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 fifth instalment, we’re starting with Leeds’ return to the Premier League after 16 years and Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City.
LEEDS UNITED – The team
To put it in 2019-20 terms, are Leeds United going to be more of a Sheffield United or a bit more of a Norwich? Both clubs got promoted to the Premier League last summer and where the former finished in an impressive 9th position after an excellent debut season, the latter got relegated with three games to go. A first season back in amongst the footballing elite is never easy for any club and it will surely get tough for the Whites, but there is plenty to be hopeful about as well.
To start with, there is Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinian coach who has inspired the likes of Pocchetino, Zidane and Guardiola and who is regarded by many as one of the most influential football coaches of all time. At Elland Road, he moulded a squad that turns up in his trademark 3-3-3-1 and that can easily switch back and forth between this lineup and a 4-1-4-1. That is also one why advanced tactical discipline is a key characteristic for the cogs in Bielsa’s system, even more so now that his Leeds will be facing England’s best week after week.
At times in the Championship last season, and like other squads managed by the Argentinian mastermind in the past, Leeds were impressive. A sort of high-pressing footballing machine in which players constantly switch positions, the runs and overlaps are endless and perfectly timed, and the team looked like having a man more (or two) in each area of the pitch. The current squad, which has not been transformed much since promotion to the Prem was secured, showed how very capable they were at times of executing Bielsa’s ideas in the Championship, but the big question mark is whether they will be able to do so to a satisfactory extent at the very highest level as well.
This also explains the club’s activity on the transfer market this summer. Even though the team roster boasts some interesting names that we look forward to seeing in the PL, such as 35-year star player Pablo Hernandez, captain Liam Cooper and the young Kalvin Phillips, reinforcements were and are more than welcome. For almost €70 million already, the Whites have brought in Spain’s starting forward Rodrigo from Valencia, Wolves winger Helder Costa (on loan last season) for €18 million and German international defender Robin Koch from Freiburg for €13 million, just to name a few. They were also after an extension of the loan regarding Brighton central defender Ben White, but the Seagulls unfortunately did not agree.
More transfer action from Yorkshire is still expected until the closing of the transfer window at the start of October, but it’s clear that the club is not going to make any drastic changes to the team and even less so to the way of playing. Bielsa has a proven record of being able to turn groups of players into more than just the sum of their individual qualities and the club’s management would be mad not to trust in El Loco, especially after leading them to promotion in such convincing fashion. They could well have a very underwhelming start to the season, considering the fact that they are facing five of last season’s top ten in the first seven gameweeks, but we have a feeling Leeds under Bielsa might be an excellent addition to the Premier League.
LEEDS UNITED – The FPL potential
When a player starts 92 games in a row under the same manager, we think it’s probably justified to give him the label “nailed-on starter”. Under Marcelo Bielsa, this is the case for central midfielder Mateusz Klich (£5.5m). The Polish maestro is used as a box-to-box midfielder by the Argentinian coach, but still gets plenty of sight of goal. Last season alone, he recorded 6 goals and 5 assists in 45 Championship games. What makes him particularly interesting from an FPL point of view is that he does not shy away from a shot from distance. He averaged close to 2 shots per game last season, which in the Premier League would have a very positive impact on his bonus points. Add to that the possibility of (some) penalty duties and at £5.5m, the Polish international could be a good fourth and even fifth midfielder for your FPL squad.
One trademark characteristic of Bielsa’s style of playing is the attacking full-back. As a result of the importance of constant overlapping runs on both flanks, the full-backs play a crucial role in Leeds’ defensive and attacking formations. Right-back Luke Ayling (£4.5m) is the embodiment of this. The 29-year old defender played 37 Championship games last season and managed 4 goals on top of 5 assists. Plenty of times, he finds himself as the most advanced man on the right-hand flank, allowing him to get into the penalty box to have a try on goal or set up a team mate. The Premier League is, of course, a big step up and it would be very surprising to see Ayling deliver the same kind of returns this season, but especially at his current price, he could be a smart investment after the first seven gameweeks or so. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Leeds defender with one from Brighton.
For Spanish international Rodrigo (£6.0m), Leeds broke their previous transfer record when they paid €30 million. It always remains to be seen how newcomers to the Premier League adapt to the competition’s unique style and environment, but we feel the Spaniard is watchlist-worthy. Though he plays the majority of his games as a centre forward, Rodrigo is also very comfortable as a second striker and on the wings, especially the right wing. This provides Bielsa with the kind of high-level versatility required by the way in which he has his team attack. The ex-Valencia man looks like a very good fit to Bielsa’ way of playing and even though the manager might decide to integrate him into English football step by step, we think he will sooner or later become a key cog in Leeds’ battle for survival this season. At a price of £6.0m, he could represent excellent value after the first few weeks of the season.
Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Leeds before finalising your team.
|3||Sheffield United (A)|
|4||Man City (H)|
|6||Aston Villa (A)|
LEICESTER CITY – The team
In the first half of last season, many pundits, experts and casual FPL fanatics (ourselves included) touted Leicester City as a certain part of the top four by season’s end and perhaps even an outsider for the title challenge. Then the team slumped a bit, English football was called to a halt for a few months and the Foxes ended up finishing fifth after a pretty anti-climactic Project Restart run. Sure, in the end fifth place is still a very good achievement, but with just four victories from their last 17 matches, the disappointment was understandable.
It has to be said that injury troubles throughout the squad did not do Leicester’s performances and consistency any good either, and improving squad depth should be a focus for them this summer. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t seem to be so far. First-choice left-back Ben Chilwell was sold to Chelsea for a whopping €50 million and Atalanta right-back Timothy Castagne was brought in for €24 million. More than a replacement of the English international, the right-footed Belgian is versatile enough to play on either flank but perhaps looks to be bought as competition for the excellent, but currently long-time injured Ricardo Pereira. No other big names have been bought or sold so far.
When all of Leicester’s players are fit and the mood is right, Brendan Rodgers’ men can beat any team in the league, perhaps in Europe. When not all first-choice picks are fit though, and confidence suffers a bit, they can be unpredictable and at times frustrating. That being said, the current squad boast some serious Premier League pedigree. In Kasper Schmeichel, the club has one of the league’s best goalkeeper under contract, while the big star at the other end of the pitch crowned himself Golden Boot last season. In the middle of the pitch, the talented James Maddison has the potential to be one of England’s best creators, while Wilfred Ndidi can be classified as nothing less than the worthy successor to N’Golo Kanté
The Foxes are expected to turn up this season in a 4-1-4-1 formation, a familiar sight since Rodgers took over from Claude Puel in February 2019. With a very versatile offensive midfield, forward-driven full-backs and an experienced, sturdy defensive setup, they provide plenty of FPL value. With a relatively favourable set of starting fixtures, apart from Man City away in gameweek 3, Leicester assets could be popular FPL picks in the build-up to gameweek 1. Just keep an eye out for team and transfer news over the coming weeks, especially in regard to incoming transfers and do check the predicted starting line-ups for Leicester before finalising your team.
LEICESTER CITY – The FPL potential
Considering the aforementioned appealing opening fixtures for Leicester, last season’s Golden Boot could be one of the season’s first bandwagons. Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) is this season’s third-most expensive forward in the official Fantasy Premier League, but we feel that won’t deter many managers from picking him for their gameweek 1 squad. Last season, the 33-year old Englishman ended with 210 FPL points, courtesy of 23 goals, 7 assists and 34 bonus points. Only Kevin de Bruyne, Sadio Mané and Mo Salah recorded more points. Vardy combines two of the most important characteristics for FPL managers, namely a proven track record as goalscorer in the Premier League, and a nailed-on starting spot in a team that dominates most of its games and scores plenty of goals. With three home games (Burnley, West Ham, Villa) and an away game versus West Brom in GW1 in the first five gameweeks of the coming campaign, we can see Vardy around the top of the Golden Boot chart again by the middle of October.
As first-choice right-back and FPL favourite Ricardo Pereira won’t be fit in time for the start of the season, the young James Justin (£4.5m) is expected to continue filling in for the Portuguese defender. Justin got to more than 1,000 Premier League minutes since Pereira got injured in March 2020 and in a Leicester side that was losing its good form, he still ended up recording 35 FPL points. He was part of 4 clean sheets and also provided 1 assist. Overall, the right-back made a good impression and we think that he could represent good value at the start of the season. At a price of just £4.5m, he could be a great way into a likely top-6 defence. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Leicester defender with one from Burnley.
One of the players who broke into the first team under Rodgers is midfielder/winger Harvey Barnes (£7.0m). Where he started making waves during the 2018-29 campaign with 43 FPL points from 1 goal and 3 assists, the Englishman improved his significantly considerably last season. In just over 2,000 minutes of Premier League football, Barnes recorded 6 goals and 10 assists for a total of 133 FPL points. He does carry a risk of rotation, but we can see him earning increasing protagonism this season. The only other downside to picking Barnes is the competition in his price bracket, with the likes of Jack Grealish (GW1 Blank), Adama Traoré and Wilfried Zaha all similarly priced alternatives.
|1||West Brom (A)|
|3||Man City (A)|
|4||West Ham (H)|
|5||Aston Villa (H)|