The Top Dogs from the Underdogs
Often overlooked in favour of the established performers, Simon Deeley from @GalacticoEleven analyses three newly promoted stars who could help you steal an early march on the competition.
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Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)
Second only to the prolific Chris Wood in the Championship goal scoring charts, 23 goal-Dwight Gayle leads the way as the top marksman from the promoted clubs. Despite injuries, Gayle cemented himself as Newcastle’s top striker and showed a growing maturity to his game which was less apparent during a spell at Palace which yielded only 15 goals over 3 seasons (although Palace fans tend to agree he wasn’t given enough game-time to make his mark). With a confidence boosting season under his belt, Gayle looks far better equipped for another attack on the Premier League and to finally realise the exciting potential he showed in his earlier years.
Those considering Gayle will of course need to watch Newcastle’s transfer activity carefully, as the marquee signing of a top striker could leave Gayle’s guaranteed starting spot in some doubt. Newcastle’s recent interest in Tammy Abraham is a clear signal of Benitez’s intent to bolster the goal-scoring ranks at St James’ Park. By the same token, a high-profile and established strike partner could bring the best out of Gayle and establish a prolific strike-pairing in the North-East.
Fast, intense, attacking football was the hallmark of Benitez’s time at Liverpool – and Newcastle led the way as joint top-goalscorers in the Championship last term. The Magpies boast the attacking talent to suggests they will pose the greatest goal threat of all the promoted sides and when taken together with Newcastle’s kind start to the season (Huddersfield, West Ham, Swansea, Stoke and Brighton provide the opposition in 5 of the first 6 fixtures) and a likely low FPL valuation – Gayle could be the striker to make the difference and ensure you set the early pace in your mini-league.
Anthony Knockaert (Brighton and Hove Albion)
The EFL Championship Player of the Year reigned supreme with a hugely impressive haul of 15 goals and 8 assists. Likely to be designated as a midfielder in the official FPL game, Knockaert’s attacking prowess singles him out as the go-to midfielder from the promoted clubs.
Unlike Gayle, Knockaert’s position in the Brighton side is essentially guaranteed irrespective of Brighton’s transfer activity. He is quite simply the star-man. Despite being a somewhat unknown quantity in the Premier League, a career goal scoring record of almost 1 goal every 4.5 games marks the 25 year old Frenchman out as the man who will be pivotal in Brighton’s first ever EPL campaign.
Knockaert’s performances last season were characterised by expert delivery (from both open play and set-pieces), the third most dribbles in the league and a unique combination of both flair and consistency. History tells us that promoted clubs tend to perform strongly in the early part of the season when the ‘unknown quantity effect’ is at its most stark. Despite a tough opener against Manchester City, the fixtures which follow are kind to Brighton and Knockaert. Intriguingly, Brighton’s first away visit is to Knockaert’s old club, Leicester, where in time-honoured tradition a goal is almost to be expected. This is followed by a visit to Watford, where Knockaert will no doubt be eager erase the memory of his famous last-minute penalty miss at Vicarage Road which cost Leicester a place in the 2013 play-off final.
West Brom (H), Bournemouth (A) and Newcastle (H) round off Brighton’s first 6 fixtures and Knockaert could well prove to be a shrewd acquisition who more than justifies what could be a bargain price tag.
Tommy Smith (Huddersfield Town)
Whilst defenders from the newly promoted clubs are generally best avoided, we’re happy to make an exception for The Terriers’ Tommy Smith. Banking an incredible 4 goals and 10 assists (joint second) in the Championship last season, Smith is included for his attacking prowess rather than Huddersfield’s ability to keep clean sheets.
Fantasy football bosses are highly familiar with the impact of defenders who do more than just defend. The exploits of Charlie Daniels and Gareth McAuley prove it isn’t just the big clubs where defenders can flourish at the top end of the pitch – and Smith could be the next man to add his name to this list of fantasy football favourites.
The impact of David Wagner on Smith’s game can’t be overlooked. Prior to the German’s arrival he hadn’t scored a single goal in his previous 3 seasons at the club. With Wagner recently signing a new deal, Smith again looks set to be given licence to roam on the right side of Huddersfield’s defence.
Smith appears to be yet another promoted player who could benefit from favourable early fixtures. Huddersfield don’t meet a side from last season’s top 7 until Gameweek 7 and early home fixtures with Newcastle, Southampton and Leicester could prove fruitful to Huddersfield and Smith in the early weeks of the season.
Smith’s valuation will be one to watch and his performances last season could make him the most expensive of the newly promoted defenders. However, with clean sheets often in short supply for the EPL newcomers, the ability to accrue goal and assist points can prove an invaluable asset making the additional outlay more than worthwhile. Accepting the jump in class to the Premier League, any defender who can boast a goal or assist every 3 or so games has to at least make the shortlist.
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