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 eighth instalment, the spotlights are for newly promoted Norwich City and Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton.
NORWICH – FPL 2021/22 team preview
Unless you only joined the thrilling FPL community fairly recently, say over the course of last season for example, you will surely remember the last time Norwich got promoted to the Premier League. Fondly even, if you were one of the clairvoyant fantasy managers who invested in Canaries striker Teemu Pukki from the get-go. He got off to a flying start to the 2019/20 campaign (pukki party!), and was even named both Premier League Player of the Month and PFA Premier League Player of the Month in August after scoring 5 goals and giving 1 assist in four first game of the season.
The Finnish international, who featured in every game of this summer’s European Championship, is still on the Norwich roster this season and, not surprisingly, their most expensive asset. More about him later though, because there could be more to Norwich than just their star forward. Last season, the Canaries won promotion to the Prem by crowning themselves champions in the Championship with 97 points from 48 games, a whole 6 points more than runners-up Watford. In the process, they scored 76 goals, a total only bettered by Brentford, and conceded just 36 goals, a total only bettered by Watford.
For what it’s worth, when the Canaries were promoted in the 2019/20 season and ended up being the leakiest defence in the league as they dropped straight back into the Championship, they conceded 57 goals in their promotion-winning season. If this is any indication of more defensive resolve this season, manager Daniel Farke’s men might just be more than mainly cannon fodder this season. With what is probably the hardest start to the season of any team in the division, consisting of Liverpool (home), Manchester City (away), Leicester (home) and Arsenal (away), Norwich’s progress and qualities will be put to the test straight away.
Norwich’s tactics sheet
Therefore, the first four games of the campaign are not likely to give us a very realistic idea of Norwich’s real chances of survival this season, but it can give us good indications of their qualities, both as a team and on an individual level. We doubt that many fantasy managers will be investing in Canary assets come gameweek 1, but looking at the current squad, there is clearly some budget and differential potential present.
On top of that, Farke tends to stick to the same formation, which is usually good news for FPL managers. The German coach favours a 4-2-3-1 set-up in which ball possession and patient build-up play are key principles. Back amongst the English footballing elite, they won’t be able to replicate last season’s league-topping average of just over 58% of possession, though. Up to Farke and his men to come up with an approach that compensates for this in their fight against relegation.
One of Norwich’s best and most experienced players stands in goal and goes by the name of Tim Krul, the Dutch goalkeeper who was famously brought on by Louis Van Gaal just for the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica during the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals and then went on to stop the decisive Michael Umaña spot kick. Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson are the first-choice central duo for the moment, with the talented Max Aarons on their right side and Dimitris Giannoulis on the left side.
The departure of Emiliano Buendia, who got 15 goals and 17 assists last season, was painful, as was the return of loanee Oliver Skipp to Spurs. Chelsea talent Billy Gilmour was brought in as an almost like-for-like replacement for the Spurs man and he should be forming the double pivot in the middle with Kenny McLean. The creative three between them and striker Teemu Pukki will likely be formed out of Milot Rashica (right wing), Todd Cantwell (left wing) and Kieran Dowell in the number 10 slot.
NORWICH – Potential FPL targets
We mentioned Teemu Pukki (£6.0m) earlier as the main man at Norwich, so it only makes sense for him to be our first fantasy pick from the Canaries’ roster. Last season, the Finnish forward scored 26 goals and provided 4 assists, which represents a direct goal involvement of 40% in all of his team’s goals. The last time he starred in the Premier League, he scored a total of 11 goals despite his side being the league’s whipping boys for much of the season. Six of those goals came in his first five games of the campaign, an impressive record he is unlikely to replicate this season with Norwich’ tough opening set of fixtures in mind. It also remains to be seen how the club will cope with the loss of Buendia’s creativity from the right side, but if you’re absolutely set on a Norwich asset for your gameweek 1 squad, Pukki is probably the way to go.
Having said that, Norwich do offer a few very good budget-enabling options if your minimum requirement for such a squad player is that he is a nailed-on starter. In that case, you could probably do worse than attacking midfielder Todd Cantwell (£5.5m). During the 2019/20 season, the 23-year old managed a very decent 111 FPL points (6 goals, 2 assists) in Pukki’s shadow, while he was instrumental to Norwich’ promotion last season with 6 goals and 6 assists. Cantwell looks set to become the Canaries’ playmaker with Buendia now at Aston Villa and if they can somehow continue their good goal-scoring record of last season in the coming season, the Norwich midfielder could be good value.
Now, for our final pick we were initially going with right-back Max Aarons, who looks like a clear stand-out pick in Norwich’ defence thanks to his qualities and attacking tendencies, but we’ve eventually chosen to highlight Andrew Obomamidele (£4.0m). The young Irish central defender is not a nailed-on starter under Farke, at the moment of writing at least, but he did get some minutes during pre-season already. Seeing as every serious FPL manager is looking for that one playing £4.0m defender as fifth defender for their gameweek 1 squad, we figured Obomamidele is an interesting to keep an eye on. He is one of the back-up options to fixed central duo Hanley and Gibson, and we’re not expecting him to get loads of minutes any time soon, but if he does, he could be just what your FPL squad needs.
SOUTHAMPTON – FPL 2021/22 team preview
Like several other teams (Burnley, Brighton, Palace etc), Southampton never really had to deal with any relegation battle fears at any point during the season, despite delivering a largely mediocre campaign and thanks to the sub-par performances by the three teams that eventually got relegated. The Saints finished the 2020/21 campaign in 15th place with 43 points, 15 points more than number 18 Fulham, but also 16 points behind 10th-placed Everton. After a 16th place in the 2018/19 season and an 11th place last season, one might conclude that Southampton have not progressed as much as they would have hoped in recent years.
A final position in itself does not tell the whole story though, and that is definitely the case for the Saints. Last season, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men were actually quite prolific in front of goal as 47 goals ranked them tenth in terms of attacking output. It’s in defence where things looked more worrying, as only relegated West Brom Albion conceded more than Southampton’s 68 conceded goals. Of course, a 9-0 demolition at the hands of Manchester United, Saints’ second 9-0 drubbing in as many season by the way, does not help.
It’s not like the 2020/21 season was a complete nightmare for Southampton, because the club did get off to a flying start. After eight games, they were actually leading the Premier League (for a day) and they remained in the top three until gameweek 14. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from that point. As a matter of fact, looking at the final 25 games of the games separately, actually no team performed worse than the Saints, in big part due to an average of two conceded goals per game. They were especially terrible away from home, losing ten out of the final twelve games and winning just one.
Southampton’s tactics sheet
Solidifying the backline will naturally be a major priority for Hasenhüttl this season if he wishes to avoid the risk of being dragged into a relegation battle. Last season’s numbers are simply not good enough for a side in the top flight. At the same time, the departure of Danny Ings to Aston Villa on a free means that he will need to find a way to compensate losing 35% of last season’s goals, as the Englishman scored 12 and assisted 4.
Southampton are actually not a bad team and have an interesting set of players making up the squad with Ralph Hasenhüttl a very disciplined, attack-minded coach. More than a few times, the Saints were a pleasure to watch last season, in part due to the Austrian’s 4-2-2-2 formation and love for a high, intense press. They combine for lovely football at times, but with the big risk that the side can end up all over the place once the tactical settings don’t click almost perfectly.
Where the position in goal is usually pretty set for most teams, Hasenhüttl has hinted during pre-season that his rotation of goalkeepers Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster might continue this season. The backline will likely continue to be built of four players, with left-back Romain Perraud coming in to replace Ryan Bertrand, who transferred to Leicester City on a free. Euro 2020 participants Jan Bednarek (Poland) and Yannik Vestergaard (Denmark) form the central duo in the back, and Kyle Walker-Peters runs the right flank.
In the middle, the return from long-term injury of Oriol Romeu will make a considerable difference to Southampton’s shape and defensive solidity, and he will be partnered by captain and set-piece specialist James Ward-Prowse. On the sides, Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond provide both width and creative impulses. With the departure of Danny Ings, it remains to be seen who will join Che Adams up front. We can’t imagine the Saints won’t bring in a new striker for the starting eleven, but in case they don’t, the ultimate budget forward Michael Obafemi comes into consideration.
SOUTHAMPTON – Potential FPL targets
Danny Ings was obviously top of most Southampton season previews when it comes to interesting FPL assets, but seeing as he is no longer with the Saints, Che Adams (£7.0m) makes for a logical switch. Up until last season, the 25-year was not particularly known for his goal-scoring instinct or his direct goal involvement in general, but he changed that image by scoring 9 goals and giving 7 assists. A total of 137 FPL was more than decent for a forward who started at £5.5m in the official game. The competition in his price bracket is fierce this season, but the strongly-built Adams is nailed-on for Hasenhüttl and could once again represent good value if the Saints manage to keep up their attacking approach to games.
Ings or no Ings, the main man at Southampton is still James Ward-Prowse (£6.5m). After scoring 8 goals and providing 7 assists last season, the midfielder was in serious contention for England’s stacked Euro 2020 squad, which he eventually just missed out on. A shame for him, but not bad for FPL managers, because he will be fresher for the EPL season. When it comes to JWP, it’s important to realise that he’s an absolute set-piece expert, especially when you’re watching him live. His threat from open play is not very impressive, but his threat from free-kicks and penalties is something else. To illustrate: out of his 8 goals last season, 4 came from a direct free-kick and 3 from the penalty spot. At £6.5m, we wouldn’t be surprised to see his current ownership of 8.1% grow further in the build-up to GW1 although he has had a knee injury which has disrupted his pre-season so may miss out in GW1.
The other scoring midfielder on the Saints roster is Stuart Armstrong (£6.0m), though his style of play is entirely different. Contrary to Ward-Prowse, Armstrong does provide considerable threat from open play, which resulted in 4 goals and 7 assists last season. On top of that, both in terms of shots on goal and key passes made, the Scottish midfielder ranked amongst the best two of his team. We’re not sure if he will be able to surpass his FPL points total of last season (115), but he costs £0.5m less than JWP, is a nailed-on starter for a relatively offensive side and is currently part of just 0.4% of FPL teams.