FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Everton & Fulham

“After Fulham’s disappointing 2018-19 campaign, Premier League football has come straight back to Craven Cottage this season” (CC by 4.0). Image by El Loko.

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 fourth instalment, we’ll be covering an Everton side looking for a bounce-back after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign and new boys Fulham hoping for a better PL season than the one they had just two seasons ago.

EVERTON – The team

Everton were one of the more disappointing sides throughout the 2019-20 campaign, plain and simple. Sure, the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, one of world football’s most decorated active managers, in December 2019 as replacement of Marco Silva, sent a jolt of excitement through Goodison Park and the Premier League as a whole and it’s true that his start was more than decent with 17 points from his first six games in charge. Still, the whole reason for this managerial switch was the fact that the Toffees were hovering above the relegation zone by Christmas last year and by the end of the campaign, they found themselves back in 12th place.

For a team with the squad, the wage bill and the explicitly outspoken ambitions like those of Everton, that was an unacceptable campaign. Of course, changing managers is often a complicated matter, especially mid-season, and considering the contrasting styles of Silva and Ancelotti things could and should be different now that he can mould his team from the very start of the season. The Italian is known as a pragmatic manager, one who is very capable at forming a tactical approach around the players at his disposal, and with many transfers still in the air it’s hard to say how exactly the Toffees will turn up in gameweek 1.

So far, no new big names have been formally brought in, but the club are very close to signing a few powerhouses and, possibly more significant, players known well by Ancelotti. Those include 29 year old Napoli and Brazil central midfield enforcer Allan who loves a tackle for £25m, and, for a knock-down £20m, out-of-favour Real Madrid Galactico James Rodriguez also 29 who from attacking midfield was the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup. A £25m fee has also been agreed with Watford for 27 year old energetic central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure who is obviously accustomed to the EPL and also known to weigh in with some goals. None of these deals have been formally ratified yet though. The manager seems satisfied with the attacking (Richarlison, Moise Kean & DCL) and defensive options at his disposal, though transformations and reinforcements in those areas are certainly not out of the question, but the midfield seems to be the priority at the moment. Once the likes of the Ivorian Gbamin and especially André Gomes were unavailable due to injury, the centre of the park looked below par on more than a few occasions but their 20/21 midfield could well have a different make-up with Allan, James & Doucoure joining the likes of Sigurdsson & Walcott as well as the now-recovered Gomes, Tom Davies & Alex Iwobi.

Multi-million signings made just before his arrival, such as forward Moise Kean from Juventus and midfielder Alex Iwobi from Arsenal, have barely delivered, while formerly trusted forces such as Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t quite live up to expectations either last year. Carletto Scudetto looks to be aiming for a type of flexible 4-4-2 formation, with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin supported by a free-roaming James in his preferred number 10 role, and a sturdy defence that can offer support from the flanks and revert to a 5-man setup when needed. Much regarding the new Everton side under the Italian will become clearer over the coming weeks and even though we want to be cautious considering the expectations surrounding the Toffees at the start of last season, we’re thinking it could end up being a good year for them.

EVERTON – The FPL potential

The big man at Everton last season, the big Toffee so to say, was winger/striker Richarlison (£8.0m). Despite the club’s and the team’s struggles, the Brazilian managed to put in decent performances at a rather consistent rate and more importantly, he booked results. In 3,070 minutes of Premier League football, he scored 13 goals and provided 5 assists, representing a direct involvement in 41% of all goals scored. As a result, Richarlison found himself amongst the ten highest-scoring midfielders by the end of last season with 165 FPL points. The fact that he is now classified as a forward this season could have a bit of a dampening effect on his appeal, but this could be counter-balanced by playing in a better Everton side. The powerful forward is a principal piece of Ancelotti’s puzzle at Everton and with a price tag of £8.0m, he should probably be around the top of your watchlists.

If you feel the Everton attack might be worth a punt at the start of the season considering Everton’s relatively attractive set of opening fixtures, but Richarlison is a bit too expensive for your taste, strike partner Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) could be just right for you. With 13 goals and 1 assist, and a starting price of just £6.0m, the young Englishman emerged as a fantastic budget option for FPL managers last season. His price has been raised to £7.0m for the coming season to reflect this, but that doesn’t mean that he should be immediately discarded. There is some competition in his price bracket with the likes of Brighton’s Maupay, Burnley’s Chris Wood and West Ham’s Antonio, but none of them play at a team with the potential like Everton’s. Ancelotti seems to be a bit of a fan of DCL and there has been no real talk yet of new strikers coming in this summer, meaning that the England Under-21 international could be a very good option as second striker on any FPL roster assuming he is favoured more than Moise Kean by the manager.

Everton’s forward-booming left-back Lucas Digne (£6.0m) is once again part of the premium bracket amongst defenders this season, but that’s not so strange when looking at his numbers. He was part of 9 clean sheets and provided no less than 8 assists on top of that to reach a total of 120 FPL points. Considering the poor form Everton were in for most of the season, those are not bad records at all. It’s true that at £6.0m, the competition is fierce as there are several options available at the established top clubs, but Digne does have appeal. He seems to be a nailed-on starter for Ancelotti, he has the freedom to roam forward and to take set-pieces frequently, and his already acceptable numbers should see a considerable improvement if the new manager can work his magic. We’re not saying to pick him straight away for gameweek 1, but certainly keep an eye on him over the coming weeks. Due to the 20/21 fixtures, and police security issues, do bear in mind that, as Everton & Liverpool are from the same city, they alternate their home and away fixtures.

1Spurs (A)
2West Brom (H)
3Crystal Palace (A)
4Brighton (H)
5Liverpool (H)
6Southampton (A)
7Newcastle (A)
Everton’s opening EPL matches for September & October

FULHAM – The team

We won’t get into it too much any more, as much has been said and written about it already, but as most FPL managers will remember, the last time Fulham promoted to the Premier League things did not go well. In the build-up to the 2018-19 campaign, the Cottagers went on a huge spending spree to bring in players that, in the end, did not do much for the team as a whole and Fulham soon became every FPL manager’s favourite opponent. You just knew that if Fulham was up, especially away from home, their opponents were going to score.

At the end of the season, the managerially inexperienced Scott Parker was appointed as head coach. Relegation was all but a fact at that point and the objective was to start forging a team ready to fight for a return to the top flight the next season straight away. Even though the performances were not always perfect and direct promotion was missed, Parker’s men kept a cool head and won the play-offs at the cost of favourites Brentford. The objective of an immediate return to the Prem was accomplished, not a small feat by any measure, and this time, things are looking more level-headed at Craven Cottage.

One of the main reasons for Fulham’s success in the Championship so soon after their disappointing Premier League run was the way in which Parker managed to bring back a bit of grit and team spirit to the group. The manager will be looking to largely bet on his existing group of players, the one that he won the promotion with in the first place, complemented with a few new faces. So far, Fulham has brought in winger Anthony Knockaert on a permanent deal after playing at the Cottage on loan last season, hard-hitting defensive midfielder Mario Lemina was loaned from Southampton and another Saints midfielder’s (Harrison Reed) loan deal was made permanent for €9 million, and talented Wigan & USA international left-back, 23 year old Antonee Robinson, was signed for a modest €2.3 million.

When looking at Fulham’s game approach last season and considering the fact that Parker is not aiming for drastic changes in any sense, the team is likely to turn up in their trusted 4-2-3-1 formation on most occasions. This allowed the Cottagers to play a rather attacking game, while also giving them to option to press hard on opponents in their build-up in a kind of 4-2-2-2 setup. This way, they keep the centre of the pitch occupied and force rivals to the wings. In attack, they like to play out from the back without shying away from long balls and crosses, and the speedy tricksters on the wings are often looked for to force potentially dangerous 1v1 situations.

To be honest, when comparing the Fulham squad to the other teams in the Premier League and particularly to the teams they will be realistically fighting with to avoid relegation, they look a little light. That being said, like their manager, the Cottagers seem to be improving consistently. We expect a difficult season for the Londoners, but if Parker can lead his team to the next level in terms of team work and discipline, possibly aided by one or two more experienced new players coming in, PL survival is definitely an option.

FULHAM – The FPL potential

It could be a trap, but like two seasons ago, striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.0m) looks to be the go-to man for FPL managers considering investing in the Cottagers. With 26 goals, he crowned himself top scorer of the Championship last season and he provided 3 assists on top of that as well. He was Fulham’s main man up front two seasons ago as well and even though his performances probably did not justify his price tag at the time, he still recorded 80 FPL points that season, courtesy of 5 goals and 3 assists. At 25, he is now 2 years older and last season will surely have given him a lot of confidence for his return to the English footballing elite. Mitrogol could be one of those players who is too good for the Championship, but not quite good enough for the Premier League, we’re not completely sure yet. What we do know is that at a price of £6.0m and considering Fulham’s relatively favourable set of opening fixtures, Pukki-esque scenes (at the start of last season) are not completely off the cards.

If you’re looking for a secure starter as fourth or fifth midfielder in your FPL squad, French winger Anthony Knockaert (£5.5m) is worth considering. On loan from Brighton last season, the Frenchman turned out to be a great addition to the team for Fulham. He barely missed a game of the at times exhausting Championship season and featured 45 times, including three times in the play-offs for promotion. He recorded 3 goals and 5 assists overall over that period. On top of that, Knockaert has considerable PL experience under his belt as well. In the season 2017-18 and 2018-19, he scored a total of 5 goals and provided 7 assists for then-recently promoted Brighton. In the budget midfielder bracket, the winger is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Honestly, apart from the two aforementioned players, we would suggest a careful “wait and watch” approach as far as Fulham players are concerned. Still, for those managers insisting on more Cottagers in their gameweek 1 squads, left-back Joe Bryan (£5.0m) could be interesting. Mainly due to his, in our opinion, too large of a price tag, not many managers will be opting for the Englishman, but he does have a few appealing sides. Apart from the two crucial goals (one a clever free-kick from distance) he scored in the promotion play-offs at the end of last season, the defender also recorded another goal during regular season as well as 7 assists. It’s not realistic to expect a similar output from him this season, but he does have experience at the highest level as he was a starter during Fulham’s 2018-19 PL campaign. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Chelsea defender with one from Fulham

1Arsenal (H)
2Leeds United (A)
3Aston Villa (H)
4Wolves (A)
5Sheffield United (A)
6Crystal Palace (H)
7West Brom (H)
Fulham’s opening EPL matches in September & October