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 third part, we are taking a look at one of last season’s major surprise, Brighton, and Burnley, who managed to re-enter the Premier League just one season after relegation to the Championship.
BRIGHTON – FPL 2023/24 team preview
As usual, the last Premier League season was full of spectacle and surprise twists, and possibly one of the biggest ones in both categories was the case of Brighton and Hove Albion. Over the past seasons, the seaside club made a name for itself as a well-run club with a clear idea and an attractive playing style, under the leadership of manager Graham Potter. So, when the English coach was bought by Chelsea for no less than £ 16 million in September 2022, many people wondered to what extent his successor Roberto de Zerbi would be able to maintain the high standards set by Potter. Well, it turned out that the Italian manager wasn’t only able to maintain them, but actually improve on them, and how!
Supported by Brighton’s trademark meticulous recruitment, creative scouting and focus on talent, De Zerbi led the Seagulls to sixth place, the club’s highest league finish ever, helping them qualify for European football for the first time in club history. As a result, it will be interesting to see how Brighton will balance their UEFA Europa League obligations and their Premier League performances this season, especially after the departure of Alexis Mac Allister. The Argentinian midfielder, who was part of the World Cup winning side as a starter last winter, was one of De Zerbi’s most important players and left for Liverpool earlier this summer for around £ 36 million.
If there is one club in the country where the plan and the process are more important than the individual, it’s Brighton, though. On top of their talented existing roster, the Seagulls have also put their Mac Allister money to good use already. Centre-forward Joao Pedro was brought in from Watford for about £ 29 million, talented Dutch goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen came over from Belgian side RSC Anderlecht for £ 17 million and Brazilian central defender Igor was bought from Fiorentina for around £ 15 million. Perhaps the most interesting new recruits came to the AmEx Stadium for free though, as central midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund) and Premier League veteran James Milner (Liverpool) joined the Seagull roster as well this summer.
Brighton’s tactical preview
Most fans and pundits will have agreed on one thing at the start of the 2022-23 Premier League campaign: it was going to be a rebuilding year at Brighton at best. Manager Graham Potter had been poached by Chelsea, sporting director Dan Ashworth joined Newcastle, and on-field, key figures like Marc Cucurella and Yves Bissouma were sold. What followed though, was anything but a rebuilding year. Roberto de Zerbi, who made a name for himself as head coach of Sassuolo, was contracted and it turned out to be the next masterstroke by club owner Tony Bloom and his team.
The Italian is a true tactician who prefers a starting 4-2-3-1 formation in which his players are given considerable freedom, as long as the overall discipline is maintained. His Brighton side has become known for its ability to find creative in-game solutions for different situations against different opponents, which has made them difficult to play against for any team. “There is no team playing the way they play – it’s unique”, said Man City manager Pep Guardiola about De Zerbi’s Brighton last season, “He creates 20 or 25 chances per game, better by far than most opponents. He monopolises the ball in a way it hasn’t been for a long time”. Thanks to De Zerbi’s brave tactics, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool scored more goals than the Seagulls (72 goals), and there is no reason to think they won’t aim for a similar performance this season.
BRIGHTON – Potential FPL targets
For a majority of last season, a big question for FPL managers was not so much if they should pick Brighton any assets, but rather how many and which ones. The midfield picks were particularly hard to guess, with the trio of Solly March (£6.5m), Kaoru Mitoma and the new-departed Mac Allister all defying their very much budget price tags. Thanks to his 6 goals and 10 assists (now Brighton player prepared more goals for a teammate), our first pick here is Solly March. The Englishman ended up with the highest Expected Goals ratio for the 2022-23 Premier League campaign amongst Brighton players and he was a mainstay for De Zerbi on the right flank. There was little between him and Mitoma on the other flank, which is also reflected by their final FPL points tallies (147 vs 138). On the eye, it just looked like March was slightly more involved in the build-up of attacking moves, while Mitoma was more reliant on his dribbles and his speed during transitions. A majority of managers are going with the Japan international in the build-up to gameweek 1 (37.3%), while March is remaining somewhat under the radar (3.2%), but we have a feeling the latter might just be the more sustainable pick here.
Having said that, we deliberated for a long time about including Mitoma in this list as well. He comes in at £6.5m as well and could very well be an explosive fantasy pick. It’s a bit of a “roll-the-dice-and-see” situation between him and March. Therefore, we decided to instead look at the Brighton midfielder who, despite amassing the most FPL points out of all Seagulls last season (159), was left out of the Brighton discussion more often than not. Pascal Gross (£6.5m) started 37 out of 38 league games and collected 17 attacking returns over that period (9 goals and 8 assists). What makes the German particularly interesting in comparison to March and Mitoma is the fact that he is on basically all set-pieces, including penalties. He did start at right-back in a few games and even when he starts in midfield, he usually plays deeper than the previously named players, but looking at his role in the team and the returns that come with it, Gross should definitely be included on your scouting lists.
It wasn’t just the Brighton midfield that offered fantasy gems last season. In the back, Pervis Estupiñan (£5.0m) particularly stood out. The Ecuador international managed a goal and 7 assists on top of 10 clean sheets, and the best thing about this was that he wasn’t even overperforming. The dynamic left-back got plenty of freedom from De Zerbi to bomb forward and support the attack, which was facilitated by the tendencies of left winger Mitoma to either go deep or tuck inside. Considering all of this, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that his price was kept relatively low at £5.0m for the coming season. Looking at his current ownership in the official fantasy game, we are not the only ones who feel that way, because at the moment of writing, Estupiñan is sitting pretty in well over half of all teams in the build-up to gameweek 1.
BURNLEY – FPL 2023/24 team preview
The first promoted team in our Club Previews series for the 2023-24 season is Burnley FC. The Clarets were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2021-22 season under Sean Dyche, but after replacing him with Man City legend Vincent Kompany, they bounced right back to the Premier League. Under the former Belgium captain, Burnley dominated most of the 2022-23 Championship season, clinching promotion with an impressive 101 points. Over that run, they scored the most goals (87) and conceded the fewest (35) out of all teams in the league. Interesting to note though, is that they overperformed considerably attack-wise with an Expected Goals total of 66.2 goals, while they performed to par defensively with an Expected Goals Conceded total of 38.2.
As you can imagine, the change of playing style from Dyche to Pep Guardiola student Kompany was enormous. More about that below, in the tactical preview, but it’s clear that the club managed to provide their new manager with a squad that was perfectly fitted to the way he wanted to play. Goals were spread out nicely around the side, with Nathan Tella (on loan from Southampton) scoring most goals for the Clarets (17). His partners up front, Manuel Benson and Jay Rodriguez, contributed nicely as well, with 11 goals and 10 goals respectively. The same can be said for the assists in the team. Academy graduate Josh Brownhill prepared 8 goals, while no less than four players provided 6 assists each, including both full-backs Ian Maatsen (on loan from Chelsea) and Connor Roberts.
As is the case for every promoted side each season, much depends on the extent to which the club in question can strengthen their roster for the 38-game onslaught that is a single Premier League season. Burnley have been quite active in this sense so far, keeping most of last season’s successful squad intact and supplementing it with some promising new blood. Star signing so far is centre-forward Zeki Amdouni, who was brought in from FC Basel for about £ 16 million. The Clarets also bought Manchester City Under-21 goalkeeper James Trafford for £ 15 million, central defender Jordan Beyer from Monchengladbach for around £ 13 million (he played at Turf Moor on loan already last season) and central defender Dara O’Shea from West Brom for around £ 6.5 million, to name the club’s biggest acquisitions so far this summer. The signing of Nathan Redmond from Turkish giants Besiktas on a free has also piqued our interest.
Burnley’s tactical preview
We already briefly touched on this before, but the change in playing style, from the no-nonsense approach by Sean Dyche to the technique-based possession kind of tactic preferred by Vincent Kompany, could barely be bigger. The Belgian manager, who in all fairness did far from a great job at Anderlecht before signing with the Clarets, tends to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, though there could be some tweaks once gameweek 1 of the Premier League starts. With 265 Premier League games under his belt, he knows exactly what is needed to survive and even thrive at the very highest level of English football, so we’re not expecting a naïve Burnley side come GW1. Therefore, we would not be surprised to see him revert to a more compact 4-1-4-1 formation, or to at least switch between this set-up and his preferred 4-2-3-1 over the course of the season.
Kompany likes his Burnley to dominate the ball, something that was unthinkable under Dyche, and he has experimented with inverted full-backs as well. No surprise perhaps, seeing as of late, this tactic has mostly been associated with Guardiola’s Man City. In any case, the full-backs get freedom to provide width in attack and to support attacking moves, which could be good news for fantasy managers. Of course, it remains to be seen how Burnley can translate the success of these tactics from the Championship to the Premier League, but as we wrote above, we don’t expect naivety from Kompany’s Burnley.
BURNLEY – Potential FPL targets
Now, our first Burnley fantasy pick comes with a disclaimer, namely that much depends on the situation of Ian Maatsen at Chelsea. As a Chelsea loanee, Maatsen impressed at left-back last season, but at the moment, new Blues manager Mauricio Pochettino does not seem keen to let him leave for the Clarets once again. This puts Charlie Taylor (£4.0m) firmly on the budget defender radar, as the 29-year-old is likely to take Maatsen’s spot this season, while being priced at just £4.0m. And it’s not like you would be bringing in a player that barely played last season either, because Taylor got no less than 33 Championship starts as a centre-back during the 2022-23 campaign. Before moving on to our next Burnley pick, we do want to repeat that Taylor is a bit of a punt, mainly due to the current Maatsen situation. On top of that, the signing of Vitinho could put pressure on his starting minutes come gameweek 1, so the best advice we can give you in regard to Taylor is to keep an eye on Burnley transfer and team news.
If the Taylor disclaimers put you off him a bit, do not worry, because the Burnley defence offers us not one but two £4.0 defenders, and the second one looks a lot more certain of a starting spot. Jordan Beyer (£4.0m) was loaned from Borussia Monchengladbach last season, during which he featured as a centre-back in 30 Championship games and impressed so much that the Clarets decided to bring him in on a permanent transfer for around £ 13 million this summer. While he’s not particularly attractive from an attacking returns potential point of view, he looks like perhaps the most nailed-on ultra budget defensive fantasy pick this season. That’s basically what you want from the ideal fifth defender in your squad. If Kompany can manage to replicate even just some of his side’s defensive stability this upcoming season, we can see Beyer’s current 7.4% ownership rise significantly before the gameweek 1 deadline.
We mentioned earlier how Burnley overperformed from an attacking point of view last season, scoring 87 goals with an Expected Goals ratio of just over 66. Considering this, plus the fact that the Premier League is simply a whole other beast compared to the Championship, we don’t expect many gameweek 1 FPL squads to contain Burnley midfielders or forwards. Having said that, the Clarets roster does feature some serious budget-enabling potential. The loss of Nathan Tella, last season’s top scorer, is a blow, so instead we’ve opted to include Josh Brownhill (£5.0m) in this list. The 27-year-old midfielder gave more assists than other Claret last season (8) and he also scored 7 goals. Much of the team’s attacking side will be built around him this season and that’s not at all. Brownhill is also Burnley’s go-to set-piece man for direct free kicks, indirect free kicks and plenty of corners. In other words, if you’re looking for a midfielder budget pick who is a starter and who might occasionally pop up with an attacking return, the Burnley man looks like a decent consideration.