Barely a day goes by without a Premier League match right now and we're trying to prepare for a new match week in fantasy every couple of days as well. While that has been fantastic for those who are staying home more than normal as we try to comply with public health recommendations, it hasn't given us a great deal of time to start looking ahead to next season. The restart has brought some very interesting developments as some younger players are getting chances to play while we're also getting more clarity as to who might be on their way out to either a better situation elsewhere in the Premier League and/or opening up an opportunity for someone else.
Please recognize that this isn't a scientific exercise (I certainly do) but rather a jump into how to spend your time over the final two match weeks if you're out of the running in your current salary cap, draft, and/or auction leagues. You could do worse than picking some up-and-coming prospects to watch to decide for yourself if they're worth investing in for next season.
Everton's Central Attacking Midfielder/Gylfi Sigurdsson
It is always hard to let go when one of your fantasy crushes starts to fade. Gylfi Sigurdsson, especially during both tours of duty at Swansea, was one of our favorites here at Rotoworld. He might not be the best athlete among Premier League players but in terms of fantasy production, he was a stud. Even better, he gave us two undervalued seasons, first when he broke onto the scene with the Swans and then when he returned from his failed attempt to jump to a higher level of competition at Spurs. Throw in the wonderful Euro underdog heroics from he and his Icelandic teammates, what's not to love? With the Toffees and Sigurdsson looking like they're headed for a divorce given his massive drop in production and playing time, the question is whether he has a third undervalued season in him.
What seems clear is that Sigurdsson, either due to the natural aging process or lack of stylistic fit, isn't working under Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Given that Sigurdsson was never terribly athletic, it seems hard to believe that losing a step has cost him productivity. More likely, Everton just need something different from that spot. If I were a bottom half or newly promoted side shopping for a bargain, I'd be going all in on Sigurdsson. If that comes to pass, fantasy managers should be on the lookout for a great bargain as many will likely assume that our man Gylfi is past it.
The other question is what happens with Everton's rudderless attack. Despite having spent a ton of money in recent seasons, the Toffees seem to be floundering for the lack of a player to coordinate their attack. In Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Toffees have some talent going forward but they don't appear to have someone to give order to their moves forward. Lucas Digne creates chances from the left as Leighton Baines did before him but absent Sigurdsson's eye for and ability to deliver a pass from the middle of the park, the attackers too often seem starved for service. A mere 15 shots on target over six matches since the restart (I'm not counting the big production day against Norwich City since they're not really a Premier League side at this point) speaks to an attack that just isn't functioning very well. The positive is that if they can get someone in who can start to orchestrate a coherent attack then Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, and the new attacking midfielder might all be undervalued in draft and salary cap formats.
Kids Breaking Through
This time of year there are always some kids who are starting to break into our consciousness, here's a rundown of some of them with what we've seen so far and what their prospects might be for next season:
- Mason Greenwood - Wow, he's really asserted himself since the restart. The reputation as one to watch was already there before we paused but he really started to show that he can do it now and not just potentially being "one for the future". The only concern ahead of next season is Manchester United's seeming obsession with bringing in Jadon Sancho. Of the three current attackers, Greenwood is presumably the one that would make way for the former Manchester City trainee. He might still pick up 8-ish goals in an extremely potent attack as a reserve, especially if United finish fourth and are rotating their attackers to ensure Champions League progression, but that's not nearly as valuable as if he were to spend the season starting which could see him double that total.
- Bukayo Saka - It seems clear that Saka is going to be a very good player for Arsenal. A goal and six assists in approximately half a season's worth of minutes across a variety of positions as a 18-year-old speaks to great potential. The two big questions that will dictate his value next season are 1) is he listed as a defender or a midfielder; and 2) where does he actually play and who else do Arsenal have there? If he's listed as a defender, the position he broke in playing when Tierney and Kolasinac were injured, then he's going to have massive fantasy potential especially because it seems likely that he'll play a more advanced role than that. The question of where he plays going forward is also an interesting one with Kieran Tierney looking locked in at left back and Arteta having to choose three from Aubameyang, Lacazette, Nketiah, Pepe, Nelson, and Saka. Saka has played some centrally so it may be that Saka's minutes next season will be very much dependent on whether the club sells one of Aubameyang or Lacazette and what happens with Dani Ceballos (or a potential replacement like Thomas Partey). Either way, it feels like the hype on Saka will lead to him being overpriced/overdrafted not because he isn't talented but because it seems likely that his opportunities will be something less than those of a full-time starter.
- James Justin - James Justin has been given his chance due to the knee injury suffered by Ricardo Pereira in March. Justin has done a nice job filling in had produced some solid fantasy numbers for someone whose salary cap price is that of a reserve not expected to play. The problem heading into next season is that a) his salary cap will probably rise and b) Pereira will likely be back before too long. As a temporary solution in salary cap games, Justin will probably be a good, but slightly-less-good-than-this-season, bargain. For draft, he's likely to be nothing more than insurance against Pereira taking longer than expected to recover.
- Luke Thomas - On the other side of the Leicester City defense, Luke Thomas debuted yesterday against Sheffield United and produced an assist. I know, I know, small sample sizes and all. The reason I even mention him is that Ben Chilwell's name has been connected with a big money move to Manchester City or Chelsea and that could leave the left back spot open for England youth international. If Chilwell remains out with his foot injury it is well worth watching Thomas' performances to see what the Foxes have already on hand if Chilwell leaves over the summer.
- Ben Osborn - Another rising youngster on display in the Leicester City vs. Sheffield United match yesterday was Ben Osborn. Osborn has been starting frequently in the Blades' recent matches and has been part of some good and not-so-good collective efforts. As far as fantasy prospects, I wouldn't get too excited. if you're playing a Togga-style league he is a fringe starter/reserve midfielder who will consistently contribute peripheral stats like interceptions and tackles won but he doesn't create much going forward and certainly doesn't seem likely to start bringing end product. As with so many of his Sheffield United colleagues, what he does seems to be effective but not terribly flashy from a fantasy point-of-view.
- Reece James - I have to admit that I was an early rider on the Reece James Bandwagon. Unfortunately, the wheels have come off of said bandwagon a little bit here recently. The speed, power, and attacking potential are all still firmly in place but the defensive understanding/willingness/ability seems to be the thing holding him back. If this were a mid-table side then they'd just live with the growing pains and you could probably expect 30 or more starts next season. With the money the Blues have already invested in transfers, the defensive frailties that they've shown since the restart, and the expectations of the club to improve on a points total that has been stagnating in recent seasons, depending on a still-learning right back might be too much to expect. I'm sure James will get some chances to continue to develop but expecting him to take a large step forward in playing time is probably more than I'd be willing to commit to.
- Phil Foden - Perhaps the poster child for this discussion. With David Silva moving on there's a massive hole in the Manchester City central midfield to be filled. Foden has been excellent in the time he's been given but there remains a significant question to be asked. Now that City are going to be eligible for the Champions League again, are they comfortable with Foden being THE replacement for an all-time club legend like Silva? It is reasonable that they'd prioritize center back and left back over a high priced Silva-replacement. It is also reasonable to think that they could close ranks with Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne playing the bulk of the central midfield minutes ahead of Rodri with Foden still working his way in against lesser opponents. Due to the hype, there will be a rush to assume that Foden is going to get minutes and produce like Silva in the Spaniard's absence. It is certainly not impossible but I suspect we're in for something that looks more like a transition year than a full inheritance of a starting role. City may produce enough goals that Foden is worth his salary/draft slot but expect him to come at a dear salary and have some potential to under-perform after a season of over-performing his cost.
Other Random Transitions
- Mauricio Pochettino - It feels weird to have to give Steve Bruce credit for anything managerial but he's done a nice job at Newcastle this season with only so-so talent and an overall club situation that certainly didn't scream "success". It hasn't been particularly pretty but it has been effective enough that they've been clear of the drop almost since the beginning of the restart. The interesting thing to contemplate is what might happen should the rumored arrival of Mauricio Pochettino happen in the wake of the club's takeover by the much-discussed Saudi group. Regardless of what you think of their potential rostered percentages, we know Pochettino has been successful in creating not only good outcomes in the table but some good fantasy stories. With his typical reliance on outside backs as the source of chances, it is reasonable to expect that guys like Danny Rose or DeAndre Yedlin - both of whom were at Spurs while Pochettino was there - could profit. A change of rostered percentages would likely lead to a lot of transfer activity so there's no guarantee that either player will start in a newly aligned squad but, if one does, it could be an interesting opportunity for a fantasy bargain.
- Adama Traoré/Wolves wide left attack - There is no doubt that Adama Traoré can be unplayable when he's at his best. While there have been some awkward moments during the restart, the bet is that if Traore is still at the Molineux come next season that he's starting far more often than not. The interesting question comes if Liverpool or City or someone else make a massive offer for the former Barcelona man. Daniel Podence has been good when given a chance recently and it wouldn't be hard to argue that Wolves have actually been better when either using only two attackers for the first 60 minutes and then bringing on Traore late to run at tired outside backs or playing three up top (including Podence or Neto in place of Traore) and then bringing Traore in as part of a like-for-like substitution for the same "running at tired defenders" advantage. Given how the market is valuing Traore, it will be tough not to start him but there is some interesting potential value next season if he leaves or if Nuno can stick to the strategy that has been most effective this season and uses Traore as a super-sub more often than as a starter.
- Jay Rodríguez - Rodriquez has had a funny career. Since the 2013-14 season when he broke through with 15 goals in 33 appearances for Southampton, things have largely been going in the wrong direction. He tore his ACL toward the end of that season and his next three seasons at Southampton he could never get quite right. A move to West Brom didn't yield much in their relegation season but it's hard to put that on him too much as there were clearly a lot of things that contributed to their drop. His season in the Championship saw a healthy season (45 appearances) and a return to his goal scoring best (22 goals). It was enough to inspire his boyhood club Burnley to take a chance on a rebound. The first half of his return to the Premier League this season was mostly made up of cameo appearances of 20 minutes or less. Since Week 23 he has started all but one match and scored 5 goals in 13 matches. Extrapolated over a full season, that's a 13 - 15 goal pace which would put him at the bottom end of the top ten forwards in the PL.com fantasy scoring system. If you're looking for next season's version of Danny Ings, this is a good place to start.
As the transfer window plays out, I'm sure there will be plenty of other, similar stories to discuss as players see opportunities open up in front of them or get filled out from under their noses. We'll be here to evaluate the moves and the statements from managers and try to help you understand how it will impact fantasy values.