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Ademola Lookman
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Season Preview

FPL Breakout Players to Watch

by Chuck Booth
Updated On: July 7, 2019, 3:52 pm ET

In a game where premium players have a premium price tag, stretching every dollar is important in FPL. If you started last season with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raúl Jiménez, and Ryan Fraser, you were able to gain massive points on a budget to fill out the rest of your squad. You would have also gained 2.9 million in squad value over the course of the season. That’s an ample addition of budget to play with. 

But each of these guys became FPL fixtures in different ways. Fraser was a full-time player in the year prior. Jiminez was a new addition to a talented side and Wan-Bissaka was a talented youngster who finally got his shot.

Wan-Bissaka is the player whose rise to prominence I would like to look at here. He showed signs of stardom in the 2017/18 season when he became a full-time starter to end the season and continued things from the preseason on. To get an early jump on FPL preseason players to watch I’m going to profile some guys who could take the jump this coming season. Getting an early jump on these guys will assist with shoehorning as many high priced assets as possible into your FPL squad as a counter to the games crackdown on last year’s budget bonanza.

First I’d like to lay out some criteria on how I’m building my list:

  • Players must be under 23-years-old. 
  • They must have appeared in fewer than 20 PL games last season (preferably under 15).
  • If the player is on a promoted team they must not have been a starter for more than half of the Championship season. 
  • They must have been priced under 6.0m in FPL at the close of last season.

Players to watch:

Chris Mepham - Defender, Bournemouth, 4.5m

A midseason signing joining the Cherries from Brentford last January, Mepham was supposed to be one for the future. But as is the case, plans can change at a moments notice. With Charlie Daniels going down and Diego Rico being ineffective at left back, Mepham ended the season in a starting role. 

During a period when he made 13 appearances for Bournemouth, Mepham picked up one assist and was involved in three clean sheets. This was also during a period that Bournemouth used three keepers and had to play Nathan Ake in midfield due to lack of depth. Considering that the defense can’t get worse than last year and that it was stout behind a midfield pairing of Jefferson Lerma and Lewis Cook (who will be back this season) Mepham should be a good option to start the season if the goalkeeping situation is taken care of. 

Smooth with the ball at his feet, Mepham fits in with Nathan Ake to play the ball out of the back to Bournemouth’s attackers. While the threat of losing his place to Charlie Daniels is there, Daniels shouldn’t be fully fit from his knee injury until around October. Looking at the sea of 4.5m defenders, the only one that I can see with similar upside to Mepham is Matt Targett but Bournemouth should have a more stout defense than Aston Villa. I can’t see a reason not to start with Mepham in your day one squad unless he suffers an injury during preseason play.

Harvey Barnes - Midfielder, Leicester City, 6.0m

The Leicester City spending spree has the Foxes poised to challenge for a European spot & possibly a top four place and that’s what makes Harvey Barnes at 6.0m such an intriguing FPL asset. Recalled from West Brom in January after leading the Championship in goals and assists, Barnes went on to make 16 appearances for Leicester (11 starts). In that time he was able to score one goal pick out two assists while making quite the impression at the King Power Stadium.  Barnes also averaged 2.5 shots per game which were the most of any Leicester City player who logged more than 1000 minutes last season. Barnes also only failed to register a shot in one of his 11 starts. You have to shoot to score and if there’s one thing that Barnes does, it’s shoot. 

88 - No player in the top four tiers of English football this season has attempted more shots than Harvey Barnes (88). Recalled. pic.twitter.com/53CHipcNPf

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 11, 2019

Fast forward and with Leicester adding Ayoze Pérez up top and likely inking Youri Tielemans to a permanent deal, Brendan Rodgers will be able to employ a 4-4-2 formation or a floating 4-4-1-1 which is tantalizing for a player like Barnes. Barnes is interesting because he’s the most James Maddison like player since… well… James Maddison. And both could open the season on the wings for the Foxes. Look for who’s making more appearances out of Barnes and Demari Gray during preseason because whoever wins the spot will have immense value in fantasy leagues (Barnes just has more value in my opinion).

Ademola Lookman - Midfielder, Everton, 5.0m

When will Everton realize that Theo Walcott isn’t a viable starting wide midfielder and start Ademola Lookman consistently? For everyone’s sake, hopefully, this year is the year. Southampton was rumored to be making a bid last January but was put off by Everton’s price tag of 20 million. Since the Saints have marched on, that leaves Lookman to compete with Benard and Walcott for the third spot in Everton’s attacking band. With the struggles that both had at times last season, it doesn’t make much sense that Lookman only got three starts and 21 sub appearances during the entire season. In those limited chances, he was still able to pick up two assists for the Toffees.

It’s not like Lookman is a stranger to first-team football as he had a successful loan spell at Red Bull Leipzig in the Bundesliga but he never got a fair run. Part of the issue may be that he can only play on the right side of the midfield while Everton’s other attackers can play on both sides. 

Among all players to have attempted 20+ take-ons in this season's Premier League, no player has a higher success-rate than Ademola Lookman (73.9%).

Dancing his way through defences. 💃 pic.twitter.com/fl4e0rOdUR

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 13, 2019

Looking at Lookman’s game, he brings a lot to the pitch with a great dribble success rate that can help Everton advance the ball to someone who I’ll be discussing later. He’s not the best passer but Lookman was able to complete one-third of his crosses as well. Combined with his ability to get behind a defense, that’s a very important asset. Comparing Lookman to the (dearth of) other budget midfielders in FPL, there are no good non-defensive midfielder options outside of Morgan Gibbs-White who carries more concerns. As a midfielder four or five, life can get much worse than Lookman.

Oleksandr Zinchenko - Defender, Manchester City 5.5m

With Benjamin Mendy starting another season injured and Fabian Delph (hopefully) playing himself out of the Manchester City rotation, the starting left back spot should belong to Zinchenko to begin the season. City did trigger their buyback clause on Angeliño to get him back from PSV Eindhoven but in the early going it seems more like a depth move than a threat to Zinchenko's minutes to start the season. 

Zinchenko began his career as an attacking midfielder and after appearing almost exclusively at left back last season, got a position change in FPL to a defender, raising his upside this year. Add in a 5.5m price tag and Zinchenko offers cheap city cover with attacking upside. Ending the season as a regular starter for the Citizens, Zinchenko was able to rack up three assists and 10 clean sheets with City winning all 14 games he started. 

If these numbers aren’t getting you on the Zinchenko train to start the season, I’m not sure what will. Manchester City doesn’t have an easy run in to begin the season, but they also don’t have one to give me a reason to fade their defenders in FPL. If I had to pick one for my squad right now, it would be Zinchenko.

Honorable Mentions:

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Forward, Everton 6.0m) - Making a few too many appearances last season to be eligible for the full list, Calvert-Lewin is the likely starter at striker for Everton. At a 6m price tag and being flanked by Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and (hopefully) Ademola Lookman the young Englishman will be a good bet to better his six goals and two assists last season. Add in Everton’s good start to the season and Calvert-Lewin makes a good third striker to stretch your finances.

Juan Foyth (Defender, Tottenham 5.0m) - Foyth has had an amazing Copa America for Argentina off the back of making 12 appearances for Spurs last season. What has been most interesting (outside of him sending Phillipe Coutinho for a hot dog) has been that Foyth has played as Argentina’s right back. While he does qualify for this list, Foyth’s minutes this season directly are in line with one of Kieran Trippier or Serge Aurier getting sold making him a little too risky to back at the moment. But being able to play centrally or on the right and with Spurs being involved in European football, don’t overlook Foyth as a cheap FPL option or late-round draft steal.

La que le hizo Foyth a Coutinho 👀 #CopaAmerica pic.twitter.com/1wWgipzaEm

— MexasPamboleros (@MxsPamboleros) July 3, 2019

Morgan Gibbs-White (Midfielder, Wolves 5.0m) - Joao Moutinho isn’t getting any younger so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gibbs-White get more starts at the 10 for Wolves this season. With Wolves getting the Burnley treatment of needing to go through the Europa League qualifying rounds, using their depth early and often will be important if they are to challenge for top seven again this year. Not knowing exactly how this will shake out yet is the only thing keeping Gibbs-White from making his way into my FPL squad to start the season.

As always, watching preseason is important to see who is playing with who, but don’t put too much stock into actual performances except when it comes to the promoted teams. With the names listed here, a lot can change between now and August ninth but this will give you a good list to keep an eye on heading into the preseason.