FPL 2019/20 Club Previews – Newcastle & Norwich

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 seventh instalment, we’re continuing the series with a boiling Newcastle United and last season’s Championship champions, Norwich City.

St James' Park - East Stand
“Is Newcastle manager Steve Bruce going to convince the critics at St James Park this season?” (CC by 2.0) by Rich Watts

Newcastle United – The team

Over the years, the Premier League has undergone a lot of changes. Bigger television deals, lots of private investments, record-breaking transfers, etc… At least one thing has remained the same: the troublesome relationship between a large part of Newcastle United fan base and controversial owner Mike Ashley. The appointment of Champions League-winning coach Rafa Benitez in March of 2016 was a master stroke though. Despite being unable to save the Magpies from relegation that season, the Spanish manager grew enormously popular amongst the Newcastle faithful, especially after he decided to stick with the club in the Championship. He was often described as probably the best thing at Newcastle since his appointment. Benitez’ myth at Tyneside only grew after promotion right back to the English football elite the next season and keeping them there since.

Rafa is now gone, much to the dismay of the Toon Army, and Steve Bruce has been signed as his replacement, again, much to the dismay of the Toon Army. Bruce is not a bad manager by any stretch and he has plenty of Premier League experience, but it doesn’t show much ambition on the part of Mike Ashley, especially not in combination with the loss of last season’s best forwards (Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondón) and very little other impressive activity during the summer transfer window. From the outside, the atmosphere feels negative at St. James’ Park at the moment and even though we will need to see how Bruce and his men will click over the course of the season, as it stands currently, it looks like the Magpies have a season of struggles ahead of them.

Now, about football. New manager Steve Bruce is well aware of the fact that his side might be outclassed footballing-wise more often than not this season, so the first point on the agenda was fitness. A lack of quality can, up to a certain point, be compensated by being fitter and more aggressive than your opponent, and that’s what Bruce has emphasised during the pre-season. He will be looking to field a dynamic eleven that, in the first place, forces opponents into a physical battle.

The expectation is that the battle will continue from there onwards. Bruce is known for a cautious approach when it comes to football, and he has had a penchant for counting on crosses and direct balls into danger zones at his previous clubs. He doesn’t have a reputation for playing particularly attractive football, but his direct, physical style can book results.

That’s also why the English manager’s first focus has been on figuring out Newcastle’s defensive structure. In order for his men to take the battle to the opponent, they need to be able to count on a sturdy defensive unit. Usually basing the game approach on a 4-4-2 formation, with a pretty rigid backline and a mostly defensive block in the centre of the pitch, Steve Bruce is not afraid to take a defensive approach to games, especially when faced with stronger opposition. In that regard, it makes sense that he has decided to leave the captain’s armband on central defender Jamaal Lascelles’ arm.

As far as the current transfer window goes, Newcastle has been underwhelming so far, to say the least. The signing of Hoffenheim’s Joelinton for a massive fee of £44 million is promising in several senses, but one with serious risks as well. The physically strong Brazilian striker could be well fitted to Bruce’s preferred style of play, but he is not (yet) used to playing in a defensive set-up after serving under a much more technical and attack-oriented coach in the form of Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim. Also, he has never played in the Premier League before. Last season in the Bundesliga, the forward scored 7 goals and 7 assists in 28 games, while also scoring and assisting once in five Champions League games. He obviously has loads of talent, but the question is whether it’s smart for club owner Ashley to count on the young Brazilian to compensate for the loss of Ayoze Perez, Salomon Rondón and Joselu. Because simply said, that’s the task ahead of him. There is a week to go before the transfer window closes in England, so Newcastle could be making some moves still, but it’s been quiet so far. With or without further signings though, it looks like the 2019/20 season is going to be a difficult one for the Magpies. What’s not going to be difficult is using https://www.newzealandcasinos.co.nz/online-pokies if you play online casino.

Newcastle United – Potential FPL targets

A new coach and a negative atmosphere around the club don’t necessarily mean that there are no attractive Newcastle FPL assets to be found. One of those more attractive options amongst the Magpies is converted wing-back Matt Ritchie (£5.5m). In 2927 minutes of Premier League football, the dead-ball specialist scored 2 goals and provided 8 assists, 4 of which came from set-pieces. That’s as many as premium assets like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. Ritchie’s performances earned him a total of 110 points, but do take into account that he was listed as a midfielder last year, while this season he’s a defender in FPL. That means that he’ll get an extra point for goals and a three more points per clean sheet. At a price of £5.5m, the Englishman is definitely not cheap and competition is fierce in his bracket, but considering he’s on set-pieces (including penalties) and a nailed-on starter, he could be worth a punt but do just check he’s recovered from the hamstring issue which forced him off in pre-season friendly earlier this week.

Our next pick is English midfielder Isaac Hayden (£4.5m), who brought home a modest 69 FPL points from 1857 minutes of Premier League football last season, courtesy of 1 goal, 4 assists and 7 clean sheets. Still, considering his position as a defensive midfielder playing in a team that faced qualitatively better opponents most of the time, 69 points is not that bad. The main reason for including him in our picks though, is his price tag. With Hayden, you’re bringing in a starting midfielder for an absolute bargain price. Don’t expect double-digit hauls from him, but he could be an excellent budget-enabler. As a matter of fact, in the most budget of midfielder categories, in which players like Wolves’ Dendoncker and Brighton’s Stephens find themselves as well, Hayden is probably your best bet.

Finally, a goalkeeper. Newcastle players are not likely to be very popular picks in the build-up to FPL’s gameweek 1, but goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) is worth watchlisting. The Czech shot stopper was one of the Magpies’ best performers last season as he scored the third-most FPL points of all players on the team (131), behind forwards Rondón and Perez, thanks to 11 clean sheets and 10 bonus points. Newly appointed Newcastle coach Steve Bruce is not exactly known for his attractive, attacking brand of football and is expected to base coming season’s game approach on a solid defence, which could be good news for Dubravka. With reputed goalies like Fabianski, Patricio and Schmeichel all part of the same price bracket, it will be difficult for him to find his way into many FPL rosters, but you should know that last season, out of all the goalkeepers in this category, only Fabianski outscored the Newcastle goalie (143 vs 131 points).

Norwich City – The team

With Norwich City, we have arrived at last season’s Championship champions. The Canaries dominated the second tier for large parts of the season, winning 27 games and losing just 6. Under German coach Daniel Farke, they play an attacking brand of football, which is more than illustrated by the 93 goals they scored last season. While this could be a sign of Norwich being an exciting addition to the Premier League, it should also be taken into account that they conceded 57 goals last season and booked just 13 clean sheets in 46 games. No less than seven teams conceded less goals than last season’s Championship champions. That kind of defensive porousness has to be definitely improved upon if the Canaries want to avoid becoming this season’s Fulham.

Last season, Farke took a moment to find his preferred formation for his men until he settled on a dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation. The double pivot, which will certainly include Mario Vrancic and likely include Tom Trybull, protects the team’s balance and allows the front four to exhibit their creativity without having to worry about their defensive duties too much. The two full-backs, left-back and EFL Young Player of the Year Max Aarons and young right-back Jamal Lewis, get a lot of freedom to get more up the pitch to create a numerical superiority on the midfield. With both being available for £4.5m in FPL, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the first Premier League minutes of their careers when the season gets underway.

Direct promotion to the Premier League wasn’t so much a result of defensive performances as it was of attacking excellence, though. Striker Teemu Pukki played a huge role in the club’s ascension by scoring 29 goals and providing 10 assists in 43 games. The Finnish forward was generously supported by the attacking trio of attacking midfielder Marco Stiepermann (9 goals, 8 assists last season), and wingers Onel Hernandez (8 goals, 10 assists) and Emil Buendia (8 goals, 12 assists). For the moment, it looks like Farke is going to storm the Premier League with this attacking block intact, so it will be fascinating to see to what extent last season’s best Championship attack can raise their game and perform at the very highest level.

Transfer-wise, the Canaries’ summer window has been interesting so far. Contrary to many other (promoted) clubs over the past few years, Norwich have not been splashing millions on new signing. Instead, they have worked hard on keeping last season’s core intact and adding a few players with Premier League experience that can either slot right in or provide the undoubtedly necessary squad depth. Experienced Schalke 04 goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann was loaned for €3 million and is expected to replace last season’s mostly outstanding number one, Tim Krul. On the goalkeeper front, the Canaries seem more than set. Man City striker Patrick Roberts is the other loanee this season, as the young forward will be providing stern competition for both Pukki and new signing Josip Drmic (free transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach). The 26-year old Swiss international had a lost 2018/19 season (5 games, 2 goals), but with 31 goals and 7 assists in 107 Bundesliga games, as well as 10 goals in 32 games for his national team, Norwich have brought in an experienced forward who could be very useful in coming season’s battle for survival. Apart from the above names, West Ham’s right-back Sam Byram was also brought in for a modest fee of €830,000, again to provide squad depth and a quality relief for star right-back Aarons. There seems to be a real idea behind Norwich’ transfer policy and even though it’s likely going to be a tough one coming season, the Canaries have some strong points and might be a surprisingly attractive addition to the Premier League. Building on your strong points should also be part of your sports betting strategy when you are looking at winning against the odds.

Norwich City – Potential FPL targets

In an attacking sense, there was no Canary more valuable last season than striker Teemu Pukki (£6.5m). The forward scored 29 goals and provided 9 assists to crown himself top scorer of the Championship, which represented a direct involvement in 41% of all of his team’s goals. On top of that, the 29-year old had a total of 57 efforts on target (the third-highest in the entire league), while only three players in his own team created more chances than his 54. These statistics are also the main reason for his price tag, which is the shared-highest in the Norwich squad, together with midfield maestro Mario Vrancic. The likes of Wolves’ Jota and Bournemouth’s King provide strong alternatives in Pukki’s price bracket, but if Norwich can maintain some of last season’s attacking flair this season, he could be a pretty good differential.

We mentioned Norwich’ defensive fragility already, so investing in their defenders comes with some risk, but considering the relative scarcity when it comes to decent budget defenders this season, talented right-back Max Aarons (£4.5) is worth considering. His 13 clean sheets in 41 Championship games is not a particularly impressive feat, but his 2 goals and 6 assists are. The 19-year old provided the third-most assists in the league and created the sixth-most chances out of all his team mates. Yes, it looks like the Canaries are going to suffer defensively at times coming season and yes, it’s likely that Aarons will have less opportunities to bomb forward, but he is nailed-on and could be an interesting punt as a fourth or fifth defender in your squad.

Our third pick from the Norwich roster is right-winger Emil Buendia (£6.0m). He was the assist king amongst the Canaries last season, providing 12 successful final passes while also scoring 8 goals himself. Only Brentford’ Said Benrahma provided more assists (14). The tenacious Argentine winger created a total of 91 chances for his team mates, a total that was bettered by only two players in the Championship, Sheffield United’s Oliver Norwood (97) and Leeds United’s Pablo Hernandez (122). The fact that Buendia got his share of set-piece duties as well last season only adds to his appeal. His price is a bit steep, but he’s nonetheless worth watchlisting.

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