FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 10

Yesterday our 9th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Southampton and SpursIn this 10th and final FPL instalment, we’re going over Conference League-bound West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

WEST HAM – FPL 2022/23 team preview

Overall, the 2021-22 season was probably one of the best in recent memory for West Ham United. The Hammers finished sixth in the league, which earned them a direct spot for the Europa League group stage and they surely made the most of their European opportunity. In a decent group with Dinamo Zagreb, Rapid Wien and KRC Genk, they finished first and ended up making it all the way to the tournament’s semi-finals. Eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt proved to be a bridge too far for David Moyes’ men, but they showed considerable growth as a side as they competed at the highest level on different fronts.

We’re saying different fronts, because unlike to what happens at times to teams who are not used to competing domestically and in Europa at the same time, West Ham did not drop the ball in the Premier League to fuel their European run. On the contrary, they delivered an excellent Premier League season. The Hammers took 56 points from 38 games to finish in seventh place, which earned them yet another European campaign for the upcoming season, albeit one step lower in the Conference League. They missed out on Europa League football by just two points, but if they managed to reach the semi-finals in Europe’s second tournament last season, who knows what a run in the Conference League might bring them this season.

What’s for sure though, is that West Ham are aware of the upcoming behemoth of a season and it shows in their transfer market activity so far. They have not yet lost any of their squad’s key figures, though Andriy Yarmolenko and Ryan Fredericks did leave the London Stadium. In return, the club did not hesitate to bolster the squad with some big-money signings. Italian centre-forward Gianluca Scamacca was brought in from Sassuolo for £32 million, Stade Rennais central defender Nayef Aguerd came to London for about £31 million, the young Flynn Downes left Swansea for just under £10 million and experienced goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was bought from Paris Saint Germain for £8 million.

West Hams’s tactics sheet

Manager David Moyes went through a couple of rough years in terms of results and credibility at Manchester United especially, but since his return to West Ham in December 2019, he has consistently shown why Sir Alex Ferguson himself considered him the ideal successor to Ferguson’s giant legacy at Old Trafford. Not only has he managed to turn West Ham into a consistent competitor for the European spots in the Premier League, even looking like a genuine top-six contender for most of last season, but he only managed the rise of some of the Prem’s most exciting talent, including the likes of Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio.

In terms of his approach to games, Moyes clearly favoured a 4-2-3-1 system, though he would sometimes switch to a more defensive 5-4-1 if circumstances (read: injuries and suspensions) required it. Such tactical flexibility is always a great asset for any side. Generally though, The Scotsman likes to play with a ball-playing and physically strong double pivot in front of the defence, allowing the full-backs more freedom to bomb forward. When executed to perfection, this then gives the wingers chances to cut inside and support the lone striker. Jarrod Bowen, in particular, has blossomed as part of this set-up, but he’s not the only one. Players like Antonio, Fornals and Coufal have benefited considerably from it as well.

WEST HAM – Potential FPL targets

There is no way any self-respecting pundit, analyst or fantasy manager starts an overview of the best West Ham fantasy picks for the 2022-23 Premier League campaign without mentioning Jarrod Bowen (£8.5m). Starting at a price of £6.5m, the former Hull man delivered what can only be described as an incredible season. From 36 league games, the winger, who is listed as a midfielder in the official game, managed 12 goals and 12 assists for a mind-boggling total of 206 FPL points. In the midfielder category, only Salah and Son did better, while overall, only Trent Alexander-Arnold ended above the West Ham man besides the previously mentioned two. No wonder that his price was raised for the new season. Whether or not Bowen can replicate or even improve on his performances from last season remains to be seen, but he was the absolute talisman in the Premier League season. No other player had a higher direct goal involvement than he did (51%). His gameweek 1 fixture is about as difficult it gets with Man City at home, but after that it’s a sea of FDR green, so don’t let his new price tag scare you.

Admittedly, Vladimir Coufal (£4.5m) did not have the best season of his career in the claret and sky blue of West Ham, but we’re still a bit surprised by FPL Towers lowering his price by half a million in comparison to last season. The Czech Republic international was rotated at times due to injury niggles and sub-par form, which explains his 70 FPL points at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. Nevertheless, he still managed 4 assists and this is also why we included him in this list, besides his budget price. In David Moyes’ system, Coufal gets plenty of chances to whip in centres for the forwards and with the addition of the 6ft3 Gianluca Scamacca, we can see him get back to his wing-back best this season. From gameweek 2 onwards, the Hammers defender could very well be worth a punt.

Over the years, Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m) has proven himself as one of the most consistently dependable goalkeepers in the Premier League. To such an extent that his occasional absence was truly felt by the Hammers every time. This explains the acquisition of PSG reserve goalie Alphonse Areola this summer, but we can’t see the Frenchman being anything else than a reserve at the London Stadium as well. The Polish international, who will feature at the 2022 World Cup later this year, recorded a very decent 136 FPL points last season, making him the fifth-best fantasy performer between the sticks. An additional bonus when selecting Fabianski for your squad is his tendency to save penalties, which he did three times last season. Competition is fierce in the mid-budget goalkeeper bracket, but as far as we are concerned, the West Ham goalkeeper is one of the most reliable options.

WOLVES – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Wolves have proven to be a more than worthy addition to the Premier League since their promotion from the Championship in 2018. Backed by Chinese investment group Fosun International, one of the largest private conglomerates in China, the club has consistently finished in the top-half of the table, apart from the 2020-21 season, when they ended up in 13th place. Last season, under the tutelage of Portuguese manager Bruno Lage, Wolves ended up in a respectable tenth place, five points off the seventh place that would’ve earned them a spot in the play-off round for the Conference League. Their end-of-the-season run, in particular cost them, as they collected just two points from the last seven league games. Lage’s men perhaps went for beach holidays a tad too early last season.

Fortunately, there were also plenty of positives to take from the last Premier League campaign, especially in light of their defensive performance. Wolves conceded just 43 goals in 38 games, a total only bettered by last season’s top three, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea. The side’s four best performers in FPL terms were all defenders, which also brings us to another important points concerning Bruno Lage’s men: their faltering attack. Bar the three relegated teams, no side scored less than Wolves last season. A total of 38 goals from 38 league games is really way too little for a team with ambitions of competing for a European spot. To illustrate this further, Wolves’ top scorer Raul Jimenez netted just six times, less than any other team’s top scorer (although the team are glad he is still playing after that terrible head injury in November 2020 in a match against Arsenal).

So far, the Wolverhampton Wanderers have not been overly active on the transfer market yet, even though they did lose a few players who featured a lot last season. The free transfer of central defender Romain Saiss to Besiktas jumps out in that sense, but the likes of Marçal (free transfer to Botafogo) and Francisco Trincao (end of his loan from FC Barcelona) have also left a bit of a void in the squad, though not a big one. The good thing is that the club acted quickly by acquiring young Nathan Collins from Burnley for about £22 million and making the loan move of striker Hee-chan Hwang from RB Leizpig permanent for £15 million. On top of that, the powerful but inconsistent Adama Traoré was welcomed back after spending a season on loan at Barcelona. We wouldn’t be surprised though, if Wolves invest further before the end of the summer transfer window.

Wolves’ tactics sheet

As mentioned earlier, Bruno Lage has not turned Wolves into the most exciting of teams in the English topflight, but definitely one of the most defensively sound. A mere 38 conceded goals in 38 games more than underlines this. The Portuguese manager, like his predecessor Nuno Espiritio Santo, is tactically astute and, perhaps more importantly, knows how to get his squad behind his ideas. This side looks drilled and on top of that, extremely fit, considering the fact that, again like Espirito Santo, Lage utilised a relatively small squad throughout the season. From a fantasy point of view, where the risk of rotation is always a factor, this is good news.

Lage lines his side up in a 3-4-3 formation with the back-three truly forming the back-bone of his squad, together with the trusted double pivot of experienced compatriots Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves. The wing-backs are crucial in providing width and support for the Wolves attack, and the return to full fitness of Jonny Castro towards the end of last season will have filled the Wolves faithful with joy. Having said that, the continued fitness of Raul Jimenez throughout the campaign was even better news (though it should be noted that he is now sidelined with a knee injury), as the side has looked toothless without the Mexican international up front. It’s not that Wolves play bad football or lack attacking intentions, but just that they did not create enough last season. Scoring more goals will surely be on top of Lage’s agenda this pre-season, without sacrificing the team’s defensive solidity, of course.

WOLVES – Potential FPL targets

A potential upside of Wolves’ and Raul Jimenez’ (£7.0m) rather disappointing season from an attacking perspective is that the Mexican striker is priced at just £7.0m this season. Of course, he managed just 6 goals and 5 assists from 2,630 minutes of Premier League action, but he is nailed-on as the team’s target man up front. Also, he is a very, very good footballer, which was reflected in his earlier season in the Prem. While the 2020-21 season was ruined by a horrid skull injury, he surpassed the 180-FPL-point mark in the two seasons prior quite comfortably. In 2019-20, he scored 17 and assisted 7 goals for 194 FPL points, while he got 181 points from 13 goals and 10 assists in the 2018-19 Premier League campaign. It’s important to note that he is currently marked as injured in the official game with an unknown return date. This obviously requires monitoring, but if he gets fit in time and Bruno Lage manages to improve his side’s attack, Jimenez could become an interesting mid-priced option up front.

The most selected Wolves asset at the moment of writing is not Jimenez though, but his even more affordable countryman Pedro Neto (£5.5m). The winger, who is listed as a midfielder in the official game, is currently sitting in just under 20% of all teams in the build-up the gameweek 1 and we see several reasons for that. First of all, his price tag, which makes him an ideal budget enabler in a season where the budget once again feels very tight. Second of all, if we’re to believe the pundits and Wolves fans, Neto will be nailed-on for Lage this season, despite him getting just 459 minutes of Premier League action last season (1 goal, 1 assist). And thirdly, he is an out-of-position fantasy asset, which always raises a player’s appeal. With the likes of Andreas Pereira, Leon Bailey and his teammate Joao Moutinho all part of the budget-midfielder bracket, there are clearly good alternatives for Neto, but if Lage gets his attack in order, he could represent excellent FPL value.

Finally, and probably most recommendable out this entire list, is a Wolves defender. We were weighing up the previously mentioned Jonny Castro and Willy Boly, who should return to his impressive best this season after a long stretch of COVID-related problems, but we opted for Rayan Aït-Nouri (£4.5m) instead. Where he was in danger of rotation with Marçal last season, he now looks like the clear first choice at left-wing-back after the Brazilian left for Turkish giants Besiktas. For a defender with just over 1,800 minutes of Premier League football over the 2021-22 campaign, a return of 87 FPL points, courtesy of 7 clean sheets, 1 goal and 7 assists, is not bad at all. He gets a lot of freedom bombing forward and he’s clearly comfortable in that role. On top of that, he shares corners with Joao Moutinho, which is always a big plus.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 9

Yesterday our 8th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Newcastle and Nottingham ForestIn this 9th FPL instalment, it’s time for Southampton and Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.

SOUTHAMPTON – FPL 2022/23 team preview

Apart from an 11th place at the end of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign, Southampton have finished between 15th and 17th place in the league with less than 45 points in the last five seasons. Last season, the Saints ended the season in 15th place, taking 40 points from 38 games, scoring 43 goals in the process and conceding 67. Stats-wise, rather mediocre, though the defensive numbers do give some reason for worries, as only Norwich, Watford and Leeds conceded more. This shaky defensive performance is also a major reason why Soton have seemed incapable of holding on to leads last season. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men dropped an incredible 29 points from winning positions, more than any other team in the league.

That also leads us to the mystery that is the Austrian manager’s side at times. When watching the Saints play, more often than not they deliver decent performances that are entertaining to watch, and not just because of the occasional drubbing they receive. Hasenhuttl is an excellent manager who likes his team to play forward, though at times, he seems to overlook the limitations of the squad at his disposal. Last season, for example, Southampton ranked eighth in the entire league for both total number of shots taken and for shots on target. At the same time, they ranked 18th and 19th, respectively, for goals scored from shots overall and from shots on target. With the acquisition of the club by Serbian businessman Dragan Solak, owner of Sports Republic, in January of this year, the hope among the Saints faithful is that money will be invested this summer to give their manager a squad that can flourish better under his attacking principles.

The club has been pretty active on the transfer market so far, spending about £50 million on six recruits. The names of Manchester City U23 goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu (£12.6 million), his teammate at City, Roméo Lavia (defensive midfielder, £11 million) and Girondins Bordeaux striker, Sekou Mara (£11.7 million), catch the eye. Out of all of the incoming names, only Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo is older than 20 years old, so it remains to be seen to what extent these acquisitions are immediate reinforcements for the upcoming season. As far as last season’s squad is concerned, the Saints have managed to keep their key assets for now. From the players that played something of a role last season, goalkeeper Fraser Forster joined Spurs and forward Shane Long went to Reading, both on a free, unfortunately.

Southampton’s tactics sheet

One thing Ralph Hasenhuttle is known for at Saint Mary’s and has been known for at his previous clubs, including RB Leipzig, is his tactical awareness and flexibility. Gegenpressing, in particular, which is the style mostly attributed to Liverpool Jurgen Klopp, forms a pillar of his tactical approach to games. This can be seen at times at Soton as well, when the team chase the ball like madmen immediately after losing it, seemingly wherever on the pitch. Though exciting to watch, this may have contributed to the side’s vulnerability at the back. After all, and with all due respect, Southampton do not have a Fabinho or a Virgil van Dijk (anymore) to remedy risky situations when the high press is circumvented by the opponent.

Thoughout the 2021-22 campaign, the Saints mainly started in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation, as these offer more tactical flexibility during games. The three-at-the-back approach, specifically, seems to be fitting for the team, as it offers them a bit more security when they hunt for the ball higher up the pitch. This also allows for more attacking options, as the wing-backs get more opportunities to join in the attack. Having said that, with a few quality injections into the squad and in the attack in particular, Hasenhuttl’s wish for quick, direct, high-tempo football could be a dream for FPL managers.

SOUTHAMPTON – Potential FPL targets

As something of a personal favourite of ours, James Ward-Prowse (£6.5m) was always going to be the first FPL pick from the Southampton roster on our list. Extremely underestimated by the majority of fantasy managers, the set-piece expert par excellence recorded a frankly impressive 159 FPL points last season, courtesy of 10 goals, 5 assists and 7 clean sheets. He was, by far, the best-performing midfielder in his price bracket and among midfielders priced at £11.0m or lower in the official game, only five players did better than him and each of those five players ended up in the top-half of the table with their respective teams. JWP is nailed-on under Ralph Hasenhuttl and it’s only a question of time before he makes the Premier League free-kick record his own. At the moment, only the legendary David Beckham has scored more than him (14 goals vs 18). The only thing holding us back from including the England international in our gameweek 1 squad is the fact that his opening fixtures for the upcoming season are very unappealing. From GW6 onwards though, he’s top of our watchlists.

Our second fantasy pick from the Southampton roster is JWP’s fixed partner in the middle, Stuart Armstrong (£5.0m). The Scottish international, who either plays in a more advanced role in the centre of the pitch or on the right side, has seen his price tag drop to a mere £5.0m this season. That is in large part due to his injury troubles last season, which led to him accumulating just 1,465 minutes of Premier League action in which he returned 2 goals and 1 assist. In that light, the 2020-21 season is perhaps more representative of his qualities as a fantasy asset. That season, Armstrong scored 4 goals and provided 7 assists on top of 8 clean sheets for a total of 115 FPL points. Those numbers are nothing crazy for him and if he can reach similar heights this season, his price of £5.0m will be a real bargain.

For our third Saints fantasy pick, we were trying to chose between wing-back Yann Valery, mainly because of his £4.0m price tag, and Che Adams (£6.5m) and we’ve ended up going with the latter. The 26-year-old forward had a decent 2021-22 campaign, scoring 7 goals and assisting another 4, which represents a direct involvement of just over 25% in all of his side’s goals. While we feel his current price tag is a bit too high for many managers to really consider him as part of their 15-man squad, Adams does seem to be nailed-on for the coming season. The Saints roster does not boast a lot of out-and-out strikers, and despite playing just 2,034 minutes last season as a result of Hasenhuttl’s rotation up front, the forward did record the best Expected Goals ratio out of all Southampton players (0.41 per 90 minutes).

SPURS – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Tottenham’s 2021-22 Premier League campaign was marked by the arrival of Italian manager Antonio Conte. Prior to the former Juventus and Chelsea boss’ arrival at Spurs, under the supervision of the newly appointed Nuno Espirito Santo, Spurs took 15 points from the season’s first ten games and boasted 0.9 goals per game as well as 1.6 goals against per game. Another disappointing season without silverware and possibly even without a top-six finish was looming, but chairman Daniel Levy wasn’t having it. In November, he replaced Espirito Santo with Conte and while the move raised some eyebrows here and there, the end-of-season numbers show that the big man was right. Under the Italian, Spurs won 17 of the remaining 28 games of the season, scoring an average of 2.1 goals per game and conceding just 0.9 per game.

What helped was the fact that Levy also gave the OK for some serious transfer spending in the January window. Using Conte’s connections in Italy and at Juventus in particular, the Londoners brought in central midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur for £17 million, together with right winger Dejan Kulusevski for a 2-year loan fee of £9 million with a buy option. While the former recorded a decent 4 assists from 1,360 Premier League minutes, it was the latter who has a truly impressive impact on the side. In just 1,259 minutes, he managed 5 goals and 9 assists for a total of 99 FPL points. Considering he started with a price of £6.0m, he provided excellent value for the FPL managers who owned him.

The Juventus recruits turned out to be just the beginning of a considerable squad overhaul at Spurs. The club has already spent over £90 million during the current transfer window with the majority of that amount used to bring Everton star Richarlison to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadion. A whopping £52 million was enough to convince the Toffees to let go of their man main. On top of that, the North London side also splashed the cash for Brighton’s ball-getter Yves Bissouma (£26 million) and the talented Middlesbrough right-back Djed Spence (£13 million). Barcelona central defender Clement Lenglet and Inter midfielder/winger/wing-back Ivan Perisic joined Conte’s squad for free. As far as the outgoing players go, the talented but underused Steven Bergwijn was sold to Ajax Amsterdam for a big £28 million and fringe player Cameron Carter-Vickers moved to Celtic for around £6 million.

Spurs’ tactics sheet

Looking at the current squad and the big-money, big-name additions this summer, Spurs finally start looking like a side that might be able to compete for the Premier League title. Big words, of course, but the current Spurs squad is possibly the most talented of the past years and perhaps more importantly, one that is being shaped to exactly fit Antonio Conte’s favourite playing style. The Italian manager is practically synonymous with back-three formations in which the wing-backs play key roles, both offensively and defensively. From day one, he had Spurs playing in his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation and the big advantage was that the available squad fit this approach very well. The new acquisitions are clearly brought in to further perfect Conte’s system at Spurs.

There is no doubt that Tottenham will turn up with three central defenders this season, with wing-backs essentially playing as playmakers. The question is not whether or not the Spurs wing-backs will be good FPL assets, but which ones will be preferred by Conte. The Italian is not known for rotating much, instead asking a lot of a fixed core of extremely fit players. The 33-year-old Perisic is a perfect example of the trademark Conte wing-back. The double pivot in the middle of the pitch is crucial for the team’s balance and not expected to join much in attack. In turn, the front three will be tasked mainly with pressing up the field and making sure that they are where they need to be when centres are being whipped in from the sides or over the top. At the same time, when the opponent pulls more towards the flanks to stop Spurs’ attacking moves, the team will not hesitate to build up through the middle, including Chris Wilder-style overlapping centre-backs.

SPURS – Potential FPL targets

You probably already know who the first two names in our list of Spurs fantasy picks for the 2022-23 Premier League campaign will be. Harry Kane (£11.5m) and Heung-Min Son have become not only some of the best individual picks in the official game, but also one of the best offensive duos in the English topflight, and perhaps the world. We’re starting with Kane, who for the first time ever has been priced lower than Son and looks like one of the stand-out premium picks in the build-up to gameweek 1. He had a slow start to the 2021-22 season under Espirito Santo, partly due to his missed transfer to Man City, but still ended with 17 goals and 11 assists, the elusive double-double. His 192 FPL points made him the highest-scoring forward in the official game, 17 points clear of number two Diogo Jota and 33 clear of Cristiano Ronaldo. We don’t have to tell you how nailed-on Spurs’ Very Own is, and with Southampton (home), Chelsea (away), Wolves (home) and Nottingham Forest (away) in the first four gameweeks, Kane could be off to a flying start this season for once.

We could largely copy-paste the above and just replace “Kane” with Son (£12.0m). Like Kane, Heung-Min Son is in indisputable for Spurs and Conte. The South Korean ended last season with an incredible 23 goals, putting him on par with joint-Golden Boot Mo Salah, and 10 assists, plus another 18 clean sheets. It was the same Egyptian who took home the honourable title of highest-scoring player of the 2021-22 Premier League season with 265 FPL points, but Son was just 7 points behind him. Looking at the Korean’s achievements from that angle makes us think that he was actually slightly underhyped last season, especially in comparison to Salah. In any case, you can expect him to be one of the most-selected players ahead of GW1 and very possibly, one of the top performers in the opening gameweeks.

Richarlison at £8.5m is very tempting, but it remains to be seen how he will fit in exactly at Conte’s Tottenham. The Brazilian will also miss GW1 due to suspension, so we’ve gone with Ivan Perisic (£5.5m) instead. We wrote earlier that the Croatian winger-turned-wing-back is the prototype of a Conte wing-back and we believe there is a clear idea behind his transfer to Spurs. At Inter, the Croatian was initially loaned to Bayern as he was not up to Conte’s standards, in the Italian’s own opinion, but the manager clearly had faith in him. After that season on loan, Perisic became one of Conte’s most dependable soldiers, and one of the most attacking left wing-backs in the game. Last season, for example, he recorded a rather incredible 8 goals and 7 assists from 34 games, which in FPL terms would very likely result in a 200+ season haul. The new defender is still recovering from an injury at the moment and has featured just half an hour during the ongoing pre-season, but he looks set for a fixed spot in Spurs’ starting eleven for the new season. At £5.5m, Perisic could become FPL gold.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 8

Yesterday our 7th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Manchester City and Manchester UnitedIn this 8th FPL instalment, it’s time for Newcastle as they prepare for the first full season under Saudi ownership and newly promoted Nottingham Forest.

NEWCASTLE UNITED – FPL 2022/23 team preview

In our previous Club Preview article, we mentioned how Manchester United are preparing for serious change this season, but if there is one club truly looking forward to a new era, it’s Newcastle United. Since 2007, the Magpies were in the hands of the incredibly unpopular (among the fans, at least) Mike Ashley, but in October of last year, the Sports Direct owner sold the club to Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, for about £300 million. This essentially means that Newcastle FC are now in hands of the Saudi government, making them the richest club in the Premier League and the richest in European football.

For a majority of the season, Newcastle were involved in a fight with the ghost of relegation, but the Saudi take-over understandably caused a surge in optimism around Tyneside. Soon after the acquisition was closed, manager Steve Bruce was replaced by Eddie Howe, who managed a turn-around at St. James Park and ended up winning twelve out of the last eighteen games of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign. Of course, it should be noted that the new owners of the club supported their new manager with about £100 million of transfers during the winter transfer window, bringing in the likes of Bruno Guimaraes (£38 million for Olympique Lyon), Chris Wood (£27 million from Burnley) and Kieran Trippier (£12 million from Atletico Madrid).

As for the ongoing transfer window, Newcastle are largely continuing where they left off. The highly rated young central defender Sven Botman was brought in from LOSC Lille for around £33 million, Matt Targett’s loan from Aston Villa was made permanent in return for about £16 million and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was transferred in for just over £10 million. On the opposite side of the transfer balance, the Magpies released several players, including Dwight Gayle, Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick, with none of those names from the pre-Saudi era bringing any cash into the club’s treasury.

Newcastle United’s tactics sheet

Without wanting to discredit Steve Bruce in any way for the work he did at St. James’ Park under admittedly complicated circumstances, Newcastle did show marked improvements after Eddie Howe took over around the middle of last season. The former Bournemouth manager made it clear quickly that he prefers a 4-3-3 set-up, at times alternating that formation with a more defensive 4-5-1. From their most recent acquisitions, we can deduct that the plan is to improve the wing-back play. Both Trippier and Targett are proven Premier League defenders, and they both have an excellent cross in their respective arsenals. In that light, the considerable investment in target man Chris Wood, a transfer more than a few pundits and experts scoffed at, makes a lot of sense.

Additionally, with Alain Saint-Maximin on the left wing and Ryan Fraser most likely first choice on the right wing, Howe’s Newcastle are not just betting on the long ball to get into danger areas. Expect a Newcastle side this season that will attempt to build up from the back, though without fear of using a long haul to the big man up front when needed. This is the kind of tactical luxury a striker like Chris Wood brings to a team. The Magpies have the squad to play over the wings and it will be interesting to see the extent Targett and ASM on the left and/or Trippier and Fraser on the right will start clicking.

NEWCASTLE UNITED – Potential FPL targets

One player who seems certain of a starting spot under Eddie Howe is right-back Kieran Trippier (£5.0m). The 31-year-old was not just brought in for his undeniable qualities, especially on the ball, but also because of his vast experience in the league, something that should not be underestimated for a club in transition. Trippier had an excellent start upon his return to the English footballing elite, starting six games in a row and scoring two goals from free-kicks in the process, but he missed most of the remainder of the season, due to injury problems. Still, what we saw in his short stint last season was promising and his current price tag makes him an interesting option to consider, especially knowing that the right-back is also on set-piece duties, including direct free-kicks. And he’s pretty good at them, as well. On top of that, encounters with promoted Nottingham Forest (home), Brighton (away) and Wolves (away) in the first four games of the new season immediately hint at clean sheet potential for the Magpie defence.

Another Magpie who got off to a more than decent start in the Premier League last January is Bruno Guimaraes (£6.0m). Most Premier League and Newcastle fans expected the Brazilian to be a mostly defensive midfielder, but he showed a whole other side of his game in the second half of last season. In total of just over 1,000 minutes of Premier League action, the 24-year-old was given a more advanced midfield position by Howe, which resulted in 5 goals and 1 assist. Had he been at the club since gameweek 1 and assuming that same rhythm of returns, he would have been the highest points-scorer on the Newcastle roster last season. In half a season though, he ended the campaign with 67 FPL points. That comes down to just under 6 FPL points per 90 minutes, an average only bettered by Trippier. There are many worse options in the official game for the position of fourth or fifth midfielder in your gameweek 1 squad.

The presence of the fit-again Callum Wilson, a more than proven goalscorer in the Premier League, naturally casts some doubt about Chris Wood’s (£6.0m) minutes this season. In our opinion though, and partially based on what we mentioned earlier about Eddie Howe’s preference for keeping the pitch stretched with wingers and wing-backs when attacking, the big New Zealand international could deliver excellent value at his current price tag. Apart from last season, in which he amassed just 91 FPL points, he delivered at least 130 FPL points over his previous four seasons in the Prem, scoring 10 goals during the 2018-19 campaign, 14 goals in 2019-20 and 12 goals in the 2020-21 season. With the likes of Fraser, Trippier, Targett and Guimaraes around him, as well as Wilson when Howe opts for a two-striker system, we would not be surprised to see Wood reach similar numbers again this season.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST – FPL 2022-23 team preview

When Forest were bottom of the Championship back in September of last year and decided they had no other choice but to sack manager Chris Hughton, very few would’ve expected his successor Steve Cooper to lead the Reds back to the Premier League after an absence of 23 years. Still, that’s what the Welshman did, earning absolute cult hero status at the club in the process. His immediate impact on the team’s style and energy led to a fourth place finish, scoring the second-most goals in the league (behind only numbers one and two Fulham and Bournemouth) and conceding just 40 goals in 46 games. Only Bournemouth were more solid defensively. In the play-offs for promotion, Forest first eliminated Sheffield United and then beat Huddersfield Town in the final to gain a place among the English footballing elite for the first time this century.

These achievements are all the more impressive when looking at their 2021-22 campaign in a bit more detail. In their promotion season, Forest actually started with taking just a single point from the first seven games, shipping 12 goals in the process before Hughton was replaced by Cooper. In the 39 games that followed, they collected an impressive 79 points and conceded just 28 goals. The Reds were especially superior at their City Ground stadium, where they won nine and drew one of their last ten games of the campaign. As we all know though, the Premier League is a whole different story and teams with solid defences in the Championship in particular often find it hard to replicate their style at the very highest level.

As part of their bid to make their return to the Prem last for more than just a season, Forest have been extremely active during the current transfer window. At the moment of writing, they signed a total of eleven new players, the majority of them aged 24 or younger. The acquisitions of Union Berlin forward Taiwo Awoniyi (£17.5 million), talented Liverpool youngster Neco Williams (£17 million), and Manchester United reserves Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson (both free) are the biggest eye-catchers. As far as outgoing transfer go, the only player of note Forest have lost so far is goalkeeper Brice Samba. The Tricky Trees are seemingly managing to keep the squad together while reinforcing it at the same time, which is a good sign.

Nottingham Forest’s tactics sheet

Manager Steve Cooper, who famously holds FC Barcelona B coach Pep Segura as his biggest inspiration, likes to play adventurous football, but always starting from a structured foundation. His Forest side has displayed exceptional tactical awareness since his appointment, as well as a healthy level of aggression without the ball. This explains Forest’s excellent defensive performance last season and their willingness to play on the counter when needed.

What’s interesting from a FPL point of view is that Forest, though not the most attacking side at first glance, like to utilise the wings to build attacks and force quick break-outs. In his preferred 5-3-2 formation, or 3-5-2 if you like, the wing-backs provide some of the main creative outlets for Forest. Last season, for example, the wing-backs were directly involved in 17% of all goals (4 goals and 9 assists). As for the rest of the Forest attack, it’s largely a wait-and-see for us, not just because of their status as new boys this season, but also because all three of their starting forwards last season (Keinan Davis, Brennan Johnson and Philip Zinckernagel) were all there on loan and have not returned to the squad as of yet.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST – Potential FPL targets

Having said that, the starting front three not returning also opened up possibilities for Forest to start working on a new offensive force. In that light, the recent signing of Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard (£6.0m) on a free is an interesting development, also from a fantasy point of view. Last season was very much business as usual for the 29-year-old as he featured just twice from the start for the Red Devils, but perhaps more interesting is to take a look at the season prior. In January 2021, the attacking midfielder was loaned out to West Ham and in London, Lingard showed glimpse of the promise that has been following him around ever since he was a youngster. In a kind of free number-ten role, the role that he will likely take on at Forest this season as well, he managed an impressive 9 goals and 5 assists in 16 games. If he can come close to these returns at his current price tag, Lingard represents very interesting budget-enabler potential.

Any fantasy manager who played the 2019-20 Premier League campaign will surely remember the rich source of (extreme) budget talent that was Sheffield United under manager Chris Wilder. Of course, free-scoring attacking-midfielder-listed-as-a-4.0m-defender took most of the spotlight, and deservedly so, but there were more gems in the United squad that season. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson (£4.5m) was one of them. As a nailed-on starter for the newly promoted side at the time, the Man United loanee accumulated no less than 160 FPL points, courtesy of 13 clean sheets, 16 bonus points and… 1 assist! After many seasons behind David de Gea, the 25-year-old now moved on to City Ground, where he will be the number one between the sticks this season. If Cooper’s men can replicate their defensive solidity in the Premier League, Henderson will end up being a serious bargain.

Speaking of bargains, as far as the elusive £4.0m-starters go, we’re not being spoiled by FPL Towers this season, it seems. There is Everton right-back Nathan Patterson who might get minutes instead of Seamus Coleman and Man United’s Brandon Williams could enter our thinking if he transfers to a Premier League side before the closing of the market, but the only one who truly shows FPL gold potential at the moment is, in our opinion, Nottingham Forest’s £17 million-signing Neco Williams (£4.0m). The 21-year-old right-back was loaned to Fulham by Liverpool in January of last season and he did not disappoint. In 14 Championship games, Williams accumulated 6 clean sheets, 2 goals and 2 assists. We naturally don’t expect him to replicate those numbers this season, which will be his first full season at the very highest level, but even as a starter enjoying the occasional clean sheet, the Welshman could be the ultimate budget enabler for your squad.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 7

On Monday our 6th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Leicester and LiverpoolIn this 7th FPL instalment, we’re taking a closer look at the two Manchester clubs, reigning champions Manchester City and a Manchester United side under new management.

MANCHESTER CITY – FPL 2022/23 team preview

After a thriller of a title fight with Liverpool, one that was decided on the very last day of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, Manchester City crowned themselves champions of England for the second time in a row and the fourth time in the last five years. Incredible statistics for a side competing in what’s probably the most competitive league in the world and those alone are sufficient to declare the Cityzens one of the stand-out favourites for the 2022-23 Premier League title, even before the season has started.

Pep Guardiola’s men lost their all-time goalscorer to FC Barcelona last summer, but as if nothing happened, the team scored an impressive 99 goals in 38 league games. No other side scored more, though Liverpool came close with 94 goals. From a defensive point of view, City performed as a deserved champion as well, conceding just 26 goals, less than any team bar, you guessed it, Liverpool (also 26). The lack of cup success though, principally in the coveted Champions League, will only cause the Abu Dhabi government to pump more money into the club.

In all fairness though, City have also generated a decent mount of transfer income this summer. The sale of Raheem Sterling to Chelsea (£47.5 million), and Gabriel Jesus (£45 million) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£32) to Arsenal alone netted more than £100m for the club. The money didn’t sit in the Skyblue accounts for long though, as they managed to sign Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland for £51 million and Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips for about £42 million. The Norwegian, in particular is an appealing prospect for FPL managers, but also another cog in Pep’s non-stop rotation machine.

Manchester City’s tactics sheet

Pep Guardiola’s preferred tactics, much like his arch-rival’s at Liverpool, are no big secret. The Spanish manager has clear preferences when it comes to how his side turns up and one of his biggest strengths is knowing how to drill these preferences to perfection. Generally, City play in a rather fluid 4-3-3 formation, though it can be viewed as a 4-2-3-1 as well. The front four, especially, interchange positions constantly during games, though the inclusion of Haaland might make the striker position a bit more set this season. Nevertheless, with the world-class likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez around him, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn up on the wings or around the number ten spot at times, as well.

Defensively, the Cityzens rely on a constant high press, at times complemented with smart tactical fouls when the opponent appears to break out. Thanks to their domination of the ball in most games, the wing-backs often function more like additional wingers or midfielders, with Joao Cancelo being the prime example. With Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias at the heart of the backline, the team has one of the most solid foundations in the game. Still, and we don’t think we need to repeat this, rotation is ever-present for every player on the City roster, bar Ederson perhaps.

MANCHESTER CITY – Potential FPL targets

So, at the age of 21, Erling Haaland (£11.5m) has already scored 85 goals and provided 22 assists in 88 Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund. Just let that sink in for a moment. While we tend to be cautious when it comes to recommending fantasy picks who have not yet proven themselves in the Premier League, the prospect of possibly the most complete attacker in the game today playing under the wings of Pep Guardiola is simply too promising to pass up. City have no other out-and-out striker on the books of the first team at the moment, apart from young Liam Delap and Julian Alvarez, which makes us think that the Norwegian superstar might be more rotation-proof than most perhaps expect. Add to that Haaland’s impressive physique and apparent top fitness levels, and we can’t see why you would not include him in your squad for gameweek 1. As a cherry on top, City are facing West Ham (away), Bournemouth (home), Newcastle (away), Palace (home) and Nottingham Forest (home) in the first five games of the upcoming season.

We know, it’s easy to just keep recommending the premium assets on the Man City roster, but we simply can’t write this piece without mentioning Kevin de Bruyne (£12.0m). The midfield maestro had another excellent campaign last season, scoring 15 goals and giving 8 assists for a total of 196 FPL points, despite missing about eight weeks of action in the first half of the season due to injury problems. This makes it all the more impressive that no other City colleague of his was involved in more goals. As one of the best midfielders in the world, KDB is probably as nailed-on as an offensive player can come under Pep Guardiola, and he’s on most set-pieces bar penalties as well. If budget allows, he’s a no-brainer.

We were initially planning to include Joao Cancelo as our third fantasy pick from Manchester city’s squad, but we ended up opting for a more budget-friendly option, considering our previous two picks. In our opinion, Phil Foden (£8.0m) has been slightly under-priced this season, though £8.0m is no bargain either, especially considering the rotation risk. The talented youngster accumulated 2,125 Premier League minutes last season, and recorded 9 goals and 6 assists plus another 13 clean sheets. Foden is registered as a midfielder in the official game, after all. We expect the Englishman’s minutes to only increase this season and with that his attacking output as well. He could very well represent an excellent non-premium way into England’s strongest attack.

MANCHESTER UNITED – FPL 2022-23 team preview

The season started with high hopes in the red part of Manchester after finishing in second place the season prior, and with the arrival of living United legend Cristiano Ronaldo and the very, very long-awaited Jadon Sancho. What followed was, once again, a largely disappointing 2021-22 campaign in which the Red Devils finished sixth in the league, just 2 points above West Ham, 11 points behind 5th placed Arsenal and a rough 35 points behind champions and city rivals Manchester City. Neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nor interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who replaced the Norwegian in November, managed to create order in what has largely been a top club in chaos over the past years.

And like that, Manchester United are up for yet another fresh start in the build-up to the new season, though it feels like things might finally really be different this time. Rangnick was replaced by successful Ajax Amsterdam manager Erik ten Hag, who guided the Dutch giants back to the European top in the past few years. While the Premier League is a whole different beast than the Dutch Eredivisie, ETH will be taking a step back in terms of European football this season, as United will be playing in the Europa League. Not where the club wants to be, that’s for sure, but in the light of a new manager building a new team with new players, perhaps not the worst of scenarios.

The new manager has already been very influential in the club’s transfer activities this summer. Former Spurs, Inter and Ajax midfielder creator Christian Eriksen was brought in on a free, while Ten Hag also brought Argentinian central defender and international Lisandro Martinez with him. For £57 million excluding add-ons, that is. The other marquee signing so far has been talented Feyenoord left-back and Dutch international Tyrell Malacia for about £13 million. As far as outgoing players go, the free transfer of Paul Pogba to Juventus is the most painful from a purely financial point of view, because the likes of Andreas Pereira (£10 million to Fulham), Jesse Lingard (free to Nottingham Forest) and Dean Henderson (free to AS Roma) never truly conquered a starting spot at Old Trafford.

Manchester United’s tactics sheet

“It’s about the Man United football and about the Man United identity and philosophy. It has to be about attacking football”. Signed, Erik ten Hag during his first, big interview with Manchester United’s in-house media shortly after his appointment earlier this summer. As with every new manager anywhere, it always remains to be seen how a team will turn up under the new management, but one thing is for sure: Ten Hag will be trying to implement an attacking style of football and if his three years at Ajax are anything to go by, the United faithful are in for a change compared to previous seasons. Only time will tell whether it’ll be for good or bad.

As far as United expected tactics go, pre-season seems to indicate that ETH will use his preferred 4-3-3 formation at United, possibly switching to a 4-2-3-1 at times. He did the same at Ajax with considerable success and most other European top clubs have a similar approach to games. You can expect a very energetic United side in gameweek 1, pressing hard not only up the pitch but all over. Three seconds to get the ball back in possession was the rule in Amsterdam. The (even) bigger challenge for the new manager will be to turn an at times shambolic United defensive block into a ball-playing unit that forms the first phase of the team’s attacking moves based on short passing and quick combinations. New boy Martinez, in particular, is expected to play a major role in this transformation.

MANCHESTER UNITED – Potential FPL targets

So far, Cristiano Ronaldo (£10.5m) is still part of Manchester United’s first-team squad and therefore, he is our first United fantasy pick. In a side that struggled for form, consistency and results, the Portuguese superstar still managed an impressive 18 goals in the Premier League, the same amount he scored in his last season before leaving for Real Madrid, after the 2008-09 campaign. Rather unnoticed it seems, he actually ended third on the list of Premier League goal scorers last season, five goals behind joint-winners Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min. It’s therefore no surprise that he was also United’s best performer from an FPL point of view with 159 points. His current price places him a whole million below the ultra-premium forward options Harry Kane and Erling Haaland, and his opening fixtures don’t look too bad, either. Brighton at home in GW1, followed by Brentford away, Liverpool at home and Southampton away looks like a run for which you want to count on one of football’s most prolific goal scorers ever.

In the shadow of a few multi-million signings and many more transfer rumours, contracting Christian Eriksen (£6.5m) on a free might end up being the club’s shrewdest piece of business. Including his half-season stint at Brentford last season, where he showed that he’s still very much got it after his horrible health ordeal during Euro 2020, the Danish midfielder has 237 Premier League games under his belt, as well as 52 goals and 71 assists. While more than a few pundits don’t believe there is a place in the starting eleven for Eriksen, mainly due to Bruno Fernandes’ presence in the pocket, we’re not so sure yet. Ten Hag has shown in the past that he is a big fan of a double pivot in which at least one of the two midfielders is a technically gifted, ball-playing creator and the Dane could actually fit this role perfectly. It all remains to be seen, of course, but at a bargain price of just £6.5m, Eriksen should absolutely feature on your scouting lists in the build-up to gameweek 1.

The arrival of Jadon Sancho (£7.5m) at Old Trafford felt like it was in the making for an eternity, so expectations were logically sky-high. Unfortunately though, the 2021-22 Premier League campaign did not entirely work out the way the Red Devils had hoped and it reflected in Sancho’s performances as well. In just under 1,900 minutes of league action, the £73 million-signing managed a rather underwhelming 3 goals and 4 assists for a total of 91 FPL points. The lack of starts especially, 20 in total, was a deterrent for many fantasy managers to really consider the England international as a viable FPL asset. We find it hard to imagine that last season’s marquee signing will be cast aside just like that after a season in which the whole side struggled and Erik ten Hag seems to be putting his confidence in the 22-year-old. In theory, Sancho is perfectly suited to the new manager’s preferred style of dynamic play, so if you want to take a bit of a pre-season punt, he should be around the top of your list particularly given his pre-season goal scoring form.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 6

On Saturday our 5th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Fulham and LeedsIn this 6th FPL instalment, it’s time for Leicester City and a Liverpool side without Sadio Mané for the first time since 2016.

LEICESTER – FPL 2022/23 team preview

Leicester City started off the 2021-22 season brimming with confidence after an excellent 2020-21 campaign in which they not only finished fifth in the table and qualified for the Europa League, but also added not one but two pieces of silverware to their cabinet. In the FA Cup final, Chelsea were beaten, while the Foxes overcame Manchester City for the Community Shield, courtesy of a very late Kelechi Iheanacho penalty. Replicating such a low-key great season was always going to be difficult for manager Brendan Rodgers and his men, but a nice run all the way up to the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League partly made up for an eighth-place finish in the league, just outside of the European spots.

Perhaps due to the strain of European football, which saw them get knocked out of the Europa League group stages by Spartak Moscow and Napoli before being eliminated by AS Roma in the Conference League semi-finals, Leicester boasted some of the least impressive underlying stats in the league last season. As a matter of fact, despite scoring a decent 62 goals, the Foxes actually recorded an Expected Goal ratio of about 52, making them the number-one overachievers in terms of goalscoring in the entire league. At the same time, the Leicester defence was leaky last term, conceding a worrying 59 goals in 38 games, as well as the fourth-most shots. With the absence from Europe this season, Rodgers will very surely be looking to seriously improve all over in order to compete for a top-six finish.

Nevertheless, it has been extremely quiet on the transfer front so far this summer. The Foxes have seen Belgian international Dennis Praet return from his season on loan with Serie A side Torino, but that’s it for the moment in terms of “new” faces at the King Power Stadium. The club did release reserve goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic and let winger Ademola Lookman return to Red Bull Leipzig after a season on loan with them. Leicester have been connected to a few high-profile acquisitions this summer, like PSV Eindhoven’s Ivory Coast international Ibrahim Sangaré and Club Brugge star Charles de Ketelaere, but no official announcements have been made yet in terms of new arrivals.

Leicester’s tactics sheet

From an FPL point of view, Brendan Rodgers is a great manager. He has a clear preference for a system of play, a 4-2-3-1 with the possibility of adding an extra striker, and he is nowhere as addicted to rotation as some of the other elite managers in the league. The Scotsman likes to dominate possession and to have his players interchange position in games in ways that suit the team’s generally pacy forward line. One upcoming issue with this style of play is the team’s continued reliance on Jamie Vardy, who fits Rodgers’ plans perfectly, but who also turned 35 in January. Despite missing a total of 21 games due to hamstring and knee issues, the living Leicester legend still managed 15 goals and 2 assists in the league last season, but the question is how long the side can keep feeding off him up front.

Having said that, the Foxes’ roster did provide more value than just Vardy in FPL terms. Thanks to Rodgers’ preference for attacking football, quick movements on the flanks and deep runs when possible, the likes of James Maddison and to a lesser extent Harvey Barnes topped FPL scouting lists at various times over the 2021-22 campaign. Thanks to the standard double pivot in midfield, usually formed by the slightly under-rated world-class couple of Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi, the Leicester attack gets a lot of freedom to attack freely. The lesser defensive performances last season saw the prices of their defensive assets drop to bargain levels, which could bring them into play once their fixture list clears up a bit from GW6 onwards. Our recommendation is to wait-and-see for now though, when it comes to Leicester’s defence.

LEICESTER – Potential FPL targets

We mentioned above that the attacking players around Jamie Vardy play in an ideal system, on paper, to deliver regular attacking returns for FPL managers and this goes for James Maddison (£8.0m) especially. Where Brendan Rodgers’ is not afraid to rotate his wingers from time to time, Maddison is the man who orchestrates the Foxes in the final third. Last season, the 25-year-old started 28 out of 38 Premier League games and came on as an impact sub in seven more games. Over that run, he recorded an impressive 12 goals and 11 assists for a total of 181 FPL points. A phenomenal return for a player who started the season with a £7.0m price tag and one that only four midfielders in the official game managed to beat. Maddison is expected to be a key cog in Rodgers’ attack once again this season and despite his price hike, he is one worth considering, especially when the fixtures start turning greener for the Foxes after the first five gameweeks.

Our next pick from the Leicester roster is mainly based on two things: the expectation that Leicester will improve on last season’s terrible defensive stats and the player’s own history in the Premier League. Out of the Foxes’ backline, Caglar Söyüncü (£4.5m) is probably the most secure starter, considering the options Rodgers’ has on either flank with the likes of Luke Thomas, Timoty Castagne, James Justin, Ricardo Pereira and Ryan Bertrand.  The Turkish central defender, whose country failed to qualify for the upcoming World Cup, had his best season back in 2019-20, when he amassed 12 clean sheets, a goal and an assist for 120 FPL points. The season after that was largely marred by injury issues and last season saw him underperform again, this time as part of a generally leaky backline. Sure, these are not great indicators for a fantasy football pick, but as a result, his price tag was also lowered to £4.5m this season. The competition in his price bracket is fierce and we doubt many managers will have him in their GW1 squad, but he could well develop into a major bargain if Leicester get their defensive business in order.

Our third and final Leicester pick also pertains to the budget bracket, though for midfielders this time. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (£5.0m) had his breakthrough last season, as he got no less than 2,101 minutes of Premier League action last season. He started 23 times and got another 5 appearances from the bench, scoring a goal and providing 2 assists in the process. He ended the 2021-22 Premier League campaign with 70 FPL points, which, for a midfielder who started out at £4.5m, is more than decent. For the upcoming season, his price was logically raised, but by just a half million. As a result, the official game now boasts a starting central midfielder playing for a team that will look to compete for the top-six at an absolute bargain price. Definitely worth considering as the fifth midfielder in your squad.

LIVERPOOL – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Image by jorono from Pixabay

For a big part of the (second half of) the 2021-22 season, the illustrious quadruple was a serious topic of conversation for everyone and anyone Red. For a long time, Jurgen Klopp’s men were in the running for the Premier League title, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Eventually, “just” two of these prizes were brought home, both of the domestic cups, but Liverpool can still look back on what was probably one of the best seasons ever by an English side. As we all know though, football and especially football history is about the prizes, and just very narrowly losing out on the two major ones will have hurt quite a bit.

Enough about the silverware though, because there was more big news coming from Anfield over the past few months. First of all, of course, the contract extension for the architect of this current Liverpool side and all of its successes, manager Jurgen Klopp. Second of all, the transfer of star man and last season’s best player Sadio Mané to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. Third of all, the mid-season addition of Porto forward Luis Diaz for a whopping £37 million, who seemingly immediately felt at home in Liverpool dynamic high-press system of play. He will also feature in our potential Liverpool FPL targets section.

Diaz is not the only personification of the club’s intention to shake up and rejuvenate the squad preparation for what looks to become yet another thrilling title fight this season. While the Reds generated decent cash with the sale of Neco Williams to Nottingham Forest (£16 million), Takumi Minamino to French side Monaco (£15 million), Marko Grujic to Porto (£10.5 million) and the previously mentioned Sadio Mané to Bayern. A majority of this money was quickly reinvested in the acquisition of striker Darwin Nuñez from Portuguese side Benfica for a whopping £85m, a club record, actually. In the Uruguayan’s shadow, Fulham starlet Fabio Carvalho and Aberdeen talent Calvin Ramsay have also made their way to Anfield this summer.

Liverpool’s tactics sheet

With the recent extension of Jurgen Klopp’s contract at Anfield, the Reds are assured of at least a few more hours of their now-trademark energetic, high-press attacking way of playing of football. Looking at the club’s most recent million-pound transfers, the German manager looks set to continue developing his preferred way of playing, based on a 4-3-3 formation. Luis Diaz looks like the dead-set successor of Sadio Mané, while Darwin Nuñez will be starring in a central role, much like Roberto Firmino did for many years as part of Liverpool’s feared front three. At the same time, Nuñez is a very different player than Firmino is. The Uruguayan is more of physical presence in the area than Firmino and while the Brazilian betters him in terms of runs and technique especially, Nuñez is more of a killer in front of goal and presents more of a focal point for centers. With the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson whipping them in at will, it will be interesting to see how Klopp will integrate these new facets into his side’s game.

With Robertson and TAA, we have also mentioned one of the Reds’ most typical and important tactical aspects. The wing-backs are of crucial importance to Liverpool’s high-pressing, reactive kind of attacking approach. Both of them consistently rank amongst the top defenders for attacking stats like goals, assists, crosses and key passes, which is also reflected in their FPL prices. This season once again, they are priced at £7.0m and £7.5m, respectively. This season, the wing-backs will again be getting full freedom to bomb forward, only this time with a 6ft 1inch Uruguayan goal machine present in the area.

LIVERPOOL – Potential FPL targets

It’s kind of unbelievable, but we have dedicated about a page of text to Liverpool already without mentioning Mo Salah (£13.0m) even once. Perhaps we just mentioned him too often last season and we subconsciously decided to give others a chance to be in the spotlight for once. In any case, here we are, and the Egyptian is, surprise surprise, the first of our Liverpool fantasy picks. With 265 FPL points, courtesy of 23 goals and 14 assists, Salah was the highest scorer in the official game last season and there is no way he is not going to be Liverpool’s main man again this season. As a matter of fact, when you look back at the past few seasons, he has been their main man every year since the 2017-12 campaign. That year, he recorded the all-time FPL points record of 303 and since then, his lowest season haul has been 231 FPL points, in the COVID-stricken 2020-21 season. No wonder he is the most expensive player in the official game right now and with games against Fulham (away), Palace (home), Man United (away) and Bournemouth (home) in his first four of the upcoming season, we suggest you find a way to fit him into your squad.

If Salah is first on your team sheet, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m) should probably be second. The Liverpool right-back has been a sensation in FPL over the past seasons, racking up at least 160 FPL points in each of the last four Premier League campaigns. Last season, the England international recorded 2 goals and no less than 12 assists on top of 18 clean sheets, which resulted in 208 FPL points. No defender in the official game scored more than him and we’re expecting him to be among the top-performing defenders once again this season. He’s nailed-on under Jurgen Klopp, he creates a crazy amount of chance from open play and he is also on set-piece duties, including direct free-kicks. Like with Salah just above, TAA looks like an asset that picks himself for the opening of the 2022-23 campaign.

We were tempted to include new signing Darwin Nuñez in this list as well, but even though we don’t have much doubt about him getting used to Liverpool and the Premier League in no time, we ended up going with Luis Diaz (£8.0m) instead. Our reasoning is based on a combination of his first half year in service of the Reds and his current price tag. The Colombian international, whose country will not feature at the upcoming World Cup, came to Anfield at the end of the last winter transfer window and did not need much time to show what he’s capable of. In just under 1.000 Premier League minutes, the winger, who is listed as a midfielder in FPL, collected 64 FPL points, courtesy of 4 goals, 3 assists, 6 clean sheets and 6 bonus points. There is competition for the three spots up front under Klopp, but we’re seeing Diaz as a nailed-on option on the left wing for the majority of the games this season. This makes him a relatively inexpensive entry into one of the best attacks in the league and therefore very much worth including in your scouting lists.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 5

Yesterday our 4th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Crystal Palace and EvertonIn this 4th FPL instalment, we’re taking a dive into newly promoted Fulham and a Leeds side preparing for its first full season under Jesse Marsh.

FULHAM – FPL 2022/23 team preview

Under the spirited tutelage of former Watford and Everton manager Marco Silva, Fulham has made an instant return to the Premier League. After a rather helpless 2019-20 campaign at the highest, which saw the Cottagers relegated with just 28 points, the club replaced current Bournemouth manager Scott Parker with Silva and what followed was a dominant season in the Championship. An impressive 90 points from 46 games saw them clinch the second-tier title in style, boasting not only the best attacking numbers by some distance, but also the third-best defensive stats. The London side scored a whopping 106 goals and conceded just 43 for a positive goal difference of 63 which was 28 more than second-best Nottingham Forest.

Of course, when you have a striker (Mitrovic) who bangs in 43 goals (!) in 44 league appearances, plus another 7 assists, your attacking numbers as a team are bound to be pretty good. As most FPL managers know, the Serbian striker is kind of an enigma in English football, dominating in impressive fashion in the Championship but not being able to fully translate those performances into results at the very highest level. In the 2015-16 season, he scored 9 and assisted 4, in the 2018-19 season he recorded 11 goals and 4 assists for his best ever season in the Premier League, and in his last campaign in the elite, he got just 3 goals and 3 assists, partly due to ongoing injury niggles. Nevertheless, keeping hold of their undisputed focal point in attack will be a priority for the Cottagers this summer.

The club has succeeded in that objective so far, though they did lose a few other important players. Defensive midfielder Zambo Anguissa was sold to Serie A side Napoli for around £15 million, while the talented Fabio Carvalho transferred to Liverpool for about £5 million. The Cottagers put the incoming transfer fees, plus the enormous amount of Premier League TV money, to work straight away. Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha was brought in for £17 million and Man United attacking midfielder Andreas Pereira was welcomed for about £8 million after spending a season on loan at Brazilian giants Flamengo.

Fulham’s tactics sheet

To expect Fulham to simply replicate their free-scoring, free-flowing type of football from last season in the Prem this season is not realistic, to say the least, but under Marco Silva, they could be an interesting addition to the league. In the Championship, the Portuguese tactician mostly preferred a 4-2-3-1 setup in which possession of the ball was the holy grail. Only Swansea boasted a higher average possession percentage than them, but the interesting thing is that the Cottagers seemingly just as easy adopted a more direct approach when needed. As Silva stated towards the end of the season, “We want to start from the back, to build… but if you can reach the opposition box in three of four passes, why make ten passes?”. That kind of sums it up as far as Fulham’s tactical approach goes.

This tactical flexibility and readiness to adapt when needed or even necessary will likely be of key importance to the side upon their return to the Premier League. The Cottagers will rarely dominate possession and instead be on the backfoot quite often, much more often than last season. More importantly though, is Silva’s general realism when it comes to preparing for games. He has stated that his philosophy will not change this season, but that the club and the team have to understand the reality of coming into one of the strongest leagues in the world. All-out attacking football will simply not enough be an option for the Londoners, unless they want to be relegated well before the business end of the season.

FULHAM – Potential FPL targets

After mentioning his 43 goals and 7 assists in 44 Championship games last season, we have no choice but starting this section with Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.5m). The Serbian’s pedigree as a natural goal scorer is well-known by now, but FPL Towers have once again given him a slightly (too) elevated price tag, in our opinion. Amongst the budget and mid-priced forwards in the official game alone, which in all honesty is not a category boasting an abundance of quality choice, Mitrogol has to compete for the love of FPL managers with the likes of Brentford’s Ivan Toney, Aston Villa’s Danny Ings and Wolves’ Raul Jimenez, just to name a few. And then we haven’t mentioned similarly priced assets in midfield and defence yet. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old forward could be an interesting differential option, especially from gameweek 8 onwards, when Fulham enter a nice stretch of favourable fixtures.

Over-pricing is not something that Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) has suffered from this season as a fantasy asset. The former Manchester United creator, who never truly enjoyed a real breakthrough at Old Trafford, was brought in for around £8 million this summer and is expected to play a central role in the Cottagers’ attacking plans. That alone is something more than worth keeping in mind, as there are very few other options at his price point that will be able to count on regular minutes, let alone starts, this season. At Flamengo, where he played on loan last season, he was deployed as a defensive midfielder as well, but so far during Fulham’s pre-season, the Brazilian has mostly operated as the man behind and around striker Mitrovic. Fulham might possibly offer us one of the very best budget-enablers available in the build-up to gameweek

Naturally, most of the spotlights were on Mitrovic’ record-breaking goal-scoring performance in the Championship last season. He wasn’t the only player in the Cottagers’ forward line who shone bright though, because right winger Harry Wilson (£6.0m) actually performed at similar levels as the Serbian goal machine. While the Welsh international’s 10 goals in 41 Championship games were more than decent, his total of 20 assists was downright incredible (partly thanks to Mitrovic’s high goal count). With budgets tight once again in the build-up to the season opener on August 5th, his price tag is perhaps a bit too prohibitive for fantasy managers to gamble on, but we really recommend to at least place him on your watchlists. Wilson actually already has a season of Premier League action under his belt, after scoring 7 goals and providing 1 assist over the 2019-20 campaign with Bournemouth, so he’s not entirely unexperienced at the highest level. His set-piece duties, mainly focused on corners and direct free-kicks only add to his appeal, especially from GW8 onwards.

LEEDS – FPL 2022-23 team preview

After a spectacular return to the Premier League back in 2020 under manager Marcelo Bielsa, the 2021-22 campaign was a different beast for the Whites. They ended up being, in fact, the first side in eleven years to climb out of the drop zone on the very last day of the season. They needed to book a better result away at Brentford than fellow relegation candidates Burnley at home to Newcastle, and they did. A 1-2 victory over the Bees saw them hop over Burnley into 17th place, pushing the Clarets, who fell 1-2 to the Magpies, into the relegation zone.

All of this happened under the management of Jesse Marsh, the American former RB Leipzig coach who was appointed in February as Bielsa’s successor after a horror run of defeats under the Chilean. Marsh managed to have an impact on the side as Leeds won three of the next five following his appointment, but the ghost of relegation was never truly far away. Especially worrying was Leeds’ defensive display as they conceded a frankly relegation-worthy 79 goals in 38 league games, a total only surpassed by last season’s whipping boys Norwich. At the same time, their goal-scoring record was nothing to write home about either, netting just 42 times which wasn’t helped by injuries to main striker Bamford. Only the three relegated sides and Wolves scored less than the Whites.

In that light, the departure of their absolute star man Raphinha is all the more problematic. Sure, Barcelona paid a hefty £55 million fee (including add-ons) for the Brazilian international, but by selling the winger, Leeds also lost no less than 33% of their goals from last season. Raphinha was directly involved in 14 goals (11 goals, 3 assists) and in the absence of Patrick Bamford, he was the one that made Leeds tick. Add to that the £42 million transfer of midfield compass Kalvin Phillips and it’s clear that Leeds have their work cut out for them this summer transfer window. So far, they have invested around £100 million back into the squad, but mainly in young(er) players without too much experience in the Premier League. Nevertheless, the likes of attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson (£22 million from RB Salzburg), Colombian international winger Luis Sinisterra (£25 million from Feyenoord) and defensive midfielder Tyler Adams (£20 million from RB Leipzig) could end up being spectacular additions to the squad and the Premier League as a whole.

Leeds’ tactics sheet

Any team sacking Marcelo Bielsa will have to cope with a period of change in terms of playing style and tactics, as the Chilean mastermind is famously known for his extreme ideas in terms of setting up his sides. It was no different for Jesse Marsh last season, but the American managed to navigate the situation quite well. In fact, very well actually, because he steered the Whites clear of relegation and secured at least one other season of Premier League football at Elland Road.

As is often the case with teams in fear of relegation, results gain importance over style, so last season’s games under Marsh might not be entirely indicative of what we’re going to see from them this season. Still, he seemed to clearly prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation, much like Bielsa would use. This makes sense as the squad was obviously built for this tactic before his arrival. As a product from the Red Bull school, the American wants to see energetic, high-press football that puts opponents under pressure from the moment they touch the ball. The likes of Jack Harrison and Dan James are particularly suited to this type of football, while Rodrigo was a bit of a revelation as the dynamic, hard-working number 10. The previously mentioned new recruits, Sinisterra and Aaronson in particular, look like they could slot into this approach quite easily, which is why we’re not expecting too much of a system change in that sense. Then again, with so many changes having taken place at Elland Road over the last six months or so, Leeds are very much a wait-and-see side for us at the moment. We’re not coming close to anything defence-related from Leeds until there are some signs that they have learned from their horrific defensive performance from last season.

LEEDS – Potential FPL targets

In theory, after the departure of Raphinha, Patrick Bamford (£7.5m) is the talisman in Leeds’ current squad. His 2021-22 Premier League campaign was largely ruined by ongoing injury problems as he managed just 557 minutes. Despite that very limited playing time, the England international did record 2 goals and 2 assists, which hints at the qualities he definitely possesses. For more proof of that, we just have to look back at his 2020-21 season. On Leeds’ return to the Premier League, Bamfy played just over 3,000 minutes of league football, scoring 17 goals and providing 11 assists for a total of 194 FPL points. Incredible stats for a striker of a newly promoted side, especially considering his £5.5m price tag at the start of that season. It’s that same price tag that will keep many fantasy managers from taking a gamble on him in the build-up to this season’s first gameweek, but if he keeps fit and starts ticking under Jesse Marsh, £7.5m can end up being a more than reasonable price.

In the shadows of mainly Raphinha, Jack Harrison (£6.0m) actually had a decent 2021-22 Premier League campaign, considering how poor Leeds were for most of it. He scored 8 goals and provided 1 assist for a total of 117 FPL points, and what’s especially encouraging is the seeming uptick in form that he experienced after the appointment of Jesse Marsh. In the last eight gameweeks of last season, Harrison actually developed into the main man at Leeds, scoring four goals and playing a major role in them securing another season of Premier League football. As a matter of fact, after Raphinha’s opener in the final game of the season against Brentford, he was the one who scored the injury time winning goal in the 1-2 result that saw the Whites hop over Burnley into the safety zone. Again, like Bamford, we don’t think many fantasy managers will pick him for their gameweek 1 squad, but if he carries on his form from the end of last season, he could become an interesting option at £6.0m.

Overpricing, unfortunately, seems to be a bit of a trend for Leeds fantasy assets this season. Like Bamford and Harrison, new boy Luis Sinisterra (£6.5m) could be an interesting differential, but at his current price, he’s competing with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, James Ward-Prowse and Youri Tielemans for a midfield spot in your squad. Having said that, if you are set on taking a Leeds punt, the Colombian international, who won’t feature at the 2022 World Cup later this year as his country failed to qualify, could be what you are looking for. As one of the stand-out performers for Dutch giants Feyenoord last season, Luisito scored 12 goals and gave 7 assists in 30 Eredivisie games last season. His underlying stats were good as well, as he registered an average of 2.6 shots and 2 key passes per game.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 4

Yesterday our 3rd preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Brighton and ChelseaIn this 4th FPL instalment, it’s time for Crystal Palace and an Everton side that only very narrowly escaped the first relegation in its history last season.

CRYSTAL PALACE – FPL 2022/23 team preview

The 2021-22 Premier League campaign represented a new start for Crystal Palace in more than a few ways. Some big names and Eagles mainstays over the previous were released, including the likes of Gary Cahill, Mamadou Sakho and Wayne Hennesey, and a new manager was appointed in the person of French former world champion Patrick Vieira. After four years of decent enough but rarely exciting football under Premier League veteran Roy Hodgson, the OFC Nice manager was brought in to ring in a new era at Selhurst Park. Attacking football, leaving relegation worries permanently behind and perhaps even competing for a top-half finish were all amongst the goals set for Vieira prior to his arrival, so the Frenchman had his work cut out for him.

It was a risky appointment, there is no doubt, and the bookmakers had Vieira as the second-most likely manager to get the first sack in the 2021-22 season, but as so often, they were wrong. What emerged under the former Arsenal midfielder was a young Palace side, stacked with English and Continental talent that no longer depended almost entirely on Wilfried Zaha, as had been the case so often in the past years. While the Ivory Coast international recorded his best season as an Eagle to date with 14 goals and 2 assists for 150 FPL points, Palace had a good season overall as well. They finished 12th in the Prem and in the bottom-half of the table, only Aston Villa outscored them (50 goals vs 52). Defensively, they were even more impressive with 46 conceded goals, a total bettered by only seven other teams in the league.

Like the fans, Palace’s management must be quite happy with how the summer transfer window is developing so far. They have managed to keep last season’s team together and added a few reinforcements already, most notably young defensive midfielder Cheick Doucouré from Ligue 1 side Lens for about £15 million and the young attacker Malcolm Ebiowei from Derby on a free. Quite a contrast compared to last summer, as we described earlier, and something that should instil hope of another good season in the topflight among the Palace faithful.

Crystal Palace’s tactics sheet

One of the major achievements of Vieira in his first season at Selhurst Park, besides the tidy 12th-place finish in the league, has been the way in which he managed to implement a new playing style in relatively little time. Preferring a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, the Frenchman focused on getting the team used to a more energetic, attacking approach to games and it paid off. Outside of last season’s top eight and Aston Villa, no team scored more goals than the Eagles’ 50 successful attempts. At the same time, no defensive solidity was sacrificed to achieve this feat, as the team went on to concede just 46 goals. As a result, they were the only side outside of last season’s top eight to end the 2021-22 campaign with a positive goal difference.

As we briefly touched upon earlier, one of the major improvements to the side has been the lower reliance on individual flashes of brilliance from their talisman, Wilfried Zaha. By demanding a higher, more intense press from his team, especially in the middle, Vieira managed to involve more players in the attacking part of their game, most notably Chelsea loanee Connor Gallagher, who blossomed under the Frenchman. They will surely miss him this season. Add to that a new pair of ball-playing central defenders and the emergence of Tyrick Mitchell as yet another top wing-back prospect from The Academy, and it’s clear that, in a relatively short period of time, Vieira managed to add quality and tactical versatility to the side.

CRYSTAL PALACE – Potential FPL targets

For some years now, no serious Crystal Palace season preview could start listing interesting FPL targets without starting with Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m). FPL managers will be happy to see the Palace star man not only listed as a midfielder once again this season, but at a very fair price. The 29-year-old forward was the best fantasy scorer by some distance on the Palace roster last season, recording 150 FPL points from 14 goals, 2 assists, 11 clean sheets and 11 bonus points. That translates to about 21 FPL points per million pounds spent, which is quite a phenomenal return. As Zaha is the team’s talisman, he is all but immune to rotation and he has penalty duties as well. Palace’s start to the season is not the easiest, but the fixtures ease up from gameweek 5 onwards, which is where we expect interest in the Ivory Coast international to really take off, assuming he remains fit and shows decent form in the weeks prior.

After Aaron Wan-Bissaka a few seasons ago, Tyrick Mitchell (£4.5m) is on the way to becoming the next top talent at wing-back coming out of the Crystal Palace Academy. Contrary to his AWB, Mitchell plays on the left and seems to have fully convinced Patrick Vieira of his qualities, considering his 3,101 playing minutes in the Premier League last season. From 10 clean sheets, 2 assists and 6 bonus points, the 22-year-old England international collected 109 FPL points. For a budget defender, that’s not bad at all. While the Palace centre-backs offer a bit more goal threat from set-pieces, Mitchell’s appeal lies in his goal threat from open play. Competition is fierce in the budget defender bracket this season, but the Palace man is worth putting on your watchlists.

Michael Olise (£5.5m) was mainly used as a bench player last season, starting 12 times in the Premier League and coming on 14 times as substitute, but he still managed 2 goals and 5 assists for 73 FPL points. The France Under-21 international was brought in from Reading last summer for about £9 million and we have a feeling that there is much more playing time on the cards for him this season. He boasts some interesting offensive stats for a bargain midfielder, including the highest Expected Assist ratio among all his teammates (0.29 per 90 minutes) and the third-most completed passes into the box. Possibly not one for your gameweek 1 squad, but over the whole season, we expect Olise to improve considerably on his 2021-22 stats.

EVERTON – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Image by jorono from Pixabay

To label Everton’s 2021-22 Premier League campaign as tough is probably the understatement of the season. The Toffees struggled through most of the campaign, fighting to avoid dropping into the relegation zone on more than a few occasions. Strangely enough, the club started off quite well under Rafa Benitez, winning three and drawing one in the first four league games of the season. A seemingly endless run of uninspired displays and disappointing results then led to the sacking of the Spanish manager in January 2022 and the subsequent appointment of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard as his successor.

The managerial chance didn’t do Everton’s fortunes much good though, as they found themselves actually IN the relegation zone with just a few weeks to go before the end of the season. Somehow, Super Frankie Lamps managed to light the fire in his players one more time, resulting in surprising victories over Chelsea, Leicester and Palace in the final stretch. The end result: 16th place with 39 points, just four above the drop zone, a total of just 11 victories and a negative goal difference of 23. Not good enough for a club of Everton’s calibre, not good enough at all.

Toffee sentiment will not have improved much since that disappointing finish, as the club has just sold their best player by some distance. Richarlison transferred to Spurs for a cool £60 million, so at least Everton have some money to spend on the market this summer, on top of their usual budget. As far as incoming players are concerned though, up until now the biggest news has been the free transfer of Burnley icon James Tarkowski to Goodison Park, which in all honesty is very good signing. Still, with just a few weeks to go until gameweek 1, the club really needs to kick into a higher gear if they want to avoid another nightmare season full of bottom-half-of-the-table action.

Everton’s tactics sheet

As far as Frank Lampard’s tactical approach at Everton, last season was more about survival than working on an attractive, own way of playing. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see how the Toffees turn up in gameweek 1 against Chelsea at home. Ideally, the former England international prefers building up from the back with his team, keeping the ball at their feet and patiently moving it up the pitch, and with wing-backs pushing up the field to provide width. At the same time, the forwards are expected to be energetic and press almost constantly on the opponent’s defence around the middle of the pitch. Even supposed starting number nine Dominic Calvert-Lewin works incredibly hard in a defensive sense, which is only more testament to Lampard’s influence on the side.

While the preferred way of playing is clear, last season showed a worrying lack of stability, especially in terms of their defence. As we wrote above, when Premier League survival is at stake, teams usually return back to the very basics and seeing as Everton made it, their approach can easily be labelled as the right one in that particular situation. Still, when you see a team conceding 66 goals in 38 games (only four teams conceded more) while scoring just 43 themselves (only six teams scored less), you have to be critical. Teams with better stats have been relegated from the Premier League in the past. If you’re considering Everton assets for your gameweek 1 squad, it’s therefore important to check out the club’s preparations as Lampard is going through his first pre-season with them.

EVERTON – Potential FPL targets

Despite his slightly elevated price tag, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0m) is probably Everton’s most appealing asset from a fantasy point of view. When fit, he is the undisputed focal point of the Toffee attack and he has shown that he can translate that role into plenty of attacking returns. Between 2019 and 2021, the England international recorded 29 goals and 7 assists over two seasons, and even last season his averages were not bad. The problem with last season were his injury issues, which led to him getting just 1,281 minutes of Premier League action (5 goals, 2 assists). That’s why we mentioned his fitness earlier. He missed a total of 16 league games last season due to an ongoing toe injury, which basically placed him offside as an FPL asset. The 25-year-old looks to be back to full fitness again during the current pre-season though, and if he can keep that up, then £8.0 million is an acceptable price for a player of his calibre. His biggest problem in terms of FPL appeal is that there are other fantasy assets priced similarly that offer, at first glance, considerably more value, like Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus, Man City’s Phil Foden and Chelsea’s Mason Mount.

In the absence of DCL as Everton’s most likely top points scorer in the official fantasy game and excluding the now-departed Richarlison, Jordan Pickford (£4.5m) ended up being the team’s best performer with 116 FPL points. Nevertheless, and not so surprisingly perhaps when looking at how many goals the Toffees conceded, the goalkeeper’s price was dropped by £0.5m for the 2022-23 campaign. An interesting move by FPL Towers, because this at least places Pickford in the goalkeeper debate for gameweek 1. He’s an established international goalkeeper who is vying for a place in England’s World Cup squad, available at the cheapest possible price for a starting goalkeeper this season. We like to think that Everton will perform better as a team this season than they did last, after all performing worse than last season would practically see them relegated, and that this will also reflect in Pickford’s numbers. At the time of writing, 6% of all managers in the official game seem to hope for the same.

As you’ve probably realised by now, Everton are very much a wait-and-see for us right now, but if you’re set on bringing in one or more Toffees, the midfield roster offers some interesting budget-enablers. Last season was a breakthrough season for Everton Academy graduate Anthony Gordon (£5.5m) as he conquered a starting spot in Benitez’ and later Lampard’s starting eleven in the first half of the season. He ended up playing just over 2,200 minutes of Premier League football, and recorded 4 goals and 3 assists for a total of exactly 100 FPL points. As a result, his price tag was raised from last season’s bottom-bargain £4.5m to a still very fair £5.5m this season. When you watch Gordon play, he definitely passes the eye test and looks like a player who could do some real damage, in real life and in FPL. If he can keep up his development and increase his offensive output this season, it won’t be long before he starts featuring in more than a few fantasy teams. Frank Lampard seems to consider him a starter at least, and he got some set-piece duties towards the end of last season as well, so the fantasy potential is definitely there.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 3

Yesterday our 2nd preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Bournemouth and Brentford. In this 3rd FPL instalment, we’re taking a deeper look at Graham Potter’s Brighton and a Chelsea side under new ownership after the forced exit of Roman Abramovich.

BRIGHTON – FPL 2022/23 team preview

With Brighton and Hove Albion, we have come to one of the more calm and consistent clubs in the Premier League. While frustrating at times from a fantasy perspective, mainly due to their often-decent performances not being converted into consistent attacking returns, the club has been one of the more stable sides in the bottom-half of the table over the past years. That is, up until last season, when the Seagulls finished in the top-half of the Premier League table for the first time in their history with a very respectable ninth place.

Manager Graham Potter has managed to implement an attractive playing style at Brighton, but they have been lacking a serious end product for a few seasons now. Last season, they conceded just 44 goals, a total only bettered by the top-four plus Wolves, but they also netted just 42 times. Only the three relegated clubs plus, again, Wolves scored less. What’s more, when looking at the Expected Goals over the run of the 2021-22 campaign, Brighton were THE underachiever in the Premier League classroom with 54.34. Just imagine where they could have ended had they actually delivered on their xG.

This thought will surely have crossed the club management’s minds more than a few times as well, which explains Brighton’s activity on the transfer market so far. On top of Deniz Undav returning from loan at Union Saint-Gilloise, where he crowned himself top scorer of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, the Seagulls splashed the cash for the very talented 18-year-old forward and Paraguay international Julio Enciso (£9.5 million from Club Libertad), and left winger Simon Adingra (£6 million from Danish side Nordsjaelland. The club had some extra money to spend after the sale of key player Yves Bissouma to Spurs for around £25 million. There is no doubt that Brighton will duly miss the Mali international’s physicality and intensity in midfield this coming season but with the likes of Jakob Moder, Enock Mwepu and Moises Caicedo, they might just have his replacement in their ranks already.

Brighton’s tactics sheet

Like at his other clubs in the past, Graham Potter has managed to instil a level of tactical awareness and discipline at Brighton that few other teams in England and indeed the world possess. Their possession-based game based on a rock-solid defensive foundation, usually in a very fluid 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation, has proven to make the Seagulls hard to score against and more importantly, hard to beat as well. At the same time, Potter has no problems changing or rotating his personnel, which from a pure football point of view is rather impressive, but not the kind of thing you like to see as an FPL manager.

As we wrote before, Brighton like to have the ball and move it around, which is how they initiate most of their attacking moves. They consistently rank amongst the best teams for most passes per game, though it should be noted that the majority of this passing happens on their own half. With quick forwards that constantly interchange positions up front, they wait for the right moment to make the incisive pass, either high or low. As a result, Brighton’s central defenders boast some of the highest completed attacking passes ratios in the official game.

The forwards are asked to press high and constantly, which is why the likes of Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard fit Brighton’s style of play so well. The downside is that, so far, Potter has not yet found a way to make his forwards stand out in terms of goalscoring. The previously mentioned two players managed 8 goals each, making them the side’s shared top scorers. Only Wolves (the parallels between the two sides are starting to show, right?) had a team top scorer with less than that, namely Raul Jimenez with 6 goals.

BRIGHTON – Potential FPL targets

Out of all players currently on the Brighton roster, goalkeeper Robert Sánchez (£4.5m) is the highest owned at the time of writing and we expect that to still be the case come gameweek 1. The Spanish international is the number one between the sticks for Graham Potter and sits in just over 14% of all teams. Despite his nailed-on starting spot and a very decent total of 11 clean sheets last season, for a total of 126 FPL points, his price tag has remained unchanged. This makes him a very interesting pick, especially for those managers who like to rotate budget goalies and spend some more of the available budget on outfield players. Adding to Sánchez’ appeal is the fact that, after his GW1 visit to Old Trafford, he’ll only be facing one team with an FDR rating higher than 3 (Liverpool away in GW9) until gameweek 13.

We’re sticking with the Brighton defence for now, because the second Seagull on our watchlist is Tariq Lamptey (£4.5m). A bit of a fan favourite since his transfer from the Chelsea U23’s back in January 2020, the speedy right-back missed part of last season due to injuries. As a result, he managed just 1,547 Premier League minutes, though in that limited time he did record 2 assists and 6 clean sheets for a total of 74 FPL points. An advantage for fantasy managers is that, as a result of his limited playing time last season, his price tag has remained unchanged. At £4.5m and with a good set of fixtures practically right up to the World Cup break, we recommend keeping an eye on him in the build-up to the season opening.

In all fairness, besides Sánchez and Lamptey, we struggled a bit to find a third recommendable pick at Brighton, simply because their attack has been so goal-shy over the past few seasons. If you do have your heart set on integrating an offensive Brighton asset into your squad, Leandro Trossard (£6.5m) is probably your best bet. The Belgian will be fighting for a spot in his country’s World Cup squad and he is a bit of a talisman for the Seagulls. What also helps, is that he gets his share of set-pieces, including penalties. Looking back at his 2021-22 Premier League campaign, 8 goals and 4 assists for a total of 141 FPL points is pretty OK for a midfielder in his price bracket, and we feel he will definitely reach those numbers again this season. The main problem in that sense is that Potter is not afraid to rotate, as we said earlier, so timing your utilisation of the Belgian is very important if you want to benefit from his low price. He will probably be outscored by a few other mid-price midfielders, but he’s also a quality player who might just explode if the Seagulls finally manage to start banging in the goals.

CHELSEA – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Photo by Simon Reza on Unsplash

Chelsea FC were last season’s runner-up team. They finished in third place in the league, a respective 18 and 19 points between powerhouses Liverpool and champions Manchester City, and lost both the League Cup final and the FA Cup final to Liverpool. A season without silverware is not good enough for one of the world’s biggest clubs, is what many would’ve said prior to the start of last season, but of course, no one could have expected the off-field chaos that unfolded at Stamford Bridge when Russia decided to invade the Ukraine back in February of this year.

Identified as a key contact and partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chelsea’s (former) billionaire owner Roman Abramovich saw his assets frozen soon after the invasion and his ownership of Chelsea Football Club was one of those assets. As a result, during a period of time, it looked like Chelsea were heading towards an unprecedented collapse in the summer transfer window, not being allowed to splash the cash on anything from new players to multi-million salaries and team transportation. Fortunately for everything and anyone Blue, this disaster scenario was avoided when a group of new, mainly American, investors took full ownership of the club for a cool £4.25 billion in May.

The new owners did not take long to get themselves noticed in the world of European football. While the free transfer of key man Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid ended up being unavoidable, the only leaving players that played some sort of role last season were the ineffective Romelu Lukaku and central defender Andreas Christensen, who also moved to La Liga for free, to FC Barcelona. On the other side, Manchester City ace Raheem Sterling and Napoli giant Kalidou Koulibaly arrived for £47.5 million and £33 million, respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how the Blues will turn up this season, but what’s for sure is that manager Thomas Tuchel has his work cut out for him this pre-season.

Chelsea’s tactics sheet

Tuchel is known as a manager who very much lets his tactical approach to seasons and games depend on the personnel that he is available to him, which makes him quite flexible tactically. Nevertheless, there is a clear preference for a 3-5-2 formation for this Chelsea squad when possible, which makes sense given the exceptional abundance of wing-back talent in the current squad. We don’t have to tell FPL managers, but the likes of Reece James, Marcos Alonso, Ben Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta tend to be fantasy football gold, thanks to their high involvement in attack. James alone recorded a crazy 5 goals and 9 assists from less than 2,000 minutes in the Premier League, while Alonso only just fell short of those totals with 4 goals and 5 assists.

The wing-backs bombing forward means that Chelsea’s double pivot in the middle is relatively uninteresting from an FPL point of view, apart perhaps from Jorginho and his penalty duties. The expansive build-up play also has implications for the attackers on the wings, including new recruit Sterling, as they are generally instructed to drift inwards and around the central striker. A point to keep in mind is the fact that Chelsea have a deep squad and rotation can occur, especially in attack. In defence, Tuchel has shown that he tends to build on a fixed foundation. Nevertheless, with one of the most favourable starting sets of fixtures out of all teams, a sea of green FDR ratings stretching out to basically the Christmas period, we expect some Blues assets to be hot property over the coming weeks.

CHELSEA – Potential FPL targets

We already mentioned his impressive numbers above, so it’s no surprise that Reece James (£6.0m) is amongst our stand-out Chelsea fantasy targets, just like it’s no surprise that he currently sits in over 44% of all teams in the official game. The England international had to deal with some injury problems over the course of last season, which slightly dampened his appeal as there were more defenders in the spotlight, but 5 goals and 9 assists from 22 starts is just out of this world. Imagine what he can do if he starts 30+ league games this season. He does have some serious competition for his spot, but in our opinion, and considering Tuchel’s preferred tactical approach, James is the number-one choice at right-back for the Blues. He carries a premium price tag, but then again, which midfielder or forward priced at £6.0m will all but guarantee you 180+ FPL points, assuming he stays fit?

At first, we thought to include both James and Ben Chilwell in this section, pretty much for the same reasons, but then we noticed Edouard Mendy (£5.0m), or better said, Edouard Mendy’s price tag for the 2022-23 campaign. At just £5.0m, a whopping whole million cheaper than last season, the Senegal international looks like a bit of a steal to us, to such an extent that we’re considering giving him the elusive “set-and-forget” label this early in the season already. He is the cheapest starting goalie among all of the top-six goalies by some distance and everyone knows how good he is by now. We suspect that part of FPL Towers’ decision to keep his price in the mid-range is the result of Tuchel showing last season that even his goalkeeper is not exempt from (at times seemingly random) rotation, but personally, we’re not worried about it. Mendy is the clear number one for us and will be eyeing World Cup success with his country later on this year. He’s on top of our goalkeeper watchlist at the moment.

A player who did see a price rise this season compared to last is Mason Mount (£8.0m), but the £0.5m extra won’t likely deter a host of fantasy managers bringing him in for the start of the upcoming campaign. Last season, he was the highest-scoring Blue in terms of FPL points: 169, courtesy of 11 goals, 11 assists and 11 clean sheets. As we mentioned earlier, rotation risk is real under Tuchel and with the addition of Raheem Sterling, the offensive positions have only become more stacked. Still, Mount’s role under Tuchel is such that he forms the heart of almost every attacking move Chelsea put together when he’s on the pitch and on top of that, he’s a set-piece specialist as well. Competition is fierce is the mid-price and mid-upper-price midfielder bracket this season, which is reflected in the 23-year-old’s current ownership of just under 10%, but we feel he could be FPL gold in the first half of the season.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 PRE-SEASON CLUB PREVIEWS – PART 2

We started our preview of the 2022/23 FPL season with a look at Arsenal and Aston Villa. In this second FPL instalment, we’re taking a deeper look at newly promoted Brentford and one of last season’s positive surprises at the highest level, Brentford.

BOURNEMOUTH – FPL 2022/23 team preview

With Bournemouth, we’ve come to the first of three newly promoted sides. The Cherries ended their 2021-22 Championship campaign in second place, comfortably ahead of 3rd placed Huddersfield Town and just two points behind champions Fulham. Like that, they limited their absence from the English footballing elite to just a single season, which is quite the achievement. Still, and despite boasting the best defence in the Championship last season, the Dorset team is most likely to be relegated at the end of the coming season, according to the bookies.

Then again, the bookmakers are often wrong, especially so early on in the season. What’s for sure is that manager Scott Parker won’t be phased by the challenge. It’s not the first time the former England international has been in this situation. Back in the 2019-2020 season, he took charge of Fulham in February and led them to the Prem by winning the Championship play-offs. The Cottagers then were relegated straight back to the second tier that next season, which saw Parker leave the club and join his current side. Where he was still quite a rookie in managerial terms in 2019, he now has a lot more experience under his belt, experience that will undoubtedly come in more than handy this season.

What’s surely encouraging for club and fans is that the successful team from last season is still nearly entirely intact for the moment. Midfielder Robbie Brady left for Preston and the experienced Gary Cahill left the club transfer free, but that’s largely it in terms of senior players who played a role last season. At the same time, the Cherries’ very modest activity during the summer transfer window so far will hopefully heat up over the coming weeks. At the time of writing, Bournemouth brought in central midfielder Joe Rothwell from Blackburn and right-back Ryan Fredericks from West Ham, both on a free.

Bournemouth’s tactics sheet

It hasn’t taken Parker very long to implement his own style of play as manager at Bournemouth, in part because it mirrors his own style as a player. A 4-3-3 formation is by far the team’s preferred set-up, sometimes switched for a less attacking 4-2-3-1 formation with one of the central midfielders, usually Philip Billing, playing in an advanced role in the pocket behind lone striker Dominic Solanke. Generally though, the Cherries turn up with two wingers flanking the big man and Billing operating between the forward line and the Lewis Cook-Jefferson Lerma double pivot. We’ll have to see whether the manager dares to take the same approach in the Premier League or whether he will switch to a more defensive formation like he did when he was promoted with Fulham a few years ago.

From an FPL perspective, the Bournemouth winger positions are worth keeping an eye on, as they get a lot of chances to show their attacking qualities, thanks to the presence of the earlier mentioned double pivot in the midfield purely focusing on defensive tasks. The same goes for Billing, who is partly relieved of defensive duties as a result. Basically, the team’s foundation is a solid defensive block in the centre with full-backs who don’t tend to exaggerate with their attacking actions. It’s not that Parker likes to “park the bus”, as a certain former manager of his at Chelsea liked to call it, but they do employ a patient kind of build-up play. In theory, this style should help them endure the stronger competition in the Premier League. It’s also worth noting that, in the Championship, Parker does not shy away from consolidating (narrow) margins in games, starting with a high-pressing tactic and then retreating once a goal or two has been scored.

BOURNEMOUTH – Potential FPL targets

To be honest, we don’t think there will be many Bournemouth assets present in gameweek 1 teams come August 5th. That is part due to the quality of their current players and part due to the fact that the Cherries start the season with a home game against Villa, followed by three very difficult fixtures: Man City away, Arsenal at home and Liverpool away. Having said that, if we’d choose one Cherry for our GW1 squad, it would probably be Philip Billing (£5.5m). The Danish midfielder has evolved from a more conservative central midfielder into a scoring attacking midfielder under Parker, at times even positioning as high as Solanke, the team’s first-choice number nine. A very impressive 10 goals and 10 assists from 40 Championship games last season underlines that evolution. A scoring midfielder is something FPL managers love to see, especially at a price as low as £5.5m, so Billing offers decent budget-enabling potential. He also loves a shot from range and is one of the team’s direct freekick takers, which only benefits his bonus point potential.

If you’re set on picking a Cherry for your gameweek 1 squad, Dominic Solanke (£6.0m) is probably the next name to spring to mind for most fantasy managers. In our opinion, his price tag is just a tad too high for him to really be considered for the third striker spot in our squad, but then again, the big man did record 29 goals and 7 assists in 45 league games last season. This represents a whopping goal involvement of 49% over the entire season. Don’t expect him to replicate those numbers in the Premier League this season, but it’s clear that the potential for FPL points is there. The fact that Solanke already has 63 Premier League appearances under his belt should not be underestimated either. There are not many cheaper starting forwards than Solanke in the official fantasy game, especially not forwards who are also on penalties, like him.

Our third and final Bournemouth pre-season pick is newly acquired Ryan Fredericks (£4.5m), who came from West Ham after running out his contract in London. Manager Parker knows the lightning-fast right-back quite well, having played along him both at Under-21 level at Spurs and from 2015 to 2017 at Fulham in the Championship. Fredericks encounters considerable competition for a starting spot in Jack Stacey and the experienced Adam Smith, but our feeling is telling us that the West Ham made his transfer decisions this summer in big part based on his chances of playing minutes after spending a spell as mainly a reserve player with the Hammers. On top of that, he is also capable of playing on the left side, where the Cherries currently just have the talented Jordan Zemura. At £4.5m, there are probably better options available in the official fantasy game, but if you’re set on a Bournemouth defender, he could be an interesting differential fantasy pick.

BRENTFORD – FPL 2022-23 team preview

Brentford were one of the new boys last season, but it didn’t show on the pitch. After clinching third place in the 2020-21 Championship, the Bees played in the top tier of English football for the first time since the 1946-47 season. Apart from an extended series of bad results at the start of 2022, the team managed to surpass the expectations of most, if not all, by finishing the season in a very comfortable 13th place with 46 points. The fact that relegation was never really a big worry for them is testament to the level of their performances over the 2021-22 campaign.

Besides the 2021-22 season representing the first time Brentford played at the highest level of English football in 75 years, the campaign will also be remembered as the one in which Danish midfield maestro Christian Eriksen made his return to professional. Following his shocking cardiac arrest during the Euro 2020 match against Finland in the group stages just eight months earlier, he made a comeback to professional football for the Bees on February 26th at home against Newcastle. As he worked up to a spot in manager Thomas Frank’s starting eleven, Brentford’s performances started to improve rather drastically. Five wins out of the next six all but secured another season of Premier League football for the Bees. As for Eriksen: his quick return to form plus 1 goal and 4 assists in 11 appearances earned him a free move to Erik ten Hag’s new-look Manchester United this summer. True quality always finds a way back.

Fortunately for Brentford, Eriksen’s departure is the only major name to leave the Brentford Community Stadium so far. At the same time, they have been active during the summer transfer window already, bringing in two highly rated British youngsters into the squad in the persons of 21-year-old left winger Keane Lewis-Potter (for £16 million from Hull City) and 20-year-old left-back Aaron Hickey (£14 million from Serie A side Bologna). If they can manage to keep the rest of the squad together, the Bees could very well build on last season’s performances.

Brentford’s tactics sheet

Under Thomas Frank, Brentford mostly turn up in a fluid 4-3-3 formation or alternatively a more expansive 3-4-1-2 formation with wing-backs high up the pitch. Regardless of the initial set-up though, Frank’s Bees always strive to play attacking football, based on quick combinations and players constantly switching positions in attack. The interchangeability of striker and top scorer Ivan Toney and attacking midfielder/forward Bryan Mbeumo is a perfect example of that. On top of that, the wingers or wing-backs get all the freedom in the world to roam forward in possession and support the attack where possible, either by keeping the pitch wide or by providing ammunition for the forwards.

What’s interesting though, is that despite their preference for attacking play over the wings, Brentford are also very capable at playing through the middle when necessary. The squad overall is built up of players with excellent ball-handling technique, including in the back and even in goal with the excellent David Raya. This not only helps them to control the ball and dictate the pace of matches, but also to provide dangerous moves and passes from practically anywhere on the pitch. The result last season: in the bottom-half of the table, only Crystal Palace and Aston Villa managed to score more than Brentford’s 48 goals in 38 games.

BRENTFORD – Potential FPL targets

It’s not the most adventurous of fantasy picks to kick this section off with, but Brentford’s highest-priced player also happens to be their most interesting pre-season target, in our opinion. Ivan Toney (£7.0m) had an excellent 2021-22 campaign, scoring 12 goals and providing 5 assists for a total of 139 FPL points, more than any other Bee colleague. Big part of his appeal came from being a nailed-on forward in an attacking side, during a season in which consistent forwards were hard to find in the official game. On top of that, he’s one of the best penalty takers in the world. It’s a little bit surprising therefore that his price was not raised by more than just £0.5m, but all the better for fantasy managers. At £7.0m, and with a favourable run of no less than nine gameweeks after the first two gameweeks (in which Brentford face Leicester away and Man United at home), Toney is one to watch for your early team selections.

The previously mentioned extended run of favourable matchups between gameweeks 3 and 11, in which Brentford only face opponents with an FDR rating of 3 or lower, will also see David Raya (£4.5m) turn up in more than a few GW1 FPL squads. Despite an injury that kept him side-lined for a few months, the Spanish goalkeeper still made 24 PL appearances and managed to keep 8 clean sheets. The fact that he has one of the best “saves per 90 minutes” stats in the league only adds to his appeal, as bonus point potential is gold for goalies. Raya should start the upcoming campaign as manager Thomas Frank’s first choice between the sticks as well. So, at a price of just £4.5m, expect him to be on many an FPL manager’s mind in the build-up to gameweek 1.

Initially, we wanted to include the talented Bryan Mbeumo in this Brentford pre-season watchlist as well, but his re-classification from midfielder to forward in the official fantasy game this season made us go with Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) instead. The Swedish central defender barely missed a minute under Thomas Frank last season and he duly repaid that confidence in his abilities. Not only with consistently good performances from a defensive point of view, but also with no less than seven attacking returns: 3 goals and 4 assists. No wonder the Swede recorded the most FPL points behind striker Ivan Toney. It should be noted that Christian Eriksen’s sublime set-piece deliveries in the second half of the season will no longer be a part of Brentford’s game as the Dane has moved to Man United on a free, which could impact the team’s (and Jansson’s) efficiency from dead-ball situations.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.

FPL 2022/23 Pre-season Club Previews – Part 1

Welcome back to another season of Fantasy Premier League football, welcome back to FISO!

After a thrilling 2021-22 campaign, which saw Manchester City booking their third consecutive title victory, the upcoming season is already looking like a whole other kind of beast due to the 2022 World Cup being held in November and December this year. It’s unusual, but money talks and in the end, a World Cup immediately followed by the Christmas holidays, doesn’t sound so bad at all, right?

Plus, as FPL Towers recently announced, special measures will be taken to accommodate the unprecedented November-December break. Unlimited free transfers will be activated in the game between 13:30 on Saturday, November 12th, and 13:30 on Monday, December 26th. This means, in essence, that fantasy managers will have a kind of third Wildcard at their disposal this upcoming season. Save this information, because it can make or break your season before the first half of the campaign has even begun.

As a result of this season’s calender, the Premier League is kicking off a little bit earlier than usual as well. On Friday, August 5th, the world’s greatest league kicks off with a good old-fashioned London derby between Crystal Palace and Arsenal at Selhurst Park. In the build-up, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 squads competing in the Premier League this season with a special focus on their FPL potential. In this first instalment, we’re kicking off with ambitious Arsenal and an Aston Villa side that’s determined to do better than last season’s rather disappointing 14th place.

ARSENAL – FPL 2022/23 team preview

Last season was a strange one for Arsenal, because it was the first time since the 1995-96 campaign that the Gunners did not feature in Europe at all. Far from a highlight for the club, but as a famous Dutch footballing genius used to say, every disadvantage has its advantage. That advantage, in the case of Arsenal, was that there were no European distractions during the last campaign, meaning that all of the focus could be shifted to domestic competitions.

In the Premier League, the North Londoners finished in fifth place, just 2 points off the coveted fourth and final Champions League spot. It was nevertheless their best finish since the fifth place back in the 2019-20 season and for periods throughout the period, Mikel Arteta’s men definitely looked like they’re getting back to a position from which they can seriously compete for a top-4 spot. While their FA Cup run was nothing to write home about last season, exiting at the hands of Nottingham Forest in the Third Round, the Gunners did manage to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup. A 2-0 loss against later winners Liverpool ended their run and with that, their hopes for silverware.

Besides the improving performances overall and the qualification for Europa League football, last season also saw Arsenal fielding the youngest team on average with an age of just over 24 years old. This confirms what many FPL managers already knew, namely that the current Arsenal roster is full of young and exciting talent, and more importantly from a fantasy perspective, at decent prices. In that light, the addition of Man City star Gabriel Jesus for a cool £45 million fits perfectly, as does the less-covered acquisition of 22-year-old Portuguese offensive midfielder Fábio Vieira from FC Porto for a whopping £34m (including add-ons). Without those reinforcements, the Gunners already boasted the sixth-best offense in the league with 61 goals in 38 games. Defensively, they recorded 13 clean sheets, placing them fifth in the league behind the season’s top four.

Arsenal’s tactics sheet

The idea behind Mikel Arteta’s appointment as manager back in December 2019 was to continue the club long-standing tradition of playing free-flowing attacking football, building up from the back and controlling the game’s pace. The club started last season with a 3-4-2-1 formation, but a lack of dynamism from the back and the performances of their attacking players warranted a change to a more versatile 4-2-3-1 formation. While this initially caused some worries about their defensive stability, it turned out that this wasn’t the case, in big part thanks to new signings Ben White, who formed a stable partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes in the heart of the defense, and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

As we mentioned before, Arsenal play out from the back and do so often over the flanks, where Takehiro Tomiyasu, Cedric Soares and especially Kieran Tierney offer quality outlets. By dropping deeper when the team initiates attacks, the central midfielders force opponents to crowd the midfield, essentially leaving space on the flanks for Arsenal’s explosive wingers to get into dangerous positions even early on. What stands out in terms of their attacks is the rotation of their offensive players. The likes of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli are such gifted talents that they can shift all over the attacking third and pop up dangerously from practically anywhere. Playing with a mobile and equally technical striker in the person of Gabriel Jesus or even Eddie Nketiah should only make them harder to stop this season.

ARSENAL – Potential FPL targets

Last season, Bukayo Saka (£8.0m) was a no-brainer for us, considering his enormous potential in combination with his bargain price tag. We recommended him as one of the best Gunners to target and he did not disappoint one bit: 11 goals, 9 assists and 179 FPL points in just under 3,000 minutes of Premier League football. Therefore, and despite the hefty increase of his FPL price, he is among the best Arsenal fantasy picks once again. No other Gunner scored more FPL points than him last season and he was amongst the stand-out performers in most matches. Add to that the facts that he is about as nailed-on a fantasy asset as they come, is on penalties AND is once again listed as a midfielder in the official fantasy game, and there should be no doubt about who to focus on when it comes to the Arsenal roster. Do keep in mind that the additions of attacking options Gabriel Jesus and Fábio Vieira, as well as the added strain of European games, could end in more rotation among the Arsenal squad. Saka is nevertheless this Arsenal’s star man and should be a safe fantasy pick for a medium-sized investment.

It’s always a bit risky to name players who just arrived at a club as major potential FPL target, weeks before the season has even officially started, but we believe that the case of Gabriel Jesus (£8.0m) does not apply here. The Brazilian has been playing in the Premier League since January 1st, 2017, amassing an impressive 233 appearances for Manchester City, scoring 95 goals and 46 assists. In other words, Jesus needs no introduction to the English footballing elite. The main issue for him at City was his relatively limited playing time and seeing as a player of his calibre will surely have had dozens of top-quality options this summer, we feel that more regular minutes for the attacker this season represented an important part of the negotiations. Looking at his current pre-GW1 ownership of 59.2% at the time of writing, we’re probably not the only ones feeling this feeling. At £8.0m, it could be more than worth it to own the expected focal point of Mikel Arteta’s side.

Earlier on, we mentioned Arsenal’s decent defensive performance last season and how £50-million acquisition Ben White (£4.5m) played his role in stabilising a traditionally shaky defence. In that light, we find it quite surprising that the Brighton Player of the Year 2020-21 has not seen his price rise for the new season. Just like that, you’ve got a nailed-on defender in a team that should be contending for at least a top-6 finish at a bargain price. Sure, White’s not a wing-back and provides zero attacking returns last season, but we’re considering him one of the stand-out budget enablers prior to GW1. He was part of a defence that recorded 13 clean sheets over the previous campaign and ended up with 107 FPL points. Add to that the fact that Arsenal are facing only two sides with an FDR rating higher than 2 in the first eight gameweeks (Leicester at home in GW2 and Man United away in GW6) and you can see why we included him in our list of potential Arsenal FPL targets over the likes of Smith-Rowe and Martinelli, for example.

ASTON VILLA – FPL 2022-23 team preview

The 2022-2023 Premier League campaign will be Steven Gerrard’s first full season as manager of the Villans and hopes are, as usual, high at Villa Park. Back in November of last year, the Liverpool legend succeeded Dean Smith, who had just recorded the fifth consecutive loss. Despite his track record at Rangers, opting for Gerrard in the middle of the season could be considered a risk, but it panned out nicely, though their eventual 14th-place finish does not immediately indicate that. The style of play was promising at times though, and the hope is that Stevie G can continue building on that foundation.

Of course, last season was also year 1 AG, After Grealish. The absolute star man of the Villans, who at the age of 25 made 213 appearances for his boyhood club (32 goals, 43 assists), was sold to Manchester City in August 2021 for a record £100 million. That money was quickly invested back into the squad with the acquisitions of, among others, Emi Buendia from Norwich, Leon Bailey from Leverkusen and Danny Ings from Southampton, but there was more to come. Good players and big names, sure, but there was more to come. In the January transfer window, newly appointed Gerrard managed to bring in direct reinforcements of proven world-class in the persons of former teammate and former PL sensation Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona, as well as World Champion Lucas Digne from Everton.

As far as the current transfer window is concerned, the Villans have been relatively quiet so far, though the summer is long still. There is less necessity for them to reinforce in big ways this time, seeing as most of the multi-million Pound signings from last season are likely to play significant roles throughout the upcoming campaign. Their major investment so far has been the powerful Diego Carlos, a central defender from Sevilla who cost them around £26 million, though the signing of Boubacar Kamara from Olympique Marseilles on a free should not be underestimated either. Villa missed a physical controlling midfielder last season and the 22-year-old French international might just be the solution.

Villa’s tactics sheet

With Gerrard currently managing his first pre-season at Aston Villa, the former England international will have plenty of more time to implement his preferred playing philosophy in comparison to when he started mid-season last year. Add to that the major reinforcements that he was allowed to bring in January and it’s easy to see why the team should improve considerably from its disappointing 14th place last season. The expectation is that, in order to achieve that, the manager will remain loyal to his love for attacking football, goals and excitement.

Gerrard’s style foundation is strict tactical discipline with plenty of movement, both on and off the ball. The wingers, especially, play key roles in his preferred 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-1-2 formations, depending on whether he wants to play with one or two strikers. They get the freedom to drift inside and join the striker(s), while the full-backs bomb forward to reach the backline and create chances. With Lucas Digne on the left and Matty Cash, Villa Player of the Season 2021-22, on the right, the side boasts the perfect personnel for such tactics. They shared 4 goals and 7 assists among the two of them last season.

At the same time, Gerrard is not afraid to instil a patient approach when it comes to the build-up. Villa like to control the game, especially in the midfield, and the aim is to get the ball into the box to take shots instead of taking shots from outside. Since Gerrard’s appointment, Villa on average take 7.8 shots per game from inside and 2.5 per game from outside. Considering the types of strikers they possess, Ings in particular, this makes a lot of sense.

ASTON VILLA – Potential FPL targets

Surprisingly, one of Villa’s stand-out performers from last season, right-back Matty Cash (£5.0m) has not gotten a price rise from FPL Towers this season. He developed into one of the most popular full-backs in the league, which is quite a feat when you consider the extreme competition. His modest price made him a kind of “luxury enabler” for many fantasy managers and he delivered duly with 4 goals and 3 assists from just over 3,300 minutes of Premier League action, which resulted in 147 FPL points. Add 13 clean sheets to that and it’s no surprise why he is currently in just over 20% of all teams prior to gameweek 1. The Poland international is nailed-on under Gerrard and there is no reason to believe he will not surpass his excellent 2021-22 campaign this season.

The only player on the Aston Villa roster who boasts a higher ownership percentage at the moment of writing, though by a minimal margin, is Philippe Coutinho (£7.0m), who we feel could actually end up being a major bargain for fantasy managers. His main issue in terms of fantasy selections is that the mid-price midfielder category is quite stacked this season, but he should definitely be on your scouting lists. The Brazilian international, who played with his current manager at Liverpool from 2013 to 2018, returned to Anfield in January and racked up 16 starts in the Premier League between gameweeks 22 and 38. Over that stretch, he showed a glimpse or perhaps even a bit more already of what he is capable of with 5 goals and 3 assists for a total of 83 FPL points. Assuming a full pre-season with the club and more time for his manager to work on the tactics, Coutinho might just end up becoming one of the better midfielders in the official fantasy game. He has the qualities to make a mockery of his price tag, that’s for sure.

Despite ending the 2021-2022 Premier League season with 11 goals and 2 assists from 33 starts, Ollie Watkins (£7.5m) possibly looks back on the campaign with a feeling of being able to do better. In the first half of the season, especially, the 26-year-old striker had difficulties finding the back of the net, just like many of his teammates were struggling to find consistent good form. Still, with 131 FPL points, Watkins ended the season as Villa’s topscorer, while in the entire league, only seven forwards did better than him. What we’re trying to say is that he is good and his last season was decent, but we feel he can do considerably better still. Gerrard’s preferred style of playing should fit the attacker perfectly and with a favorable opening set of fixtures to the season, his current 4.5% ownership could see him become one of the popular early-season differentials. It’s Bournemouth away, Everton at home and Crystal Palace away for the Villans in the first three gameweeks, so keep an eye on Watkins’ form during pre-season.

For more in-depth discussions on the Fantasy Premier League game check out our FPL forum.