FPL 2019/20 Club Previews – Leicester & Liverpool

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 fifth instalment, we’re continuing the series with an interesting Leicester City and reigning European champions Liverpool.

Leicester – The team

When Leicester City appointed Brendan Rodgers as head coach in February 2019, his main task was to bring back some of the harmony and positivity at the club after 18 up-and-down months marked by internal struggles under Claude Puel. In his three years prior to his return to the Premier League, the Northern Irish manager won seven prizes, while he was promoted to the elite with Swansea at the end of the 2010-2011 season and only just missed out on the Premier League title with Liverpool in the 2013-2014 campaign. In other words, the Foxes brought in a coach with plenty of Premier League pedigree who, on top of that, represents an attacking, attractive type of football. After the first four months at the helm of the Foxes last season, the start of the coming season will also be the first start for Rodgers as manager at the club.

Last season, Rodgers had his Leicester line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation most of the time, which saw the Foxes both develop a more attractive approach of games and book better results. In the 10 games that he led them, Leicester booked 5 victories and lost 3 games. His won an average of 1.9 points per game, while his men scored 1.7 and conceded 0.9 goals per match on average over that stretch. Rodgers had his team building up from the back when attacking, an approach based on quick passing and movement off the ball, and employing a high energetic press when setting up defensively. He has set up many of his previous teams up like that as well and the current Leicester squad is well-equipped to execute such tactics, so we expect Leicester to approach coming season’s games in very much the same fashion.

In an attacking sense, Rodgers likes to prevent his opponents from organising defensively by making the pitch as large as possible. What we mean by that, is that the wide players (both the wingers and the full-backs) take up wide positions as soon as the ball is in possession, so the opponent has more pitch to cover. They can either choose to stick to the wide men and create more space between the lines and the players, or to remain around the centre of the pitch and afford the wide men time and space to come up with attacking ploys. This tactic, in combination with a quick-passing build-up approach from the back makes for plenty of dynamism all over the pitch. With several highly talented, technical and agile players at his disposal, like Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, the Northern Irishman has the weapons to play his favourite attacking game that results in many chances from open play.

Defensively, Rodgers’ pressing tactic is interesting, in the sense that he employs a more man-to-man kind of approach instead of a massive pressure on the ball. He will have each of his men mark their direct opponent, while the player with the ball is aggressively pressured by one Fox. This man-oriented press, when successful, eliminates the opponent’s passing options and results in the passing around of the ball in areas that are of no worry to Leicester. On top of that, if the ball is quickly recovered in this way, Leicester’s attacking players will usually be in positions from which they fashion a dangerous break in a matter of seconds. In the case an opponent breaks through the Leicester press, Rodgers’ men drop back into a deep-lying 4-5-1 in which Wilfred Ndidi plays a particularly important role. The Nigerian defensive midfielder has a free role along the back line in these situations in order to reduce the pressure on his defence as a result of opposition movement, like late runners into the box and overlapping full-backs.

So far, the Foxes have spent a decent amount during the summer transfer window (€85 million) on promising players that seem perfectly fitted for the game Rodgers wants to play. Central midfielder Youri Tielemans joined the club on loan in the January window of last season and made a great impression, illustrated by his 3 goals, 5 assists and 63 FPL points. After spending about €45 million on the Belgian, Leicester also brought in Newcastle’s Ayoze Perez for €33 million. The Spanish forward scored 12 goals and provided 2 assists for the Magpies last season, which earned him a nice 141 FPL points. Finally, coveted 21-year English right-back James Justin came in from Luton Town for €6.7 million, while Portuguese midfielder Adrien Silva returned from a loan period at AS Monaco. No players of big significance last season have left the club yet (this included wanted man Harry Maguire), so Brendan Rodgers has an entertaining squad with quality and depth at his disposal to aim for a European spot this season. USA online casinos also can offer quality entertainment if you can find the right one.

Leicester – Potential FPL targets

Especially in the midfield, the Foxes have a lot of quality options, but we’re starting out with probably the most nailed-on player at the club, living Leicester legend and striker Jamie Vardy (£9.0m). The English forward had a love-hate relationship with previous manager Puel, though there was probably not that much love, but he has blossomed once again under Brendan Rodgers. He is not just a favourite of ours, but a Fantasy Premier League favourite full stop, having scored at least 160 points in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Vardy recorded 174 points, courtesy of 18 goals, 5 assists and no less than 31 bonus points. Since he has retired from the national team, he was not part of the squad’s Nations Cup exploits this summer, so he will be turning up fresh, and knowing the footballer Jamie Vardy, raring to go again come August 11th when the Foxes host Wolves.

Our next pick from the Leicester roster is one of last season’s favourites, wing-back Ricardo Pereira (£6.0m). The problem for Ricardo this season is that his price tag is quite hefty and the competition in his bracket is enormous. That doesn’t mean that the Portuguese defender is not worth his tag. On the contrary, Ricardo got 146 FPL points in his debut season amongst the English elite, thanks to 10 clean sheets, 8 assists and 2 goals. Part of this extraordinary production for a defender is the result of him often playing as a right winger for the Foxes. The expectation is that Rodgers will be employing him in the first place as a very attacking right-back, but don’t be surprised to see him start up on the right wing at times, or to at least see him being re-positioned to the attacking line during games. This Out-of-Position potential makes Pereira a very interesting option, especially because he’s a premium asset in a team that will be aiming for the European spots.

As said before, boss Rodgers has an abundance of quality options for his midfield, with the likes of Maddison, Tielemans, Harvey and new signing Ayoze Perez all vying for a starting spot, just to name a few. Considering his performances last season, his 2831 Premier League minutes and his integral role in most of Leicester’s set-pieces, we’re recommending attacking midfielder James Maddison (£7.0m). We expect the talented Englishman to play a central role in the manager’s plans this season and that many of Leicester’s attacked will run through him. Last season, Maddison scored 7 goals and 7 assists for a total of 137 FPL points, which is not extraordinary, but definitely not bad either for a then-21-year old playing his first season of Premier League football. If Rodgers manages to hit the ground running with his Foxes, a higher-scoring season could absolutely be on the horizon for Maddison.

Anfield Tour (2)
“After their triumph in Europe, are Jurgen Klopp’s men bringing the Premier League trophy to Anfield this year?” (CC by 2.0) by Daniel

Liverpool – The team

Were it not for an almost extraterrestrial Manchester City last season, Liverpool could have recorded one of the most successful seasons in their rich history. The Reds finished second in the Premier League with an incredible 97 points. The team scored 89 goals and conceded just 22 over the whole season, but the Cityzens were just a little bit better. One point better, to be exact. Painful, but the final victory in the Champions League must have surely softened the blow quite a bit. Jurgen Klopp’s men beat fellow Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 to bring Europe’s most important club prize home to Anfield. Liverpool achieved these impressive results by playing Jurgen Klopp’s well-known and much-lauded high-energy, direct tactics and it’s highly unlikely that the Reds will turn up very differently in the coming season.

One of the reasons for which Liverpool have so far been so quiet on the transfer market is that they actually already boast one of the most balanced teams in England and Europe. Klopp has created a very solid defence, a midfield that is becoming more and more creative, and, of course, a lethal front line. Add to that the return from (long-term) injuries of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana, and Liverpool will also boast the qualitative squad depth necessary to compete in all competitions until the end.

When talking about Liverpool’s attacking tactics, there’s no other way but to start with possibly the best and best-coordinated front line in world football at the moment: Golden Boot-winner Mo Salah, fellow Golden Boot-winner Sadio Mané and the unmarkable Roberto Firmino. That’s right, the Reds’ attack contains not one, but two Golden Boot-winners, as last season both Salah and Mané (as well as Arsenal’s Aubameyang) scored 22 goals. They are supported by two world-class full-backs, Robertson on the left and Alexander-Arnold on the right, who are a guarantee for crosses and assists (they provided 12 and 13 respectively last season). The midfield is the engine of Klopp’s Gegenpressing-machine and will likely be made up of three names from Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita and Fabinho. Liverpool boasts a disciplined midfield block that allows the front three to excel and it has been criticised at times for its lack of creativity. That’s one of the areas that Klopp could and probably will be looking to make improvements during the 2019/20 campaign.

In regard to Liverpool’s defence, we have already mentioned two key cogs in Klopp’s system with tireless left-back Andy Robertson and set-piece specialist right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The real foundation of Liverpool’s impressive defensive resilience lies in the centre though, where captain and reigning  Premier League Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk is the undisputed leader. The Dutch giant could be accompanied in the centre by any of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren, out of which we believe that Gomez will eventually be Klopp’s preferred choice although Matip may have that place at the start of the season. In goal, Allison Becker forms the proverbial lock on the door and he performs this role with title-winning confidence. Like in attack, Liverpool’s defence brims with dynamism as the full-backs often join the midfield to create a numerical superiority in terms of players, while the central defenders hold a high line and often venture upwards with the ball as well. In those situations, one of the central midfielders usually takes care of the defensive cover. These kinds of dynamics require advanced tactical discipline and create a lot of movement all over the pitch that can easily put opposing outfits in disarray.

As far as transfers go, Klopp has already announced that Reds fans around the world should not expect too many fireworks before August 8th. The club has spent more than £300 million over the past seasons while in the process of consciously building a title candidate on all fronts, so this summer will be a calm one at Anfield. Players like Sturridge and Moreno were released, while Danny Ings was sold to Southampton for €22 million. In terms of incoming transfers, talented 17-year old Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg was bought from Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle for about €2 million, while youngest Premier League player in history Harvey Elliott was signed for an undisclosed fee from Fulham. Despite the lack of big transfer activity, Liverpool are aiming for titles again this season and it’ll be exciting to see what they have achieved come May 2020. Excitement is also on offer from NZ sports betting sites so do choose the best one for you.

Liverpool – Potential FPL targets

Liverpool are possibly the squad with the most potential FPL top performers in the whole league, though closely followed by champions Man City. Any one of the front three is potential FPL gold, while any one of the back four is as well.

His performances over the past two seasons kind of oblige us to start out with the official game’s most expensive player Mo Salah (£12.5m). The Egyptian forward, who is oddly still classified as a midfielder in FPL, scored 22 goals and provided 12 assists to reach the season-high points total of 256. Let us remind you that over the 2017/18 campaign, he recorded an all-time record-breaking total of 303 FPL points. Partner in crime Sadio Mané costs £1.5m less, which will convince/force many managers to go for the Senegalese powerhouse instead of Salah, but we deem him still just a little bit less influential. More than once, Klopp had Salah playing in the striker position and when the ageing warrior Milner is not on the pitch, the Egyptian is also on penalties. Either of the two will likely do great in your team and you might even manage to squeeze both in, but for now, our choice is Mo Salah.

In the official game, Liverpool have three forwards: Divock Origi, Rhian Brewster and Roberto Firmino (£9.5m). The first will likely function as first back-up for the front three, the second is a youngster who will get some minutes and the third is the intended starting striker, though he often drops back into a kind of number 10 position. The Brazilian fan favourite scored 12 goals and provided 8 assists last season to reach a points total of 160, which is pretty decent for a forward with his price tag. He is a relatively affordable option into Liverpool’s front line. Do be ready for the fact that he is probably the Reds’ attack biggest enabler and that his coach loves to use him to cause havoc in enemy defences with his runs and positional flexibility. Firmino does not have an out and out striker role and this will be reflected in his FPL points at times.

In defence, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and TAA are all expensive, but reliable defensive assets for your squad. Anyone of them should provide you with a steady stream of FPL points, but as our last pick, we’d like to take a bit of a punt and recommend Joe Gomez (£5.5m). We label him “a bit of a punt” due to his injury trouble last season and the excellent way in which Matip/Lovren partnered VVD in the centre. The young Englishman formed a great partnership with VVD when he was fit and he is also more than able to fill in at right-back, which only adds to his appeal. At his current price, Gomez is a real bargain way into one of England’s and Europe’s best defences. Keep on eye on Liverpool’s pre-season line-ups and performances, but our money is on the versatile defender to start next to Big Virg coming season.

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