Welcome to the next installment of Fresh Blood. We’re going to be running the rule over a few more midfielders, I promise I’ll catch up with some strikers and defenders next week!
Roberto Firmino. Midfielder. 8.5m
I don’t think any of us could argue that the loss of Luis Suarez left a larger than life hole in Liverpool’s attack, and one that was never adequately filled. It wasn’t just the goals they missed, it was the inventiveness and relentless pressure in the final third that the Master Biter was able to bring to every game. In Robbie Firmino, they may just have finally filled that hole.
Last week’s Fresh Blood I referred glowingly to Dimitri Payet’s out of the ordinary attacking statistics, well Firmino’s are on par. There is one very important point to make… Firmino’s stats have come out of the more “defensively aware” German Bundesliga which makes them more impressive. 2 seasons, 66 games, 23 goals, 139 chances created, 22 assists. The chances and assists stats are the best over that time in a league containing some of the best attacking talent going around, and for a club in Hoffenheim who has settled nicely into midtable obscurity in recent times.
What Liverpool supporters should be most excited about however isn’t any of those stats… Those are going to be skewed, as they always are, due to his role in his previous team, the quality of his teammates, opposition, etc, etc… Etc. What marks him out as potentially the most important purchase they’ve made since Suarez’s departure is his incredible work rate, pressure on opponents and ability to run with the ball which is reminiscent of Suarez. One of the key features of Liverpool’s successful 2013/14 season was their desire to win the ball back all over the pitch, and Suarez was the headline act for that. He led by example tirelessly over 90 minutes, 38 games (give or take), and dragged his team along with him on the back of it. The knock on effect was that it gave Sturridge a little bit of freedom from not having to do any of that, he was able to put the cherry on the top of all the hard work with mountains of goals.
On top of that, Firmino will be reconnecting with international teammate Coutinho and although their professional relationship is in it’s relative infancy, it has some sort of potential. Firmino, although being required to play the false 9 often at Hoffenheim, will probably work best operating out of the No. 10, but is in no way going to be a lump out on the wings. What you’ll probably start to see occur as the season unfolds is that Firmino, Coutinho and possibly a fit again Lallana will all run a fluid front 3 interchanging positions throughout a game, with Sturridge (or Benteke) up top. Rogers’ has however shown a propensity to change it up from time to time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Brazilian style 4-2-2-2 with Firmino and Coutinho sitting behind Sturridge and Benteke…
I’d love to have been able to see how his preseason onfolds, but as he is one of many who played in the Copa America that’s not going to happen. He’s another like Depay who’s in a 8.5m midfielder bracket that has so many alternative options to choose from that it does make it hard to want to take the risk when there’s the choice not to… For mine, he’s less risky than Depay and will probably turn out a better season than him too, but to start off with him over Ozil, Mata, etc is too dangerous. Or maybe I’ve been burnt too many times starting seasons with expensive midfield PODs?!?
Yohann Cabaye. Midfielder. 6.5m
Of all the big transfers to have occurred since the end of last season, many could argue this is one of the biggest. No disrespect intended, but Palace hasn’t always been the destination of choice for European football’s big names, and although Cabaye doesn’t carry the same sort of excitement as the Firmino’s or the Depay’s of the world. His is a quality, risk free acquisition and one that will lift the status of an up and coming club both on and off the field.
All of us FPL’ers should be well aware of Yohann’s exploits for Newcastle in the not too distance past. He went through a purple patch towards the end of 2014 where he was one of the must have midfielders on the back 7 goals in 19 games. In recent times however his output at PSG wasn’t overly impressive from a fantasy perspective, scoring only the 1 goal in 39 appearances. That was well down from his 13 goals in 45 league appearances in the season and a half at Newcastle prior to the move. He also only created 18 chances during those 39 games, compared to 86 in the 45 at Newcastle.
Those discrepancies can easily be explained away due to a change in role. He went from being an attack minded midfielder in a freewheeling Newcastle team, to be deployed as a deep playmaker in a star studded PSG one. That will always hamper fantasy output, but it is a problem nonetheless. The question we need to consider is what his role will be going forward… With Palace performing well last season on the back of an attacking trio of Bolasie, Puncheon and Zaha, Puncheon would need to be moved out to accommodate him as the No. 10 which will be tough on the kid after having a breakout year of sorts. Whether he can roll back the clock and turn himself back into an attacking midfielder is going to be a tough ask, and one I don’t think he can do without some sort of bedding in period. If he were to play deeper, as was his role at PSG, then one of Jedinak or McArthur would need to make way with the underrated McArthur more than likely moving aside. If he were to play in that deeper role, then I’m sorry but at 6.5m coupled with his history of non-output there, it makes him irrelevant when you consider there are much better options available at that price. One of those better options will be one of his teammates in Bolasie. Whom I very much adore as a footballer… If you haven’t heard.
If I was a betting man, and more on that soon, I’m going to go with Cabaye filling a similar role to that Fabregas did last season at Chelsea. He’ll start in that deeper role but be moved into higher positions on the field during games when required. He may well end up in the hole permanently at a later date, just not to begin with. He’ll definitely take on set piece duties from Puncheon which is a nice bonus, but at this stage it’s a no from me. But, he’s high up on the watchlist for when Palace’s opening fixture nightmares subside…
Georginio Wijnaldum. Midfielder. 7.0m
Bit a sentimental pick this one. Anybody who has spent any time playing Football Manager will know who Wijnaldum is… I’ve lost count how many times I purchased him in the many variations of the game over the years, with one memorable season sticking in mind where he led Everton to Champions League glory on the back of a 30 goal season. Good times… Wait, where was I? Yeah sorry… The real life version of Wijnaldum won’t be hitting those heady heights. Especially early doors in a Newcastle team who has a bucketload of work to do in turning around the poorest of form they showed in the second half of last season.
This is one of those situations where last season’s stats won’t paint the whole picture… He was playing in the same team as Memphis Depay and you may recall my piece on him last week, and the incredible number of shots he took. The by product of that is his teammates weren’t getting as much of a chance in that area as normally. With that in mind, he was still able to score 40 times in 109 starts for the club over 4 seasons, with 2 x 14 goals in 33 game seasons. Not bad for a central midfielder!
It’s not easy to gauge how new Gaffer McClaren will roll out his new team but early indications show a common 4-2-3-1 will be the way they start off with. Where Wijnaldum sits in this formation isn’t immediately apparent however. He’s equally capable of playing as the 10, or as a box-to-box midfielder coming from deeper. His role at PSV was more the latter, but he did score goals from there as well as in Newcastle’s most recent friendly. But, De Jong has played as 10 so far and it won’t take long for him to injure himself and free up that position! Keep an eye on the remaining preseason games I guess…
At 7.0m he is awkwardly priced. Up against the popular Henderson, the hit and miss Mirallas and the up and coming Tadic, he isn’t going to be in many teams. But is that a bad thing? I’m a firm believer in that we should go with 1 cheaper POD to begin with, could Wini start off with a bang?
See you all next week!