The return of football after the annual summer break is an occasion to cherish for every fan as a new season brings its own dynamics. New signings, change of managers and for many just renewed hope stemming from a fresh start is enough to get fans excited.

But in addition to all that, over the years,the Fantasy Premier League has become a big part of the build-up of any Premier League season. It is one of the most discussed topics ahead of a new season and continues to be popular among fans of English football.

Gameweek 1 is where it all starts and it is one of the most crucial gameweeks in FPL. The foundation of your season is laid with the team you pick for GW1. If you manage to somehow include most of the season’s big-hitters early, half of the battle is won. Getting signings right early on boosts your team value and you are always ahead of the competition if you achieve it.

However, it is easier said than done as there are always a lot of uncertainties around team selections that make it hard for FPL managers to strike a balance between long-term and short-term signings. The transfer market doesn’t help either, as we saw Romelu Lukaku’s signing get confirmed by Chelsea late on Thursday night Indian time.

Ahead of the 2021-’22 season, the top five teams are all looking good to dominate again. Manchester United have spent big, so have Manchester City. Chelsea smashed transfer record to bring in Lukaku while Liverpool have also added defensive reinforcements.

The assets from these teams will be high in demand throughout the season but key players from the other teams will also be crucial to fill the gaps.

Key tip

The key ahead GW1 is to have a good mix of short and long-term players in the team. A FPL manager must ideally shortlist 4-5 players they feel can be kept for the entire season and build a team around those players. At least 3-4 players must be picked on the basis if upcoming fixtures.

One of the most important aspects to avoid hits and an early wildcard is to have a squad full of players who start for their teams. It gives managers the flexibility to change the team in the short term. It can also help FPL managers keep long-term players in the side when they have a tough run of matches.

Fixture Difficulty

Aston Villa have the best start to the season while newcomers Norwich City have the hardest. The likes of Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool, Watford, Brighton and Brentford also have a relatively easier set of games.

Fixture Difficulty Ratings

Team Combined Difficulty rating for GW 1-3 GW1 opponent GW2 opponent GW3 opponent
Arsenal 11 (2, 4, 5) BRE(A) CHE(H) MCI(A)
Aston Villa 6 (2, 2, 2) WAT(A) NEW(H) BRE(H)
Brentford 8 (3, 2, 3) ARS(H) CRY(A) AVL(A)
Brighton 8 (2, 2, 4) BUR(A) WAT(H) EVE(H)
Burnley 9 (2, 4, 3) BHA(H) LIV(A) LEE(H)
Chelsea 10 (2, 4, 4) CRY(H) ARS(A) LIV(A)
Crystal Palace 10 (4, 2, 4) CHE(A) BRE(H) WHU(A)
Everton 8 (2, 3, 3) SOU(H) LEE(A) BHA(A)
Leeds 10 (4, 4, 2) MUN(A) EVE(H) BUR(A)
Leicester 8 (2, 4, 2) WOL(H) WHU(A) NOR(A)
Liverpool 8 (2, 2, 4) NOR(A) BUR(H) CHE(H)
Man City 9 (4, 2, 3) TOT(A) NOR(H) ARS(H)
Man Utd 8 (3, 2, 3) LEE(H) SOU(A) WOL(A)
Newcastle 8 (3, 3, 2) WHU(H) AVL(A) SOU(H)
Norwich City 13 (4, 5, 4) LIV(H) MCI(A) LEI(H)
Southampton 9 (3, 4, 2) EVE(A) MUN(H) NEW(A)
Spurs 9 (4, 3, 2) MCI(H) WOL(A) WAT(H)
Watford 9 (2, 3, 4) AVL(H) BHA(A) TOT(A)
West Ham 8 (2, 4, 2) NEW(A) LEI(H) CRY(H)
Wolves 10 (3, 3, 4) LEI(A) TOT(H) MUN(H)
as per official FPL website

Most selected players ahead of GW1

Luke Shaw is the most-owned player ahead of GW1 which is a bit of surprise considering this honour usually falls to a midfielder or a forward. But such has been the England left-back’s form last season that he is one of the first names on the team sheets. Usual suspects Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes follow before Emi Martinez, the top goalkeeper of last season, pops up in the top five ahead of the most-owned forward Danny Ings.

Top ten most owned players ahead of GW1

Player Club Position
Luke Shaw Manchester United Defender
Mohamed Salah Liverpool Midfielder
Bruno Fernandes Manchester United Defender
Emiliano Martinez Aston Villa Goalkeeper
Danny Ings Aston Villa Forward
Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool Defender
Ivan Toney Brentford Forward
Ben Foster Watford Goalkeeper
Ruben Dias Manchester City Defender
Jack Grealish Manchester City Midfielder
as per official FPL website, on Thursday midnight IST

Top picks for Gameweek 1

These are the five hottest selections for GW1:

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): It’s impossible to think of an FPL team without Salah. Such has been his consistency that despite not being among the goals in pre-season he is one of the must-haves for GW1 and beyond. On penalty duties for the Reds, Salah is expected to hit the 20-goal mark again. He netted a hat-trick in the opening week last season and you wouldn’t bet against him having a flying start again.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City): The forward single-handedly guided the Foxes to fifth-place finish last season and has arguably surpassed Jamie Vardy as the club’s top forward currently. With two goals in pre-season where he was also on penalty duties, Iheanacho (who is moderately priced) could be a top asset to own this season. He doesn’t have the best of fixtures to begin with but he has shown he can be fixture-proof.

Trent-Alexander Arnold (Liverpool): Another must-have FPL player over the last two seasons, Alexander-Arnold proved his worth at the end of last season when he racked up loads of points. With a load-free summer, he will be fresh and raring to go for Liverpool and prove a point or two to his critics who doubted his place in the England set-up. With clean sheet points and attacking returns, TAA offers so much for a defender despite his high price.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City): It’s always a risk when you pick a Manchester City player given Pep Guardiola’s fondness for rotation but with injuries to Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne, Mahrez seems pretty nailed on to start, especially if the build-up is anything to go by. Mahrez scored four times in the pre-season and has some good early fixtures after the tough start at Tottenham.

Danny Ings (Aston Villa): Ings was a prolific scorer at Southampton and there are no reasons why he won’t continue that streak at Aston Villa. Having already scored on his debut in pre-season, Ings is a great bet both for the short and long terms. Villa have the easiest first three games and FPL managers could secure some early gains through the English forward.

Notable mentions: Michail Antonio (West Ham), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Kai Havretz (Chelsea).

Top differential picks for GW1:

Jay Rodrigues (Burnley): The Burnley man isn’t on the radar of FPL managers with just less than 1% ownership as it stands, but he has been in fine form in pre-season scoring four times. Burnley have decent fixtures and with a price of just £5.5million, he could be a real steal.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool): The Senegalese has been the Reds’ most in-form attacking player in pre-season with three goals and an assist but is owned by just 4.5% of FPL managers. Mane ended last season in fine form and might emerge as another FPL big-hitter this season. If form is anything to go by, Mane perhaps even has better prospects than Salah for GW1.

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace): Zaha had his highest-scoring season last year and he has begun in splendid form. With four goals in pre-season, the Ivory Coast international looks in good touch. Owned by just 7.3% of FPL managers, Zaha is already a great differential option for GW1.

Notable mentions: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Mason Greenwood (Manchester United), Patson Daka (Leicester).

Captaincy Conundrum

Captaincy is a tricky call in GW1 given the uncertainty around selection and fitness of players. So for GW1, it’s good to play safe and hand the armband to Salah (assuming you pick him). Fernandes would also be a good pick but he has not featured heavily so far and hence there could be question marks over his match fitness.

Ings is a great differential option for captaincy along with Mahrez but there will be a bit of risk involved if the two players aren’t fully fit. It’s early days and definitely not the time to take chances and going with popular choices like Salah or Fernandes would be the smart move.

The Field’s FPL team

This time around we are going to introduce a new section where we have a team in place to track how our tips go. It won’t directly reflect all of our suggestions every week but will employ most of it where possible.

Here’s our team for the first Gameweek. You can join our league here (code: dv3rp3)

FPL Deadline for GW1: 11:00 pm IST, Friday, August 13, 2021.