Whilst many fantasy managers and Premier League fans will be keen to follow how players such as Raheem Sterling and Trent Alexander-Arnold fare in pre-season with their respective clubs, there are a number of less obvious names and club situations that are worth keeping tabs on and some which I believe are going under the radar.
1 – Kevin De Bruyne
Admittedly we start with what is not an obscure name, however, the Belgian was the forgotten man of the 2018/19 season after his campaign was thrawted by injury, with him suffering a torn knee ligament as well as suffering from thigh problems and a hamstring injury. He played just 968 minutes, scoring 2 goals and providing 3 assists. In the 3 seasons prior to the last, De Bruyne scored a total of 21 goals and registered 49 assists and became one of the league’s finest players. With Raheem Sterling having back-to-back fantastic seasons, it is easy to forget about the now fit again De Bruyne, however, of great significance is that Sterling starts the season priced at £12.0m, whereas the Belgian comes in at a reduced price of £9.5m, providing a £2.5m saving.
If De Bruyne can re-discover his finest form, he will provide fantastic value and a viable alternative to his premium asset teammate. If there are early signs of this happening in pre-season or during the first few weeks of the start of the season, the £2.5m saving could be hugely beenficial in order to allow you to boost your overall team balance, providing you feel comfortable with De Bruyne as a captaincy alternative to Salah/Kane.
2 – The Chelsea Strikers
Last season was one to forget for the forwards at Chelsea, with Morata and Higuain scoring just 5 goals each and Giroud adding another 2. This season however, sees a big shift in the options available, with both Morata and Higuain leaving the club/not signing permanently. With their transfer ban in full operation, Chelsea are unable to buy a new striker, meaning that they will be relying on recalled loanees (Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham). Batshuayi spent a troubled half of the season in Spain playing for Valencia (1 goal), before returning to the Premier League to finish the season with Crystal Palace (6 goals). Abraham was the main man up top for newly promoted Aston Villa, scoring 26 goals with 3 assists in his 40 Championship appearances.
Lampard has three very capable strikers to choose from (Batshuayi, Abraham and Giroud), so hopefully pre-season will give us some indication as to who he favours as his first choice Premier League striker. In an ideal world for the fantasy manager, Lampard wil choose one as the main league striker, one for the cups and one as an impact substitute rather than regular rotation across all competitions. At the time of writing this article, Batshuayi scored the only Chelsea goal in their 1-1 draw with Bohemians, however, Abraham and Giroud were not involved in the game. The prices of Batshuayi and Abraham have not yet been released, however, Giroud’s £7.0m price tag suggests that they will both be priced similarly. Keep an eye out for my entire pre-season round-up on this site and on my Twitter.
3 – Andriy Yarmolenko + Chicharito
The West Ham pair, Yarmolenko and Chicharito, have recently had their numbers changed from 20 to 7 and 17 to 9 respectively, suggesting that Manuel Pellegrini sees them as key men for the Hammers in the upcoming season. Yarmolenko was another whose 18/19 campaign was scuppered by injury, after he suffered a ruptured achilles tendon, having scored 2 goals with 1 assist in his first 5 Premier League starts. He impressed me a lot in the small amount of league time he got and with a £6.0m FPL price tag, I really believe he could end up being a bargain and is certainly one to monitor over pre-season.
It is also worth keeping an eye on West Ham’s transfer activity as if they do not manage to sign a new striker, it seems likely that Chicharito will become the new main man. The Mexican is not lacking Premier League experience, having previously played for Manchester United and has 52 Premier League goals to his name. There were strong links with Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez, however a deal seems to have fallen through at this point in time. Recent links have now been made with Mario Balotelli and Duvan Zapata from Atalanta, but if these moves fail to come to fruition, Chicharito could also become a bargain at the same price as his Ukrainian teammate.
4 – Dwight McNeil
19-year-old, Dwight McNeil, was given his chance to impress by Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, and did so immediately, quickly cementing his place into the team in the second half of last season. In 19 starts, he managed 3 goals and 5 assists, therefore contributing an attacking return every 0.42 starts. For comparitive purposes, James Maddison managed an attacking contribution every 0.4 starts. Being able to record decent figures so quickly after starting Premier League football combined with his young age suggest that he has a bright future ahead of him, one containing plenty more goals and assists. His £6.0m price tag is a little frustrating as £5.5m maximum is what I had hoped for, but I still believe he has the potential to justify this price tag and his role in the team and performances are definitely things to follow over pre-season.
Written by Nick Pasquet
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nick_FootballPA