Summer stories that catch the eye (vol. 3)

With the Premier League season over, the summer of speculation is here. Fantasy heads like us are eagerly following the rumour mills and checking regularly for news. With that in mind, here’s our third 5 asides of the off-season (you can read the other two here), focusing on the summer stories that have caught our eye from a Fantasy Football point of view.

  1. Puel over, mister

The instigator of a very tidy Nice outfit in Ligue 1 was meant to bring a similar level of elegance to Southampton’s play when he took over last summer. But Claude Puel only saw fit to identify Nathan Redmond as the new Thierry Henry, before rowing back on this and signing FPL villain Manolo Gabbiadini at Xmas. He earned many a nickname amongst FPL managers last season for his blanktastic performances when he came back from injury, with Always Cheating’s term the “microtroll” both the most resonant and the most publishable. Indeed, some light Twitter bantz erupted around whether his profligacy caused Puel’s departure:

Whatever happens, the news that Southampton’s second fixture with West Ham has been suddenly reversed  means their opening schedule is really quite worth a look:
SWA WHU hud WAT pal

So much, then, hangs on the identity of the new manager. Alaves manager Mauricio Pellegrino (note: NOT Pellegrini formerly of Man City!) seems the man in the frame.

It looks like Pellegrino likes a bit of 4-2-3-1, which could raise questions over which of Austin or Gabbiadini is worthy of a look up top. The doubt could drive us to look at more solid assets. Could Dusan Tadic be liberated from defensive shackles on the wing and play as a “pure” no.10 again? Ryan Bertrand is always a class player. Will either of the cheap stars of last season, Yoshi and Stephens, start?

Our upcoming series of team profiles, called “fix up look sharp”, will look at them closer to the advent of the new season.

  1. Brighton family get new Neighbours

Aussie #1 Mat Ryan signed for Brighton for a reported club record fee on 16th June to be their new first choice keeper. Previous incumbent David Stockdale, who perhaps felt like he’d be replaced, opted to move on to Harry Redknapp’s revolution at Birmingham.

I remembered a really nice article I read in the Guardian in 2015 about Ryan, who has worked his way through the smaller leagues – starting off at Central Coast Mariners, before putting his time in at Brugge, which in turn led to his move to Valencia. However, finding himself down in the pecking order (behind Diego Alves), he went back to Belgium on a loan spell with Genk prior to Brighton signing him.

By all accounts, we always see the ‘keepers for promoted sides achieve some popularity in FPL, bringing with them the promise of a lot of save points and the occasional double-figure score if they manage to keep the clean sheet.

A lot will come down to the Socceroo’s valuation: a 5.0m may price him out of our reckoning from the outset, but a 4.5, with his backup Niki Maenpaa surely a 4.0, could see Ryan fit well into teams which are aiming to be cost effective at the back in order to obtain a higher value front 7. One to watch by all accounts.

  1. Salah Shaqiri switcheroo 

Rome bound?

With the news that ex-Chelsea man Mohamed Salah looks set to be Jurgen Klopp’s first signing of the summer , we’ll be sure to get a prospecting the prospects article out on him as soon as he is confirmed as a Liverpool player.

This looks to have set off an interesting transfer chain in motion, with local news outlet the Stoke Sentinel reporting that Roma – who look set to make more than £35m from Liverpool for their Egyptian winger – have made an approach for Swiss “alpine Messi” Xherdan Shaqiri. This appears to have been in the offing for a while, with links being made in the past between the two parties. A bit hit and miss last season with only 4 goals, 2 assists but spates of time out injured, it may be that we never see the best of him.

Either way, should that set of swaps come to be, it should be interesting to keep track of the knock-on effects – who will Stoke get in? Or will Ramadan Sobhi start? – as this kind of domino effect can often lead to other transfers that impact FPL.

(ps watch out for a prospecting the prospects article on Salah the moment that is confirmed!)

  1. The other J.Rodriguez

Though James (Hamez) Rodriguez could feasibly end up at any of the big clubs across Europe this summer, ex-Burnley man Jay Rodriguez, whose career has been ravaged by injury the last few years, seems to have found himself on many a wanted list. He did, in his full, breakout season for Saints, score 15 goals and supply 3 assists in a 152 point haul in 2013/14, though he may be looking for fresh surroundings to reboot his career after those unfortunate issues with fitness.

With a move to WBA perhaps on the horizon, it remains to be seen where he ends up playing if he does move. It could be that he, as he has been in the past, is played in support striker (replacing Saido Berahino) alongside serial woodwork-botherer Solomon Rondon.

If 6.0m – he started at 6.5m last season but ended up at 5.9m – and in midfield, he could potentially be a very strong out of position option for next year.

  1. New Fox in the hood

New big lad at the back

The signing of £17m new Fox – “big lad at the back” Harry Maguire – was confirmed in mid June. He’ll provide competition for title-winning, but ailing, centre back pairing of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, with Daniel Amartey stepping into the role with Morgan out for swathes of the season.

Last year, Maguire earned a reputation – particularly from the “eye test” – for unorthodox marauding runs forward from centre back. WhoScored data shows that he recorded 1.2 shots per game (spg) – 0.3 behind Marcos Alonso, but double the spg of top scoring defender Gary Cahill – – which is not to be sniffed at, especially with the slightly underrated Mark Albrighton feeding set pieces.

Despite only scoring 78 last season with relegated Hull (scoring 2 goals) across 29 matches, the feeling is that we were witnessing the emergence of a potentially dominant present at centre back for the English national team for years to come.

A price of 5.0m is likely, with a 4.5m valuation last time out, and with Leicester’s opening 5 reading ars BHA mnu CHE hud, it’s a decidedly mixed bag of fixtures and I’d wonder if we had the cash to spare to have him as a rotating option. The goal threat, though, means that we cannot rule him out entirely – it might be just for now, bedding into the new team, we keep an eye on him rather than bring him in.