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 ninth instalment, we’re continuing the series with Spurs at their new stadium and Javi Gracia’s Watford.
Spurs – The team
The 2019/20 season is a big one for Spurs, as it will be the first full season at their magnificent new White Hart Lane. The first months of last season were marked by the the finalisation of the new stadium dragging on longer than initially planned, whilst the costs of the whole ordeal also had an influence on Tottenham’s transfer activity. Spurs were unique in England, and indeed the top of European football, in the sense that the club did not have an incoming transfer during two consecutive transfer windows. Despite the uncertainty off the pitch, coach Mauricio Pochettino managed to guide his men to a fourth place finish last season, as well as the Champions League final that was eventually lost to Liverpool. With their new stadium now completely ready for action and few squad mutations this summer, expectations will be high amongst the Spurs faithful.
After five seasons at the Spurs helm, most FPL managers are well aware of Pochettino’s preferred playing style. The Argentinian manager is a firm believer in the 4-2-3-1 formation and his squad has been built step-by-step to make the most out of that system. You will rarely see Tottenham use long balls, as he likes his team to build up attacks from the back, a tactic that requires technically sound and confident defenders, such as Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. In the middle, Pochettino often employs a double pivot which this season will likely consist of new acquisition Tanguy Ndombélé and any of Harry Winks, Mousa Sissoko or Eric Dier. The three positions behind star man Harry Kane up top will most often be filled by any of creator-in-chief Christian Eriksen, Korean dribbler Heung-Min Son (who won’t start initially due to a red card at the end of last season), Champions League semi-finals hero Lucas Moura and the talented Dele Alli (currently out with a hanstring injury). The sheer abundance of technical ability and speed in the Spurs, combined with Pochettino’s tactical wisdom, allows for a lot of movement, quick passing and frequent crossing of the ball around the edges of the opposition’s penalty area. In some ways, it sometimes does remind of Arsenal under Wenger during the good days. The forward lines will often be mixed up, depending on the specific characteristics of the opposing team.
Defensively, Spurs are traditionally sound under Pochettino. Though sometimes resorting to a line of five in the back with the wing-backs further up the pitch, the manager usually goes for a four-men defence. They boasted the third-best defence in the league last season (shared with Chelsea, both with 39 goals conceded), a result that is in great part thanks to the familiar Belgian central duo of Vertonghen and Alderweireld. They have played together for years at Spurs and the national team, which creates the automatisms that are so crucial to top-level defending. On the flanks, we were used to seeing Kieran Trippier (on the right) and Ben Davies or Danny Rose (left), but with the Trippier leaving to Atletico de Madrid and Danny Rose hoping for a transfer as well, it remains a bit unclear how Poch will fill these positions coming season. A reasonable guess would be Kyle Walker-Peters on the right and Ben Davies on the left, but we wouldn’t be surprised either to see a reinforcement arrive at White Hart Lane before the summer transfer deadline.
In terms of transfers, French midfielder Tanguy Ndombélé has been this summer’s marquee signing for Spurs. They paid €60 million for the Lyon man and he is expected to have an immediate impact on the team’s playing style, much like Moussa Dembele had in the past. Though probably not a great FPL asset, it will be exciting to see if he can elevate Spurs to the next level. Young English winger Jack Clarke was also welcomed after paying Leeds €11 million, but he was loaned straight back to the Whites. As far as outgoing transfers go, last season’s starting right-back Trippier was somewhat surprisingly sold to Atletico for €22 million, while super-sub Llorente was released. It could be that one or more players are brought in before the window closes, but the current balance might just as well be it for Spurs, at least until the January window.
Spurs – Potential FPL targets
The first name on the Spurs roster most FPL manager will immediately look for is superstar striker Harry Kane (£11.0m). The lethal but somewhat injury-prone Englishman featured in only 28 games last season, in which he scored 17 goals and provided 6 assists to reach a total of 160 FPL points. This was actually the first season that Kane did not score at least 21 goals since the 2014/15 campaign. In other words, he’s not a Premier League and FPL favourite for nothing. With a points-per-match average of 5.71, he was the second-most valuable forward in the league and none of his team mates provided more than his 23 goals involvements. With home games against Villa and Newcastle squeezed in between away games versus City and Arsenal in the opening four fixtures of the season, Kane is likely to feature in plenty of teams from the start.
Our second pick is a personal favourite, namely playmaker Christian Eriksen (£9.0m). The Dane is one of those players you need to be patient with, as he will deliver points (totals in his past 5 seasons for Spurs: 162,178, 218, 199, 161), but he will often deliver them in patches. Last season, he scored 8 goals and provided 12 assists, which is decent but not magnificent for a player with his price tag. Eriksen is a key cog in Pochettino’s system though, and one of the most technically-gifted, all-round attacking midfielders to grace the Premier League in the past years. On top of that, he’s practically fixture-proof. Competition in his price bracket is tough though, while the likes of Sigurdsson, Bernardo Silva and Pogba are all available for less. This will probably turn Eriksen into something of a differential pick this season, but if you ask us, he will most likely be worth it for those less nervous FPL managers amongst us.
Young right-back Kyle Walker-Peters (£5.0m) is our third and final pick from the Spurs roster, and a bit of a risky one at that. Last season’s first choice at right-back Trippier has left the club and rumour goes that chairman Daniel Levy is not going to splash for a direct replacement. Instead, Pochettino will place his trust in the youngster who played just 374 minutes of Premier League football last season (0 goals, 3 assists). What makes him so appealing from an FPL point-of-view is the fact that his price tag provides us with a relatively cheap way into last season’s third-best defence. He does face stern competition from Frenchman Serge Aurier (who is currently injured), but Pochettino is not afraid to give young players a serious chance and it looks like he will stay true to character when it comes to Walker-Peters for the coming season.
Watford – The team
Since the appointment of Malky Mackay all the way back in November of 2008, no less than 13 managers have been at the Watford helm, including current head coach Javi Gracia. That’s why the extension of Gracia’s contract during last season’s campaign was such big news for Hornets fans and Premier League followers alike. The ever-calm Spaniard has quietly built a team with a firm foundation, based on a mix of creative talent and physical strength, and a clear playing style. After a fantastic start to last season, Watford’s results diminished a bit during the second half of the season, but a finish at 11th place is not bad in the end, especially not when you consider that they also reached the FA Cup final (6-0 loss to Man City). This season, Gracia and his men will be hoping to compete for a European spot until the end, but competition will be tough with clubs like Leicester, Wolves and Everton vying for the same spots.
Javi Gracia has his Watford playing in a very recognisable but nonetheless somewhat unorthodox 4-4-2 formation that in reality plays out more like a 4-2-2-2. The Spaniard is not known for frequent rotation, which is a blessing for FPL managers. The defence this season will likely consist of Jose Holebas (left) and Daryl Janmaat or Kiko Femenia (right) on the full-back positions, and Craig Cathcart and new signing Craig Dawson (yes, that FPL favourite Craig Dawson) making up the centre of the defensive line. Though not the most agile of central partnerships, these two provide a wealth of experience, physical strength and tactical discipline to the back line. The full-backs are allowed to support attacking moves when possible, with Holebas especially known for his involvements in the final third (3 goals and 7 assists last season), in part thanks to his frequent set-piece duties. The back line is covered by probably one of the finest midfield duos outside of the top six in Doucouré and Capoué. They are essential to Gracia’s preferred way of playing, as the provide enormous energy and drive in the centre of the pitch. They form the lock on the Watford door by closing gaps and keeping the spaces small on their side of the pitch just as much as they try to push forward in order to get a shot on goal.
In attack, much revolves around veteran striker Troy Deeney and second-in-command Gerard Deulofeu. They formed a partnership up front most of the time last season, though players like André Gray and to a lesser extent Isaac Success provide serious competition. While Deeney injects the forward line with physical strength and grit, Deulofeu generally gets more freedom to play off and around his partner in crime. On the (inverted) wings, Gracia usually posts Argentinian dribbler Roberto Pereyra (left) and nimble Englishman Will Hughes. Both of these players like to come inside and have a go at goal, with Pereyra especially being successful at this last season (6 goals, 4 assists). He will also at times switch positions with Deulofeu during games in order to confuse the opposition.
One of the reasons for which expectations of a finish in the European spots is tempered this season is Watford’s inactivity on the transfer market, especially in comparison to teams that compete for Europe as well, like Leicester and Everton. The Hornets spent €6.10 million on West Brom defender Craig Dawson and €2.50 million on 18-year Brazilian forward Joao Pedro from Fluminense, while talents central midfielder Tom Dele-Bashiru was brought in for free from Man City’s U23 squad. The positive thing about this summer window for Watford is that they haven’t lost any of last season’s important names either despite bids for Doucouré.
Watford – Potential FPL targets
We like Troy Deeney (£6.5m). Why? Because he fights, he grinds, he scores and he brings home FPL points. Not loads and loads of them, but he does get them (in his last four seasons: 166, 130, 73 and 116). The English veteran striker is a nailed-on pick for Javi Gracia and he’s on penalties as well, which certainly adds to his appeal. Last season, he scored 9 goals and provided 5 assists in 2542 minutes of Premier League football. At his current price of £6.5m, that’s not bad at all. As a starting striker in a pretty stable and relatively attack-minded mid-table team, Deeney is a more than decent option for the third or even second forward spot on your team.
Our second Watford pick is Deeney’s strike partner up front, ex-Barcelona man Gerard Deulofeu (£6.5m). The Spaniard had his best season to date last year, as he scored 10 goals and provided 5 assists for a total of 133 FPL points. This makes him last season’s most prolific Watford player and his numbers could have been better had it not been for an injury that marred the first quarter or so of his season. Deulofeu seems to have secured his spot in Gracia’s starting eleven as a perfect agile complement to Deeney’s more robust profile, which makes him an interesting FPL prospect at his current price tag. Considering he got 133 points from 2064 minutes of Premier League football, it’s not crazy to expect him to exceed that performance is he can stay injury-free this season and he’s expected to recommence training with the Watford squad today after a slight muscular strain.
Finally, we have gone with Spanish right-back Kiko Femenia (£4.5m) as our third pick. The Spaniard provides an interesting budget-enabling option, despite the competition for his spot from Dutchman Daryl Janmaat. Femenia played 2043 minutes of Premier League football last season in which he kept 4 clean sheets, and scored a goal and provided an assist as well. This is not particularly special for a full-back in an outfit that likes to attack, but if he can nail down a starting spot, his totals should be affected positively. On top of that, Javi Gracia likes to post the diminutive Spaniard on the right side of the midfield at times, which obviously increases his FPL appeal. He might not be the most adventurous pick of the bunch, but keep an eye on him, because he could provide decent value at his current low price tag.
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