Yesterday our 9th preview of the 2022/23 FPL season covered Southampton and Spurs. In 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.
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