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 seventh instalment, the focus is on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United and an active Newcastle United side.
MANCHESTER UNITED – The team
The situation is a bit complicated at United at the moment. On the one hand, a club with the history and squad like United’s seeks to pursue improvement every season. On the other hand, improving on their third-place finish last season would mean bettering either Liverpool or city rivals Manchester City. We are not excluding any scenario prematurely, you never know in football after all, but the latter scenario seems unlikely for this coming season. The next, more realistic step would be to remain in the title race until the end of the season. Being bested by powerhouses Liverpool and City is understandable, even for a club of United’s stature, but finishing 33 and 15 points behind their two rivals is not acceptable.
Many pundits and pre-season analyses have pointed out United’s need to especially invest in the back this summer, but strangely enough, the Red Devils were on par with the best in the league last season. Only champions Liverpool and runners-up Man City conceded less than United’s 36 goals in 38 games. It is true, though, that regular eye tests of Solskjaer’s team revealed certain defensive insecurity. This became especially apparent when one or more of the designated starters were unavailable. Adding an experienced central defender and one (or even two) ready-to-go full-backs would seriously bolster United’s chances this season.
The club performed on par in offense as well. With 85 goals and 102 goals respectively, Liverpool and City were miles ahead, but without taking these two into account, United’s output (66 goals) was only just beaten by Leicester (67) and Chelsea (69). It is also in the attacking area that the team carries most talent, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood all capable of scoring against any opponent. Daniel James seems to have to content himself with a spot on the bench, but United wouldn’t be wrong to invest a bit in quality squad depth here as well.
For the midfield in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Solskjaer does have some choice. Pogba, Fred, McTominay and Matic are all quality options for the two controlling spots, while new arrival Donny van de Beek is an excellent technician who can play as one half of the double pivot or as number ten instead of Fernandes. His versatility and undeniable quality on and off the ball make him the kind of transfer that United needs to close the gap with the Premier League top two while still competing on different fronts, including the Champions League.
With a few more smart, not necessarily extremely expensive investments, United should be able to spend most of the season in the top five. If the Red Devils splash the cash, it should probably be on a central defender to partner Harry Maguire, or on back-ups/rivals for Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. In any case, we expect there is still some incoming and outgoing transfer news coming from Old Trafford over the coming weeks.
By the way, United’s start to the season is alright in terms of fixtures, but they do have a blank round in gameweek 1. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Man Utd before finalising your team.
MANCHESTER UNITED – The FPL potential
Before recommending a premium midfielder, we’d just like to repeat that: Manchester United do not play in gameweek 1. In the four following games, the Red Devils are facing three bottom-half-of-the-table teams. It could be the perfect set of fixtures for Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) to hit the ground running. As a forward, the talented Englishman scored 17 goals and provided 8 assists last season for a total of 177 FPL points. Actually, only four other forwards scored more than the United attacker. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in the last winter transfer window took him off penalty duties, but his re-classification as a midfielder this season does help maintain his appeal. Rashford is expensive and will miss GW1, but he is one of Solskjaer’s key men and part of one of the league’s most exciting attacking units.
Another crucial cog of the Norwegian’s machine will be Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m). Rarely have we witnessed such a mid-season transformation of a team as the one brought about by the signing of the midfielder in January 2020. With 8 goals and 8 assists for a total of 117 FPL points, he managed to galvanise a United side struggling to squeeze out consistent quality performances prior to his arrival. He might feel the pressure of new signing Van de Beek from Ajax, but we expect Fernandes to be Solskjaer’s first choice for the most advanced midfielder berth. While the former Sporting Lisbon star might not be able to completely replicate his devastating form of the second part of last season, we feel he’ll get plenty of chances to rack up the points and on top of that, he is the designated penalty specialist as well.
As we mentioned earlier, despite the doubts surrounding Man United’s defensive setup, they still boasted the third-best defence by the end of gameweek 38 last season. FPL points-wise, the best performer in the United defence was tireless right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) with 127 points. On top of 12 clean sheets and 4 assists, the English international also recorded 16 bonus points. He ended the 2019-20 campaign with just under 3,100 Premier League minutes behind his name and he will be the first-choice wing-back on the right side in 2020-21 as well. There is some serious competition in his price bracket with the likes of Caglar Söyüncü, George Baldock and Ben Chilwell just to name a few, but if Solskjaer manages to bolster his defence a bit to improve on last season’s defensive performance, AWB could be a set-and-forget option in FPL.
|2||Crystal Palace (H)|
NEWCASTLE UNITED – The team
One of the team’s we’re actually (very) quietly optimistic about this season are Newcastle United. We admit that at the start of last season, we saw the Magpies as one of the prime candidates for relegation under manager Steve Bruce, but they proved us wrong. With 44 points and never really being in danger of relegation, the club had a pretty comfortable season in mid-table, something we can only applaud. It’s now up to Bruce and the rest of management to repeat that achievement or, who knows, even improve on it.
The defence was the backbone of Newcastle’s finish in 13th last season. While still conceding 58 goals in 38 games, they also booked 11 clean sheets, just one less than Manchester United. Steve Bruce had his team defend in deep blocks and counted on quick counters through players like Jonjo Shelvey and Miguel Almirón in a preferred 5-3-2 formation. We expect more of the same coming season, but with more efficiency, thanks to a few very positive moves on the transfer market this summer.
Perhaps a bit unexpectedly, the coveted Bournemouth duo Callum Wilson & Ryan Fraser moved to Saint James’ Park. The former cost Newcastle around £20 million, while the latter was a free agent prior to his move. Over the past three seasons, Wilson scored 30 goals and provided 20 assists in the Premier League. During that same period, Fraser managed 13 goals and 22 assists. Apart from their proven track record at the highest level of English football, these two players also seem perfectly suited to the kind of game Steve Bruce wants to play.
This is also one of the major reasons why we see some potential in the Magpies this season. Besides the two Bournemouth aces, they also brought in experienced Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick on a free transfer, much to Sean Dyche’s dislike. Today they have also signed highly-rated 22 year old left-back Jamal Lewis from Norwich. If Bruce manages to build on last season’s foundations and integrate these new signings at the same time, then a top ten finish could actually be on the cards for the Magpies. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Newcastle Utd before finalising your team.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – The FPL potential
One of the perhaps underestimated effect Newcastle’s new signings will have, is that they will relieve Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.5m) of some pressure in an attacking and creative sense. With 3 goals and 5 assists last season, the talented Frenchman was directly involved in 21% of all goals scored by Newcastle. More than his direct involvement in goals, it was his dribbling that the Magpies depended on. In his debut Premier League season, ASM completed 4.7 dribbles per game, putting him among the most successful technicians in the league. With a year of Premier League football under his belt and a few promising reinforcements being added to the squad, we definitely see possibilities for the winger to improve on last season’s tally of 92 FPL points this season. His relatively low price tag only furthers his appeal.
Usually we are a bit conservative when it comes to recommending new signings, but Callum Wilson (£6.5m) is an exception to the rule and for a variety of reasons. First of all, he might be a new name at Newcastle, but he definitely isn’t a new name to the Premier League. In his last two seasons at the highest level, the England international scored 22 goals and provided 18 assists, totalling 284 FPL points. Second of all, at a price of £6.5m, the striker looks like a potential great investment as second or even third striker, as we expect him to be a nailed-on starter under Bruce this season. Third of all, the Magpies are up against West Ham (away), Brighton and Burnley (both at home) in their first four games. If Bruce manages to get his team ready for gameweek 1, we can Wilson getting off to a good start.
Defensively, central defender and captain Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) could represent a smart use of your FPL budget. The English defender, who can also play as a right-back, suffered from some injury troubles last season and only got to just over 2,000 Premier League minutes as a result of it. Normally though, Lascelles is a nailed-on starter in Newcastle’s sturdy backline. With a price tag of just £4.5m, he becomes a very appealing option as fourth or even fifth defender in your FPL squad, including from gameweek 1 onwards although main goalkeeper Dubravka is currently out injured. He is currently selected by just 3.1% of the team in the official game, which additionally grants him differential status. Do keep your eye out for Jamal Lewis’ FPL price once added to the game. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Newcastle defender with one from West Ham Utd.
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|5||Manchester United (H)|