EPL Predictions Gameweek 1

The 2020-21 English Premier League season kicks off in London on Saturday lunchtime as Fulham play host to Arsenal.

Eight matches in all will take place on the opening weekend, concluding with Brighton & Hove Albion hosting Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.

With Manchester United and Manchester City competing in the latter stages of European competition last month the two clubs have been given the opening weekend off, to explain the shorter schedule.

Here’s a look at each of the weekend’s games:

Fulham vs Arsenal

Arsenal have won the FA Cup and Community Shield in Mikel Arteta’s first couple of months in charge and should fancy their chances of picking up three points in their season opener too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be the obvious selection for your fantasy team given the forward has scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons, whilst Dani Ceballos (3.50m) and Damian Martinez (1.0m) offer good value for money in this game.

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Fantasy Premier League Gameweek 1 Picks

The English Premier League returns on Saturday as Fulham entertain Arsenal in the opener of the 2020-21 season.

With the return of the most exciting league in the world sparks the return of the fantasy football season too. Week 1 is always the busiest for players as they select a team from scratch with an eye on both the following week and the entire season in mind.

This season is perhaps more difficult than ever as Manchester City, Manchester United, Burnley and Aston Villa don’t feature the opening weekend as a result of the former two’s participation in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League and Europa League campaigns.

With that in mind, here are 11 players who you should strongly consider for the opening weekend:

Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale
Dean Henderson returned to Manchester United at the conclusion of the last campaign and Sheffield United have replaced their successful loan signing with Aaron Ramsdale in goal. The Blades have kept a number of clean sheets over the past two seasons and the former Bournemouth man is a shot stopper so could pick up some points versus Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

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Is Aubameyang bigger than Arsenal as the Gunners beat Chelsea in FA Cup final?

All of a sudden Arsenal seem back. After a poor season which saw Unai Emery sacked before Christmas and former player Mikel Arteta brought into the dug out it seemed like Arsenal would be waiting a long time for any type of silverware. However they have ended the season by winning the FA Cup against the odds.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift their 14th FA Cup which is a record. Indeed Arsenal have won 4 cups in the last decade and their name is becoming part of the cup itself- just go ahead and put red and white ribbons on permanently why don’t you?

A burning desire and their name to be scripted onto the cup seemed to come when they upset Manchester City at the semi-final stage. Arteta had changed up the system and even David Luiz was playing with confidence. This was the first glimpse that under Arteta Arsenal could end up being a force to be reckoned with.

In the final it was going to be incredibly difficult given that the last time Arsenal had faced Chelsea in a cup final was in the 2019 Europa League showpiece where Chelsea simply outplayed the Gunners as the game went on and ended up running out 4-1 winners. Sure Eden Hazard who is now at Real Madrid orchestrated the win but still that game surely had to be playing on some of the minds of the players?

Maybe then it was to no surprise that Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through Christian Pulisic who has been outstanding this season for the Blues. With 56 points earned this season the American international was the 3rd best player for Frank Lampard’s team.

Chelsea started brightly but couldn’t find a 2nd and there was just that feeling creeping in that they were not putting this game to bed. With under 30 minutes played Arsenal were awarded a stone wall penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who else? stepped up to take and convert it and the game was back on.

Whilst the 2nd half had it’s lull periods Arsenal were looking more and more of a threat, how much difference from their second half performance in the Europa League. Chelsea hoped for extra time but the Gunners could sense blood and Aubameyang got his brace and the match winner with just 3 minutes left to play.

True Chelsea will feel that Mateo Kovacic’s sending off was harsh, though he was already on a yellow card. It’s unfortunate though that VAR perhaps isn’t used in the big decisions like this, because on this occasion the referee looked to have got it wrong. It’s also worth pointing out that Kovacic has racked up 8 yellow cards this season from just 14 starts in the league.

This cup win feels like a turning point for Arsenal though because finishing 8th in the league represents their worst season in a generation. Arteta has said the win was his most important of his career, now he will be hoping that his statement won’t hold true in a decades time.

The last word has to go to Aubameyang. He has scored 22 league goals this season and assisted in a further 3, meaning that he has contributed to almost 50% of Arsenal’s league goals. He has been phenomenal, the one truly world class player in the side that can change a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

Aubameyang stands above as the lead man in this Gunners side and the club will be hoping that he will sign a new contract and stay with the club. They most likely have little chance of that happening if Barcelona or Real Madrid come knocking but given how teams have had to step back somewhat following the pandemic maybe that call won’t happen and maybe Aubameyang will realise that at Arsenal he is the king of the hill, at another club that might not to be the case.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

 

Is Christian Pulisic the right winger Manchester United long for?

Manchester United are in a dire state this season. With José Mourinho finally admitting that his hope of reaching the top four by Christmas was unrealistic, the Red Devils are struggling emphatically to record any sort of consistency week in, week out.

Last weekend, against Southampton, who have been nothing short of shambolic this year, Mourinho’s team conceded two goals in quick succession and had it all to do in order to go back to Manchester with any points. Through Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera they found two goals, but it was a performance that embodied them under Mourinho’s reign.

There are so many problems around United currently, but one that has maintained throughout the three managers following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement has been the right wing. Juan Mata, who was signed as an attacking midfielder in January of 2014, has largely been put out on the right, given the lack of other viable choices in the team.

For one reason or another – that remains befuddling to many fans – the board have just not bothered to strengthen one of their flanks. Transfer window after transfer window the opportunity comes and goes for United to finally bring someone in, but they prioritise other positions and neglect their right wing.

Manchester United have long been admirers of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, but ever since the Welshman opted for Spain’s sunny capital over the North West of England, that ship has sailed and would never come back around. And yet, Man United continue to try and prize Bale away, wasting their time on him instead of attempting to find a suitable alternative – which there are plenty of.

The Red Devils have got into the habit of going for world-class stars who want to receive an enormous paycheque, over players who would sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. Alexis Sánchez, for example, has been immensely disappointing since arriving at the turn of the year and is holding the club accountable for wages of £500,000 per-week, including bonuses.

United need to start targeting players who are not yet in their prime and are willing to work for the team, as well as themselves. Instead of opting for 29 year olds who are looking for one last mega contract, there are plenty of younger players who have come through a generation which preaches team cohesion and unity.

One player that springs to mind is the fantastic Christian Pulisic. The American has taken life in Germany by storm ever since arriving at the age of 16 into Borussia Dortmund’s academy and has risen straight through into the first-team. His natural progression is what he had hoped for when opting for a German football club, rather than the allures of Spain’s big two.

At just 17-years-old, Pulisic made his debut for BVB off the bench and in just one month later, became the youngest American to play in the Europa League. In 2016 it was rise of the Pulisic as he went from strength to strength and immersed himself into the first-team at Dortmund.

What was remarkable was how natural Pulisic looked on the big stage of the Bundesliga, especially for someone so young. The U.S. starlet had become the fourth-youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history and the youngest ever with two goals to his name. Pulisic was beginning to make waves across Europe.

By the end of the 2017/18 campaign, Pulisic racked up 42 appearances and had contributed to 12 goals. Even to this day, the American’s underlying numbers have not been astounding, but it’s his selflessness in the Black and Yellows’ attacking play that makes him such a catch, especially for Manchester United.

Although he has lost his place in part to Jadon Sancho this season, Pulisic remains a target for most elite clubs in Europe’s top five leagues. He has seven goal contributions (three goals and four assists) in 14 appearances this season in all competitions, mainly coming from the right wing.

It has been reported by German media that Chelsea and Liverpool lead the way for the American, having discussed a potential deal taking place in January with Dortmund’s official representatives. With Pulisic’s contract expiring in 2020, the Black and Yellows need to make a decision on when to sell him if they feel that the 20 year old will not renew within the next six months.

Manchester United are in desperate need of some raw pace, ingenuity and intuition on their right wing, as well as someone with hunger and desire to take their game – and United’s – to the next level. After losing out on game time to Sancho this season, Pulisic’s character has been tested. He looks hungry and motivated to develop further, but needs the opportunity to do so.

Dortmund are likely to hold out for a fee near £75 million given the market rate for hot prospects, as well as what he can bring to the table now. United’s cash flow is there to see for everyone, and although the American is expensive, he should be a player that tests himself and fulfil his potential.

Manchester United will face stiff competition from many clubs around Europe, but if they are to go in for Pulisic, they must sign him for the right reasons of bolstering their attack and not just because he is an immense marketing tool commercially, as well as preventing him going to any rival.

The American is one of the best talents of his generation and has the ability to transform United’s right wing.

Spell on the bench might be necessary phase for Christian Pulisic

He’s hailed as the footballing superstar America has waited a lifetime for. And with good reason. Christian Pulisic isn’t just an exciting talent by American standards, but by global standards too. Still a teenager, the Hershey-native has become one of Borussia Dortmund’s most important players. Well, that was until a few weeks ago.

Christian-Pulisic

At present, Pulisic finds himself something of a peripheral figure at the Westfalenstadion. Against Augsburg at the weekend, the 19-year-old was afforded just 13 minutes off game time off the bench. Before that, he was hooked after an hour against Atalanta in the Europa League, and was on the bench against Borussia Monchengladbach the game before that.

“[My form is] not the best it’s been but I’m working hard, trying to help the team everywhere I can,” Pulisic said after his last appearance against Augsburg. “But I just have to stay positive, keep going and things will turn around.” There is a lot of pressure heaped on the shoulders of the young American, but he must remain pragmatic and keep in mind that he is still only young. Continue reading