We’re back with some more work uncovering the virtues of some new faces to the EPL. As promised we’ve gone for a striker and a defender, and a *mumble mumble*…
Aleksandar Mitrovic. Striker. 6.5m
Anderlecht have a pretty good history of producing quality players, (Lukaku and Kompany spring to mind) and they haven’t failed us here. Newcastle dipped their toe into the transfer pool again to the tune of 13m with Mitrovic and he could well be the big, strong striker they’ve been missing since Alan Shearer retired.
Although cast in a similar physical mould as the great man, there are quite a few rough edges on this one that need smoothing out. One of them is that, reportedly, he’s a little bit crazy. Something you could never accuse Shearer of being! In fact Anderlecht went as far as to assign him a chaperone to keep him in toe. Example, in his first season he was red carded after the game for spitting towards opposition fans… Being a little bit crazy isn’t entirely a bad thing (spitting is, but he wasn’t close enough to hit anyone), we need more characters in the game! But with reports of him liking a bit a sulk at times too, it does make for a risky proposition. At only 20 years of age however, he’s got plenty of time to calm down…
Mitrovic has been on the radars of all the big EPL clubs over the past couple of seasons. Both Arsenal and United have scouted him, as well as Liverpool, and Jose himself even said, “that boy has everything to be a European star”… And with good reason, in his two seasons at Anderlecht he put away 36 goals in his 69 games. By all reports that should have been a heap more but for a bit of wastefulness in front of goal which is rough edge that will smooth out with time and maturity. What will become apparent very quickly is that if his teammates can get it into the box from wide areas, he’ll score. He’s a beast in the air.
Whether Newcastle have the sort of quality on the wings, or the marauding full backs to feed him is another question and one which is preventing me from putting too much thought into him early. They’ll probably be playing the likes of Gouffran, maybe Cabella or Ayoze, or the young Aarons out wide overlapped by Janmaat and Dummett or Haidara on the left. Only Janmaat out of those names really screams quality, Aarons will turn into something but he’s not done much just yet. They do have the excellent Colback feeding him set pieces though? Nah. It’s just not enough for me. Plus they play the top 4 sides of last season in their first 8 games, plus Southampton and Swansea, with a new gaffer and a new playing style (I hope, they didn’t have a style last season). It’ll be a tough initiation for him, he might score the odd goal in that run, but 6.5m is maybe 1.0m more than I would like to pay for him in FPL sight unseen.
Angelo Ogbonna. Defender. 5.0m
Bit of a left field choice here, but I thought he at least deserved the respect of some consideration… Although he’s commanded decent fees in his past couple of moves, a large piece of that was based on potential. He’s 27 now. At some stage potential needs to be realised and he’s not done that. He was part of an immense Juve side that won the title last season. But; he was 3rd/4th choice centre back; he was given heaps of chances throughout (started 18 games!); he’s been moved on. Basically, he was given his chance and he didn’t take it… On the flip side, any defender will tell you that continuity of games aids a defence in gelling and at West Ham he’ll get those games.
He’ll also have a handy mentor in Gaffer Bilic who was a very good defender in his day and can solidify their back 4. They’ll be playing a more pass orientated attacking style than before, whilst being compact and well organised at the back. Some gaffer stats… His last season at Besiktas they had an average of 55% of the ball with an 81% pass completion rate (compared to West Ham’s 46% and 75%). They won 11.9 aerial duels per game compared to West Ham’s 22.9… There will definitely be a shift, it depends on how quick this team can adapt and perform.
West Ham have had the makings of a good defence for a while. Although those hoping for cleanies would have be left very disappointed last season, they did concede the 7th least amount of goals last season with just 47 which is admirable. When you look at the most minuted centre backs from last season in Reid, Collins and Tompkins you think good solid pros who can defend, Ogbonna will bring something a bit different. His is a style that is a lot more “Rio Ferdinand” than “John Terry”. He likes a pass and will help Bilic implement a bit more of a passing style than Big Sam. Angelo’s got a pretty good pedigree too. He’s come from one of the best defending clubs in World Football. He’s got 10 caps for Italy. And has had Champions League experience. But, he’s prone to monumental lapses in concentration…
Sometimes it can be difficult to pick when all the defensive jigsaw pieces fit together and produce something special, but in West Ham I’m going to be keeping an eye on them early doors. Their first 4 home games have massive potential for clean sheets. Maybe ignore their away games!
Jeremain Lens. Midfielder. 6.5m
Sorry. I lied. One more midfielder before we put the Fresh Blood series back in the rack and move on… Jeremain Lens is an intriguing proposition. You may recall my bit on Payet and how I suggested that one of the better fresh bloods you can get in FPL is the first player a new gaffer buys? This trumps that. Although Lens isn’t the first player that “new” gaffer Advocaat bought whilst at Sunderland, for Lens it’s the second time he’s been bought by the him and at the third club he’s managed. I’m thinking the gaffer has a little footballer crush?
Lens has spent the past couple of seasons knocking about in the unfashionable Ukranian Premier League for Dynamo Kyiv for mostly mediocre returns. For a play of his talent I would’ve thought this would be a step down, and that he’d want to be bettering himself and be tested on a bigger stage. I haven’t bothered to look too far into the reasons why he detoured from the well trodden path of PSV to EPL, but he’s made it here eventually and he’s got some catching up to do.
Looking back at his returns, I’m going to be putting a line through the last two seasons… Firstly because they aren’t very good, but also because the years prior to the move are much more relevant. At both AZ and PSV he was managed by Advocaat, and put up some good figures. Operating all over their front line at PSV, he scored 34 goals and tallied 37 assists in his 96 league games. That’s whilst playing alongside some stat machines in Depay and Wijnaldum. He was keeping up with them…
It’s tough to gauge just yet how much the seasons in Ukraine have set him back, but in his first run out for his new club the other night he looked good from all reports. Sunderland have been screaming out for someone on the left wing who actually can create something, and they do have a tasty start to the season. If any of the fresh blood or transitioned players from the mid to lower table clubs is going to jump out of the blocks, it may well be Lens.
Fresh Blood done! Anyone fancy any of these? I’ve got a spot for a 6.0-6.5m midfielder and there’s a few to pick from… Don’t forget we’ll be putting out our team reveals late next week!