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 third instalment, we’re providing a quick analysis of a Chelsea side on a spending spree and Roy Hodgson’s very stable Crystal Palace.
CHELSEA – The team
When Chelsea’s transfer ban was officially confirmed a little more than a year ago, the expectations for the 2019-20 season were immediately adjusted. Where the competition splashed the cash for major reinforcements, then new manager and club legend Frank Lampard had to work with what he had, plus the many talents under contract at Stamford Bridge. Of course, the absurdly talented Christian Pulisic joined the Blues in the winter of 2019 for a hefty fee of £57.6 million in anticipation of the pending ban and with the likes of N’Golo Kanté, Willian (now departed for Arsenal) and César Azpilicueta the squad still boasted plenty of top class experienced players.
What resulted was a surprisingly competitive Chelsea side that featured plenty of academy graduates and other young talents. Lampard not only dealt with the consequences of the transfer ban quite efficiently, he also managed to implement a fresh new way of playing quite quickly while integrating an impressive number of relatively new faces into the team. The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James all benefited from the absence of multi-million signings coming in over the summer. This also created a few more appealing FPL assets, with Tammy and Mount especially providing serious value at different times during the season.
Despite some frustrating inconsistency at times, for fans and FPL managers alike, and a pretty consistent lack of defensive stability, Lampard’s men did manage to combine attacking football, goals, entertainment and results. With the transfer ban ending this summer, the club’s main adjective was to make it into the Champions League once again and they did. Only champions Liverpool and runners-up Man City scored more than Chelsea’s 69 goals, and their finish in fourth allowed them to attract some serious new talent this summer.
So far, Roman Abramovich and his management have already spent a whopping €143 million to bring in Ajax superstar Hakim Ziyech, RB Leizpig striker & speedster Timo Werner and Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, while PSG captain Thiago Silva and OGC Nice defender Malang Sarr were brought in free of charge (in terms of their transfer fees, at least). On top of that, the transfer of Leverkusen talented attacking midfielder Kai Havertz could be announced any day now. In terms of outgoing transfers, the Blues banked €74 million from the sale of Alvaro Morata to Atletico, Mario Pasalic to Atalanta and Nathan to Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.
Football (and especially the Premier League) usually dictates that a team welcoming such a number of new faces will need time to get used to each other and form a cohesive unit. Besides that, the Chelsea squad now boasts a truly incredible amount of world class talent and experience, and some of them will unavoidably be disappointed from time to time in terms of playing time. After all, only 11 players can be on the pitch at a time and it will be up to Lampard to manage this. In our humble opinion, the former midfielder has the weight in the dressing room to do so and we can see Chelsea becoming one of the sensations this season, both in England and on the continent.
CHELSEA – The FPL potential
Chelsea have a pretty favourable set of opening fixtures coming up and one player who could benefit is the mercurial Christian Pulisic (£8.5m). Before we take a look at why this is could be the case, we do want to mention that at the moment, the American is injured and projected to be fit again either just before or just after the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Keep an eye on Chelsea team news, because if he makes it, he could be good at his current price. Last season, the forward recorded 127 FPL points courtesy of 9 goals and 8 assists, and he was in particularly fine form during Project Restart. He carried that form into the FA Cup final in early August against Arsenal, where it crystallised into a goal before he went off with a hamstring injury that normally would take about 6 weeks to recover from. This coming season will be Pulisic’ second season in the EPL and with the array of talent brought into the team this summer, he could be one of this season’s stars. If he can stay fit for a prolonged period of time, of course.
If we’re talking about benefiting from the abundance of attacking talent in the current Chelsea squad, then we can’t go without mentioning new number nine Timo Werner (£9.5m). Yes, it’s a bit of a risk going with a relatively expensive newcomer to the Premier League, but the German has everything to hit the ground running. He was brought in to be Chelsea’s main striker for years to come, which should make him a kind of nailed-on option in the starting eleven, and he will be supported by the brilliant likes of Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and possibly compatriot Kai Havertz. Considering the potential of each of these guys to break open opposition defences with a single pass or one explosive dribble, as well as Werner’s constant movement along and behind the defensive lines, it’s hard not to see the star signing getting plenty of opportunities to make an instant impact in Premier League football. He is known for his speed and quiet dedication and is already the most selected striker in FPL.
Chelsea’s defence was far from reliable last season, but that didn’t mean that Mr. Reliable himself César Azpilicueta (£6.0m) was an unappealing fantasy asset. Despite the Blues defence conceding a shocking 54 goals in 38 games, the versatile defender still ended up amongst the ten highest-scoring defenders in the game with 130 FPL points. The Blues recorded just 8 clean sheets in the league, but the Spaniard added 2 goals and 6 assists on top of that for his personal tally. In total, he missed only 191 minutes Premier League football all season, mainly due to rotation as Reece James revealed himself as an interesting option for Lampard at right-back as well. This season, Chelsea’s defence has been seriously bolstered by the arrival of PSG captain and World Cup winner Thiago Silva, which we feel will have considerable effect on the potential of their other assets as well, including Azpilicueta. If he can once again produce a similar amount of attacking returns and add a few more clean sheets, the Spanish defender could well become one of the defensive fantasy performers of the season. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating your Chelsea defender with one from Fulham.
|3||West Brom (A)|
|4||Crystal Palace (H)|
|6||Manchester United (A)|
CRYSTAL PALACE – The team
With Palace going into their 8th consecutive Premier League season, football in the elite division has become something of a given in South London. The club might be a regular name for many followers nowadays, but before their last promotion in 2013, the Eagles were known as one of those “yo-yo teams”, constantly journeying between the PL and the Championship. That alone shows the progress the club has made under chairman Steve Parrish and underlines the good work done by veteran manager Roy Hodgson since his appointment in September 2017.
As in previous seasons, Palace spent most of the season in mid-table, at times approaching the European spots and never really coming in danger of relegation. The worst run of the season actually came just after their Premier League status was secured for another year, when Hodgson’s men went on a disastrous run of seven consecutive defeats. In the end though, they survived quite comfortably and the aim for the coming season will pretty much be more of the same, minus the 7-game losing streak if possible.
One of the aspects that make Palace a relatively attractive team for FPL managers is Hodgson’s rather strict adherence to a tight-knit, defensive 4-3-3 setup. Rotation is generally not much of a concern in terms of fantasy football and their defensive assets in particular usually offer decent value. Anyone remember £4.0m-priced Aaron Wan-Bissaka just two seasons ago? The English manager has turned the team into a unit that is hard to beat and bar any extreme squad transformations over the coming month or so, we expect a similar Palace side for the coming season.
One of the areas where the team can and really should improve is the attacking zone. With 31 goals, only relegated Norwich scored less than the Londoners. Apart from making it quite hard to win games, such shyness in front of goal also puts a lot of pressure on the defending part of the team to keep the doors shut and not concede. In Wilfried Zaha, the club boasts one of the league’s finest wingers, but he really can’t do it by himself all the time and it did look like that was the case at times plus his desire to leave the club didn’t help matters. Big-money transfer Christian Benteke never really settled in since his arrival in 2016, just like Schalke attacking midfielder Max Meyer, and Palace fans will be especially hoping for some new blood in attack to support their Ivorian superstar.
The signing of 21-year attacking midfielder and England Under-21 international Eberechi Eze from QPR for a hefty £19.5 million is a major step in the right direction in that sense. Combined with the seemingly rejuvenated Jordan Ayew, who scored 9 goals and provided 3 assists last season, things look brighter on the attacking side. The Eagles defence has been bolstered as well by the arrival of young West Brom right-back Nathan Ferguson on a free transfer, which could turn out to be a shrewd piece of business for the club. Patrick van Aanholt’s injury at the end of the last season is a blow to the club both defensively and offensively.
As we wrote before, we don’t expect much changes this season in terms of Palace’s approach to games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Their start to the season is not easy under any circumstance, but from GW5 onwards, the Eagles are on for a seemingly favourable run of nine appealing fixtures. If Roy Hodgson can once again work his magic, in his 45th season as a professional football manager, than Palace should be in for another comfortable campaign.
CRYSTAL PALCE – The FPL potential
When talking about FPL potential in the Crystal Palace roster, the first name that comes to mind is their star man, Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m). The Ivorian winger is the man around which most of Palace’s threatening moves revolve, though last season was a bit of a calm one for him with just 6 goals and 4 assists. Still, that total represents a direct involvement in just under 30% of all of the goals scored by his team. He is probably a good one to have around the top of your watch lists for the start of the season, because he could become a great option from gameweek 5 onwards, especially considering his FPL classification as a midfielder this season. Do keep an eye out for Palace team news, as the forward is again being linked to a host of other clubs in England and outside, but Roy Hodgson and Steve Parrish will be doing everything within their powers to retain him for the club.
We have mentioned Palace’s troubles in front of goal a few times already in this piece, so it might feel a tad contrary to highlight yet another Eagles forward, but Jordan Ayew (£6.0m) ended up representing great value last season. Only goalkeeper Vicente Guaita scored more FPL points than his 132, not at all bad for a bargain striker. His price tag was raised slightly for the coming season, but at £6.0m, he can still represent very good value, especially if he can repeat last season’s tallies of 9 goals and 3 assists. He looks nailed-on as a part of Hodgson’s starting eleven and who knows, he might even improve on last season’s performance if the Eagles manage to improve their attacking play.
Earlier, we already briefly mentioned new signing Nathan Ferguson (£4.0m) and we feel he could be an exciting prospect going forward, at least from an FPL points of view. We should start off by saying that the young right-back is currently shaking off a knee injury and might miss the opening of the 2010-21 campaign, but like we wrote before, Palace’s appeal really only increases from GW5 onwards. Last season, only eight teams performed better in defence than the Eagles and Ferguson, once fit, is expected to replace Joel Ward at right-back. Should Hodgson be capable of forging yet another red-and-blue wall this season, then the new boy could provide incredible value at just £4.0m and already has over 5% FPL ownership. If you don’t fancy Ferguson then consider Tyrick Mitchell instead who is also £4.0m and who could potentially start at LB instead of the injured Patrick van Aanholt (PVA). Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Palace defender with an Aston Villa defender.
|2||Manchester United (A)|