah at Anfield.
Aubameyang wasn’t only overshadowed by Salah either, as his new teammate Willian (£8.1m) provided a hat-trick of assists against Fulham. An excellent differential at only 8.3% ownership, he returned 14 points and looks to have picked up from where he left off with Chelsea last season. Along with Leeds’ Patrick Bamford (£5.6m), he is the first player to receive a price-rise after the opening matches.
Leeds exceed expectations
Not many teams have been able to score three goals against Liverpool at Anfield in recent years but Bielsa’s Leeds pressed and harried the champions’ usually unerring defence into mistakes that would have cost them the three points were it not for Salah’s heroics.
Midfielders Mateusz Klich and Jack Harrison (both £5.5m) impressed with two brilliant strikes, scoring nine and seven points respectively, while assists from Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) and Helder Costa (£5.5m) showed that there is attacking promise throughout the team. The in-demand Patrick Bamford also capitalized on some uncharacteristic defending from Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) to open his account for the season and could prove to be excellent value as a budget striker this season.
Saints strikers stutter
There was a lot of expectation on Southampton strikers Danny Ings (£8.5m) and Che Adams (£6.0m) for the opening weekend fixture with Crystal Palace, who are struggling with injuries to several first-choice defenders. The front two formed a deadly partnership at the end of last season and were expected to be among the points again in Gameweek 1.
Some outstanding goalkeeping from Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) - 10 points - and tactical nous from manager Roy Hodgson kept the Saints at bay and Palace held on to win thanks to a goal from talisman Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m).
However, both Ings and Adams were unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with decent efforts on goal and will be relishing the chance to open their accounts against an underwhelming Tottenham Hotspur side at St. Mary’s in Gameweek 2.
Debut defenders make the difference
Leicester City got their season off to a flyer with a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, with their opening goal coming courtesy of recent signing Timothy Castagne (£5.5m). Ostensibly a replacement for left-back Ben Chilwell (£5.5m), the Belgian international is capable of playing on either flank and surged forward from the right to head in the opener at The Hawthorns, racking up 14 fantasy points in the process. He is certainly one to watch with kind fixtures on the horizon, although James Justin (£4.5m) also looks a great option at a better price point.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta’s new-look Arsenal defence included promising Brazilian centre-back Gabriel Magalhães (£5.0m), who took no time at all adjusting to the Premier League. Looking assured in possession and offering a threat from Willian’s set pieces, the defender helped himself to a goal and all three bonus points (14 in total) against Fulham. He looks like a good asset to transfer in when Arsenal’s tricky fixtures are out of the way, although only two goals in 40 appearances for Lille means he’s unlikely to be on the scoresheet every week.
Other notable performances came from Chelsea’s Reece James (£5.0) – 14 points, Newcastle United’s new fullback Jamal Lewis (£4.5) – seven points, and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Romain Saïss (£5.0) – 15 points – who, on another day, could have had a hat trick. All three look like good options going forward and regular bonus point contenders.