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 fifth instalment, one of last season’s surprises packages Leeds United are up, together with Europa League participants Leicester City.
LEEDS UNITED – FPL 2021/22 team preview
If there was an award for the best addition to the Premier League or most entertaining top flight side or something of the sort, Leeds United would have probably taken it home last season. Under the eccentric Marcelo Bielsa, the Yorkshiremen returned to the English footballing elite in style after a painful 16-year absence. The Chilean manager proved to be a blessing for FPL managers all over the world, thanks to his tendency to stick to both an attacking philosophy and a fixed starting eleven, though he did implement some tactical tweaks in the second half of the season as game energy amongst players was becoming a more and more valuable resource.
When talking about Leeds, we are first of all talking about goals. The Whites scored no less than 62 goals upon their return to the Prem, a total that was only surpassed by Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leicester and Spurs. This resulted in the likes of Patrick Bamford, Raphinha and Jack Harrison growing into some of the best-value fantasy assets in recent years. Eventually, Leeds ended just three points behind Tottenham, who qualified for the newly created Europa Conference League.
The defensive side of the Leeds story is rather different, though Bielsa’s men managed to improve considerably in the second half of the season. Still, their final tally for goals conceded halted at 54, a total superior to the defensive performances of just six teams in the league. Leeds conceded 15 more goals in the first half of the season than they did in the second, which can be attributed to a combination of factors. The return to fitness of Diego Llorente has been mentioned as a major influence, while a generally more reserved approach against top opposition was important as well. From our point of view, this is very positive, because it shows Bielsa’s ability to keep growing and improving his side as time goes on, a process that presumably has continued during their current pre-season.
Leeds’ tactics sheet
As we mentioned earlier, Bielsa doesn’t really do tinkering of any kind. Even though Pep Guardiola is a major admirer of the Chilean coach, the Leeds boss could not be more anti-Pep in that sense. He has largely stuck to a 4-1-4-1 formation last season and we expect his side to turn up that way on gameweek 1 against Man United as well. In that set-up, the Whites heavily favour attacking over the flanks. During the 2020/21 campaign, they were in the top five for chances created from both the right and the left flank.
This explains the excellent value of wingers Jack Harrison on the left side and Raphinha on the right side. Last season, they recorded 160 and 133 FPL points respectively, making a mockery of their £5.5m price tags in the process. The Man City loanee, whose move to Elland Road was made permanent for around £10 million this summer, and the Brazilian are expected to play key roles for Bielsa’s side once again this season. In the middle, Stuart Dallas and Euro 2020 star Kalvin Phillips form the heart of the midfield, while Rodrigo looks like the man designated to operate behind striker Patrick Bamford.
At the back, Barcelona left-back Junior Firpo, who was acquired for around £12 million, should slot right into the starting eleven to form an exciting partnership with Harrison on the left flank. On the right, Luke Ayling will aim to do the same with Raphinha. The central duo will likely consist of Diego Llorente and Dutch youngster Pascal Struijck, though the latter will have the likes of Robin Koch and Liam Cooper to deal with for a starting spot. In goal, Illan Meslier will hope to build on his excellent debut season in the Premier League.
LEEDS UNITED – Potential FPL targets
In Jamie Vardy, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, just to name a few, there was plenty of quality to choose from for your forward line besides the unstoppable, but expensive Harry Kane. Against all odds though, it was £5.5m forward Patrick Bamford (£8.0m) who recorded the highest points total after the Spurs talisman, courtesy of an incredible 17 goals and 11 assists. It’s therefore no surprise that he was given the biggest price hike of all players in the official game for the upcoming season. He now finds himself in the company of similarly priced attackers like Calvert-Lewin, Watkins and Antonio, but if the former Chelsea man can replicate his performance from last season, he is still the pick of the bunch. Wouldn’t you spend £8.0m on 28 attacking returns for a total of 194 FPL points?
Despite Leeds’ defensive improvements during the season, we have kept our focus on their attacking assets for this overview, though the likes of budget-priced Luke Ayling and goalkeeper Illan Meslier look like shrewd investments as well. In support of Bamford up front, there is not much between Jack Harrison (£6.0m) and Raphinha (£6.5m). They occupy the wings for Bielsa’s side and are both listed as midfielders in the official game, which means that they get bonus points for clean sheets and their goals are worth 5 FPL points each.
Last season, Harrison scored 8 goals and 10 assists for a total of 160 FPL points, while Raphinha recorded 6 goals and 10 assists to reach 133 FPL points. It should be noted though, that the Brazilian only made his way into the starting eleven around gameweek 6. The additional upside to picking him is that he has also quickly grown into the side’s main set-piece taker apart from penalties (those are for Bamfy). This might also partly explain why he is priced half a million more expensive than his counterpart on the right flank. Both are nailed-on for Leeds and we expect their ownership to rocket considerably from gameweek 5 onwards, though Raphinha’s ownership already sits at over 22% at the moment of writing (Harrison sits in 5.5% of all teams).
LEICESTER CITY – FPL 2021/22 team preview
Overall, Leicester’s 2020/21 Premier League campaign was decent with a fifth-place finish and subsequent qualification for the Europa League. Their finish to the season was dramatic though, as they lost out on Champions League football due to a 2-4 home defeat at the hands of Spurs on the very last day of the campaign. The Foxes did manage to win the first FA Cup in their history by beating Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea 1-0 in May of this year, courtesy of a wonderful Youri Tielemans strike.
Despite missing out on a much-coveted top-four finish, Brendan Rodgers’ side showed once again that his side is one the traditional top six need to be wary of. In that sense, the 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City, as well as victories over United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs, come to mind. That becomes more true when considering the number of serious injury issues the Foxes had to deal with throughout the season, including early season-ending injuries for in-form right-back James Justin and forward Harvey Barnes. As a matter of fact, of all significant outfield players, only midfielders Youri Tielemans and Marc Albrighton managed to come through the 2020/21 campaign entirely unscathed.
With the addition of RB Salzburg forward Patson Daka for around £28 million, Lille midfielder Boubacary Soumaré for around £18 million and experienced Saints left-back Ryan Bertrand on a free, and no outgoing transfers of major significance to the first-team squad up to date, Leicester looks to be preparing for another top-four challenge this season although they have just lost Wesley Fofana with a lengthy injury due to a broken leg. The FA Cup success will have boosted the team’s confidence, though the club will need to find a way to navigate the Europa League’s Thursday evening fixtures as efficiently as possible in the middle of what will undoubtedly be another gruelling Premier League campaign.
Leicester’s tactics sheet
Leicester City’s tactical set-up is pretty much set and we don’t expect major changes to their starting formation. The squad contains qualities for different lineups, including a five-man backline that full brings out the qualities of the world-class wingbacks on their roster, but Rodgers generally prefers a 4-2-3-1 set-up. This also seems the basis for the work the team is doing during the ongoing pre-season, though the improved squad depth makes it more difficult than ever to predict a starting eleven.
In defence, the central duo will likely be formed by Caglar Söyüncü plus possibly a temporary Daniel Amartey whilst veteran defender Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana are ruled out due to injury. They will be flanked by Belgium international Timothy Castagne on the right and either the young Luke Thomas or new man Ryan Bertrand on the left. In goal, Kasper Schmeichel is undisputed.
The engine room of the team will be manned by the tireless Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi, to whom new acquisition Soumaré is expected to function as backup. The attacking portion of the midfield can be completed in different ways, but the ideal trio behind striker Jamie Vardy likely consists of playmaker James Maddison and winger Harvey Barnes. The third and final spot can be filled by Ayoze Perez or Dennis Praet.
One major issue with the above set-up is the exclusion of Leicester’s best man of the second half of last season, Kelechi Iheanacho. He could fill one of the positions behind Vardy as a kind of drifting second striker with Tielemans pushing a bit further forward into Maddison’s position, with the England international shifting to the right to form a very offensive 4-1-3-2 formation. This brought the Foxes considerable success towards the end of last season and should not be discarded for the upcoming season, either.
The Community Shield match v Manchester City on Saturday 7th August will help clarify Leicester’s favoured starting line up.
LEICESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets
In our opinion, Jamie Vardy (£10.5m), despite his undeniable and proven FPL pedigree, has possibly been slightly overpriced this season, mainly due to other attractive forward options being available at considerably lower prices. Then again, over the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, the now 34-year old Leicester legend still managed 15 goals and 14 assists to reach a total of 187 FPL points. At the moment of writing, the former England striker is part of just under 9% of teams in the official fantasy game, probably due to a combination of “fears” surrounding his advancing age, his game time in the upcoming season with Iheanacho and Daka waiting in the wings, and Leicester’s less than ideal opening set of fixtures. All arguments worth discussing, but we feel that a Vardy party remains on the cards until he really shows us otherwise.
Competition is fierce in the mid-priced midfielder budget this season, with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, James Ward-Prowse, Raphinha and James Maddison all carrying £6.5m to £7m price tags, but Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) has the potential to compete with the best of them. With 9 goals, 5 assists and 7 clean sheets in just under 2,000 minutes of Premier League football, the 23-year old was on the way to his best personal season up to date, but a serious knee injury stopped him in his tracks. To make matters even worse, it also ruled him out of England’s Euro 2020 squad. Barnes has now returned to action and is making a fit impression during the pre-season, which is good news for both Leicester and FPL managers.
Our third Leicester fantasy pick was going to be Wesley Fofana, until the Frenchman suffered a serious fibula fracture in yesterday’s friendly pre-season encounter with Villareal. A real blow for Leicester, this also forced us to shift our attention to another Fox. We wanted to stay in the affordable fantasy asset category, but sticking with a nailed-on part of the starting eleven nonetheless. Enter midfielder Youri Tielemans (£6.5m). Together with Marc Albrighton, the Belgian Euro 2020 participant was the only first-team player of the Foxes who managed to stay injury-free last season. At the same time, he tied with Maddison as Leicester’s highest-scoring midfielder with a total of 133 FPL points (6 goals, 4 assists, 11 clean sheets). As we discussed earlier, Tielemans will generally operate as the more advanced half of the double pivot, but there will also be moments where he will be employed more as an attacking midfielder.