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 sixth instalment, it’s time for title challengers Liverpool and actual Premier League title holders Manchester City.
LIVERPOOL – FPL 2021/22 team preview
After what can only be described as a historically great season in 2019/20, the 2020/21 season was a struggle. With third place in the Premier League, relatively early eliminations from the domestic cup competitions, and the quarter-finals being the terminus of their Champions League adventure, losing the Community Shield to Arsenal on penalties was by some distance the closest the Reds got to any kind of silverware. Their biggest achievement of the season has been qualification for the group stage of the 2021/22 Champions League for a fifth consecutive time after suffering an especially bad run of form during the first half of the season.
While the lack of (home) crowds played tricks on every side in the League and is therefore not a real explanatory factor behind Liverpool’s underwhelming season, their extreme injury woes definitely are. Early on in the season, key figure Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury after a reckless challenge by Jordan Pickford and fellow central defender Joe Gomez followed soon after with a similarly season-ending knee injury. The defensive injury crisis took on ridiculous proportions when Joel Matip also suffered from physical issues that left him out of action for a large part of the season. Add to that the groin injury suffered by midfielder and Player of the (previous) Season in February of this year, Jordan Henderson, and suddenly the Reds’ central core was unavailable until further notice.
In this light, qualification for the Champions League is probably a satisfying result, especially considering the upturn of form that Jurgen Klopp’s men displayed in the final quarter of the season. Taking the final 13 games of the domestic season, his side actually topped the table and secured their minimum objective. With key players returning to fitness during the ongoing pre-season and young (academy) players like Curtis Jones going into the upcoming season with their first full season of Premier League football under their belt, there is once again room for optimism.
Liverpool’ tactics sheet
Liverpool’s American owners and avid Super League backers, something that should not be forgotten, have so far had a relatively calm summer transfer window. The departure of marathon man Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris on a free definitely does not look like the smartest piece of business, but the current roster might just be able to compensate for it, especially after Thiago had a first season in English football to acclimatise. Further midfield reinforcement could well be on the way though, if the club manages to offload some of the squad’s fringe players.
On the incoming side, the signing of imposing central defender Ibrahima Konaté for around £35 million from RB Leipzig does look like good business. Last season’s defensive injury woes definitely left a mark on the club and they are not risking going into another season with, in reality, three fit first-eleven centre-backs. With Big Virg and Gomez returning to first-team action, and Joel Matip on the books as well, it remains to be seen how the Reds’ defence will line up in gameweek 1, but Klopp at least has a strong foundation to work with again.
Ideally, in front of goalkeeper Alisson, Van Dijk and Gomez would form the central duo, flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and the tireless Andy Robertson on the left. Assuming that Klopp will continue perfecting his preferred 4-3-3 set-up, the midfield three would consist of Thiago, Henderson (whose future at the club is rumoured to be uncertain, possibly due to his explicit stance against the Super League last season) and anchor Fabinho. Up front, we have the usual explosive suspects Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, with Diogo Jota closely behind them. Do keep in mind that, due to (match)fitness issues and Euro 2020/Copa Americá/Olympics exertions, this might not be the lineup come GW1.
LIVERPOOL – Potential FPL targets
Mo Salah (£12.5m) is not a potential FPL target. He is probably as close to “must-have” status as a fantasy asset can be in pre-season. It’s no surprise, therefore, that he is also the official game’s most expensive player. A quick glance at his performances for Liverpool since his arrival in the 2017/18 season:
The Egyptian is Liverpool’s main goal threat, he is on penalties and contrary to many other premium and expensive fantasy assets, he has had the summer off from football as he did not go to the Olympics with his country. Add to that Liverpool’s kind opening run of fixtures and his inclusion in any gameweek 1 template becomes a no-brainer.
We usually try to avoid recommending too many premium fantasy picks at once, but in the case of Liverpool, we’re making an exception this time. That’s because, in defence, the Reds can count on Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), the most expensive defender in Fantasy Premier League history. Last season was marred by some injury issues and a bad run of team form, but the right-back still recorded ten attacking returns (2 goals, 8 assists) and 10 clean sheets. In the two seasons prior to the last campaign, he recorded an incredible 30 clean sheets, 28 assists and 5 goals. Many a budget midfielder does not even come close to those numbers. With the imminent return of Van Dijk, clean sheet probabilities should go up, and TAA also took the summer to recuperate from a thigh injury that saw him ruled out of Euro 2020, so he’ll be ready to fire when the 2021/22 campaign kicks off.
If you’re attracted by Liverpool’s defence with their opening set of fixtures of mind, but not entirely willing or capable of shelling £7.5m on Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) could be a secure alternative. The big Dutchman might just miss out on gameweek 1 due to Klopp and his staff not risking anything in regard to his recent injury troubles, but he will be part of the Liverpool starting eleven very soon again, nonetheless. The Reds are simply a different side with the former Celtic man in charge of the defensive organisation. TAA and Robertson obviously offer more of an attacking threat, but VVD is not entirely hopeless in the opposition’s penalty area either. He scored once last season, and recorded 15 attacking returns in the two seasons prior to that (9 goals, 6 assists). Count on upwards of 170 FPL points with Big Virg as set-and-forget premium defender for your team.
MANCHESTER CITY – FPL 2021/22 team preview
For the sake of this part, we’re going to put the many allegations regarding financial foul play and Financial Fair Play violations aside and focus on what matters here: the football. And the football is good at City. Pep Guardiola’s men got off to a slow start last season, but they ended up winning the Premier League quite comfortably in the end, 12 points clear of arch rivals Manchester United. With 83 goals scored and 32 goals conceded over the course of the domestic league season, the Cityzens boasted both the best attack and the best defence, so their title was more than deserved.
City could’ve had much, much more, though. By March 2021, they were still in contention for an unprecedented quadruple, meaning final victories in the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Eventually, the Champions League final was lost to Chelsea, while their FA Cup run ended in the semi-finals against that same London side. The Premier League and the League Cup, after a 1-0 victory over Spurs, were the outstanding result of what ultimately was another very good campaign.
Pep Guardiola’s game approach and love for rotation are well-covered inside the FPL community and out by now, and we don’t expect big changes or overhauls in this sense for the upcoming season. A quick glance at City’s star-studded roster thrusts them straight back to the top of the list for title favourites, while the Emirati owners of the club will undoubtedly be eyeing the until now elusive Champions League once again.
In that light, and paying some attention to transfer rumours regarding Manchester City this summer, financial power moves can be expected. The summer started with the very low-key arrival on a free of Derby goalkeeper Scott Carson as the only incoming transfer, but recently Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish was presented as a Cityzen in exchange for a mind-boggling £100 million+ fee. Meanwhile, links to Spurs goal machine Harry Kane dominate much of the English football news. It kind of feels like activating a cheat code in FIFA22, but with Grealish now a sky-blue and Kane not turning up for Spurs training after his holidays this week, it might just become a reality.
Man City’s tactics sheet
Should Kane be the next player to sign a giant contract at the Etihad, then it’s back to the drawing boards for a majority of FPL managers. Kane at City looks like a 25+ goal a season guarantee, while the addition of Grealish makes predicting starting lineups for the Cityzens even more of an impossibility.
You can be sure of Manchester City’s primary starting formation being an attacking 4-3-3, starting with Ederson in goal. The rock-solid central duo of Ruben Dias and John Stones will likely continue at the heart of the defence, with the two full-back positions filled by Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo or Oleksandr Zinchenko. In the middle, Rodri is first-choice as the most defensive midfielder, with Ilkay Gündogan and Kevin de Bruyne in front of him.
If there is one type of position where Guardiola is truly and ridiculously spoilt for choice, it’s wingers. For two positions, the former Barcelona manager can pick any combination out of the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Bernardo Silva. Mahrez, who is in good form during pre-season, and Foden (coming off an injury) have the edge, we feel, for different reasons, but it’s really anyone’s guess, especially with the arrival of Grealish. Can Guardiola really afford to not start the English international?
For the number nine position, City have Gabriel Jesus under contract, though Pep has played with a number of false nines as well (KDB, Ferran, Sterling, etc…). All we can say is to keep a close eye on City’s pre-season lineups, as well as tomorrow’s Community Shield v Leicester, and pay attention to news regarding players coming back later after Euro 2020 or Copa Americá duties.
MANCHESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets
Last season was a bit of struggle for star player Kevin de Bruyne (£12.0m) as he had to deal with ongoing injury issues, while keeping his participation in Euro 2020 in the back of his mind as well. Still, the Belgian playmaker managed a respectable 141 FPL points from 25 league appearances, courtesy of 6 goals, 12 assists, 12 clean sheets and 19 bonus points. He is relatively the most nailed-on attacking option on the City roster and carries a major portion of set-piece duties as well. He was directly involved in more goals than any of his team mates and at league level, no player created more shot chances than he did. His price tag is steep, especially considering the alternatives and his inherent rotation risk, but a KDB in form is the kind of fantasy asset that can make or break a season.
If you’re really set on Man City assets for your gameweek 1 squad and need the assurance of playing time, then goalkeeper Ederson (£6.0m) is by far the safest bet. He’s not the most exciting of Cityzens, but he does provide security of starts in what was last season’s best defensive unit. The Brazilian recorded 19 clean sheets last season and even provided 1 assist for a total of 160 FPL points. Only Aston Villa revelation Emi Martinez performed better. City’s start to the season is a bit of a mixed bag, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ederson get off to a flying start nonetheless with three or even more clean sheets in the first five gameweeks.
Now, our final fantasy pick from Pep Guardiola’s group is a punt, loud and clear. Ferran Torres (£7.0m) was nowhere near an extended run of starts last season, but he still managed an impressive 11 attacking returns (7 goals and 4 assists) in just 1,297 minutes of Premier League football. His reasonable price tag this season combined with the possibility of several attacking alternatives not being up to full match fitness yet come gameweek 1 (think Euro 2020 and Copa Americá participants who made it far in their respective tournaments), has grabbed our attention, though. It’s true that there are plenty of good alternatives who are more secured of a starting spot in his price bracket, but with a Spurs side under new management in GW1 followed by home encounters with Norwich and Arsenal, Ferran might just be the ultimate differential for the opening weeks.