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 tenth and final instalment, a West Ham side in turmoil before we’ve even started and Nuno Espirito Santo’s impressive Wolves.
WEST HAM – The team
From the outside, things are not looking optimal at West Ham at the moment, in terms of the transfer window, team harmony and preparation for the coming season. This all came to the surface on September 4th, when the club announced the sale of talented winger Diangana Grady to West Brom, much to the discontent of captain and living Hammers legend Mark Noble. While public posts are usually not the way to communicate disappointment for contract players, this incident feels like a final straw kind of situation, especially when the likes of Declan Rice and Jack Wilshere openly voiced their support of the captain’s statement.
This all adds to the disappointment that was the 2019-20 campaign. Yes, West Ham secured Premier League status for yet another season, but the Hammers rarely played to what many still feel is their more than decent potential. They were underwhelming for most part of the season, though a decent run towards the end of the campaign saw them finish in in sixteenth place, five points above the drop zone. A resurgent Michail Antonio played a bit part in that (anyone picked him for his quadruple strike against Norwich back in July?).
Apart from the powerful English midfielder-converted-into-striker, there were more positive points for manager David Moyes. Jarrod Bowen emerged as an exciting prospect for the future on the wings, while Slavia Prague loanee Tomas Soucek turned out to be an excellent addition to the Hammers midfield, where he has started forming a promising partnership with Declan Rice in the middle. As a matter of fact, the attack is not a real issue for Moyes (particularly if Haller & Antonio stay fit!): only nine teams scored more than West Ham’s 49 goals last season.
The Scottish coach will be more worried about his defence. Only the four teams below West Ham conceded more than their 62 goals last season. The Ogbonna-Diop partnership at the centre of their defensive setup looked promising at first, but has been faltering too often. The wing-backs, though technically capable, are too frail at times and leave the backline too exposed, especially against the quicker teams in the league. Just recently though, the Hammers conceded five against relegated Bournemouth in a friendly game, which seems like a worrying omen for things to come.
On top of that, years of big spending have left the club with little budget to work with this summer. In that sense, the sale of Diangana did make sense. The likes of Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Jack Wilshere weigh heavily, while they do not necessarily perform accordingly. The club has reported interest in Burnley defender James Tarkowski, but the arrival of the England international seems like an illusion for now, however much of a game changer it would.
Having said that, the squad boasts plenty of talent. Big transfer Sebastian Haller suffered from injuries last season, but looks posed for a return in style as the main man up front, while the likes of Antonio, Fornals, Bowen, and even Lanzini and Anderson can provide him with plenty service. As we wrote before, the Rice-Soucek partnership in the middle looks very promising as well. The goalkeeper is a mainstay as well, as Fabianski is regularly one of the best Hammers on the pitch. What the club needs most of all is some defensive reinforcement, either by first offloading some other players or by being creative on the transfer market. If they manage to do that, they could have a decent season. If not, it might be another year of looking back over their shoulders for most of the time.
WEST HAM – The FPL potential
It’s important to know that West Ham have probably the most difficult set of opening fixtures of all teams this season. Considering their pre-season and the wealth of alternatives in other teams, we would only possibly seriously start considering Hammers assets from around gameweek 8 onwards. Having said that, individually West Ham do seem to offer some potential value, forward Sebastien Haller (£6.5m) being one of them. For a first season in the Premier League, the French striker did not do too badly with 7 goals and 3 assists, especially considering his injury issues. For the 2020-21 campaign, he is expected to be the starting number nine for the Hammers, with Antonio playing behind/around him. Once the calendar clears up, he could be worth considering.
With Michail Antonio (£6.5m), we have immediately mentioned another Hammer that could get some returns for a good price. The English forward was classified as a midfielder last season and scored 10 goals (plus 4 assists) for a total of 111 FPL points, the highest of Hammers. He is a forward in the official fantasy game this season, but that shouldn’t hurt his potential too much (due to the lack of clean sheets West Ham get anyway). He could be an interesting differential for your gameweek 1 squad, especially considering his good form at the end of last season, but we think he should really start being on your watchlist from gameweek 8 onwards, when West Ham welcome Fulham to the London Stadium.
The best value though, is probably found in midfield. Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) played for West Ham on loan last season and the club’s management knew that they hit the bull’s eye. They paid Slavia Prague around €16 million to make the deal permanent this summer and the player looks like he will be a big part of Moyes’ plans this summer. In half a season last year, the tireless Soucek managed 3 goals for a total of 41 FPL points, in big part thanks to his talent for connecting with the attack at the right moments. There seems to be a good understanding with the intelligent Declan Rice in the middle and with a price tag of just £5.0m, the Czech Republic international is perhaps the only Hammer we would seriously consider for our gameweek 1 squad. He is reportedly available for the opening match after a period of isolation. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team and due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a West Ham player with one from Newcastle.
|6||Manchester City (H)|
WOLVES – The team
The Wolves story of the past few years is remarkable. Fuelled by Chinese investment and the seemingly endless connections of Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes, the club rose from the Championship two years ago to establish themselves as a consistent challenger of the Premier League’s top seven. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has managed to create and nurture a kind of hard-working, no-complaining culture at the club that has resulted in very good performances. Last season’s seventh place finish is a very present reminder of that.
What impresses most about Wolverhampton Wanderers is their performances against the top sides, along with decent consistency. Sure, they have their relative ups and downs, and at times things don’t go their way, but that’s football. Overall, and especially from an FPL perspective, the club offers a kind of stability that has become rare in modern football. Practically the only thing that is a potential worry in regard to Wolves is their rather tight squad. Compared to other clubs in the top ten of the league, their squad depth is limited, even for a manager like Espirito Santo who likes to stick to a certain team.
There have nonetheless been some transformations within the Wolves roster this summer. The relatively cheap departure of club and FPL hero Matt Doherty was a surprise to most fans and followers, but apart from that, no regular players left. On the incoming side, the signing of 18-year old Porto talent Fabio Silva for a whopping €40 million, which made him the most expensive player younger than 20 years old in history, was a big moment, while left-back Marçal was signed for a modest fee from Lyon. The loan of Porto attacking midfielder Vitinha and the return of Ryan Bennett from Leicester have also bolstered the squad.
Wolves once again look like a strong unit and with no Europa League games to distract them from a strong start, we can see them once again finishing comfortably within the top eight. A challenge for a Champions League spot is a bridge too far, but Europa League qualification isn’t, nor is a good performance in one of the domestic cups. They could maybe do with a strong rival for superstar striker Raul Jimenez, who hopefully stays at the club this summer, but for the rest, Espirito Santo’s outfit looks ready to go.
WOLVES – The FPL potential
For anyone considering Wolves assets, forward Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) is probably the first name on their list. The Mexican striker is one of the most consistent performers in the league and practically fixture-proof. Last season, he was the highest-scoring Wolf of all, scoring 17 goals and providing 7 assists for a total of 194 FPL points. From players outside of the top four teams, only Ings, Aubameyang and Vardy beat that score, and the latter two did so carrying a much higher price tag. Jimenez is not cheap for the coming season, but the adds undeniable fantasy potential to your squad. He is as nailed-on as they come, he is involved is almost all of Wolves’ attacking moves (as he is their striker) and he plays in a genuinely good team.
The Wolves squad also boasts an interesting out-of-position pick this season in the person of Diogo Jota (£6.5m). The winger/forward is classified as a midfielder this season and an affordable at that. The most annoying thing about the Portuguese player as an FPL asset is that he rarely make it past the 80-minute mark, though this also means that he starts most of the matches. Last season, Jota recorded 7 goals and 3 assists for a total of 105 FPL points. A similar output this season would make him very good value, considering his relatively low price tag. From gameweek 3 onwards, he could be an excellent pick as fourth or even fifth midfielder.
The Wolves backline might also pack some serious FPL potential this season, as it has done since the club returned to the Premier League. Where last season Romain Saiss offered great value, it’s left-back Ruben Vinagre (£4.5m) who could represent the cheap way into one of the league’s best defences. First-choice left-back Jonny is still injured for the coming months and Vinagre looks like his replacement until then. Wolves did bring in Olympique Lyon’s Marçal, but he will probably serve as a back-up for the Portuguese defender. Vinagre could be the kind of fantasy pick that makes the difference this season, with FPL squad depth looking more important than ever. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Wolves defender with one from WBA.
Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.
|1||Sheffield United (A)|
|2||Manchester City (H)|
|3||West Ham (A)|
|7||Crystal Palace (H)|