The football season is back! It might feel like it was barely away, a summer full of tournaments has meant the three months since Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy have disappeared rapidly. Whilst football league clubs will begin their campaigns this weekend, the Premier League has another week to go. That gives you plenty of time to sort out your Fantasy Football team!
As ever here at the Offside Rule Pod we’ll be running an FPL league so you can compete with the ORP team and other fans. Dave Black will be here every week to run through the points potential for the weekend ahead. That’ll start next week but in the meantime, here are five things to look out for in this season’s FPL.
1) Get the VAR-ty started
It’s impossible to ignore that VAR will be in the Premier League next season. It’s a concept that very nearly tainted the Women’s World Cup this summer and has left everybody talking about what actually constitutes a handball. So far, it has done anything but make things clearer.Embed from Getty Images
We saw in the 2018 World Cup that the introduction of VAR saw an increase in penalties awarded and a lot of experts are predicting the same in the Premier League. You wouldn’t say the games in the FA Cup that used the system were particularly penalty heavy, not have games across Europe become elongated penalty shootouts.
Before filling your team with 12 yard hot-shots, it’s also worth considering that the Premier League will not use the same guidelines as UEFA did which saw some very harsh penalties given (by Premier League standards). Luka Milivojevic (£7m) is in 12% of teams so far, whilst Matt Ritchie (£5.5m) has been reclassified as a defender meaning his goals are worth more points (6).
Of course there’s always the possibility that some of the penalties awarded previously are overturned on VAR. One thing’s for sure, you’re going to be hearing “clear and obvious” on repeat from pundits and commentators alike.
What does it mean for defenders? Are clean sheets going to become rare commodities? Should we fill our teams with penalty saving expert goalkeepers seeing as they’ll probably face a few more?
2) New Positions
As is the norm, a few players have been reclassified for the new season. We’ve already mentioned Matt Ritchie now being a defender having played as a wing back under Rafa Benitez for the majority of last season. With the Spaniard departed, the indications so far are that Steve Bruce will retain a wingbacks system though he is reportedly in the market for a left back. There’s no doubting Ritchie’s points potential as he’ll take a fair share of the set pieces as well as having penalty duties last season. However, a hamstring injury sustained on Tuesday may make the decision for you.Embed from Getty Images
Wilfried Zaha has spent most of the summer looking for a move and he’s finally got it – from forward to midfield. Still a Crystal Palace player, Zaha is reasonably priced at £7m. If he had moved to Arsenal he would have been a certainty at that price but right now there’s a question mark over where he’ll even play his football next season.
Diogo Jota was a bargain midfielder to own in 2019. The Portugese forward formed a lethal partnership with Raul Jimenez all the while picking up 5 points per goal thanks to his classification. He’s a forward now, so whilst his price of £6.5m is still attractive the arrival of Patrick Crutone and Europa League rotation makes him less appealing.
Ayoze Perez made the £30m move to Leicester City and has been moved to midfield for the new season. At just £6.5m, if he goes close to matching his 12 goals for Newcastle last season then he’ll be a bargain. A lot will depend on how Brendan Rodgers sets his team up. With Tielemans and Maddison playing in the sorts of positions you would tend to find Perez, that might leave the Spaniard playing a wide forward role to support Jamie Vardy. This is definitely one to watch.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is now a defender. He will set you back £5.5m though and his position is far from secure, so whilst he may prove a cheap option on occasion you can never rely on Pep to not tinker with his team.
3) Rest and rotation
This isn’t really a new thing but there’s been so many tournaments this summer, it’s important to factor in any late returns to their likelihood of starting the season.
The World Cup last summer meant that most of the “big name” players were in the same situation. Most were back in action with minimal pre-season but with only certain players away this summer, can we expect more of the same?Embed from Getty Images
Sadio Mane seems the most obvious example. The African Nations Cup final was on July 19th, with Jurgen Klopp noting Mane has effectively had a 13 month season. Would he be rushed back early for a home game with Norwich? Logically you would think Liverpool could manage a fixture like that without Mane. Liverpool’s schedule is particularly interesting, with the Community Shield and the Super Cup either side of their league opener.
4) New arrivals
As you would expect, there’s a number of new names in the Premier League. There’s still a week to go in the transfer window so this list will only expand, but if you can spot the next Michu you can steal a march on your rivals.
West Ham have been busy, bringing in Pablo Fornals (£6.5m) and Sebastien Haller (£7.5m). Once an opening game with Man City is out of the way it looks a reasonable fixture list for the Hammers. Spurs have finally signed a player – Tanguy Ndombele will set you back £6m if you want him in your midfield, whilst Chelsea now have Christian Pulisic (£7.5m) at their disposal along with a whole host of players who spent last season on loan elsewhere. If the American is meant to be replacing Eden Hazard he is priced very competitively but with Frank Lampard now at the helm, it’ll be interesting to see how things develop at Stamford Bridge.Embed from Getty Images
There are new faces wherever you look but trying to identify who can make an instant impact is another matter.
5) Pre-season form
There’s always a temptation to read too much into pre-season form. If your own team is winning friendlies, this is inevitably billed as being confidence boosting and a sure sign of a positive season ahead. If you’re losing games they are dismissed as a fitness building exercise with no real consequence.
The same goes for FPL players. Judging from pre-season so far, we’ll all have Chris Wood (£6.5m) following his goal bonanza of a summer. As of this writing I make it 9 goals for the Burnley man.
Meanwhile Pedro (£7m) scored one of the goals of the year in Chelsea’s latest friendly whilst Ross Barkley has notched in consecutive games.
What does any of it mean? It’s obviously not a bad thing but is it really an indication of things to come?
Join in the fun!
We’re playing the Official Premier League game which you can join here.
Make sure you then join the Offside Rule Pod league by clicking join private league and entering the code 3wj1zy
There’ll be weekly previews including a look at the top of the table, starting next week. Good luck!
You can follow Dave on Twitter @CM9798