FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Brighton & Burnley

“Turf Moor is getting ready for a fifth consecutive season of Premier League football” (CC by 3.0). Image by: Paul S.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this second instalment, we’re talking about a Brighton side that spent most of last season hovering a few points above the drop zone and a Burnley side that finished just five points outside the European spots.

BRIGHTON – The team

As we wrote in our intro, Brighton spent most of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign looking over their shoulder at the dreaded relegation spots, but in the end they never really got into trouble. The Seagulls finished 15th, a comfortable seven points above the drop zone. Not bad for a team that was considered a relegation candidate by more than a few pundits at the start of the season. Most of the fans, insiders and Premier League enthusiasts expected a potentially complicated season though because last season was the first campaign with Graham Potter as manager (after five years of successful management under Chris Hughton).

In other words, a transitional season was expected after bringing in the more attack-oriented manager from Swansea to replace the more pragmatic Hughton. Don’t get us wrong, the previous Brighton manager did nothing short of amazing work at the AmEx Stadium, leading them back to the elite after an absence of more than 30 years and then keeping them up there for two seasons, but it was time for a change and, hopefully, a step forward. As one of the smaller sides in the league, Potter was criticised at times for playing too risky a game with the limited resources at his disposal, but he seldom wavered. Though inconsistent and a bit toothless up front at times, the ‘Gulls stuck to their intentions of winning points by dominating possession and creating chances from a dynamic build-up play.

Defensively, Brighton performed quite well with 8 teams conceding more than their 54 goals from 38 games. As a matter of fact, that figure put them on par with 4th placed Chelsea, though that might not say much. Potter does not shy away from switching up his defensive set-up based on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, often picking either a four-men defence or a five-men line-up with wing-backs. With Mat Ryan, the club boasts one of the more reliable shot stoppers in the league and with the likes of central defenders Lewis Dunk (just signed a 5 year contract) and Adam Webster plus the 6 foot 7 inch Dan Burn, who has been filling in at left-back, they’ve got experienced defenders who can definitely compete for a mid-table finish. The addition of versatile Ajax defender and Dutch international Joel Veltman only increases Potter’s options, while the talented Tariq Lamptey was bought for a bargain £4 million from Chelsea in January and should be first choice on the right particularly after Montoya has returned to Spain. Central defender Shane Duffy, who’d seen less game time due to Adam Webster, has left for Celtic (on loan).

Offensively, the main man last season was Premier League first-timer Neal Maupay, who scored 10 goals and played a big role in Brighton’s good season. He was supported by the tallented Leandro Trossard, a first-timer as well, who showed flashes of brilliance at times, and the young Aaron Connolly when he got playing minutes. The Seagulls boast plenty of other attacking talent as well though, with the likes of Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Pascal Gross benched too often for their liking. The signing of England and PL veteran Adam Lallana earlier this summer could prove a very shrewd piece of business by Brighton, and the kind of quality impulse they need to beat the club’s best ever Premier League finish (13th) this year. Midfielder Aaron Mooy has been exported to Shanghai, China.

On the one hand, we do expect some more transfer market activity from the seaside club, but on the other hand they have already done quite a lot early on. Besides the aforementioned Lallana and Veltman, both undeniable quality additions, they also signed highly rated Wigan youth product midfielder, Jensen Weir. The latter might start off slowly though, considering his 18 years of age. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Potter make a move for a proven striker in order to relieve the pressure on Maupay to provide most of the goals (veteran striker Murray has been loaned to Watford) and possibly a left-back, but for the rest the team looks pretty good.

BRIGHTON – The FPL potential

Central defender Lewis Dunk (£5.0m) has become somewhat of an FPL favourite over the years, in big part thanks to his prowess in front of goal. The opposition’s goal, that is of course. As Brighton captain, he is as nailed-on as they come (and has just signed a long contract extension) and last season alone he was directly involved in 6 league goals (3 goals, 3 assists). On top of that, he was part of a very decent 9 clean sheets. Only club top scorer Maupay and goalkeeper Ryan recorded more than Dunk’s 128 FPL points on the Brighton roster. What’s more, amongst defenders, only Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson booked more bonus points than his 17 points. He’s got some serious competition in his price category and Brighton’s start to the campaign is quite hard, but if previous seasons are anything to go by, Dunk will come into the mix at some point.

Behind Dunk stands Mat Ryan (£4.5m), Brighton’s goalkeeper and possibly one of the pre-season FPL bargains, despite the club’s difficult starting fixtures. The New Zealand international has very little competition in his price bracket and could very well feature in a lot of gameweek 1 squads. At the moment of writing, he already sits in almost 22% of all teams. Ryan was one of the best value goalies in the league last season, scoring 131 FPL points, courtesy of 9 clean sheets and 14 bonus points. As we discussed earlier, the Seagulls’ defending was more than alright at times last season and we expect them to improve a least a bit in this coming season. A secured starter at £4.5m projected to equal or better last season’s tally of nine clean sheets is worth considering for every FPL manager out there. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating Ryan with the Leeds goalkeeper.

So far, Brighton have not brought in new blood for the front line, which means that Neal Maupay (£6.5m) is still the go-to man in attack and has been taking penalties for the club. In his first season in the top flight, the French striker managed 10 goals and 3 assists in almost 2,800 Premier League minutes, as well as 21 bonus points. Not bad at all for a first-timer at a lower mid-table club. Realistically speaking, we see him providing a similar kind of output this coming season, though an improved side might lead to more chances and possibly more goals for the dynamic forward. With the likes of Chris Wood, Jordan Ayew and Michail Antonio, competition is strong in his price category, but the Frenchman is definitely one too watch as an option for second or third striker, though not necessarily at the start of the season.

1Chelsea (H)
2Newcastle (A)
3Manchester United (H)
4Everton (A)
5Crystal Palace (A)
6Spurs (H)
7West Brom (A)
Brighton’s fixtures in September & October.

BURNLEY – The team

Burnley were one of the teams practically sure of Premier League survival before the corona outbreak hit English football. Unexpected, you might say, but then again, was it? In 2018-19, the Clarets finished seventh and qualified for the Europa League group stages and last season, they were in tenth place by the time the league ended in June, just 5 points off another qualification for Europe. In recent times, Burnley have simply been an excellent performer at the highest level of English football. Should we maybe start seeing them as guaranteed challengers for the Europa League spots then? Not according to trainer Sean Dyche, who has repeatedly insisted that his side are still not yet an established top flight club. That’s not so strange, considering Burnley work with one of the tightest budgets and smallest squads in the league.

Then again, it’s also the Burnley way under Dyche. Don’t talk too much, don’t create too many expectations, just work hard, play disciplined football, be hard to beat for any team and grind out results along the way. Team spirit and grit are key words in the Dyche formula. Any FPL manager worth his salt knows by know that the Clarets can be counted on for a defence-heavy, no-nonsense approach to games, which translates into the FPL appeal of their players. Gold can usually be found amongst the defensive assets, but the more attacking assets, though consistent in the minutes they get, do not provide much justification for selection most of the time.

After eight years at the club, Dyche is probably still the most important man on the roster. He usually has his team turn up in a classic 4-4-2 formation and rotates very little once the squad has settled, which in itself is a positive for FPL managers. The English manager is tactically strong and knows the Championship, where Burnley get most of their reinforcements from, like the back of his hand. This summer, the Clarets said goodbye to fringe players like Aaron Lennon (to Turkish side, Kayserispor, on a free transfer) and Joe Hart (to Spurs, also on a free), but also to frequent starter Jeff Hendrick (now at Newcastle), a player Dyche liked to employ in several positions on the midfield.

More worrying for the fans though, and allegedly much to the manager’s dismay, there has been very little talk of new signings coming to Turf Moor this summer. So far, it looks like the club will go into the 2020-21 campaign with very much the same squad as last year. This doesn’t necessarily have to be bad news, as most of the players have been with the club and the manager for some time now, but it’s always a good idea to inject some new blood into the squad to keep everyone on edge. A fullback could be useful, for example, while the midfield in particular looks quite stretched at the moment after the departure of Hendrick. We can’t imagine the Clarets not investing a bit in the team before the start of the league, but for the moment, all is quiet on the northern front.

BURNLEY – The FPL potential

As we wrote earlier, under Dyche, Burnley’s defensive assets are traditionally quite appealing. Despite a £1.0m price rise compared to last season, goalkeeper Nick Pope (£5.5m) is likely to feature in plenty of gameweek 1 squads. Even more so when considering the relatively favourable start to the season for Burnley, though GW1 is a blank for them. The English international was in contention for the Golden Glove until the very last day of the season, but unfortunately just lost out to Man City shot stopper Ederson. Still, a total of 15 clean sheets represented excellent value for Pope, who ended the season with 170 FPL points, more than any other goalkeeper in the league. He is now part of the premium bracket, but that doesn’t mean that his popularity among FPL managers is any lower. He currently sits in almost 23% of the gameweek 1 teams and for those considering a premium goalie, he should be a prime candidate. Due to the 20/21 EPL fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating Pope with Schmeichel of Leicester or, if you think Pope will still produce plenty of Away points, combine him with one of the cheapest goalkeeper, playing Pope all the time.

Central defenders James Tarkowski and Ben Mee (who has just signed a contract extension) will once again be getting plenty of Premier League playing time this season and their price tags are not exaggerated. Still, at £0.5m less, wing-back/left midfielder Erik Pieters (£4.5m) could be a shrewd investment. Out of all Burnley defenders currently listed on the official FPL website, the Dutchman had most assists to his name last season (5), in big part thanks to his role further up the pitch in many games, especially during Project Restart. He is not necessarily a nailed-on starter at left-back, but considering how tight the Burnley squad is at the moment, he should be getting plenty of minutes. The wise move would be to put him on your watchlist and to keep an eye on the club’s friendly line-ups, but at his price, he could be a good budget enabler.

When talking about budget enablers, talented midfielder/winger and set-peice taker Dwight McNeil (£6.0m) could be an even better option. Unlike Pieters, his starting minutes are among the most secure in the entire Burnley squad. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that he is one of the few players who can provide a real creative spark to the team’s attacking moves. Last season, McNeil recorded 123 FPL points, courtesy of 2 goals and 7 assists, a points tally only bettered by striker Chris Wood (136) in terms of attacking Burnley assets. We mentioned the Clarets’ relatively favourable set of starting fixtures this season and at a price of £6.0m, the Burnley youth academy graduate could be a decent option as fourth or fifth midfield pick after gameweek 2.

2Leicester (A)
3Southampton (H)
4Newcastle (A)
5West Brom (A)
6Spurs (H)
7Chelsea (H)
Burnely’s EPL fixtures in September & October