Yesterday our 7th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Manchester City and Manchester United. In this 8th FPL instalment, it’s time for Newcastle as they prepare for the first full season under Saudi ownership and newly promoted Nottingham Forest.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – FPL 2022/23 team preview
In our previous Club Preview article, we mentioned how Manchester United are preparing for serious change this season, but if there is one club truly looking forward to a new era, it’s Newcastle United. Since 2007, the Magpies were in the hands of the incredibly unpopular (among the fans, at least) Mike Ashley, but in October of last year, the Sports Direct owner sold the club to Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, for about £300 million. This essentially means that Newcastle FC are now in hands of the Saudi government, making them the richest club in the Premier League and the richest in European football.
For a majority of the season, Newcastle were involved in a fight with the ghost of relegation, but the Saudi take-over understandably caused a surge in optimism around Tyneside. Soon after the acquisition was closed, manager Steve Bruce was replaced by Eddie Howe, who managed a turn-around at St. James Park and ended up winning twelve out of the last eighteen games of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign. Of course, it should be noted that the new owners of the club supported their new manager with about £100 million of transfers during the winter transfer window, bringing in the likes of Bruno Guimaraes (£38 million for Olympique Lyon), Chris Wood (£27 million from Burnley) and Kieran Trippier (£12 million from Atletico Madrid).
As for the ongoing transfer window, Newcastle are largely continuing where they left off. The highly rated young central defender Sven Botman was brought in from LOSC Lille for around £33 million, Matt Targett’s loan from Aston Villa was made permanent in return for about £16 million and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was transferred in for just over £10 million. On the opposite side of the transfer balance, the Magpies released several players, including Dwight Gayle, Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick, with none of those names from the pre-Saudi era bringing any cash into the club’s treasury.
Newcastle United’s tactics sheet
Without wanting to discredit Steve Bruce in any way for the work he did at St. James’ Park under admittedly complicated circumstances, Newcastle did show marked improvements after Eddie Howe took over around the middle of last season. The former Bournemouth manager made it clear quickly that he prefers a 4-3-3 set-up, at times alternating that formation with a more defensive 4-5-1. From their most recent acquisitions, we can deduct that the plan is to improve the wing-back play. Both Trippier and Targett are proven Premier League defenders, and they both have an excellent cross in their respective arsenals. In that light, the considerable investment in target man Chris Wood, a transfer more than a few pundits and experts scoffed at, makes a lot of sense.
Additionally, with Alain Saint-Maximin on the left wing and Ryan Fraser most likely first choice on the right wing, Howe’s Newcastle are not just betting on the long ball to get into danger areas. Expect a Newcastle side this season that will attempt to build up from the back, though without fear of using a long haul to the big man up front when needed. This is the kind of tactical luxury a striker like Chris Wood brings to a team. The Magpies have the squad to play over the wings and it will be interesting to see the extent Targett and ASM on the left and/or Trippier and Fraser on the right will start clicking.
NEWCASTLE UNITED – Potential FPL targets
One player who seems certain of a starting spot under Eddie Howe is right-back Kieran Trippier (£5.0m). The 31-year-old was not just brought in for his undeniable qualities, especially on the ball, but also because of his vast experience in the league, something that should not be underestimated for a club in transition. Trippier had an excellent start upon his return to the English footballing elite, starting six games in a row and scoring two goals from free-kicks in the process, but he missed most of the remainder of the season, due to injury problems. Still, what we saw in his short stint last season was promising and his current price tag makes him an interesting option to consider, especially knowing that the right-back is also on set-piece duties, including direct free-kicks. And he’s pretty good at them, as well. On top of that, encounters with promoted Nottingham Forest (home), Brighton (away) and Wolves (away) in the first four games of the new season immediately hint at clean sheet potential for the Magpie defence.
Another Magpie who got off to a more than decent start in the Premier League last January is Bruno Guimaraes (£6.0m). Most Premier League and Newcastle fans expected the Brazilian to be a mostly defensive midfielder, but he showed a whole other side of his game in the second half of last season. In total of just over 1,000 minutes of Premier League action, the 24-year-old was given a more advanced midfield position by Howe, which resulted in 5 goals and 1 assist. Had he been at the club since gameweek 1 and assuming that same rhythm of returns, he would have been the highest points-scorer on the Newcastle roster last season. In half a season though, he ended the campaign with 67 FPL points. That comes down to just under 6 FPL points per 90 minutes, an average only bettered by Trippier. There are many worse options in the official game for the position of fourth or fifth midfielder in your gameweek 1 squad.
The presence of the fit-again Callum Wilson, a more than proven goalscorer in the Premier League, naturally casts some doubt about Chris Wood’s (£6.0m) minutes this season. In our opinion though, and partially based on what we mentioned earlier about Eddie Howe’s preference for keeping the pitch stretched with wingers and wing-backs when attacking, the big New Zealand international could deliver excellent value at his current price tag. Apart from last season, in which he amassed just 91 FPL points, he delivered at least 130 FPL points over his previous four seasons in the Prem, scoring 10 goals during the 2018-19 campaign, 14 goals in 2019-20 and 12 goals in the 2020-21 season. With the likes of Fraser, Trippier, Targett and Guimaraes around him, as well as Wilson when Howe opts for a two-striker system, we would not be surprised to see Wood reach similar numbers again this season.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST – FPL 2022-23 team preview
When Forest were bottom of the Championship back in September of last year and decided they had no other choice but to sack manager Chris Hughton, very few would’ve expected his successor Steve Cooper to lead the Reds back to the Premier League after an absence of 23 years. Still, that’s what the Welshman did, earning absolute cult hero status at the club in the process. His immediate impact on the team’s style and energy led to a fourth place finish, scoring the second-most goals in the league (behind only numbers one and two Fulham and Bournemouth) and conceding just 40 goals in 46 games. Only Bournemouth were more solid defensively. In the play-offs for promotion, Forest first eliminated Sheffield United and then beat Huddersfield Town in the final to gain a place among the English footballing elite for the first time this century.
These achievements are all the more impressive when looking at their 2021-22 campaign in a bit more detail. In their promotion season, Forest actually started with taking just a single point from the first seven games, shipping 12 goals in the process before Hughton was replaced by Cooper. In the 39 games that followed, they collected an impressive 79 points and conceded just 28 goals. The Reds were especially superior at their City Ground stadium, where they won nine and drew one of their last ten games of the campaign. As we all know though, the Premier League is a whole different story and teams with solid defences in the Championship in particular often find it hard to replicate their style at the very highest level.
As part of their bid to make their return to the Prem last for more than just a season, Forest have been extremely active during the current transfer window. At the moment of writing, they signed a total of eleven new players, the majority of them aged 24 or younger. The acquisitions of Union Berlin forward Taiwo Awoniyi (£17.5 million), talented Liverpool youngster Neco Williams (£17 million), and Manchester United reserves Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson (both free) are the biggest eye-catchers. As far as outgoing transfer go, the only player of note Forest have lost so far is goalkeeper Brice Samba. The Tricky Trees are seemingly managing to keep the squad together while reinforcing it at the same time, which is a good sign.
Nottingham Forest’s tactics sheet
Manager Steve Cooper, who famously holds FC Barcelona B coach Pep Segura as his biggest inspiration, likes to play adventurous football, but always starting from a structured foundation. His Forest side has displayed exceptional tactical awareness since his appointment, as well as a healthy level of aggression without the ball. This explains Forest’s excellent defensive performance last season and their willingness to play on the counter when needed.
What’s interesting from a FPL point of view is that Forest, though not the most attacking side at first glance, like to utilise the wings to build attacks and force quick break-outs. In his preferred 5-3-2 formation, or 3-5-2 if you like, the wing-backs provide some of the main creative outlets for Forest. Last season, for example, the wing-backs were directly involved in 17% of all goals (4 goals and 9 assists). As for the rest of the Forest attack, it’s largely a wait-and-see for us, not just because of their status as new boys this season, but also because all three of their starting forwards last season (Keinan Davis, Brennan Johnson and Philip Zinckernagel) were all there on loan and have not returned to the squad as of yet.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST – Potential FPL targets
Having said that, the starting front three not returning also opened up possibilities for Forest to start working on a new offensive force. In that light, the recent signing of Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard (£6.0m) on a free is an interesting development, also from a fantasy point of view. Last season was very much business as usual for the 29-year-old as he featured just twice from the start for the Red Devils, but perhaps more interesting is to take a look at the season prior. In January 2021, the attacking midfielder was loaned out to West Ham and in London, Lingard showed glimpse of the promise that has been following him around ever since he was a youngster. In a kind of free number-ten role, the role that he will likely take on at Forest this season as well, he managed an impressive 9 goals and 5 assists in 16 games. If he can come close to these returns at his current price tag, Lingard represents very interesting budget-enabler potential.
Any fantasy manager who played the 2019-20 Premier League campaign will surely remember the rich source of (extreme) budget talent that was Sheffield United under manager Chris Wilder. Of course, free-scoring attacking-midfielder-listed-as-a-4.0m-defender took most of the spotlight, and deservedly so, but there were more gems in the United squad that season. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson (£4.5m) was one of them. As a nailed-on starter for the newly promoted side at the time, the Man United loanee accumulated no less than 160 FPL points, courtesy of 13 clean sheets, 16 bonus points and… 1 assist! After many seasons behind David de Gea, the 25-year-old now moved on to City Ground, where he will be the number one between the sticks this season. If Cooper’s men can replicate their defensive solidity in the Premier League, Henderson will end up being a serious bargain.
Speaking of bargains, as far as the elusive £4.0m-starters go, we’re not being spoiled by FPL Towers this season, it seems. There is Everton right-back Nathan Patterson who might get minutes instead of Seamus Coleman and Man United’s Brandon Williams could enter our thinking if he transfers to a Premier League side before the closing of the market, but the only one who truly shows FPL gold potential at the moment is, in our opinion, Nottingham Forest’s £17 million-signing Neco Williams (£4.0m). The 21-year-old right-back was loaned to Fulham by Liverpool in January of last season and he did not disappoint. In 14 Championship games, Williams accumulated 6 clean sheets, 2 goals and 2 assists. We naturally don’t expect him to replicate those numbers this season, which will be his first full season at the very highest level, but even as a starter enjoying the occasional clean sheet, the Welshman could be the ultimate budget enabler for your squad.
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