With Gameweek 1 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) days away, we’re welcoming back our talented team of Pro Pundits, Hall of Famers and guest contributors for the new campaign.
Our writers will be providing regular articles and team reveals throughout the new season, with only Premium Members able to access every single one.
In the second of a two-part article, FPL Focal shares his takeaway points from pre-season.
Having already looked at the lessons learned from the pre-season friendlies of 10 Premier League clubs, we now switch attention to the second batch of teams.
From tactical decisions to budget FPL options who caught the eye, there’ll be a summary of each side’s summer activity.
READ MORE: All the results, goals, assists and match reports from the pre-season friendlies
READ MORE: Every minute played by FPL players in pre-season
READ MORE: Predicted line-ups for Gameweek 1
READ MORE: The lessons from all FPL teams’ pre-seasons: Arsenal to Leeds
Harvey Barnes (£7.0m), James Maddison (£8.0m) and Jamie Vardy (£9.5m) have all done well in pre-season.
Barnes was withdrawn as a precaution in the final game with what looked like minor discomfort, while Ricardo Pereira (£4.5m) was also substituted with what seemed like a concerning Achilles injury. If he’s out for a while, then James Justin (£4.5m) and Timothy Castagne (£4.5m) would be somewhat more nailed at full-back.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (£5.0m) has been quietly impressing with two goals and three assists, responding to his manager’s challenge for more attacking returns. For £5.0m I prefer Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey but it’s an easy sideways move if Bailey starts poorly and Dewsbury-Hall does well.
Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) is on his way to Nice, so we’ve now got the prospect of a playing £4.0m goalkeeper after Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Danny Ward and Daniel Iverson would tussle for the vacated slot.
Summer signing Darwin Nunez (£9.0m) has had a good pre-season, in particular in the RB Leipzig game when he put four of Liverpool’s five goals past the Bundesliga outfit. One goal was a penalty, which Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) gave to Nunez as a confidence booster, and indeed we saw Salah take the spot-kick in Liverpool’s final game in the Community Shield.
Both the Reds and Manchester City lined up with arguably their best/fittest available teams on Saturday, with Darwin again on the bench. The Uruguayan was the scorer of Liverpool’s third in the 94th minute and he’s one I’m monitoring closely, although I’d currently rate Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and Luis Diaz (£8.0m) ahead of him.
Liverpool did end pre-season with a loss to Strasbourg but this was the very next day after the Community Shield and a fully rotated team took to the field.
Man City only arranged two pre-season friendlies, with the Community Shield rounding off their summer.
Erling Haaland (£11.5m) was unused in the first of those games, having nursed a minor issue, but it took just 12 minutes of his debut for him to score against Bayern Munich. Haaland has a poor injury record so it’s a tough one between him and Harry Kane (£11.5m) but he took up great positions in the Community Shield and had a couple of big chances which he failed to convert, finishing the game with the highest expected goals (xG) tally of anyone on the pitch:
READ MORE: View all the player and team stats from the Community Shield in our Premium Members Area
Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) is out with an injury until September and they’re yet to sign a full-back, so City are looking light at the back. It’ll be Kyle Walker (£5.0m) and Joao Cancelo (£7.0m) who are first choice for now, exactly how they lined up in the Community Shield. Walker for £5.0m is a tempting option with such little competition for his spot currently.
Man United have looked a much-improved side under Erik ten Hag and I expect this to continue on into the season.
Anthony Martial (£7.0m) has been playing as a striker and thriving with three goals and an assist, while Jadon Sancho (£7.5m) and Marcus Rashford (£6.5m) either side of him have played very well too.
Cristiano Ronaldo (£10.5m) missed the entirety of the pre-season up until the final game where he played the first half against Raya Vallecano. There is a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the veteran striker: if he sticks around then it heavily reduces Martial’s appeal, and perhaps the Frenchman could share minutes with both Rashford and Ronaldo. Considering that uncertainty, Rashford has left my Gameweek 1 draft, though I fully expect the Sancho-Martial-Rashford front three for the Brighton game on the opening weekend.
Diogo Dalot (£4.5m) has also impressed among the defenders and been very attacking, hitting the post and grabbing an assist on just two of his many underlapping runs.
There were six goals for Miguel Almiron (£5.0m) in pre-season, although two admittedly arrived in an unofficial training ground game against Burnley. The Paraguayan has never historically been an option in FPL and realistically I’d be very surprised if this were to change but he’s a fair price at £5.0m if the pre-season form shows any sign of continuation when the meaningful action gets underway.
Bruno Guimaraes (£6.0m) has one goal and one assist but Jonjo Shelvey (£5.0m) picked up an injury in pre-season and I wonder if this might negatively affect Bruno with more defensive work to do. He indeed moved to the deeper number six role in the Magpies’ final pre-season friendly at the weekend. Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.5m) could end up being the best of the Newcastle midfielders but I’m personally not tempted at that price from Gameweek 1.
Kieran Trippier (£5.0m) is the stand-out option in defence, having averaged 4.7 points per match last season before his injury, and he delivered three assists in pre-season. He’s on set pieces, including some direct free-kicks – just make sure you can rotate around his Gameweek 3 and 5 fixtures.
There are no real in-form players to highlight for Nottingham Forest.
£4.5m forward Lyle Taylor scored twice in their last game but is in the same boat as other bargain-bin strikers such as Sam Greenwood, Cameron Archer and Luke Plange in that he’s not expected to get any starts.
Neco Williams (£4.0m) has been getting consistent minutes, however, and is currently the best £4.0m defender in the game.
Jesse Lingard (£6.0m) signed for Forest this window but we haven’t seen much of him to form any conclusions: he made just one appearance in pre-season, which was the final match against Valencia, playing 77 minutes.
Southampton have won just won of their five pre-season games and there is no-one tempting for Gameweek 1 consideration.
Stuart Armstrong is one I’ll be watching, however, as he’s played a couple of games out of position as a striker and is only £5.0m. Joe Aribo (£5.5m) has been similarly advanced.
“As a striker, he has more freedom for what he can do. I think this is good for his game. He was driving with the ball. It’s not so dangerous when he loses it because you have enough players to defend. I like this position for him.” – Ralph Hasenhuttl on Stuart Armstrong
New signing Gavin Bazunu (£4.5m) played the full 90 minutes in their final pre-season game.
Onto Spurs and it’s been the Son Heung-min (£12.0m) and Harry Kane (£11.5m) show in pre-season, with the two of them involved in almost every goal. Kane’s scored five goals and assisted another; in fact, the last three goals that Spurs scored in pre-season were all assisted by Son and despatched by Kane. Kane v Haaland is a big predicament for our Gameweek 1 drafts and both have their merits.
Tottenham Hotspur’s final pre-season line-up against Roma was an interesting one, as it looked full strength and featured both Ivan Perisic (£5.5m) and Matt Doherty (£5.0m) at wing-back. We may see the pair start in Gameweek 1 and come off early.
“It was the same (as Perisic) for Matthew (Doherty). I hope to see him like last season and now he’s working and he’s struggling. We need to have patience. We need to give time for these players to be really fit. In this moment we have two players, Perisic and Doherty, they have to continue to work and reach the peak of fitness because after a long injury they are struggling a lot. We need to have patience, but today it was positive to give them a lot of time to play again for Matthew and Ivan.
It will be very important for us (to get Perisic and Doherty fit), but then we have Sessegnon, that is a guarantee, also Emerson is good. There is the new player Spence. He is a guy who has to work a lot, because to go into Tottenham it’s different in the Premier League with Tottenham but in the end I’m happy.” – Antonio Conte on his options at wing-back
Perisic is certainly still an option but a little risky for minutes and still not quite 100%.
WEST HAM UNITED
West Ham have also had a busy pre-season with seven games played but, unlike last summer, there wasn’t much to crow about. Many will remember Michail Antonio‘s (£7.5m) explosive start to the 2021/22 season with eight attacking returns in three matches, which came off the back of a strong pre-season – but there was nothing for him this time round. Added to that, West Ham have also signed Gianluca Scamacca (£7.0m), so Antonio looks to be an ‘avoid’.
There were seven different goalscorers across West Ham’s seven games, with Jarrod Bowen (£8.5m) only grabbing an assist.
The Hammers kick the season off against Man City so they’re not a side in many FPL managers’ thinking: Bowen, at the awkward £8.5m price point, is the most owned with 8.2% ownership. Immediately after that, however, they’ve got three decent-looking games against Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Villa.
New centre-half Nayef Aguerd (£4.5m) is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing ankle surgery.
In the Wolves camp, Pedro Neto (£5.5m) and Daniel Podence (£5.5m) have been eye-catching and Bruno Lage’s side have got the right opening fixtures to start well.
There’s not much to separate Neto and Podence in my eyes and although Neto may have some set pieces to just about give him the edge, the 18.5% difference in the two players’ FPL ownership is unjustified. Podence certainly is very technically gifted and passes the eye test.
In the Besiktas game, Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) was withdrawn with an injury that will rule him out for up to eight weeks. Lage is left with what will be a very fluid front three as Wolves have no back-up striker options, so one of Neto, Podence or Morgan Gibbs-White (£5.5m) looks set to lead the line.
Using all the data I’ve collated throughout the pre-season I’ve put together this final table of all players, sorted by goal contributions from goals and assists: