FPL 2021/22 Season Previews: Part 3 Burnley and Chelsea

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 third instalment, we’re covering Sean Dyche’s Burnley and Champions League winner’s Chelsea for their first full season under Thomas Tuchel.

BURNLEY – FPL 2021/22 team preview

The 2020/21 Premier League campaign did not go down as the greatest in Burnley FC’s 139 years of history, but the Clarets did manage what they have donein every single season since their return amongst the English footballing elite in the 2015/16 season, which is staying in the Prem. In truth, the largely sub-par performances from relegated sides West Brom, Fulham and Sheffield United throughout the season made the challenge look easier than it was in reality.

Even though Sean Dyche’s men finished in 17th place with just 39 points, they did manage a gap of no less than 11 points between themselves and Fulham in 18th. Where Burnley could once be considered a good source for solid, budget-friendly defensive assets in particular, they conceded 55 goals last season. Only five other teams conceded more, including relegated West Brom and Sheffield United. Combined with a goal-shy attack netting just 33 times in 38 games, a total bettered by 17 other teams in the league, we can conclude that the Clarets played with relegation fire last season.

Of course, the fact that Burnley have operated with one of the tightest budgets in the top flight for years should not be overlooked. As a matter of fact, for the 2020/21 season, Dyche spent just £1 million. This makes the recent acquisition of 20-year old central defender Nathan Collins from Stoke City for £12 million their first significant transfer expenditure in 18 months. This was made possible by the club’s take-over at the start of the year by US consortium ALK Capital, who became owners of the club in a fashion very similar to how the Glazers took control of Manchester United. Whether this is a good thing for Burnley in the long-term remains very much to be seen, but for now, rumour has it that it allows Dyche and co to further strengthen the squad during the current transfer window.

The main area of interest seems to be the defence, perhaps with a ready-to-go player with PL experience to add to the Collins transfer. This would fit Dyche’s approach to games, but no one can deny that a creative spark in the midfield would be welcome. In that light, retaining winger Dwight McNeil should be a top priority as well. The 21-year old is apparently a serious consideration for a bunch of Premier League sides and his departure would be a hard hit for the Clarets, though the likely £30 million plus price tag would create considerable room for investments as well.

Burnley’s tactics sheet

Despite the lack of really exciting options in the team, the Burnley roster has the potential to be a considerably useful one for Fantasy Premier League managers. At £7.0m, Chris Wood is their most expensive asset, which means that the team could be a decent source of budget-friendly options, especially if Dyche manages to create a defensively solid unit in the mould of his successful 2017/18 side.

More than the players’ price tags though, it’s Sean Dyche’s tactical consistency which can set Burnley assets apart from many other potential mid-table or budget picks. The manager is known for his adherence to a 4-4-2 formation, his preference for a gritty, no-nonsense approach to games, and his tendency to rotate very little. This could, of course, have to do with the fact that there was really very little to rotate with at Burnley over the past seasons, but even so, we don’t see him switching up his style too much.

Nick Pope is guaranteed in goal with the sturdy central duo consisting of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski sitting in front of him. As it looks at the moment, they will be flanked by Matt Lowton on the right and Charlie Taylor on the left. In the middle, Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood form the heart of the team, while Dwight McNeil and Josh Brownhill are to provide the much-needed creative impulses from the midfield. Up front, New Zealand striker Chris Wood is about as nailed-on as they come, while the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Barnes and Matej Vydra can fill the second striker spot.

Expect a largely defence-minded Burnley side with a tendency to play quite a direct game, centrally through the air and from the flanks mostly. Wood plays a crucial role in this approach and has scored 10+ goals in each of his last four seasons, making him the team’s top scorer each time. If Sean Dyche manages to implement his preferred style during the pre-season, most of the Clarets’ fantasy value will very likely be found in the backline.

BURNLEY – Potential FPL targets

It’s difficult to start a discussion about potential fantasy Burnley targets without mentioning Chris Wood (£7.0m). The striker is the most expensive Claret by a long shot (second-most expensive Claret, McNeil, comes in at £6.0m), but we feel it’s justified. To put it very crudely, Burnley would probably not have made it last season without the 6”3′ Kiwi up front. With 12 goals and 3 assists last season, he was directly involved in just over 45% of his team’s goals. No striker priced under £7.0m in the official game scored more than his 138 FPL points. Wood’s big problem this season is that his starting price tag is probably a bit too rich when you consider that the likes of Ollie Watkins and Michail Antonio are just half a million more expensive. Still, at £7.0m, you could do a lot worse than a nailed-on striker who scored 26 goals and gave 4 assists in the past two Premier League seasons for a defensive side like Burnley.

Our second fantasy pick from the Clarets’ roster is winger Dwight McNeil (£6.0m), who was given a friendlier price tag by FPL towers in comparison to the big man in front of him. The 2020/21 campaign was a rather quiet one for the 21-year old, who managed just 2 goals and 5 assists in 3,068 minutes of Premier League football, but he was still Burnley’s highest-scoring midfielder with 113 FPL points. Dwighty is the team’s main creator and takes many set-pieces, which should always place him on your watchlists, at least.

As we wrote earlier, the best value at Burnley can probably be found in defence though, where both Matt Lowton and Charlie Taylor are priced at £4.5m. Our preference would go out to Lowton for his slightly more attacking role on the right side in comparison to Taylor, but there isn’t much between them. Despite a very mediocre year for the Clarets last season, they still recorded 11 clean sheets, which is where the main value will again come from for these two players this campaign. The budget defender bracket is quite populated for the upcoming season, but Lowton is amongst the candidates for our GW1 squad.

CHELSEA – FPL 2021/22 team preview

About five months ago, Chelsea were sitting well outside the top four domestically and the chances of getting anywhere in the Champions League looked small as the Blues were simply not reliable enough. Club legend Frank Lampard was replaced by former PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, in the hopes of salvaging at least European qualification for the upcoming 2021/22 season, but the German exceeded all expectations by leading the Londoners to the second Champions League victory in their history as well as a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League.

Tuchel had an immediate impact on the club by going undefeated in his first 14 games, a club record, and radically improving their defence played a huge part in that success. Of Chelsea’s 18 clean sheets, 12 were recorded since the appointment of their German manager in January of this year. Offensively, there was still much to improve, especially when you consider the heavy investments in the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech during the 2020 summer transfer window, but even in that sense, Tuchel seemed to be more effective at implementing a certain idea and tactic than his predecessor.

Last summer’s spending spree might also explain the Blues’ lack of real activity during this summer’s transfer window, so far. Fulham back-up goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli has actually been the only addition to the squad up until now, while both Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud left West London for AC Milan. The Chelsea roster looks pretty set and contains lots of world-class talent, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see them bringing in a young central defender to compete with the experienced likes of mainstays Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva, and a proven goalscorer to spearhead their stacked midfield.

The 2021/22 Premier League campaign will be Thomas Tuchel’s first full one in charge of Chelsea and it’s safe to say that expectations are high after last season’s showing. Logic would dictate that with more knowledge of his squad, a complete pre-season to implement and perfect his preferred style of football, and possibly one or two specific additions, the Blues will be building on their recent Champions League success. Their opening set of fixtures is not the kindest, which will probably somewhat slow initial investment in their FPL assets, but if Tuchel continues his good work, there could be some serious FPL value on the Chelsea roster for the upcoming season.

Chelsea’s tactics sheet

When Tuchel was presented as Chelsea’s new manager back in January, in the middle of possibly the most congested and most chaotic season ever, he said that he wanted to make the team hard to beat. A modest goal perhaps, for a club that had splashed £200+ million on reinforcements just a few months earlier, but understandable, and more importantly realistic for a side that lacked tactical stability and defensive resolve at that point. The speed with which the German implemented his ideas and transformed the team’s shape was nothing short of very impressive.

Predicting how Chelsea will turn up in gameweek 1 is a bit more of a guess than usual, as Tuchel will surely be using the pre-season to really mould the squad to his requirements. Last season, for example, a backline of three was the favoured tactical base by far, but during the current pre-season, the Blues have been experimenting with a back four as well. Therefore, it’s more useful to look at some of the manager’s basic tactical principles and how those can be executed by the current squad.

Tuchel’s Chelsea operates in a very disciplined way, which has been especially apparent in defence. The central defenders, either two or three, and the central midfield form a solid block to force opponents out wide. At the same time, the full-backs often hold wide (and relatively advanced) positions. As a team, Chelsea try to move their defensive line high up in order to keep the centre of the pitch as tight as possible, combined with an intense pressing game. As a result, the team can vary easily between more patient short-pass build-ups and quick transitions via the flanks when opponents find themselves out of position.

CHELSEA – Potential FPL targets

Based on last season’s Expected Goals over the entire campaign, only relegated Fulham and Sheffield United recorded a bigger negative difference compared to their actual output than Chelsea. This largely confirms what already looked like one of the team’s biggest flaws last season, namely their lack of clinical finishing. As a result, many of Chelsea’s attacking fantasy assets were adjusted downwards in price. The reality though, is that the Blues boast an abundance of offensive talent that is now available at very appealing prices. Former Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz (£8.5m), for example, could make a mockery of his price tag if Tuchel manages to make the Chelsea attack click. In 1,512 minutes of Premier League football last season, the German scored 4 goals and provided 6 assists for a total of 91 FPL points, which is OK for a debut season. What adds to the fantasy appeal of the 2020/21 Champions League final match winner is the fact that he is classified as a midfielder in FPL, whilst Tuchel employs him as a striker.

Less appealing from an FPL manager point of view is Tuchel’s almost Guardiola-esque tendency to rotate his starting eleven. Not even the goalkeeper was a 100% sure of his spot last season. In that light, Mason Mount (£7.5m) is probably the top pick for managers looking to invest in outfield Chelsea assets. The 22-year old clocked the most PL minutes of every first-team member and also recorded the highest points tally (147 FPL points), courtesy of 6 goals, 7 assists and 14 clean sheets. He was a major creative outlet for the Blues last season and with a clinical finisher up top, his total points could’ve easily been higher. Just to name one of his impressive underlying stats: only Man United’s Bruno Fernandes created more big chances than Mount. If things start gelling more in Chelsea’s attack, £7.5m could be a steal for the England international.

For our third Chelsea fantasy pick, it’s important to keep in mind that the context is mostly last season’s backline of five. In that formation, Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) is probably one of the best premium defenders in the official game. The risk of rotation that he carries forms a downside to his fantasy appeal, but then again, he still got 3 goals, 6 assists and 12 clean sheets to his name last season. As a left-wing back with some set-piece duties who plays for a defensively solid title contender, Chilwell is probably worth the risk. With Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs (all away) and Man City coming up (home) in their first 6 gameweeks, Chelsea’s start to the 2021/22 is tough, but bar unexpected setbacks, you can expect interest in Chilwell to increase considerably towards gameweek 7.

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