The EPL has not started like many were predicting. Teams and players have been punching above their weight, others have failed to hit the levels expected of them. Only Liverpool seem to have carried on where they left off last season. So what does all this mean for FM? We look at the individuals who have set the league alight, others who have been a damp squib and the likelihood of that form carrying on for the season as a whole.
Let’s start with those who have overperformed in the games thus far, or have come from nowhere to set the world alight. Two obvious ones jump out. For newly promoted managers in both the EPL and FM, the biggest worry is whether their stars from the previous year can make the step up to the big league.
For Daniel Farke and those FM managers who are either managing Norwich or took the plunge with the player in question, Teemu Pukki has been little short of a revelation. With six goals and two assists (at the time of writing), the flying Finn has exceeded all expectations, even of those who saw him become top scorer in the Championship last season with 29 goals. You cannot accuse the striker of merely being a flat track bully either. Norwich have faced both Manchester City and Liverpool, and Pukki was instrumental in their shock defeat of the Champions, a result that would have ruined thousands of EPL accas up and down the country.
The question is will he be able to continue in the same vein for the remainder of the season? Evidence suggests that he is a real talent, with a footballing brain and an eye for goal. The issue however could be that thirsty sides will more and more start to set up to eliminate his play. This is easier to do when a team has principally one threat. Secondly, if Norwich start to struggle they may retreat into themselves, once again diminishing Pukki’s threat.
The other big surprise so far comes in the shape and form of Chelsea’s young star Tammy Abraham. Of course, fans of FMInside will not be surprised at the start the forward has made, as we urged you to stick with him earlier this season. His seven goals at the time of writing sees him joint top scorer in the league, alongside Aguero. Daniel James at Manchester United has eclipsed bigger names in Solskjær’s squad. Other players who most would not have envisaged would be sitting pretty in the stats charts include Burnley’s Ashley Barnes (4 goals) and Tom Heaton, the glovesman at newly promoted Villa, who is joint top of the clean sheets table with two.
It may be too early to start talking of flops, but this is football and anyone who has played FM, or indeed managed Watford, knows that it is a cut throat industry. Two of the biggest disappointments so far are clubs as opposed to individual players. Wolves and Watford were a breath of fresh air last season, and everything pointed to the likelihood of both teams pushing on even further this time round. Unfortunately that has not been the case, with neither side yet managing to secure all three points in a match. Wolves’ chance of breaking into the top six will have been severely hampered, while Javi Gracia paid the ultimate price.
Enigma and flop are words that are often interchangeable, and it is uncertain which one of those Paul Pogba will be seen as with the benefit of hindsight. Those FM managers who are able to get the most out of the world cup winner will have a true game changer on their hands, but they will be doing something that a handful of some of the best managers in the world have been unable to do. It is important not to make any knee jerk reactions to what has happened, but what we have seen over the opening weeks of the season should certainly be food for thought