ESA Fantasy Football Preview

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

With just one day to go until the start of the 2018/19 season, we took a look at each team ahead of their opening matches.


A new manager comes in for Arsenal for the first time since the 22nd September 1996 with Unai Emery. Arsenal fans grew frustrated at the performance of the club over recent years under Arsène Wenger and it will be exciting to see how their free-flowing possession football changes under Emery.

Some good business early in the transfer window as Arsenal were able to obtain the signatures of 5 new players including highly regarded Centre- Back Sokratis from Dortmund and experienced Full Back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free after he left Juventus.


Bournemouth surprised many by being able to maintain Premier League status for the last 2 years. Loyal manager Eddie Howe has improved the team season by season to finish in 12th place last season.

Their most notable signing this year has been the Columbian, Jefferson Lerma who joined the Cherries for a reported £25.2million. The 23 year old defensive midfielder managed a passing accuracy of 82% last season in 24 appearance. Stats that we believe would see him achieve a pretty high score in our ICON.


Brighton were all set for the Premier League prior to their promotion last season. A fantastic stadium and equally as brilliant training complex ensured they maintained premier league status for this season. The team averaged 386.18 passes per matches and an accuracy of 75%. Goalscoring was a difficulty for Brighton last season with Glenn Murray being their leading goalscorer, many believe they need a second player to match those stats- we think a Precision Wall would help bring everyone else up to Murray’s standard.

A busy transfer window sees them bring in 8 new names with a NET spend of a reported £53.64m including two free’s.


Burnley shocked everyone last year by achieving European football status after finishing 7th under Sean Dyche. This has raised the expectations amongst fans and with the busier fixture list and only two new players joining the team including Joe Hart and Ben Gibson, can Burnley handle the extra difficulties more matches will bring?

Cardiff City

Cardiff beat the odds to make a return to the Premier League. The Bluebirds finished second in a very difficult Championship league. They will be aiming to maintain their status in the premier league and Neil Warnock’s side have become the new Stoke. A tough team to beat away from home.

An average transfer window for Cardiff as they bring in 4 new players as well as Omar Bogle returning from a loan spell at Birmingham.


Maurizio Sarri joins the blues for the forthcoming season. The Italian has already had his work cut out keeping the large character’s on board in the dressing room. Want away keeper Thibaut Courtois seems to have had his wish granted as he looks set to force a move to Spanish giants, Real Madrid. Because of the early Premier League transfer deadline day, Sarri and Chelsea have been forced to sign young goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga for a reported fee of £71.6m. Sticking with the goalkeepers, experienced keeper Rob Green has already become a hero after saving a penalty in the shootout against Lyon.

Chelsea were fortunate to keep hold of star man Eden Hazard with Real Madrid also interested in signing the highly rated Belgian. He managed a pass percentage of 83% last season in 33 appearances with an average pass distance of 16 meters. This would make him pretty good in our 8m ICON model.

Just two new faces joining Chelsea with Jorginho coming in from Napoli for £51.3m. It will be very interesting how the excellent player settles into the new challenges the Premier League faces.

Crystal Palace

This season is the 6th consecutive season the Eagles have been in the Premier League. A very difficult start to last season saw them set an unwanted record of failing to score in their opening 7 matches. They quickly turned this around with 2 new managers and Roy Hodgson bringing the very best out of Wilfred Zaha. Palace know the value of the ICON having taken it with them to the premier league event in South Africa. Everyone at ESA hopes they can continue to improve in the league.

One signing in the window with Cheikhou Kouyaté coming in from West Ham for £9.63m.


Marco Silva has turned Everton’s prospects around since Sam Allardyce. The Toffies managed to finish 8th last season after spending £182.88m on 13 new players including one loan and 2 free’s in the 2017 transfer window. Despite this, Everton won just 2 of their first 10 matches. They improved as the season progressed and the new players learned to play with one another. Silva will be hoping to continue their later form and have their sights set on a top half finish.

This year they have signed Richarlison for £35.28m- a figure that surprised the footballing world. They were also able to sign Lucas Digne from Barcelona. The highly rated 25 year old Full-Back will be worth watching this season.


Fulham beat John Terry’s Aston Villa in the Play-Off Final to gain promotion to the Premier League. Since, they have certainly excited the premier league fans with big signings and a smart style of passing play. At ESA we love possession football. The idea that the other team can’t score without the ball is something that Fulham have demonstrated. They had a goal difference of 33 (the second highest in the league behind Wolves) last season and will look to continue this style in the Premier League.

Fulham have invested their Championship winnings well with 7 new players coming in, including World Cup winner André Schürrle from Dortmund on loan. Alexander Mitrovic also joins Fulham for £18.18m and will look to continue scoring in the Premier League.


Huddersfield shocked everyone when gaining promotion to the Premier League last season. They then continued to surprise people by maintaining their Premier League status. David Wagner’s men managed to narrowly avoid the drop last year and will be aiming to stay in the Premier League this year.

They have made multiple signings in the window with their main new attraction being 24 year old, Terence Kongolo who joins from Monaco for £18m. The centre back will look to ensure less goals are conceded by Huddersfield in their fight to remain a Premier League team.


As we all know, Leicester shocked the world by winning the Premier League 3 years ago, one year after narrowly avoiding the drop. Since, they have become a tough force to beat despite loosing the likes of N'Golo Kanté and Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea. They have done well to keep hold of Jamie Vardy but recently lost their battle to keep Riyard Mahrez, The playmaker forced a move to Premier League Champions Manchester City with many believing the motive being European Football.


Probably one of the most exciting teams of the 2017/18 campaign. Klopp’s men were the only team to beat the Champions, Manchester City, last year and many believe they will really pile the pressure on next year. Their fast, attacking football resonates with the ESA mantra of passing as they move the ball from the back to the front quicker than many teams in the league. We’re very excited to see a tighter title race than last year’s City dominance.

They have recruited well- locating the areas they were weakest and bringing in replacement keeper Alisson from AS Roma. Exciting prospect Keita also strengthens their midfield.

Manchester City.

Where do you start with a team like Manchester City? Unchallenged last year, Pep Guardiola’s men will look to now add European Success to their CV’s. They are clinical in and around the box with players such as David Silva always making the best pass possible, no matter how little time they have on the ball. Our training mode Maestro looks to train this decision making through repetition with the green light representing that clinical pass.

What do you buy someone who already has everything? Well Manchester City bought Guardiola Mahrez. A brilliant playmaker who many believe will only improve with better calibre players around him. Coming in for £61.02m, we at ESA are very excited to see how Mahrez will fit into the Guardiola style of play.

Manchester United

Another strong season for Manchester United but could not close the gap on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Changing room dispute between a couple of players could cause the early closing of the transfer window to really bite José Mourinho. Martial looks to have returned to training and football fans will hope the Frenchman can regain his form ahead of the 2018/19 season opener against Leicester. The second frenchman, Paul Pogba, looks to have gone AWOL as he tried to force a move to Barcelona. A move that might see personal growth, but feel he could have offered more to the Premier League should he have continued his World Cup form into the next season. United will want to resolve the situation before its too late.


An ever growing disagreement between owner Mike Ashley and manager Rafa Benitez means little investment from the club in new players. Benitez continues to work well with the squad he has, securing a top half finish last season. Can they look to continue their form into the new season and improve on their 10th place? Some consider this to be a difficult task with other teams spending millions on new players around them.


Southampton were very close to becoming a championship team last season. They narrowly avoided the drop with many praising Mark Hughes for his ability to turn the team around. Again, Southampton have allowed some big name players to leave with Dušan Tadić (a player who helped maintain their Premier League position) moving abroad. Southampton now have the chance for a fresh start and need to hope that striker, Charlie Austin, is able to remain fit to turn their great build up, passing football into goals.


Tottenham will have a tough start to the season following the excellent performance of their players in the World Cup. The players would have had less time to rest, however, it could be argued that they will still be at top physical condition. Harry Kane did the nation proud by becoming the World Cup Golden Boot winner and reaching the Semi-Finals of the Competitions. Apart from a new stadium, not a lot has changed for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. The Argentinian will continue to develop the already excellent list of players on his side as apposed to disrupting the wage structure with new signings. Could Tottenham continue to rise up the table or will the spending power of those around him prove to big a challenge?


Not many people know how Watford will do this season. A good signing in winger, Deulofeu over the summer could hopefully spell the start of more goals for the club. Only time will tell

how Javi Gracia’s Hornets will do.

West Ham

West Ham struggled in their new stadium last season, however many believe that those first season woes will be put behind them going into the 2018/19 season. Manuel Pellegrini has a list of excellent players at his disposal and West Ham will continue to improve on their 13th place finish form last season.

Another busy Transfer Window for West Ham as they sign Felipe Anderson from Lazio for £34.20m and obtain Jack Wilshere on a free from Arsenal. The ESA ICON leaderboard 2nd place player will be able to use his vision to get his difficult career back on track since putting his injuries behind him. Wilshere scored 129 on Maestro and the skills he showed in just an hour in the ICON show why he was such a sort after player.


Another newly promoted team have huge ambitions with manager Nuno Espirito looking to challenge even the very best of the Premier League. They ran away with the league last year in the championship giving them a stable starting 11 to build upon reading for their first season back in the Premier League. They play exciting football that rivals the very best in the league and of all the clubs promoted, they should perform best in the new elite environment.

On top of their already strong team, they have added many experienced players with the help of agent Jorge Mendes. Jorge’s influence with Portuguese players has helped bring in Rui Patricio in goal on a free as well as João Moutinho for a very modest £5.04m. At ESA, we are very excited to see how well Wolves perform when the league starts on Friday.


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