Early Gaffr Gambits 2021/22 – New Forwards
In the first installment of this series discussing the new players to the game from the Premier League and League One, I dissect the likely destinations, goal rates and current favourites of all the main forwards ahead of their pricing. It’s all guesswork at this early stage and much will change in the transfer market but it’s good to get ahead and scout the potential.
Fulham have mostly played a False 9 this season with midfielders Ivan Cavaleiro or Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing centrally. Scott Parker has chosen not to start proven goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, a trend that continued since the 2019/20 play-offs. ‘Mitro’, who scored 26 goals in the Championship two seasons ago, played a huge part in earning Fulham promotion over that season. The Serbian is only 26 years old and would be capable of doing the same in his second season in the Championship.
West Bromwich Albion’s current first choice striker is currently on loan. Mbaye Diagne is unlikely to leave Turkish giants Galatasary for the Championship, but scoring 3 and assisting 2 since January in a team lacking goals while proving to be a handful for defenders would not harm his appeal if he did.
Callum Robinson may be of interest at the right price if he nails down the striker position. You can expect Robinson to score at least double figures after scoring 5 from 20 Premier League starts, but it’s just a question of how many starts as a centre-forward he is allowed, having played mainly as a left winger under Allardyce and Bilic. Alternatively, you might favour Karlan Ahearne-Grant, a big money signing from Huddersfield after scoring 19 goals in the Championship in 2019/20. Like Robinson, Grant can also play as a left winger, where he started the majority of games for the Terriers, so it remains to be seen who will start at centre-forward for WBA if Diagne returns to his parent club. Either may start in the first choice team in August, but a natural centre-forward that can score 20+ goals is something West Brom lack without Diagne and will surely be a position they invest in after releasing Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin.
Almost all of the Sheffield United forward options have both played in the Championship before- two of them for Swansea. Ollie McBurnie played in a Swans team in transition under Graham Potter in 2018/19 in their first season after relegation from the top flight. Potter left for Brighton at the end of that season and McBurnie was signed by newly promoted Sheffield United for a then club record fee. Steve Cooper took over from Graham Potter at Swansea and signed Rhian Brewster on loan from Liverpool in January 2020. Brewster scored 10 in 20 but went through hot streaks and dry spells in that time. He seems very much a ‘confidence player’ and was unable to recapture his form in the Premier League for the Blades and failed to score a single goal after being the subject of the club breaking their transfer record for the youngster. McBurnie scored 22 in 42 (with pens) in the Championship in 18/19, which are similar numbers to Kieffer Moore at Cardiff or Lucas Joao at Reading last season.
However, due to the lack of service from midfield for Sheffield United in the Premier League and Brewster being out of favour under Chris Wilder, McBurnie and Brewster failed to form a good partnership. The club are unlikely to receive similar fees to what they paid for both so both might stay beyond the summer window, unless United are willing to accept loan deals. It remains to be seen who will be the first choice centre-forward under new manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who favours a 4-3-3 formation, but a lot will depend on who stays and who leaves as they are currently overstocked in forward positions.
We must not forget Billy Sharp. The 35 year old was United’s top scorer with 24 goals in 42 Championship games in their 2nd place finish to gain promotion three seasons ago. There is also Lys Mousset, who was top scorer in 2019/20 but has struggled with injuries throughout his time at Brammall Lane. Ollie Burke was used sparingly, despite showing glimpses of pace and making and scoring the winning goal away at Manchester United. Next season might be too soon for 17 year-old striker Daniel Jebbison, who scored in his first start v Everton, but a clearout would see him rise up the pecking order.
A word of caution on Sheffield United’s strikers is that they were constantly rotated under Wilder and Heckingbottom and there is plenty of competition at present. Brewster only completed 90 minutes in two of his 25 league starts. McBurnie only made 12 starts and Ollie Burke was either subbed on or off in every one of his Premier League appearances. David McGoldrick was the only regular starter of Sheffield United’s vast forward options. He was used in a more withdrawn role last season and was more of a link player than a goalscorer, but still finished the season as top scorer with 8 league goals.
Jonson Clarke-Harris comes into the Championship having scored 31 goals in 46 games for Peterborough. Ivan Toney, last season’s Championship top scorer and all time record scorer with 31 goals also made the step up from League One after playing for Peterborough. This is an exciting link, but not a direct comparison as Toney was leading the line for promotion-chasing Brentford, whereas Peterborough are newly promoted. Clarke-Harris comes up with a bigger reputation than almost any League One striker apart from Toney. We might be able to expect at least double figures in goals for Clarke-Harris if he stays fit throughout the season, as he has done in 2020/21, starting all but one game for The Posh.
Josh Magennis scored 19 goals for Hull last season, but their top scorer was Mallik Wilks, who takes penalties. Wilks is a right winger though, so is one for a discussion about new midfielders to the league. Magennis was poor in the Championship for Hull in 2019/20, scoring just 4 in 29 and has only hit double figures for goals in a season once in his career.
Blackpool are the third promoted club, who usually play with two forwards. Jerry Yates scored 20 goals and laid on 6 assists in 41 League One starts. Ellis Simms had a similar goals per game rate with 8 league goals from 17 starts, but has been recalled by Everton and given a new contract after his loan ended. CJ Hamilton (5 goals in 19 starts) and Gary Madine (4 goals in 15 starts) will need to step up if Blackpool can’t replace Simms.
In summary, I feel all the relegated forwards mentioned will be priced at a premium in Gaffr between 8.0-10.0 having played at a higher level, with Mitrovic maybe more than that due to his proven track record if he stays. Clarke-Harris is the stand-out promoted asset and should be of interest as an enabler at 6.0 or below.
Thanks for reading.
By Kyle, @StokeGaffr