We started our preview of the 2022/23 FPL season with a look at Arsenal and Aston Villa. In this second FPL instalment, we’re taking a deeper look at newly promoted Brentford and one of last season’s positive surprises at the highest level, Brentford.

BOURNEMOUTH – FPL 2022/23 team preview

With Bournemouth, we’ve come to the first of three newly promoted sides. The Cherries ended their 2021-22 Championship campaign in second place, comfortably ahead of 3rd placed Huddersfield Town and just two points behind champions Fulham. Like that, they limited their absence from the English footballing elite to just a single season, which is quite the achievement. Still, and despite boasting the best defence in the Championship last season, the Dorset team is most likely to be relegated at the end of the coming season, according to the bookies.

Then again, the bookmakers are often wrong, especially so early on in the season. What’s for sure is that manager Scott Parker won’t be phased by the challenge. It’s not the first time the former England international has been in this situation. Back in the 2019-2020 season, he took charge of Fulham in February and led them to the Prem by winning the Championship play-offs. The Cottagers then were relegated straight back to the second tier that next season, which saw Parker leave the club and join his current side. Where he was still quite a rookie in managerial terms in 2019, he now has a lot more experience under his belt, experience that will undoubtedly come in more than handy this season.

What’s surely encouraging for club and fans is that the successful team from last season is still nearly entirely intact for the moment. Midfielder Robbie Brady left for Preston and the experienced Gary Cahill left the club transfer free, but that’s largely it in terms of senior players who played a role last season. At the same time, the Cherries’ very modest activity during the summer transfer window so far will hopefully heat up over the coming weeks. At the time of writing, Bournemouth brought in central midfielder Joe Rothwell from Blackburn and right-back Ryan Fredericks from West Ham, both on a free.

Bournemouth’s tactics sheet

It hasn’t taken Parker very long to implement his own style of play as manager at Bournemouth, in part because it mirrors his own style as a player. A 4-3-3 formation is by far the team’s preferred set-up, sometimes switched for a less attacking 4-2-3-1 formation with one of the central midfielders, usually Philip Billing, playing in an advanced role in the pocket behind lone striker Dominic Solanke. Generally though, the Cherries turn up with two wingers flanking the big man and Billing operating between the forward line and the Lewis Cook-Jefferson Lerma double pivot. We’ll have to see whether the manager dares to take the same approach in the Premier League or whether he will switch to a more defensive formation like he did when he was promoted with Fulham a few years ago.

From an FPL perspective, the Bournemouth winger positions are worth keeping an eye on, as they get a lot of chances to show their attacking qualities, thanks to the presence of the earlier mentioned double pivot in the midfield purely focusing on defensive tasks. The same goes for Billing, who is partly relieved of defensive duties as a result. Basically, the team’s foundation is a solid defensive block in the centre with full-backs who don’t tend to exaggerate with their attacking actions. It’s not that Parker likes to “park the bus”, as a certain former manager of his at Chelsea liked to call it, but they do employ a patient kind of build-up play. In theory, this style should help them endure the stronger competition in the Premier League. It’s also worth noting that, in the Championship, Parker does not shy away from consolidating (narrow) margins in games, starting with a high-pressing tactic and then retreating once a goal or two has been scored.

BOURNEMOUTH – Potential FPL targets

To be honest, we don’t think there will be many Bournemouth assets present in gameweek 1 teams come August 5th. That is part due to the quality of their current players and part due to the fact that the Cherries start the season with a home game against Villa, followed by three very difficult fixtures: Man City away, Arsenal at home and Liverpool away. Having said that, if we’d choose one Cherry for our GW1 squad, it would probably be Philip Billing (£5.5m). The Danish midfielder has evolved from a more conservative central midfielder into a scoring attacking midfielder under Parker, at times even positioning as high as Solanke, the team’s first-choice number nine. A very impressive 10 goals and 10 assists from 40 Championship games last season underlines that evolution. A scoring midfielder is something FPL managers love to see, especially at a price as low as £5.5m, so Billing offers decent budget-enabling potential. He also loves a shot from range and is one of the team’s direct freekick takers, which only benefits his bonus point potential.

If you’re set on picking a Cherry for your gameweek 1 squad, Dominic Solanke (£6.0m) is probably the next name to spring to mind for most fantasy managers. In our opinion, his price tag is just a tad too high for him to really be considered for the third striker spot in our squad, but then again, the big man did record 29 goals and 7 assists in 45 league games last season. This represents a whopping goal involvement of 49% over the entire season. Don’t expect him to replicate those numbers in the Premier League this season, but it’s clear that the potential for FPL points is there. The fact that Solanke already has 63 Premier League appearances under his belt should not be underestimated either. There are not many cheaper starting forwards than Solanke in the official fantasy game, especially not forwards who are also on penalties, like him.

Our third and final Bournemouth pre-season pick is newly acquired Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m), who came from West Ham after running out his contract in London. Manager Parker knows the lightning-fast right-back quite well, having played along him both at Under-21 level at Spurs and from 2015 to 2017 at Fulham in the Championship. Fredericks encounters considerable competition for a starting spot in Jack Stacey and the experienced Adam Smith, but our feeling is telling us that the West Ham made his transfer decisions this summer in big part based on his chances of playing minutes after spending a spell as mainly a reserve player with the Hammers. On top of that, he is also capable of playing on the left side, where the Cherries currently just have the talented Jordan Zemura. At £4.5m, there are probably better options available in the official fantasy game, but if you’re set on a Bournemouth defender, he could be an interesting differential fantasy pick.

BRENTFORD – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Brentford were one of the new boys last season, but it didn’t show on the pitch. After clinching third place in the 2020-21 Championship, the Bees played in the top tier of English football for the first time since the 1946-47 season. Apart from an extended series of bad results at the start of 2022, the team managed to surpass the expectations of most, if not all, by finishing the season in a very comfortable 13th place with 46 points. The fact that relegation was never really a big worry for them is testament to the level of their performances over the 2021-22 campaign.

Besides the 2021-22 season representing the first time Brentford played at the highest level of English football in 75 years, the campaign will also be remembered as the one in which Danish midfield maestro Christian Eriksen made his return to professional. Following his shocking cardiac arrest during the Euro 2020 match against Finland in the group stages just eight months earlier, he made a comeback to professional football for the Bees on February 26th at home against Newcastle. As he worked up to a spot in manager Thomas Frank’s starting eleven, Brentford’s performances started to improve rather drastically. Five wins out of the next six all but secured another season of Premier League football for the Bees. As for Eriksen: his quick return to form plus 1 goal and 4 assists in 11 appearances earned him a free move to Erik ten Hag’s new-look Manchester United this summer. True quality always finds a way back.

Fortunately for Brentford, Eriksen’s departure is the only major name to leave the Brentford Community Stadium so far. At the same time, they have been active during the summer transfer window already, bringing in two highly rated British youngsters into the squad in the persons of 21-year-old left winger Keane Lewis-Potter (for £16 million from Hull City) and 20-year-old left-back Aaron Hickey (£14 million from Serie A side Bologna). If they can manage to keep the rest of the squad together, the Bees could very well build on last season’s performances.

Brentford’s tactics sheet

Under Thomas Frank, Brentford mostly turn up in a fluid 4-3-3 formation or alternatively a more expansive 3-4-1-2 formation with wing-backs high up the pitch. Regardless of the initial set-up though, Frank’s Bees always strive to play attacking football, based on quick combinations and players constantly switching positions in attack. The interchangeability of striker and top scorer Ivan Toney and attacking midfielder/forward Bryan Mbeumo is a perfect example of that. On top of that, the wingers or wing-backs get all the freedom in the world to roam forward in possession and support the attack where possible, either by keeping the pitch wide or by providing ammunition for the forwards.

What’s interesting though, is that despite their preference for attacking play over the wings, Brentford are also very capable at playing through the middle when necessary. The squad overall is built up of players with excellent ball-handling technique, including in the back and even in goal with the excellent David Raya. This not only helps them to control the ball and dictate the pace of matches, but also to provide dangerous moves and passes from practically anywhere on the pitch. The result last season: in the bottom-half of the table, only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa managed to score more than Brentford’s 48 goals in 38 games.

BRENTFORD – Potential FPL targets

It’s not the most adventurous of fantasy picks to kick this section off with, but Brentford’s highest-priced player also happens to be their most interesting pre-season target, in our opinion. Ivan Toney (£7.0m) had an excellent 2021-22 campaign, scoring 12 goals and providing 5 assists for a total of 139 FPL points, more than any other Bee colleague. Big part of his appeal came from being a nailed-on forward in an attacking side, during a season in which consistent forwards were hard to find in the official game. On top of that, he’s one of the best penalty takers in the world. It’s a little bit surprising therefore that his price was not raised by more than just £0.5m, but all the better for fantasy managers. At £7.0m, and with a favourable run of no less than nine gameweeks after the first two gameweeks (in which Brentford face Leicester away and Man United at home), Toney is one to watch for your early team selections.

The previously mentioned extended run of favourable matchups between gameweeks 3 and 11, in which Brentford only face opponents with an FDR rating of 3 or lower, will also see David Raya (£4.5m) turn up in more than a few GW1 FPL squads. Despite an injury that kept him side-lined for a few months, the Spanish goalkeeper still made 24 PL appearances and managed to keep 8 clean sheets. The fact that he has one of the best “saves per 90 minutes” stats in the league only adds to his appeal, as bonus point potential is gold for goalies. Raya should start the upcoming campaign as manager Thomas Frank’s first choice between the sticks as well. So, at a price of just £4.5m, expect him to be on many an FPL manager’s mind in the build-up to gameweek 1.

Initially, we wanted to include the talented Bryan Mbeumo in this Brentford pre-season watchlist as well, but his re-classification from midfielder to forward in the official fantasy game this season made us go with Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) instead. The Swedish central defender barely missed a minute under Thomas Frank last season and he duly repaid that confidence in his abilities. Not only with consistently good performances from a defensive point of view, but also with no less than seven attacking returns: 3 goals and 4 assists. No wonder the Swede recorded the most FPL points behind striker Ivan Toney. It should be noted that Christian Eriksen’s sublime set-piece deliveries in the second half of the season will no longer be a part of Brentford’s game as the Dane has moved to Man United on a free, which could impact the team’s (and Jansson’s) efficiency from dead-ball situations.

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