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 fourth part, it’s time for a dive into Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea and a Zaha-less Crystal Palace.
CHELSEA – FPL 2023/24 team preview
So, Chelsea FC are not playing in Europe this season, for the first time since 2016-17. Why, you ask? Well, because the Blues finished in 12th place in the Premier League last season. That’s right, twelfth, with 44 points from 38 games. In total, fourteen teams scored more than them, while defensively, eight teams did better. On top of that, third-round exits from both the FA Cup and the League Cup did little to hide the atrocity that was Chelsea’s first season under new American owner Todd “4-4-3” Boehly. Perhaps the only somewhat acceptable result was reaching the Champions League quarterfinals, in which record champions Real Madrid proved a size too big.
Probably the best thing to come out of very forgettable season is the fact that a new season is always around the corner. New day, new opportunities, so to say, and it looks like the Blues are taking that fact to heart. As soon as their 2022-23 season came to an end, the West London club announced the arrival of manager Mauricio Pochettino replaced interim head coach Frank Lampard, who had been appointed in April 2023 and only managed one victory and two draws from eleven games. With Pochettino, the Blues have brought in a man who doesn’t just know the Premier League like the inside of his pocket, but who knows how to manage a multi-million footballing project as well. We’ll get into him and his impact at Chelsea a bit more later on.
How Chelsea will turn up come gameweek 1 remains to be seen, but we can already see a very different approach in terms of transfers this summer compared to last. The club has definitely not been stingy so far this summer, having spent around £ 96 million already on the likes of forwards Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig) and Nicolas Jackson (Villareal), and 18-year-old Brazilian winger Angelo. A fraction of the £ 600 million or so they spent last season. Besides that, they have offloaded around £ 250 million worth of players as well, including Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic and Kalidou Koulibaly. N’Golo Kanté, Cesar Azpilicueta, Abdul Rahman Baba and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were let go for free, which at least saves tens of millions in wages.
Chelsea’s tactical preview
If there is one club to turn up in a completely different (and improved) style in comparison to last season, it’s most likely Chelsea. As we mentioned earlier, the club contracted former Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino to be the architect of the new Chelsea and it’s exciting to think what this combination could bring. The Argentinian manager, who was brought up with the tactics of Marcelo Bielsa, will need to instil his preference for high intensity, disciplined football into one of the Premier League most expensive squads. On top of that, at Spurs, Pochettino has shown a knack for finding and developing young players. Just ask Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Luke Shaw, amongst many, many others.
Looking back at his last few years as manager, Pochettino has a clear preference for a 4-2-3-1 formation with two hard-working central midfielders at its heart. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chelsea recruit a high-profile ball-winner still this summer, to play alongside World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez. In attack, the Argentinian likes to position a compact three behind the sole striker, thus providing width for two energetic wing-backs to push forward. This would bring the likes of Reece James and Ben Chilwell/Marc Cucurella back in the FPL picture, though we could very well see a kind of asymmetric formation when attacking. The potential for a Premier League powerhouse looks to be there, but it’s wise to keep an eye on Chelsea’s pre-season to identify exactly which players are poised to play a key (FPL) role under Poch.
CHELSEA – Potential FPL targets
After an injury-ravaged 2022-23 season, in which he started just 14 league games and amassed a measly 44 FPL points in total, Reece James (£5.5m) has so far remained fit during pre-season, which automatically brings him into the squad selection mix for gameweek 1. With a home game against Liverpool and a visit to West Ham in the first two gameweeks, Chelsea’s start to the 2023-24 campaign is not ideal, but the schedule clears up considerably after that. As far as James is concerned, when fit, he is one of the best right-backs in the league and one of the best fantasy assets to own. Just look at his 2021-22 Premier League season: 5 goals, 9 assists and 7 clean sheets for 141 FPL points, from “just” 1,863 minutes of action. His fitness truly has become an issue, so keep this in mind when going over your preferred Chelsea picks, but when fit, he should be around the top of your scouting lists.
Considering the uncertainties that still exist around Pochettino’s first starting eleven, especially in midfield and up front, our second Chelsea fantasy pick worth considering is a defender as well. Incredibly, Reece’s counterpart on the left wing, Ben Chilwell (£5.5m), has a similar injury history, which has to be taken into account when looking at him for your gameweek 1 squad. On top of that, the England international has more competition for this spot in the person of Marc Cucurella. Having said that, the former looks to be first choice on the left side of the defence and that has brought him firmly on our radar. To get an idea of his attacking potential, you only need to look at this last two seasons. Over the 2021-22 campaign, injuries limited his Premier League action to just 541 minutes in which he still managed 3 goals and 1 assist. Last season, injuries once again limited his minutes in the league (1,402), but he still came away with 2 goals and 3 assists. Like James, at a price of £5.5m and on condition he is fit, Chilwell needs to be on your scouting list.
Our third and final Chelsea fantasy pick is much more of a differential, but one with enormous FPL potential. At the moment, it looks like new signing Nicholas Jackson (£7.0m) could lead the Chelsea forward line in gameweek 1. The Gambia-born Senegal international was brought in from LaLiga side Villareal for around £ 32 million and he has been making quite an impression so far this pre-season. During the club’s US tour alone, Jackson played a majority of the available minutes and made the most of them: 2 goals and 3 assists. It looks like the 22-year-old has taken his clinical Villareal form to Chelsea, after recording a season-best conversation rate of 29.3% in LaLiga. Combined with his ability to drift around the whole line, he already looks like a striker Pochettino can work with. With Nkunku set to take up the shadow striker role and with no other strikers contracted yet, Jackson looks like a great bargain way into Chelsea’s attack.
CRYSTAL PALACE – FPL 2023/24 team preview
Despite the 2022-23 season being very much a season of two tales for Crystal Palace, the Eagles still managed to finish above the team we just discussed previously. Fearing a relegation battle back in March of this year, manager Patrick Vieira was replaced by good old Roy Hodgson, who turned it around in kind of dramatic fashion at Selhurst Park. Palace were coming off a three-game run without a single shot on target and no team had scored less than their 22 goals when Hodgson took charge in the build-up to gameweek 28. What came next was a run of three consecutive victories by a team that clearly found the spring in its step again. Somehow, the English manager turned his side into a creative machine whose minutes-per-chance ratio was only bettered by Manchester United, Newcastle and Brighton.
One of the biggest challenges for Palace this summer is to find a way to deal with the departure of star player Wilfried Zaha. Even though the Ivory Coast international did not have his best season last season, partly due to injury troubles, he still managed 7 goals and 2 assists, and that’s not all. Every opponent knew that he was the star man, which also had its effect on the rest of the team. For a long time, there was a possibility that Zaha was going to stay at Selhurst Park for another season, but a lucrative offer from Turkish giants Galatasaray proved too irresistible. Not great news for the Eagles, who didn’t even get a transfer fee for their best player.
If last season showed anything though, it’s that Crystal Palace don’t need to worry about a lack of offensive talent in their squad. The likes of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise showed glimpses of their fantastic abilities last season, and they will need to take those to the next level this season to carry their side. It will also be interesting to see what Palace will still do on the transfer market this summer, because they have been rather quiet so far. Besides Zaha, goalkeeper Jack Butland and midfielders Milivojevic and McArthur were let go, while feisty defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma was brought in on a free from Bournemouth.
Crystal Palace’s tactical preview
Roy Hodgson, at least in the past few years, was not known for a particularly adventurous or attacking brand of football, which made his immediate impact deep into last season all the more surprising. The veteran manager seemed to have realised straight away that the team needed some freedom in head and feet after a very demanding and disappointing first half of the season. What followed was a seemingly revitalised Palace side in which the attacking talent no longer struggled to create chances. At the same time, the team did not suffer defensively as a result of the more adventurous approach. The main question is to what extent Hodgson will apply these same tactics this season. That is, if he is kept on a head coach, of course, because this has not been officially confirmed yet by the club.
Hodgson lined his men up in 4-1-4-1 formation last season, which can be seen as a variation of his usually preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. We would not be surprised to see the latter formation in gameweek 1, but the principles will remain largely the same. With Zaha out of the team, more players will need to step up to provide the much-needed creativity up front. The sole striker will be supported by two wingers who will look to beat their man and an attack-minded midfielder to shape the attacking moves. The addition of Lerma indicates that the side will play with at least one purely defence-minded midfielder in front of a sturdy defensive line. As usual under Hodgson, we don’t expect either full-back to get too many opportunities to collect attacking returns, but this does benefit the team’s defensive solidity.
CRYSTAL PALACE – Potential FPL targets
After the departure of Wilfried Zaha, it looks like much of Palace’s attacking responsibilities will rest on the shoulders of Eberechi Eze (£6.5m). The 25-year-old thrived like no other under Roy Hodgson, which is emphasised by the fact that he became Crystal Palace’s top scorer last season, both in terms of goals (10) and FPL points (159). He is a nailed-on part of the starting eleven, the only thing that’s not certain yet is what position he will end up at. He generally played down the middle, like a kind of shadow striker behind the big man up front, but he could be move to the left as well. He’s a shooter and he’s on penalty duties, which are things fantasy managers like to hear. At his current price of £6.5m, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Eze in more than a few gameweek 1 squads.
Had he not been flagged with a 25% probability of being fit for gameweek 1, our second Crystal Palace asset in this list would have been Michael Olise. Seeing as the winger is flagged though, we have gone with a budget tip instead. Tyrick Mitchell (£4.5m) started 34 out of 38 games as left-back for Palace last season, which is the minimum you want from a budget defender. As we mentioned earlier, Palace full-backs are not known for their attacking returns under Hodgson, but you can expect a fair number of clean sheets. The Eagles recorded nine of them last season and we can see them equal or even surpass that total in the upcoming season. As far as Mitchell is concerned, we hope that he can build on last season’s two assists.
For our third Crystal Palace pick, we’re sticking with the budget category. One of the changes under Hodgson in comparison to Vieira took place between the sticks, where Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) took the starting spot from Vicente Guaita. Considering the successful turn-around, we don’t see why Hodgson would suddenly revert back to the Spaniard in goal. This makes Johnstone one of the few appealing £4.5m starting goalkeepers offered by the official fantasy game for the 2023-24 Premier League season. On top of that, the mid-priced (and premium) defender bracket is quite stacked this season, so picking a budget Palace goalkeeper instead of a budget Palace defender could be a wise choice for some.