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 eighth instalment, we’ll be talking about last season’s surprise package Sheffield United and Danny Ings’ Saints.
SHEFFIELD UNITED – The team
Obviously, for many FPL managers, the 2019-20 Premier League campaign will forever be remembered as “that season in which John Lundstram started as a £4.0m defender”. The English box-to-box midfielder ended up recording 144 FPL points, courtesy of 10 clean sheets, 5 goals and 4 assists, as well as 15 bonus points. Despite losing his spot in the starting eleven in the second half of the season, he represented incredible value, especially for those managers who had him since gameweek 1.
His misclassification as a defender clearly played a role in all this, but the overriding reason for Lundstram’s FPL success was that trainer Chris Wilder managed to mould a team that took the Premier League by storm in their first season at the highest level after a 12 year absence. From a collection of players with very little PL experience, he created a solid unit that finished ninth last season, just five points off the top six.
For the Blades, last season’s success depended for a large part on their advanced tactical discipline and their sturdy defence. In 38 games, they conceded just 39 goals. Only the top three teams conceded less and what’s especially remarkable about it, is the fact that United managed to do without employing a negative game approach. On the contrary, the wingers got plenty of freedom to boom forward and even the three central defenders often overlapped with their midfield partners to join in attack. Combined with a meticulously put together midfield, this provided a unique and stable foundation. Maintaining this type of defensive organisation and discipline will be a major priority for Wilder.
At the same time, the manager will be looking at ways to improve his offensive output. Where 39 conceded places Sheffield United amongst the league’s top four, their tally of 39 goals scored places them amongst the five most goal-shy attacks. Despite their tactics, the Blades create relatively few chances, which explains why no team had less attempts on goal last season. They are a patient side and wait for high-quality openings to strike. This requires clinical strikers though, and despite the fact that the likes of Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset provide certain quality up front, neither of them managed to score more than 6 goals last season.
This is why we wouldn’t be surprised to see the club bring in an attacking reinforcement still this summer, though none have arrived yet. United did react efficiently to the inevitable return of loanee goalkeeper Dean Henderson to Manchester United by resigning the talented Aaron Ramsdale from Bournemouth. Besides that, Wilder brought in two Derby full-backs in Max Lowe and Jayden Bogle for undisclosed fees, and Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu on loan to bolster his defensive options as well as acquiring forward Oliver Burke from WBA in a swpa deal for Callum Robinson.
The logical thing for Wilder and his Blades would be to continue on last season’s (and the previous seasons’) path and it looks like they will. All of their players now have a full season of Premier League football under their respective belts, for many the first in their entire career, and one more year of experience with the manager’s intense tactical concepts at the highest level. They were a very hard-to-beat, attractive-to-watch side to watch last season and we feel the 2020-21 campaign will be more of the same, or better. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.
SHEFFIELD UNITED – The FPL potential
Keep in mind that the excellent Dean Henderson is no longer at the club, but as a result of last season’s excellent performances, most of Sheffield United’s defensive assets have been upgraded to (almost) premium level in FPL. If you’re investing in a nailed-on starter in one of the league’s best defences, our first pick is Mr. Sheffield United himself, Chris Basham (£5.0m). The 32-year old already sits on 282 games for the Blades and featured in every Premier League game last season. It’s true that, compared to his teammates in defence, his attacking output was rather negligible with just a single assist, but with Basham, you’re going for security of starts and clean sheets at a very affordable price. The central defender will once again be a key cog in Chris Wilder’s machine and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him record a few clean sheets in the first weeks of the season.
For a bigger threat going forward at just £0.5m more, either one of the wing-backs Enda Stevens (£5.5m) or George Baldock (£5.5m) is a great option. We mention both, because from an FPL point of view, there is barely a difference between them. Both were part of 13 clean sheets last season, both scored 2 goals and both provided 4 assists. Where Stevens got a total of 8 bonus points, Baldock got 7, but at the end of the ride, both defenders ended with 142 FPL points. Baldock got 75 more Premier League minutes to his name than his counterpart on the left, but that is really about it. Stevens sits in a few more teams at the moment (6.0% vs 5.6%), but either player could be an excellent pick for your gameweek 1 squad. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Sheff Utd defender with one from the club below, Southampton.
In the middle, Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) is a fixed part of Wilder’s starting eleven and with good reason. The 29-year Northern Ireland international conducts play superbly from a central position and doesn’t shy away from a set-piece either. At a price of just £5.0m, this makes him an appealing option as fifth midfielder in your gameweek 1 squad. Of course, his attacking output is not huge, with a goal and 3 assists last season, but if he can repeat a score 98 FPL points this season, he represents more than decent value. For a bit more goal involvement, but also a million more of your budget, you can opt for John Fleck as well.
|2||Aston Villa (A)|
|7||Manchester City (H)|
SOUTHAMPTON – The team
When Southampton lost 0-9 (nil to nine) at home to Leicester in the early stages of last season, things looked kind of grim at Saint Mary’s. Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl allegedly offered his resignation after the unprecedented destruction of his team, but the club’s management refused to accept. A project had been started and a single, albeit devastating defeat, wasn’t going to change that. Maybe this symbolises that something is missing from English football: patience, and belief in a project.
Eight months after the “Leicester” away match (they won the return match!), the Austrian extended his contract with Southampton by four years. The Saints ended up in eleventh place, well above the drop zone and seven points off Spurs in sixth, in big part thanks to an impressive run at the end of the season that saw them lose just one in nine. As a matter of fact, they lost just six of their last 21 Premier League games last season. Things could look good this season if Hasenhüttl manages to continue building on that positive trend, one that he started, with the support of the club’s management.
Of course, it helps when you have a killer present up front. Possibly no other player on the Saints roster was so positively affected by Hasenhüttl’s change to the 4-2-2-2 system he favoured at RB Leipzig than Danny Ings. The high-energy press and quick transitions fit the English striker like a glove and he showed it by scoring 22 goals, just one shy of Golden Boot 2019-20 winner Jamie Vardy. In a season in which he finally managed to avoid serious injury trouble, Ings elevated his entire side to another level.
The Saints have already made two astute signings this summer, the first being the permanent signing of on-loan Spurs right-back Kyle Walker-Peters and the second being talented central defender Mohammed Salisu from Spanish side Valladolid for a combined €25 million. Though we don’t expect too much more incoming transfers in South England and a continued focus on the club’s prodigious youth academy, one or two more relatively major signings could be on the way. One of those could be a direct replacement for Emil Hojbjerg, who left the club for around €17 million to join Spurs.
In any case, the atmosphere at and around Saint Mary’s feels positive during the pre-season. The club ended last season on a high note, it has been relatively calm regarding Ings and the team’s other key men up until now, and their set of opening fixtures has potential for a good start. Whether Southampton are ready to challenge the top eight is something we’re not entirely sure of yet, but equalling (or even bettering) last season’s eleventh place is definitely a possibility.
SOUTHAMPTON – The FPL potential
Last season, Danny Ings (£8.5m) was one of the biggest bargains available, even once his price started rising from its initial £6.5m point. The English number nine surprised fans, opponents, FPL managers and FPL towers alike with his prolific season. In 2,800 minutes of Premier League football, he scored 22 goals and provided 2 assists, while no single player in the official game beat his total of 40 bonus points. Ings ended the season with an incredible 198 FPL points to his name. As a result, his price has risen substantially for this season, but that doesn’t mean his appeal has therefore decreased. With a decent set of opening fixtures and a certain role as key men in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s setup, he could very well hit the ground running this season.
We already mentioned Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) before and at this current price tag, we think he is worth mentioning again. The talented right-back joined the Saints in January 2020 on loan and didn’t need much time to make the spot on the right-side of Hasenhüttl’s revamped defence his. He ended up playing 944 Premier League minutes in which he recorded 32 FPL points, thanks to being part of 2 clean sheets and providing 1 assist. This summer, Southampton made his loan deal permanent for a fee of €13 million and he looks to be going into the 2020-21 as the manager’s preferred choice at right-back. He could be great value as your fourth or even fifth defender. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Southampton defender with one from the club above, Sheffield Utd.
Another budget option definitely worth considering is midfielder James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m). The 25-year old Englishman has developed into a key part of Hasenhüttl’s midfield setup and was even named club captain in the final stages of last season. He barely missed a minute whole season, and rewarded that faith with 5 goals and 4 assists for a total of 112 FPL points. The issue with JWP from an FPL point of view is that he is sometimes deployed further away from the opposition’s area, but that is also reflected in his price tag. To counter that, he is also on plenty of set-pieces, apart from penalties which are for Ingsy, obviously.
Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.
|1||Crystal Palace (A)|
|4||West Brom (H)|
|7||Aston Villa (A)|