FPL 2023-24 Club Previews: Part 10 (West Ham & Wolves)

Welcome back to the Fantasy Premier League, this season without a winter World Cup, and welcome back to FISO!

The Premier League 2023-24 season is set to kick off on Friday, August 11th at 18:30 UK time, with a visit of Manchester City to newly promoted Burnley. In the build-up to gameweek 1, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 teams competing in the Premier League this season, including a general team overview, a tactical preview and some FPL recommendations per side. In this tenth and final instalment of the series, we’re taking a look at West Ham United and Wolves.

WEST HAM – FPL 2023/24 team preview

West Ham’s 2022-23 season will not be remembered for their performances in the Premier League. The Hammers disappointed for most of the campaign, taking just 40 points from 38 games, just six more than 18th placed Leicester, the first of the relegated sides. Considering their investments and fanbase though, West Ham should aim for more than just avoiding relegation. It nevertheless wouldn’t click for them last season, in which they booked just 11 league victories and scored just 42 goals. Only seven teams scored less than David Moyes’s men, making reinforcement of the offensive line a priority this summer.

That’s as far as the 2022-23 Premier League goes for the Hammers though, because it did become a very memorable season on another front, the European front to be exact. Thanks to an excellent 2021-22 campaign, the club had qualified for the UEFA Conference League and boy, did they make the most of that opportunity. From the group stages onwards, West Ham progressed to the final unbeaten, winning 13 games and drawing just one, before beating Serie A side Fiorentina in the final as well. This meant the first major trophy for the Hammers since their FA Cup victory in 1980 and their first European trophy since their legendary UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup back in the 1964-65 season. As a result, West Ham’s underwhelming league performances should at least partly be seen in the light of their extremely successful European campaign.

Thanks to their Conference League victory, West Ham have qualified directly for the Europa League group stage this season. This means that the Hammers will once again have to face a season in which demanding European football comes on top of domestic league and cup competitions. They will want to balance it out better this time around though, so we’re still expecting some fireworks on the transfer market. We say “we’re expecting fireworks”, because so far, the club has been very quiet on the market. As a matter of fact, no new players have been brought in yet, though the likes of Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez, Man United veterans Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay, and Juventus midfielder Denis Zakaria are being heavily linked to the Hammers at the moment of writing. Another big reason for expecting big things to come still is the fact that West Ham recently sold Declan Rice to Arsenal for more than £ 100 million and striker Gianluca Scamacca to Atalanta Bergamo for around £ 23 million.

West Ham’s tactical preview

David Moyes has been in charge of West Ham since December 2019, when he replaced Manuel Pellegrini, so fantasy managers should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Londoners tactically. The Scot tends to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation with full-backs who overlap when possible, mainly when the two wing players cut inside. As in usually the case with this type of formation, the double pivot in the middle is essential to the balance of the midfield. It forms a cover in front of the defence when one of the full-backs is positioned more up field, while it also helps the team to overload the centre of the pitch when one or even both of the wingers cut inside.

While Moyes’ general set-up should no longer be a secret to fantasy managers, the main question from a tactical point of view will be how the Hammers will manage to deal with the loss of Declan Rice. The England midfielder was one of the best ball carriers in the team, if not the league, and an excellent reader of the game, on top of his outstanding tackling and passing range. In other words, the choice par excellence for Moyes’ double pivot, preferably besides a more a more aggressive ball winner. Rice has now moved on to Arsenal for more than £ 100 million and the club is yet to bring in any kind of replacement. If you’ve got some West Ham players on your scouting lists, keep an extra close eye on their pre-season and especially on their coming transfer activity. The way they deal with Rice’s departure will tell you a lot about the tactical ambitions for the coming season.

WEST HAM – Potential FPL targets

For about a season or three, it’s hard to say “West Ham” without immediately thinking about Jarrod Bowen (£7.0m). The attacker’s 2021-22 campaign was particularly impressive as he guided his side to European qualification with 12 goals and 17 assists, totalling no less than 206 FPL points by the end of the season. Last season was not that spectacular, at least not in the Premier League, but Bowen still managed 6 goals and 9 assists for a total of 145 FPL points. An acceptable return in real life, but FPL towers priced him at £8.5m at the start of last season, which made picking him hard to justify for most parts of the season. His price tag has now been reduced to £7.0m, which should put him on your radar at the very least. Bowen is a nailed-on part of David Moyes’ starting eleven and he has been going through an excellent pre-season so far. The main downside to this pick are West Ham’s opening set of fixtures, including a home game versus Chelsea and a visit to Brighton in the first four, but from gameweek 9 onwards, the Hammers will see “a sea of green” in terms of their fixtures.

Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m) is perhaps one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the league and he has been for some time. We don’t often include goalkeepers in our potential FPL targets from any team, but now that Fabianski’s price tag has been reduced to £4.5m, we feel he is worth mentioning. The Polish shot stopper scored 127 FPL points last season, courtesy of 9 clean sheets, and he has been around that number of points in the last few years. His stats from last season could have been a lot better when we look at the discrepancy between the number of Expected Goals Conceded (45.55) and the number of actual goals conceded (55). Besides that, Fabianski has grown into something of a penalty killer, stopping five of them in his last three seasons. He looks to be Moyes’ stand-out number one at the moment and we believe you could do considerably worse than going for a goalkeeper rotation strategy with Fabianski and another acceptably priced goalie.

On the other side of West Ham’s penalty story is Said Benrahma (£6.0m), who is the team’s designated penalty taker. The West Ham roster at the moment is not brimming with outstanding fantasy picks at the moment, in our opinion at least, so we decided to mention the Algeria international here. Rotation remains a worry for the at times frustratingly inconsistent Benrahma, but in 22 league starts (plus 13 appearances of the bench) last season he still managed 6 goals and 3 assists for 106 FPL points. What is true about the Algerian is that, when he is on the pitch, he gets involved in the attack a lot and he is not shy to take a shot. This is what fantasy managers tend to like and it explains why only Jarrod Bowen had a higher Expected Goal Involvement last season than he did.

WOLVES – FPL 2023/24 team preview

For quite some time during the first half of the 2022-23 season, the Wolverhampton Wanderers were actually hovering in and around the relegation zone. Up until the winter World Cup break after gameweek 16, the Wolves had managed just two victories, as well as four draws. As a result, head coach Bruno Lage was fired and replaced by Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui, who could use the World Cup break as an extra preparation period to find out how to turn things around. The 2019-20 Europa League winner got off to good start with four victories in his first seven official matches as manager of the Wolves and he eventually led them to an acceptable 13th-place finish. Since their return to the Premier League in 2018, the club has never finished lower than 13th.

Wolves’ 2022-23 campaign was marked by inconsistency as the team never managed to win more than two league games in a row, though it should be noted that the performances in front of their own crowd improved considerably under Lopetegui. This year, Wolves have just lost twice at home so far, incredibly to Bournemouth and Leeds. Their most glaring issue remains scoring goals though, with no other team scoring less than them last season. In 38 league games, Wolves managed only managed a measly 31 goals. Looking at that number, it’s incredible (and in part thanks to the failings of others) that the club finished in thirteenth place, instead of battling relegation until the very last gameweek.

As a result of the above, the club moved quickly during the current summer transfer window, signing centre-forward Matheus Cunha from Atletico Madrid for about £ 48 million. The Brazilian forward brought former Wolves fan favourite Matt Doherty with him on a free, which could turn out to be a shrewd move. The club also spent about £ 10 million on defensive midfielder Boubacar Traoré from FC Metz, which was necessary after the £ 50 million departure of club icon Ruben Neves to Al-Hilal. Besides the Portuguese midfielder, Wolves also sold central defenders Nathan Collins (for about £ 25 million to Brentford) and Conor Coady (for around £ 7 million to Leicester), and striker Raul Jimenez to Fulham for about £ 6 million.

Wolves’ tactical preview

Now, we started this section with a disclaimer, because at the moment of writing, rumours were growing regarding a potential Lopetegui exit being announced and that has happened this morning with Gary O’Neil expected to take over. Apparently, the Wolverhampton Wanderers are in hot Financial Fair Play waters, which could have a serious impact on their remaining pre-season as well as the rest of the season. Our comments below were written yesterday when Lopetegui was still the Wolves manager where we took a very quick look at what we can expect from the side tactically come gameweek 1 and beyond.

Lopetegui has shown great tactical versatility during his short time at Wolves up until now. One of the constants in all of his starting formations is a back four. He also tends to prefer a possession-based kind of football, though he is not afraid to lean on the counters more when games require it. The Spaniard requires a relatively aggressive press, starting with the forwards, and a lower defensive line. When the ball is recovered higher up the pitch, Wolves tend to look for a quick transition to get the ball into the danger areas as quickly as possible, which is reflected by the many speedy attackers at the manager’s disposal. When the build-up starts from deeper down the pitch, Lopetegui likes to see his men build up from the back, moving the ball through the middle and then out to the sides for the wingers and the attacking full-backs to whip in crosses.

WOLVES – Potential FPL targets

Those FPL managers who have been playing the game for at least four or five seasons already will almost certainly have Matt Doherty (£4.5m) on their scouting lists at the very least. The Irish right-back was sensational during Wolves’ first two seasons back at the highest level (2018-19 and 2019-20), scoring 144 FPL points and 167 FPL points respectively. The three seasons since then were a lot less spectacular, due to a mix of injury issues and a lack of playing minutes after his transfer to Tottenham, but Doherty is now back at the club where he had his best years and his price is more than affordable. The biggest downer in terms of Doherty’s fantasy appeal is the presence of Nelson Semedo, who will also be vying for the right-back spot and who is also priced at £4.5m. Keep an eye on how this competition plays out during the pre-season, but if Doherty looks like a starter, he could be worth bringing in.

Considering Wolves’ terrible scoring record last season, it’s a bit hard to pick out interesting offensive players from their roster. If you are in need of a budget forward who is very likely guaranteed a starting spot in his side, you could take a punt on Matheus Cunha (£5.5m). The new Wolves forward was brought in for around £ 48 million from LaLiga giants Atletico Madrid and we would be surprised to see him on the bench. The Brazilian forward already played at Molineux on loan since January, racking up 12 starts and scoring 2 goals. He has been leading the Wolves line for most of the pre-season so far and with good reason, because he’s shown good form. He scored in friendlies against Blackpool, Celtic and Vitoria. He could be an interesting option for the third-striker position in your squad if he manages to keep up that rhythm, especially if he turns out to be on penalties as well.

On the budget front, Matheus Nunes (£5.0m) could be worth looking at as well, if you’re set on bringing in a Wolves midfielder. There are more thana few good affordable midfield options available this year, but few come as cheap as Wolves’ versatile midfielder from Rio de Janeiro. Het played thirty league games from the get-go last season, which is good, but managed just two attacking returns (1 goal, 1 assist), which is not good. Under new management, we do hope that the Brazilian can improve on those numbers this season, and his capacity to play both as an attacking midfielder and a winger should help with that. Like Cunha, Nunes has been having a good pre-season so far, providing two assists versus Rennes and one against FC Porto. He might be one of the ultra budget midfield picks with the highest ceiling at the moment.