Welcome back to the Fantasy Premier League, this season without a winter World Cup, and welcome back to FISO!
The Premier League 2023-24 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 ninth instalment, we’re taking a look at promoted Sheffield United and a Spurs side under new management.
SHEFFIELD UNITED – FPL 2023/24 team preview
Sheffield United are the third and last promoted side in our Club previews series for the upcoming 2023-24 Premier League season. The Blades were last active at the very highest level during the 2020-21 season, which saw them drop down to the Championship after a rather surprising 2-season run in the Prem under manager Chris Wilder, including an impressive ninth-place finish in 2019/20. Much has changed at Bramall Lane, as the club finished second behind Burnley last season to earn direct promotion under the guidance of manager Paul Heckingbottom. For many fantasy managers though, the question that immediately comes to mind when Sheffield United is mentioned will be “Who is the new John Lundstram?!”. We’ll take a look at that a bit later.
Looking at last season’s Championship table, we can see that defensive solidity played a big role in Sheffield United’s successful bid for promotion. Only runaway champions Burnley conceded less than their 39 goals, though there is more to the Blades than that. They also scored 73 goals in 46 games, a tally only bettered by Middlesbrough and, again, Burnley. As usual, it’s important to see such stats in the context of Championship football as the Premier League is another beast entirely. Then again, when it comes to their chances of survival this season, the fans and players alike can take some extra hope from last season’s FA Cup, which took the Blades to the semi-finals. A 3-0 defeat against later champions Manchester City put a stop to their extraordinary Cup run.
At the moment of writing, with about three weeks to go until the end of the summer transfer window, Sheffield United are amongst the quietest clubs in terms of transfer activity. The main news so far has been the departure of key player and last season’s top scorer Iliman Ndiaye for about £ 15 million to French side Marseille. They have brought in one new forward for around £ 4 million, Bénie Traoré from Swedish club Häcken, as well as central midfielder Anis Slimani from Danish side Brondby for about £ 2 million. The club’s marquee signing so far though, is central defender Anton Trusty, for whom the Blades paid around £ 5 million to Arsenal.
Sheffield United’s tactical preview
Even though Chris Wilder is no longer at the club (and hasn’t been for about two years already), a lot of Sheffield United’s current playing style and tactics find their origins in the Wilder era. Considered by more than a few Blades fans to be one of the best Sheffield United managers in recent memory, Wilder turned the club’s fortunes around by introducing a dynamic 3-5-2 formation defined by playmaking wing-backs and perhaps even more notably, overlapping centre-backs. Heckingbottom has built on many of these “Wilder tactics” and with great success. Perhaps the most outstanding embodiment of the Sheffield United style is central defender Anel Ahmedhodzic, who supported the attack often and finished the season with 6 goals and 2 assists from 25 league starts.
Should the Blades find their rhythm this season, then their wing-backs might be amongst the first Sheffield United to pop on fantasy manager radars. They are essential to the side’s tactical approach, as they provide width and create both space and chances from crosses for the two forwards. The centre of the pitch often gets overloaded, which automatically brings the flank players into play. The main question, as usual with newly promoted teams, is to what extent Heckingbottom will be able to stick with the tactics that brought him promotion last season.
SHEFFIELD UNITED – Potential FPL targets
At first glance, this year’s Sheffield United roster does not seem to contain the next John Lundstram, but then again, few expected the £4.0m-defender-turned-scoring-midfielder to explode the way he did back in 2019, either. Anyway, when looking at Blades options this time, we can see some value in Anel Ahmedhodzic (£4.5m), the central defender we already briefly mentioned before. The Bosnia international plays a key role in Heckingbottom’s overlapping centre-back system, as he is the one who most often took that role last season. His frequent presence up the pitch, both in game and during set-pieces, resulted in 6 goals and 2 assists from 35 league starts, on top of Sheffield United’s 18 clean sheets. We don’t expect the 24-year-old to replicate those numbers in the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean that he could not prove to be decent value as a starter.
In the build-up to most FPL seasons, the rosters of the newly promoted sides are popular hunting grounds for £4.0m. We have already identified a few potentially good options and Sheffield United look to add one more. George Baldock (4.0m) is one of the few Blades who also featured frequently during the club’s last two-season stint in the Premier League under Chris Wilder. The right-back had a fantastic debut season amongst the English footballing elite, amassing 142 FPL points from 13 clean sheets, 2 goals and 4 assists. While the subsequent relegation season saw Baldock record just 63 FPL points from 4 clean sheets and 2 assists, we at least know that he knows what is asked from a right-back in the Premier League. Thanks to that experience on top of his qualities as part of Sheffield United’s specific playing style, we feel that we’ve possibly got one of the stand-out £4.0m fantasy picks in Baldock.
We found it hard to identify a third Sheffield United fantasy asset, especially after having highlighted two defenders already. Before his transfer to the Ligue 1, we would’ve probably included striker Ilifan Ndiaye here, but that’s no longer an option, so instead we’ve looked at the (expected) man for set-pieces on the Blades roster. Last season, this was clearly midfielder Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) who took charge of most of the team’s free-kicks and corners. Besides that, Heckingbottom actually confirmed last season that Norwood was second-in-line for penalties behind Billy Sharpe, who is no longer at the club. If it looks like Norwood will be a starter again in the Premier League, just like he was under Chris Wilder a few years ago, he could be a budget midfielder worth keeping an eye on in the build-up to gameweek 1.
SPURS – FPL 2023/24 team preview
As has practically become tradition each year around this time, Harry Kane’s future at Tottenham Hotspur dominates most of the Spurs-related news. And honestly, we understand why, because the 2022-23 season was a major disappointment for the Londoners. Manager Antonio Conte was replaced by his assistant Cristian Stellini, who was subsequently replaced a few months later by Ryan Mason. To no avail, we might add, because Spurs won’t be playing in Europe for the first time since the 2009-2010 campaign. On top of that, the trophy drought carries on, with the 2008 League Cup being the last piece of silverware Spurs have added to their trophy cabinet.
It’s therefore not hard to see why one of the best strikers in world football is linked to Europe’s best every summer. Despite all of the woes last season, Harry Kane had perhaps one of his best campaigns, at least on an individual level. As a matter of fact, we believe that, had it not been for the extraterrestrial Premier League debut season of one Erling Haaland, it would have been Kane who would’ve approached 90% overall ownership in FPL. The England international scored 30 goals and provided 9 assists in a side that never really found any kind of positive rhythm, which is quite simply incredible. At the moment of writing, Kane is still a Spurs player, after the club apparently rejected a £100-million+ bid from German giants Bayern Munich, but expect the rumours to keep circling around Tottenham’s Very Own until the final minute of the transfer window.
Over the summer so far, Spurs have clearly been active on the recruitment side, undoubtedly in part to convince Kane to stay home. The North London club has already spent around £ 130 million on new contracts, including for James Maddison (£ 45 million from relegated Leicester), Pedro Porro (whose loan from Sporting CP was made permanent for around £ 38 million), Dejan Kulusevski (£ 28 million from Juventus after 2 years on loan) and goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario from Empoli for around £ 19 million. On the outgoing side, only Harry Winks has brought any money into the Spurs treasury after Leicester paid about £ 10 million for the midfielder.
Spurs’ tactical preview
After pretty much a mess of a season, former Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou was brought in recently to put the club back on track. As a result, Tottenham’s shape and style come gameweek 1 are still very much in the air. In order to get a kind of idea of the “new” Tottenham, it’s therefore interesting to look at Postecoglou’s tactics at Celtic and Spurs’ latest transfers. We are also assuming that Harry Kane remains loyal to the club, as losing the star man would change absolutely everything at Spurs, and most likely not for the best.
Simply put, Postecoglou employed an aggressive, possession-based and attacking style at Celtic, with a 4-3-3 formation as foundation. Whether he will also play with a single defensive midfielder and two attack-minded central midfielders in the Premier League remains to be seen, but we can imagine him demanding similar high and wide positions from his wingers at Spurs. It will also be interesting to see to what extent the new manager will have one or both of full-backs slot in alongside the defensive midfielder(s). He did so at Celtic, but the Bhoys obviously dominate many more games in the Scottish Premiership than Spurs do in the English Premier League.
SPURS – Potential FPL targets
Our first FPL pick from Spurs is obviously Harry Kane (£12.5m). At the moment of writing, the powerful forward is still a Tottenham player and Spurs fans will be praying for this situation to remain unchanged until the very last second of the current transfer window. Kane was phenomenal last season in a side that disappointed in almost every aspect. Even his usual partner in attack, Heung-Min Son, was not his usual superb self, but it didn’t hurt him much on an individual level. With 30 goals and 9 assists, Kane reached 263 FPL points, his highest total ever. Only Erling Haaland did better, albeit slightly, with 273 FPL points. The Norwegian looks to be Kane’s only obstacle to huge ownership in the official fantasy game once again this season, but Tottenham’s Very Own could easily be just as good a premium option (with an even more nailed-on starting spot).
Generally, we are not in favour of selecting players who are new to their teams for our gameweek squad, but we believe we can make an exception for James Maddison (£7.5m). Why? Because the former Leicester man is a very talented attacking midfielder with plenty of Premier League experience who might just fit Postecoglou’s plans perfectly. On top of that, Spurs paid more than £ 40 million for him. Last season, in which Leicester relegated from the Premier League, Maddison still managed 10 goals and 9 assists for a total of 135 FPL points. The season before that was his best one to date in terms of FPL with 181 points, courtesy of 12 goals and 11 assists. If the playmaker can replicate these kinds of performances at Spurs, he’ll be a serious bargain at £7.5m.
After turning his loan deal into a £ 39 million-pound permanent contract a few weeks ago, Pedro Porro (£5.0m) looks like the first choice at left back for Postecoglou right now. He joined Spurs at the very end of the last winter transfer window and immediately made an impression as a dynamic and very attack-oriented wing-back. In 13 league starts, he recorded no less than 3 goals and 3 assists on top of 2 clean sheets, which is nothing short of promising for this season. We mentioned Postecoglou’s love for attacking and inverted full-backs already, and Porro seems made for the role. At £5.0m he’s not amongst the cheapest defenders, but he could represent excellent value.