The Wormburner: Solid Starters in 2019/2020

August 22, 2019 — by Rob Kirby



The Wormburner: Solid Starters in 2019/2020

August 22, 2019 — by Rob Kirby

Almost everything changes when you double the sample size. So you can tear up last week’s one-week history of nearly everything, because the new data has stomped on it like cleats on a doormat (proceeding to shred it with the studs). 

Riyad Mahrez’ one game streak of starting matches ended abruptly. Likewise, and related, his orchestrating role in triple assists and double-digit point hauls disappeared. He neither started nor got an attacking return during his 1-point runout on the pitch in GW2. Harry Kane blanked. Mo Salah also blanked. Raheem Sterling scored two fewer goals than the previous week (but he did score and is joint leading scorer this season, on 4 goals).

The corrective effect of a second week saw a spreading of the wealth with a new cast of characters, in addition to the regression of many of week one’s heaviest hitters. In GW2, Teemu Pukki became the new hat trick hero and the first Premier League player to score four goals in his first two matches–and one was against Liverpool. Pukki is the joint leading scorer this season, alongside Sterling. Scandinavians and non-Scandinavians alike rejoice, together in harmony. All this to say, if Pukki is inexplicably still available in your draft fantasy league, get him. But his days as an under-the-radar pick have passed. Elements of the supply line could still be kicking around, though, whether Emi Buendía, Marco Stiepermann, Max Aarons or Todd Cantwell. The Norwich attack looks fertile, although matchups against Chelsea and Manchester City in the next three may deter.

And then, like some ruthless Caesar or brute centurion, John Lundstram unceremoniously stepped out of nowhere and ripped the crown of “best fantasy defender to walk the planet” from the head of Burnley’s Erik Pieters. Lundstram became a sudden sensation with a goal and a Sheffield United clean sheet, translating his out-of-position defender status into a midfield goal number-crunched with defender goal points and defender’s clean sheet points. Not bad for someone not playing in defense. Although Lundstram is likely available in nearly every league there is, the Wormburner vermilogical advice would be to stay away, but fortune favors the brave. He does play, for now, so there’s that. If the Blades defense turns out to be a force of nature (and if he holds onto his midfield spot), however, Lundstram could burn non-believers.

Connecting threads between gameweeks 1 and 2 do exist. Manchester City and Liverpool are exceptionally good, but they are not flawless in defense. A trinity of attackers—Sterling, Teemu Pukki and Ashley Barnes—proved capable of carving out goals for themselves regardless of fixture circumstances. Meanwhile, Everton boasts a perfect record in defense, yet to concede a goal in the new season. It is admittedly early days.

Pukki and Barnes may not keep pace with Sterling in perpetuity, especially with the immediate fixtures for each, but they look capable of scrapping goals in difficult games. With the Everton defense enjoying a favorable run of fixtures, it could just be down to the opposition, or it could tentatively mean the club has kept up last season’s late stability. The weaknesses that pundits have warned may get exposed with no Idrissa Gueye protecting the back line may yet show, but two shutouts in two begins to build a case for the defense. We shall see. Everton has the schedule and the momentum to reward managers of both defensive and attacking players.

Kevin de Bruyne collected two assists, one each to Sterling and Sergio Agüero. Chances are he’s not available for a free transfer. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford look like they will keep getting dividends. They too are unlikely to be available because all recent luminaries are long gone from any free transfer scenario by now. And they’re not just recent luminaries. Mason Mount at Chelsea might have been available a week ago, or possibly Pukki or Barnes, but those days are gone. If Mount does happen to still be there for the taking, he looks as likely as any to flourish in the Lampard new-look side, and likelier than Ross Barkley by the latest mile marker. Lundstram is probably still available, of course, but it remains to be seen if he can even outscore even his defensive teammates, some of whom have have a better-demonstrated history of getting in the goals.

For players that are available for free transfer—not just the league’s high fliers that will never again be available for waiver consideration—the best bets are probably with the promoted sides, or with rejuvenated relegation-spot sides from last season. Both the Brighton attack and defense should have some offerings, with seemingly viable candidates in Leandro Trossard, Neal Maupay, Martin Montoya and others. West Ham, Burnley and Southampton may have legitimate available options in attack and defense, as well. Check to see who may have been discarded or overlooked. Also check to see if they’ve started the last two matches…

Among the promoted sides, Sheffield United has appealing defenders, if not the most favorable schedule or odds of weekly clean sheets. Norwich fullbacks and attack could reap attacking dividends, and there are promising candidates in the Villa midfield with Jack Grealish and John McGinn. Norwich and Sheffield United’s stock has risen since draft day. Villa is comparatively lagging, but the Villans have scored goals and McGinn drew first blood against Spurs in GW1.

Even with European Thursday nights, Wolves look up for the fight across both defense and attack. Leicester under Brendan Rogers threatens to light things up with its many midfield options. Upheaval at established sides could offer some entry points. Chelsea is a work in progress but there’s a reward to go with the risk. With new managers at Brighton and Newcastle, as well as the promoted sides, not every roster knows its final template.

Many questions remain at sides in the top six with stiff competition for spots. Will David Silva prove to be a 1-point cameo albatross most weeks? It seems highly possible, and you could probably extend the same to Ilkay Gundogan and debatably Mahrez. Barring a thinning of the ranks, these are not currently rock-solid starters. Likewise Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Will he get points? With a certainty of starts, he would, yes, but does he or do we have that certainty? Xherdan Shaqiri, the same. Will Dani Ceballos see off the incumbency of Mesut Özil? Possibly, but not as an automatic. Where do Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon fit into the final mix? João Cancelo? Will Kyle Walker-Peters survive as first choice moving forward? Two weeks of lineups and on-pitch action still aren’t enough to know definitively on these, and even at season’s end we may never know why Manchester United has so many center halves.

The likelihood of either Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba leaving the Premier League looks far lower than at any point during the off-season, but a mega bid for either could yet shake things up significantly and see job openings in two top attacking spots. Meanwhile, doublecheck before making any trades for Alexis Sánchez, as he may be shipping out to Serie A.

We know more, but we still know only a fraction of anything.

The Wormburner is a column that plays the draft format on Real Fantasy Football ( It did not get its annual copy of the Premier League script. Please give a shout to @The_Wormburner at your earliest Twitter convenience if you manage to track one down.

Check out last week’s ‘Burner and relive the memories: Extrapolating from 1