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 seventh part, the two Manchester sides are up.
MANCHESTER CITY – FPL 2023/24 team preview
The fact that Manchester City would be competing for the title last season wasn’t really a surprise to anyone. After all, thanks to financial injections worth billions of pounds since the take-over by the United Arab Emirates back in the summer of 2008, the Cityzens crowned themselves champions in seven of the past fifteen seasons, including a run of five championships in the last six seasons. What many did not expect was that Pep Guardiola’s men would be surpassing all of their past seasons by winning an unprecedented treble. In what turned out to be an incredible 2022-23 campaign, Man City clinched the Premier League title, the FA Cup (against arch rivals Manchester United) and the coveted UEFA Champions League.
As usual, Guardiola could count on perhaps the deepest squad in Europe, which allowed him to field a world-class eleven every game, even when City had to turn up three times in a week. This has been the case at the Etihad for years though, so what made them so successful last season in comparison to previous successful season? You could look at Pep’s unrelenting tactical flexibility and innovation or perhaps at several important players having the best season of their respective careers so far, but the one factor no one can look past is the Erling Haaland factor. The Norwegian machine was brought in from Dortmund last summer for around £ 50 million and there were some doubts about how he was going to fit into Pep’s perfect lineup. Fast forward one year, 53 competitive games, 52 goals and 9 assists, and while not everything was perfect, we can safely say that Haaland played a major role in City’s best season ever.
The question on every football fan’s mind is how much money the Cityzens will be spending again this summer, but so far, they have been rather quiet. Mateo Kovacic was brought in from Chelsea for around £ 26 million, but that’s it in terms of major signings so far. We still expect some fireworks from the Man City offices before the end of the current transfer window, with rumours around several players growing by the day, including RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise and Stade Rennes’ Jeremy Doku. A few influential names did leave the Etihad already, including talented winger Riyad Mahrez (£ 31 million to Al-Ahli) and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (free to Barcelona).
Manchester City’s tactical preview
Pep Guardiola is one of the pillars of Manchester City’s numerous successes over the last years and that is in a great part thanks to the Spaniard’s incredible tactical prowess. He is constantly searching for ways to get the very maximum out of his squad and not just during the pre-season. As Pep once again showed last season, he is not afraid to switch up during the season as well. City’s starting formation slowly evolved in a kind of very fluid 3-2-5 formation, with one of the full-backs operating basically as an extra midfielder in possession. This would sometimes even result in a 2-3-5, which frankly looks crazy on paper, but it worked bigtime.
The addition of a pure striker and clinical finisher like Haaland has given City the option to play much more directly than they could in the past. Pep likes to overload the midfield with the help of the much-discussed inverted wingback tactic, which allows him to stretch the pitch through the wings at the same time. Combined with impressive tactical discipline and intense pressure on the ball as soon as they lose it, City can keep the ball far away from their own goal, thus minimalizing the risk of playing with essentially just three defenders. It remains to be seen if Guardiola will pull out another tactical rabbit out of his hat this upcoming season, but three things are for sure: Manchester City will again compete for the title, their squad will again offer an abundance of FPL potential and guessing which players might deliver returns at any given time will again be next to impossible for fantasy managers.
MANCHESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets
Having said that, there is at least one Manchester City player whose playing time and return potential won’t be difficult to predict and that’s Erling Haaland (£14.0m). The Norwegian defied all odds by breaking the record for most goals scored in a single Premier League season in his very first season in the league, recording an incredible 36 goals from 33 league starts. On top of that, he also provided 9 assists, bringing his FPL points total for the 2022-23 campaign to 272. No player scored more. While it would be bold to expect him to perform in a similar outrageous manner this season, we would just like to repeat that he did all of the above in his first season as a City player. Generally, players need some time to adjust to their new surrounding to then truly get to work in their second season… It’s scary to think what that would mean for Haaland and we’re clearly not the only one feeling that way. At the moment of writing, the forward sits in just under 87% of squads in the official fantasy game. The 13% of managers who have not picked him are very brave (or Man United supporters)!
From an attacking point of view, the next best Man City fantasy pick behind Haaland is probably Kevin de Bruyne (£10.5m). We admit it’s not the most inspired of City selections so far, picking two very premium priced assets, but the reality is that the Cityzens roster boasts the league’s best forward and one of the league’s best offensive midfielders as well. De Bruyne suffered from some injury issues last season and he is perhaps no longer able to fire all engines every week in both England and Europe, but despite “just” 28 league starts, he still managed 7 goals and no less than 18 assists over the 2022-23 Premier League campaign. The Belgian is the team’s principal creative force and assuming he stays fit, there is no reason to believe he won’t cross the 200-point mark in FPL this season. KDB is not cheap, but he looks like the most certain starter in midfield and that alone means a lot in a side that scored 94 goals in 38 league games last season.
Much more affordable is winger/forward Phil Foden (£7.5m), who might just be the major “victim” of City’s consistent shopping sprees and jam-packed attacking lines over the past years. The 23-year-old has been recognised as one of the biggest talents in English football for years now though, and his importance in Guardiola’s squad has been steadily increasing since a few seasons. He got 22 league starts last season in which he amassed a total of 11 goals and 7 assists for 142 FPL points. This indicates the enormous potential Foden has, both on the pitch and in the official fantasy game, especially now that Riyad Mahrez and, to a lesser extent, Ilkay Gundogan have left the club. We recommend keeping a close eye on City’s pre-season, because if Foden looks like a starter come gameweek 1, his FPL potential could be practically unrivalled.
MANCHESTER UNITED – FPL 2023/24 team preview
A club like Manchester United is obliged to compete for the important silverware to the very end every season, it’s simple like that, but considering the rough waters they have found themselves in over the past few years, last season’s performance can be labelled ‘acceptable’, with realistic hopes for more. The Red Devils finished comfortably in the top four, in third place with 75 points, which means Old Trafford will be seeing Champions League football again this season. On top of that, conquering the League Cup meant the first silverware for Man United since the 2016-17 season, when they won the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League under José Mourinho. All in all, a decent start under former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag, who seemingly did not need much time to adapt to the beast that is the Premier League.
With the Dutchman at the helm, the world’s most valuable football club looks to finally have a direction again, on the pitch at least. The ongoing Glazer shenanigans obviously don’t help, but for the most part, the key figures on the pitch have shown progress and perhaps more importantly, willingness. Ten Hag managed Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit excellently and dealt with more than a few injuries correctly, while also gifting opportunities to young talents and academy players. The added strain and pressure of Champions League football is something he is familiar with already; the question is how he will manage it this season. He can at least count on what looks to be the world-class core of the team for the coming years, including Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, world champion Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane and of course, Marcus Rashford.
United’s main priority this summer transfer window is the striker position, as Wout Weghorst has returned to Burnley after a season on loan and Anthony Martial simply cannot be relied on due to continuous fitness problems. Everything is pointing at Atalanta forward Rasmus Hojlund becoming the next attack leader for the Red Devils, with the club apparently on the brink of announcing the signing of the Danish striker for around £ 72 million. Man United have also completed a few very interesting deals already, including the acquisitions of midfielder Mason Mount (from Chelsea for about £ 60 million) and goalkeeper André Onana (from Inter for around £ 50 million). David de Gea and Phil Jones were let go on frees, while Anthony Elanga (to Nottingham Forest for around £ 15 million), Alex Telles (to Al-Nassr for around £ 6 million) and academy talent Zidane Iqbal (to FC Utrecht for about £ 800,000) were the only players to yield some transfer income for the Red Devils.
Manchester United’s tactical preview
One of Erik ten Hag’s major challenges upon signing for Manchester United was to give the club a new identity in terms of playing style and tactics. For too long, the team suffered from a coming and going of managers who either could not implement their ideas or did not get the time to do so. After a rough start to the 2022-23 campaign (remember that 0-4 thrashing at the hands of Brentford in gameweek 2?), the side slowly found the way up. Ten Hag saw the team’s attacking potential and the club mentality to always fight for a result, while realising that there was a serious lack of direction and belief. On top of that, the side seemed to miss some grit, which was quickly solved by bringing in the likes of Casemiro from Real Madrid and his protégé Martinez from Ajax.
United most often lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Casemiro anchoring the midfield just behind two more playmaker-like types in the persons of Christian Eriksen and, of course, Bruno Fernandes. Ten Hag managed to mould a side with a compact centre and versatile wings, especially on the left side with Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford. Antony, the other mega signing Ten Hag brought with him from Amsterdam, showed glimpses of his class at times, but we are expecting more of him this season. The addition of Mount instead of Eriksen will inject more intensity and work rate into the midfield, while Onana in goal and most likely Hojlund up front provide fresh blood at opposites ends of the pitch.
MANCHESTER UNITED – Potential FPL targets
Marcus Rashford (£9.0m) was one of last season’s absolute bargains at a starting price of just £6.5m. In 32 league starts, the England international made a complete mockery of that price tag by scoring 17 goals and providing 7 assists for a total of 205 FPL points. Only Mo Salah did better amongst midfielders in the official fantasy game. As a result, Rashford’s price was bumped up considerably for the upcoming season, to a healthy £9.0m. While this means he is no longer a bargain, we believe he could still be more than worth it. When he’s fit, he plays and with a big man like Hojlund up front, his cut-ins from the left side might become even more dangerous and more effective. With home games against Wolves and Forest as part of their first three fixtures of the season, we can see Rashford quickly emerging as a mainstay in many FPL squads.
To our surprise, Bruno Fernandes (£8.5m) actually saw his price tag reduced compared to last season, when he started at £10m. The fact that he now costs a whole £1.5m less makes him a very attractive option for any midfield. He is nailed-on as his team’s main playmaker, which resulted in 8 goals and 9 assists from 37 league starts last season. With a better striker in front of him, and one who will be lining up every game, we expect the Portuguese technician to increase his output this season. On top of that, he is Manchester United’s designated penalty taker, which always increases a player’s appeal in FPL. Will Bruno be able to replicate his incredible first full season in Manchester red, when he scored 18 goals and provided 14 assists in the 2020-21 season?
While we find André Onana a very interesting addition to the United roster as well at £5.0m, we have decided to go with the proven Luke Shaw (£5.5m). The Englishman is one of the certainties in Erik ten Hag’s starting eleven, usually at left-back and when needed as a left central defender. His fitness is a bit of an issue at times, but he made it through last season mostly unscathed. Shaw played 30 league games from the start in which he recorded a total of 124 FPL points, courtesy of 12 clean sheets, 1 goal and 4 assists. None of his teammates in defence did better. With his current price tag of £5.5m, he is approaching premium pick category, but that doesn’t seem to dampen his appeal much. At the moment of writing, the 28-year-old sits in 30% of all teams in the official fantasy game, making him the most-selected Man United asset bar Marcus Rashford.