FPL Season 2020-21 – Gameweek 3 Preview

“The clash of the week takes place at Anfield this week as champions Liverpool host Arsenal” (CC by 4.0). Image by: Rodhullandemu

With Man City, Man United, Burnley and Aston Villa also off the mark after their blank gameweek 1, the FPL 2020-20 season is now well and truly underway. Gameweek 2 saw a boat load of goals with no less than six games featuring 4 goals or more and an incredible four games seeing a minimum of 6 goals. As a result, we saw plenty of hauls, with Spurs star Heung-Min Son (24 FPL points), his team mate Harry Kane (21 points) and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (17 points) forming the top-3 performers.

Gameweek 3 offers yet another set of juicy fixtures, including top-of-the-table clashes between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield and Man City and Leicester at the Etihad. Spurs could build on their 5 goals at Saint Mary’s with a home game against Newcastle, while from an FPL point of view, the Wolves game at West Ham and the Chelsea game at the Hawthorns offer plenty of potential. Before we move on to our picks for the weekend, don’ forget to check the lineups and results of the mid-week games in the League Cup. We don’t expect them to affect the lineups too much this weekend, but do keep them in mind nonetheless.

Don’t forget: the deadline for gameweek 3 is set for 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, September 26th. Also do check out the Predicted Line-Ups for the Premier League clubs as well as the latest injury news (click on ‘Team’ to sort per club rather than the default ‘date’) before finalising your transfer(s).

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per September 24th, 2020)

 TRANSFERS OUTTRANSFERS INPOSSIBLE REASONS
GKMcCarthy (SOU), Ryan (BRI), Pope (BUR)Martinez (AST), Ryan (BRI), Guaita (CRY)Disappointing Saints and Clarets, defensively at least.
DEFAlexander-Arnold (LIV), Doherty (TOT), Egan (SHE)James (CHE), Mitchell (CRY), Castagne (LEI)Replacement of premium defenders for more budget-friendly picks after few clean sheets in the first gameweeks.
MIDAubameyang (ARS), Saint-Maximin (NEW), Son (TOT)Son (TOT), Rodriguez (EVE), De Bruyne (CIT)Looks largely fixture-based, with form included as well.
FORWerner (CHE), Ings (SOU), Mitrovic (FUL)Calvert-Lewin (EVE), Bamford (LEE), Kane (TOT)Performing budget-friendly options

Premium pick

Just two gameweeks is not a large sample to base trend predictions on, but with one home game and one away game played for Liverpool, Mo Salah (£12.1m) seems to be continuing his habit of saving his best performances for the home crowd. The Egyptian scored a hat trick and 20 FPL points at Anfield in GW1 and then blanked last weekend away to Chelsea. Last season, he scored 19 Premier League goals and 15 of those came at Anfield. This weekend, the Reds are hosting an Arsenal side that has conceded just a single goal so far, but their opponents have been of quite another calibre than Liverpool, namely Fulham away (0-3) and West Ham at the Emirates (2-1). The Gunners did not look particularly impressive against the Hammers last weekend, and there could be goals in this encounter on Monday. Finally, it doesn’t say that much, but last season, this fixture took place in GW3 as well and saw Salah scoring a brace.

Non-premium picks

Another player who seems to be continuing where he left off last season is Wolves striker Raul Jimenez (£8.5m). The Mexican netted 17 times and provided 7 assists over the 2019-20 campaign, and already has 2 goals to his name this season. He scored in the opener at Bramall Lane and then repeated that feat against Man City at Molineux last weekend. Simply said, there are very few FPL assets as reliable as Jimenez, though he is not generally the go-to man for a big haul. He usually bags a goal plus a bonus point or two. This weekend, Wolverhampton are visiting a West Ham side that has started the campaign with two defeats. In total, the Hammers conceded 4 goals against Newcastle and Arsenal, and to make matters worse, regular starting centre back Issa Diop will be missing on Sunday due to a positive Covid-19 test. Sounds like a good moment to bring in Jimenez if you haven’t yet.

One player we have been following closely since gameweek 1 is Everton’s new star James Rodriguez (£7.6m). The Colombian is a world class operator, there is no doubt about it, but we just wanted to see how fit he was after a few slow years and to what extent he would immediately fit into Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Well, he seems quite fit and the Italian manager seems to consider him as a key piece of his Toffees puzzle. James started with a modest 3-pointer against Spurs in gameweek 1, but followed that one up with a 12-point haul last weekend, courtesy of a goal, an assist and 2 bonus points against West Brom at Goodison Park. He seems to have quickly established himself as Everton’s main creative force and only Salah has attempted more assists than his 7 over the first two gameweeks. He also created more big chances than any other player bar Harry Kane since the start. Up next is an in-form Crystal Palace side, but Everton are showing good form as well and we feel they could make it 9 points out of 9 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

The budget enabler

In the budget category, Wolves forward Daniel Podence (£5.6m) has been making some waves in the first two weeks of this season. With the acquisition of Nelson Semedo, the club may have found a definite replacement for Matt Doherty at right-back , meaning that Adama Traoré is freed up a bit more to be deployed up field in place of Podence, but the ex-Olympiakos looks safe for now. He has started the season in more than decent form with 2 assists in two games and a total of 11 FPL points. The Portuguese dynamo is classified as a midfielder in the game, which means he gets an extra point per clean sheet, and is up against West Ham on Monday. In our opinion, this is one of the most favourable fixtures in gameweek 3 and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him add a third assist to his total this round. Or who knows, maybe even a goal.

A differential pick or two

A bit to our surprise, considering the many new recruits arriving at Stamford Bridge this summer, academy graduate Mason Mount (£6.9m) has played every single Premier League minute so far for Chelsea. Manager Frank Lampard tends to start him as a left winger from where he has the freedom to either stay out on the wing to provide width or to come inside and combine with the likes of Werner and Havertz. The young Englishman hasn’t yet returned in terms of the FPL, but an away game against an out-of-sorts West Brom side is as good a fixture as any for him to get off the mark. The Baggies have so far played against Leicester and Everton this season, and conceded a worrying 8 goals in the process. At Chelsea, the new pieces will probably still need a bit more time to glue together nicely, but this encounter with West Brom could definitely boost the confidence. At £6.9m and with an ownership of just 6.2%, Mount could be a great punt for gameweek 3.

After just very narrowingly escaping relegation last season, Aston Villa started off their 2020-21 campaign with a good 1-0 win over Sheffield United. Remember, the Villains blanked in gameweek 1. Up next for them are Fulham at Craven Cottage and considering the Cottagers’ first two displays this season, Villa could be making it a very nice 6 points out of six this coming Monday. That is also why we are recommending their talisman Jack Grealish (£7.0m) to those looking for a differential with potential for gameweek 3. The English midfielder did not manage to get any attacking returns against Sheffield United, He did have two shots from inside the box in that game and we think he’ll have at least as many against a Fulham side that has conceded 7 goals in the first two games of the season. On top of that, Grealish is on most of Villa’s set-pieces. The game on Monday looks like the perfect opportunity for him to record the first returns of the season after scoring 8 goals and providing 7 assists last season.

The captaincy

Gameweek 3 offers a few very interesting fixtures from a fantasy football point of view and with them, a few appealing GW3 FPL captaincy candidates as well. We have gone with Momo Salah for this one as he faces an Arsenal defence we still consider a bit leaky, but there are good alternatives for the Egyptian as well. Kevin de Bruyne as playmaker at number 10 at home to Leicester is never a bad pick, while Salah’s team mate Sadio Mané is just coming off a brace against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. We also think Raul Jimenez’ right arm is a good spot to place the armband this round.

For those managers looking for a bit more of a punt, in order to play early-season catch-up for example, Spurs stars Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are very good options at home to Newcastle after their dynamic duo display against Southampton. With Chelsea facing West Bram at the Hawthorns, there could also be a first goal for Timo Werner and/or Kai Havertz as the Blues are working hard to make the many new faces form a solid unit. 

FPL Season 2020-21 – Gameweek 2 Preview

“After a 16-year absence, Premier League football returns to Elland Road this weekend” (CC by 4.0). Image by: Boxingfan1995

And we’re back! After a simply crazy 2019-20 campaign, the 2020-21 campaign was set into motion last weekend and it’s promising to be an amazing year once again. It didn’t take long for English football to remind us of the roller-coaster kind of league it truly is, with new boys Leeds almost matching Liverpool in a goal-scoring spectacle; Arsenal showing some serious promise against Fulham and Everton immediately setting the tone under Ancelotti with a 0-1 away win at Spurs, just to mention a few encounters. From an FPL point of view, we hope you had Momo Salah (as captain).

For this season, we have adapted our gameweek preview format just a little bit. We will recommend player picks in the build-up each week, as usual, and we’ll do so based on four categories instead of the previous three. We will pick a premium player each week (meaning priced £9.5m or higher, which at the moment are 9 players), two non-premium picks, 1 budget pick (the price to be included in this category can vary a bit based on position, but needs to be considerable as a budget enabler), and two differentials (because what’s more satisfying, really, than hauling with a player owned by 0.1% of all managers?). To end each piece, we’ll also quickly go over our captaincy thoughts.

Gameweek 2 offers a few juicy fixtures, so let’s get started! Welcome back!

Don’t forget: the deadline for gameweek 2 is set for 11h00 (UK time) on Saturday, September 19th. Also do check out the Predicted Line-Ups for the Premier League clubs as well as the latest injury news (click on ‘Team’ to sort per club rather than the default ‘date’) before finalising your transfer(s).

Most transferred in/transferred out players (as per September 17th, 2020)

 TRANSFERS OUTTRANSFERS INPOSSIBLE REASONS
GKMcCarthy (Sou), Alisson (Liv), Ryan (Bri)Pickford (Eve), Leno (Ars), McCarthy (Sou)Could be fixtures, plus improved clean sheet potential after GW1
DEFAlexander-Arnold (Liv), Doherty (Tot), Egan (She)Gabriel (Ars), Justin (Lei), Mitchel (Cry)Shift to budget defenders who performed well in GW1
MIDSon (Tot), Mané (Liv), Aubameyang (Ars)Fernandes (Utd), De Bruyne (MC), Willian (Ars)The return to action of United and City premium options, Willian’s haul against Fulham
FORWerner (Che), Ings (Sou), Mitrovic (Ful)Bamford (Lee), Martial (Utd), Calvert-Lewin (Eve)Shift to scoring budget strikers, United’ return to action

Premium pick

Obviously, after starting the season with a hattrick, Mo Salah is an excellent premium pick for gameweek 2, despite his away fixture against Chelsea. We’ve gone with another “midfielder” though, one who is, strangely being dumped by a lot of managers this week. Arsenal got off to a good start, beating Fulham 0-3 away from home and star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) notched one of those goals for a total of 7 FPL points. It’s true that he is expensive this season, but it’s also true that he is classified out-of-position as a midfielder, when in reality he will be the most dangerous Gunner most of the time. His yellow card was a shame, but he did get an extra point for his goal in comparison to a forward and another one for the clean sheet. In GW2, the Gabonese attacker is combining what looks like decent form with a strong home fixture against West Ham and he’s on penalties as well. Auba is not only our premium pick for gameweek 2, but our captain pick for as well.

Non-premium picks

Traditionally, we’re a bit wary of going big on Everton at the start of the season, as the Toffees can be deceitful at times. They usually boast plenty of talent and promise, but their performances are not always on par. This season though, we’ve got some hopes for them. It’s the first full season under seasoned manager Carlo Ancelotti and he seems to have wasted no time on moulding the team to his wishes. One player who could definitely benefit from the fresh Italian breeze at Goodison Park is striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.1m). The young Englishman got off the mark just after the break, scoring the only goal with a majestic header against Spurs to bring the three points back home. As you can see, he has already risen by £0.1m and we wouldn’t be surprised to see that trend continue for a while to come, especially if he delivers again versus West Brom this weekend. The Baggies didn’t look quite ready for the Premier League yet in GW1 against Leicester, and with the likes of James Rodriguez, Richarlison and Allan feeding the Everton attack, DCL might hurt them this Saturday as well.

Leicester’s Harvey Barnes (£7.0m) is another more than affordable player who could become a very appealing FPL asset. Out of all the players who didn’t get an attacking return last weekend, the young winger is probably the one who should have. The Foxes overwhelmed West Brom and Barnes could’ve netted a couple had he been a bit more clinical in front of goal. He got 8 touches in the penalty box, a joint third-best of all players, and he fired 5 shots in the box, a total bettered only by hattrick hero Salah. These are some very promising offensive stats, though worthless when not converted in returns. Barnes passed the eye test with flying colours nevertheless and despite coming weekend’s Burnley not being a fragile opponent by any chance, we feel he could be a good pick for GW2.

The budget enabler

In gameweek 1, there were a few serious budget picks that delivered points. The likes of Jeff Hendrick and Jorginho hauled at bargain prices, as did Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford (£5.6m). Thanks to his goal against Liverpool, after good pressing and a subsequent mistake by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, his price has already risen by £0.1m. In the crazy 4-3 encounter, Bamford managed to snatch a single bonus point for a total of 7 FPL points. Up next for Leeds is fellow newly-promoted club Fulham and the West Yorkshire side will feel that this weekend presents a good opportunity for the first three points of the season. The club brought in Spanish international Rodrigo to bolster the forward line and Bamford’s starting spot might come under pressure at some point, but for the moment we can’t imagine manager Marcelo Bielsa dropping the Englishman. With a price tag of £5.6, he represents a huge potential bargain.

A differential pick or two

Newcastle had an excellent opening of the 2020-21 season by booking a 0-2 victory at the London Stadium against West Ham. The Magpies started the game with a four-men defence and it was former Norwich defender Jamal Lewis (£4.5m) who impressed on the left side. Against the Hammers, the talented Englishman created three chances for his team mates, which ranks him amongst the top three for defenders in gameweek 1. Next up for Newcastle are Brighton at home and based on last season’s defensive performances at Saint James’ Park, a second consecutive clean sheet is definitely a possibility. Last season, the club booked seven clean sheets at home, on par with Manchester United and Liverpool. Lewis currently sits in 3.1% of all FPL teams, which makes him an attractive differential and budget-enabling pick for GW2.

Gameweek 2 might also very well be the last time to see our second differential pick in this category. Manchester United’s top scorer Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) was re-classified as a premium midfielder for this season and that offers possibilities for FPL managers. The English superstar scored 17 goals and provided 8 assists last season, and he is facing Crystal Palace at Old Trafford for his first Premier League game of the season this weekend. Rashford is currently selected by just 6.0% of FPL managers, in big part due to the fact that United had a blank in gameweek 1, which creates a huge differential asset. We absolutely expect him to start against the Eagles and he will get some chances, coming in from the left side as part of a forward line containing Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, and possibly new star Donny van de Beek. He has a great set of fixtures coming up, so get him while still a differential.

The captaincy

As we wrote earlier, our FPL captaincy pick for gameweek 2 is Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gunner talisman combines a favourable fixture (home vs West Ham), a decent opening form coming off a goal in his first match of the season, and an out-of-position classification that we find too hard to ignore.

Of course, he is quite expensive, but fortunately, there are plenty of appealing alternatives this weekend. Martial and Rashford could explode against Palace in their first PL game of the season, while Salah could very well build on his hattrick with a good return at Stamford Bridge. Jamie Vardy is facing Burnley at home and is a pretty dependable pick for the captaincy as well. For those managers looking for an early-season punt, Calvert-Lewin (at home against West Brom), Bamford (at home versus Fulham) and whoever plays as left winger for Chelsea against Liverpool could represent fantastic differential value.

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – West Ham & Wolves

“Is it going to be another tough season of top-tier football at the London Stadium this year?” (CC by 4.0). Image by: Hammersfan.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this tenth and final instalment, a West Ham side in turmoil before we’ve even started and Nuno Espirito Santo’s impressive Wolves.

WEST HAM – The team

From the outside, things are not looking optimal at West Ham at the moment, in terms of the transfer window, team harmony and preparation for the coming season. This all came to the surface on September 4th, when the club announced the sale of talented winger Diangana Grady to West Brom, much to the discontent of captain and living Hammers legend Mark Noble. While public posts are usually not the way to communicate disappointment for contract players, this incident feels like a final straw kind of situation, especially when the likes of Declan Rice and Jack Wilshere openly voiced their support of the captain’s statement.

This all adds to the disappointment that was the 2019-20 campaign. Yes, West Ham secured Premier League status for yet another season, but the Hammers rarely played to what many still feel is their more than decent potential. They were underwhelming for most part of the season, though a decent run towards the end of the campaign saw them finish in in sixteenth place, five points above the drop zone. A resurgent Michail Antonio played a bit part in that (anyone picked him for his quadruple strike against Norwich back in July?).

Apart from the powerful English midfielder-converted-into-striker, there were more positive points for manager David Moyes. Jarrod Bowen emerged as an exciting prospect for the future on the wings, while Slavia Prague loanee Tomas Soucek turned out to be an excellent addition to the Hammers midfield, where he has started forming a promising partnership with Declan Rice in the middle. As a matter of fact, the attack is not a real issue for Moyes (particularly if Haller & Antonio stay fit!): only nine teams scored more than West Ham’s 49 goals last season.

The Scottish coach will be more worried about his defence. Only the four teams below West Ham conceded more than their 62 goals last season. The Ogbonna-Diop partnership at the centre of their defensive setup looked promising at first, but has been faltering too often. The wing-backs, though technically capable, are too frail at times and leave the backline too exposed, especially against the quicker teams in the league. Just recently though, the Hammers conceded five against relegated Bournemouth in a friendly game, which seems like a worrying omen for things to come.

On top of that, years of big spending have left the club with little budget to work with this summer. In that sense, the sale of Diangana did make sense. The likes of Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Jack Wilshere weigh heavily, while they do not necessarily perform accordingly. The club has reported interest in Burnley defender James Tarkowski, but the arrival of the England international seems like an illusion for now, however much of a game changer it would.

Having said that, the squad boasts plenty of talent. Big transfer Sebastian Haller suffered from injuries last season, but looks posed for a return in style as the main man up front, while the likes of Antonio, Fornals, Bowen, and even Lanzini and Anderson can provide him with plenty service. As we wrote before, the Rice-Soucek partnership in the middle looks very promising as well. The goalkeeper is a mainstay as well, as Fabianski is regularly one of the best Hammers on the pitch. What the club needs most of all is some defensive reinforcement, either by first offloading some other players or by being creative on the transfer market. If they manage to do that, they could have a decent season. If not, it might be another year of looking back over their shoulders for most of the time.

WEST HAM – The FPL potential

It’s important to know that West Ham have probably the most difficult set of opening fixtures of all teams this season. Considering their pre-season and the wealth of alternatives in other teams, we would only possibly seriously start considering Hammers assets from around gameweek 8 onwards. Having said that, individually West Ham do seem to offer some potential value, forward Sebastien Haller (£6.5m) being one of them. For a first season in the Premier League, the French striker did not do too badly with 7 goals and 3 assists, especially considering his injury issues. For the 2020-21 campaign, he is expected to be the starting number nine for the Hammers, with Antonio playing behind/around him. Once the calendar clears up, he could be worth considering.

With Michail Antonio (£6.5m), we have immediately mentioned another Hammer that could get some returns for a good price. The English forward was classified as a midfielder last season and scored 10 goals (plus 4 assists) for a total of 111 FPL points, the highest of Hammers. He is a forward in the official fantasy game this season, but that shouldn’t hurt his potential too much (due to the lack of clean sheets West Ham get anyway). He could be an interesting differential for your gameweek 1 squad, especially considering his good form at the end of last season, but we think he should really start being on your watchlist from gameweek 8 onwards, when West Ham welcome Fulham to the London Stadium.

The best value though, is probably found in midfield. Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (£5.0m) played for West Ham on loan last season and the club’s management knew that they hit the bull’s eye. They paid Slavia Prague around €16 million to make the deal permanent this summer and the player looks like he will be a big part of Moyes’ plans this summer. In half a season last year, the tireless Soucek managed 3 goals for a total of 41 FPL points, in big part thanks to his talent for connecting with the attack at the right moments. There seems to be a good understanding with the intelligent Declan Rice in the middle and with a price tag of just £5.0m, the Czech Republic international is perhaps the only Hammer we would seriously consider for our gameweek 1 squad. He is reportedly available for the opening match after a period of isolation. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team and due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a West Ham player with one from Newcastle.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Newcastle (H)
2Arsenal (A)
3Wolves (H)
4Leicester (A)
5Spurs (A)
6Manchester City (H)
7Liverpool (A)
West Ham’s opening EPL fixtures for September & October

WOLVES – The team

The Wolves story of the past few years is remarkable. Fuelled by Chinese investment and the seemingly endless connections of Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes, the club rose from the Championship two years ago to establish themselves as a consistent challenger of the Premier League’s top seven. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has managed to create and nurture a kind of hard-working, no-complaining culture at the club that has resulted in very good performances. Last season’s seventh place finish is a very present reminder of that.

What impresses most about Wolverhampton Wanderers is their performances against the top sides, along with decent consistency. Sure, they have their relative ups and downs, and at times things don’t go their way, but that’s football. Overall, and especially from an FPL perspective, the club offers a kind of stability that has become rare in modern football. Practically the only thing that is a potential worry in regard to Wolves is their rather tight squad. Compared to other clubs in the top ten of the league, their squad depth is limited, even for a manager like Espirito Santo who likes to stick to a certain team.

There have nonetheless been some transformations within the Wolves roster this summer. The relatively cheap departure of club and FPL hero Matt Doherty was a surprise to most fans and followers, but apart from that, no regular players left. On the incoming side, the signing of 18-year old Porto talent Fabio Silva for a whopping €40 million, which made him the most expensive player younger than 20 years old in history, was a big moment, while left-back Marçal was signed for a modest fee from Lyon. The loan of Porto attacking midfielder Vitinha and the return of Ryan Bennett from Leicester have also bolstered the squad.

Wolves once again look like a strong unit and with no Europa League games to distract them from a strong start, we can see them once again finishing comfortably within the top eight. A challenge for a Champions League spot is a bridge too far, but Europa League qualification isn’t, nor is a good performance in one of the domestic cups. They could maybe do with a strong rival for superstar striker Raul Jimenez, who hopefully stays at the club this summer, but for the rest, Espirito Santo’s outfit looks ready to go.

WOLVES – The FPL potential

For anyone considering Wolves assets, forward Raul Jimenez (£8.5m) is probably the first name on their list. The Mexican striker is one of the most consistent performers in the league and practically fixture-proof. Last season, he was the highest-scoring Wolf of all, scoring 17 goals and providing 7 assists for a total of 194 FPL points. From players outside of the top four teams, only Ings, Aubameyang and Vardy beat that score, and the latter two did so carrying a much higher price tag. Jimenez is not cheap for the coming season, but the adds undeniable fantasy potential to your squad. He is as nailed-on as they come, he is involved is almost all of Wolves’ attacking moves (as he is their striker) and he plays in a genuinely good team.

The Wolves squad also boasts an interesting out-of-position pick this season in the person of Diogo Jota (£6.5m). The winger/forward is classified as a midfielder this season and an affordable at that. The most annoying thing about the Portuguese player as an FPL asset is that he rarely make it past the 80-minute mark, though this also means that he starts most of the matches. Last season, Jota recorded 7 goals and 3 assists for a total of 105 FPL points. A similar output this season would make him very good value, considering his relatively low price tag. From gameweek 3 onwards, he could be an excellent pick as fourth or even fifth midfielder.

The Wolves backline might also pack some serious FPL potential this season, as it has done since the club returned to the Premier League. Where last season Romain Saiss offered great value, it’s left-back Ruben Vinagre (£4.5m) who could represent the cheap way into one of the league’s best defences. First-choice left-back Jonny is still injured for the coming months and Vinagre looks like his replacement until then. Wolves did bring in Olympique Lyon’s Marçal, but he will probably serve as a back-up for the Portuguese defender. Vinagre could be the kind of fantasy pick that makes the difference this season, with FPL squad depth looking more important than ever. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Wolves defender with one from WBA.

Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Sheffield United (A)
2Manchester City (H)
3West Ham (A)
4Fulham (H)
5Leeds (A)
6Newcastle (H)
7Crystal Palace (H)
Wolves’ opening EPL fixtures in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Tottenham Hotspur & West Bromwich Albion

“The Premier League has returned to The Hawthorns after a 2-year absence” (CC by 3.0). Image by: Mattd1991

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this ninth instalment, we’re going over José Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur and newly promoted West Bromwich Albion.

SPURS – The team

It’s been a strange year and a half for the Spurs. At the start of June 2019, the Londoners played in European football’s most prestigious game, the Champions League final. They lost it against Liverpool, but it was nonetheless the best performance in Europe’s most important tournament in their history. Less than half a year later, one of the big men behind Tottenham’s big project of the past decade, manager Mauricio Pocchetino, was fired and replaced by Mourinho after a horrible start to the 2019-20 campaign.

The Portuguese manager did not take too much time to let the world know that it was going to be something of a “best-we-can” performance for the rest of the season. He realised that some things needed to change at the club and what he wanted more than anything was to have a full pre-season with his team, including a summer transfer window. That’s also why it was hard to really judge his impact on the club last season. Spurs played poor football at times, but achieved the bare minimum: qualification for the Europa League by finishing in sixth.

Something else Mou didn’t doubt to point out once the season had finished, was that Spurs would have been fourth had the points count started at his arrival. That is, of course, rather useless rhetoric, but fourth is probably what they will be aiming for this season. He will not be happy with anything less than Champions League football next season and considering the quality of his squad, he shouldn’t be. The challenge will be a tough one, especially seeing the ways in which the direct competition for the top four have been reinforcing their respective squads this summer, but the Portuguese showman is nothing if not a natural competitor, and one who loves to compete from an underdog position. We’re not entirely sure to what extent Spurs will be able to challenge for a top-four spot, all we’re saying is: watch out.

In terms of regular first-team starters, 33-year old Jan Vertonghen left the club for free to join Benfica, but that’s it. On the incoming side, Spurs look to have done some very decent business. For a combined fee of around €65 million, they brought in on eof the fittest players in the Premier League, Southampton central midfielder Jan Hojbjerg, Wolves player, and one of the best right-backs in the league if not Europe, Matt Doherty, and Real Betis midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso, who was already on loan in London last season. Mourinho seems to be looking for more balance in his squad and we feel he’s on the right path. The new players definitely add quality and the necessary squad depth to be able to compete on several fronts at the same time during the season. If the manager manages to work his magic once again, Spurs could be one to watch. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

SPURS – The FPL potential

Out of the past six seasons, last season was the worst one for Harry Kane (£10.5m). That is, “the worst”, because despite some injury troubles and team form issues, the England striker still managed 18 goals and 2 assists for a total of 158 FPL points. His price was nevertheless lowered considerably and now sits at a very appealing £10.5m. With a pretty favourable set of opening fixtures, on papers at least, we suspect the number nine might be a popular pick come gameweek 1. At the moment he sits in just over 15% of all teams. Kane is a certainty in the Spurs starting lineup and it might just be that he won’t feature as much in Europe during the earlier stages of the Europa League in order to preserve him for the Premier League. There are few better forward options out there right now.

Another Spurs player who might be offering excellent value at the start of the 2019-20 campaign is South Korean international Heung-Min Son (£9.0m). Like Kane, Son is a nailed-on starter for Spurs and the type of player that Mourinho usually loves: tactically disciplined, hard-working, and, of course, of exceptional quality overall. Despite Spurs’ mediocre season last year, the forward  (who is classified as a midfielder in FPL, recorded 11 goals and 13 assets for a total of 169 FPL points. No other player on the Tottenham roster fared better. He’s currently selected by just under 30% of all gameweek 1 squads and we believe that’s for good reason.

While former Wolves star Matt Doherty is the major defensive signing for Spurs this summer, we believe his counterpart on the left of the defence could offer at least equal value. Ben Davies (£5.0m) is an integral part of Mourinho’s defensive plans in North London and represents a very affordable way into what could end up being one of the season’s most resilient defences. Due to injuries, a rivalry with Danny Rose and an overall leaky defence, the Wales international’s 41 FPL points last season don’t really tell the whole story. This season, Davies should be first-choice on the left side of the defence, though he could feature centrally at times as well when Spurs line up with three centre backs. Doherty’s past seasons indicate a higher potential involvement in the attacking third, but Davies feels like a stable pick. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Spurs defender with one from Arsenal.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Everton (H)
2Southampton (A)
3Newcastle (H)
4Manchester United (A)
5West Ham (H)
6Burnley (A)
7Brighton (H)
Spurs’ opening EPL fixtures in September & October

WEST BROM (WBA) – The team

For West Brom, the Championship felt like it lasted just a few weeks too long. After a nine-game unbeaten run at the very start of the 2019-20 campaign, they lost to eventual champions Leeds. This dropped them to third in the league, but that was the only time the Baggies saw themselves outside of the top two for the rest of season. Slaven Bilic’s men looked destined for promotion most of the time, though a barren run at the very end of the season saw Leeds clinch the title early and Brentford come within touching distance. Still, West Brom held on and secured a return to the Premier League just two years after relegation.

West Brom’s preferred formation last year was an effective 4-2-3-1 with the double pivot lying rather deep, allowing the front four and at times the wing-backs to apply intense pressure on opposing defences. The forwards generally play quite narrow, which allows the full-backs to utilise the space on the wings. The Baggies preferred to dictate play from deeper on the pitch last season, which resulted in more patient build-up play and quite a lot of ball possession. We expect a very similar approach this season at the highest level, though we expect Bilic to adapt his preferred style to the higher demands of the Prem. After all, they will rarely be the team with most possession and lying too deep while allowing the full-backs to boom forward can be fatal against the speed that many of the first-tier teams possess.

The departures of regular starter Nathan Ferguson (right-back) and the young Jonathan Leko, and of experienced players like Gareth Barry and Chris Brunt will surely have left a mark on Bilic’ selection. In turn, the club did manage to turn loan contracts of two important players into permanent agreements: Grady Diangana from West Ham and winger/attacking midfielder Mateus Pereira, West Brom’s Player of the Year 2019-20. In terms of new faces, the Baggies have not made huge moves yet, but they did bring in experienced Brighton goalie David Button and young Wigan and centre back Cédric Kipré.

Looking at the current Baggies roster, we find it a bit hard to imagine the club spending much of the coming season outside of the relegation zone. They have a very experienced and successful manager in the person of Slaven Bilic, and the likes of striker Charlie Austin, winger Mattie Phillips and midfielder Jake Livermore are decent players, but overall, the current squad feels a bit… light. On the one hand, there is still some time for West Brom to look for reinforcements and they probably should. On the other hand, the Baggies did impress in the Championship last season and much of the team is still intact. It looks like it’s going to be a tough year at the Hawthorns, but they’ll surely be competitive.

WEST BROM – The FPL potential

Former Sporting Lisbon man Matheus Pereira (£6.0m) was West Brom’s Player of the Year last season and deservedly so. He scored 8 goals and provided an incredible 16 assists, and on top of that, he created 116 chances over the whole season, more than any other player in the league. The forward is classified as a midfielder in FPL, but usually operates as an advanced number ten or a winger, depending on the formation. With 111 attempts on goal, Pereira was also West Brom’s most prolific player. On top of that, he shares set-piece duties, especially when it comes to corners. Of course, it’s not realistic to expect the same kind of output from him this season, but the 24-year old will surely be a crucial part of West Brom’s fight for survival.

With starting budget goalkeepers a bit of a rarity coming season, Sam Johnstone (£4.5m) could be an interesting pick for FPL managers. The former Man United shot stopper is a nailed-on starter for the Baggies, as whilst Brighton’s David Button was brought in to provide some serious competition for the spot in goal he is still acknowledged as a back-up goalie. West Brom booked 14 clean sheets in 46 league games last season, which doesn’t point at a next Sheffield United for coming season, but save points will most likely be on the cards. Johnstone is a quality goalie after all, and he made a bit of a reputation as a penalty specialist for himself with six saved spot kicks over the past two seasons. With a price tag of £4.5m, he could be a decent option as second goalkeeper. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating Sam Johnstone with Patricio from Wolves.

Continuing in the budget category, but at the other end of the pitch, Charlie Austin (£5.5m) might turn up in a few teams as a third forward. In 34 Championship games last season, the Englishman scored 10 goals and provided 2 assists. He recorded 42 shots in the box and had 24 attempts on target, placing him in second place in the entire squad, behind Pereira on both accounts. There is an important note to take into account should you consider Austin for your FPL squad: Hal Robson-Kanu provides serious competition and chances are that the club will still be bringing in offensive reinforcements over the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for Baggies team news and do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Leicester (H)
2Everton (A)
3Chelsea (H)
4Southampton (A)
5Burnley (H)
6Brighton (A)
7Fulham (A)
WBA’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Sheffield Utd & Southampton

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this eighth instalment, we’ll be talking about last season’s surprise package Sheffield United and Danny Ings’ Saints.

SHEFFIELD UNITED – The team

Obviously, for many FPL managers, the 2019-20 Premier League campaign will forever be remembered as “that season in which John Lundstram started as a £4.0m defender”. The English box-to-box midfielder ended up recording 144 FPL points, courtesy of 10 clean sheets, 5 goals and 4 assists, as well as 15 bonus points. Despite losing his spot in the starting eleven in the second half of the season, he represented incredible value, especially for those managers who had him since gameweek 1.

His misclassification as a defender clearly played a role in all this, but the overriding reason for Lundstram’s FPL success was that trainer Chris Wilder managed to mould a team that took the Premier League by storm in their first season at the highest level after a 12 year absence. From a collection of players with very little PL experience, he created a solid unit that finished ninth last season, just five points off the top six.

For the Blades, last season’s success depended for a large part on their advanced tactical discipline and their sturdy defence. In 38 games, they conceded just 39 goals. Only the top three teams conceded less and what’s especially remarkable about it, is the fact that United managed to do without employing a negative game approach. On the contrary, the wingers got plenty of freedom to boom forward and even the three central defenders often overlapped with their midfield partners to join in attack. Combined with a meticulously put together midfield, this provided a unique and stable foundation. Maintaining this type of defensive organisation and discipline will be a major priority for Wilder.

At the same time, the manager will be looking at ways to improve his offensive output. Where 39 conceded places Sheffield United amongst the league’s top four, their tally of 39 goals scored places them amongst the five most goal-shy attacks. Despite their tactics, the Blades create relatively few chances, which explains why no team had less attempts on goal last season. They are a patient side and wait for high-quality openings to strike. This requires clinical strikers though, and despite the fact that the likes of Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset provide certain quality up front, neither of them managed to score more than 6 goals last season.

This is why we wouldn’t be surprised to see the club bring in an attacking reinforcement still this summer, though none have arrived yet. United did react efficiently to the inevitable return of loanee goalkeeper Dean Henderson to Manchester United by resigning the talented Aaron Ramsdale from Bournemouth. Besides that, Wilder brought in two Derby full-backs in Max Lowe and Jayden Bogle for undisclosed fees, and Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu on loan to bolster his defensive options as well as acquiring forward Oliver Burke from WBA in a swpa deal for Callum Robinson.

The logical thing for Wilder and his Blades would be to continue on last season’s (and the previous seasons’) path and it looks like they will. All of their players now have a full season of Premier League football under their respective belts, for many the first in their entire career, and one more year of experience with the manager’s intense tactical concepts at the highest level. They were a very hard-to-beat, attractive-to-watch side to watch last season and we feel the 2020-21 campaign will be more of the same, or better. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

SHEFFIELD UNITED – The FPL potential

Keep in mind that the excellent Dean Henderson is no longer at the club, but as a result of last season’s excellent performances, most of Sheffield United’s defensive assets have been upgraded to (almost) premium level in FPL. If you’re investing in a nailed-on starter in one of the league’s best defences, our first pick is Mr. Sheffield United himself, Chris Basham (£5.0m). The 32-year old already sits on 282 games for the Blades and featured in every Premier League game last season. It’s true that, compared to his teammates in defence, his attacking output was rather negligible with just a single assist, but with Basham, you’re going for security of starts and clean sheets at a very affordable price. The central defender will once again be a key cog in Chris Wilder’s machine and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him record a few clean sheets in the first weeks of the season.

For a bigger threat going forward at just £0.5m more, either one of the wing-backs Enda Stevens (£5.5m) or George Baldock (£5.5m) is a great option. We mention both, because from an FPL point of view, there is barely a difference between them. Both were part of 13 clean sheets last season, both scored 2 goals and both provided 4 assists. Where Stevens got a total of 8 bonus points, Baldock got 7, but at the end of the ride, both defenders ended with 142 FPL points. Baldock got 75 more Premier League minutes to his name than his counterpart on the left, but that is really about it. Stevens sits in a few more teams at the moment (6.0% vs 5.6%), but either player could be an excellent pick for your gameweek 1 squad. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Sheff Utd defender with one from the club below, Southampton.

In the middle, Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) is a fixed part of Wilder’s starting eleven and with good reason. The 29-year Northern Ireland international conducts play superbly from a central position and doesn’t shy away from a set-piece either. At a price of just £5.0m, this makes him an appealing option as fifth midfielder in your gameweek 1 squad. Of course, his attacking output is not huge, with a goal and 3 assists last season, but if he can repeat a score 98 FPL points this season, he represents more than decent value. For a bit more goal involvement, but also a million more of your budget, you can opt for John Fleck as well.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Wolves (H)
2Aston Villa (A)
3Leeds (H)
4Arsenal (A)
5Fulham (H)
6Liverpool (A)
7Manchester City (H)
Sheffield Utd’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October

SOUTHAMPTON – The team

When Southampton lost 0-9 (nil to nine) at home to Leicester in the early stages of last season, things looked kind of grim at Saint Mary’s. Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl allegedly offered his resignation after the unprecedented destruction of his team, but the club’s management refused to accept. A project had been started and a single, albeit devastating defeat, wasn’t going to change that. Maybe this symbolises that something is missing from English football: patience, and belief in a project.

Eight months after the “Leicester” away match (they won the return match!), the Austrian extended his contract with Southampton by four years. The Saints ended up in eleventh place, well above the drop zone and seven points off Spurs in sixth, in big part thanks to an impressive run at the end of the season that saw them lose just one in nine. As a matter of fact, they lost just six of their last 21 Premier League games last season. Things could look good this season if Hasenhüttl manages to continue building on that positive trend, one that he started, with the support of the club’s management.

Of course, it helps when you have a killer present up front. Possibly no other player on the Saints roster was so positively affected by Hasenhüttl’s change to the 4-2-2-2 system he favoured at RB Leipzig than Danny Ings. The high-energy press and quick transitions fit the English striker like a glove and he showed it by scoring 22 goals, just one shy of Golden Boot 2019-20 winner Jamie Vardy. In a season in which he finally managed to avoid serious injury trouble, Ings elevated his entire side to another level.

The Saints have already made two astute signings this summer, the first being the permanent signing of on-loan Spurs right-back Kyle Walker-Peters and the second being talented central defender Mohammed Salisu from Spanish side Valladolid for a combined €25 million. Though we don’t expect too much more incoming transfers in South England and a continued focus on the club’s prodigious youth academy, one or two more relatively major signings could be on the way. One of those could be a direct replacement for Emil Hojbjerg, who left the club for around €17 million to join Spurs.

In any case, the atmosphere at and around Saint Mary’s feels positive during the pre-season. The club ended last season on a high note, it has been relatively calm regarding Ings and the team’s other key men up until now, and their set of opening fixtures has potential for a good start. Whether Southampton are ready to challenge the top eight is something we’re not entirely sure of yet, but equalling (or even bettering) last season’s eleventh place is definitely a possibility.

SOUTHAMPTON – The FPL potential

Last season, Danny Ings (£8.5m) was one of the biggest bargains available, even once his price started rising from its initial £6.5m point. The English number nine surprised fans, opponents, FPL managers and FPL towers alike with his prolific season. In 2,800 minutes of Premier League football, he scored 22 goals and provided 2 assists, while no single player in the official game beat his total of 40 bonus points. Ings ended the season with an incredible 198 FPL points to his name. As a result, his price has risen substantially for this season, but that doesn’t mean his appeal has therefore decreased. With a decent set of opening fixtures and a certain role as key men in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s setup, he could very well hit the ground running this season.

We already mentioned Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.5m) before and at this current price tag, we think he is worth mentioning again. The talented right-back joined the Saints in January 2020 on loan and didn’t need much time to make the spot on the right-side of Hasenhüttl’s revamped defence his. He ended up playing 944 Premier League minutes in which he recorded 32 FPL points, thanks to being part of 2 clean sheets and providing 1 assist. This summer, Southampton made his loan deal permanent for a fee of €13 million and he looks to be going into the 2020-21 as the manager’s preferred choice at right-back. He could be great value as your fourth or even fifth defender. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Southampton defender with one from the club above, Sheffield Utd.

Another budget option definitely worth considering is midfielder James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m). The 25-year old Englishman has developed into a key part of Hasenhüttl’s midfield setup and was even named club captain in the final stages of last season. He barely missed a minute whole season, and rewarded that faith with 5 goals and 4 assists for a total of 112 FPL points. The issue with JWP from an FPL point of view is that he is sometimes deployed further away from the opposition’s area, but that is also reflected in his price tag. To counter that, he is also on plenty of set-pieces, apart from penalties which are for Ingsy, obviously.

Do check the predicted starting line-ups for before finalising your team.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Crystal Palace (A)
2Spurs (H)
3Burnley (A)
4West Brom (H)
5Chelsea (A)
6Everton (H)
7Aston Villa (A)
Southampton’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Manchester Utd & Newcastle

“Will Man United be in the mix for the title race this season?” (CC by 4.0). Image by: HonorThe King.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this seventh instalment, the focus is on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United and an active Newcastle United side.

MANCHESTER UNITED – The team

The situation is a bit complicated at United at the moment. On the one hand, a club with the history and squad like United’s seeks to pursue improvement every season. On the other hand, improving on their third-place finish last season would mean bettering either Liverpool or city rivals Manchester City. We are not excluding any scenario prematurely, you never know in football after all, but the latter scenario seems unlikely for this coming season. The next, more realistic step would be to remain in the title race until the end of the season. Being bested by powerhouses Liverpool and City is understandable, even for a club of United’s stature, but finishing 33 and 15 points behind their two rivals is not acceptable.

Many pundits and pre-season analyses have pointed out United’s need to especially invest in the back this summer, but strangely enough, the Red Devils were on par with the best in the league last season. Only champions Liverpool and runners-up Man City conceded less than United’s 36 goals in 38 games. It is true, though, that regular eye tests of Solskjaer’s team revealed certain defensive insecurity. This became especially apparent when one or more of the designated starters were unavailable. Adding an experienced central defender and one (or even two) ready-to-go full-backs would seriously bolster United’s chances this season.

The club performed on par in offense as well. With 85 goals and 102 goals respectively, Liverpool and City were miles ahead, but without taking these two into account, United’s output (66 goals) was only just beaten by Leicester (67) and Chelsea (69). It is also in the attacking area that the team carries most talent, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood all capable of scoring against any opponent. Daniel James seems to have to content himself with a spot on the bench, but United wouldn’t be wrong to invest a bit in quality squad depth here as well.

For the midfield in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Solskjaer does have some choice. Pogba, Fred, McTominay and Matic are all quality options for the two controlling spots, while new arrival Donny van de Beek is an excellent technician who can play as one half of the double pivot or as number ten instead of Fernandes. His versatility and undeniable quality on and off the ball make him the kind of transfer that United needs to close the gap with the Premier League top two while still competing on different fronts, including the Champions League.

With a few more smart, not necessarily extremely expensive investments, United should be able to spend most of the season in the top five. If the Red Devils splash the cash, it should probably be on a central defender to partner Harry Maguire, or on back-ups/rivals for Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. In any case, we expect there is still some incoming and outgoing transfer news coming from Old Trafford over the coming weeks.

By the way, United’s start to the season is alright in terms of fixtures, but they do have a blank round in gameweek 1. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Man Utd before finalising your team.

MANCHESTER UNITED – The FPL potential

Before recommending a premium midfielder, we’d just like to repeat that: Manchester United do not play in gameweek 1. In the four following games, the Red Devils are facing three bottom-half-of-the-table teams. It could be the perfect set of fixtures for Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) to hit the ground running. As a forward, the talented Englishman scored 17 goals and provided 8 assists last season for a total of 177 FPL points. Actually, only four other forwards scored more than the United attacker. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in the last winter transfer window took him off penalty duties, but his re-classification as a midfielder this season does help maintain his appeal. Rashford is expensive and will miss GW1, but he is one of Solskjaer’s key men and part of one of the league’s most exciting attacking units.

Another crucial cog of the Norwegian’s machine will be Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m). Rarely have we witnessed such a mid-season transformation of a team as the one brought about by the signing of the midfielder in January 2020. With 8 goals and 8 assists for a total of 117 FPL points, he managed to galvanise a United side struggling to squeeze out consistent quality performances prior to his arrival. He might feel the pressure of new signing Van de Beek from Ajax, but we expect Fernandes to be Solskjaer’s first choice for the most advanced midfielder berth. While the former Sporting Lisbon star might not be able to completely replicate his devastating form of the second part of last season, we feel he’ll get plenty of chances to rack up the points and on top of that, he is the designated penalty specialist as well.

As we mentioned earlier, despite the doubts surrounding Man United’s defensive setup, they still boasted the third-best defence by the end of gameweek 38 last season. FPL points-wise, the best performer in the United defence was tireless right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.5m) with 127 points. On top of 12 clean sheets and 4 assists, the English international also recorded 16 bonus points. He ended the 2019-20 campaign with just under 3,100 Premier League minutes behind his name and he will be the first-choice wing-back on the right side in 2020-21 as well. There is some serious competition in his price bracket with the likes of Caglar Söyüncü, George Baldock and Ben Chilwell just to name a few, but if Solskjaer manages to bolster his defence a bit to improve on last season’s defensive performance, AWB could be a set-and-forget option in FPL.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1///
2Crystal Palace (H)
3Brighton (A)
4Spurs (H)
5Newcastle (A)
6Chelsea (H)
7Arsenal (H)
Man Utd’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October

NEWCASTLE UNITED – The team

One of the team’s we’re actually (very) quietly optimistic about this season are Newcastle United. We admit that at the start of last season, we saw the Magpies as one of the prime candidates for relegation under manager Steve Bruce, but they proved us wrong. With 44 points and never really being in danger of relegation, the club had a pretty comfortable season in mid-table, something we can only applaud. It’s now up to Bruce and the rest of management to repeat that achievement or, who knows, even improve on it.

The defence was the backbone of Newcastle’s finish in 13th last season. While still conceding 58 goals in 38 games, they also booked 11 clean sheets, just one less than Manchester United. Steve Bruce had his team defend in deep blocks and counted on quick counters through players like Jonjo Shelvey and Miguel Almirón in a preferred 5-3-2 formation. We expect more of the same coming season, but with more efficiency, thanks to a few very positive moves on the transfer market this summer.

Perhaps a bit unexpectedly, the coveted Bournemouth duo Callum Wilson & Ryan Fraser moved to Saint James’ Park. The former cost Newcastle around £20 million, while the latter was a free agent prior to his move. Over the past three seasons, Wilson scored 30 goals and provided 20 assists in the Premier League. During that same period, Fraser managed 13 goals and 22 assists. Apart from their proven track record at the highest level of English football, these two players also seem perfectly suited to the kind of game Steve Bruce wants to play.

This is also one of the major reasons why we see some potential in the Magpies this season. Besides the two Bournemouth aces, they also brought in experienced Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick on a free transfer, much to Sean Dyche’s dislike. Today they have also signed highly-rated 22 year old left-back Jamal Lewis from Norwich. If Bruce manages to build on last season’s foundations and integrate these new signings at the same time, then a top ten finish could actually be on the cards for the Magpies. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Newcastle Utd before finalising your team.

NEWCASTLE UNITED – The FPL potential

One of the perhaps underestimated effect Newcastle’s new signings will have, is that they will relieve Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.5m) of some pressure in an attacking and creative sense. With 3 goals and 5 assists last season, the talented Frenchman was directly involved in 21% of all goals scored by Newcastle. More than his direct involvement in goals, it was his dribbling that the Magpies depended on. In his debut Premier League season, ASM completed 4.7 dribbles per game, putting him among the most successful technicians in the league. With a year of Premier League football under his belt and a few promising reinforcements being added to the squad, we definitely see possibilities for the winger to improve on last season’s tally of 92 FPL points this season. His relatively low price tag only furthers his appeal.

Usually we are a bit conservative when it comes to recommending new signings, but Callum Wilson (£6.5m) is an exception to the rule and for a variety of reasons. First of all, he might be a new name at Newcastle, but he definitely isn’t a new name to the Premier League. In his last two seasons at the highest level, the England international scored 22 goals and provided 18 assists, totalling 284 FPL points. Second of all, at a price of £6.5m, the striker looks like a potential great investment as second or even third striker, as we expect him to be a nailed-on starter under Bruce this season. Third of all, the Magpies are up against West Ham (away), Brighton and Burnley (both at home) in their first four games. If Bruce manages to get his team ready for gameweek 1, we can Wilson getting off to a good start.

Defensively, central defender and captain Jamaal Lascelles (£4.5m) could represent a smart use of your FPL budget. The English defender, who can also play as a right-back, suffered from some injury troubles last season and only got to just over 2,000 Premier League minutes as a result of it. Normally though, Lascelles is a nailed-on starter in Newcastle’s sturdy backline. With a price tag of just £4.5m, he becomes a very appealing option as fourth or even fifth defender in your FPL squad, including from gameweek 1 onwards although main goalkeeper Dubravka is currently out injured. He is currently selected by just 3.1% of the team in the official game, which additionally grants him differential status. Do keep your eye out for Jamal Lewis’ FPL price once added to the game. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Newcastle defender with one from West Ham Utd.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1West Ham (A)
2Brighton (H)
3Spurs (A)
4Burnley (H)
5Manchester United (H)
6Wolves (A)
7Everton (H)
Newcastle Utd’s opening EPL fixtures in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Liverpool & Manchester City

“Are Jurgen Klopp’s men keeping the title at Anfield this season?” (CC by 4.0). Image by: Yurificacion.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this sixth instalment, reigning champions Liverpool are up, followed by last season’s principal rivals Manchester City.

LIVERPOOL – The team

Unless you’ve been living in a cave without any television or internet connection for the past year, you’ll be aware of the fact that Liverpool won the Premier League title last season, for the first time in 30 years. The wait was long, the build-up was excruciating at times, but the eventual moment was more than deserved. From gameweek 1 to gameweek 31, when they officially became champions, the Reds dominated. To give you an idea of that domination: by February 2020, Liverpool were no less than 25 points ahead of 2nd placed Man City.

Jurgen Klopp is not done though, and neither are the rest of red Liverpool. In December, the German extended his contract by five years and he shows no indications of feeling like a man who has completed his mission. To say it in his own words, “We are in the middle of something”. The Liverpool squad is extremely settled by now and even though there might be changes of personnel this summer, they will surely continue on the same path that has brought them a Champions League and a Premier League title in the last two seasons.

One thing they do need to do, is to avoid contentment at any cost. Since the big spending spree of the summer 2018, Liverpool have been quite discrete on the transfer market. As a matter of fact, attacking midfielder, Takumi Minamino, and Greek left-back, Kostas Tsimikas, are the only senior first-team players signed by the Reds since that summer. Both in terms of sustaining the competition within the team and securing the necessary squad depth to compete with the powerhouses, domestically and internationally. In that light, the exits of Adam Lallana (to Brighton) and Dejan Lovren (to the Russian Premier League) should definitely be addressed, either by investing or looking inwards at the talented likes of Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones.

This is also why we find it hard to imagine that Liverpool will not be still making some moves during the current transfer window. In that sense, the potential signing of Bayern Munich’s midfielder Thiago Alcántara would be a masterful one. In Origi, the Reds boast a great super sub, but another high-level signing to back up their three stars up front would not be considered unnecessary luxury either. In any case, The Reds are balanced, solid and mentally one of the strongest teams out there and have just welcomed Matip back from injury to slightly aleviate the worries about Lovren leaving. The competition is seriously spending this summer, but as far as we are concerned, the title is Liverpool’s to lose this season. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Liverpool before finalising your team.

LIVERPOOL – The FPL potential

One of the big advantages for FPL managers in terms of Liverpool is Jurgen Klopp’s relatively modest tendency to rotate. Within that context and apart from goalkeeper Alisson Becker, probably the most nailed-on Red is captain Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m). The Dutchman is expensive and his defensive teammates on his left and right side will surely take up more of the spotlight throughout the season, but he is a sure thing. Last season, he recorded 178 FPL points, courtesy of 15 clean sheets, 5 goals and 2 assists. This made him the third-highest scoring defender in the entire game, just behind, you guessed it, Alexander-Arnold (210 points) and Robertson (181 points). Liverpool have a relatively favourable start of the 20120-20 campaign coming up and if you’re looking for a premium defender, Virgil should be one of the candidates.

With Mo Salah (£12.0m) and Sadio Mané (£12.0m), we’re continuing on the premium path, but for midfielders this time. The two Red superstars are the most expensive players in the game and with good reason. The Egyptian ended up beating his Senegalese teammate in terms of FPL points (233 vs 221), and only Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne manage to record more points than both of them (251). Salah scored one goal more than Mané, but the former also played 134 Premier League minutes more than the latter. As we concluded more than a few times during our in-season articles and analyses, there is simply very little between the two of them from an FPL points of view.

We think many squads will struggle to afford both of the Liverpool stars on their roster by the time gameweek 1 gets started (or be stuck with only being allowed 3 Liverpool players), so the question for most FPL managers will be: Salah or Mané? Salah can be frustrating at times, but he often plays down the centre and is on penalties for the Reds. Mané looks more clinical at times and, last season at least, looked a bit more comfortable performing outside of Anfield. In the end, we would probably go with the Egyptian dribbler, though Mané could very well be a Golden Boot candidate again this season as well. There will no doubt be times during the season when it pays to have one and not the other depending on form, fitness and luck!

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Leeds (H)
2Chelsea (A)
3Arsenal (H)
4Aston Villa (A)
5Everton (A)
6Sheffield United (H)
7West Ham (H)
Liverpool’s opening EPL matches in September & October

MANCHESTER CITY – The team

By the time the 2019-20 season had ended and Bayern Munich had won the Champions League for the sixth time in their history, one of the dominant emotions in the sky blue part of Manchester surely was disappointment. Despite winning the League Cup, the fact that Man City lost the league to Liverpool as the result of an incredible 18-point gap and the painful elimination in the Champions League quarter-finals versus Olympique Lyon were surely not calculated. We shouldn’t forget though, that City were the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League title two seasons in a row (2017-18, 2018-19) and that the first title was won by winning exactly 100 points, a record.

What we’re trying to say is that the Cityzens will be more than up for another draining season-long fight on different fronts. The playing style under manager Pep Guardiola is known, usually an attacking 4-3-3 with lots of movement and ball possession, executed by what’s probably the world’s most talented group of players. It will be more of the same coming season with the only major changes taking place on the personnel side of things.

With several weeks of the transfer window still to go, City have already spent €79 million on new recruits, with left-footed & Dutch international central defender Nathan Aké from Bournemouth for €45 million and Spanish winger Ferran Torres from Valencia for €23 million the two major transfers. Good signings, but the loss of Leroy Sané to Bayern Munich and David Silva to Real Sociedad will be felt at the Etihad nonetheless. That’s also why we’re very sure that the Cityzens will still be bringing in some new players before the end of transfer window. They have been linked to players of the stature of Napoli’s Senaglese international centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and Atletico Madrid’s centre-back José Jimenez for a while already, just to name a few of the more persistent rumours.

Whatever still does or doesn’t happen, you can be sure of one thing: City will be competing for the prizes again this season. The abundance of talent and world class quality in their squad is dazzling, and Guardiola has already been bringing in the necessary big names to keep all of his players in their toes. After not making it past the Champions League quarter-finals a single time as coach of City up until now, the need for international success will only have increased for the coming season. Still, we believe that City will be challenger number one for the title, with Chelsea possibly an interesting outsider.

MANCHESTER CITY – The FPL potential

Kevin de Bruyne (£11.5m), and we could leave it there, but OK. If you are considering serious investment in Man City assets, which you probably should despite their blank first gameweek, the Belgian should be on top of your list. Not only is he the best player in an incredible team, he is also more or less the most nailed-on a non-defensive player can get under Pep Guardiola. That’s no surprise given his fantastic stats from last season: 2,790 Premier League minutes, 13 goals, 23 assists, 35 bonus points and 18 clean sheets for a total of 251 FPL points. No player in the entire league recorded more over the 2019-20 campaign. He is going through a bit of an ugly legal dispute with his former agent at the moment, but it doesn’t look like it will affect his performances on the pitch too much. De Bruyne comes as a strong recommendation from our side and 33.6% of FPL managers seem to agree already despite the blank GW1.

The only reason not to go for KDB, besides the fact that City don’t play in gameweek 1, is a preference for City’s top scorer of last season Raheem Sterling (£11.5m). The 2019-20 campaign was the first one in which the English superstar reached 20 goals and on top of that he provided 6 assists, as well. He was the second-highest scoring Man City asset with 204 FPL goals, while only six players in the entire league ended with a higher tally. He is relatively nailed-on as a starter, though his returns tend to be a bit more explosive than, for example, De Bruyne’s at the same price. The return of Aguero from injury also adds another major name to the mix, as he missed much of last season. This took out one name from the front line, which lead to a slightly lower rotation risk for a top performer like Sterling. The Argentinian is back now and heavy rotation can be expected, but Sterling could be a very shrewd differential pick (his current ownership sits at just 4.5%).

In defence, French central defender Aymeric Laporte is probably the most certain starter, but prone to injury as well and, along with Marhez, has just tested positive for coronavirus. That’s why a potentially better defensive pick amongst the City assets is goalkeeper Ederson (£6.0). The Brazilian shot stopper won last season’s Golden Glove, courtesy of 16 clean sheets and he will surely be a contender again this season. With 133 FPL points, he just made it into the top ten of goalkeepers, but keep in mind that he missed a few games through injury and also got 1 rare red card. Without those setbacks, Ederson would surely have made it into the top five and if the Man City centre-back line is strengthened then expect a top 3 finish this season. Of course, that’s all speculation, but what we are sure of is that you’ll be happy you went with him once the inevitable and usually heartbreaking Pep Roulette kicks in. Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Man City before finalising your team.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1////
2Wolves (A)
3Leicester (H)
4Leeds (A)
5Arsenal (H)
6West Ham (A)
7Leeds (A)
Manchester City’s opening EPL matches in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Leeds & Leicester

After a 16-year absence, Premier League football is back at Elland Road” (CC by 4.0). Image by: Boxingfan1995

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this fifth instalment, we’re starting with Leeds’ return to the Premier League after 16 years and Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City.

LEEDS UNITED – The team

To put it in 2019-20 terms, are Leeds United going to be more of a Sheffield United or a bit more of a Norwich? Both clubs got promoted to the Premier League last summer and where the former finished in an impressive 9th position after an excellent debut season, the latter got relegated with three games to go. A first season back in amongst the footballing elite is never easy for any club and it will surely get tough for the Whites, but there is plenty to be hopeful about as well.

To start with, there is Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinian coach who has inspired the likes of Pocchetino, Zidane and Guardiola and who is regarded by many as one of the most influential football coaches of all time. At Elland Road, he moulded a squad that turns up in his trademark 3-3-3-1 and that can easily switch back and forth between this lineup and a 4-1-4-1. That is also one why advanced tactical discipline is a key characteristic for the cogs in Bielsa’s system, even more so now that his Leeds will be facing England’s best week after week.

At times in the Championship last season, and like other squads managed by the Argentinian mastermind in the past, Leeds were impressive. A sort of high-pressing footballing machine in which players constantly switch positions, the runs and overlaps are endless and perfectly timed, and the team looked like having a man more (or two) in each area of the pitch. The current squad, which has not been transformed much since promotion to the Prem was secured, showed how very capable they were at times of executing Bielsa’s ideas in the Championship, but the big question mark is whether they will be able to do so to a satisfactory extent at the very highest level as well.

This also explains the club’s activity on the transfer market this summer. Even though the team roster boasts some interesting names that we look forward to seeing in the PL, such as 35-year star player Pablo Hernandez, captain Liam Cooper and the young Kalvin Phillips,  reinforcements were and are more than welcome. For almost €70 million already, the Whites have brought in Spain’s starting forward Rodrigo from Valencia, Wolves winger Helder Costa (on loan last season) for €18 million and German international defender Robin Koch from Freiburg for €13 million, just to name a few. They were also after an extension of the loan regarding Brighton central defender Ben White, but the Seagulls unfortunately did not agree.

More transfer action from Yorkshire is still expected until the closing of the transfer window at the start of October, but it’s clear that the club is not going to make any drastic changes to the team and even less so to the way of playing. Bielsa has a proven record of being able to turn groups of players into more than just the sum of their individual qualities and the club’s management would be mad not to trust in El Loco, especially after leading them to promotion in such convincing fashion. They could well have a very underwhelming start to the season, considering the fact that they are facing five of last season’s top ten in the first seven gameweeks, but we have a feeling Leeds under Bielsa might be an excellent addition to the Premier League.

LEEDS UNITED – The FPL potential

When a player starts 92 games in a row under the same manager, we think it’s probably justified to give him the label “nailed-on starter”. Under Marcelo Bielsa, this is the case for central midfielder Mateusz Klich (£5.5m). The Polish maestro is used as a box-to-box midfielder by the Argentinian coach, but still gets plenty of sight of goal. Last season alone, he recorded 6 goals and 5 assists in 45 Championship games. What makes him particularly interesting from an FPL point of view is that he does not shy away from a shot from distance. He averaged close to 2 shots per game last season, which in the Premier League would have a very positive impact on his bonus points. Add to that the possibility of (some) penalty duties and at £5.5m, the Polish international could be a good fourth and even fifth midfielder for your FPL squad.

One trademark characteristic of Bielsa’s style of playing is the attacking full-back. As a result of the importance of constant overlapping runs on both flanks, the full-backs play a crucial role in Leeds’ defensive and attacking formations. Right-back Luke Ayling (£4.5m) is the embodiment of this. The 29-year old defender played 37 Championship games last season and managed 4 goals on top of 5 assists. Plenty of times, he finds himself as the most advanced man on the right-hand flank, allowing him to get into the penalty box to have a try on goal or set up a team mate. The Premier League is, of course, a big step up and it would be very surprising to see Ayling deliver the same kind of returns this season, but especially at his current price, he could be a smart investment after the first seven gameweeks or so. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Leeds defender with one from Brighton.

For Spanish international Rodrigo (£6.0m), Leeds broke their previous transfer record when they paid €30 million. It always remains to be seen how newcomers to the Premier League adapt to the competition’s unique style and environment, but we feel the Spaniard is watchlist-worthy. Though he plays the majority of his games as a centre forward, Rodrigo is also very comfortable as a second striker and on the wings, especially the right wing. This provides Bielsa with the kind of high-level versatility required by the way in which he has his team attack. The ex-Valencia man looks like a very good fit to Bielsa’ way of playing and even though the manager might decide to integrate him into English football step by step, we think he will sooner or later become a key cog in Leeds’ battle for survival this season. At a price of £6.0m, he could represent excellent value after the first few weeks of the season.

Do check the predicted starting line-ups for Leeds before finalising your team.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Liverpool (A)
2Fulham (H)
3Sheffield United (A)
4Man City (H)
5Wolves (H)
6Aston Villa (A)
7Leicester (H)
Leeds Utd’s opening EPL matches in September and October

LEICESTER CITY – The team

In the first half of last season, many pundits, experts and casual FPL fanatics (ourselves included) touted Leicester City as a certain part of the top four by season’s end and perhaps even an outsider for the title challenge. Then the team slumped a bit, English football was called to a halt for a few months and the Foxes ended up finishing fifth after a pretty anti-climactic Project Restart run.  Sure, in the end fifth place is still a very good achievement, but with just four victories from their last 17 matches, the disappointment was understandable.

It has to be said that injury troubles throughout the squad did not do Leicester’s performances and consistency any good either, and improving squad depth should be a focus for them this summer. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t seem to be so far. First-choice left-back Ben Chilwell was sold to Chelsea for a whopping €50 million and Atalanta right-back Timothy Castagne was brought in for €24 million. More than a replacement of the English international, the right-footed Belgian is versatile enough to play on either flank but perhaps looks to be bought as competition for the excellent, but currently long-time injured Ricardo Pereira. No other big names have been bought or sold so far.

When all of Leicester’s players are fit and the mood is right, Brendan Rodgers’ men can beat any team in the league, perhaps in Europe. When not all first-choice picks are fit though, and confidence suffers a bit, they can be unpredictable and at times frustrating. That being said, the current squad boast some serious Premier League pedigree. In Kasper Schmeichel, the club has one of the league’s best goalkeeper under contract, while the big star at the other end of the pitch crowned himself Golden Boot last season. In the middle of the pitch, the talented James Maddison has the potential to be one of England’s best creators, while Wilfred Ndidi can be classified as nothing less than the worthy successor to N’Golo Kanté

The Foxes are expected to turn up this season in a 4-1-4-1 formation, a familiar sight since Rodgers took over from Claude Puel in February 2019. With a very versatile offensive midfield, forward-driven full-backs and an experienced, sturdy defensive setup, they provide plenty of FPL value. With a relatively favourable set of starting fixtures, apart from Man City away in gameweek 3, Leicester assets could be popular FPL picks in the build-up to gameweek 1. Just keep an eye out for team and transfer news over the coming weeks, especially in regard to incoming transfers and do check the predicted starting line-ups for Leicester before finalising your team.

LEICESTER CITY – The FPL potential

Considering the aforementioned appealing opening fixtures for Leicester, last season’s Golden Boot could be one of the season’s first bandwagons. Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) is this season’s third-most expensive forward in the official Fantasy Premier League, but we feel that won’t deter many managers from picking him for their gameweek 1 squad. Last season, the 33-year old Englishman ended with 210 FPL points, courtesy of 23 goals, 7 assists and 34 bonus points. Only Kevin de Bruyne, Sadio Mané and Mo Salah recorded more points. Vardy combines two of the most important characteristics for FPL managers, namely a proven track record as goalscorer in the Premier League, and a nailed-on starting spot in a team that dominates most of its games and scores plenty of goals. With three home games (Burnley, West Ham, Villa) and an away game versus West Brom in GW1 in the first five gameweeks of the coming campaign, we can see Vardy around the top of the Golden Boot chart again by the middle of October.

As first-choice right-back and FPL favourite Ricardo Pereira won’t be fit in time for the start of the season, the young James Justin (£4.5m) is expected to continue filling in for the Portuguese defender. Justin got to more than 1,000 Premier League minutes since Pereira got injured in March 2020 and in a Leicester side that was losing its good form, he still ended up recording 35 FPL points. He was part of 4 clean sheets and also provided 1 assist. Overall, the right-back made a good impression and we think that he could represent good value at the start of the season. At a price of just £4.5m, he could be a great way into a likely top-6 defence. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Leicester defender with one from Burnley.

One of the players who broke into the first team under Rodgers is midfielder/winger Harvey Barnes (£7.0m). Where he started making waves during the 2018-29 campaign with 43 FPL points from 1 goal and 3 assists, the Englishman improved his significantly considerably last season. In just over 2,000 minutes of Premier League football, Barnes recorded 6 goals and 10 assists for a total of 133 FPL points. He does carry a risk of rotation, but we can see him earning increasing protagonism this season. The only other downside to picking Barnes is the competition in his price bracket, with the likes of Jack Grealish (GW1 Blank), Adama Traoré and Wilfried Zaha all similarly priced alternatives.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1West Brom (A)
2Burnley (H)
3Man City (A)
4West Ham (H)
5Aston Villa (H)
6Arsenal (A)
7Leeds (A)
Leicester’s opening EPL matches in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Everton & Fulham

“After Fulham’s disappointing 2018-19 campaign, Premier League football has come straight back to Craven Cottage this season” (CC by 4.0). Image by El Loko.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this fourth instalment, we’ll be covering an Everton side looking for a bounce-back after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign and new boys Fulham hoping for a better PL season than the one they had just two seasons ago.

EVERTON – The team

Everton were one of the more disappointing sides throughout the 2019-20 campaign, plain and simple. Sure, the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, one of world football’s most decorated active managers, in December 2019 as replacement of Marco Silva, sent a jolt of excitement through Goodison Park and the Premier League as a whole and it’s true that his start was more than decent with 17 points from his first six games in charge. Still, the whole reason for this managerial switch was the fact that the Toffees were hovering above the relegation zone by Christmas last year and by the end of the campaign, they found themselves back in 12th place.

For a team with the squad, the wage bill and the explicitly outspoken ambitions like those of Everton, that was an unacceptable campaign. Of course, changing managers is often a complicated matter, especially mid-season, and considering the contrasting styles of Silva and Ancelotti things could and should be different now that he can mould his team from the very start of the season. The Italian is known as a pragmatic manager, one who is very capable at forming a tactical approach around the players at his disposal, and with many transfers still in the air it’s hard to say how exactly the Toffees will turn up in gameweek 1.

So far, no new big names have been formally brought in, but the club are very close to signing a few powerhouses and, possibly more significant, players known well by Ancelotti. Those include 29 year old Napoli and Brazil central midfield enforcer Allan who loves a tackle for £25m, and, for a knock-down £20m, out-of-favour Real Madrid Galactico James Rodriguez also 29 who from attacking midfield was the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup. A £25m fee has also been agreed with Watford for 27 year old energetic central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure who is obviously accustomed to the EPL and also known to weigh in with some goals. None of these deals have been formally ratified yet though. The manager seems satisfied with the attacking (Richarlison, Moise Kean & DCL) and defensive options at his disposal, though transformations and reinforcements in those areas are certainly not out of the question, but the midfield seems to be the priority at the moment. Once the likes of the Ivorian Gbamin and especially André Gomes were unavailable due to injury, the centre of the park looked below par on more than a few occasions but their 20/21 midfield could well have a different make-up with Allan, James & Doucoure joining the likes of Sigurdsson & Walcott as well as the now-recovered Gomes, Tom Davies & Alex Iwobi.

Multi-million signings made just before his arrival, such as forward Moise Kean from Juventus and midfielder Alex Iwobi from Arsenal, have barely delivered, while formerly trusted forces such as Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t quite live up to expectations either last year. Carletto Scudetto looks to be aiming for a type of flexible 4-4-2 formation, with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin supported by a free-roaming James in his preferred number 10 role, and a sturdy defence that can offer support from the flanks and revert to a 5-man setup when needed. Much regarding the new Everton side under the Italian will become clearer over the coming weeks and even though we want to be cautious considering the expectations surrounding the Toffees at the start of last season, we’re thinking it could end up being a good year for them.

EVERTON – The FPL potential

The big man at Everton last season, the big Toffee so to say, was winger/striker Richarlison (£8.0m). Despite the club’s and the team’s struggles, the Brazilian managed to put in decent performances at a rather consistent rate and more importantly, he booked results. In 3,070 minutes of Premier League football, he scored 13 goals and provided 5 assists, representing a direct involvement in 41% of all goals scored. As a result, Richarlison found himself amongst the ten highest-scoring midfielders by the end of last season with 165 FPL points. The fact that he is now classified as a forward this season could have a bit of a dampening effect on his appeal, but this could be counter-balanced by playing in a better Everton side. The powerful forward is a principal piece of Ancelotti’s puzzle at Everton and with a price tag of £8.0m, he should probably be around the top of your watchlists.

If you feel the Everton attack might be worth a punt at the start of the season considering Everton’s relatively attractive set of opening fixtures, but Richarlison is a bit too expensive for your taste, strike partner Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) could be just right for you. With 13 goals and 1 assist, and a starting price of just £6.0m, the young Englishman emerged as a fantastic budget option for FPL managers last season. His price has been raised to £7.0m for the coming season to reflect this, but that doesn’t mean that he should be immediately discarded. There is some competition in his price bracket with the likes of Brighton’s Maupay, Burnley’s Chris Wood and West Ham’s Antonio, but none of them play at a team with the potential like Everton’s. Ancelotti seems to be a bit of a fan of DCL and there has been no real talk yet of new strikers coming in this summer, meaning that the England Under-21 international could be a very good option as second striker on any FPL roster assuming he is favoured more than Moise Kean by the manager.

Everton’s forward-booming left-back Lucas Digne (£6.0m) is once again part of the premium bracket amongst defenders this season, but that’s not so strange when looking at his numbers. He was part of 9 clean sheets and provided no less than 8 assists on top of that to reach a total of 120 FPL points. Considering the poor form Everton were in for most of the season, those are not bad records at all. It’s true that at £6.0m, the competition is fierce as there are several options available at the established top clubs, but Digne does have appeal. He seems to be a nailed-on starter for Ancelotti, he has the freedom to roam forward and to take set-pieces frequently, and his already acceptable numbers should see a considerable improvement if the new manager can work his magic. We’re not saying to pick him straight away for gameweek 1, but certainly keep an eye on him over the coming weeks. Due to the 20/21 fixtures, and police security issues, do bear in mind that, as Everton & Liverpool are from the same city, they alternate their home and away fixtures.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Spurs (A)
2West Brom (H)
3Crystal Palace (A)
4Brighton (H)
5Liverpool (H)
6Southampton (A)
7Newcastle (A)
Everton’s opening EPL matches for September & October

FULHAM – The team

We won’t get into it too much any more, as much has been said and written about it already, but as most FPL managers will remember, the last time Fulham promoted to the Premier League things did not go well. In the build-up to the 2018-19 campaign, the Cottagers went on a huge spending spree to bring in players that, in the end, did not do much for the team as a whole and Fulham soon became every FPL manager’s favourite opponent. You just knew that if Fulham was up, especially away from home, their opponents were going to score.

At the end of the season, the managerially inexperienced Scott Parker was appointed as head coach. Relegation was all but a fact at that point and the objective was to start forging a team ready to fight for a return to the top flight the next season straight away. Even though the performances were not always perfect and direct promotion was missed, Parker’s men kept a cool head and won the play-offs at the cost of favourites Brentford. The objective of an immediate return to the Prem was accomplished, not a small feat by any measure, and this time, things are looking more level-headed at Craven Cottage.

One of the main reasons for Fulham’s success in the Championship so soon after their disappointing Premier League run was the way in which Parker managed to bring back a bit of grit and team spirit to the group. The manager will be looking to largely bet on his existing group of players, the one that he won the promotion with in the first place, complemented with a few new faces. So far, Fulham has brought in winger Anthony Knockaert on a permanent deal after playing at the Cottage on loan last season, hard-hitting defensive midfielder Mario Lemina was loaned from Southampton and another Saints midfielder’s (Harrison Reed) loan deal was made permanent for €9 million, and talented Wigan & USA international left-back, 23 year old Antonee Robinson, was signed for a modest €2.3 million.

When looking at Fulham’s game approach last season and considering the fact that Parker is not aiming for drastic changes in any sense, the team is likely to turn up in their trusted 4-2-3-1 formation on most occasions. This allowed the Cottagers to play a rather attacking game, while also giving them to option to press hard on opponents in their build-up in a kind of 4-2-2-2 setup. This way, they keep the centre of the pitch occupied and force rivals to the wings. In attack, they like to play out from the back without shying away from long balls and crosses, and the speedy tricksters on the wings are often looked for to force potentially dangerous 1v1 situations.

To be honest, when comparing the Fulham squad to the other teams in the Premier League and particularly to the teams they will be realistically fighting with to avoid relegation, they look a little light. That being said, like their manager, the Cottagers seem to be improving consistently. We expect a difficult season for the Londoners, but if Parker can lead his team to the next level in terms of team work and discipline, possibly aided by one or two more experienced new players coming in, PL survival is definitely an option.

FULHAM – The FPL potential

It could be a trap, but like two seasons ago, striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.0m) looks to be the go-to man for FPL managers considering investing in the Cottagers. With 26 goals, he crowned himself top scorer of the Championship last season and he provided 3 assists on top of that as well. He was Fulham’s main man up front two seasons ago as well and even though his performances probably did not justify his price tag at the time, he still recorded 80 FPL points that season, courtesy of 5 goals and 3 assists. At 25, he is now 2 years older and last season will surely have given him a lot of confidence for his return to the English footballing elite. Mitrogol could be one of those players who is too good for the Championship, but not quite good enough for the Premier League, we’re not completely sure yet. What we do know is that at a price of £6.0m and considering Fulham’s relatively favourable set of opening fixtures, Pukki-esque scenes (at the start of last season) are not completely off the cards.

If you’re looking for a secure starter as fourth or fifth midfielder in your FPL squad, French winger Anthony Knockaert (£5.5m) is worth considering. On loan from Brighton last season, the Frenchman turned out to be a great addition to the team for Fulham. He barely missed a game of the at times exhausting Championship season and featured 45 times, including three times in the play-offs for promotion. He recorded 3 goals and 5 assists overall over that period. On top of that, Knockaert has considerable PL experience under his belt as well. In the season 2017-18 and 2018-19, he scored a total of 5 goals and provided 7 assists for then-recently promoted Brighton. In the budget midfielder bracket, the winger is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Honestly, apart from the two aforementioned players, we would suggest a careful “wait and watch” approach as far as Fulham players are concerned. Still, for those managers insisting on more Cottagers in their gameweek 1 squads, left-back Joe Bryan (£5.0m) could be interesting. Mainly due to his, in our opinion, too large of a price tag, not many managers will be opting for the Englishman, but he does have a few appealing sides. Apart from the two crucial goals (one a clever free-kick from distance) he scored in the promotion play-offs at the end of last season, the defender also recorded another goal during regular season as well as 7 assists. It’s not realistic to expect a similar output from him this season, but he does have experience at the highest level as he was a starter during Fulham’s 2018-19 PL campaign. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Chelsea defender with one from Fulham

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Arsenal (H)
2Leeds United (A)
3Aston Villa (H)
4Wolves (A)
5Sheffield United (A)
6Crystal Palace (H)
7West Brom (H)
Fulham’s opening EPL matches in September & October

FPL 2020/21 – Pre-season Club Previews – Chelsea & Crystal Palace

“Is Stamford Bridge the home of a title candidate coming season?” (Part of the Public Domain). Image by Alexisdeangelis86.

After last season and what was very probably the most unusual Premier League campaign any of us ever witnessed, the new 2020/21 season is now upon us. In the build-up to the season opener on Saturday, September 12th, at 12h30 (UK time), we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League with a special focus on their FPL potential to help you select your FPL team.

The EPL club previews could also be useful if you’re entering FanTeam’s massive €1 million prize fund Fantasy Premier League game for 20/21.

In this third instalment, we’re providing a quick analysis of a Chelsea side on a spending spree and Roy Hodgson’s very stable Crystal Palace.

CHELSEA – The team

When Chelsea’s transfer ban was officially confirmed a little more than a year ago, the expectations for the 2019-20 season were immediately adjusted. Where the competition splashed the cash for major reinforcements, then new manager and club legend Frank Lampard had to work with what he had, plus the many talents under contract at Stamford Bridge. Of course, the absurdly talented Christian Pulisic joined the Blues in the winter of 2019 for a hefty fee of £57.6 million in anticipation of the pending ban and with the likes of N’Golo Kanté, Willian (now departed for Arsenal) and César Azpilicueta the squad still boasted plenty of top class experienced players.

What resulted was a surprisingly competitive Chelsea side that featured plenty of academy graduates and other young talents. Lampard not only dealt with the consequences of the transfer ban quite efficiently, he also managed to implement a fresh new way of playing quite quickly while integrating an impressive number of relatively new faces into the team. The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James all benefited from the absence of multi-million signings coming in over the summer. This also created a few more appealing FPL assets, with Tammy and Mount especially providing serious value at different times during the season.

Despite some frustrating inconsistency at times, for fans and FPL managers alike, and a pretty consistent lack of defensive stability, Lampard’s men did manage to combine attacking football, goals, entertainment and results. With the transfer ban ending this summer, the club’s main adjective was to make it into the Champions League once again and they did. Only champions Liverpool and runners-up Man City scored more than Chelsea’s 69 goals, and their finish in fourth allowed them to attract some serious new talent this summer.

So far, Roman Abramovich and his management have already spent a whopping €143 million to bring in Ajax superstar Hakim Ziyech, RB Leizpig striker & speedster Timo Werner and Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell, while PSG captain Thiago Silva and OGC Nice defender Malang Sarr were brought in free of charge (in terms of their transfer fees, at least). On top of that, the transfer of Leverkusen talented attacking midfielder Kai Havertz could be announced any day now. In terms of outgoing transfers, the Blues banked €74 million from the sale of Alvaro Morata to Atletico, Mario Pasalic to Atalanta and Nathan to Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.

Football (and especially the Premier League) usually dictates that a team welcoming such a number of new faces will need time to get used to each other and form a cohesive unit. Besides that, the Chelsea squad now boasts a truly incredible amount of world class talent and experience, and some of them will unavoidably be disappointed from time to time in terms of playing time. After all, only 11 players can be on the pitch at a time and it will be up to Lampard to manage this. In our humble opinion, the former midfielder has the weight in the dressing room to do so and we can see Chelsea becoming one of the sensations this season, both in England and on the continent.

CHELSEA – The FPL potential

Chelsea have a pretty favourable set of opening fixtures coming up and one player who could benefit is the mercurial Christian Pulisic (£8.5m). Before we take  a look at why this is could be the case, we do want to mention that at the moment, the American is injured and projected to be fit again either just before or just after the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Keep an eye on Chelsea team news, because if he makes it, he could be good at his current price. Last season, the forward recorded 127 FPL points courtesy of 9 goals and 8 assists, and he was in particularly fine form during Project Restart. He carried that form into the FA Cup final in early August against Arsenal, where it crystallised into a goal before he went off with a hamstring injury that normally would take about 6 weeks to recover from. This coming season will be Pulisic’ second season in the EPL and with the array of talent brought into the team this summer, he could be one of this season’s stars. If he can stay fit for a prolonged period of time, of course.

If we’re talking about benefiting from the abundance of attacking talent in the current Chelsea squad, then we can’t go without mentioning new number nine Timo Werner (£9.5m). Yes, it’s a bit of a risk going with a relatively expensive newcomer to the Premier League, but the German has everything to hit the ground running. He was brought in to be Chelsea’s main striker for years to come, which should make him a kind of nailed-on option in the starting eleven, and he will be supported by the brilliant likes of Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and possibly compatriot Kai Havertz. Considering the potential of each of these guys to break open opposition defences with a single pass or one explosive dribble, as well as Werner’s constant movement along and behind the defensive lines, it’s hard not to see the star signing getting plenty of opportunities to make an instant impact in Premier League football. He is known for his speed and quiet dedication and is already the most selected striker in FPL.

Chelsea’s defence was far from reliable last season, but that didn’t mean that Mr. Reliable himself César Azpilicueta (£6.0m) was an unappealing fantasy asset. Despite the Blues defence conceding a shocking 54 goals in 38 games, the versatile defender still ended up amongst the ten highest-scoring defenders in the game with 130 FPL points. The Blues recorded just 8 clean sheets in the league, but the Spaniard added 2 goals and 6 assists on top of that for his personal tally. In total, he missed only 191 minutes Premier League football all season, mainly due to rotation as Reece James revealed himself as an interesting option for Lampard at right-back as well. This season, Chelsea’s defence has been seriously bolstered by the arrival of PSG captain and World Cup winner Thiago Silva, which we feel will have considerable effect on the potential of their other assets as well, including Azpilicueta. If he can once again produce a similar amount of attacking returns and add a few more clean sheets, the Spanish defender could well become one of the defensive fantasy performers of the season. Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating your Chelsea defender with one from Fulham.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Brighton (A)
2Liverpool (H)
3West Brom (A)
4Crystal Palace (H)
5Southampton (H)
6Manchester United (A)
7Burnley (A)
Chelsea’s opening EPL matches in September and October

CRYSTAL PALACE – The team

With Palace going into their 8th consecutive Premier League season, football in the elite division has become something of a given in South London. The club might be a regular name for many followers nowadays, but before their last promotion in 2013, the Eagles were known as one of those “yo-yo teams”, constantly journeying between the PL and the Championship. That alone shows the progress the club has made under chairman Steve Parrish and underlines the good work done by veteran manager Roy Hodgson since his appointment in September 2017.

As in previous seasons, Palace spent most of the season in mid-table, at times approaching the European spots and never really coming in danger of relegation. The worst run of the season actually came just after their Premier League status was secured for another year, when Hodgson’s men went on a disastrous run of seven consecutive defeats. In the end though, they survived quite comfortably and the aim for the coming season will pretty much be more of the same, minus the 7-game losing streak if possible.

One of the aspects that make Palace a relatively attractive team for FPL managers is Hodgson’s rather strict adherence to a tight-knit, defensive 4-3-3 setup. Rotation is generally not much of a concern in terms of fantasy football and their defensive assets in particular usually offer decent value. Anyone remember £4.0m-priced Aaron Wan-Bissaka just two seasons ago? The English manager has turned the team into a unit that is hard to beat and bar any extreme squad transformations over the coming month or so, we expect a similar Palace side for the coming season.

One of the areas where the team can and really should improve is the attacking zone. With 31 goals, only relegated Norwich scored less than the Londoners. Apart from making it quite hard to win games, such shyness in front of goal also puts a lot of pressure on the defending part of the team to keep the doors shut and not concede. In Wilfried Zaha, the club boasts one of the league’s finest wingers, but he really can’t do it by himself all the time and it did look like that was the case at times plus his desire to leave the club didn’t help matters. Big-money transfer Christian Benteke never really settled in since his arrival in 2016, just like Schalke attacking midfielder Max Meyer, and Palace fans will be especially hoping for some new blood in attack to support their Ivorian superstar.

The signing of 21-year attacking midfielder and England Under-21 international Eberechi Eze from QPR for a hefty £19.5 million is a major step in the right direction in that sense. Combined with the seemingly rejuvenated Jordan Ayew, who scored 9 goals and provided 3 assists last season, things look brighter on the attacking side. The Eagles defence has been bolstered as well by the arrival of young West Brom right-back Nathan Ferguson on a free transfer, which could turn out to be a shrewd piece of business for the club. Patrick van Aanholt’s injury at the end of the last season is a blow to the club both defensively and offensively.

As we wrote before, we don’t expect much changes this season in terms of Palace’s approach to games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Their start to the season is not easy under any circumstance, but from GW5 onwards, the Eagles are on for a seemingly favourable run of nine appealing fixtures. If Roy Hodgson can once again work his magic, in his 45th season as a professional football manager, than Palace should be in for another comfortable campaign.

CRYSTAL PALCE – The FPL potential

When talking about FPL potential in the Crystal Palace roster, the first name that comes to mind is their star man, Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m). The Ivorian winger is the man around which most of Palace’s threatening moves revolve, though last season was a bit of a calm one for him with just 6 goals and 4 assists. Still, that total represents a direct involvement in just under 30% of all of the goals scored by his team. He is probably a good one to have around the top of your watch lists for the start of the season, because he could become a great option from gameweek 5 onwards, especially considering his FPL classification as a midfielder this season. Do keep an eye out for Palace team news, as the forward is again being linked to a host of other clubs in England and outside, but Roy Hodgson and Steve Parrish will be doing everything within their powers to retain him for the club.

We have mentioned Palace’s troubles in front of goal a few times already in this piece, so it might feel a tad contrary to highlight yet another Eagles forward, but Jordan Ayew (£6.0m) ended up representing great value last season. Only goalkeeper Vicente Guaita scored more FPL points than his 132, not at all bad for a bargain striker. His price tag was raised slightly for the coming season, but at £6.0m, he can still represent very good value, especially if he can repeat last season’s tallies of 9 goals and 3 assists. He looks nailed-on as a part of Hodgson’s starting eleven and who knows, he might even improve on last season’s performance if the Eagles manage to improve their attacking play.

Earlier, we already briefly mentioned new signing Nathan Ferguson (£4.0m) and we feel he could be an exciting prospect going forward, at least from an FPL points of view. We should start off by saying that the young right-back is currently shaking off a knee injury and might miss the opening of the 2010-21 campaign, but like we wrote before, Palace’s appeal really only increases from GW5 onwards. Last season, only eight teams performed better in defence than the Eagles and Ferguson, once fit, is expected to replace Joel Ward at right-back. Should Hodgson be capable of forging yet another red-and-blue wall this season, then the new boy could provide incredible value at just £4.0m and already has over 5% FPL ownership. If you don’t fancy Ferguson then consider Tyrick Mitchell instead who is also £4.0m and who could potentially start at LB instead of the injured Patrick van Aanholt (PVA). Due to the 20/21 fixtures if you think playing at Home will be an advantage, consider rotating a Palace defender with an Aston Villa defender.

GAMEWEEKOPPONENT
1Southampton (H)
2Manchester United (A)
3Everton (H)
4Chelsea (A)
5Brighton (H)
6Fulham (A)
7Wolves (A)
Crystal Palace’s opening EPL matches in September & October