FPL 2019/20 Club Previews – Burnley & Chelsea

In anticipation of the 2019/2020 Premier League season’s kick-off between Liverpool and New boys Norwich, at 20h00 on August 9th at Anfield, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this third instalment, we’re continuing the series with an Sean Dyche’s Burnley and Frank Lampard’s transfer-banned Chelsea.

“DSCN1768”by The Killer Biscuit is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Burnley – The team

Excluding double nationalities, but counting non-English British players, the Burnley squad boasts only ten players who are not English. If we exclude the non-English British players as well, that number drops to six. What we’re trying to say is that Burnley is probably the Premier League’s most English club, both in terms of players and playing style, and they have a manager in Sean Dyche who is not ashamed to admit it. Since the club’s promotion to the Premier League for the 2016/17 season, and well before that as well, Dyche has managed to make limited budgets go a long way every year, based on a clear and no-nonsense game approach.

Under Dyche, the Clarets rarely deviate from the old school 4-4-2 formation that even got them into Europe for the 2018/19 season. The back four is made up of physically strong and fit defenders that focus first and foremost on not letting balls through, including the fullbacks. When defending the midfield line drops deep as well in an attempt to block all passage ways in front of and alongside of the defence. Generally, a maximum of three players (usually the two forwards and possibly a lateral midfielder) remain up top to receive any long balls and start threatening the opposition on the counter. It’s an old-fashioned approach, and we have naturally simplified it here for the sake of time and length, but it works wonders for Dyche and his men, and there’s no real reason to expect anything different from them coming season.

The predictability in this sense is great from an FPL manager’s point of view, especially if the Clarets start hitting something of a purple patch and some FPL bargains start emerging. Players like central defenders James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, midfielders Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Dwight McNeil, and forwards Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood are pretty much nailed-on starters for Burnley. It’s unlikely they will be in many highlight reels by the end of the season, but a few scores of 120+ points are definitely not out of the question. Combine this with the low-end price tags (forwards Wood and Barnes are the most expensive at £6.5m each, and they recorded 131 and 122 FPL points respectively last season), and Burnley look like a decent source for budget purchases this year.

Finally, as far as transfers go so far this summer, things have been relatively calm at Turf Moor. Premier League legend and last season’s back-up striker Peter Crouch retired, but no other names of real impact on the club have left so far. Burnley did sign two players with certain pedigree, namely Dutch left-back Erik Pieters (for €1.1 million from Stoke) and forward Jay Rodriguez (€5.55 million from West Brom where he’d recently recovered from a serious injury), who actually came up through Burnley’s youth ranks and left the club for Southampton in 2012. Neither signing is guaranteed a starting spot, but both are clear challengers for the left-back and striker position, respectively, and their arrival with increase the level of competition in the squad.

Burnley – Potential FPL stars

Bar the first half of last season, Burnley in the Premier League is synonymous with decent defensive displays at a good price, which is why we’re starting off with a goalkeeper. The number one spot seems to be for either Tom Heaton or Nick Pope this coming season, with Joe Hart serving as back-up for either one. Manager Dyche has not let up on who will be starting against Southampton on August 10th, but considering Heaton has one year left on his contract, has allegedly refused to sign an extension and is being linked to several other clubs, we’re going with Nick Pope (£4.5m). The 27-year old Englishman signed a long-term contract in May 2019 and looks like the number one goalkeeper to us. At £4.5m, he’s an absolute budget-enabler and, if Burnley can display some of their trademark defensive solidity again, he could provide enormous value. Just for some reference: in Burnley’s successful 2016/17 season, starting goalkeeper Heaton kept ten clean sheets and got a total of 149 points. If you need a cheap starting goalie for your squad, you probably shouldn’t overlook Pope.

With Tarkowski and Mee, the Burnley defence boasts two tried and tested Premier League names, and their price tag of £5.0m is not ridiculous. Still, in the light of creating well-balanced FPL squads, our second pick is left-back Charlie Taylor (£4.5m). The 25-year old made the left-back position his last year, which is illustrated by the 3240 minutes of Premier League football he played. He did not offer much in terms of attacking returns (just a single assist), but he did record 7 clean sheets for a total of 82 FPL points. That’s not a bad return for the fourth or fifth defender in your squad. The arrival of Erik Pieters will keep Taylor on his toes, but expect him to hold on to his starting spot. Realistically speaking, there are not many better options in his price bracket.

The 2018/19 season was the second season in succession in which Chris Wood (£6.5m) scored 10 goals in the Premier League and crossed the 100-point mark in FPL. His partner up front, Ashley Barnes, is a good (budget) option as well, but we have gone with the New Zealander due to his position seeming just a tiny bit more nailed-on than Barnes’, or at least, there is more quality competition for Barnes than there is for Wood. Burnley boy Rodriguez will certainly get his minutes, but it’s clear that Wood is the main up front for the Clarets. He scored 10 goals, provided 3 assists and was awarded an impressive 17 bonus points to reach a  season total of 131 FPL points. At a price of just £6.5m, that’s more than decent. With players like Josh King, Troy Deeney and Jota finding themselves in the same price bracket, you’ll have some choices to make, but don’t discard Wood too quickly. He could provide excellent value as a sure starter in a stable team.

Chelsea – The team

One of the most interesting pre-season situations has arisen at Stamford Bridge, where the manager (Maurizio Sarri) of a team that really didn’t do so badly in the end (3rd in the Premier League, won the Europa League and lost the League Cup final) was replaced by a Blues legend with just one year of managerial experience (Frank Lampard after his year at Derby County), while the club is held to a transfer ban until the end of January 2020 winter transfer window. Oh, and it’s probably also worth mentioning that Chelsea has just sold its absolute star player (Eden Hazard) to Real Madrid for about €100 million. All these factors combined make it even more difficult than usual to predict Chelsea’s start to the season, but even though Lamps will be putting his own mark on the squad, he is also expected to continue building on at least some of last season’s strong points.

The Blues hit the ground running during the first months under Sarri last season. Thanks to a combination of an effective attacking approach and a solid defensive organisation, they recorded 13 wins and just 3 losses over the first half of the season, conceding just 16 goals in the process. From January onwards though, Chelsea won just 23 points (of a total of 54 available points) and scored just 25 goals. Factors such as over-reliance on Eden Hazard, the failed integration of Gonzalo Higuain and the teams in the Premier League finding out how to largely combat Sarri’s style of play after the first half of the season are all said to have contributed to this drop in form and results.

Last season, Chelsea lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation in 97% of all matches, while this was also the preferred formation for then-current Derby and current Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Sarri’s men averaged 74.41 passes into the final third per game, the third-highest in the league. They also enjoyed dominating the ball, with an average possession of 61.91% in the Premiership. Defensively, the Blues were on point as well, as they conceded 39 goals, the third-least in the division together with Spurs. The defensive block consisting of Jorginho, Kovacic and Kanté would form in Chelsea’s final third to block passing lines through the centre and force ball recuperation in the less dangerous lateral areas of the pitch.

Most of these characteristics fit Lampard’s approach at Derby, as he liked to play out form the back and encouraged a quick, short-passing game. The big difference will likely be the way in which Chelsea set up when defending. Contrary to Sarri, Lampard seems to prefer a very high-energy display all over, including a very high press that starts with the forwards. It also seems likely that Lampard will play with a double pivot (Jorginho – Kanté?) instead of using just one deep-lying playmaker in the centre.

Another major difference will be the absence of Eden Hazard. Despite his replacement Christian Pulisic being of the very highest quality, in Hazard the Blues have lost a player who scored 16 goals and provided 15 assists last season, which represents an involvement of 49.7% in all of Chelsea’s goals in the Premier League. Especially against teams digging themselves in, the diminutive Belgian won’t be there to create spaces and draw more than one defender in.

In other words, much remains to be seen still in regard to Lampard’s Chelsea. In terms of the starting line-up, seeing as there are no incoming transfers this year, the ex-Blues midfielder will have to make do with the array of talent already at his disposal. Players like Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Kanté, Pulisic  and Jorginho seem to be sure of a starting spot, but the FPL community is still in doubt regarding several positions on the midfield and in attack in particular. On the wings, there is plenty of choice with, among others, Pedro, Willian and Hudson-Odoi (recovering from major injury), while Giroud, Batshuayi and Abraham are options for the striker position. Our advice would be to closely follow Chelsea’s pre-season and hope for more indications of Lampard’s starting eleven at Old Trafford on August 11th.

Chelsea – Potential FPL stars

The fact that Chelsea are still pretty much an unknown entity for the coming season obviously raises the risk when picking players. We’re always very careful with recommending players who are new to the Premier League, but considering the situation at Chelsea, we’re starting this list off with Christian Pulisic (£7.5m). The 20-year old US international is a huge talent with the ability to unbalance practically every defence and despite his injuries last season, he showed that he’s becoming more productive in the final third as well (4 goals and 4 assists in 9 Bundesliga games). That equals to one goal involvement per 115 minutes. For some context, in the Premier League last season, Son Heung-Min stood at one goal involvement every 102 minutes (current FPL price: £9.5m) and Sigurdsson at a goal or assist every 164 minutes (currently priced at £8.0m). Pulisic is a wildcard is more than one sense (keep in Gold Cup performances with Team USA in mind as well), but if he gets off to a good start, his value could be enormous.

Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) may not be the most spectacular defender, or FPL asset for that matter, but only six defenders scored more points than he did last season (158). The Spanish captain of the Blues kept 16 clean sheets, scored 1 goal and provided 6 assists over the 2018/19 campaign. New manager Lampard is expected to play with four defenders most of the time, which means Azpili will be employed at right-back, while he can play as a right centre-back in a backline of five as well. Azpilicueta is the current Chelsea captain and Lampard knows exactly what to expect from him after being team mates with the Spaniard during his final two years at Stamford Bridge, so expect him to be nailed-on this season. We’re not saying he’s definitely the best pick at his price, but Azpili is as likely to deliver over the course of a season as anyone.

Finally, the striker. Chelsea currently have three candidates (Giroud, Batshuayi, Abraham) for the spot up top and all three are priced at £7.0m in the official game. Figuring out which of the three is going to get the nod ahead from the new manager is one of the main obsessions throughout the community at the moment, as everyone wants that nailed-on £7.0m-striker in a top-four team. Abraham scored 26 goals on loan with Aston Villa in the Championship last season, and Batshuayi scored 5 goals and provided 1 assist in 748 minutes of Premier League football for Crystal Palace, but at the moment, our shout goes to Olivier Giroud (£7.0m). With 11 goals and 5 assists in just 14 Europa League games, the Frenchman played a pivotal role in Chelsea winning the tournament. Besides that, in 828 minutes of Premier League football, he scored 2 goals and gave 4 assists, helping him to a total of 55 FPL points (7 more points than Batshuayi. At 32 years of age, Giroud is not the youngest of the pack any more and his speed is definitely suffering as part of it, but at the moment, he looks like a bargain starting option at a top four team

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