Fuzzy's Feelings: Part I

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Welcome to Fuzzy's Feelings. I am your host, the incomparable FuzzyWarbles, here to offer my thoughts on players that are looking promising and players who are not as the FPL season is just a bit over a week away from kicking off.

I have been tracking the preseason action, monitoring position battles and paying attention to new acquisitions and I think this two-part series will offer a very solid guide to building the ever-so-important Week 1 squad. Part One will cover the first ten clubs in alphabetical order, so we will start with Arsenal and get all the way to Leeds, then a second column will appear in the next day or two, covering the ten remaining sides.

I have put these evaluations together addressing, to me, the most important aspects of building a strong FPL team - fixture difficulty, top-value fantasy option from each side, additional options that should be considered, and finally, players I would avoid, at least in terms of starting the season with.

Some of my musings will sound like a broken record, repeating the sentiments of pretty much every other FPL pundit out there, but I think you will find some interesting names, both to consider and avoid, that not too many people are talking about. One thing I will say as I have been toying with my personal FPL team…money does not seem to be too much of a problem. I think a very good side can be built for 100m this season without too much of that “FOMO” that gives us nightmares. Right then, let's get started.

Arsenal

Opening fixture rating: A

The Gunners have one of the more favorable opening schedules, playing two of the three promotes sides in the first four weeks. Its a good side to pick long-term options from, with perhaps the most difficult game being away to a questionable Manchester United side until Week 9 for the first North London derby of the season.

Top pick - It isn't often seen to this extent, but Gabriel Jesus has a current ownership in the game near 65%. When two out of three teams have him rostered, the only differential here is to NOT have him. He has a role now with Arsenal that will see him in the central striker role, play more minutes than he did at Manchester City, and has been absolutely ripping it up in preseason, reinforcing his appeal with each passing day. Four goals and an assist so far this summer with one friendly left to play.

Others to consider - With a nice fixture run, some form of defensive representation is probably a sound investment. Based on the shape of things right now, Gabriel or Aaron Ramsdale seem the “safest” plays. Both finished pretty high in season totals last year and are absolutely nailed on. In attack, depending on how much money one wants to spend, Bukayo Saka may not be the most explosive 8m midfield option in the game, but he's a steady earner with no playing time concerns. Perhaps with a bit of playing time question marks, but still looking like a starter heading into the season is Gabriel Martinelli, who looks to be one of the more exciting 6m options available

To avoid - While Oleksandr Zinchenko may ultimately be a stud defensive option over the course of the full season, he carries some question marks as to how and when he will integrate into the XI with just a week to go. That's right, the Gunners start the season off with a Friday night game against Palace - do not forget. Zinchenko's arrival also throws a wrench into Kieran Tierney's appeal. It would seem, one player is bound to eat into the other's attacking potential, whether it's battling for one spot or if Tierney gets moved to a center back role as part of a back three, which Mikel Arteta has shown glimpses of this season.

Aston Villa

Opening fixture rating: C

Villa get off to a nice start with three pretty good matchups in the first three weeks, so those looking for a short-term punt, one might find a decent option here. But, come Week 4, Villa get a run of West Ham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester. Leicester were not a struggle for attacking players to succeed against last year, but with injuries not the issue they were then, should see a noticeable improvement.

Top pick - Leon Bailey. Speaking of short punts, this is one of those potential sneaky budget players that can actually provide solid returns, at least worth a roll of the dice in the opening weeks, to help free up that cash to upgrade elsewhere. At just 5m, he should be nailed on the right wing after impressing this summer with four goal involvements to date (2 goals, 2 assists). With just 6.4% ownership, he may be a great value pick, at least with the hope he bangs in those first two rounds. If he doesn't folks will likely want to jump ship quickly, and the one drawback here is that there are not many options at his price point to switch to. You may need to hold that transfer for Week 2 and have two free transfers ready for Week 3 to avoid needing to spend a hit for a replacement.

Other options - There are probably at least a few defenders at 5m who would rank higher in terms of potential for the opening rounds, but if VIlla look strong at the back, then Matty Cash seems the best option to turn to. As much as we have raved about Lucas Digne in the past, Cash was the Villa fullback who produced more once Digne made the move over from Everton. Ollie Watkins looks set to be first choice for the forward slot, so should be starting most games whether Steven Gerrard lines up two strikers or just one.

To avoid - With the emergence of Bailey this season and Watkins looking set to lead the line, it appears that Danny Ings may have to start life this season as a bench weapon. This is not to say he has no chance of starting, but it seems clear his minutes are too risky to tangle with for FPL purposes. Jacob Ramsey was a nice budget option, at least for a stretch last season, but I think his 5.5m price tag is .5m too much. If the fixtures were really attractive, perhaps there is an argument, but better 5.5m options are out there, who have a more well-defined attacking role.

Bournemouth

Opening fixture rating: F

It is an abysmal beginning to top flight life for the Cherries who, after hosting Villa in Week 1, go on a three-week trek that features opponents Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. Finding space for any of their assets will be difficult to justify simply based on their brutal schedule.

Top pick - By default, Dominic Solanke. It does not seem likely that Bournemouth will be keeping many clean sheets in the opening weeks, but they certainly are bound to get a goal or two from somewhere. Aleksandar Mitrovic made all the headlines in the Championship last season with his record-breaking goal tally, but Solanke was by no means a slouch, coming through with a whopping 29 goals. Were he to reach near half that total in the too flight this season, AFCB will have a shot at staying up this season, but we have seen many striker's stats from the Championship try to hack it in the top flight only to fall completely flat.

Other options - None.

To avoid - Everyone else. There is not a single player on the Cherries roster with more than 1% ownership in FPL with a week to go before the season starts, and considering that Scott Parker has yet to add any real impact players through the transfer window is quite concerning. Honestly, Bournemouth could get hammered in these opening weeks until the fixtures lighten up and, hopefully, they've brought in some additional weapons before the window closes. Those expecting someone like Philip Billing, who notched 10 goals and 10 assists last season in the Championship to recreate similar numbers are likely going to be disappointed.

Brentford

Opening fixture rating: B

Yes, the first two gameweeks are not the most attractive, with a trip to Leicester away and then hosting Manchester United, but let us not forget that both of those sides were not so tough last season. After that, things really get attractive for the Bees, as they go from Week 3 all the way to Week 12 without facing a single team that finished in the top eight last season, a home game against Arsenal in Week 8 the only exception.

Top pick - David Raya. When Brentford went out and signed Thomas Strakosha, an accomplished keeper who is at the prime age of 27 years old, along with rumors of a Raya exit, things were not looking good for his FPL prospects. But, as of now, Raya is not going anywhere and should be top choice for as long as he is there. Again, with the long run of nice fixtures, it would be wise to look for a Brentford option to invest in long term, and the keeper spot seems the ideal place to do it, as Raya will only set you back 4.5m. If you look at his production from a points per match perspective last season, he was doing as well as keepers going for 5m.

Other options - Ivan Toney is the talisman here and definitely on penalty kick duty, so he should once again lead his club in goals. He has not had a ton of action in preseason, but looks all systems go for Week 1. There are not too many forward options cheaper than Gabriel Jesus who look attractive as week-in, week-out starters in your FPL XI, but Toney is among the few that should start building a bandwagon, especially when the great fixture run starts. If Raya isn't the defensive rep you want in your side, Pontus Jansson should be one of the more steady provider of returns among defenders priced at 4.5m. Aaron Hickey may be the defender we want, if his attacking potential translates as Brentford's new right back/wingback, but for 5m, there are options a little more established.

To avoid - Yoane Wissa. Wissa is one of those players that shows flashes of promise and has a nice price tag to attract investment, but there is some doubt as to just how nailed on he is. A two-forward formation, which we saw plenty of last season between Toney and Bryan Mbeumo, would leave Wissa the odd man out. Should they go with wingers in attack, he still needs to shrug off competition from Keane Lewis-Potter. Wissa is one to keep an eye on, but one may be served better spending 1m less on Josh Dasilva as an enabler who will ride your fantasy bench.

Brighton

Opening fixture rating: B-

Its a bit of a mixed bag for the Seagulls, with no extended run of easy or difficult fixtures in the first two months. However, after opening the season away at Old Trafford, there's a decent run of four weeks that has two games at home against Newcastle and Leeds as well as a trip to promoted side, Fulham,

Top pick - A virtual tie between Robert Sanchez and Lewis Dunk. Sanchez had the best full season of any keepers listed at 4.5m for the coming season and Dunk is the captain and target in the box on set pieces. Given Brighton's reputation under Graham Potter, their defensive options have been much more dependable than their attacking options. It comes down to which fits better in your FPL squad, a keeper or a defender.

Other options - The only other option that looks to have some appeal right out of the gate, and is a massive differential with virtually no ownership is Alexis Mac Allister. If there is to be a breakout season for him, this may be it. He becoming more and more nailed in the XI and is the top choice for set piece work when on the pitch. Most folks have every right to take a “wait and see” approach with him, but do not be surprised if he emerges as a well-talked about cheap midfielder option in the FPL community.

To Avoid - Neal Maupay just cannot seem to take his game to the next level and be the star striker Brighton need. With Deniz Undav in the equation now (he was transferred in back in January but spent the remainder of the season on loan), it's a situation to avoid altogether until, and if, Undav can claim the gig. We know what to expect from Maupay, but if Undav can claim the gig, he should garner plenty of FPL interest as a 5.5m forward.

Chelsea

Opening fixture rating: B

The Blues have a couple of matchups that are not too attractive, mainly Spurs in Week 2, but otherwise, if they are playing like the top four side they are, should find plenty of fantasy points in the opening weeks.

Top pick - Raheem Sterling. This may be controversial based on ownership numbers currently in the game, but Sterling is moving into an environment where he could have a career year. While the Blues may come up short when compared to Manchester City in the total goals department, Sterling is now in a situation where he should be starting every game and perhaps be the main supplier of goals, rather than one of many as he was in the City attack. His 10m price tag is not cheap, but it's actually the least amount he has cost in several years.

Other options - For those who simply cannot justify spending 10m on Sterling, investing 8m in a player like Mason Mount is another sound pick for Chelsea attacking coverage. Registering double-digit goals and assists last season, he should be in that neighborhood again, and if Sterling can be the pest we know he can be, with his pace and finishing skills, it might help Mount's assist numbers grow a bit. Yes, most pundits would likely have chosen one of Reece James or Ben Chilwell as the “top pick” from the Blues, but their backline is going through a transition, with Antonio Rüdiger's departure leaving questions as to how many clean sheets they can rack up this time around. Thomas Tuchel has also been playing a back four during preseason, so James and Chilwell may not be getting forward as often as we would expect last season. The pair are still sound picks though, it's just that this pundit ranks them a bit lower than most.

To avoid - Chelsea have FPL talent all over the pitch. Even the holding midfielders like Jorginho have relevance due to his penalty duties, and someone like Kai Havertz, who has been lining up as the center forward this season, could emerge as great FPL options, but since the feeling is there that Sterling will hog most of the attacking returns, with Mount coming second, it seems best to wait-and-see players like Havertz.

Crystal Palace

Opening fixture rating: D

It is not a kind opening run for Palace, who open the season hosting Arsenal on Friday night, then have, with little argument, the two toughest fixtures there are (away to Manchester City and away to Liverpool) in Weeks 2 and 4. Things lighten up after that, but its tough to back a player form the jump with that opening four-week run.

Top pick - Wilfried Zaha. Some things never change and, when it comes to the top fantasy option for the Eagles for the past near-decade, Zaha has been the annual holder of that title. Plenty of pace, physicality and finishing skills always has him as Palace's top fantasy weapon and this year should be no different. He has had a whopping seven goal involvements in preseason as well (4 goals, 3 assists) so no reason to think he will not be influential right out of the gate.

Other options - With two goals and six assists last season, playing over just 1,100 minutes, Michael Olise looks like a promising FPL asset for the foreseeable future. The question is whether he can level up this season and provide value for his fair price of 5.5m. Given the opening fixtures, he may not return much, but he should be kept an eye on as one of those players that look influential but haven't hit form due to tough fixtures.

To avoid - Defensive options. While Palace had a pretty solid defensive record given where they finished in the table last season, they have not looked too impressive in preseason. Given the attacking might of their opposition in the opening weeks, even though they are not expensive options, Palace defenders or Guaita at keeper is not looking too appealing to begin the season with.

Everton

Opening fixture rating - B-

This rating might be a solid “B” if the Toffees were not coming off one of their worst seasons in a generation, barely avoiding relegation. They have a tough first game with Chelsea and then have to take on Liverpool in Week six, but they do have a good run in between, Weeks 2-5.

Top pick - Anthony Gordon. It was indeed a dismal season for the Toffees in 2021/22, but the clear bright spot for them was the emergence of Gordon. He looks nailed in the side and could be a nice differential for that nice four-week run after Everton get Chelsea out of the way.

Other options - Nathan Patterson. For the simple reason that he is a defender priced at the minimum of 4m, and should be starting for at least the first few weeks, possibly more, as Seamus Coleman, getting on in years, has been out of preseason action with injury issues. Perhaps only bench fodder, but a decent one in case one of your starters misses out between Weeks 2-5.

To avoid - Dominic Calvert-Lewin. In reality, pretty much every Toffee other than Gordon or Patterson is an “avoid”. There has been nothing to make one think they will improve on their poor defensive record last season, and with Richarlison now having departed, it does not seem likely their scoring output will get any better, either. Some options may emerge from this side, but setting aside 8m for Calvert-Lewin seems a not-too-promising use of funds.

Fulham

Opening fixture rating: D

There are a couple of fixtures that the promoted Cottagers could get some positive results from, but in the first seven games, they have to face Tottenham and Arsenal away, Chelsea at home and, to start the season, Liverpool at home.

Top pick - This one is easy. Andreas Pereira. On loan from Manchester United, he is the rare case of a creative attacking midfielder that will be nailed on for a club at the minimum price of 4.5m. Honestly, there is no reason for him to NOT be in your squad. He may be on your bench virtually every week, but he will be a bench weapon with actual potential to do something for you. In weeks where Fulham are not playing the top sides, Andreas may earn our trust enough to actually put him into our XI's.

Other options - Just as easy, it is Aleksandar Mitrovic of course. In case you were living under a rock last season, surely you heard of his record-shattering goal tally of 43 in the Championship last season. Absolutely incredible. Were he to score half as many this season, he would be the best value forward in the game, for sure. The question is, what CAN he do this time around. No stranger to the PL, Mitrovic has 24 total goals in his top flight career. He has hit double digits once, with 11, and that should be the minimum bar this time around. If he can bump that up to 15 or more, he should be seeing his name in many an FPL side, especially when the fixtures take a turn for the better after a tough opening run.

To avoid - Everyone else. Fulham are bound to be among the leakier defenses in the league this season, and no one in their defense offers much attacking potential, so that area of the pitch is off limits. The one player who can have nice stretches of form to warrant investment is Harry Wilson, but at 6m and with these fixtures, it is difficult to see how one would want to back him over a player like Gabriel Martinelli.

Leeds United

Opening fixture rating: A-

With the exception of Chelsea in Week 3, Leeds have one of the better long-term opening fixture runs in the league, not having to face another side that finished top five until Week 10 against Arsenal. They struggled plenty last season and using their top talent, Raphinha, will be a loss felt, but if they are going to produce some fantasy options, the opening two months of the season may be the time.

Top pick - Illan Meslier. Yes, Leeds were horrific defensively last season, but the feeling here is that they can only improve on that. Meslier is arguably the best young star talent on the club now that Raphinha has gone, and has a penchant for making saves. He got a price drop this season, so it is this pundit's opinion that he is worth consideration for those going with a cheap keeper.

Other options - No other options feel very strong right now as the squad is going through a pretty significant transition. Honestly, for FPL strategists, Sam Greenwood might be the most popular one to roster, simply as a minimum-priced forward to root on one's bench and spread money elsewhere. Greenwood has been getting plenty of action in preseason, and is being used in a variety of attacking roles, so odds are, especially given the five substitute rule that is being implemented this season, Greenwood looks poised to at least come off the bench most games and give you at minimum an appearance point.

To avoid - Patrick Bamford. Bamford is active and getting minutes in preseason, but there was a bit of a delay before he was fit enough to participate in the summer friendlies, so, after a full season of injury problems in the last campaign, question marks continue to linger this time around. Even if he bagged a brace in Week 1, the trust factor will not be there until he can play a run of matches and maintain fitness.

Right, that wraps up Part One of Fuzzy's Feelings on the eve of the new Premier League season. Again, be on the lookout for Part Two, covering the other ten clubs, in the next day or two.