The Premier League is back! A full 87 days have passed since Liverpool fell one point short of Manchester City. Now, the runners-up will get the new season started against Norwich City on Friday. Liverpool is, by far, the biggest favorite of the opening weekend, playing at home against one of the newly promoted sides.
Mohamed Salah is (for me at least) a pretty easy choice at Tier 1 midfielder this week. Salah shared the Golden Boot with teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season, scoring 22 goals. This was just one season after he set a new Premier League record with 32 tallies.
Salah also finished second in the league in fantasy points last season, behind only Eden Hazard (who has left for Real Madrid). He was significantly ahead of both Mane and Aubameyang, largely because Salah took a league-leading 137 shots, while also adding eight assists. Don't be worried about Salah not scoring in the Community Shield match against Manchester City last weekend. He still took a whopping 10 shots in that game -- more than the entire Man City team! Salah will be my captain this week as well.
Tier 1 forward is a trickier matter. Sergio Aguero, Aubameyang and Harry Kane are all tempting. However, Aguero returned to Manchester City late due to his involvement in the Copa America with Argentina. He didn't even play in the Community Shield match. Even if Aguero starts at West Ham on Saturday, he's likely to be a little rusty.
Aubameyang did score a goal in Arsenal's 2-1 preseason loss to Barcelona last Sunday, but his side is away this week, playing at Newcastle. Tottenham plays at home against newly promoted Aston Villa, so I'm going with Kane here. Kane scored 17 goals last season, but he was limited to only 28 appearances due to injury. Remember, he scored 29 goals in each of the prior two seasons.
Kane also took 102 shots last season, which eight more than Aubameyang -- despite eight fewer appearances. Additionally, defense certainly wasn't Aston Villa's strength last season as they conceded 61 goals, which was 20 more than fellow promoted side Sheffield United.
Another bite of the Cherries?
Speaking of Sheffield United, they'll be playing at Bournemouth, who scored 56 goals last season -- the most of any club outside the "Big Six." Callum Wilson was Bournemouth's leading scorer with 14 goals, which ranked him ninth in the league. That was no fluke. Wilson's xG (expected goals) total was even higher, at 15.69. He also tied for eighth in the league in assists, with nine. Wilson will be my Tier 2 forward this week.
Cherries teammate Ryan Fraser will be my Tier 2 midfielder. The two Man City options (David Silva and Bernardo Silva) are awfully tempting, but Fraser actually outperformed both of them fantasy-wise last season. He scored seven goals, finished second in the league with 14 assists, and was third in chances created with 93.
As good as Sheffield United were defensively last season -- along with Middlesbrough, they gave up the fewest goals in the Championship -- the Premier League is a huge leap in terms of the level of competition.
Abdoulaye Doucoure, Watford (Tier 3 midfielder): Doucoure is a central midfielder, but he often pops up either in or around the penalty box. He had five goals and six assists last season, and scored seven goals the season before that. More importantly, Doucoure was No. 17 in the league (eighth among midfielders) in passes completed last season, averaging 46.3 per game. That gives him a pretty high floor. Plus, Watford is at home this week against Brighton, a side which was nearly relegated last season.
Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool (Tier 1 defender): Teammates Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson finished with 12 and 11 assists, respectively, last season. However, Van Dijk outperformed both players in terms of fantasy. In fact, he finished No. 4 overall in points, behind only Hazard, Salah and Paul Pogba. That's largely because Van Dijk was third in the league in passes completed, averaging 71.7 per game. He also had four goals and two assists. Last weekend, he picked up an assist in the Community Shield match.
Shane Duffy, Brighton (Tier 2 defender): Duffy led the league in clearances last season with 243. But he also scored five goals, proving out as a great target man on set pieces. Watford, Brighton's opponent this weekend, wasn't exactly stellar at the back last season. They conceded 59 goals, fifth-most among teams that avoided relegation.
Alisson, Liverpool (Goalkeeper): Alisson led the league with 21 clean sheets last season -- one more than Manchester City's Ederson. He also conceded one fewer goal than Ederson, and made 18 more saves. Liverpool is at home this week, against newly promoted Norwich, while Man City plays at West Ham, who have a bunch of talented attackers. Alisson is a pretty easy choice.