Fresh Blood (Midfielders)

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Welcome back to another edition of fresh blood, this time I will be putting the newly transferred midfielders under the microscope. There’s plenty of interesting moves to analyse, let’s take a look.

Fabregas (9.0) CHE – We kick things off with the most controversial signing of the summer so far. Cesc was an Arsenal icon, and had previously stated that if he was to play anywhere else than Barcelona, it would be back at Arsenal. So how did he end up at the Gunners biggest cross town rivals? Wenger had a big call to make, and with Ozil playing that creative midfield role, there was no room in the squad for Fabregas. This could go one of two ways, Ozil goes back to his best form and carries the Gunners to the title, or he never re-gains his confidence, leaves to go back to Europe and Arsenal are left in a terrible hole.

All other scenarios aside, what can he deliver? If you look at his previous campaigns with Arsenal, there’s a lot to be excited about. It really comes down to his role. If he’s placed in a deeper lying midfield role to fill the void of Lampard, he’s probably not going to live up to the 9.0 price tag. Play in the number 10 role however, and he could be one of the bargains of the season. He is having a cracking pre-season, already assisting Costa and scoring a superb free kick. Crucially he was fielded in the hole behind the lone striker, which could be a sign of things to come. The stats are promising, he hasn’t delivered under 10 assists in a season since he joined Arsenal, and lit up the EPL with a stunning 15 goal season back in 2009/10, to go along with 13 assists. He’s experienced in the premier league, has undeniable qualities and comes in at an affordable price. If he does get handed the creative role behind the striker, he may be too hard to ignore. I would be selecting only one of him and Hazard though, and Hazard’s role is far less uncertain. A classic risk v reward scenario, but I reckon it would be too dangerous to go forward without one of the pair. I currently own Hazard thanks to his spot kick duties.

Ince (5.5) HUL – Onto a far different proposition, that of Tom Ince. There is a lot of hype surrounding his potential, but one thing is for sure. He has a long way to go. He scored a goal and assist on debut for Palace last campaign, whilst being handed a role through the middle. Interestingly enough, that was the only time Pulis started him in behind the striker, moving him out wide for 7 games resulting in no attacking returns, before shipping Ince back to Blackpool. So his first stint in the EPL wasn’t successful, who’s to say he can’t succeed at Hull? With a likely formation change meaning he’ll be required out wide, there must be a lot of skepticism surrounding his ability to produce consistent returns. From what we’ve seen, I don’t think you can pick him at that price. Certainly one for the watchlist though, if he gets handed a role through the middle he could be gold.

Can (5.5) LIV – Emre Can has arrived at Liverpool on the back of their spending spree, costing them a sizable 10 million pounds. I’m not going to waste time where there’s no need, so I’m going to keep this relatively short. He scored just 3 goals and 3 assists in the Bundesliga last season (From 29 apps) and will provide back-up and hopefully a future replacement for Gerrard’s holding midfield role. Just minus the penalties. It may be best to leave him alone to begin with. I doubt he’ll get consistent game time anyway at just 20 years of age. One for the future.

Herrera (7.0) UTD – One bandwagon that has certainly picked up some speed over pre-season is that off Ander Herrera. To be honest, I’m going to slightly cool expectations, here’s why. As Fantasy managers we tend to look for players with a favourable attacking role. At United, there’s simply no doubt he will be fielded in the centre of the park, becoming United’s link from defence to attack. Whilst that’s a key role for Van Gaal’s men, it won’t be too fantasy potent. If you look at the other end of the park, Rooney and RVP get the jobs upfront in a 3-5-2, whilst one of the best creative players in the world in Juan Mata will play behind them. If they switch to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, it is likely that Mata or Rooney will play out wide, with the other in the centre. Either way, Herrera is firmly behind the 3.

Could he still be a fantasy force from his deeper lying position? Perhaps, but these stats put me off a little. He was handed the favourable role in behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 for Bilbao last season, producing just 5 goals and 5 assists. Clearly he’s a creative force, but not one who will produce a huge amount of fpl points. Yes he got 3 assists when United drubbed LA Galaxy, but I need to remind everyone that the final scoreline was 7-0. This is pre-season, and that won’t be happening too often. He should be fantastic for United and well worth the 29 million pound price tag, but in fpl I would be giving him a wide birth.

De Jong (7.0) NEW – This is another intriguing proposition. You only need to hear Pardew’s comments to immediately realise why he’s creating a stir in the fpl world. “We are absolutely overjoyed to bring Siem to the club because he will give us intelligence in the final third and create goalscoring situations, which we lacked towards the end of last season. I’m really pleased that we’ve managed to get a striker early, and particularly a striker of Siem’s type”. Yes he’s previously played as a striker, yet he’s been evaluated as a midfielder due to his likely role as a number 10 (I can’t keep saying in behind the striker)! Clearly at Newcastle to help produce goals, he will be given a free reign to attack, as shown during pre-season with his 2 early strikes in their first 2 friendlies.

He managed 7 goals in just 19 appearances for Ajax last season, suggesting he certainly has an eye for goal. Things get even better if you look past that injury ravaged season. He managed to score 10+ goals in every season for the previous 4 years, proving he is capable of worthy returns for a midpriced midfielder. His job security is strong, and we know he will be fielded in an attacking role. The only question is can he replicate the kind of form he has shown previously in the Premier League? That’s the risk you take with selecting fresh blood. In my opinion, he has a great chance of being extremely successful, and if you’re after a POD then this could be your guy. One for the risk takers! Just think back to Michu during 2012/13, and place him straight on the watchlist.

Cabella (7.5) NEW – One prospect that has slipped under the radar is Remy Cabella, mainly due to the stir De Jong created before him. Newcastle continued their French revolution by recently signing the former Montpellier midfielder for a reported £12 million. Newcastle proved last season how pivotal just one player can be. They won a massive 11 games before Cabaye left in January, and just 4 afterwards. He left a gaping hole in their midfield with a real lack of creativity. The signings of Cabella and De Jong have been made to fix that issue, so what does Cabella bring to the table? 14 goals and 7 assists last season in Ligue 1 suggests a hell of a lot of ability. Judging by those stats he is certainly capable of warranting selection at 7.5. The biggest concern is where he will fit into Newcastle’s line-up. He was fielded in the number 10 role at Montpellier, but he may be shifted out wide to accommodate De Jong. Cabella’s prospects are far less appealing if he is forced out wide, and with his higher price tag I’d be taking De Jong to begin with. Certainly keep an eye on his progress.

Tadic (7.5) SOU – Anybody who comes to the premier league with 28 goals and 29 assists in his last 2 seasons immediately warrants a thorough examination. So let’s give him exactly that. We know that the Dutch league is nowhere near the quality of the EPL, however Bony proved that the transition can still be made successfully. Jozy Altidore not so much. There’s definitely risk in play, but with 16 goals and 14 assists last season, proving his 12 goals and 15 assists the year before were no fluke, he will bring some much needed creativity to Southampton with their undergoing transformation. Now I’m not saying that he will replicate those figures, but if he could even halve them he will be a great prospect. Remember Lallana only scored 9 goals and 9 assists in his breakout campaign last year. Playing in the creative role behind the striker, Tadic’s eye for a goal, along with his brilliant vision and set-pieces makes him a tasty proposition. Certainly if he can adjust to life in England he could be a steal at his price.

The obvious concern is how Southampton will fair. They are losing more players by the minute, having transferred roughly 70% of their starting line-up last season. There is however quality remaining, and if they can put their new found riches to good use, I think they can still be a force this season. Tadic will definitely be a key player for them going forward, and there’s no doubting his role or job security. With some soft fixtures to kick his campaign off, he is a player worthy of serious consideration. Another for the risk takers, I just get the feeling either him or De Jong can breakout into this season’s must have midpricer. It may be wise to get on board early if he starts off well.

Gomez (5.5) SUN – Onto a lesser signing, but one that still must be researched. Jordi Gomez has graced the EPL previously, scoring some memorable goals for Wigan whilst they were in the top division. He managed a solid 7 goals and 5 assists for Wigan in the Championship, a solid but not spectacular return. The problem has always been his inconsistency, and that is exactly why I will be avoiding him like the plague. Sure he will pop up with some stunning individual displays, but he will also go missing for weeks on end. He is priced awkwardly, and in that range he’s up against the likes of Sigurdsson. A pass for me.

Montero (6.0) SWA – Swansea City have signed Ecuador winger Jefferson Montero on a four-year contract for an undisclosed fee. There’s no doubt he’s an exciting prospect, but what’s his history like? It’s hard to get much of a read on the Liga MX, but 10 goals in 63 appearances doesn’t set the world on fire. I reckon he could be a great signing for Swansea, capable of playing on either flank and utilising his explosive pace. Reports out of Swansea’s last pre-season game say Montero was clearly the standout, tormenting the opposition with his extreme pace and tricky skills. Unfortunately his final delivery didn’t match his other efforts, a shame but perhaps a sign of the inconsistencies he will show. Unfortunately the fact is he’s priced at the same as Sigurdsson, playing at the same club. It’s one or the other, and until we see more of Montero there is only one choice to be made. That being said, I reckon Montero will be irresistible at times this season.

Markovic (7.5) LIV – Liverpool have taken a huge gamble on this up and coming star, but it’s not without warrant. He has had huge expectations placed on him thanks to his incredible pace and brilliant dribbling ability. He is great on the counter attack and will bring yet more pace to Liverpool’s starting line-up. His game time could be questioned at the young age of 20, but Rodgers has proved with Sterling that he’s not afraid to play his youngsters regularly. That was without European exploits however, how they adapt to their busy fixture schedule will be a massive key to Liverpool’s fantasy prospects. Surprisingly Markovic managed only 5 goals and 4 assists during his 26 appearances for Benfica last season, his price tag of 7.5 clearly inflated by his transfer value. Whilst he is a player for the future, there’s too many risks associated to select him in your initial squad. There’s no doubting that with himself and Sterling on the wings plus Sturridge through the middle, Liverpool will torment defences even without Suarez to do so.

Sanchez (10.5) ARS – Now for the big one. Sanchez has created a massive stir by moving to the Gunners, and his evaluation as a midfielder in FPL must bring him to the forefront of everyone’s plans. He’s always been a massive talent, but never really got the credit he deserved at Barcelona until last season, and even then he wasn’t a central figure for parts of the season. He scored a fantastic 19 goals along with 12 assists, this coming from only 2300 minutes playing time. He will be a central figure for Arsenal, so if you lift those minutes to around 3000 you realise the potential he has. There’s no doubt it will be tough for him to replicate such figures in the EPL without Messi to feed him, but his goal against Atletico with the BBVA title on the line coupled with this beautiful chip in the El Classico proves he is a world class talent on his own, capable of producing on the big stage. He also scored 2 goals and 2 assists for Chile in their recent World Cup campaign. Bear in mind that Hazard topped the 200 point mark for just 14 goals and 10 assists last season, and Sanchez suddenly becomes an even brighter prospect.

He is capable of playing both out wide and through the middle, both to great effect. What plans Wenger has for him are yet to be revealed, and they may be key to deciphering his value at a whopping 10.5. Personally I reckon Wenger may switch formations depending on the opposition.  Alexis will play both out wide and through the middle at times this season, but he played solely from the right for Barca last season, proving he is capable of massive returns even from a wing. With the class of Ozil feeding his tricky runs in behind the opposition, you would think he will be getting a lot of chances. Couple this with his chance conversion rate of 31.2% (for 19 goals) last season and you have a deadly weapon on your hands. Consider that only 4 players who scored 10+ goals in the EPL converted 20% of their chances; Gerrard, Toure, Adebayor and Sturridge. 3 of them are penalty takers. He is an extremely tasty prospect given his evaluation as a midfielder, the final straw in helping me throw away the key to his lock. He’s in for me.

These guys are defensive midfielders and should not be considered for your squads: Besic (EVE), Fernando (MCI), Kouyate (WHM)

So that wraps up the midfielders for now. There is an incredible amount of players switching between EPL clubs this season, so we will kick off our coverage of them shortly. We won’t repeat these players during our player list analysis, so take note! I hope this helped, see you all for the forwards!

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