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 fifth part, we’re taking a look at Everton and a Fulham side that surprised more than a few pundits last season.
EVERTON – FPL 2023/24 team preview
Since the establishment of the Premier League in 1992, just six clubs have never been relegated. Among the perhaps more likely names Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, we also find Everton FC. This little piece of Premier League history puts the seriousness of Everton’s last season in even more perspective, because the club flirted with relegation until the very last day of the 2022-23 campaign. They finished in 17th place with 36 points from 38 games, just two more than relegated Leicester City in 18th. It ended up being an identical repetition of their 2021-2022 season, a season their fans hoped they would never have to go through again.
Everton started last season with Chelsea legend Frank Lampard at the helm after helping them narrowly avoid relegation the season before, but that turned out to be a wrong decision by the board. Lampard managed to take just 15 points from the first 21 games and a run of one victory in eleven games led to the former England international being replaced by Sean Dyche as head coach. This didn’t exactly improve things in terms of playing style, but it did give Everton some much-needed grit to grind out victories and, perhaps more importantly, stop losing games. From the remaining 18 games of the season, Everton ‘only’ lost seven, while the other games resulted in 21 points, just enough for the Toffees to remain amongst that elite group of English teams who have never relegated from the Premier League, at least for one more season.
In order to avoid another disaster of a season, Everton wants to bring in some new blood for the first full season under Sean Dyche. Money is tight at Goodison Park though, which explains why the club has focused more on offloading some talent so far. Moise Kean was sold to Juventus for about £ 26 million, forward Ellis Simms moved to Coventry for around £ 6 million and left-back Niels Nkounkou for around £ 2 million. On the incoming side, Dutch winger Arnaut Danjuma was loaned from Villareal for £ 4 million in what has been Everton’s major signing so far this summer. Veteran Ashley Young was signed for free, plus a few interesting names returned from loan spells, including central midfielder André Gomes, attacking midfielder Dele Alli and central defender Jarrad Branthwaite.
Everton’s tactical preview
Everton’s approach to games under Sean Dyche can probably be best summarised as going back to basics. After a period under Frank Lampard in which the Toffees attempted to play attractive attacking football, but lacked the tactical discipline and organisation to do so, the former Burnley manager instilled a much more direct and result-focused tactic. In line with the playing style Burnley made their trademark under Dyche, the Toffees quickly turned into a side that, more than anything, became hard to beat. Less short passing variations and less possession in favour of more organisation and a much more compact setup, so to say.
Dyche is known as a no-nonsense manager who gets results and that’s exactly what he showed during the second part of last season. He did not overcomplicate things for a squad that suffered from very low confidence after a horror first half of the season. Generally, he preferred a 4-4-2 formation, which would sometimes switch to a 4-5-1, especially against the more attacking sides. Dyche’s Everton pressed aggressively, but from the halfway line onwards and with the central defenders laying down a tight organisation to maintain a compact defensive structure under any circumstance. To get out in attack, the Toffees generally leaned on long passes, vertical crosses on the counter and, of course, set-pieces. We expect this to continue this season, so keep this in mind when considering Everton assets for your fantasy team.
EVERTON – Potential FPL targets
With an opening run of fixtures consisting of Fulham at home, Aston Villa away, Wolves at home and Sheffield United away, Everton could have a decent start of their 2023-24 Premier League campaign. While their roster does not present us with an abundance of interesting attacking fantasy picks, their defence could offer some value. In any case, the first Everton player that caught our eye is goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (£4.5m). The Toffees recorded just 8 clean sheets last season, but five of those came in the 18 games under Dyche, so we expect that total number to be higher this season. Pickford is the clear number one between the sticks for Everton and with a price tag of just £4.5m, we even dare to go so far as to label him an excellent budget goalkeeper pick.
Abdoulaye Doucouré (£5.5m) was possibly the player who benefited most from Lampard’s departure and the subsequent signing of Dyche. Under the former Chelsea midfielder, the Mali international lost his spot in the starting eleven, but Dyche restored him in a bit more advanced position and to great effect. Doucouré scored all of his five goals in the 18 games under Dyche, thus playing a considerably role in Everton’s narrow relegation escape. We can’t see Dyche lining up his Everton without the powerful midfielder in gameweek 1, so if you are set on including a budget midfielder in your GW1 squad, you could do worse than Doucouré. Do keep in mind though, that the Toffees are unlikely to have suddenly turned into an attacking side and will likely continue to put the focus on defensive solidity.
Our final Everton fantasy pick is the biggest punt of the three. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m) is undoubtedly one of the best and most valuable players in potential on the current Everton roster. We say “in potential” though, as the forward has struggled with his fitness for a couple of seasons now. He played just 1,281 minutes in the league during the 2021-22 season (5 goals, 2 assists) and recorded even less last season: 1,166 minutes of Premier League action, 2 goals and 1 assist. The former England international could make a mockery of his current £6.0m price tag though, IF he stays fit. He is the stand-out option in attack for Everton, he is on penalties and he is the primary target for all crosses. Just look at his 2020-21 Premier League campaign, where his continued fitness allowed him to amass 2,871 minutes, resulting in 16 goals and 6 assists. If DCL stays fit come gameweek 1, he could be a shrewd outfield pick considering Everton appealing opening set of fixtures.
FULHAM – FPL 2023/24 team preview
As far as season surprises went last season, most of the spotlights have been on Brighton and Aston Villa, who managed qualification for the Europa League and the Conference League, respectively. For a large part of the season though, Fulham FC actually looked like they were vying for one of those spots as well. That’s right, Fulham, who had just been promoted back to the Premier League after a single season in the Championship. The Cottagers ended up in tenth, in part due to a weaker final stretch of the season, but for a team that was aiming to stay up, it was nothing less than an excellent result. As a matter of fact, it was their best Premier League season pointwise since the 2011-12 season when they finished in eleventh place.
It should be noted though, that Fulham’s slump towards the end of the season, when they were practically safe from relegation already, cannot be seen separately from Aleksandar Mitrovic’ 8-match ban. He was one of the side’s best players, scoring 14 goals and providing 2 assists in just 23 starts, but his season could have been so much more beautiful had he not pushed referee Chris Kavanagh in the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United. The Serbian striker will be back and ready to go in the upcoming gameweek 1, and it will be very interesting to see if manager Marco Silva can build on last season’s impressive performance.
As far as transfers go, the Cottagers have been pretty calm so far this summer. Reserve goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga (Girona FC), left-back Joe Bryan (Millwall), central defender Shane Duffy (Norwich) and winger Neeskens Kebano (Al-Jazira) all left the club for free, but none of these players had a major impact on the side last season. On the incoming side, Fulham have only recruited two new players so far, but they are interesting signings. Wolves striker Raul Jimenez was brought in for about £ 6 million and talented centre-back Calvin Bassey was bought from Ajax Amsterdam for around £ 20 million. While the former will have to battle it out with Mitrovic, we expect the latter to slot into Silva’s starting eleven quite quickly.
Fulham’s tactical preview
In most games, Marco Silva lined up his troops in a 4-2-3-1 formation that fitted his squad perfectly. In comparison to many other Premier League clubs, Fulham played with a relatively small squad, which resulted in little rotation. Another consequence of this is relatively little tactical variation on Fulham’s side. Organisation is a key word for Silva, but this doesn’t mean that the Cottagers just lean back to stay compact and not concede any goals. Silva has shown that he likes his full-backs to bomb forward to create chances from the flanks, which particularly fits the playing style of his star striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Silva also demands an aggressive counter press from his men, starting with offensive midfielder Andreas Pereira, who was a budget gem last season with no less than 4 goals and 10 assists, and a £4.5m price tag. Mitrovic puts in lots of work as well, leaning on the opposition’s central defenders and cutting passing lanes where he can. The double pivot in the middle of the pitch, formed by perhaps the team’s best player Joao Palhinha and Harrison Reed. This also goes a long way in explaining why only three teams in the league collected less yellow cards than the Cottagers last season (80).
FULHAM – Potential FPL targets
When talking about interesting fantasy picks from the Fulham roster, there is no looking past Aleksandar Mitrovic (£7.5m). At the moment of writing, the Serbia international is still a Fulham player despite rumored interest from Saudi Arabia, and Fulham fans will be hoping that is still the case by the end of the summer transfer window. In that case, they can count on one of the better strikers in the entire league for yet another season. Mitrovic scored 14 goals and provided 2 assists in 23 games last season, giving him a total of 107 FPL points, and those tallies are very much in line with both his Expected Goals and his Expected Assists ratio. At £7.5m, he is not cheap, but with Mitrogol you do get 90 minutes every game, a nailed-on penalty taker and at least 10 goals.
Nine teams conceded less goals than Fulham last season, which is a more than decent defensive performance for a newly promoted side. This brings goalkeeper Bernd Leno (£4.5m) into the picture, in part as well thanks to his affordable price tag. The former Arsenal man is a shot stopper of proven quality and he showed this last season. Out of all goalkeepers who started the season with a price of £4.5m or less, the German scored the most FPL points (142), which also made him the highest-scoring Fulham asset. Looking at the number of acceptable goalkeeper options in this category for the upcoming season, we can see Leno slotting into a few squads as part of a goalkeeper rotation strategy.
We already briefly mentioned Andreas Pereira (£5.5m), as he was the official fantasy game’s outstanding budget midfielder and perhaps even budget overall pick. In 33 league starts, he got 4 goals and 10 assists for a total of 123 FPL points, and the best part was that he wasn’t even overperforming on his underlying numbers. Over the entire season, the Belgium-born Brazilian recorded an Expected Goals ratio of 7.16 and an Expected Assists ratio of 11.42. Therefore, it’s not surprising that FPL towers decided to bump up Pereira’s price for the 2023-24 season by a whole million. Still, at £5.5m, the attacking midfielder can still represent very good value. He is Fulham’s principal creative outlet and he gets most of the free-kick and corner duties as well, which is always a fantasy plus.