FPL Season 2021/22: Gameweek 3 preview

Much of the gameweek 2 debate was about who was going to haul bigger, Mo Salah against Burnley at Anfield or Bruno Fernandes against Southampton at St. Mary’s. After impressive double digit hauls in the opening round of the season, another big-time return was only a question of time, right? Right?!

Well, the Premier League wouldn’t be the Premier League and the FPL wouldn’t be the FPL without throwing millions of fantasy managers (no player in FPL history had ever been more captained than Salah last weekend) a serious curveball when they least expect it. Instead of a bunch of goals and assists, Salah managed just a clean sheet for 3 FPL points. And Bruno? Well, he didn’t score, he didn’t assist and he didn’t record a clean sheet, but he did get a yellow card for arguing. One point for Portugal.

Instead, the outstanding fantasy performers of the weekend were Chelsea’s Reece James (18 FPL points, now part of 10% of all teams), West Ham’s Michail Antonio (16 points, now part of 38.4% of all teams) and Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings (15 points, 9.9% of teams now). With Gabriel Jesus, Mateusz Klich and Aymeric Laporte, the Team of the Week also contained three players with ownerships well below 4% at the time of playing. It’s easy to focus our attention on the premium fantasy assets in a season in which budgets seem more restricted than ever, but gameweek 2 was mainly one for the non-premium picks and the differentials.

Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 3 is set at 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, August 28th. Also do check out the Premier League Injury Table and Predicted Premier League Line-Ups before finalising your teams.

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per August 26th, 2021)

GKMartinez (AST), Schmeichel (LEI), Foster (WAT)Lloris (TOT), Raya (BRE), Schmeichel (LEI)
DEFWhite (ARS), Shaw (MUN), Digne (EVE)Duffy (BRI), Tsimikas (LIV), James (CHE)White isolated, Duffy and Tsimikas budget options, Shaw and Digne lack of returns
MIDSalah (LIV), Saka (ARS), Barnes (LEI)Benrahma (WHU), Pogba (MUN), Jota (LIV)Saka flagged, form of transferred-in assets
FORToney (BRE), Iheanacho (LEI), Richarlison (EVE)Antonio (WHU), Lukaku (CHE), Ings (AST)Lukaku debut, Antonio and Ings goal-scoring form

Premium pick

With many of the popular premium fantasy picks preparing for difficult fixtures in gameweek 3, we have shifted our focus to the encounter between Spurs and Watford. The two London sides face each other on Sunday afternoon and with the continued uncertainty regarding Harry Kane’s role in Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, underlined by the fact that he has played just 18 minutes of PL football so far, we feel his partner up front Heung-Min Son (£10.1m) could haul big this weekend. Spurs have been far from free-scoring in the first two gameweeks of this campaign, winning both games one to nothing, but the Korean did score one of those goals, in GW1 versus Manchester City. Watford, on the other hand, have conceded two goals in each of their opening games. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Son make it two consecutive home games with attacking returns against the Hornets.

Non-premium pick

After 3 goals and 3 assists in the first two league games of the season, it’s kind of impossible to ignore Michail Antonio (£7.7m) for West Ham’s home game against Crystal Palace. At the moment, no player in the entire game has recorded more than his 29 FPL points. His starting price of £7.5m is already starting to look like a serious bargain and it’s no surprise that the Jamaica international looks set for a third price rise in just two gameweeks. Palace boast some of the worst underlying defensive stats in the league after two rounds and confidence is not exactly high after starting the season with a (calculated) defeat against Chelsea and a draw with newly-promoted Brentford, and no goals in their favour. West Ham’s story is quite different, because the Hammers have started their 2021/22 campaign with two victories versus Newcastle and Leicester, and 8 goals scored. More goals should be on the menu on Saturday and Antonio will likely be involved once again.

The budget enabler

Budget constraints as a result of expensive players in all categories are marking the start of the 2021/22 Fantasy Premier League season, but at the same time, an unprecedented number of budget-enabling defenders have emerged, some more permanent than others. We had Kostas Tsimikas as Andy Robertson’s replacement, while currently £4.0 assets Shane Duffy and Daniel Amartey are racking up playing minutes as well in the absence of one or more of their team mates. The budget enabler we would like to highlight this week though, is Southampton’s Tino Livramento (£4.0m), who is probably the safest extreme budget pick on the long-term. The Saints are far from the most defensively solid outfit in the league and the 18-year old Livramento has accrued just 3 FPL points so far, but he does seem to have the right-back spot nailed down. The Chelsea academy graduate hasn’t missed a minute so far and looks to have taken Kyle Walker-Peter’s spot in the starting eleven, seeing as the latter has been fit since the start of the campaign. His determined performance in the draw with Man United certainly earned him praise from the fans. With Newcastle away coming up this weekend, there could be some freedom for forward-oriented Livramento on the right flank, but the main argument for bringing him in is his starting berth at just £4.0m, making him a very good option as the fifth defender in your squad.

The differential

One young man who has been going under the radar over the past weeks is Dele Alli (£6.5m). Now, we know that more than a few fantasy managers will experience light symptoms of PTSD when mentioning his name due to his tendency to disappoint in a big way in past seasons, but the Spurs midfielder has had a more than decent start to the current campaign. Dele scored Tottenham’s only goal against Wolves in GW2 and he scored it from the penalty spot, which is interesting. Should Kane return to the Spurs fold soon, then penalty duties will most likely shift to the star forward, but Dele taking the spot kick last weekend inspires confidence. His new manager Espirito Santo has kept the England international on the pitch for 90 minutes in both league games so far and the attacking midfield spot seems his to lose. Against a Watford side that has already conceded 4 goals in two games, he will be looking to further cement his role as key man for Spurs this season. With an ownership of 2.9% at the moment of writing, the differential value here is more than considerable.

The captaincy

After overwhelming captaincy numbers for Salah and Fernandes in gameweek 2, we expect armbands to be a lot more spread around this weekend for the GW3 FPL captain. The Egyptian is always an option, but he does face Chelsea at Anfield this weekend, while the Portuguese playmaker visits Molineux on Sunday. At the same time, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are hosting new boys Watford, and that’s where we’d recommend to leave the armband. With Kane’s situation unclear still, our preference goes to Son, who could easily book a few attacking returns against a Hornets side that has already shipped 4 goals in two games against Villa and Brighton.

Outside of the more premium bracket, Michail Antonio at home to Crystal Palace and Dominic Calvert-Lewin away at a Brighton side that is vulnerable in the air look like excellent options for the armband. If you’re willing to play Pep Roulette, Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish and even Gabriel Jesus are interesting options as they host a weak Arsenal side. Jamie Vardy could haul for the first time this season as Leicester visit Norwich, while the ever-dangerous Callum Wilson might find the net against Southampton, just like Bamford and Raphinha at Turf Moor or Ings at home to Brentford who are yet to concede.

FPL Season 2021/22: Gameweek 2 preview

We had to be patient, and we had to make do with such lesser events as the 2020 European Championship and the Olympics, but boy, was it worth the wait. The Premier League, and therefore the official fantasy game (FPL), got off to a start in style as a combination of expected and differential hauls saw gameweek 1 ending with a very high 69 points on average.

The two biggest performers of the week were also two of the most highly-owned fantasy assets: Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes and Liverpool’s Mo Salah. With 20 FPL points and 17 FPL points respectively, the Red Devils playmaker and the Reds talisman are now both in over 55% of all teams. The week’s top performers also included a bunch of very much differential picks, with the likes of Marcos Alonso (15 points, 5.6% ownership by now), Trevoh Chalobah (14 points, 2.3% ownership now) and Said Benrahma (12 points, 9.8% ownership now) all delivering big for their owners.

Gameweek 2 could be another high-scoring one as the weekend’s schedule offers some very plum fixtures. Fantasy managers will be eyeing the Liverpool (against Burnley) and Manchester City (versus Norwich) home games, while Manchester United (at Saint Mary’s) and Chelsea (for a derby at the Emirates) have favourable away games lined up.

Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 2 is set at 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, August 21st. Also do check out the Premier League Injury Table and Predicted Premier League Line-Ups before finalising your teams.

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per August 18th, 2021)

GKMartinez (AST), Ederson (MCI), Sánchez (BRI)Schmeichel (LEI), Raya (BRE), Foster (WAT)
DEFWhite (ARS), Chilwell (CHE), Shaw (MUN)Tsimikas (LIV), Alonso (CHE), Amartey (LEI)Seems mostly GW1-related knee-jerking; Tsimikas continued starts; Arsenal shaky defence
MIDSaka (ARS), Maddison (LEI), Grealish (MCI)Pogba (MUN), Fernandes (MUN), Benrahma (WHU)Form of transferred-in players; Maddison flagged
FORKane (TOT), Iheanacho (LEI), Cavani (MUN)Richarlison (EVE), Lukaku (CHE), Antonio (WHU)Kane future at Spurs + flagged; Lukaku recent addition to FPL; Antonio involvement

Premium pick

Based on gameweek 1 performances and gameweek 2 fixtures, Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes (£12.1) look to become the two most-captained fantasy assets for a second week in a row this weekend. There is not much between them, to be honest, and we have eventually gone with the Man United hat-trick hero as our premium fantasy pick for GW2. Whilst Liverpool are playing Burnley at home on Saturday afternoon, United are visiting a Southampton side that has just lost Jannik Vestergaard to Leicester. The visitors ranked amongst the top three attacking stats after their season opener against Leeds, including shots on target and expected goals, while the home side ranked amongst the bottom three teams after their 3-1 defeat against Everton, including big chances conceded and expected conceded goals. Back-to-back hat-tricks for Bruno to kick off the season?

Non-premium pick

Despite not featuring in the FPL Team of the Week in GW1, due to scoring “just” 7 points against Southampton after scoring once, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m) more than showed why he should be top of your watchlists. The Everton front man is clearly the focal point of Rafa Benitez’ Toffees and with his team mates practically flooding the Saints’ penalty area with crosses, 17 in total last weekend, more goals could very well be on the way. No player recorded more shots in the box (5) or headed chances (3) than DCL, and with Leeds known to be vulnerable in the air, his appeal is more than understandable. On top of that, afterwards it’s Brighton (away), Burnley (home), Villa (away) and Norwich (home) for Everton, which makes their striker a very feasible option for the longer term as well.

The budget enabler

We understand it might be considered a bit boring or uninspired, but in our budget-enabling fantasy pick category we’re highlighting Liverpool’s Kostas Tsimikas (£4.1m) for a second week in a row. It’s just very hard not to. The Greek left-back is a temporary replacement in the absence of Andy Robertson, who is expected to return to action around the international break, but a high-quality one at that. He comfortably passed the eye test against Norwich in gameweek 1 and the fact that he took seven of Liverpool’s 11 corners only adds to his appeal. Tsimikas recorded 6 FPL points in that game, courtesy of a clean sheet, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him at least repeat that feat this coming weekend when Burnley roll up to Anfield. With 58.5%, the Reds boasts the highest clean sheet odds of all teams in gameweek 2.

The differential

In the build-up to the 2021/22 campaign, whenever Brentford came up, much of the discussion focused on striker Ivan Toney. Logical, of course, after the forward’s record-breaking season in the Championship last season, but perhaps a tad short-sighted as well. In the opening game against Arsenal, it was actually his partner in crime up front Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m) who operated as the most advanced Bee. The France U21 international, who is listed as a budget midfielder in the official game, played on the edge of offside for much of the game and was actually their most threatening man going forward. He had a couple of good chances and even hit the post, but eventually came away with 3 FPL points as his side managed to keep a clean sheet. Acceptable for a £5.5 midfielder, but based on his performance and the game itself, a bit disappointing. Up next are Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, in theory a good and open opponent for Brentford and Mbeumo to build on their spectacular season opener.

The captaincy

As we wrote earlier, Bruno Fernandes and Mohammed Salah are expected to be the two run-away captaincy candidates for gameweek 2. Manchester United are visiting Southampton after thrashing Leeds 5-1 at Old Trafford and Liverpool are hosting Burnley after comfortably dispatching of newly-promoted Norwich last weekend. If you have one of these two players in your squad, you should probably put the armband on them. If you own both, it’s pretty much a coin toss, though our preference leans ever so slightly towards Bruno at Saint Mary’s.

If you’re looking for a more differential type of captain this weekend though, the fixture list offers a few interesting options. Dominic Calvert-Lewin against Leeds at Elland Road could repay risk-takers in a big way, as could Riyad Mahrez against Norwich as part of the ever uncertain Man City starting eleven. Newly arrived premium asset Lukaku could get off to a flying start against Arsenal on Sunday as well, while Danny Ings will be looking to make it two consecutive appearances on the score sheet at home against a seemingly leaky Newcastle side.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL Season 2021/22: Gameweek 1 preview

And we’re back! With just 1 day to go until Arsenal and Brentford kick off the new 2021/22 Premier League season, we will once again be looking forward to what we feel are the best, the shrewdest and most differential FPL fantasy picks ahead of gameweek 1. And the best thing? We’ll be doing so every week and twice if it’s a double!

If you were a regular reader of our gameweek previews, thank you for following and hopefully our insights will be useful again to you this season. If this is your first taste of our regular FPL content, we’re very happy to have you here and hopefully you’ll find plenty of reasons to check us out regularly in your quest for ultimate FPL glory.

Also, we have posted a 10-part 2021/22 season preview series over the past week or so, in order to help fantasy managers plan for their gameweek 1 squads. Per club, we have taken a brief look at last season’s performances, at their expected tactical approach for the coming season and at some of their most appealing FPL assets. The last of those was West Ham & Wolves so these are now done and published for reading though and now it’s time for the first gameweek preview of the new season.

Don’t forget, the deadline for gameweek 1 is set at 18h30 (UK time) on Friday, August 13th.

Players with highest ownership (as per August 11th, 2021)

Name (club – current ownership %)
Martinez (AST – 38.3%) ; Foster (WAT – 27.4%) ; Sanchez (BRI – 23.4%)
Shaw (MUN – 53.9%) ; Alexander-Arnold (LIV – 31.7%) ; Dias (MCI – 27.5%)
Salah (LIV – 50.2%) ; Fernandes (MUN – 48.4%) ; Grealish (MCI – 27.4%)
Toney (BRE – 30.1%) ; Ings (AST – 27.8%) ; Kane (TOT – 21.8%)

Premium pick
Lots of things Premier League have changed last season, but then again lots of things didn’t. Last season, our final premium fantasy pick was Mo Salah (£12.5m) and lo and behold, the Liverpool talisman is our first premium recommendation for the 2021/22 season as well. He was our stand-out pick in our Liverpool Season Preview as well, mainly because of his extremely high-level consistency. You never know exactly how a player will start a new season, but Mo has recorded 303, 259, 233 and 231 FPL points over the last four seasons, courtesy of 95 goals and 40 assists. That’s 135 direct goal involvements in about 150 Premier League games. No wonder he’s the most expensive fantasy asset in the official game this year and no wonder that he’s the most selected midfielder ahead of a season opener against newly promoted Norwich, and Mane, Jota and Firmino have all scored in pre-season which is encouraging for his assists potential as well.

Non-premium pick
There have been a few shock moves and multi-million pound deals already this summer, but in terms of the Premier League at least, few transfers were as sneaky as Danny Ings (£8.0m) to Aston Villa for about £30 million. We basically heard about it on the day it was confirmed! The former Saint’s main issue has always had his vulnerability to injuries, but when fit, he’s one of the most lethal strikers in the English top flight. Something he confirmed straight-away by scoring the equalising goal in the friendly encounter with Italian side Salernitana just five days after signing for the Villans. He scored 12 goals and 4 assists in just over 2,100 minutes of Premier League football last season, and with Villa’s further recruitment (Buendia, Bailey), the 29-year old could be looking at a very good season ahead. We’re just hoping he will stay fit for an extended period of time.

The budget enabler
There is probably no more significant time in the life of a budget-enabling FPL asset than the build-up to gameweek 1. Every fantasy manager in the world is looking for that one £4.0m defender or that £4.5m midfielder who is at least nailed-on to start for his team. If that asset is also part of a strong team, even better, and if the starting fixtures are kind, EVEN better. Well, Kostas Tsimikas (£4.0m) is ticking all of the boxes at the time of writing. With Robertson out injured for a while, the former Olympiakos man looks set to fill in at left-back for Liverpool, he’s been having a very good pre-season and his opening fixtures read Norwich away and Burnley at Anfield. The only drawback is that Tsimikas is a temporary budget enabler at most, as Robertson will slot right back into the starting eleven as soon as he’s fit (possibly GW3 or GW4). Still, the Greek defender represents fantastic short-term and possibly even medium-term value, even more so if you play FPL with a £4.0m 15th man who remains on the bench.

The differential
As we speak, the first template team of the season is forming itself already, as the likes of Salah, Alexander-Arnold, Bruno Fernandes, Shaw and Toney are finding themselves into lots of teams. This gives investing in a differential pick a potentially higher ceiling, but also carries the risk of missing out heavily-owned fantasy assets from the get-go. Still, we feel that at least one differential pick should find its way into your gameweek 1 squad and in that light, we think Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) could be golden. With Rashford out for the foreseeable future after undergoing shoulder surgery and Cavani being given extra time off, its hard to see the 19-year old not starting against Leeds in gameweek 1. On top of that, six of the seven goals he scored last season, as well as one of his two assists, came over the course of the last eight games. Greenwood had the summer to recharge his batteries and with a starting berth all but guaranteed in GW1, he could continue where he left off last season and carry his good form into the 2021/22 campaign.

The captaincy
There are various good options for the captain’s armband for gameweek 1, but as far as we are concerned, it eventually all comes down to Bruno Fernandes versus Leeds at Old Trafford or Mo Salah against Norwich at Carrow Road. We have opted for the latter. The Egyptian is the official game’s best performer since the 2017/18 season and if there’s anyone in the entire league who we can see hitting the season off with a few goals, it’s him. He will start up front, he’s on penalties and Liverpool will be raring to get off to a good start in their quest to retake the title after losing it to Man City last season.

Having said that, Man United’s Bruno is probably just as reliable for the captaincy. The only slight uncertainty is in regard to how United will turn up in gameweek 1 and to what extent the Portuguese playmaker will be allowed to influence their attacking moves. Still, an extremely solid pick for the armband. Looking further into the schedule, the kindly priced Kai Havertz (at home to Crystal Palace), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (at home to Southampton), Danny Ings (away at Watford) and Michail Antonio (away at Newcastle) could be very interesting differential captains to help you claim a top spot in mini-leagues on day one.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 10 West Ham and Wolves

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this tenth and final instalment, we take a look at a European West Ham side and a Wolves side getting used to life under a new manager after five successful years under Nuno Espirito Santo.

WEST HAM – FPL 2021/22 team preview

When talking about last season’s surprising top performers, the focus often shifts to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, and with a ninth place and an exciting brand of attacking football, the Whites deserve all of the praise they’ve received. Still, when looking at the Premier League table at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, it doesn’t take long to identify another, perhaps even more impressive finish, namely that of West Ham United in sixth. With 65 points from 38 games, the Hammers actually managed to penetrate the bastion that is the English top six, just two points off Chelsea in fourth, and at least three points of ahead of London rivals Spurs and Arsenal.

This excellent result meant more than prestige though, because it has also seen the club qualify for the Europa League group stages of the coming season. After getting eliminated in the qualifying rounds in 2015/16 and 2016/17, the East Londoners will feature in the tournament for the first time since the UEFA Cup was rebranded for the 2009/10 season. A fitting reward for a great season.

When delving a little bit deeper into the underlying statistics, we can see that West Ham’s sixth-place finish was more than deserved. The Hammers were prolific in attack, their tally of goals scored only beaten by five other teams in the league, while their defence proved resolute. Only seven sides conceded less than their 47 goals. It was West Ham’s home record that particularly impressed as just champions Manchester City boasted a higher points average than their 1.79 points per home game. Some analysts and pundits have questioned the absence of crowds, in West Ham’s case the absence of an often very expectant and critical crowd, as a reason for this.

Now, qualification for European football is fantastic, both in terms of prestige and finances, but we have also seen how it can be a double-edged sword at times in recent years. Think Burnley in the 2018/19 Europa League and Wolves in the 2019/20 Europa League. In that sense, boss David Moyes will have to manage the addition of least six more Thursday evening games on top of what will undoubtedly be another gruelling Premier League season. Squad depth and player fitness will be major topics for the Hammers over the coming weeks as they will seek to do well in Europe while also aiming for another top-half finish in the league, at least.

West Ham’s tactics sheet

Despite the intense upcoming schedule for a group of players that is not entirely used to playing three times a week including away games on the European continent, it has been a very quiet transfer summer so far. Winger Felipe Anderson and central defender Fabian Balbuena moved on to pastures new, while last season’s loanee Craig Dawson was given a permanent contract and Paris Saint Germain back-up goalkeeper was brought in on a loan. Probably the biggest transfer window news so far, from a West Ham point of view, is the fact that key man Euro 2020 starter Declan Rice is still a Hammer.

In regard to the starting lineup for gameweek 1, we therefore don’t expect too many changes in comparison to last season. Moyes generally lined his men up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with an occasional switch to a backline of five. More often than not though, this was the result of injury issues in defence, which is why we’re expecting a similar set-up this season.

In goal, the reliable Lukasz Fabianski is a certainty. In front of him, Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson look like the most probable pairing, with Aaron Cresswell on the left wing and Vladimir Coufal from the right wing providing attacking impulses from the back. West Ham’s double pivot in the middle, possibly one of the most reliable in the league, will consist of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek.

The powerful but injury-prone Michail Antonio is the first choice to lead the offensive line. For the three spots behind him, Moyes can choose from a bunch of attacking talent, including Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini and Euro 2020 star Andrei Yarmolenko. Based on the pre-season preparations, Fornals seems to be preferred to play behind Antonio with Bowen and Benrahma on the flanks, though these players can switch positions easily throughout games.

WEST HAM – Potential FPL targets

Both Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) are good choices for your gameweek 1 squad, and we have opted for the latter. Though the former is on lots of set-pieces and provided more assists than any defender in the official game, the latter costs £0.5m less and recorded an equally impressive 9 assists last season. In our opinion, the Czech Republic international is probably underpriced by about half a million and combined with a kind set of opening fixtures, this makes him a very appealing fantasy pick. With Newcastle away, Leicester at home, Palace home and Southampton away in the first four rounds, Coufal represents potential for returns at both sides of the pitch.

Despite missing out on considerable parts of the campaign due to injuries, Michail Antonio (£7.5m) still ended the season as the West Ham player with the highest direct goal involvement. His 10 goals and 5 assists represent an involvement of just over 19% and an total of 118 FPL points. Compared to his actual playing minutes, that comes down to an attacking return every 131 minutes and 0.52 Expected Goals per 90 minutes, a ratio bettered by just four other players in the entire division. He’s an explosive option up front and without any attacking signings so far, his starting berth seems as secure as ever.

Two players made 38 appearances for West Ham in the Premier League last season. One was cental midfielder Tomas Soucek, an enticing FPL asset himself at £6.0m, the other was winger Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m). The 24-year old joined the Hammers in the winter of 2020 for a maximum fee of £25 million and didn’t need long to find his place in East London. He got a goal and 4 assists in his first half-season at the club and got him definite breakthrough last season, when he recorded 141 FPL points, courtesy of 8 goals, 4 assists and 9 clean sheets. He’ll be hoping to further improve on that performance this season and if he does, his £6.5m price tag will end up being a real bargain.

WOLVES – FPL 2021/22 team preview

The Wolverhampton Wanderers have been a quality addition to the Premier League since their promotion back in 2018. After impressive back-to-back league finishes in seventh place in the 2018/19 and the 2019/20 seasons, last season was relatively disappointing with a 13th place. The defensive nature for which they had become known largely disappeared as Wolves conceded 52 goals in 38 games, while their attacking output was even more problematic. In the Premier League, you simply can’t hope for much if you manage to score just 36 goals over the course of the season.

Having said that, we believe a special mention of Raul Jimenez and his horrific head injury is warranted. The Mexican striker, good for 30 goals and 17 assists in the two seasons prior to last, was sitting on 4 goals and 1 assist from 824 minutes of Premier League when he suffered a season-ending skull fracture at the end of November 2020. For a side already not extremely prolific in front of goal, losing their talisman meant a huge loss. Add to that the later (long-term) injuries of the likes of forwards Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto, and Wolves’ subpar goal-scoring sounds a bit more logical.

While Podence and Neto remain flagged in the official game as of today, the big man up front is back in action, which means a huge boost for the Wolves. New manager Bruno Lage, the successor to Nuno Espirito Santo after his move to Spurs, will be looking to put last season to bed and build a new squad around the undeniable amount of talent at his disposal. With no European football to distract the team from domestic objectives, the former Benfica and Dinamo Tbilisi boss has the opportunity to implement a more attacking approach to games and to integrate a few new key figures into the team.

Wolves’ tactics sheet

Where under Espirito Santo the Wolves generally lined up in a very organised back-men backline with attacking wing-backs and a playmaking double pivot in front of it, Lage seems to favour a more classic 4-4-2 formation. In recent friendlies during pre-season though, he reverted back to Nuno’s 3-4-3 system with wing-backs. On the one hand, he might be experimenting with different systems in order to counter the very different types of opposition his men will face coming season. On the other hand, he could be checking the current squad’s ability to play with a back four. One way or another, some uncertainty exists for FPL managers in this sense.

In terms of transfers, Wolves have been pretty active during the ongoing window. Mainstay and number one for years Rui Patricio is now plying his trade in between the sticks at AS Roma, but no other outgoing transfers of first-team significance have taken place so far. On the other side, Rayan Aït Nouri’s loan agreement was made permanent for about £10 million, while Olympiacos goalkeeper José Sa has been brought in to replace Patricio. On top of that, the club signed central defender Yerson Mosquera from Colombian side Atletico Nacional, right-back Bendegúz Bolla from Hungarian side Féhérvár and talented winger Trincao from FC Barcelona on a loan.

Assuming that Lage will stick to the 4-4-2 formation that has brought him considerable success at Benfica and Tblisi, a central defensive pairing of Connor Coady and Willy Boly looks the most likely. They will be backed by the newly acquired José Sa in goal. The right-back position looks set for former Barcelona man Nelson Semedo, while the left-back spot will be between Marçal and Aït Nouri. The latter has however been used as a left midfielder on several occasions during the pre-season as well, which could represent a very interesting out-of-position fantasy asset, should Lage continue to employ the Frenchman as such.

In the middle, we find it hard to imagine that Lage will change the tried and tested central duo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, though the latter’s starting berth is eyed by Leander Dendoncker as well. Adama Traoré is the prime candidate to start on their right side, while the left side will be occupied by Pedro Neto once he is back to fitness. Up front, Raul Jimenez is 100% nailed-on and likely to be joined by Trincao. Daniel Podence will need to be slotted in once he is back from injury, probably on the left side of the midfield or in the forward line.

WOLVES – Potential FPL targets

Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) is the Wolves talisman and at his current price tag, probably a steal. As mentioned earlier, his last season was ruined by a serious head injury, but the Mexican’s qualities are undeniable. He has been one of Wolves’ and indeed the Premier League’s most consistent performers over the past season, recording 181 FPL points in the 2018/19 campaign and 194 FPL points over the 2019/20 campaign. Jimenez is the team’s focal point up front and on penalties as well, which only increases his appeal. Wolverhampton have been given a tough start to the season, but if they show some fantasy potential, expect Raul’s ownership percentage to increase considerably from gameweek 3 onwards.

In the Wolves backline, we found an England international and Euro 2020 participant available at a budget price. Conor Coady (£4.5m) is a mainstay in the Wolves defence, which is underlined by the fact that he played the most minutes of any outfield player last season. In a mediocre season for the team as a while, he still managed to record 106 FPL points, courtesy of 10 clean sheets and a single goal. This shows that Coady is not a pick you should consider if you’re looking for explosive returns, but if Bruno Lage manages to shore up his defence, the Englishman could provide excellent value to any FPL squad.

As we have stated in earlier parts of this series, we generally don’t tend to recommend going with fantasy assets new to the Premier League too early. The Prem is a different beast and with so many options at our disposal for every position in our squad, “wait and see” is usually a wise move. From time to time though, a fantasy asset presents itself that shows particular potential and we believe Trincao (£6.0m) could be such an asset. The Portuguese winger was loaned from a Barcelona side on the brink of bankruptcy and should slot in right into the starting eleven next to Jimenez up front. That places him in the often much-coveted out-of-position category at a potential bargain price. He has featured heavily during Wolves’ pre-season and is, in our opinion, one to keep an eye on.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 9 Tottenham Hotspur and Watford

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this ninth instalment, we will be providing a bit more insight into a new-look Spurs side under former Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo and the last of three promoted teams in this season preview series, Watford.

SPURS – FPL 2021/22 team preview

If there was an award for rockiest pre-season, then Tottenham Hotspur would be a prime candidate this year. It started with the reported struggle for the club to find a manager of name and reputation to follow in the footsteps of the often controversial José Mourinho. Inter’s Antonio Conte, Bayern’s Hansi Flick, Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers, all of these names and a bunch more were linked to the Spurs job, and as many allegedly declined the opportunity. All but one, that is, because the Londoners eventually did manage to sign Nuno Espirito Santo, the successful Wolves coach who led his former team back to the Premier League for the 2018/19 season and immediately established them as an upper mid-table force to be reckoned with.

In other words, and despite Spurs being a clear step-up in terms of club size and pressure to perform, the doubts surrounding his appointment at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium seem largely unfounded. Calm, tactically strong and a good man-manager, Espirito Santo could turn out to be the perfect heir to Mourinho’s squad. Having said that, improving on last season’s seventh place, preferably in the form of a top-four finish, is going to be a mammoth task for the Portuguese manager.

Of course, the Harry Kane shenanigans are not helping. Imagine signing for a club considered serial underachievers by their own fans, knowing that you can at least build a team and a new tactical approach around the league’s best striker (who was directly involved in no less than 54% of the team’s goals in the prior season), and then that striker deciding not to turn up for the first training session after his holidays. Or the second. Or the third. Not cool, to say the least, but Espirito Santo has to deal with it and he’s doing it in his own style: calm, unruffled, positive. We will see if Kane will turn up in a Spurs’ shirt come gameweek 1, that’s all we can say for now.

Spurs’ tactics sheet

One of the major causes for doubts in regard to Espirito Santo’s appointment has to do with the fact that, after the largely negative approach to games under Mourinho, the club was supposed to move into a more attack-minded direction. That’s because the Portuguese manager is not exactly known for an especially attacking kind of football.

It’s not that Santo’s football is not attractive, because it can definitely be, but it’s based on fitness and tactical discipline first of all, combined with a solid defensive foundation. His statement at the start of his tenure about first getting fitness levels up to his standards before settling on a formation should therefore be taken seriously. Additionally, it shows another quality of the new Spurs coach, namely that he is not rigidly set on a certain shape or playing style. The result could be a very hard-to-beat, hard-working Spurs side in which the attacking assets, like at Wolves, can excel.

It remains to be seen how Spurs will line up in GW1, but we feel a five-men backline is most likely, considering both Nuno’s playing style at Wolves over the past four seasons and the player material available to him at Spurs. In goal, captain Hugo Lloris seems assured of another season as Spurs #1, despite him entering his final contract year. For the central trio, the club is looking for reinforcements with Atalanta defender Cristian Romero on the way and Bologna defender Takehiro Tomiyasu strongly linked to the North London side. Of the current squad, Ben Davies and Eric Dier look like the most likely candidates for a starting spot. Sergi Reguilón on the left and Matt Doherty, who blossomed under Nuno at Wolves, on the right fill the wing-back positions.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele look set to form the team’s double pivot in the middle. For the three spots left up front, Nuno has quite an abundance of talent at his disposal, though some of them will hope for a bit of a form revival after featuring on the fringes under Mourinho. Assuming Kane stays, he will lead the line with the other undroppable and outstanding performer Heung-Min Son behind him, around him or on the wing. Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn and Giovanni lo Celso will be vying for the third spot in attack, either on the right flank (Moura, Bergwijn) or behind the Kane-Son duo (Alli, Lo Celso).

SPURS – Potential FPL targets

Obviously, Harry Kane (£12.5m) is Spurs fantasy pick number one. At the moment of writing he is still a Spurs player, and anyone Spurs-related will be hoping this will still be the case come the end of the transfer window on August, 31st. Kane became both the Premier League topscorer with 23 goals and the division’s assist king with 14 assists last season for a total of 242 FPL points. The season’s top points scorer Bruno Fernandes outdid him by just two points. Kane is Tottenham’s talisman, he is fixture-proof and he is on penalties as well as on more than a few free-kicks. Yes, he is very expensive and Spurs’s opening fixtures are not fantastic, but there a few safer long-term investments than Tottenham’s very own in the official fantasy game.

We generally try to focus on FPL assets besides the premium picks a lot, but in the case of Spurs, it’s just very hard to not mention both Kane and Heung-Min Son (£10.0m) when discussing their fantasy picks. With 17 goals and 11 assists, the Korean had a phenomenal 2020/21 campaign, scoring 228 FPL points, just 14 less than Kane. That’s also where much of Son’s appeal lies, because his price tag is a whole £2.5m lighter and he is registered as a midfielder in the official fantasy game. No other midfielder provided more value than him last season and with a current ownership of just over 17%, he is a relative differential pick as well.

To counter our two heavyweight fantasy picks, we are highlighting the potential budget-enabling value of Eric Dier (£4.5m). The versatile Englishman, who can play as a defensive midfielder as part of the double pivot, as one of the two central defenders in a four-men defence or as one of the three central defenders in a backline of five, was Spurs’ most-used defender last season in terms of playing minutes. He is not the one you should look for if you’re on a quest for attacking returns, in 2,520 minutes Dier recorded no attacking returns, but if Nuno manages to implement some of his much-desired tactical discipline and defensive solidity this season, the England international could be of excellent value to any FPL squad. Cherry on the cake is that Dier was raised in Portugal and came through Sporting Lisbon’s academy, so he is fluent in his new manager’s native language.

WATFORD – FPL 2021/22 team preview

With Watford, we have come to the last of the three promoted sides for this series of Season Previews and to the best defence of last season’s Championship campaign. In 48 games, the Hornets conceded just 30 goals, six less than champions Norwich, and recorded the highest number of clean sheets in the division by some margin. Exactly half of their games, 23 to be precise, ended without them conceding a single goal.

A big role in this achievement was reserved for Spanish manager Xisco Muñoz, who was appointed in December 2020 following the sacking of Vladimir Ivic. He is the one who really turned Watford into a hard-to-beat side, though at times at the cost of an attractive playing style. He was in charge during 27 games last season, a run over which the Hornets conceded just 16 goals and scored 40. Though not always lauded for his approach to games, Xisco’s philosophy might be just what the club needs to survive on their return amongst the English footballing elite after a year of absence.

The fact that Watford took just a single season to bounce back to the Prem is interesting for another reason as well, because the club managed to keep hold of much of the team’s core from that 2019/20 season. Recent Premier League experience is not to be underestimated when it comes to newly-promoted teams, even if they did get relegated. It should also not be forgotten that Watford missed out on retaining their Premier League status by just a single point and that, just a few months earlier, the team actually reached the final of the 2019 FA Cup.

On top of their promotion-winning squad, Watford have also been very active during the ongoing summer transfer window. Around £8 million was spent on central midfielder Imran Louza from Ligue 1 side FC Nantes, Club Brugge striker Emmanuel Dennis was brought in for around £3 million, and several reputed names were acquired on a free, including former Spurs left-back Danny Rose, Premier League mainstay Joshua King and Boro centre-forward Ashley Fletcher. As far as outgoing transfers go, the permanent move of Craig Dawson to West Ham has been the only move of real first-team significance so far.

Watford’s tactics sheet

When Xisco arrived at Vicarage Road in December of last year, he was presented with a Watford side used to turning up in a 4-4-2 formation in which club legend Troy Deeney had a fixed spot with André Gray next to him. The Hornets were not firing though, and as pressure on the new manager rapidly grew despite a couple of decent results as well, he opted for a tactical change. Out with the two-striker system and in with a more dynamic, expansive 4-3-3, or perhaps an attacking 4-1-4-1 describes it better. That’s essentially a 4-3-3 with an attacking triangle on the midfield.

While remaining defensively sound, in great part thanks to the staff’s insistence on maintaining a tightly knit defensive block, this tactical change brought the talented Joao Pedro to the forefront, together with talisman Ismaila Sarr. Together with Sema, Sarr got more freedom to influence attacks and come inside from the flanks, while the full-backs were allowed to join in attack more often as well. Of course, it remains to be seen if Watford decide to confront their Premier League challenge as well or if they revert to a slightly more consolidated midfield to counter the stronger opposition.

So far, it looks like Xisco will be sticking to a three-men midfield, formed out of Tom Cleverly, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah, though these last two players are still in negations for contract extensions with the club. The likes of Philip Zinckernagel, Domingos Quina and Dan Gosling are waiting in the wings, while new face Imran Louza should be slotted in step by step as well.

In goal, the Hornets can count on two very reliable shot stoppers in the persons of veteran Ben Foster and Austria international Daniel Bachmann. The latter seems to be Xisco’s number one since the second half of last season. In defence, Kiko Femenía on the right and Adam Masina on the left look nailed-on, while last season’s central duo consisting of William Troost-Ekong and Francisco Sierralta looks set as well. It’s proven to be a successful recipe last season, after all.

In attack, the mobile Joao Pedro leads the line, flanked by Watford’s talisman Ismail Sarr and his counterpart on the left flank, Ken Sema. The likes of Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, Emmanuel Dennis and Joshua King provide Xisco with both depth and variation in an offensive sense.

WATFORD – Potential FPL targets

We’re starting this segment about Watford with their Player of the Year of last season, Ismaïla Sarr (£6.0m), who was also voted the Player’s Player of the Season. The Senegalese international has been linked with a move away from Vicarage Road ever since the club relegated at the end of the 2019/20 season, but he stayed and subsequently played a key role in their lightning return to the Premier League. Sarr, who plays as a very advanced winger but who is listed as a midfielder in the official fantasy game, scored 13 goals and provided 4 assists last season, which represents a direct involvement of 27% in his team’s goals. He’s a dribbler and was the second-most fouled player in the Championship last season, winning five penalties in the process (of which he took two himself, by the way). With a relatively kind opening set of fixtures for the upcoming season, he’s a very interesting differential pick.

The main appeal when it comes to Watford fantasy assets comes from their defence, though. As part of the Championship’s most stable defence last season, right-back Kiko Femenía (£4.5m) also registered 4 assists, a total bettered by no one on the Watford roster. Many FPL managers might remember the Spaniard from the 2019/20 season, during which he was in and out of the team for most of the campaign, but he has become a nailed-on starter for the Hornets since then. Of course, defensive resolve in the Championship is no guarantee for a solid defensive performance in the Premier League, but if Xisco manages to adapt his defensive block to the elite division, Femenía could become a very interesting budget-enabling fantasy pick.

Further on in the budget category, we find Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann (£4.5m). At first glance, there is a strange thing going on at Watford from an FPL point of view. Despite Bachmann looking like a pretty secure bet for a starting spot between the sticks, in our opinion at least, it’s his £4.0m rival Ben Foster who currently sits in 27% of all teams. And the Austrian? In just 3.3%… Not too long after his arrival, manager Xisco replaced Foster with Bachmann in the starting lineup, giving him the opportunity to record 13 clean sheets in 23 Championship appearances, and we can’t imagine the Euro 2020 participant not being the Spaniard’s first choice come GW1. Foster’s price tag (meaning some FPL managers are just looking at the cheapest goalkeeper to sit on the bench all the time) and the fact that he got a start in last season’s final game probably explain his current ownership, but it’s Bachmann you should focus on if you’re in search of a starting budget goalkeeper in a potentially defence-minded side.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 8 Norwich and Southampton

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this eighth instalment, the spotlights are for newly promoted Norwich City and Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton.

NORWICH – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Unless you only joined the thrilling FPL community fairly recently, say over the course of last season for example, you will surely remember the last time Norwich got promoted to the Premier League. Fondly even, if you were one of the clairvoyant fantasy managers who invested in Canaries striker Teemu Pukki from the get-go. He got off to a flying start to the 2019/20 campaign (pukki party!), and was even named both Premier League Player of the Month and PFA Premier League Player of the Month in August after scoring 5 goals and giving 1 assist in four first game of the season.

The Finnish international, who featured in every game of this summer’s European Championship, is still on the Norwich roster this season and, not surprisingly, their most expensive asset. More about him later though, because there could be more to Norwich than just their star forward. Last season, the Canaries won promotion to the Prem by crowning themselves champions in the Championship with 97 points from 48 games, a whole 6 points more than runners-up Watford. In the process, they scored 76 goals, a total only bettered by Brentford, and conceded just 36 goals, a total only bettered by Watford.

For what it’s worth, when the Canaries were promoted in the 2019/20 season and ended up being the leakiest defence in the league as they dropped straight back into the Championship, they conceded 57 goals in their promotion-winning season. If this is any indication of more defensive resolve this season, manager Daniel Farke’s men might just be more than mainly cannon fodder this season. With what is probably the hardest start to the season of any team in the division, consisting of Liverpool (home), Manchester City (away), Leicester (home) and Arsenal (away), Norwich’s progress and qualities will be put to the test straight away.

Norwich’s tactics sheet

Therefore, the first four games of the campaign are not likely to give us a very realistic idea of Norwich’s real chances of survival this season, but it can give us good indications of their qualities, both as a team and on an individual level. We doubt that many fantasy managers will be investing in Canary assets come gameweek 1, but looking at the current squad, there is clearly some budget and differential potential present.

On top of that, Farke tends to stick to the same formation, which is usually good news for FPL managers. The German coach favours a 4-2-3-1 set-up in which ball possession and patient build-up play are key principles. Back amongst the English footballing elite, they won’t be able to replicate last season’s league-topping average of just over 58% of possession, though. Up to Farke and his men to come up with an approach that compensates for this in their fight against relegation.

One of Norwich’s best and most experienced players stands in goal and goes by the name of Tim Krul, the Dutch goalkeeper who was famously brought on by Louis Van Gaal just for the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica during the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and then went on to stop the decisive Michael Umaña spot kick. Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson are the first-choice central duo for the moment, with the talented Max Aarons on their right side and Dimitris Giannoulis on the left side.

The departure of Emiliano Buendia, who got 15 goals and 17 assists last season, was painful, as was the return of loanee Oliver Skipp to Spurs. Chelsea talent Billy Gilmour was brought in as an almost like-for-like replacement for the Spurs man and he should be forming the double pivot in the middle with Kenny McLean. The creative three between them and striker Teemu Pukki will likely be formed out of Milot Rashica (right wing), Todd Cantwell (left wing) and Kieran Dowell in the number 10 slot.

NORWICH – Potential FPL targets

We mentioned Teemu Pukki (£6.0m) earlier as the main man at Norwich, so it only makes sense for him to be our first fantasy pick from the Canaries’ roster. Last season, the Finnish forward scored 26 goals and provided 4 assists, which represents a direct goal involvement of 40% in all of his team’s goals. The last time he starred in the Premier League, he scored a total of 11 goals despite his side being the league’s whipping boys for much of the season. Six of those goals came in his first five games of the campaign, an impressive record he is unlikely to replicate this season with Norwich’ tough opening set of fixtures in mind. It also remains to be seen how the club will cope with the loss of Buendia’s creativity from the right side, but if you’re absolutely set on a Norwich asset for your gameweek 1 squad, Pukki is probably the way to go.

Having said that, Norwich do offer a few very good budget-enabling options if your minimum requirement for such a squad player is that he is a nailed-on starter. In that case, you could probably do worse than attacking midfielder Todd Cantwell (£5.5m). During the 2019/20 season, the 23-year old managed a very decent 111 FPL points (6 goals, 2 assists) in Pukki’s shadow, while he was instrumental to Norwich’ promotion last season with 6 goals and 6 assists. Cantwell looks set to become the Canaries’ playmaker with Buendia now at Aston Villa and if they can somehow continue their good goal-scoring record of last season in the coming season, the Norwich midfielder could be good value.

Now, for our final pick we were initially going with right-back Max Aarons, who looks like a clear stand-out pick in Norwich’ defence thanks to his qualities and attacking tendencies, but we’ve eventually chosen to highlight Andrew Obomamidele (£4.0m). The young Irish central defender is not a nailed-on starter under Farke, at the moment of writing at least, but he did get some minutes during pre-season already. Seeing as every serious FPL manager is looking for that one playing £4.0m defender as fifth defender for their gameweek 1 squad, we figured Obomamidele is an interesting to keep an eye on. He is one of the back-up options to fixed central duo Hanley and Gibson, and we’re not expecting him to get loads of minutes any time soon, but if he does, he could be just what your FPL squad needs.

SOUTHAMPTON – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Like several other teams (Burnley, Brighton, Palace etc), Southampton never really had to deal with any relegation battle fears at any point during the season, despite delivering a largely mediocre campaign and thanks to the sub-par performances by the three teams that eventually got relegated. The Saints finished the 2020/21 campaign in 15th place with 43 points, 15 points more than number 18 Fulham, but also 16 points behind 10th-placed Everton. After a 16th place in the 2018/19 season and an 11th place last season, one might conclude that Southampton have not progressed as much as they would have hoped in recent years.

A final position in itself does not tell the whole story though, and that is definitely the case for the Saints. Last season, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men were actually quite prolific in front of goal as 47 goals ranked them tenth in terms of attacking output. It’s in defence where things looked more worrying, as only relegated West Brom Albion conceded more than Southampton’s 68 conceded goals. Of course, a 9-0 demolition at the hands of Manchester United, Saints’ second 9-0 drubbing in as many season by the way, does not help.

It’s not like the 2020/21 season was a complete nightmare for Southampton, because the club did get off to a flying start. After eight games, they were actually leading the Premier League (for a day) and they remained in the top three until gameweek 14. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that point. As a matter of fact, looking at the final 25 games of the games separately, actually no team performed worse than the Saints, in big part due to an average of two conceded goals per game. They were especially terrible away from home, losing ten out of the final twelve games and winning just one.

Southampton’s tactics sheet

Solidifying the backline will naturally be a major priority for Hasenhüttl this season if he wishes to avoid the risk of being dragged into a relegation battle. Last season’s numbers are simply not good enough for a side in the top flight. At the same time, the departure of Danny Ings to Aston Villa on a free means that he will need to find a way to compensate losing 35% of last season’s goals, as the Englishman scored 12 and assisted 4.

Southampton are actually not a bad team and have an interesting set of players making up the squad with Ralph Hasenhüttl a very disciplined, attack-minded coach. More than a few times, the Saints were a pleasure to watch last season, in part due to the Austrian’s 4-2-2-2 formation and love for a high, intense press. They combine for lovely football at times, but with the big risk that the side can end up all over the place once the tactical settings don’t click almost perfectly.

Where the position in goal is usually pretty set for most teams, Hasenhüttl has hinted during pre-season that his rotation of goalkeepers Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster might continue this season. The backline will likely continue to be built of four players, with left-back Romain Perraud coming in to replace Ryan Bertrand, who transferred to Leicester City on a free. Euro 2020 participants Jan Bednarek (Poland) and Yannik Vestergaard (Denmark) form the central duo in the back, and Kyle Walker-Peters runs the right flank.

In the middle, the return from long-term injury of Oriol Romeu will make a considerable difference to Southampton’s shape and defensive solidity, and he will be partnered by captain and set-piece specialist James Ward-Prowse. On the sides, Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond provide both width and creative impulses. With the departure of Danny Ings, it remains to be seen who will join Che Adams up front. We can’t imagine the Saints won’t bring in a new striker for the starting eleven, but in case they don’t, the ultimate budget forward Michael Obafemi comes into consideration.

SOUTHAMPTON – Potential FPL targets

Danny Ings was obviously top of most Southampton season previews when it comes to interesting FPL assets, but seeing as he is no longer with the Saints, Che Adams (£7.0m) makes for a logical switch. Up until last season, the 25-year was not particularly known for his goal-scoring instinct or his direct goal involvement in general, but he changed that image by scoring 9 goals and giving 7 assists. A total of 137 FPL was more than decent for a forward who started at £5.5m in the official game. The competition in his price bracket is fierce this season, but the strongly-built Adams is nailed-on for Hasenhüttl and could once again represent good value if the Saints manage to keep up their attacking approach to games.

Ings or no Ings, the main man at Southampton is still James Ward-Prowse (£6.5m). After scoring 8 goals and providing 7 assists last season, the midfielder was in serious contention for England’s stacked Euro 2020 squad, which he eventually just missed out on. A shame for him, but not bad for FPL managers, because he will be fresher for the EPL season. When it comes to JWP, it’s important to realise that he’s an absolute set-piece expert, especially when you’re watching him live. His threat from open play is not very impressive, but his threat from free-kicks and penalties is something else. To illustrate: out of his 8 goals last season, 4 came from a direct free-kick and 3 from the penalty spot. At £6.5m, we wouldn’t be surprised to see his current ownership of 8.1% grow further in the build-up to GW1 although he has had a knee injury which has disrupted his pre-season so may miss out in GW1.

The other scoring midfielder on the Saints roster is Stuart Armstrong (£6.0m), though his style of play is entirely different. Contrary to Ward-Prowse, Armstrong does provide considerable threat from open play, which resulted in 4 goals and 7 assists last season. On top of that, both in terms of shots on goal and key passes made, the Scottish midfielder ranked amongst the best two of his team. We’re not sure if he will be able to surpass his FPL points total of last season (115), but he costs £0.5m less than JWP, is a nailed-on starter for a relatively offensive side and is currently part of just 0.4% of FPL teams.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 7 Manchester United and Newcastle

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this seventh instalment, we’re shedding a light on a revamped Manchester United side and a remarkably quiet Newcastle pre-season.

MANCHESTER UNITED – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Manchester United’s second-place finish last season followed a third place in the season prior to that, which is their best back-to-back result since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club at the end of the 2012/13 season. We’re highlighting this, because it shows progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a manager who has perhaps been underestimated and overly criticized at times. Then again, group stage elimination in the Champions League and a League Cup semi-final plus an FA quarter-final is simply not enough for one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Still, progress is progress and United are clearly looking to build upon their recent seasons with the club once again shelling out the big bucks this season for new blood in the squad. After what might well have been football’s longest transfer saga, marquee signing (and former Man City promise) Jadon Sancho was finally brought in for a cool £73 million and the confirmation of Real Madrid central defender, four time Champions League winner and current World Champion, Raphaël Varane’s arrival followed soon after. Those are the kind of transfers that can galvanise entire clubs and that’s exactly what the red side of Manchester will be hoping for.

It’s also the kind of movement that, despite the heavy competition both domestically and internationally, makes silverware very close to a must and that might be a bridge too far just yet. In the Premier League, despite finishing in second place, the Red Devils never really looked like a title challenger, while it seems slightly overly ambitious for them to expect Champions League glory after not making it through the groups last season. More realistically speaking, the next big step for United would be to seriously compete for the prizes until the very end on different fronts this season. And who knows, in a sport as unpredictable as football, with a bit of luck that might actually lead to a first prize since their double (League Cup + Europa League) in the 2016/17 season under José Mourinho.

Manchester United’s tactics sheet

While United might not (yet) be at the level of the likes of arch rivals Manchester City, Liverpool and even Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel, the world-class quality on their roster is undeniable. Last season, OGS heavily leaned on a 4-2-3-1 formation, consisting of a technical, speedy front three supported by the constant creative impulses from Bruno Fernandes and left-back Luke Shaw. The signing of Sancho fits that approach perfectly and allows Solskjaer to continue building on a set-up that his players are familiar with, but it’s rumoured that he might be switching to a more attacking 4-3-3 formation as well for the upcoming season. The Varane transfer, and the speed, experience and superior tactical awareness the Frenchman brings with him, makes this a realistic possibility as well.

In terms of FPL fantasy assets, the main impact of such a tactical switch would fall on the available midfield picks, but for now, we will assume that the Mancunians will line up in their trusted 4-3-2-1 formation in gameweek 1. In any case, from a defensive point of view, not much would change for FPL managers as the backline looks set with captain Harry Maguire and Raphaël Varane flanked by Luke Shaw on the left and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the right. In goal, there is some doubt over whether Dean Henderson or David de Gea will start. Based on him making the spot his at the end of last season, our feeling is that the former will be Ole’s number one once he has shaken off the effects of covid that he contracted last month.

Even if Man United remain faithful to their 4-3-2-1 set-up, it looks unlikely that they will stick to the energetic, but barely creative double pivot consisting of Scott McTominay and Fred. While the former seems assured of a place in the starting eleven, it will probably be Paul Pogba playing next to him from the get-go this season. In front of those two, Bruno Fernandes is the absolute talisman with Sancho and ideally Rashford (currently injured) on the sides. The English forward is out for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury though, which opens the doors for Mason Greenwood to start. Jesse Lingard (now out with covid) and Dan James are candidates as well, in theory, but we would be surprised to see them counted on as starters.

At the same time, Greenwood also comes in contention for a start up front. In the official fantasy game, the only listed Manchester United forwards are Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial. The former, though always a presence and often lethal, is probably not considered a 38-week starter, while Martial’s disappointing last season and injury niggles have seen him drop down the pecking order. Once fit again, Rashford also enters the number nine discussion. In other words, in attack, Solskjaer can pick, shift and rotate quite a lot with the available talent.

MANCHESTER UNITED – Potential FPL targets

In a season and a half of Premier League football, Bruno Fernandes (12.0m) posted the following returns:

SeasonGoalsAssistsFPL points
2019/20 (half)88117

Talk about hitting the ground running. His points tally of 244 was the highest of all players in the official game last season and no player is more instrumental to Manchester United than the Portuguese midfielder. Only Spurs talisman Harry Kane had a higher direct goal involvement for his side. Fernandes is sometimes labelled a “penalty merchant”, seeing as he takes all of United’s penalties (and usually puts them in the back of the net as well), but that’s just not right. The man is an FPL points merchant and with United’s kind set of opening fixtures in mind, we consider him almost just as near-well essential as Mo Salah come gameweek 1.

With Marcus Rashford recently having undergone shoulder surgery that should keep him out of the running for a couple of months, Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) emerges as an extremely enticing FPL pick. It’s true that rotation risk remains an issue for the 19-year old, but he looks like a prime candidate for a starting spot in gameweek 1 after his pre-season efforts. Last season, he ended with 106 FPL points courtesy of 7 goals and 2 assists, but possibly even more interesting is his purple patch of form at the end of the campaign. Six of his seven goals, as well as one of his assists, were actually recorded over the last eight games of the season. Greenwood missed out on Euro 2020 due to some injury issues and used the time to get fully fit for the 2021/22 campaign, which makes him a serious differential consideration for us.

Even though we don’t tend to be big fans of betting big on fantasy assets that are new to the Premier League, it’s hard to ignore the potential of Jadon Sancho (£9.5m) at United. Raised at Watford’s and later Manchester City’s academy, the 21-year old is no stranger to English football, while on top of that, he also has 104 Bundesliga games and 22 caps for England on his name already. He’s got more top-level experience than most players many years his senior and if there is any newcomer likely to slot right in, both in his team and in the league, it’s Sancho. The winger’s enormous transfer fee combined with Rashford’s absence make a gameweek 1 a real possibility although he has missed most of pre-season due to duties with England in the Euros. He is, after all, £2.5m less expensive than (the tried and tested) Bruno Fernandes, which can make a huge difference to your GW1 squad’s shape albeit he could well start frommthe bench in the first match. To top it off, his stats from last season: 38 games, 16 goals and 20 assists for Borussia Dortmund, including 2 goals and 3 assists in six Champions League group stage encounters. A small punt with big potential, in our opinion.

NEWCASTLE – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Hopes weren’t particularly high around St. James’ Park at the start of the 2020/21 season and that sentiment didn’t change for much of the season. Until the final stretch that is, when the Magpies started picking up some (goal-scoring) form and managed to clinch a more than decent 12th place in the league, 17 points above Fulham in 18th, but also 10 points behind Aston Villa in eleventh. Newcastle really crowned themselves “the kings of the bottom-half of the table”, so to say, something that most certainly would have been seen as a good achievement at the start of the season.

In the final stretch we mentioned earlier, during the last eight games of the season, the Magpies won an impressive five encounters and actually suddenly found themselves amongst the most-attacking sides in the entire league, stats-wise. Over that run, only in-form Liverpool, champions Manchester City and Spurs scored more than them, while both their Expected Goals ratio and the numbers of chances created ranked amongst the top four league-wide. This upturn in form was largely attributed to a change in formation and tactics, but more about that later in the Newcastle tactics sheet.

While the attack did its job by scoring a total of 46 goals in 38 games, no team between places 12 and 20 scored more, the defence was a worry for the Toon. With just 7 clean sheets and 62 goals conceded, an average of just over 1.6 goals per game, only West Brom, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United were leakier than the ambitious Geordies. Manager Steve Bruce will need to address this issue as a priority for the coming season if he wishes to avoid getting dragged into a relegation battle.

Having said that, Newcastle’s primary objective this season will be to avoid the relegation zone and subsequent battle all together, first of all. At first glance, their squad seems to contain sufficient quality to achieve that and possibly a bit more, but a few new faces wouldn’t harm their chances. In that sense, summer has been calm on Tyneside , with no significant transfer activity so far. Fringe players like Andy Carroll and Christian Atsu left the club, while defender Florian Lejeune was sold to LaLiga side Alavés for an undisclosed fee. Steve Bruce will be hoping for a (permanent) return of Arsenal loanee Joe Willock, while rumours are linking Newcastle to the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Man United defender Axel Tuanzebe and Marseille defender Boubacar Kamara, but no incoming transfers have been confirmed as of yet.

Newcastle’s tactics sheet

The Magpies started the 2020/21 campaign with their trusted four-man backline providing them with a certain defensive solidity, but also making them close to toothless in attack. Up until Bruce switched to a more expansive 5-3-2 formation, Newcastle ranked amongst the bottom five clubs for important attacking statistics such as Expected Goals and big chances created. Even though the tweak in formation did not really affect their defensive performances, it did have a very positive impact on their attacking output.

As we wrote earlier, their purple patch of form at the tail-end of the season seems to coincide with a switch to 5-3-2 with forward-thinking wing-backs. Not only did the Toon win five of their last eight games of the season, but they recorded some excellent underlying stats. Both in terms of Expected Goals and big chances created, they went from under-performers to a league-wide top-four ranking. What helped this upturn in fortunes, obviously, was Joe Willock’s remarkable patch of red-hot form. Despite starting just four times in the last nine games, the Arsenal youngster netted 7 times, a run that included goals against Spurs, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester City.

With Steve Bruce having stated on several occasions that his wish is to turn Newcastle into a more attacking side, it’s not crazy to assume that he will build on the successful 5-3-2 set-up. Martin Dubravka is the undisputed man between the sticks albeit may miss the 1st game or two of the season due to a foot injury, and the block in front of him is likely to be built up of Fabian Schär, Federico Fernandez and Jamaal Lascelles. The wing-back positions are for Matt Ritchie (left) and probably Jacob Murphy (right), though budget defender Javier Manquillo has an outside chance of featuring as well.

In the middle, Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden form the heart of the team with Miguel Almirón in front of them. Jeff Hendrick, the Longstaff brothers and Ryan Fraser provide them with competition. In attack, Callum Wilson is the talisman and much of Newcastle’s achievements this season will depend on his fitness. Alain Saint-Maximin floats around the former Bournemouth striker, though Ryan Fraser in particular could claim a spot higher up the pitch as well if he manages to pick up some form. Joelinton provides a different kind of alternative to the Magpie attack when necessary.

NEWCASTLE – Potential FPL targets

At £7.5m, Callum Wilson‘s price is probably a bit too steep for most fantasy managers, especially when looking at the alternatives in his price bracket, but we wouldn’t write him off straight away. Despite missing out on portions of the season due to injury, he did manage 12 goals and 6 assists for a direct goal involvement of just under 40% and a total FPL points tally of 134. Wilson is also on penalties for his side and with Newcastle facing a relatively kind opening to the 2021/22 season, with just a single game (a visit to Old Trafford in GW4) ranking higher than 3 on the official game’s Fixture Difficulty Rating, the Newcastle forward could represent considerable value.

As FPL managers, we always love a good wing-back and despite Newcastle not being the most free-scoring, free-flowing of sides in the Premier League, set-piece specialist Matt Ritchie (£5.0m) could be interesting. He blossomed on the left side of Bruce’s five-man defence and recorded a more than decent 3 clean sheets and 5 assists in just 1,347 minutes of Premier League football last season. He looks set for a starting spot for the coming season and is also in charge of penalties when Wilson is not around to take them. The big downside to Ritchie is his price tag, which seems a tad heavy considering the likes of Vladimir Coufal, Matt Targett and Kieran Tierney are also priced at £5.0m, but we’re still putting the Newcastle man on our watchlist.

Finally, a budget goalkeeper to compete with the likes of Crystal Palace’s Vicente Guaita, Brighton’s Robert Sanchez and Watford’s Daniel Bachmann this season. The budget goalkeeper bracket is a popular category every season and Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka (£4.5m) might just be one of your best options, should you want to go this road for your gameweek 1 squad. The Slovakian international is currently returning from a foot injury and will likely miss GW1, but that shouldn’t necessarily put fantasy managers off selecting him. After taking the starting spot from Karl Darlow late last season, Dubravka took 48 FPL points from 13 games for an average of just under 4 points per game. No budget goalkeeper performed better over that period. It’s also worth noting that over the 2019/20 season, he was Newcastle’s starting goalkeeper and recorded 143 FPL points, courtesy of 11 clean sheets and 9 bonus points. If Steve Bruce manages to inject some more defensive solidity into his side, Dubravka could be a useful fantasy asset.

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FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 6 Liverpool and Manchester City

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this sixth instalment, it’s time for title challengers Liverpool and actual Premier League title holders Manchester City.

LIVERPOOL – FPL 2021/22 team preview

After what can only be described as a historically great season in 2019/20, the 2020/21 season was a struggle. With third place in the Premier League, relatively early eliminations from the domestic cup competitions, and the quarter-finals being the terminus of their Champions League adventure, losing the Community Shield to Arsenal on penalties was by some distance the closest the Reds got to any kind of silverware. Their biggest achievement of the season has been qualification for the group stage of the 2021/22 Champions League for a fifth consecutive time after suffering an especially bad run of form during the first half of the season.

While the lack of (home) crowds played tricks on every side in the League and is therefore not a real explanatory factor behind Liverpool’s underwhelming season, their extreme injury woes definitely are. Early on in the season, key figure Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury after a reckless challenge by Jordan Pickford and fellow central defender Joe Gomez followed soon after with a similarly season-ending knee injury. The defensive injury crisis took on ridiculous proportions when Joel Matip also suffered from physical issues that left him out of action for a large part of the season. Add to that the groin injury suffered by midfielder and Player of the (previous) Season in February of this year, Jordan Henderson, and suddenly the Reds’ central core was unavailable until further notice.

In this light, qualification for the Champions League is probably a satisfying result, especially considering the upturn of form that Jurgen Klopp’s men displayed in the final quarter of the season. Taking the final 13 games of the domestic season, his side actually topped the table and secured their minimum objective. With key players returning to fitness during the ongoing pre-season and young (academy) players like Curtis Jones going into the upcoming season with their first full season of Premier League football under their belt, there is once again room for optimism.

Liverpool’ tactics sheet

Liverpool’s American owners and avid Super League backers, something that should not be forgotten, have so far had a relatively calm summer transfer window. The departure of marathon man Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris on a free definitely does not look like the smartest piece of business, but the current roster might just be able to compensate for it, especially after Thiago had a first season in English football to acclimatise. Further midfield reinforcement could well be on the way though, if the club manages to offload some of the squad’s fringe players.

On the incoming side, the signing of imposing central defender Ibrahima Konaté for around £35 million from RB Leipzig does look like good business. Last season’s defensive injury woes definitely left a mark on the club and they are not risking going into another season with, in reality, three fit first-eleven centre-backs. With Big Virg and Gomez returning to first-team action, and Joel Matip on the books as well, it remains to be seen how the Reds’ defence will line up in gameweek 1, but Klopp at least has a strong foundation to work with again.

Ideally, in front of goalkeeper Alisson, Van Dijk and Gomez would form the central duo, flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and the tireless Andy Robertson on the left. Assuming that Klopp will continue perfecting his preferred 4-3-3 set-up, the midfield three would consist of Thiago, Henderson (whose future at the club is rumoured to be uncertain, possibly due to his explicit stance against the Super League last season) and anchor Fabinho. Up front, we have the usual explosive suspects Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, with Diogo Jota closely behind them. Do keep in mind that, due to (match)fitness issues and Euro 2020/Copa Americá/Olympics exertions, this might not be the lineup come GW1.

LIVERPOOL – Potential FPL targets

Mo Salah (£12.5m) is not a potential FPL target. He is probably as close to “must-have” status as a fantasy asset can be in pre-season. It’s no surprise, therefore, that he is also the official game’s most expensive player. A quick glance at his performances for Liverpool since his arrival in the 2017/18 season:

SeasonGoalsAssistsFPL points

The Egyptian is Liverpool’s main goal threat, he is on penalties and contrary to many other premium and expensive fantasy assets, he has had the summer off from football as he did not go to the Olympics with his country. Add to that Liverpool’s kind opening run of fixtures and his inclusion in any gameweek 1 template becomes a no-brainer.

We usually try to avoid recommending too many premium fantasy picks at once, but in the case of Liverpool, we’re making an exception this time. That’s because, in defence, the Reds can count on Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), the most expensive defender in Fantasy Premier League history. Last season was marred by some injury issues and a bad run of team form, but the right-back still recorded ten attacking returns (2 goals, 8 assists) and 10 clean sheets. In the two seasons prior to the last campaign, he recorded an incredible 30 clean sheets, 28 assists and 5 goals. Many a budget midfielder does not even come close to those numbers. With the imminent return of Van Dijk, clean sheet probabilities should go up, and TAA also took the summer to recuperate from a thigh injury that saw him ruled out of Euro 2020, so he’ll be ready to fire when the 2021/22 campaign kicks off.

If you’re attracted by Liverpool’s defence with their opening set of fixtures of mind, but not entirely willing or capable of shelling £7.5m on Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) could be a secure alternative. The big Dutchman might just miss out on gameweek 1 due to Klopp and his staff not risking anything in regard to his recent injury troubles, but he will be part of the Liverpool starting eleven very soon again, nonetheless. The Reds are simply a different side with the former Celtic man in charge of the defensive organisation. TAA and Robertson obviously offer more of an attacking threat, but VVD is not entirely hopeless in the opposition’s penalty area either. He scored once last season, and recorded 15 attacking returns in the two seasons prior to that (9 goals, 6 assists). Count on upwards of 170 FPL points with Big Virg as set-and-forget premium defender for your team.

MANCHESTER CITY – FPL 2021/22 team preview

For the sake of this part, we’re going to put the many allegations regarding financial foul play and Financial Fair Play violations aside and focus on what matters here: the football. And the football is good at City. Pep Guardiola’s men got off to a slow start last season, but they ended up winning the Premier League quite comfortably in the end, 12 points clear of arch rivals Manchester United. With 83 goals scored and 32 goals conceded over the course of the domestic league season, the Cityzens boasted both the best attack and the best defence, so their title was more than deserved.

City could’ve had much, much more, though. By March 2021, they were still in contention for an unprecedented quadruple, meaning final victories in the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Eventually, the Champions League final was lost to Chelsea, while their FA Cup run ended in the semi-finals against that same London side. The Premier League and the League Cup, after a 1-0 victory over Spurs, were the outstanding result of what ultimately was another very good campaign.

Pep Guardiola’s game approach and love for rotation are well-covered inside the FPL community and out by now, and we don’t expect big changes or overhauls in this sense for the upcoming season. A quick glance at City’s star-studded roster thrusts them straight back to the top of the list for title favourites, while the Emirati owners of the club will undoubtedly be eyeing the until now elusive Champions League once again.

In that light, and paying some attention to transfer rumours regarding Manchester City this summer, financial power moves can be expected. The summer started with the very low-key arrival on a free of Derby goalkeeper Scott Carson as the only incoming transfer, but recently Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish was presented as a Cityzen in exchange for a mind-boggling £100 million+ fee. Meanwhile, links to Spurs goal machine Harry Kane dominate much of the English football news. It kind of feels like activating a cheat code in FIFA22, but with Grealish now a sky-blue and Kane not turning up for Spurs training after his holidays this week, it might just become a reality.

Man City’s tactics sheet

Should Kane be the next player to sign a giant contract at the Etihad, then it’s back to the drawing boards for a majority of FPL managers. Kane at City looks like a 25+ goal a season guarantee, while the addition of Grealish makes predicting starting lineups for the Cityzens even more of an impossibility.

You can be sure of Manchester City’s primary starting formation being an attacking 4-3-3, starting with Ederson in goal. The rock-solid central duo of Ruben Dias and John Stones will likely continue at the heart of the defence, with the two full-back positions filled by Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo or Oleksandr Zinchenko. In the middle, Rodri is first-choice as the most defensive midfielder, with Ilkay Gündogan and Kevin de Bruyne in front of him.

If there is one type of position where Guardiola is truly and ridiculously spoilt for choice, it’s wingers. For two positions, the former Barcelona manager can pick any combination out of the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Bernardo Silva. Mahrez, who is in good form during pre-season, and Foden (coming off an injury) have the edge, we feel, for different reasons, but it’s really anyone’s guess, especially with the arrival of Grealish. Can Guardiola really afford to not start the English international?

For the number nine position, City have Gabriel Jesus under contract, though Pep has played with a number of false nines as well (KDB, Ferran, Sterling, etc…). All we can say is to keep a close eye on City’s pre-season lineups, as well as tomorrow’s Community Shield v Leicester, and pay attention to news regarding players coming back later after Euro 2020 or Copa Americá duties.

MANCHESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets

Last season was a bit of struggle for star player Kevin de Bruyne (£12.0m) as he had to deal with ongoing injury issues, while keeping his participation in Euro 2020 in the back of his mind as well. Still, the Belgian playmaker managed a respectable 141 FPL points from 25 league appearances, courtesy of 6 goals, 12 assists, 12 clean sheets and 19 bonus points. He is relatively the most nailed-on attacking option on the City roster and carries a major portion of set-piece duties as well. He was directly involved in more goals than any of his team mates and at league level, no player created more shot chances than he did. His price tag is steep, especially considering the alternatives and his inherent rotation risk, but a KDB in form is the kind of fantasy asset that can make or break a season.

If you’re really set on Man City assets for your gameweek 1 squad and need the assurance of playing time, then goalkeeper Ederson (£6.0m) is by far the safest bet. He’s not the most exciting of Cityzens, but he does provide security of starts in what was last season’s best defensive unit. The Brazilian recorded 19 clean sheets last season and even provided 1 assist for a total of 160 FPL points. Only Aston Villa revelation Emi Martinez performed better. City’s start to the season is a bit of a mixed bag, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ederson get off to a flying start nonetheless with three or even more clean sheets in the first five gameweeks.

Now, our final fantasy pick from Pep Guardiola’s group is a punt, loud and clear. Ferran Torres (£7.0m) was nowhere near an extended run of starts last season, but he still managed an impressive 11 attacking returns (7 goals and 4 assists) in just 1,297 minutes of Premier League football. His reasonable price tag this season combined with the possibility of several attacking alternatives not being up to full match fitness yet come gameweek 1 (think Euro 2020 and Copa Americá participants who made it far in their respective tournaments), has grabbed our attention, though. It’s true that there are plenty of good alternatives who are more secured of a starting spot in his price bracket, but with a Spurs side under new management in GW1 followed by home encounters with Norwich and Arsenal, Ferran might just be the ultimate differential for the opening weeks.

For more comment join other FPL enthusiasts in FISO’s FPL discussion forum.

FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 5 Leeds and Leicester

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this fifth instalment, one of last season’s surprises packages Leeds United are up, together with Europa League participants Leicester City.

LEEDS UNITED – FPL 2021/22 team preview

If there was an award for the best addition to the Premier League or most entertaining top flight side or something of the sort, Leeds United would have probably taken it home last season. Under the eccentric Marcelo Bielsa, the Yorkshiremen returned to the English footballing elite in style after a painful 16-year absence. The Chilean manager proved to be a blessing for FPL managers all over the world, thanks to his tendency to stick to both an attacking philosophy and a fixed starting eleven, though he did implement some tactical tweaks in the second half of the season as game energy amongst players was becoming a more and more valuable resource.

When talking about Leeds, we are first of all talking about goals. The Whites scored no less than 62 goals upon their return to the Prem, a total that was only surpassed by Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leicester and Spurs. This resulted in the likes of Patrick Bamford, Raphinha and Jack Harrison growing into some of the best-value fantasy assets in recent years. Eventually, Leeds ended just three points behind Tottenham, who qualified for the newly created Europa Conference League.

The defensive side of the Leeds story is rather different, though Bielsa’s men managed to improve considerably in the second half of the season. Still, their final tally for goals conceded halted at 54, a total superior to the defensive performances of just six teams in the league. Leeds conceded 15 more goals in the first half of the season than they did in the second, which can be attributed to a combination of factors. The return to fitness of Diego Llorente has been mentioned as a major influence, while a generally more reserved approach against top opposition was important as well. From our point of view, this is very positive, because it shows Bielsa’s ability to keep growing and improving his side as time goes on, a process that presumably has continued during their current pre-season.

Leeds’ tactics sheet

As we mentioned earlier, Bielsa doesn’t really do tinkering of any kind. Even though Pep Guardiola is a major admirer of the Chilean coach, the Leeds boss could not be more anti-Pep in that sense. He has largely stuck to a 4-1-4-1 formation last season and we expect his side to turn up that way on gameweek 1 against Man United as well. In that set-up, the Whites heavily favour attacking over the flanks. During the 2020/21 campaign, they were in the top five for chances created from both the right and the left flank.

This explains the excellent value of wingers Jack Harrison on the left side and Raphinha on the right side. Last season, they recorded 160 and 133 FPL points respectively, making a mockery of their £5.5m price tags in the process. The Man City loanee, whose move to Elland Road was made permanent for around £10 million this summer, and the Brazilian are expected to play key roles for Bielsa’s side once again this season. In the middle, Stuart Dallas and Euro 2020 star Kalvin Phillips form the heart of the midfield, while Rodrigo looks like the man designated to operate behind striker Patrick Bamford.

At the back, Barcelona left-back Junior Firpo, who was acquired for around £12 million, should slot right into the starting eleven to form an exciting partnership with Harrison on the left flank. On the right, Luke Ayling will aim to do the same with Raphinha. The central duo will likely consist of Diego Llorente and Dutch youngster Pascal Struijck, though the latter will have the likes of Robin Koch and Liam Cooper to deal with for a starting spot. In goal, Illan Meslier will hope to build on his excellent debut season in the Premier League.

LEEDS UNITED – Potential FPL targets

In Jamie Vardy, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, just to name a few, there was plenty of quality to choose from for your forward line besides the unstoppable, but expensive Harry Kane. Against all odds though, it was £5.5m forward Patrick Bamford (£8.0m) who recorded the highest points total after the Spurs talisman, courtesy of an incredible 17 goals and 11 assists. It’s therefore no surprise that he was given the biggest price hike of all players in the official game for the upcoming season. He now finds himself in the company of similarly priced attackers like Calvert-Lewin, Watkins and Antonio, but if the former Chelsea man can replicate his performance from last season, he is still the pick of the bunch. Wouldn’t you spend £8.0m on 28 attacking returns for a total of 194 FPL points?

Despite Leeds’ defensive improvements during the season, we have kept our focus on their attacking assets for this overview, though the likes of budget-priced Luke Ayling and goalkeeper Illan Meslier look like shrewd investments as well. In support of Bamford up front, there is not much between Jack Harrison (£6.0m) and Raphinha (£6.5m). They occupy the wings for Bielsa’s side and are both listed as midfielders in the official game, which means that they get bonus points for clean sheets and their goals are worth 5 FPL points each.

Last season, Harrison scored 8 goals and 10 assists for a total of 160 FPL points, while Raphinha recorded 6 goals and 10 assists to reach 133 FPL points. It should be noted though, that the Brazilian only made his way into the starting eleven around gameweek 6. The additional upside to picking him is that he has also quickly grown into the side’s main set-piece taker apart from penalties (those are for Bamfy). This might also partly explain why he is priced half a million more expensive than his counterpart on the right flank. Both are nailed-on for Leeds and we expect their ownership to rocket considerably from gameweek 5 onwards, though Raphinha’s ownership already sits at over 22% at the moment of writing (Harrison sits in 5.5% of all teams).

LEICESTER CITY – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Overall, Leicester’s 2020/21 Premier League campaign was decent with a fifth-place finish and subsequent qualification for the Europa League. Their finish to the season was dramatic though, as they lost out on Champions League football due to a 2-4 home defeat at the hands of Spurs on the very last day of the campaign. The Foxes did manage to win the first FA Cup in their history by beating Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea 1-0 in May of this year, courtesy of a wonderful Youri Tielemans strike.

Despite missing out on a much-coveted top-four finish, Brendan Rodgers’ side showed once again that his side is one the traditional top six need to be wary of. In that sense, the 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City, as well as victories over United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs, come to mind. That becomes more true when considering the number of serious injury issues the Foxes had to deal with throughout the season, including early season-ending injuries for in-form right-back James Justin and forward Harvey Barnes. As a matter of fact, of all significant outfield players, only midfielders Youri Tielemans and Marc Albrighton managed to come through the 2020/21 campaign entirely unscathed.

With the addition of RB Salzburg forward Patson Daka for around £28 million, Lille midfielder Boubacary Soumaré for around £18 million and experienced Saints left-back Ryan Bertrand on a free, and no outgoing transfers of major significance to the first-team squad up to date, Leicester looks to be preparing for another top-four challenge this season although they have just lost Wesley Fofana with a lengthy injury due to a broken leg. The FA Cup success will have boosted the team’s confidence, though the club will need to find a way to navigate the Europa League’s Thursday evening fixtures as efficiently as possible in the middle of what will undoubtedly be another gruelling Premier League campaign.

Leicester’s tactics sheet

Leicester City’s tactical set-up is pretty much set and we don’t expect major changes to their starting formation. The squad contains qualities for different lineups, including a five-man backline that full brings out the qualities of the world-class wingbacks on their roster, but Rodgers generally prefers a 4-2-3-1 set-up. This also seems the basis for the work the team is doing during the ongoing pre-season, though the improved squad depth makes it more difficult than ever to predict a starting eleven.

In defence, the central duo will likely be formed by Caglar Söyüncü plus possibly a temporary Daniel Amartey whilst veteran defender Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana are ruled out due to injury. They will be flanked by Belgium international Timothy Castagne on the right and either the young Luke Thomas or new man Ryan Bertrand on the left. In goal, Kasper Schmeichel is undisputed.

The engine room of the team will be manned by the tireless Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi, to whom new acquisition Soumaré is expected to function as backup. The attacking portion of the midfield can be completed in different ways, but the ideal trio behind striker Jamie Vardy likely consists of playmaker James Maddison and winger Harvey Barnes. The third and final spot can be filled by Ayoze Perez or Dennis Praet.

One major issue with the above set-up is the exclusion of Leicester’s best man of the second half of last season, Kelechi Iheanacho. He could fill one of the positions behind Vardy as a kind of drifting second striker with Tielemans pushing a bit further forward into Maddison’s position, with the England international shifting to the right to form a very offensive 4-1-3-2 formation. This brought the Foxes considerable success towards the end of last season and should not be discarded for the upcoming season, either.

The Community Shield match v Manchester City on Saturday 7th August will help clarify Leicester’s favoured starting line up.

LEICESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets

In our opinion, Jamie Vardy (£10.5m), despite his undeniable and proven FPL pedigree, has possibly been slightly overpriced this season, mainly due to other attractive forward options being available at considerably lower prices. Then again, over the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, the now 34-year old Leicester legend still managed 15 goals and 14 assists to reach a total of 187 FPL points. At the moment of writing, the former England striker is part of just under 9% of teams in the official fantasy game, probably due to a combination of “fears” surrounding his advancing age, his game time in the upcoming season with Iheanacho and Daka waiting in the wings, and Leicester’s less than ideal opening set of fixtures. All arguments worth discussing, but we feel that a Vardy party remains on the cards until he really shows us otherwise.

Competition is fierce in the mid-priced midfielder budget this season, with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, James Ward-Prowse, Raphinha and James Maddison all carrying £6.5m to £7m price tags, but Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) has the potential to compete with the best of them. With 9 goals, 5 assists and 7 clean sheets in just under 2,000 minutes of Premier League football, the 23-year old was on the way to his best personal season up to date, but a serious knee injury stopped him in his tracks. To make matters even worse, it also ruled him out of England’s Euro 2020 squad. Barnes has now returned to action and is making a fit impression during the pre-season, which is good news for both Leicester and FPL managers.

Our third Leicester fantasy pick was going to be Wesley Fofana, until the Frenchman suffered a serious fibula fracture in yesterday’s friendly pre-season encounter with Villareal. A real blow for Leicester, this also forced us to shift our attention to another Fox. We wanted to stay in the affordable fantasy asset category, but sticking with a nailed-on part of the starting eleven nonetheless. Enter midfielder Youri Tielemans (£6.5m). Together with Marc Albrighton, the Belgian Euro 2020 participant was the only first-team player of the Foxes who managed to stay injury-free last season. At the same time, he tied with Maddison as Leicester’s highest-scoring midfielder with a total of 133 FPL points (6 goals, 4 assists, 11 clean sheets). As we discussed earlier, Tielemans will generally operate as the more advanced half of the double pivot, but there will also be moments where he will be employed more as an attacking midfielder.

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FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 4 Crystal Palace and Everton

Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!

If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.

Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this fourth instalment, two teams with new bosses vastly different to their predecessors: Crystal Palace under Patrick Vieira and Everton under Rafa Benitez.

CRYSTAL PALACE – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Four Premier League sides are starting the 2021/22 campaign with new managers and Patrick Vieira’s appointment at Crystal Palace is probably the one surrounded by the most questions. Is the former Arsenal legend ready for a 38-week long battlefield that is the Premier League? What kind of tactics will he be focusing on at Selhurst Park? How will Palace approach games under the Frenchman? These questions are not the result of doubts surrounding Vieira’s qualities (more on that later), but mainly due to the fact that this managerial switch marks the end of an era at Selhurst Park.

Since a few weeks into the 2017/18 season, the Eagles had been led by English veteran manager Roy Hodgson. While rarely lauded for his approach to games, Woy’s pragmatic leadership helped an often limited Palace side to mid-table finishes every season without ever really coming in danger of relegation. Usually counting on a relatively old and experienced squad (Palace boasted the highest average age of all teams last season), Hodgson’s Palace was known for a preference to lean back and hit opponents on the counter through quick breaks with Wilfired Zaha as the main danger man.

When presented by the club as Hodgson’s successor, Vieira stated that he wanted to build on the now 73-year old manager’s disciplined work and add a more attacking mindset to it. An admirable goal, that’s for sure, but a big, big challenge as well in a league that is both impatient and unforgiving. Hodgon’s work and results in South London have been underestimated at times due to the former England manager’s conservative tactics, and when looking at Vieira’s most recent record at OGC Nice in the French Ligue 1, the team looks to be facing a transformation. The question is to what extent the Frenchman can translate his preferred tactics to a Premier League-proof concept.

Crystal Palace’s tactics sheet

A quick look at the former Invincible’s tenure at the Côte d’Azur presents us with the image of a manager who likes an expressive kind of football, with 107 goals scored and 118 goals conceded in 89 games for a total of just 1.4 points per game. He has tended towards an attacking 4-3-3 formation in France and the current Palace squad boasts the qualities to emulate a similar approach. At the same time, he needs to be acutely aware of the risks that come with such tactics in the Premier League, especially when looking at the club’s opening fixtures: away games at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool and Arsenal plus home games versus Spurs and Leicester in their first eight gameweeks.

How the Eagles will turn up in gameweek 1 is still pretty much up in the air, but Chair Steve Parish and the rest of the Palace Board are clearly backing the project. Young central defenders Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen were brought in from respectively Chelsea U23 and Olympique Lyon to complement the older, more rigid defenders in the squad, and France U21 attacking midfielder and Young Championship Player of the Year Michael Olise was bought from Reading. On top of that, the talented Connor Gallagher was loaned from Chelsea’s U23 as well.

These transfers point to a more energetic style with more focus on ball possession combined with a speedy, very technical front line. Assuming Vieira will stick to his preferred 4-3-3 formation, the ideal attack will likely consist of talisman Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke and Michael Olise, though Olise is reportedly having some injury issues at the moment. Eberechi Eze should slot in there at some point as well, but he is out for the foreseeable future with a very serious Achilles injury. The three-men midfield looks to be built around loanee Gallagher, together with Jairo Riedewald and anchor Cheikhou Kouyaté. In the back, new acquisitions Andersen and Guehi will likely be flanked by Tyrick Mitchell on the left and Joel Ward on the right. In goal, Vicente Guaita is nailed on.

CRYSTAL PALACE – Potential FPL targets

One thing Vieira will be looking to accomplish this season is to make the Eagles less dependent on Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) in an attacking sense. Nevertheless, the Ivory Coast international will remain their star man and the automatic first fantasy recommendation when talking about Palace. Last season was not his best in terms of attacking returns, but his 11 goals and 4 assists still represent a direct involvement of just over 36% in all of his team’s goals in the Prem. Only seven players in the entire league recorded a better involvement ratio. A more attacking approach to games should normally benefit Zaha and we find it hard to imagine that his goal involvement will be any lower this season. At £7.0m, he could be an interesting option once the Eagles have their difficult opening set of fixtures behind them.

Our second fantasy pick from the Crystal Palace roster is a bit of a punt, but one we feel has a decent ceiling and a limited downside, thanks to his price tag. Michael Olise (£5.5m) had an impressive break-through season for Reading in the Championship with 7 goals and 12 assists, crowning himself Young Player of the Year. The 19-year old was also part of both the Championship Team of the Season and the PFA Championship Team of the Year. Olise was amongst the most creative players in the entire league with 84 big chances created and he was his side’s set-piece specialist, as well. Of course, he is young and very little is really known about Crystal Palace’s tactics for the coming season, but at £5.5m, he has the potential to become a very effective budget-enabler.

Our final Palace fantasy pick was between goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and defender Cheikhou Kouyaté (£4.5m), and we ended up opting for the latter. The main reason for that is that every FPL manager likes a starting out-of-position asset, and the Ivorian looks to fit the description this season. He is listed as a budget defender, but expected to be deployed at the base of a three-man midfield. In truth, Kouyaté is not expected to record lots of attacking returns (he got 2 goals and 2 assists over the past two seasons) and he might be more susceptible to bookings as a lone defensive midfielder. At the same time, as a fantasy asset, he will also get 4 FPL points per clean sheet and his involvement in the middle of the pitch can also lead to better results in the bonus points index. All we’re saying is: don’t discard him straight away.

EVERTON – FPL 2021/22 team preview

Hopes were high at Goodison Park at the start of last season as elite manager and multiple Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti was appointed to lead Everton to European football. Boosted by big-name acquisitions like James Rodriguez and Allan, the Toffees got off to a flying start and looked like serious top-six challengers by Christmas. The defence looked pretty solid more often than not and they were scoring goals with DCL (Dominic Calvert-Lewin) the main beneficiary from this long patch of good form, from a fantasy perspective.

The second half of the season was less of a good-news show though, and by the time gameweek 38 was upon us, Everton were sitting in tenth place. The 5-0 thrashing at the hands of champions Manchester City was the very sour cherry on what eventually turned out to be another rather disappointing cake of a season. Then Real Madrid came knocking and suddenly the Ancelotti era at Goodison became limited to a single season. Enter Rafa Benitez.

In their search for another heavyweight to be in charge of the dressing room, the Everton management brought in the decorated and highly-respected Spanish manager. As a former Liverpool manager, his appointment was naturally surrounded by some controversy, but his managerial qualities are undeniable and the Toffees know this as well. Known as a manager with a preference for defensive stability over attacking excitement, his overall Premier League record shows an average of 1.53 goals scored per game (and just under 1 goal conceded per game). Considering the fact that last season no team recorded more clean sheets than the Toffees since gameweek 25 (8 in 15 games), Benitez is inheriting a pretty stable side, which will hopefully give him a bit more time to focus on the team’s attacking aspects.

Everton’s tactics sheet

In recent years, Benitez often played in a variation of 4-2-3-1 formations, with three technical attackers filling in behind a strong man up front. It remains to be seen how Everton will line up under the Spaniard in GW1 though, as a formation with a five-man backline looks very fitting for the current squad as well. Considering the investments that were made at the start of last season and the Board’s likely desire to avoid another major upheaval in terms of tactics (and squad), we feel an adapted four-man defence behind Rafa’s heavily favoured double pivot in the middle is the way they will go in most games.

Pickford comes off a good Euro 2020 and is a certainty in goal, and he’ll be happy that Benitez does not tend to expect miracles from his shot stoppers in terms of footballing qualities. Michael Keane will probably be partnered by Yerry Mina in defence, though Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey are candidates as well, especially when playing with five at the back. On the left, Lucas Digne is undisputed in any case, while on the right, Seamus Coleman looks like a starter for now. We write “for now”, because Everton have been heavily linked with dynamic PSV right-back and Euro 2020 star Denzel Dumfries.

The central midfield has always been a key area for the successful implementation of Benitez’ tactics. We have briefly outlined the manager’s focus on defensive solidity, and the central midfield block is where the team’s shape and tempo are decided. At each of his teams in recent years, the midfield was the team’s engine room: At Valencia, these key men were David Albelda and Rubén Baraja; at Liverpool it was a trio from Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Dietmar Hamann and Javier Mascherano; at Inter he trusted Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder; and at Chelsea, Ramires and Frank Lampard formed his double pivot. For this coming season, Abdelaye Doucouré and Allan seem favourites for starting berths, with André Gomes and Tom Davies breathing down their necks.

In attack, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is about as nailed as they come to lead the offensive line. Behind him, Richarlison will slot in on the left side (as soon as he is rested from his Copa América and Olympics exploits). That leaves two spots for James Rodriguez (who looks like the most likely candidate for the #10 position), Alex Iwobi and new acquisitions Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray. Any of them might fill in for Richarlison during the first weeks of the season.

EVERTON – Potential FPL targets

Upon his arrival at Goodison Park, Benitez did not need long to mention the qualities of Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m). He lauded the England striker’s finishing qualities and aerial presence, and states that one of his priorities was to improve the quantity and quality of service for the man up front. In that light, the addition of Demarai Gray and especially serial crosser Andros Townsend make complete sense. Over the past 2 seasons, DCL managed 29 goals (16 last season) and 7 assists (6 last season), and he ended the 2020/21 campaign with 165 FPL points. Not too shabby for a forward who started the season with a £7.0m price tag. His price was increased by a whole million for the upcoming season, but in our opinion, Calvert-Lewin can still represent excellent value.

A major aspect in that assessment is Everton’s theoretically kind opening set of fixtures. Bar their away game at Old Trafford in gameweek 7, none of their first 11 games rank higher than 3 on the official game’s Fixture Difficulty Rating. This run includes encounters with several teams who were not exactly prolific in front of goal last season, including Brighton, Burnley and Wolves and promoted sides Norwich and Watford. Combine that with Lucas Digne‘s (£5.5m) appealing price tag, and you can see why we’re expecting the Frenchman to be included in plenty of FPL squads come GW1. The left-back could benefit massively from Benitez’ appointment if it leads to him building on last season’s 9 assists with more clean sheets. On top of that, the French international will be on even more set-pieces now that Gylfi Sigurdsson is not likely to feature any time soon.

Another player who could see a serious upturn in his end product is James Rodriguez (£7.0m). His fitness has proven to be somewhat of a potential issue with the Colombian star making it to just 1,763 Premier League minutes last season, but FPL towers seem to have wanted to compensate for that with a very interesting £7.0m price tag. As a result, and on condition that Everton’s attacking pieces fall into place rather quickly under Benitez, what we have here is a potential absolute bargain. James recorded 5 goals and 6 assists last season for a total of 101 FPL points, which is not that bad for a midfielder in his price category, but feels like an underperformance for a player of his quality. Still, excluding fantasy assists, he boasted the best direct goal involvement ratio of all players on the Everton roster (0.51 per game), in part thanks to his set-piece duties. Competition is fierce in his bracket and budgets are limited, but you should at least have the Colombia international around the top of your watchlists.

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