FPL Season 2018/19 Gameweek 2 Preview

Eden Hazard jogs over to the corner

“Will Chelsea’s star man start for Sarri’s Chelsea this weekend?” (CC by 2.0) by Ben Sutherland

The 2018/19 Premier League season kicked off with an unexpected number of clean sheets over the first gameweek, which resulted in a few high-scoring defenders. City’s Mendy, Watford’s Holebas, Palace’s Wan Bissaka and Schlupp, and United’s Shaw all scored 11 points or more, while the week’s top performers in terms of FPL points were Watford’s Roberto Pereyra (previously highlighted in our Watford preview article) and Liverpool’s Sadio Mané, with 16 points each. In the build-up to gameweek 2, we’ll take a look at some significant potential player price changes and we’ll highlight some players that could be bringing home the points.

Potential player price movements

Players like Chelsea’s Jorginho, Liverpool’s Mané, Everton’s Richarlison and Wolverhampton’s Neves have already seen their price rise after their displays during the first gameweek, while previous FPL favourites like Tottenham’s Son (away at the Asian games) and United’s Phil Jones have started their new campaign with a price decrease.

Man City’s Bernardo Silva, who scored a goal and took home 8 points last weekend, is likely to see his price rise before the coming FPL deadline and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sadio Mané’s price rise once more as well, after his man-of-the-match performance against West Ham. After a somewhat underwhelming season opener away at Newcastle, Spurs are facing Fulham at home this weekend, so the prices of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen could be in line for a rise as well.

In terms of falling prices, Man City’s man of the season last year Kevin de Bruyne is likely to see his price drop over the coming weeks after picking up a knee injury during training (although initially he may be protected from a price fall as his sales would be injury related). Managers certainly don’t want a large amount of their budget tied up with someone on the sidelines. He might be out for more than 2 months depending on the results of tests, which would mean a serious blow to Pep Guardiola’s outfit if they are to claim both the Premier League and Champions League this season. Players like Nicolas Otamendi, Jesse Lingard and Dejan Lovren (who appeared in the World Cup final) could see their prices decrease as well, though it’s likely their involvement will grow significantly over the coming few weeks.

Premium player picks

Eden Hazard is destined to become a key player in Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, something that the Belgian emphasised last weekend against Huddersfield, when he came off the bench in the 76th minute and provided the assist for Pedro’s goal in the 80th minute. Hazard seems sufficiently rested to be in the starting line-up from next game onwards and don’t let the coming fixture against Arsenal fool you. The Belgian has scored in three of his last five matches against the Gunners at Stamford Bridge and the calender is kind to the Blues after that: Newcastle away, Bournemouth and Cardiff at home, and West Ham away. At a price of £10.5m, he could be an excellent pick and candidate for the captaincy of the coming weeks.

After point hauls of 218 and 199 FPL points in the past two Premier League seasons, Christian Eriksen‘s ownership percentage of 16.9% is still relatively low. He had a quiet game against Newcastle last game as far as points were concerned, but no other player created more chances than the five created by Eriksen that game. With a home game against Fulham coming up, the Danish midfielder might very well convert those underlying stats into FPL points. As mentioned before, he’s as much of an FPL certainty as you can wish for and his price might be in line for a rise sometimes soon, so if you want to snap him up at £9.5m, now is probably the time.

With an away game at Palace and a home game versus Brighton coming up, the popularity of Liverpool assets is unsurprisingly rising, especially after their 4-0 thrashing of West Ham last weekend. Basically all three of Liverpool’s attacking assets look like guaranteed points magnets at the moment, but considering his 16-point haul last weekend, we’re picking Sadio Mané. The Senegalese winger has already seen his price rise by £0.1m this week and deservedly so, after scoring 2 goals and winning 3 bonus points in the process. Away at an improved Palace side is another opportunity to get a good score, so consider Mané (£9.6m) if your budget doesn’t allow for bringing in Momo Salah.

A differential pick or two

Leicester’s new acquisition Ricardo Pereira lost his first Premier League game, away at Man United, but left a good impression, for both his manager Claude Puel and FPL managers around the world. The Portuguese right-back played as a right-midfielder/winger and provided Jamie Vardy with an assist in the 90th minute. It remains to be seen if Puel will keep deploying Pereira is such an attacking role, which in combination with his £5.0 price tag would make him a player that should definitely be on your watchlist. Leicester played some very good football against Man United and if they keep playing like that should comfortably finish in the top half of the table at the season end.

With a price of £11.0 and a points total of 229 in FPL last season, it might seem surprising to mention City’s Raheem Sterling as a differential, especially after his goal against Arsenal last weekend. Still, the England attacker is currently owned by just 3.1% of FPL managers. Sterling seems to be one of the players that is most proof to Guardiola’s rotational tactics and he’s often deployed as a shadow striker to support Aguero or Jesus in the number nine spot. With home games against Huddersfield, Fulham, and Newcastle and an away game at Wolves, coming up between now and gameweek 5, Sterling might well be racking in the points over the coming weeks. His price is steep, but at such low ownership, he could give your FPL squad a real advantage in your (mini-)leagues. If Sterling is not your cup of tea then to ensure you have Man City coverage consider either i) Bernardo Silva instead whose place is less likely to be under threat if de Bruyne is out injured long-term particularly after his excellent performances in the win against Chelsea in community shield and the win against Arsenal at the weekend or ii) Benjamin Mendy the marauding left back who had two assists and a clean sheet at the weekend who if picked by Pep is likely to pick up more assists or goals given his tendency to play as an attacking winger rather than a defender – Pep will have to help him get the balance right.

The captaincy

On the basis of last season and the fact that he seems to be simply continuing where he left off last season make Mo Salah an obvious captain candidate. The Egyptian winger is the official game’s most-owned player (54.7%), despite his £13.0m price tag. He opened the score in the 19th minute against West Ham and had several chances to add to either his goal or his assist tally or both. After a disappointing World Cup, Salah looks ready to lead the Liverpool attack again this season, and you can expect his price to rise to unseen heights if he scores again against Palace this weekend. With such a high ownership and an opposing defence that allowed for plenty of chances against Fulham last weekend, can you afford not to captain Salah if you have him?

Fulham is an attacking outfit that play to create chances, but as a result also concede a significant amount of chances every game. Considering this fact, the ideal captain this week could be part of Tottenham’s attack, who host the Cottagers this weekend. We’ve already outlined the potential of Christian Eriksen for this game, who is an outstanding candidate for the captaincy, but Dele Alli (£9.0) shouldn’t be forgotten either. The young Englishman got off the mark by scoring his team’s second goal last weekend to bring home the three points and it wouldn’t be strange to see him on the scoreboard again coming weekend. His ownership of just 6.2% makes him very much a differential captain pick, though neither his performance last week nor his points total last season of 175 suggest that he should fly below the radar. Quite the opposite!

 

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – West Ham and Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers - Dec 2014 - The Molineux Motto

“Molineux, the Wolves’ home ground since 1889, back in the Premier League after 6 years” (CC by 2.0) by Gareth Williams

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this tenth and final instalment, we’ll take a look at a revamped West Ham United and promising newcomers Wolverhampton Wanderers.

West Ham – The team

To put it mildly, West Ham’s 2017/18 campaign wasn’t great. The season started under manager Slaven Bilic, who lost his job to David Moyes by November 2017, and the Hammers tasted victory just twice by the time December came around. The team definitely found some stability over the Christmas period and a run of 10 games in which West Ham lost just once eventually resulted in a mid-table finish. Not bad, considering the start of the season, but far from satisfactory when considering the ambitions in East London.

Moyes decided to step down at the end of last season and experienced Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini was brought in. The ex-Real Madrid and ex-City manager (he won the Premier League with City in 2013/14) is expected to lead West Ham out of a period of relative turmoil and instability since the club left the Boleyn Ground to play at the London Stadium in 2016. With the new manager have come several high-profile and promising players, including Lazio winger Felipe Anderson for £34.2 million, 21-year old French central defender Issa Diop for £22.50 million, Dortmund winger Andriy Yarmolenko for £18 million, and stand-out Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for £7.20 million. Both Jack Wilshere and Fulham’s Ryan Fredericks came in on free transfers. Collins and Evra were let go, Joao Mario’s loan wasn’t extended and Kouyaté was sold to Crystal Palace for £9.63 million.

After last season, and considering the renovation the squad has undergone over the summer, the Hammers will be aiming for a finish in the top half of the table. Whether they’re ready to compete for the European spots remains to be seen, but it’s not out of the question if Pellegrini can get his side going. The Chilean is known as a calm and low-key manager, who studies his opponents meticulously, a characteristic he might’ve developed while working as a civil engineer in Chile. He likes his teams to play a quick, passing game, to play cross balls to test the rival’s balance, and to create one-v-one situations, especially when counter-attacking. Combine this with the desire to press higher up the field and West Ham fans might be in for plenty of goals this season.

West Ham – Potential FPL stars

Few players will fit the title “potential FPL star” better than West Ham’s club record signing Felipe Anderson (£7.0m). The Hammers spent £34.20 million on the Brazilian winger who had an injury-riddled season last year with Lazio, resulting in 4 goals and 7 assists in just over 1,100 minutes of Serie A football. In the previous season, Anderson scored 4 and assisted 11 in 36 games for Lazio. While there is definitely still room to improve in the finishing department, the 25-year old is a player who can decide matches. The Brazilian loves to look for the 1v1 and attempt a dribble (as a matter of fact, he completed 6 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season), and he has a good eye for his team mates. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to life in the Premier League, but he absolutely has FPL potential, especially considering he’s classified as a midfielder in the game.

Despite his re-classification as a forward, Marko Arnautovic is still one of West Ham’s most reliable FPL assets. The Austrian international scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists in 31 Premier League games during the 2017/18 campaign, which resulted in 144 FPL points. It should be noted that he was still considered a midfielder in FPL last year, so each goal was worth 5 points and each clean sheet would result in an extra point. Still, West Ham was far from a stable unit last season, and the Hammers are expected to line up as a more composed and offensive team this season under Pellegrini, which will hopefully lead to more opportunities for the forwards, i.e. Arnautovic. At a price of £7.0m, he should be on your watchlist, though West Ham’s start to the season is really hard, with the Hammers facing 5 ‘top-6’ teams in the first 10 gameweeks.

In the 2017/18 Premier League season, no other team conceded as many goals as West Ham did: 68 in 38 games. Their backline was slow and unresolved for most parts of the season, which explains the signing of right-back Fredericks, centre backs Balbuena and Diop and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. The latter was one of the few stand-out performers in an otherwise weak Swansea City season that ended in relegation. The Polish stopper started in all of the club’s 38 Premier League matches and played an important part in that season’s 9 clean sheets. He was actually the third-best goalkeeper in FPL by points (157), just behind Ederson (158) and De Gea (172). He collected a total of 14 bonus points, which was more than the goalies from Manchester (10 points each), and despite the Hammers’ unforgiving set of opening fixtures, Fabianski’s Premier League pedigree and FPL price (£4.5m) should make him a candidate for your 15-man squad.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – The team

Out off all of this year’s promoted teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers look most likely to survive their return to the Premier League. Wolves convincingly crowned themselves champions of the Championship last season by winning 30 out of 46 games and accumulating an impressive 99 points in the process. Under Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo, and with the backing of his compatriot Jorge Mendes (one of the most powerful football agents in the world), Wolves are hoping to return to the English elite division with a bang as they could aim for a comfortable mid-table finish.

The Wanderers have certainly not been sitting idly by while the summer transfer window got underway. With a particular focus on the Southern European markets, the club brought in a mix of big names and promising talents, such as Boro speedster Adama Troaré (€20 milliion, Portugal international central midfielder Joao Moutinho (€5.6 million), Brazilian forward Léo Bonatini (€4 million), and Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio (free). Last season’s loans of Atletico Madrid winger Diogo Jota (17 goals and 6 assists in 44 games), Porto centre-back Willy Boly (3 goals and 2 assists in 36 games), and 19-year old Monaco left-back Rúben Vinagre (fee unknown) were made permanent for a total amount of €26 million, while Benfica striker Raul Jiménez and Atletico left-back Jonny Castro were added to the roster on loan.

Manager Espirito Santo usually lines up his team in a flexible 3-4-3 formation that can go from 5-3-2 when defending to an ultra-offensive 3-2-5 when (counter-)attacking. The wing-backs are of crucial importance to Espirito Santo’s style of play, as they allow Wolves to stretch the playing field and create space for the central midfielders, all of which are excellent passers of the ball, both short and long. As a result, Wolves is a team that can hang back and wait for the counter opportunities, as well as dominate play and attack at will. The only question is how well they’ll be able to adapt their play to football in the elite division.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Potential FPL stars

Despite coming over on a free transfer, as opposed to a hefty sum that would actually fit a player of his qualities, Rui Patricio is one of Wolverhampton’s most significant signings this summer. The 30-year goalkeeper is a reigning European champion after winning Euro 2016 with Portugal and he’s long been hailed as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. With more than 300 Portugese league games, 49 Europa League games, and 26 Champions League games under his belt, Patricio won’t be too phased by the Premier League. At a price of £4.5m, he’s likely to find his way into plenty of FPL squads.

The Wolverhampton midfield is full of (Portuguese) talent and experience, with the likes of Ruben Neves, Helder Costa and the dangerous Diogo Jota all vying for a starting spot, but it’s this summer’s addition of Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho that we’re highlighting today. The now 31-year old Portuguese playmaker has been linked to practically every big club in Europe over the course of his career, and not without reason. He’s comfortable playing in an attacking side as well as in a deeper role, waiting for the right moment to open up the game on the flanks or further up front. His passing is spot on, he can shoot from distance, and he’s likely to participate in set-pieces as well. Not bad, for £5.5m in FPL.

Up front, it’ll be interesting to see how Mexican international striker Raúl Jiménez will perform for Wolves in the Premier League. The 27-year old came over on loan from Benfica, but for a fee of €3 million, which would suggest Espirito Santo sees a role for him. In just 973 minutes of league football for Benfica last season, Jiménez scored 6 goals and provided 7 assists, and he also appeared in 5 Champions League games. If the Mexican can cement his place as the starting number nine for Wolves at the beginning of the new campaign, he would be, in combination with his price of just £5.5m an interesting option for the position of 3rd or even 2nd striker in your team.

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Tottenham and Watford

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“Watford’s Vicarage Road, ready for another season of Premier League football” (CC by 2.0) by The Stadium Guide

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, in just 2 days time at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this ninth instalment, we’ll take a look at a Spurs side that has welcomed zero new players so far, and Javi Gracia’s Watford.

Tottenham Hotspur – The team

Since the arrival of Mauricio Pocchetino at White Hart Lane in May of 2014, Tottenham Hotspur have grown into a stable top 5 team in the Premier League. After finishing third, second and third in the league over the past three seasons, hopes for another top 3 finish are high again this year, especially considering the fact that the club will finally inaugurate the new stadium this year. The first match on their new home soil will be played against Liverpool in mid-September, until then their “home” games will continue to take place in Wembley.

Whether it has to do with the costs of the new stadium turning out to be considerably higher than expected or the club’s management being completely satisfied with the current team roster, we’re not sure, but Tottenham stands out during this summer’s transfer window by not having spent a penny on new recruits yet. Of course, Mauricio’s Pocchetino’s starting eleven have been more or less fixed over the past few seasons and it’s not all that difficult to guess how his team will generally line up again this season, but some concerns have been aired by pundits and fans alike about the club’s complete lack of activity on the transfer market. No players were sold (yet), while the only “new face” during pre-season was Dutch striker Vincent Janssen, who spent a season on loan at Fenerbahce last year.

With key players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, just to name a few, the foundation of Pocchetino’s Spurs is clear. His starting eleven know each other well and, considering their generally young ages, there’s still plenty of room for improvement on an individual level and as a group. Still, with the enormous investment required to build a new stadium, Spurs will be expected to finally start winning some silverware, the one thing that has eluded Pocchetino at Spurs until now. As a matter of fact, the last trophy lifted by Spurs was the League Cup in the
2007/08 campaign. In order to compete in all competitions (Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, and the Champions League), a certain squad depth is required, a depth that Pocchetino simply doesn’t have at his disposal at the moment. He’s a great manager and Spurs are candidates for another high finish in the Premier League this year, but if the club wants to avoid another season without a prize, they’d do well to at least provide the Argentinian manager with more quality throughout the squad.

Tottenham Hotspur – Potential FPL stars

Christian Eriksen (£9.5m) is Tottenham’s chief creator, which is why he’s the first player we’d like to highlight first. The Danish attacking midfielder has long been an FPL favourite and he looks set for another season in the English top flight. As usual during the transfer windows, Eriksen was linked to Europe’s biggest clubs this summer, including FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the 26-year old wasn’t going to miss the club’s first steps in the new stadium. He scored 10 goals and provided 11 assists in the Premier League last season, with 199 FPL points as a result. Spurs are likely to be affected by the large number of players that were active in the late stages of the World Cup this summer and it remains to be seen how the change of stadium will be processed, but you can count on Eriksen to once again emerge as one of Tottenham’s stand-out performers.

When talking about Spurs, you can’t not mention Harry Kane. The 25-year old striker came up through the ranks at Tottenham and is an absolute fan favourite at White Hart Lane. His phenomenal scoring record probably has something to do with that as well: he’s scored 21, 25, 29, and 29 goals in the Premier League in the last 4 seasons. Besides his 29 goals last season, which were only bettered by a rampant Mo Salah, Kane also provided 2 assists, racking up a total of 217 points in FPL. The young Englishman might be rested for the first gameweek or two, but he’s expected to be banging in the goals again this season. Whether his Premier League and FPL pedigree justify his hefty £12.5 price tag is up to you.

Behind champions Man City and José Mourinho’s defense-minded Man United, Spurs had the next best defence in the Premier League last season, with just 36 goals conceded. The wizards behind FPL realized this as well and as a result, Tottenham’s complete defence (apart from Kyle Walker-Peters) is priced at £6.0, this season. After a successful World Cup, in which he even scored a stunning goal from a free kick against Croatia, Kieran Trippier is one of the more attractive options in the Spurs back line. The wing-back is part of a solid and experienced defensive unit, and he can add the occasional extra points from an assist or even a goal, as well, especially if he gets some set-piece duties from time to time.

Watford – The team

Last season was a season with ups and downs for the Hornets. The start of the season under Marco Silva was impressive, with just one loss in the first 8 games, but things then took a turn for the worse as the team started slumping badly over the Christmas period, which led to Silva’s sacking. Current coach Javi Gracia was then brought in to restore stability and he guided Watford to an eventual 14th place. In other words, not exactly a campaign to write home about, but enough to secure another year of Premier League football. Pundits and Watford fans alike have pointed out though, on several occasions, that the final nine games of last season under Gracia resulted in just one victory and the team avoiding relegation by just a few points in the end. In 14 games under Gracia, Watford got 15 points.

So, whether Javi Gracia is the right man to lead the Hornets to a higher finish this year is still uncertain for many Watford fans, but the club has done its best on the transfer market this summer. On one hand, they sold their exciting Brazilian winger Richarlison to Everton for a whopping €40 million, as well as winger/wing-back Amrabat to Al-Nassr (€8.50 million) and forward Mauro Zarate to Boca Juniors (€2.50 million). On the other hand, the Hornets brought in winger Gerard Deulofeu from FC Barcelona on a permanent basis (€13 million), talented left-back Adam Masina from Bologna (€5 million), left midfielder Ken Sema from last season’s Swedish surprise package Östersund (€2.25 million), 22-year Spanish right-back Marc Navarro from Espanyol (€2 million), and keeper Ben Foster from relegated West Brom (fee unknown).

The Hornets will probably consider a comfortable mid-table finish without any real relegation worries at any point during the season as a realistic target for the 2018/19 campaign. They’re unlikely to seriously compete for a position that gives access to European football at the end of the season, but their team roster does like solid enough to finish well above the bottom spots. Manager Javi Gracia usually prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation, though a 5-4-1 formation with attacking wing-backs is an option as well. He focuses a lot on the game’s tactical aspect, and likes his teams to turn up prepared and as a solid unit. To consider him a very defensive coach would be an exaggeration, but Gracia definitely likes to have his defensive unit organized well before focusing on his side’s offensive plays.

Watford – Potential FPL stars

One of Watford’s more shrewd acquisitions this summer is goalkeeper Ben Foster (€4.5m) from relegated West Bromwich Albion. The 35-year old is a Premier League veteran who hasn’t yet showed signs of slowing down anytime soon. In a largely chaotic West Brom campaign last season that saw the club ending bottom of the league, Foster recorded 10 clean sheets and a decent total of 123 FPL points. Assuming Javi Gracia can improve Watford’s defensive solidity in comparison to last season, Foster might turn out to be something of a bargain.

The departure of Richarlison has opened the door for some other talented players to show themselves this year. One of those players could be attacking midfielder Roberto Pereyra. The Argentinian has had his fair share of injury troubles since joining Watford in the summer of 2016, but in the periods that he was fit, he showed glimpses of a player that can be decisive for his team. The Argentinian can play both on the wings and in a more advanced position on the midfield, positions in which he can make the most of his creativity and excellent dribbling skills. In just 1,600 minutes of Premier League football last season, Pereyra scored 5 goals and assisted another 3, which makes his current price of £6.0m quite reasonable. He could be a great fifth midfielder in FPL, though we do recommend to keep an eye on his pre-season and on his fitness during the regular season.

The line that at the moment probably inspires least confidence at Watford is the attack. Current forwards Andre Gray, Troy Deeney, and Stefano Okaka scored a combined total of 11 goals last season, which is logically a statistic of concern for the Hornets. Of the three mentioned attackers, Andre Gray has shown the most promise during the pre-season, scoring goals and showing some good chemistry with other players in the team, like Deeney and Pereyra. The 27-year old scored 5 goals and gave 3 assists in just under 1,500 minutes of Premier League action last season, which roughly equals to a goal or assist every other game. If his pre-season form is anything to go by, Gray looks like a nailed-on starter for Watford, and at a price of £6.0 he could be both a great differential and a useful budget enabler.

How Long Does Jose Mourinho Have Left at Manchester United?

After a disappointing 2017/18 campaign, in which Jose Mourinho failed to deliver a single trophy for Manchester United, the pressure could really be on the Portuguese this season to produce some silverware.

Not only has Mourinho been criticised for his failure in the Premier League and Champions League since joining the club, his brand of football has also been described as boring and ‘not the Manchester United way’ by many pundits in the game. The former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has not been known throughout his career as a manager who plays open and expansive football but when results go his way, he is able to mask over any criticism of how his team has played.

Source: Mirror Football via Twitter

In all of his press conferences so far in pre-season, Mourinho has looked glum and he has been quite downbeat about his side’s chances ahead of the new campaign. That may be a little frustration coming out from the United boss as his club have not been the most proactive so far in the summer transfer window. Contrast this to Liverpool, who have not been afraid to splash in the cash in order to improve their squad and have a real shot at trying to overcome Manchester City this season.

United are 7/1 in the Premier League betting this season, which makes them the third most likely team to win the title behind Manchester City who are the odds-on favourites at 4/6, while Liverpool are second in the antepost market at 4/1. If those odds are correct, it looks like United fans will have to wait a little longer to celebrate another title success.

Despite having Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku in the squad, United struggled for goals last season compared to their top four rivals. Mourinho’s biggest target ahead of the new campaign will be to get the most from his star players who have been inconsistent. Pogba was one of the standout players at the World Cup for the winners France, while Sanchez has simply not looked the same player he was at Arsenal where he was one of the stars of the league.

It is very important for Mourinho that his side get off to a fast start to remain in the hunt for the Premier League title. If they slip up too often early in the campaign, they may find themselves out of the hunt for the championship by the halfway point which could result in the United boss being dismissed.

Source: Jaykie via Twitter

The press have wasted no time speculating over Mourinho’s future as they are already talking about possible names to replace him. Zinedine Zidane is the early favourite to be the replacement. The former French international won the Champions League at Real Madrid for the third straight season back in May, however, he chose to step down from his position with the Spanish giants back in June.

It still seems United are struggling to fill the shoes of the great Sir Alex Ferguson and if Mourinho does fail this year, they are likely to make their fourth attempt at finding a replacement for their legendary manager.

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Newcastle and Southampton

newcastle united vs middlesbrough

“St. James’ Park, Newcastle United’s impressive home base” (CC by 2.0) by Mari

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this eight instalment, we’ll take a look at Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle United and a Southampton squad that very nearly got relegated last season.

Newcastle United – The team

Possibly even more than the players, it’s manager Rafa Benitez on whom Newcastle United has depended the most since the Spaniard arrived at Saint James’ Park in March of 2016. He led the team to promotion in his first half-season at the club and then managed to survive relatively comfortably in the Premier League last season, despite Newcastle failing to bring in any new players, apart from Florain Lejeune. Chelsea’s Kenedy and Czech goalkeeper Dubravka joined the Magpies on loan in January 2017, both to great success, but the depth of the Newcastle was (and is) limited, so a major part of the credit goes to Rafa Benitez.

This summer so far has been pretty much of the same: a squad clearly in need of depth and reinforcements, a manager who says they need fresh blood to compete this season and a club so far refusing to invest accordingly. Useful defensive midfielder Sung-yong Ki came over on a free transfer from relegated Swansea, goalie Martin Dubravka was brought in permanently from Sparta Prague (£3.60 million), Swiss World Cup participant and central defender Fabian Schär was bought from Deportivo (£3.60 million), and Japanese centre forward Yoshinori Muto came over from Bundesliga side FSV Mainz (£9.63 million). The best news though, is likely to be the loan renewal of starting midfielder Kenedy (2 goals and 2 assists in 13 games since January 2017) for another year.

Considering all the above, it’s more than likely that Rafa Benitez will once again approach the coming Premier League season in a defensive fashion, with the objective being extending Newcastle’s stay in the top flight for another year. The Spanish manager knows how to organise his teams and how to build a solid defensive foundation. This comes at a cost, as his Newcastle’s football was often labelled too defensive and boring, but it did keep them in England’s elite division for another year. Benitez will probably continue basing his tactics on a 4-2-3-1, although he has shown a capacity to adjust tactically when necessary, if and when the depth and quality of his squad allow it. You can expect a solid Newcastle outfit without too much excitement coming from the attacking third of the pitch, though we do recommend to pay attention to any news coming from behind the Newcastle scenes, as there seems to be some discontent between management and ownership at the club.

Newcastle United – Potential FPL stars

Without a doubt, one of Newcastle’s most important players in central defender Jamaal Lascelles, who has flourished under Rafa Benitez. The 24-year Englishman scored 3 goals last season and lead his team to 9 clean sheets, with 116 FPL points as a result. He’s an outstanding defender and poses a threat in attack as well, particularly during set-pieces. The arrival of Swiss international Fabian Schär should only improve Lascelles’ performances on the pitch, so his price tag of £5.0m is likely to tempt more than a few FPL managers.

As mentioned before, the extension of Kenedy‘s loan might just turn out to be Newcastle’s most significant transfer activity in an otherwise modest summer transfer window. Despite coming into the squad mid-season last year, the young Chelsea midfielder had a considerable impact on the club from the get-go. He ended up playing 13 games for the Magpies last season, in which he scored 2 goals and provided another 2 assists, and he managed to install somewhat of a threat in an otherwise fairly bland Newcastle attack. His work rate is generally outstanding, he can play in different positions, and he’s one of the few players in the squad who bring some flair to Saint James’ Park. Kenedy costs £5.0m in FPL and could be an excellent budget option.

It remains to be seen how quickly and how well newly acquired forward Yoshinori Muto will adapt to life in the Premier League, so it looks like a lot of the eyes in attack will be on Ayoze Perez again this year (bar some major last-minute investment). The Spaniard has so far failed to make an unforgettable impression at Newcastle, but he was involved in more goals last season than any other player on the team. He scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists in 36 games, playing for a club that scored just 39 goals overall. At a price of £6.5m, Perez can definitely be an interesting addition to many FPL squads as a third forward or budget enabler.

Southampton – The team

The 2017/18 campaign was one that Saints fans will be eager to forget about as soon as possible, as Southampton only just managed to avoid relegation in the penultimate gameweek. It’s been far from calm on the manager front over the past few years, as neither Claude Puel nor Mauricio Pellegrino managed to get a real grip on the club. The tide seems to have changed with the arrival of Mark Hughes at the end of last season, though, as he could be the man to bring much-needed experience and stability to the club. If he can do so by promoting an entertaining type of football remains to be seen.

Hughes started by implementing a 5-3-2 formation, with a relatively deep central midfield and two wing-backs with the freedom to join in attack when possible. Southamption is likely to start the 2018/19 season in the same way, reinforced with a few interesting signings. The Saints sold attacker Dusan Tadic to Ajax, but no other key players were lost this summer. Assets like Clasie, Carrillo, and Boufal were also loaned out or sold, but neither of them played a major role in the manager’s plans. In terms of incoming transfers, Southampton’s biggest acquisition this summer is 6’7” Danish centre-back Yannik Vestergaard from Mönchengladbach for £22.50 million. Besides that, the Saints also splurged on Basel’s Mohammed Elyounoussi (£16.50 million), an attacking midfielder from Norway expected to fill the gap left by Tadic, talented goalkeeper Angus Gunn from Man City (£10.17 million), and Scottish central midfielder Stuart Armstrong from Celtic (£7.16 million).

The Saints are hoping for a better season than the last one, though that’s hardly surprising. The squad has sufficient depth and quality to compete for the mid-table positions, and possibly even the positions that give access to European football at the end of the year. New arrival Gunn seems likely to start in goal with Vestergaard and possibly Stephens the centre backs protected as usual by Romeu with Soares and Bertrand the wing-backs. The attacking midfielders ought then to be Elyounousi, Armstrong and Redmond with two from Austin, Gabbiadini and Long up front. An area of concern is the attack though, which is mainly due to Charlie Austin’s seemingly constant injury troubles. He’s a fine striker and something of a goal poacher, but he’s only started 21 out of Southampton’s 76 games over the past two seasons, in which he scored 13 goals and provided 2 assists. The other strikers consist of Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long, both strikers with some qualities in their own right, but Southampton might do well to bring in another striker with Premier League experience before the 9th of August.

Southampton – Potential FPL stars

Among Saints ranks, there has been some hype over the signing of giant Danish central defender Yannik Vestergaard from Bundesliga side Mönchengladbach. He brings with him some undeniable aerial qualities both in defence and attack, the discipline needed to lead a defence that was somewhat shell-shocked after Virgil van Dijk’s departure, and a lot of experience, especially considering his age of just 25. He has 185 Bundesliga games on his name (14 goals and 2 assists), 10 European club games, and 16 call-ups for the Danish national side. At a price of £5.0, he’s not cheap, but definitely worth putting on your watchlists.

Stuart Armstrong is another new signing who still has to play his first minute in the Premier League, but around whom the expectations are high. It always remains to be seen how well a new player adapts to Premier League football, though confidence in Armstrong is high at Saint Mary’s. The Scottish central midfielder has more than 220 Scottish Premiership games under his belt in which he scored 41 goals and provided assists for another 47. He’s also played in more than 30 European games, on both Champions League and Europa League level. Armstrong was brought in to (partly) fill the gap that was left by creative attacking midfielder/winger Dusan Tadic. The Scotsman is still young at just 26 years old, he’s shown that he can score and create for others at the highest level, and Mark Hughes seems to be very keen on giving him an important role in the team. With a price tag of £5.5m in FPL, he could be an interesting 4th or 5th midfielder in your FPL squad.

Up front, we’d like to highlight the earlier mentioned Charlie Austin. His fitness is a major concern for many, and deservedly so, but when he’s fit to start, he should be Southampton’s starting number nine supported up front by either Gabbiadini who’s had a good pre-season or Long. The 29-year old Englishman has a real nose for the goal, something that’s illustrated by his 7 goals in just 1,030 minutes of Premier League football last season. He’s a hard worker and a cool finisher, and a season more or less free of injuries could very well end with 12+ goals for him. At a price of £6.0m, that wouldn’t be too bad at all, so we recommend monitoring him.

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Manchester City and Manchester United

Etihad Stadium

“The Etihad, home of the champions” (CC by 2.0) by Dom Fellowes

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this seventh instalment, we’ll take a look at both of the Manchester giants, reigning champions Manchester City and José Mourinho’s Manchester United.

Manchester City – The team

Generally, each team in the Premier League will aim at performing on par or better than it did last year, but if that’s true, then what’s Manchester City going to be aiming for? Sure, they missed out on silverware in the Cups and the Champions League was somewhat of a disappointment, but in terms of the Premier League, the Cityzens were in a league of their own. They became the first team to reach the 100-point mark in a 38-match season, winning 32 of those 38 matches and scoring an unbelievable 106 goals in the process. That’s an average of 2.79 goals per game.

To make it all even more impressive, Pep Guardiola’s men broke the records and bulldozed their way to the title by playing a very attacking and entertaining kind of football, the kind of football Guardiola is after. The almost embarrassing abundance of talent that’s present throughout the squad allows City to dominate large parts of the games they play, whether it’s versus a smaller or a bigger team. Possession of the ball is key, though in the case of City it might as well be called monopoly of the ball sometimes, and Pep likes his players to put a quick, short-pass game on the mat, in which the attacking players are constantly on the move, with or without ball. The defensive players play a high line and are comfortable with the vast amount of space in their backs, because in turn it allows them to join in attack where possible and to press the opponent hard in case the ball is lost. The question is not how City will play this season, Pep’s idea is clear, but rather how to stop them.

Manchester City hasn’t lost any key players yet this summer, bar Yaya Touré if you like to consider him key, and it doesn’t look like they will, for the moment. In terms of incoming transfers, the Cityzens missed out on prime target Jorginho, but they did bring in Leicester’s star player Riyad Mahrez for a cool €67.80 million. For a rather more modest €2.50 million, City also bought young Dutch central defender Philippe Sandler from PEC Zwolle, but he’s not expected to feature in the first team this season. Things might still change drastically before the 9th of August, but City doesn’t seem keen on having any other first-team players leave, while it’s mainly rumours as far as further acquisitions are concerned.

Manchester City – Potential FPL stars

Considering many of Pep Guardiola’s players are FPL favourites already, we’ll start off by taking a quick look at the potential role of this summer’s only major acquisition, former Leicester winger and star player Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m). The Cityzens spent a whopping €67.80 million on the Algerian dribbler, which in practically any other team would mean a nailed-on starting spot. Not at City. With the likes of Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, and Kun Aguero also vying for a starting spot in attack, Mahrez will most likely be part of a long-term rotation scheme as favoured by Pep. The 27-year old is known for his dribbling ability and his rather direct approach towards the goal. If you want to get him into your FPL squad, we recommend following the City news closely, not just during the pre-season, but during the regular season as well. Marhez has had a slight injury but should be fit for today’s community shield.

After 18 goals and 15 assists in just 33 Premier League games last season, Raheem Sterling was a prime candidate for a re-classification from midfielder to forward in the official FPL game, but that didn’t happen. His price was increased (he now costs £11.0m), but he’s still classified as a midfielder and that makes him an attractive option. Add to that, that Guardiola seems to consider him one of the more rotation-proof players in his squad and Sterling’s appeal rises further. The young Englishman is often deployed as a winger and sometimes even as a false number nine, though City’s forward players tend to switch positions quite often during games as well. If he’s rested from his World Cup exploits with England this summer (he should miss the community shield match today because of this) and if he can continue his form from last season, Sterling becomes something of a must-have for FPL managers.

Like the rest of the team, City’s defence is also prone to rotation. The most secure starters for the moment seem to be Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi, while the other 2 or 3 positions seem up in the air still. Kompany, Stones, and Walker made it to the final stages of the World Cup, so they might well be rested during the first weeks of the new season. At a price of £5.5, Aymeric Laporte might therefore be an interesting option in the Manchester City defence. The 24-year Frenchman didn’t make it into his country’s World Cup-winning squad, but is highly rated by his manager, which only adds to his FPL appeal. Considering that he’s also considerably cheaper than the likes of Walker,  Otamendi and even Mendy, Laporte might be an ideal way into City’s defence. As goes for more players, keep an eye out on the Man City team news in the run-up to the first gameweek.

Manchester United – The team

Despite a lack of silverware last season, José Mourinho’s Manchester United didn’t have a bad season last year. They finished second in the league, which, considering Man City’s form, was the best they could hope for last season, while the Reds also reached the final of the FA Cup, which they eventually lost to Chelsea. Their Champions League adventure ended early, due to a painful defeat to Spanish side Sevilla in the round of 16.

More than the actual results, it was United’s way of playing that was criticized, heavily at times. José Mourinho is a tactician who is known for his defensive approach to games, focusing more on defusing the opponent’s weapons than optimising the use of his own. As a result, the Mancunians conceded just 28 goals last season, which was just 1 more than eventual champions Manchester City. In reality, this is an excellent foundation for a successful team and Mourinho is expected to deploy the same tactics this season, starting from a defensive and organization-minded 4-2-3-1 formation.

In terms of incoming and outgoing key players, Manchester United has sold Daley Blind to Ajax, though the Dutchman’s role had diminished considerably over the past season. The retirement of leading figure Michael Carrick is more significant in that sense, though United is not expected too suffer too much as a result of it. One of the main reasons for that is the acquisition of central midfielder Fred from Shaktar Donetsk for €59 million. United’s other major incoming transfer was Portuguese right-back Diogo Dalot, who was bought from Porto for €22 million. The club wasn’t yet involved in any other major transfers this summer, though it’s possible there will still be interesting developments over the coming few days. Mourinho hasn’t missed an opportunity during pre-season to show his discontent regarding the current squad and United’s relatively calm approach towards the transfer market.

Manchester United – Potential FPL stars

It’s not much of a revelation or a differential, but if you’re considering Manchester United players for your FPL squad, goalkeeper David de Gea has to be on top of your list. The Spanish goalkeeper had an unfortunate World Cup in Russia, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, and in the world. He ended the last FPL season as best goalkeeper in the game (172 points) as a result of an impressive 19 clean sheets in 38 games and countless bonus points. Unsurprisingly, De Gea is the most expensive goalkeeper in FPL this season (£6.0), but bringing him into your squad means bringing in a defensive asset on which you can count for the rest of the season.

In the midfield, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Paul Pogba will manifest himself after winning the World Cup with France. The French midfielder allegedly wasn’t always on the best terms with Mourinho last season and his performances were often criticized. Despite all that, Pogba still managed to score 6 goals and provide a pretty impressive 13 assists, which resulted in a total of 138 points in FPL. In the French national team this summer, Pogba played in a more advanced role and showed glimpses of the player that convinced United to pay €105 million for him in 2016. The question is whether Mourinho sees it the same way and is ready to adjust Pogba’s role in order to benefit more from his undeniable (attacking) qualities. Pay attention to the pre-season (also because Pogba might be rested for a gameweek or two at the beginning), because at £8.0m, he could be a steal.

Up front, choices are scarce, but clear. Belgian World Cup semi-finalist Romelu Lukaku is the undisputed number nine of the Reds. The big forward fits Mourinho’s playing style perfectly, as he weighs on defences and can hold up the ball when necessary, for example to set up a counter-attack. With 16 goals, 7 assists, and a total of 162 FPL points, Lukaku had a decent 2018/19 season, but he’ll be wanting to improve those stats this year. Especially against top-6 opposition, he has largely failed to make his mark, so it’ll be interesting to see how the 25-year will fare this season. Note that, like Pogba, he might miss one or two gameweeks in the beginning, as a result of a short break after the World Cup, but if he can manage to replicate (or even improve) his form of last season, his €11.0m price tag is justified.

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Leicester and Liverpool

Reds Sky At Night

“Sunset over The Kop at Anfield” (CC by 2.0) by Ruaraidh Gillies

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this sixth instalment, we’ll take a look at a Leicester team without Mahrez and a Liverpool team that finally looks ready to be a real title contender.

Leicester City – The team

Leicester’s 2017/18 season in the Premier League wasn’t much of a memorable one, as the team spent most of the year around the mid-table positions. The last season started off badly, with just one victory in the first 8 games, which eventually lead to the sacking of manager Craig Shakespeare. He was replaced by French manager and ex-Southampton coach Claude Puel, who managed to turn things around, at least until early 2018, after which the Foxes slumped back into mediocrity. They finished comfortably as ninth in the league, which means no European football this year, and the quarter-finals were reached in both the League Cup and the FA cup.

Ever since Puel took over at Leicester though, there have been rumours about unhappiness among (some of) the players regarding the Frenchman’s management style. That’s the atmosphere in which last season ended and probably how the coming season will start. One of the major sources of frustration for many was Puel’s seeming inability to decide on a best eleven. His team usually turn up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but he rarely fields the same starting eleven. For the sake of consistency, he’ll have probably looked into this over the summer, as well into the lack of attacking intent the his team displayed at times.

Bar the departure of star player Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes haven’t lost any key players so far, while they did bring in a few major reinforcements. Attacking midfielder James Maddison (14 goals and 8 assists in 44 games) was brought in from Norwich for €25 million in order to at least partly fill the gap that was left behind by Mahrez. Another major signing for the Foxes is right-back Ricardo Pereira from Porto, who cost €22 million and looks like he should slip into a starting spot right away. Liverpool reserve goalie Danny Ward (€14 million) and West Brom central defender Jonny Evans (€4million) also came to the King Power, with the latter especially being a very shrewd move. The ex-United man has played almost 250 Premier League games, is still just 30 years old, and looks set to form a central duo with Harry Maguire.

Leicester City – Potential FPL stars

Those who consider Leicester assets for their FPL squad, consider Jamie Vardy. It’s that simple. The 31-year old central forward finished fourth with England at the Russia World Cup, after scoring 20 goals and providing a single assist in 37 Premier League games during regular season, despite the club’s overall mediocre season. Ever since he burst onto the FPL scene just a few years ago, Vardy has shown time and time again that he’s excellent value for money. Of course, a lot will depend on the form of the team, the tactics employed by Puel, and the extent to which the absence of Mahrez affects his own performances, but at £9.0m he should at least be on your watchlist. He willprobably be given the first gameweek off, but Vardy is a sure starter and a sure goalscorer, which is what FPL managers like to see.

After a successful season at Norwich in the Championship, English Under-21 international James Maddison (£6.5m) attracted the interest of a host of clubs, of which Leicester eventually managed to seal the deal. Maddison, though a different type of player than Mahrez, will certainly have to work hard to follow in the Algerian’s footsteps as creative heart of the Foxes, but it looks like he’s up to the challenge. He’s a very technical player with an excellent vision of the game, and he loves setting up the strikers just in front of him. It’ll be interesting to see how Puel fits him into the team and how he will associate with the rest of his team mates on the pitch, especially Vardy. They might just be a dynamic duo in the making.

Claude Puel has been criticized for taking an over-defensive approach to his games, though this might be in part because he didn’t feel at ease leaving the back four too exposed. The arrival of European champion and FC Porto powerhouse Ricardo Pereira could provide some relief in that light. The Portuguese right-back looks set to take over from Danny Simpson from the get-go (and Puel is now open to offers for Simpson) and it’ll be exciting to see if he can show his undeniable qualities in the Premier League as well. The Foxes paid a cool £17.5 million for him, so expectations are high. Pereira is a disciplined defender who tackles unrelentingly, but who’s not afraid to move up his flank and support in attack where possible either, which is something that was sometimes missing for Leicester last season.

Liverpool – The team

Liverpool’s past season was spectacular, to say the least. Despite not bringing home any silverware, the Reds impressed all over England and Europe, as they finished fourth in the league and reached the Champions League final against Spanish giants Real Madrid. They did so by playing an exciting, energetic kind of football that often lead to games full of goals, like the Champions League semi-finals against AS Roma (winning 5-2 at home and then losing 4-2 away). At times, Jurgen Klopp’s men displayed some defensive frailty, though last season’s signing of Dutch central defender Virgil van Dijk hugely improved their defensive performances.

The defensive issues were mostly masked by the outstanding attacking performances though, in particular by Player of the Season 2017/18 Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian winger was simply sensational last season as he went on to score 32 goals in the Premier League, while providing assists for another 11. His current price tag of £13.0 is therefore hardly surprising. Besides obvious star man Salah, fellow attackers Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané had great seasons as well, and Klopp will be counting on them again this season.

As Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain keeps suffering from his knee injury, winger Xerdan Shaqiri was picked up from relegated Stoke to play the role of understudy for the main guys up front. The big names brought in by Liverpool are aimed at improving the defensive stability though, with AS Roma goalkeeper Allison coming in for a whopping €62.50 million, making him the most expensive goalkeeper in history, and defensive midfielder Fabinho coming over from AS Monaco for €45 million. The 23-year Guinean central midfielder Naby Keïta was bought from RB Leipzig for €60 million. With just Emre Can leaving Anfield, it’s safe to say that nothing less than challenging for the title is expected from Liverpool coming season.

Liverpool – Potential FPL stars

So much has been written about Mo Salah already in the run-up to this season, so we’ll instead look at other players in the Liverpool squad. For a price of £9.5m, number 9 Roberto Firmino is a very attractive asset in FPL, a statement supported by the fact that at the time of writing, he’s already part of 36% of all FPL teams. In Jurgen Klopp’s high energy, high pressing game, Firmino plays an integral part with his work rate, his ability to create space for others, and his talent for both scoring goals and setting up his teammates. If fit, the Brazilian is guaranteed to start, bar the possibility of rotation when the schedule inevitably gets (too) congested. He scored 15 goals and gave 8 assists in the Premier League last season, which saw him ending on a total of 181 points in FPL. In the premium segment for strikers, Firmino provides excellent value, assuming he can continue where he left off last season.

As mentioned earlier, this summer Liverpool decided to spend €62.50 million to make Roma goalie Allison the most expensive goalkeeper ever. The position in goal has been a source of uncertainty and frustration for management and fans alike over the past years, but it looks like people need worry no more. The Brazilian goalkeeper is an expensive, but excellent signing by the Reds, and he’ll obviously be a guaranteed starter as the season kicks off. With in front of him Virgil van Dijk starting his first full season at the club after already leaving a good impression since January 2018, Dejan Lovren full of confidence after a silver medal with Croatia at the World Cup, and the tireless upcoming full-backs Robertson and Alexander-Arnold at either side, the Liverpool defence looks more reliable than ever. At a price of £5.5, Allison is expected to find his way into a considerable number of FPL squads.

In midfield, new signing Naby Keïta will be raring to go, as Liverpool had already agreed on his signing during the course of last season. The Guinean midfielder won’t be the most attacking midfielder on the pitch, as he’s expected to be guarding the team’s balance in the middle, together with Fabinho, Henderson, and Wijnaldum (though not all of them will play at the same time), but he should get his opportunities in front of goal. It looks likely that Keïta will be in the starting eleven at the start of the season and if he can replicate his performance in the Bundesliga last year (6 goals and 5 assists in 27 games), he looks more than decent value at £7.5m.

FPL 2018/19 Club Previews – Fulham and Huddersfield

Fulham V Juventus

“Fulham’s legendary Craven Cottage will finally host Premier League football again this season” (CC by 2.0) by Nick

In anticipation of the 2018/2019 Premier League season’s kick-off between Manchester United and Leicester, at 20h00 on August 10th at Old Trafford, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this fifth instalment, we’ll take a look at newly-promoted Fulham FC and a Huddersfield Town squad that defied the odds last season by avoiding relegation.

Fulham – The team

Fulham finished third in the Championship last season and reached the Premier League by beating Derby County in the semi-finals and then conquering Aston Villa in the final. Part of the reason for which the Cottagers ended up in the play-offs was a rocky start to the 2017/18 season, but in terms of stats, they were definite candidates for the title. Only Wolves scored more goals (82 vs 79) and again only Wolves had a better goal difference at the end of the season (+33 vs +30). Fulham did concede 46 goals though, which placed them sixth in the league. The London outfit was especially hard to beat at home, where they only lost 2 games, while they also booked an impressive 12 victories away from home (yet again only Wolves did better).

Manager Slavisa Jokanovic tends to prefer a 4-3-3 formation with a focus on ball possession and an aggressive pressing, the moment the ball is lost. As a result of this indirect way of playing, Fulham’s game contains very few long balls. As a matter of fact, no team last season played fewer long balls than Fulham did and the Cottagers were ranked last in the Championship in terms of aerial duels. Jokanovic likes players who are comfortable on the ball, in any position on the pitch, in order to enable his preferred (short) passing game. The club has already been quite active on the transfer market, but it’s unlikely that the manager will adapt his style in the coming season.

Fulham has seen the departure of two key players from last season so far, namely goalkeeper David Button and right-back Ryan Fredericks. In return, the club managed to attract some big and promising names for just over €60 million, including central midfielder Jean Michaël Seri from OGC Nice (€30 million), striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (who had a successful loan spell at Craven Cottage last season, for €20.2 million), Besiktas goalkeeper Fabri (€6 million), and ex-Chelsea winger André Schürrle from Dortmund on loan.

Fulham – Potential FPL stars

A name that stands out in Fulham squad over the last year is that of pacey left-back-turned-winger Ryan Sessegnon. A lot has been written about his potential already, so what will be most interesting to see is how well the prodigy will adapt to life in the Premier League. His 15 goals and 6 assists last season are simply impressive for an 18-year old, especially when adding the 43 key passes that he provided as well (a metric that plays a major role in the calculation of bonus points in FPL). The EFL Championship Player of the Year is very quick and a cool finisher, though his price tag of £6.5m might be considered too steep by some, considering his age and the fact that Fulham have just promoted.

If you’re looking for a relatively budget-enabling goalkeeper who’s sure to start every game, Fulham’s Marcus Bettinelli (£4.5m) might be an option. Despite the team’s attacking style of play, the 26-year old still kept 12 clean sheets in the 22 games that he played last year after taking over from David Button in goal. What might be of more interest though, is that he averaged almost 4 saves per goal conceded. If he manages to keep up that average, Bettinelli could be a bonus point magnet this season. Home games against Palace, Burnley, and Watford in the first 6 weeks have clean sheet potential as well.

After a successful loan spell with the Cottagers last season (12 goals and 1 assist in 17 games), Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic was one of Jokanovic’ main targets this summer. Fulham splashed a cool £22.5 million on the strong centre forward, so it seems more than likely that he’s guaranteed a starting spot at the start of the season. There are not other real number nines in the squad so far and Mitrovic, besides his goals, also adds some much needed physical strength to an attack that would otherwise consist of mainly technical, ball-playing attackers. At £6.5m and considering Fulham’s opening fixtures, Mitrovic could function as a decent third striker in your team.

Huddersfield Town – The team

At the start of last season, many FPL managers would have put Huddersfield at or around the top of their lists for relegation. David Wagner’s men defied the odds though, and with 37 points the Terriers extended their stay in the elite division for at least another year. Under the German, Huddersfield became a very organized unit that usually turned up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Huddersfield especially counted on pressing high and immediately, as soon as the ball was lost. The role of the players on the flanks, so the full-backs and the wingers, is important in this approach, as Wagner likes to press hard once the opponent has played the ball wide. Strong players with a lot of stamina, such as Terence Kongolo, Rajiv van la Parra, and Scott Malone, are therefore key to Huddersfield’s style of play.

Despite going into their second consecutive season in the Premier League (before 2017/18, Huddersfield hadn’t played in the top division for 45 years), the club’s main priority again this year will be to avoid relegation. Wagner is expected to adopt largely similar tactics to those described previously, which is also reflected by the club’s activity on the transfer market so far. Several players who were on loan last season, including Terenco Kongolo and excelling Danish goalkeeper Jonas Lössl, were bought on a permanent basis this summer, while no key players were lost so far. Winger Tom Ince was sold for just over €11 million, but he never managed to nail down a starting spot over a longer period of time.

Besides the loans that were converted into permanent deals, the Terriers have signed a few other interesting players as well. Attacker Adama Diakhaby was signed from Monaco for €10 million, the talented Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi came over from relegated Stoke for just €6.5 million, and 20-year old central midfielder Juninho Bacuna was bought from Dutch side FC Groningen for €2.5 million, and right-back Erik Durm left Dortmund to join Huddersfield on a free transfer, just to name a few of the biggest names.

Huddersfield Town – Potential FPL stars

Aaron Mooy was a key player for Huddersfield last season and we expect him to be so again this season. He usually plays centrally on the midfield, making the play and trying to control the tempo of the game as well as his side’s high pressing. Thanks to the fact that he’s not scared of moving up the pitch during games from time to time, and the fact that he was sometimes simply started as a number 10 by Wagner, he ended the season as Huddersfield’s highest on-field points scorer in FPL (113 points). The 27-year old scored 4 goals and provided 3 assists in 36 games, which is far from spectacular stats-wise, but he’s the engine of the team and a sure starter. Add his penalty duties and frequent set-piece involvement to that, and his price of £5.5m sounds reasonable.

We previously said “on-field points scorer” on purpose, because last season’s absolute top scorer for the Terriers in terms of FPL points was goalkeeper Jonas Lössl. The Danish shot stopper reached the more than respectable number of 135 points, which was the ninth-highest of the season for goalkeepers, in front of established names like Petr Cech and Kasper Schmeichel, and just a few points behind lauded keepers like Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris. With games against Chelsea (home), City and Everton (both away) in the first five gameweeks, the start of the season is far from easy, but at a price of £4.5, Lössl could be a bargain.

So far this summer, Huddersfield have been quiet when it comes to offensive reinforcements. It looks like the starting number 9 spot will again be occupied by Steve Mounié (7 goals and 2 assists in 28 games) and Laurent Depoitre (6 goals and 1 assist in 33 games). Neither of the two have statistics to blow FPL managers away, but especially Steve Mounié looked like he was capable of more. With one year of Premier League experience under his belt and a couple of promising summer signings coming into the club, the striker might top last year’s performance. It looks like Mounié will be starting when the season kicks off, and at a price of €6.0, he’s an interesting prospect as third striker.

The Ultimate Guide to the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League Season

With the nation of Fantasy Football Managers finalising their teams ahead of the big kick off, we thought you may be interested in an analysis which reveals everything managers need to know in order to make the best possible squad and start to the new season.

Bookmakers bwin have analysed Fantasy Football’s Top 50 most successful managers, as well as the performances of every player last season, to reveal the answers to the most common questions in Fantasy Football: What is the best formation to play? Where should managers spend most their money? Should squads have three players from one team? Should teams have a strong bench? Plus many more…

The headline stats include:

Formations, position choice and transfers:

  • 3-4-3 is the winning formation – Averaging 50.5 points a game, managers should stick to a 3-4-3 formation. With an average of 46.2 points a game, 5-4-1 should be avoided at all costs
  • Choose Full Backs over Centre Backs – Averaging 3.33 a game, full backs trump centre backs, who average 3.17 points a game
  • Wingers score more points than Centre Midfielders – Wide men score on average 4.16 points a game, whilst central midfielders score just 3.42
  • Invest in midfielders rather than strikers – Midfielders over £8.5m average 5.81 points a game, making them better value for money than strikers. Strikers over £10m average 5.73 points a game
  • Don’t cheap out on your defence – Avoid buying cheap defenders (under £4.5m), as they average 2.85 points a game. This is significantly lower than the second lowest point makers – cheap midfielders (under £6.5m), who average 3.09 points a game
  • Do make transfers at the expense of point deductions – Taking a point reduction on players can prove beneficial, as long as managers only do it once in every four gameweeks
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, put them in 10 – The perfect squad mix is: three players from one club, two players from three separate clubs and six players from six individual teams

What Players to pick:

  • Hidden gems from the Championship – Wolves Diogo Jota, Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and Leicester’s James Maddison would have been the Championship’s top points earners last year and could be good value for money editions
  • Premier League new arrivals aren’t worth investing in – The likes of Fabino, Keita, Anderson and Yarmolenko would have all averaged under 4 points a game last year, so don’t expect too many points from them
  • Salah unlikely to warrant his £13m price tag – On average, the top 10 scoring players score 25% less points the following season
  • Vardy and Pogba are big game players. They need to be in the side for tough fixtures – Vardy averages 6.75 points per game whilst Pogba averages 6.6. These are significantly higher than their performances against the bottom 6 (3.91 and 4.78 respectively)
  • Aubameyang and Son are flat track bullies – Aubameyang averaged 9 points per game and Son 6.08 against the bottom 6. These are significantly higher than their performances against the top 6 (1.33 and 2.8 respectively)
  • Avoid having Newcastle players at the start of the season – The Magpies have the hardest opening fixture difficulty according to FDR (opening 6 games), so managers should avoid their players featuring early on
  • Everton players to bag points early on – According to FDR, Everton have the easiest starting fixtures (opening 6 games), so managers should take advantage by filling their team with Toffee players

Living by 5 Fantasy Football Rules

Betway Insider have set out these rules in advance of the start of the 2018/19 Fantasy Premier League season to help you pick a better fantasy team. Pay heed to these guidelines and you could see yourself high up on the leaderboard.

Rule 1 – If you have the spare time then watch as many of the opening matches as possible to see who’s on form and who’s firing blanks. A player who looks to be playing well but is just unlucky not to score or assist is more likely to produce the goods in his next match than a player who is off colour. If you haven’t got time then see what people are saying on fiso’s Fantasy Football forums.

Rule 2 – Review the first 5 or 6 fixtures for each club and avoid those mid/lower ranked clubs that have difficult matches (such as a lot of away matches and/or against higher ranked clubs). For example, Newcastle’s opening home fixtures are against Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal and they also have an away match against Man City – you can’t get a much tougher start than that in your first 5 matches.

Rule 3 – The bargain players can make your season. Each player has a cost and you only have a limit to what you can spend so value for money is important particularly if you’re spending big on certain players. The new clubs coming from the Championship can provide opportunities as can players transferred in before the transfer deadline. FISO’s FPL forum has many discussions on who might be the best bargain players to have on your FPL team this season.

Rule 4 – In FPL you get 1 free transfer per week but anymore (other than using your wildcard/free hit) then it will cost you 4 points. Don’t get trigger happy and remove players costing you minus 4 points each time, particularly if you have someone on the bench that can come in. You have to be lucky to make up those 4 points lost.

Rule 5 – Many managers have a strategy at the start of the season and then rip it up within a few weeks only to find that if they had stuck to their guns they would have climbed back up the leaderboard. Yes you may need to adapt to how things pan out on the field and may need to reorganise your team to get that star player in but don’t abandon a strategy that’s worked well for you in the past and where the odds are with you.