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 second instalment, new boys Brentford are up, together with the curious case of Brighton and Hove Albion.
BRENTFORD – FPL 2021/22 team preview
With Brentford, we have arrived at the first of three previews of promoted teams, the other two being Norwich and Watford. Brentford finished third in the Championship last season with 87 points from 46 games and gained Premier League status for the first time since 1947 by winning the play-offs. In their previous nine (!) play-off attempts, which included a dramatic loss in last season’s final against Fulham, the Bees did not manage to get through to the English footballing elite. You can just imagine the scenes in West London.
Brentford are not your typical football club. With former professional gambler and current majority shareholder of stats-based Danish Champions League participants FC Midtjylland Matthew Benham as chairman, the club almost exclusively bases its management and transfer decisions on stats, data and analytics. This is a first in terms of both the Premier League and the Fantasy Premier League, and it’ll be interesting to see how this translates to the appeal of their FPL assets.
Looking at last season, Brentford boast the worst defensive record of the three promoted clubs (42 goals conceded in 46 games), but also the most prolific attack. Not just out of the three promoted sides, but in the entire league. The big question is, of course, whether they can replicate this performance to a certain extent in the Premier League this season.
So far, BFC have been relatively quiet on the transfer market this summer, though huge headline-grabbing transfers are not a typical aspect of their approach to football. They have been focusing on reinforcing the centre of their lineup most of all, with the arrival of promising central defender Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic and 23-year central midfielder Frank Onyeka from Midtjylland. The club has also brought in Myles Pearl-Harris from Chelsea’s U23 squad, while central midfielder Mads Bidstrup was promoted from the reserves.
Brentford’s tactics sheet
With around two weeks to go until gameweek 1, Brentford still have time to bring in more reinforcements, but it looks like the Bees already have their business pretty much in order for their long-awaited return to the Premier League. It always remains to be seen how newly promoted teams perform in their first year at the very highest level, but Brentford under manager Thomas Frank have the potential to be an exciting and entertaining addition to the league.
As a team, Brentford are very attack-minded and able to vary their attacking play. They like to employ a high press from where they then decide for patient build-up play or a quick counter. The side boasts plenty of ball-playing quality, but thanks to their desire to recover lost balls quickly, they also create plenty of counter-attacking opportunities for themselves. We believe this is particular valuable coming season, where the Bees will normally rarely dominate possession.
Whether Frank lines his men up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation, they always seek to overload the middle of the pitch and then release either the striker or the wingers. With topscorer Ivan Toney (31 goals and 10 assists in 45 Championship encounters), and wingers Patrice Mbeumo and Sergi Canós, they boasted a lethal strike force up front. The downside is that, logically, the Bees do get caught out of position at times, especially against patient teams who don’t mind waiting for that one dangerous counter-attack. The fact that Frank encourages constant positional switches in attack also leads to gaps suddenly appearing for quick and savvy opponents to dive into.
BRENTFORD – Potential FPL targets
We’re not sure if it’s the highest pre-GW1 ownership percentage ever for a promoted player, but striker Ivan Toney (£6.5m) is currently in almost 32% of all teams. Despite his relatively heavy price tag for a player who has just 12 minutes in the Prem to his name (from the 2015/16 season with Newcastle), the 25-year old has convinced plenty of fantasy managers with his performances over the past years. In the season 2019/20, Toney scored 24 goals for Peterborough in the League One and a season later, he bettered that performance in the Championship with Brentford by scoring 31 goals. The Premier League is a different beast, we all know that, and £6.5m is not cheap, but he’s definitely on our watchlist.
With Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m), we’re selecting a second starting member of Brentford’s free-scoring forward line. The France U21 international is a sensational talent that combines creativity with a serious end product. Last season, Mbeumo scored 8 goals and gave 11 assists, while he recorded 23 attacking returns in the season prior to that (15 goals, 8 assists). For a now 21-year old winger, who is listed as a midfielder in FPL by the way, these stats are nothing short of fantastic. An additional plus to his FPL appeal is the fact that his price is a whole million lower than Toney’s, which makes him much more attractive for a bit of a punt with a considerable upside.
Initially, we were planning to go into Sergi Canós as third Brentford FPL target, but we noticed that many other managers and analysts listed the Brentford attacking three as their Bees to keep an eye on. For variation and also to shift the spotlight to a real budget-enabler, we’ve gone with Mathias Jensen (£5.0m) instead. The 25-year old Danish international is actually the Bees’ creator in chief, no other Brentford midfielder topped his average of 1.5 key passes per game last season, and he is also on most of their set-pieces. In terms of end product, he needs to give way to the team’s forwards though, as Jensen got 2 goals and 7 assists to his name last season. Nevertheless, a starting £5.0-midfielder on set-pieces is always worth considering.
BRIGHTON – FPL 2021/22 team preview
If you’ve been active in the FPL universe the past few weeks as you’re starting to form your gameweek 1 squad, you’ll surely have noticed that a bit of a low-key hype has grown about Brighton. A big reason for that is the fact that Graham Potter’s men have one of the best opening sets of fixtures. In the first eight gameweeks of the coming season, they are facing the three promoted sides plus away games at Burnley and Crystal Palace. As a result, the Brighton defence in particular has attracted attention.
The thing about Brighton is that, for some reason, they have not yet been able to connect a lot of good displays and excellent underlying statistics with a top-half finish yet. We won’t go into too much statistical detail here right now (data-centric managers, check them out!), but for now it suffices to say that, based on their underlying stats from last season, they would have finished fifth in the league instead of 16th. That’s a huge deviation.
In terms of FPL, such a difference between predicted and actual results can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it looks like a matter of time before many of Brighton’s budget-friendly FPL options explode in a big way. On the other hand, they’ve been underperforming for two consecutive seasons now, so why would this season be very different?
The very good thing is that even if the Seagulls underwhelm once again, you won’t have risked you entire budget on their players. The Brighton roster boasts a lot of really good value with the likes of goalkeeper Robert Sánchez, fullback Tariq Lamptey, former Ajax Amsterdam man Joel Veltman, playmaker Pascall Gross, and striker Neal Maupay all belonging to their respective position’s bargain category. We expect plenty of blue-and-white in FPL teams come gameweek 1.
Brighton’s tactics sheet
Manager Graham Potter is known for his tactical prowess and his penchant for tweaking his formations based on the opponent of the day. It’s the principles of possession, tactical flexibility, and a solid defensive foundation that decide their way of playing. Having said that, a kind of hybrid 3-4-1-2 formation seems to be Potter’s most-utilised tactic. This provides his side with defensive solidity and the possibility to quickly switch from a more offensive to a more defensive set-up by adjusting the positions of the fullbacks. It’s really quite an impressive approach when it clicks, as opponents can rarely find gaps in the Brighton defence while the Seagulls manage to quickly pass through to that same opponent’s defensive third. All that’s missing, so it seems, are the actual points…
With the departure of Ben White to Arsenal, Brighton will need to change their successful backline from last season a bit. We’re expecting Adam Webster, captain Lewis Dunk and Joel Veltman to form the central block in front Robert Sánchez. On the wings, there should be a starting berth for Dan Burn (left) and Tariq Lamptey (right, if fit). Out of this defence, only Lewis Dunk is not priced at £4.5m.
The expected double pivot in the middle of pitch consists of Yves Bissouma and Pascal Gross, though the German playmaker could be replaced by the likes of Adam Lallana or Jakub Moder. Up front, Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck look assured of a spot unless the Seagulls do some business in the forward area this summer. With the Ben White money coming in and Welbeck seemingly nurturing an injury at the moment, we would be surprised if they don’t, to be honest. Belgian ace Leandro Trossard should occupy the #10 spot, though Lallana and Gross are candidates for this position as well.
BRIGHTON – Potential FPL targets
Our first Brighton fantasy pick is Robert Sánchez (£4.5m), partly because we don’t often get the chance to strongly recommend a goalkeeper and partly because everything is pointing at him becoming excellent value this coming season. The Spanish international conquered a spot in the starting lineup during the last season and went on to record 10 clean sheets (and 101 FPL points) in 27 games. At a price of just £4.5, that’s just very good. Combine this historic performance with Brighton’s favourable opening fixtures, especially from a defensive point of view, and it becomes hard to imagine why Sánchez would NOT be part of your squad, at least initially.
The same very much goes for right-back Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m), though with a much higher potential upside. The Chelsea Academy graduate was unlucky with lots of injury trouble last season, but when he was fit, he showed some very promising stuff. In 887 minutes of Premier League football, the 20-year old recorded 35 FPL points, courtesy of 2 clean sheets, 1 goal and 3 assists. He was also ranked amongst the most-fouled defenders and the defenders with most touches in the opponent’s penalty area, which shows the liberty he gets from Potter to bomb forward. Add his £4.5m price tag to that conclusion and you’ll understand why he is on people’s FPL radars, though ongoing injury issues dampen his appeal, unfortunately.
OK, it’s not very exciting maybe, but our third Brighton FPL target is Lamptey’s fullback colleague at the opposite side of the pitch. Dan Burn (£4.5m) offers less than his right-side counterpart in terms of attacking return potential, but he can still represent excellent value for your squad (and at 6 foot 7 inches must be the tallest full back in the EPL!). His price obviously plays a major role here and in comparison to central £4.5m-defenders Veltman and Webster (Dunk is half a million more expensive), one might expect him to get involved in the attack a bit more regularly. Last season, Burn played just over 2,000 minutes for the Seagulls in which he recorded 6 clean sheets and 1 goal. His points total of 64 is OK and could’ve been better without his unfortunate own goal against Wolves. In any case, with Brighton’s opening fixtures in mind, Burn is another good budget-enabling option for your squad.