Welcome back to the Fantasy Premier League, this season without a winter World Cup, and welcome back to FISO!
The Premier League 2023-23 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 second part of the series, it’s time for a look at Bournemouth and a Brentford side that will have to make do without star man Ivan Toney for the first half of the season.
BOURNEMOUTH – FPL 2023/24 team preview
Before the start of the 2022-2023 Premier League campaign, more than a few fans and pundits saw in Bournemouth one of the likeliest candidates for relegation. The Cherries had just been promoted to the highest echelon of English football and, with one of the smallest budgets in the league, it wasn’t too hard to see why many people felt that way. The club started with a surprise home victory against Aston Villa, but then slumped to three heavy defeats in a row under manager Scott Parker. The embarrassing 9-0 thrashing at Anfield in gameweek 4 proved too much for the former Chelsea midfielder, as he was replaced by Gary O’Neill. A ballsy move from the Cherry management, as the Englishman had not led a professional football side up until that point.
It turned out to be a golden move, as O’Neil promptly sent the Cherries on a six-game unbeaten run, taking 10 points from a possible 18. More unrest hit the club over the winter World Cup break, as the club was taken over by American businessman Bill Foley, but by March, the Cherries were rock bottom of the league. O’Neil managed to light the necessary fire under his men though, and an excellent final third of the season, including shock victories over Liverpool and Spurs, helped them to an eventual 15th place after 38 gameweeks. A total of 39 points proved more than enough to avoid the relegation battle in the final part of the season, despite a four-game losing streak to end their 2022-23 Premier League run. Despite his exceeding of expectations in his first season as head coach, O’Neil was recently replaced by Spanish manager Andoni Iraola. More about what we can expect from him this season in the tactical preview below.
Looking at Bournemouth’s transfer activity so far this summer, they are not planning to flirt with relegation again this season. The Cherries have invested about £ 60 million in new blood for the squad so far, with an emphasis on young, energetic players. Star signing so far is offensive midfielder Hamed Traoré, who was brought in from Italian side Sassuolo for around £ 22 million. The left flank has been strengthened as well, with the arrival of left-back Milos Kerkez (£ 15 million) from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar and Dutch winger Justin Kluivert (yes, the son of) from Valencia CF for about £ 10 million. In midfield, Lyon midfielder Romain Faivre has been recruited from Olympique Lyon for around £ 13 million. As far as outgoing transfers go, the departure of defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma on a free to Crystal Palace is probably the most important one.
Bournemouth’s tactical preview
As mentioned briefly before, in a surprise move to many, Gary O’Neil was replaced as Bournemouth manager by Athletic Bilbao legend Andoni Iraola back in June. As a result, for a large part, it remains to be seen how the Cherries will be lining up in gameweek 1. Before his step to the Prem, Iraola worked as a head coach at AEK Larnaca from Cyprus, which was not a great success, Segundo División side CD Mirandès (who he led to an incredible Copa del Rey semi-final) and Rayo Vallecano, with whom he promoted to LaLiga in 2021 and again managed to reach a surprising Copa del Rey semi-final. As far as our brief preview of his preferred tactics go, we have mainly looked at his time in charge of Los Franjirrojos.
Based on his development at Rayo, and looking at Bournemouth’s signings so far, Iraola will likely be siding a modern compact eleven. This means a rather defensive 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 block with emphasis on the balance block in the middle, combined with a high press and pacy players in attack. Part of this philosophy can be brought back to his experiences as a player, when, as a positionally astute and passionate right-back, he served under the likes of Marcelo Bielsa and Ernesto Valverde, just to name a few. While we don’t expect Bournemouth to turn up with guns blazing, Bielsa style, we do expect a brave side that will try to impose its way of playing on the opponent, including aggressive pressing, quick transitions and a touch of technique, especially in the final third.
BOURNEMOUTH – Potential FPL targets
We will have to see how Iraola’s Bournemouth will line up in gameweek 1, but that doesn’t mean that their roster does not contain a few potentially interesting FPL targets. We honestly don’t expect too many Cherries to feature in gameweek 1 squads across the board, in part due to the club’s difficult opening run of fixtures, but they do boast a few differential/budget picks worth considering. Out of those, striker Dominic Solanke (£6.5m) is probably the top name on every Bournemouth scouting list. In a side that had some trouble finding the back of net last season, scoring just 37 goals, the former Liverpool talent still managed to shine. His 6 goals and 10 assists for a total of 130 FPL points made him one of the better budget forwards in the official fantasy game, and we can see him reaching that status again this season. On top of that, he is a guaranteed starter and he is on penalties as well, which is always a plus, especially for a striker that comes in at a relatively cheap £6.5m.
Behind Solanke, it was the tall versatile Philip Billing (£5.5m) who provided Bournemouth with the necessary attacking support last season. The budget midfielder started 34 out of 38 games, in which he managed 7 goals and 2 assists plus another 9 clean sheets, and he looks certain of a starting spot in gameweek 1. He has shown good form in pre-season already as well, including a brace in Bournemouth’s first friendly against Hibernian. There is some decent competition in the budget midfielder bracket, which probably explains why he sits in just 1% of teams at the moment of writing, but you could do worse than a £5.5m guaranteed starting midfielder with an attacking return in him if you’re on the hunt for a budget enabler.
BRENTFORD – FPL 2023/24 team preview
At the start of the last Premier League season, Brentford’s second consecutive season at the top level, perhaps the main question for fans and pundits was how the Bees were going to cope with the departure of Christian Eriksen to Manchester United. The Danish creator took them to a higher level during the 2022-23 season, helping them to secure their Premier League status with relative ease, but to be honest, Brentford managed just fine last without him last season. “Just fine” is actually a bit of an understatement, because managed Thomas Frank led his side to a very impressive ninth place in the league, the club’s highest-ever finish.
In a season with very few bad moments, the long-term suspension of star forward Ivan Toney marked a dark page. The England international was found guilty of breaking the FA’s gambling rules, with an eight-month ban as result. He could still feature for most of last season, scoring an incredible 20 goals and supplying another 4 assists, and only missed the final three games of the campaign. The bigger problem is this season, as Toney will have to sit out the entire first half of the 2023-23 campaign. As a result, much of the focus during the pre-season will be on how to cope with the forward’s absence, who is virtually irreplaceable one-on-one for the Bees.
At the moment, Brentford’s transfer activity seems to be pointing at a strategy where they will compensate their star man’s absence with the talent they have, while strengthening the squad in other positions. Talented winger Kevin Schade, who was already on loan from SC Freiburg last season, was brought in on a permanent deal for about £ 21 million, but the major signing so far has been central defender Nathan Collins, for whom the Bees paid £ 23 million to Wolves. On top of that, possibly the most important new recruit of the summer is 30-year-old Dutch goalkeeper Mark Flekken, in anticipation of the departure of David Raya, one of the Brentford’s absolute top performers since their promotion to the Premier League in 2021.
Brentford’s tactical preview
Brentford’s Thomas Frank is probably one of the most tactically astute and flexible managers in the Premier League. The Dane has a knack for instilling a high level of tactical discipline into his side without making them boring to watch, and what’s possibly even more important, he knows how to get the best out of his players. What started as a versatile 3-5-2 formation back in Brentford’s first season in the Prem has evolved into a dynamic 4-3-3 setup, though he still switches back to the wing-back-focused 3-5-2 whenever needed, either from the start or in-game.
Last season, only six teams scored more than the Bees (58 goals), in great part thanks to Ivan Toney’s fantastic season. They are expected to be considerably less prolific in front of goal this season, but that shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, as from a defensive point of view, the side conceded just 46 goals last season. That may sound like a bit too many over 38 games, but in reality, only four teams in the entire league fared better: Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle. In the absence of Toney, Frank is likely to focus even more on the team aspect, possibly reverting to a wing-back system more often. Having said that, we don’t expect him to completely abandon the game principles that have made them so successful at the highest level, including build-up play from the back, an aggressive and disciplined high press, and a certain excellence at set-pieces.
BRENTFORD – Potential FPL targets
With Ivan Toney absent until January 2024, much of the attacking burden will be on the sturdy shoulders of Bryan Mbeumo (£6.5m). While Toney stole the show most of the time, the talented French-Cameroonian ticked along nicely in his shadow, recording a very nice 9 goals and 9 assists from 36 league starts. Despite these returns, which totalled no less than 150 FPL points, Mbeumo’s price has not been increased ahead of the 2023-24 campaign. This makes him an option worth considering, especially because he is listed as a midfielder in the official fantasy game. While the sample is small, some managers might be interested in the fact that Mbeumo scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists in the final three games of last season, when Toney’s ban came into effect. Add to that Brentford’s attractive opening set of fixtures, including home games against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth in the first four, and it makes sense that the Bees forward already sits in almost 24% of all FPL squads.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, much of this Brentford season preview is related Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban in one way or another. This also goes for the next name on this list, Yoane Wissa (£6.0m), who has been filling in for Toney most of the time during pre-season. We admit that the French-born DR Congo international represents a bit of a punt, but we feel he is worth considering for those looking for a budget forward. In just 16 starts last season, Wissa still managed 7 goals and 4 assists, tallies that we can easily see him surpass this season. Those considering the dynamic forward for their gameweek squad should definitely keep an eye on Brentford’s transfer market activity, as the arrival of a striker could dampen Wissa’s appeal, but as long as no new blood is brought in attack, he carries decent differential potential at an affordable price.
Earlier, we mentioned Brentford’s understated but impressive defensive performance from last season and we can see them continuing that road this season. Keeping that in mind, plus the possibility of a more frequent formation with attacking wing-backs makes Rico Henry (£4.5m) a very interesting budget defender. The left-back is a firm first choice under Frank, considering he started 37 out of 38 league games last season, and on top of that, he slightly underperformed in terms of attacking returns. Despite an Expected Goal ratio of 1.80, he could not find the net last season, while he was on par in terms of Expected Assists (2.90 expected, 3 assists provided). In combination with 11 clean sheets, Henry recorded a decent 112 FPL points. The 26-year-old basically delivers everything you could want from a budget defender playing for a defensively solid side: a nailed-on spot in the starting eleven, frequent opportunities for a clean sheet and a license to often bomb forward.