FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Tottenham Hotspur & West Bromwich Albion

“The Premier League has returned to The Hawthorns after a 2-year absence” (CC by 3.0). Image by: Mattd1991

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 ninth instalment, we’re going over José Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur and newly promoted West Bromwich Albion.

SPURS – The team

It’s been a strange year and a half for the Spurs. At the start of June 2019, the Londoners played in European football’s most prestigious game, the Champions League final. They lost it against Liverpool, but it was nonetheless the best performance in Europe’s most important tournament in their history. Less than half a year later, one of the big men behind Tottenham’s big project of the past decade, manager Mauricio Pocchetino, was fired and replaced by Mourinho after a horrible start to the 2019-20 campaign.

The Portuguese manager did not take too much time to let the world know that it was going to be something of a “best-we-can” performance for the rest of the season. He realised that some things needed to change at the club and what he wanted more than anything was to have a full pre-season with his team, including a summer transfer window. That’s also why it was hard to really judge his impact on the club last season. Spurs played poor football at times, but achieved the bare minimum: qualification for the Europa League by finishing in sixth.

Something else Mou didn’t doubt to point out once the season had finished, was that Spurs would have been fourth had the points count started at his arrival. That is, of course, rather useless rhetoric, but fourth is probably what they will be aiming for this season. He will not be happy with anything less than Champions League football next season and considering the quality of his squad, he shouldn’t be. The challenge will be a tough one, especially seeing the ways in which the direct competition for the top four have been reinforcing their respective squads this summer, but the Portuguese showman is nothing if not a natural competitor, and one who loves to compete from an underdog position. We’re not entirely sure to what extent Spurs will be able to challenge for a top-four spot, all we’re saying is: watch out.

In terms of regular first-team starters, 33-year old Jan Vertonghen left the club for free to join Benfica, but that’s it. On the incoming side, Spurs look to have done some very decent business. For a combined fee of around €65 million, they brought in on eof the fittest players in the Premier League, Southampton central midfielder Jan Hojbjerg, Wolves player, and one of the best right-backs in the league if not Europe, Matt Doherty, and Real Betis midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso, who was already on loan in London last season. Mourinho seems to be looking for more balance in his squad and we feel he’s on the right path. The new players definitely add quality and the necessary squad depth to be able to compete on several fronts at the same time during the season. If the manager manages to work his magic once again, Spurs could be one to watch. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

SPURS – The FPL potential

Out of the past six seasons, last season was the worst one for Harry Kane (£10.5m). That is, “the worst”, because despite some injury troubles and team form issues, the England striker still managed 18 goals and 2 assists for a total of 158 FPL points. His price was nevertheless lowered considerably and now sits at a very appealing £10.5m. With a pretty favourable set of opening fixtures, on papers at least, we suspect the number nine might be a popular pick come gameweek 1. At the moment he sits in just over 15% of all teams. Kane is a certainty in the Spurs starting lineup and it might just be that he won’t feature as much in Europe during the earlier stages of the Europa League in order to preserve him for the Premier League. There are few better forward options out there right now.

Another Spurs player who might be offering excellent value at the start of the 2019-20 campaign is South Korean international Heung-Min Son (£9.0m). Like Kane, Son is a nailed-on starter for Spurs and the type of player that Mourinho usually loves: tactically disciplined, hard-working, and, of course, of exceptional quality overall. Despite Spurs’ mediocre season last year, the forward  (who is classified as a midfielder in FPL, recorded 11 goals and 13 assets for a total of 169 FPL points. No other player on the Tottenham roster fared better. He’s currently selected by just under 30% of all gameweek 1 squads and we believe that’s for good reason.

While former Wolves star Matt Doherty is the major defensive signing for Spurs this summer, we believe his counterpart on the left of the defence could offer at least equal value. Ben Davies (£5.0m) is an integral part of Mourinho’s defensive plans in North London and represents a very affordable way into what could end up being one of the season’s most resilient defences. Due to injuries, a rivalry with Danny Rose and an overall leaky defence, the Wales international’s 41 FPL points last season don’t really tell the whole story. This season, Davies should be first-choice on the left side of the defence, though he could feature centrally at times as well when Spurs line up with three centre backs. Doherty’s past seasons indicate a higher potential involvement in the attacking third, but Davies feels like a stable pick. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Spurs defender with one from Arsenal.

1Everton (H)
2Southampton (A)
3Newcastle (H)
4Manchester United (A)
5West Ham (H)
6Burnley (A)
7Brighton (H)
Spurs’ opening EPL fixtures in September & October

WEST BROM (WBA) – The team

For West Brom, the Championship felt like it lasted just a few weeks too long. After a nine-game unbeaten run at the very start of the 2019-20 campaign, they lost to eventual champions Leeds. This dropped them to third in the league, but that was the only time the Baggies saw themselves outside of the top two for the rest of season. Slaven Bilic’s men looked destined for promotion most of the time, though a barren run at the very end of the season saw Leeds clinch the title early and Brentford come within touching distance. Still, West Brom held on and secured a return to the Premier League just two years after relegation.

West Brom’s preferred formation last year was an effective 4-2-3-1 with the double pivot lying rather deep, allowing the front four and at times the wing-backs to apply intense pressure on opposing defences. The forwards generally play quite narrow, which allows the full-backs to utilise the space on the wings. The Baggies preferred to dictate play from deeper on the pitch last season, which resulted in more patient build-up play and quite a lot of ball possession. We expect a very similar approach this season at the highest level, though we expect Bilic to adapt his preferred style to the higher demands of the Prem. After all, they will rarely be the team with most possession and lying too deep while allowing the full-backs to boom forward can be fatal against the speed that many of the first-tier teams possess.

The departures of regular starter Nathan Ferguson (right-back) and the young Jonathan Leko, and of experienced players like Gareth Barry and Chris Brunt will surely have left a mark on Bilic’ selection. In turn, the club did manage to turn loan contracts of two important players into permanent agreements: Grady Diangana from West Ham and winger/attacking midfielder Mateus Pereira, West Brom’s Player of the Year 2019-20. In terms of new faces, the Baggies have not made huge moves yet, but they did bring in experienced Brighton goalie David Button and young Wigan and centre back Cédric Kipré.

Looking at the current Baggies roster, we find it a bit hard to imagine the club spending much of the coming season outside of the relegation zone. They have a very experienced and successful manager in the person of Slaven Bilic, and the likes of striker Charlie Austin, winger Mattie Phillips and midfielder Jake Livermore are decent players, but overall, the current squad feels a bit… light. On the one hand, there is still some time for West Brom to look for reinforcements and they probably should. On the other hand, the Baggies did impress in the Championship last season and much of the team is still intact. It looks like it’s going to be a tough year at the Hawthorns, but they’ll surely be competitive.

WEST BROM – The FPL potential

Former Sporting Lisbon man Matheus Pereira (£6.0m) was West Brom’s Player of the Year last season and deservedly so. He scored 8 goals and provided an incredible 16 assists, and on top of that, he created 116 chances over the whole season, more than any other player in the league. The forward is classified as a midfielder in FPL, but usually operates as an advanced number ten or a winger, depending on the formation. With 111 attempts on goal, Pereira was also West Brom’s most prolific player. On top of that, he shares set-piece duties, especially when it comes to corners. Of course, it’s not realistic to expect the same kind of output from him this season, but the 24-year old will surely be a crucial part of West Brom’s fight for survival.

With starting budget goalkeepers a bit of a rarity coming season, Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) could be an interesting pick for FPL managers. The former Man United shot stopper is a nailed-on starter for the Baggies, as whilst Brighton’s David Button was brought in to provide some serious competition for the spot in goal he is still acknowledged as a back-up goalie. West Brom booked 14 clean sheets in 46 league games last season, which doesn’t point at a next Sheffield United for coming season, but save points will most likely be on the cards. Johnstone is a quality goalie after all, and he made a bit of a reputation as a penalty specialist for himself with six saved spot kicks over the past two seasons. With a price tag of £4.5m, he could be a decent option as second goalkeeper. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating Sam Johnstone with Patricio from Wolves.

Continuing in the budget category, but at the other end of the pitch, Charlie Austin (£5.5m) might turn up in a few teams as a third forward. In 34 Championship games last season, the Englishman scored 10 goals and provided 2 assists. He recorded 42 shots in the box and had 24 attempts on target, placing him in second place in the entire squad, behind Pereira on both accounts. There is an important note to take into account should you consider Austin for your FPL squad: Hal Robson-Kanu provides serious competition and chances are that the club will still be bringing in offensive reinforcements over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for Baggies team news and do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

1Leicester (H)
2Everton (A)
3Chelsea (H)
4Southampton (A)
5Burnley (H)
6Brighton (A)
7Fulham (A)
WBA’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October