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 sixth part, it’s time for a Liverpool side that needs to reinvent itself and Luton Town, who are preparing for their first ever season in the Premier League.
LIVERPOOL – FPL 2023/24 team preview
When it comes to Liverpool and the 2022-23 Premier League season, we can keep it short and simple: it was a disappointment. Thanks to an unbeaten run of 11 games at the very end of the campaign, including seven consecutive victories between gameweeks 31 and 36, the Reds still managed to finish in fifth place. Complete disaster avoided, but still, playing Europa League and missing out on the Champions League this season for the first time since 2015-16 is not what we’ve come to expect from Jurgen Klopp’s men over the years.
Despite their fifth-place finish, Liverpool’s attacking numbers (75 goals) were only surpassed by champions Manchester City (94) and runners-up Arsenal (88). The same went for the total number of shots on target over the season, though it should be noted that the Reds scored 29 goals in three games (9-0 vs Bournemouth, 7-0 vs Manchester United and 1-6 vs Leeds). Nevertheless, the offensive line was not Liverpool’s problem, the midfield was. While the defensive setup was often criticised, just six teams conceded less than them. With a World Cup splitting the season in half and their most-used midfielders being around 30 years old, Liverpool’s engine room seemed incapable of mustering the intensity that is needed for Klopp’s quick-transition-high-press tactics. Giving Alexander-Arnold the by now much discussed inverted full-back role brought the side some solace, but a restructuring of the midfield should be a priority this summer.
This line of thinking is confirmed by the club’s activity on the transfer market so far. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were tempted by the Saudi Arabian dollars, as was club legend Roberto Firmino. Central midfielder Naby Keita (Werder Bremen) and James Milner (Brighton) were let go as well, while the perpetually injured Artur ended his loan and returned to Juventus. On the incoming side, Liverpool made two major signings so far, in the persons of attacking midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai (£ 60 million from RB Leipzig) and central midfielder Alexis Mac Allister (£ 55 million from Brighton). We would not be surprised to see a couple more major announcements coming out of the Reds camp before the end of the summer transfer window.
Liverpool’s tactical preview
Perhaps symbolic of Liverpool’s struggle last season was Klopp’s tinkering with formations. Where the Reds were previously known all over Europe for their versatile 4-3-3 setup, the German manager started experimenting with something more like a 3-2-2-3 formation, in which right-back Alexander-Arnold would slot into midfield as more of an additional playmaker and Andy Robertson tucked in alongside the centre-backs. While this is particularly effective when attacking, it did not do Liverpool’s defensive stability much good. Combined with the new big-money signings so far, a switch to a more compact 4-2-3-1 starting formation could be on the cards in gameweek 1.
In this formation, Mac Allister could play the role of dynamic deeper midfielder he often had at Brighton, while the likes of Thiago and Curtis Jones could circle around him. Looking at this setup though, we would expect Liverpool to splash the cash at least once more this summer to bring in a more physical ball winner. The most important of all though, will be to renew their ability to conjure the intensity that is needed to play Klopp’s preferred intense pressing game, the game that has brough the club so much success since the German’s arrival back in October 2015. If they can manage that while improving the midfield and creating a bit more squad depth, the Reds should be a title contender again this season.
LIVERPOOL – Potential FPL targets
303, 259, 233, 231, 265, 239. Those are the total FPL points recorded by Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) since his return to the Premier League at the start of the 2017-18 season. While he can be a frustrating asset to own at time, he is one of the very best players the official fantasy game has seen in the past ten years and he will continue to be so this season. Of course, it’s important to mention that Salah seems to play wider more often since last season, making him more of a creator and less of a goal scorer, but then again, the Egyptian still netted 19 times (while providing 13 assists as well). He is still Liverpool’s star player, he is on penalties, and with the abundance of attacking options up front, the fact that he is nailed-on to start (and more often than not finish the 90 minutes) should not be underestimated. Salah is expensive, but he is so for a reason.
185, 210, 160, 208, 156. We generally don’t like to repeat ourselves, but just for the sake of effect, we did this time. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£8.0m) has consistently ranked amongst the highest-scoring defenders in the official game for the past five season, never scoring less than 156 points. As a result, he is by far the most expensive defender in the game right now and possibly the most expensive defender ever. Last season, despite all of Liverpool’s woes, the England international still got 2 goals and 11 assists on top of his 10 clean sheets, and those numbers were very much in line with his underlying stats. Like Salah, he is expensive, but also like Salah, he is nailed-on in Klopp’s starting eleven, has a bunch of set-piece duties in his locker, and should exceed last season’s points total quite comfortably. Inverted full-back or not, if you can afford him, TAA is probably the best way into the Reds defence.
We mentioned the many options in the Liverpool attack and what makes them interesting from a fantasy point of view is that, apart from Salah, they are all priced quite kindly. Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nuñez all come in at £7.5m, and we’ve decided to go with the last one. Darwin was the butt of more than a few jokes last season due to his lack of finesse in front of goal (he had one of the lowest conversion rates in the entire league), but the Uruguay international still recorded a decent 9 goals and 5 assists from 19 league starts in his first season as a Red. The competition he faces for the spots in attack makes Darwin a bit more of a punt than the likes of Salah and TAA, but he looks most suited to the central position up front, while the names mentioned before can easily play from the wings as well. Our recommendation is to follow Liverpool’s pre-season closely, because if Darwin looks to be starting come gameweek 1, he could be a great bargain in one of the league’s best attacks.
LUTON TOWN – FPL 2023/24 team preview
We’ve got a Premier League debutant this season. Luton Town FC, one of England’s oldest clubs, made it all the way through the Championship play-offs last season after four seasons at the second level and they are now preparing for their first ever season in the Premier League. That’s not all there is to Luton’s story though, far from it even. In a span of nine years, the Hatters rose up from the National League, England’s fifth level, to the country’s footballing elite. This season, with the league’s smallest stadium (Kenilworth Road, capacity of 10,356) and the league’s smallest budget, everything will be aimed at achieving the seemingly impossible, namely to find themselves outside of the bottom three by the end of gameweek 38.
Looking back on Luton’s 2022-23 Championship season, what immediately jumps out is the relatively low number of goals scored. Over 46 league games, the Hatters netted 57 times, the lowest out of the entire top six. At the same time, only champions Burnley conceded less than their 39 goals, which offers us a glimpse into the foundation of the club’s success last season. Especially when taking into account that only Coventry recorded more clean sheets than them (20 vs 19). It took the side a while to get going though, because after five games, they actually found themselves in 23rd place and even though things picked up after that, performances remained patchy. During the winter World Cup break, manager Nathan Jones was replaced by Rob Edwards and the rest is history. Luton went on to lose just three more league games this season and ended up beating Coventry in the play-off finals at Wembley in front of 90,000 fans. We’ll get into how they managed this in more detail in the tactical preview below.
As is the case for every newly promoted team, the summer transfer window building up to gameweek 1 is of crucial importance. These teams need to find a balance between keeping the players who got them to outperform the other teams in the Championship and bringing in new players who can help them compete in the Premier League. Having said that, Luton have been very quiet on the transfer market so far. For a total of about £ 15 million, they have so far brought in left-back Ryan Giles from Wolves, talented (but unexperienced) winger Tahith Chong from Birmingham, Danish central defender Mads Andersen from Barnsley and defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba from Aston Villa. Nakamba already played on loan for the Hatters since January and played a key role in the club’s sensational promotion, so bringing him in on a permanent contract has perhaps been their most achievement on the transfer market so far.
Luton Town’s tactical preview
We already mentioned Luton’s outstanding defensive performance last season and that was in great part thanks to the side’s compact setup. Under manager Rob Edwards, the team tends to line up with a 3-men central defence joined by a wing-back on each flank. Through an asymmetrical attacking approach, in which the left-back mostly pushed forwards and the right-back would remain deeper, Luton would rarely get caught out in the back. Overall, this would come down to a flexible kind of 5-3-2 formation or a 3-5-2 if you prefer. Combined with an extraordinarily high zonal press, this approach often prevented opponents from mounting decent attacking moves.
From an attacking point of view, Edwards likes his side to employ a direct style. This means that as soon as they have the ball, which due to the high press often happens relatively high up the pitch, they look for the wings in order to stretch the opposition. As soon as gaps in the opposition defensive line appear, the team tries to reach the forwards as quickly as possible. Striker Carlton Morris seems particularly suited to this way of playing, considering his 20 goals and 6 assists from 44 league appearances last season. Nevertheless, the emphasis of Rob Edwards’ Luton is and will remain on defensive solidity, which is important to keep in mind for fantasy managers as well.
LUTON TOWN – Potential FPL targets
We don’t expect Luton assets to be very popular amongst fantasy managers by the time the gameweek 1 deadline nears its end, but their roster does offer some budget potential. Our first fantasy pick is Luton’s highest-priced player though, Carlton Morris (£5.5m), who we mentioned just above. The 27-year-old striker was the best Hatter last season, in great part thanks to his 20 goals and 6 assists, the most out of all Luton players in both categories. He is a nailed-on starter and on penalties as well, which is always appealing, especially for a third forward in your squad. At the moment, he looks like Luton’s talisman and after a tough start to the season with away games against Brighton and Chelsea surrounding a blank in GW2, he could be worth considering for those managers looking for a decent budget enabler up front.
Luton Town is also a source of ultra-affordable defenders this season, with no less than 5 defenders priced at £4.0m at the moment. Out of those five, central defender Amari’i Bell and right-back Issa Kaboré look like the most likely to be included in the starting eleven come gameweek 1, and we have gone with the latter. Previously, we briefly touched upon Luton’s playing style with dynamic wing-backs who are crucial to the team’s attacking moves and Kaboré could benefit from that. The 22-year-old Burkina Faso international was brought in on a loan from Manchester City and will be playing his first full season at the very highest level this year. In line with City’s playing style, he is used to taking up an attacking role from right-back and he looks to have been contracted for a starting spot. After all, last season’s starting right-back, Cody Drameh, returned back to Leeds after completing a season on loan with the Hatters. If you’re looking for a £4.0m defender who is a starter, Kaboré should definitely be on your scouting list.
For those who feel a bit more confident in Luton’s ability to largely replicate their (defensive) performances from last season and who are willing to spend a bit more on one of their defenders, left-back Alfie Doughty (£4.5m) looks like the top of the bunch. Only striker Carlton Morris managed more assists than the 5 provided by Doughty last season, while the London-born defender also scored 2 goals. The fact that he is also on more than a few set-pieces increases his budget appeal further, as we wouldn’t be surprised to see Luton aim for success from these situations again this season.