Welcome back to yet another season of Fantasy Premier League football!
If you stuck with us during the exciting and sometimes sad thrill ride that was the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, great to have you back with us again. If you just stumbled upon our FPL content recently, a very warm welcome and hopefully you’ll find our regular contributions to the world of FPL both enjoyable and useful in your quest for a top rank come the end of the season.
Newly promoted Brentford will be taking on Community Shield winners Arsenal in the season opener on Friday, August 13th. In the build-up to that game, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this tenth and final instalment, we take a look at a European West Ham side and a Wolves side getting used to life under a new manager after five successful years under Nuno Espirito Santo.
WEST HAM – FPL 2021/22 team preview
When talking about last season’s surprising top performers, the focus often shifts to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, and with a ninth place and an exciting brand of attacking football, the Whites deserve all of the praise they’ve received. Still, when looking at the Premier League table at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, it doesn’t take long to identify another, perhaps even more impressive finish, namely that of West Ham United in sixth. With 65 points from 38 games, the Hammers actually managed to penetrate the bastion that is the English top six, just two points off Chelsea in fourth, and at least three points of ahead of London rivals Spurs and Arsenal.
This excellent result meant more than prestige though, because it has also seen the club qualify for the Europa League group stages of the coming season. After getting eliminated in the qualifying rounds in 2015/16 and 2016/17, the East Londoners will feature in the tournament for the first time since the UEFA Cup was rebranded for the 2009/10 season. A fitting reward for a great season.
When delving a little bit deeper into the underlying statistics, we can see that West Ham’s sixth-place finish was more than deserved. The Hammers were prolific in attack, their tally of goals scored only beaten by five other teams in the league, while their defence proved resolute. Only seven sides conceded less than their 47 goals. It was West Ham’s home record that particularly impressed as just champions Manchester City boasted a higher points average than their 1.79 points per home game. Some analysts and pundits have questioned the absence of crowds, in West Ham’s case the absence of an often very expectant and critical crowd, as a reason for this.
Now, qualification for European football is fantastic, both in terms of prestige and finances, but we have also seen how it can be a double-edged sword at times in recent years. Think Burnley in the 2018/19 Europa League and Wolves in the 2019/20 Europa League. In that sense, boss David Moyes will have to manage the addition of least six more Thursday evening games on top of what will undoubtedly be another gruelling Premier League season. Squad depth and player fitness will be major topics for the Hammers over the coming weeks as they will seek to do well in Europe while also aiming for another top-half finish in the league, at least.
West Ham’s tactics sheet
Despite the intense upcoming schedule for a group of players that is not entirely used to playing three times a week including away games on the European continent, it has been a very quiet transfer summer so far. Winger Felipe Anderson and central defender Fabian Balbuena moved on to pastures new, while last season’s loanee Craig Dawson was given a permanent contract and Paris Saint Germain back-up goalkeeper was brought in on a loan. Probably the biggest transfer window news so far, from a West Ham point of view, is the fact that key man Euro 2020 starter Declan Rice is still a Hammer.
In regard to the starting lineup for gameweek 1, we therefore don’t expect too many changes in comparison to last season. Moyes generally lined his men up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with an occasional switch to a backline of five. More often than not though, this was the result of injury issues in defence, which is why we’re expecting a similar set-up this season.
In goal, the reliable Lukasz Fabianski is a certainty. In front of him, Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson look like the most probable pairing, with Aaron Cresswell on the left wing and Vladimir Coufal from the right wing providing attacking impulses from the back. West Ham’s double pivot in the middle, possibly one of the most reliable in the league, will consist of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek.
The powerful but injury-prone Michail Antonio is the first choice to lead the offensive line. For the three spots behind him, Moyes can choose from a bunch of attacking talent, including Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini and Euro 2020 star Andrei Yarmolenko. Based on the pre-season preparations, Fornals seems to be preferred to play behind Antonio with Bowen and Benrahma on the flanks, though these players can switch positions easily throughout games.
WEST HAM – Potential FPL targets
Both Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m) are good choices for your gameweek 1 squad, and we have opted for the latter. Though the former is on lots of set-pieces and provided more assists than any defender in the official game, the latter costs £0.5m less and recorded an equally impressive 9 assists last season. In our opinion, the Czech Republic international is probably underpriced by about half a million and combined with a kind set of opening fixtures, this makes him a very appealing fantasy pick. With Newcastle away, Leicester at home, Palace home and Southampton away in the first four rounds, Coufal represents potential for returns at both sides of the pitch.
Despite missing out on considerable parts of the campaign due to injuries, Michail Antonio (£7.5m) still ended the season as the West Ham player with the highest direct goal involvement. His 10 goals and 5 assists represent an involvement of just over 19% and an total of 118 FPL points. Compared to his actual playing minutes, that comes down to an attacking return every 131 minutes and 0.52 Expected Goals per 90 minutes, a ratio bettered by just four other players in the entire division. He’s an explosive option up front and without any attacking signings so far, his starting berth seems as secure as ever.
Two players made 38 appearances for West Ham in the Premier League last season. One was cental midfielder Tomas Soucek, an enticing FPL asset himself at £6.0m, the other was winger Jarrod Bowen (£6.5m). The 24-year old joined the Hammers in the winter of 2020 for a maximum fee of £25 million and didn’t need long to find his place in East London. He got a goal and 4 assists in his first half-season at the club and got him definite breakthrough last season, when he recorded 141 FPL points, courtesy of 8 goals, 4 assists and 9 clean sheets. He’ll be hoping to further improve on that performance this season and if he does, his £6.5m price tag will end up being a real bargain.
WOLVES – FPL 2021/22 team preview
The Wolverhampton Wanderers have been a quality addition to the Premier League since their promotion back in 2018. After impressive back-to-back league finishes in seventh place in the 2018/19 and the 2019/20 seasons, last season was relatively disappointing with a 13th place. The defensive nature for which they had become known largely disappeared as Wolves conceded 52 goals in 38 games, while their attacking output was even more problematic. In the Premier League, you simply can’t hope for much if you manage to score just 36 goals over the course of the season.
Having said that, we believe a special mention of Raul Jimenez and his horrific head injury is warranted. The Mexican striker, good for 30 goals and 17 assists in the two seasons prior to last, was sitting on 4 goals and 1 assist from 824 minutes of Premier League when he suffered a season-ending skull fracture at the end of November 2020. For a side already not extremely prolific in front of goal, losing their talisman meant a huge loss. Add to that the later (long-term) injuries of the likes of forwards Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto, and Wolves’ subpar goal-scoring sounds a bit more logical.
While Podence and Neto remain flagged in the official game as of today, the big man up front is back in action, which means a huge boost for the Wolves. New manager Bruno Lage, the successor to Nuno Espirito Santo after his move to Spurs, will be looking to put last season to bed and build a new squad around the undeniable amount of talent at his disposal. With no European football to distract the team from domestic objectives, the former Benfica and Dinamo Tbilisi boss has the opportunity to implement a more attacking approach to games and to integrate a few new key figures into the team.
Wolves’ tactics sheet
Where under Espirito Santo the Wolves generally lined up in a very organised back-men backline with attacking wing-backs and a playmaking double pivot in front of it, Lage seems to favour a more classic 4-4-2 formation. In recent friendlies during pre-season though, he reverted back to Nuno’s 3-4-3 system with wing-backs. On the one hand, he might be experimenting with different systems in order to counter the very different types of opposition his men will face coming season. On the other hand, he could be checking the current squad’s ability to play with a back four. One way or another, some uncertainty exists for FPL managers in this sense.
In terms of transfers, Wolves have been pretty active during the ongoing window. Mainstay and number one for years Rui Patricio is now plying his trade in between the sticks at AS Roma, but no other outgoing transfers of first-team significance have taken place so far. On the other side, Rayan Aït Nouri’s loan agreement was made permanent for about £10 million, while Olympiacos goalkeeper José Sa has been brought in to replace Patricio. On top of that, the club signed central defender Yerson Mosquera from Colombian side Atletico Nacional, right-back Bendegúz Bolla from Hungarian side Féhérvár and talented winger Trincao from FC Barcelona on a loan.
Assuming that Lage will stick to the 4-4-2 formation that has brought him considerable success at Benfica and Tblisi, a central defensive pairing of Connor Coady and Willy Boly looks the most likely. They will be backed by the newly acquired José Sa in goal. The right-back position looks set for former Barcelona man Nelson Semedo, while the left-back spot will be between Marçal and Aït Nouri. The latter has however been used as a left midfielder on several occasions during the pre-season as well, which could represent a very interesting out-of-position fantasy asset, should Lage continue to employ the Frenchman as such.
In the middle, we find it hard to imagine that Lage will change the tried and tested central duo of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, though the latter’s starting berth is eyed by Leander Dendoncker as well. Adama Traoré is the prime candidate to start on their right side, while the left side will be occupied by Pedro Neto once he is back to fitness. Up front, Raul Jimenez is 100% nailed-on and likely to be joined by Trincao. Daniel Podence will need to be slotted in once he is back from injury, probably on the left side of the midfield or in the forward line.
WOLVES – Potential FPL targets
Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) is the Wolves talisman and at his current price tag, probably a steal. As mentioned earlier, his last season was ruined by a serious head injury, but the Mexican’s qualities are undeniable. He has been one of Wolves’ and indeed the Premier League’s most consistent performers over the past season, recording 181 FPL points in the 2018/19 campaign and 194 FPL points over the 2019/20 campaign. Jimenez is the team’s focal point up front and on penalties as well, which only increases his appeal. Wolverhampton have been given a tough start to the season, but if they show some fantasy potential, expect Raul’s ownership percentage to increase considerably from gameweek 3 onwards.
In the Wolves backline, we found an England international and Euro 2020 participant available at a budget price. Conor Coady (£4.5m) is a mainstay in the Wolves defence, which is underlined by the fact that he played the most minutes of any outfield player last season. In a mediocre season for the team as a while, he still managed to record 106 FPL points, courtesy of 10 clean sheets and a single goal. This shows that Coady is not a pick you should consider if you’re looking for explosive returns, but if Bruno Lage manages to shore up his defence, the Englishman could provide excellent value to any FPL squad.
As we have stated in earlier parts of this series, we generally don’t tend to recommend going with fantasy assets new to the Premier League too early. The Prem is a different beast and with so many options at our disposal for every position in our squad, “wait and see” is usually a wise move. From time to time though, a fantasy asset presents itself that shows particular potential and we believe Trincao (£6.0m) could be such an asset. The Portuguese winger was loaned from a Barcelona side on the brink of bankruptcy and should slot in right into the starting eleven next to Jimenez up front. That places him in the often much-coveted out-of-position category at a potential bargain price. He has featured heavily during Wolves’ pre-season and is, in our opinion, one to keep an eye on.