Early Gaffr Gambits 2021/22 – New Midfielders

Early Gaffr Gambits 2021/22 – New Midfielders

Midfield can be a minefield at the start of a new season in any fantasy football game and Gaffr is no different. One thing is for sure is there is often a lot of potential from clubs new to the league. I’m going to try and help you separate the wheat from the chaff from the current players from the Championship new boys.

The Relegated Ones

There are various midfield options at the relegated clubs, starting with Fulham. As mentioned in my forwards article, Ivan Cavaleiro could play as a False 9 pending Mitrovic moving clubs, though he wasn’t too successful in terms of goal returns playing centrally, with just 3 goals and 0 assists. Cavaleiro scored 6 goals and made 7 assists the last time he played in the Championship for Fulham in 2019/20 from his usual wide position, which is low for a promotion chasing team. Tom Cairney is reportedly wanted by former boss Jokanovic at Sheffield United. The playmaker has attacking qualities best shown at Championship level. His 8 goals, mainly from shots outside the box, and 3 assists in 19/20 is a good representation of this.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek also played some games in that position but the ex-England international is unlikely to return after his disappointing loan spell and Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina are likely to be loaned out to top level clubs. There are currently relatively few options from Fulham as they have failed to secure Ademola Lookman on a permanent basis, but that is expected to change in the transfer market.

Digging a little deeper, Bobby Decordova-Reid finished last season in good form after managing 2 attacking returns in the final 3 games. Reid played the majority of last season either as a wide midfielder or as a winger, positions from where he picked up all his 8 goal involvements (5 goals, 3 assists), so should he keep his place he could be a worthwhile midfield pick in Gaffr. In the centre of Fulham’s attacking midfield is Fabio Carvalho. The 21 year old added to his impressive contributions in Premier League 2 with a goal in his first of 2 league starts in the first team towards the end of the season after relegation was confirmed, which suggests Scott Parker may include him in his Championship plans.

West Bromwich Albion’s Grady Diangana averaged an attacking return every 124 minutes in their promotion season, a comparable rate to Pereira’s 120 minutes per return and as many goals (8) in much fewer minutes due to recurring hamstring injuries. Diangana is a pacey, tricky winger with an eye for goal, as is Matt Phillips, who have both proven to be ‘too good for the Championship’ (at least 12 Championship returns) but ‘not good enough for the Premier League’ (less than 5 Premier League returns) in the last two years. Diangana and Phillips occupied opposite flanks under Bilic, but there is no obvious place for either winger under Chris Wilder, one of the favourites for the vacant job, who prefers two forwards (likely Ahearne-Grant and Robinson) and specialist wing backs to wingers. Lincoln City’s Michael Appleton and ex-Huddersfield and Schalke boss David Wagner deploy inverted wingers and are also tipped for the job at the Hawthorns.

West Brom arrive back in the Championship with the same midfield they had when they crept over the line the season before last. Their talisman Matheus Pereira played a huge part in their promotion and showed his talents in the Premier League, so much so he is expected to remain at a higher level. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was a temporary bright spark but also showed himself to be above their level, midfielder Sam Field has joined QPR after a successful loan and young winger Kyle Edwards has been released, which leaves the Baggies somewhat depleted in midfield and in need of new players. Unfortunately for Gaffr managers, West Brom’s centre mid pairing of Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers is unlikely to contribute many returns.

Sheffield United have released out of contract John Lundstram and will accept the highest offer for Sander Berge, but John Fleck and Oliver Norwood remain from the team that finished 9th in the Premier League just two seasons ago. Norwood is a set-piece expert with respectable returns in each of his Championship seasons with Reading, Brighton, Fulham and Sheffield Utd. Norwood averaged 8 attacking returns per season at those clubs at second tier level, earning promotion as a key player at the latter 3 clubs. The deep-lying midfielder interestingly returned his career average of 8 returns (5 goals and 3 assists) when he played under new Blades boss Jokanovic for Fulham in 2017/18. Except in 2019/20, John Fleck delivers less goals but more assists. The Scotland centre mid had 4 goals and 18 assists across his two seasons in the Championship as an almost ever-present in Chris Wilder’s 3-5-2 system as one of the two central holding players. Both assets are partial to a yellow card.

The Blades are desperately short of wingers due to the squad being built for the 3-5-2 system. Of the entire current squad, only Ben Osborn, who played left midfield at Championship level with Nottingham Forest before moving to Brammall Lane and being converted into a left wing back, Jayden Bogle (primarily a right wing-back), Rhian Brewster and Oliver Burke (primarily strikers) would be able to transition to wing roles due to their pace. This is something for them to work on in the transfer market.

The Promoted Ones

The three promoted clubs have assets to look at as they will come in at affordable prices. Hull were the league leaders. Mallik Wilks bagged 21 times over the League One season from wide with the help of being on penalties, along with 8 assists. Keane Lewis-Potter is another talented youngster who was unable to help keep Hull in the division two seasons ago after Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki left for bigger things, but his 13 goals and 9 assists helped the club retrieve their Championship status. George Honeyman had a tidy 4 goals and 14 assists from centre mid but his 12 yellow cards affect his appeal. Wilks and Lewis-Potter are more attractive fantasy options.

Peterborough were the league’s highest scoring team with 83 goals last season. Over 50% of these were scored by either Siriki Dembele, an attacking midfielder, or their centre forward Clarke-Harris. They played in a front 2 on 15 occasions out of Dembele’s 42 appearances according to Transfer Markt. Dembele scored 11 league goals and was an equally efficient assister, with 12 assists as Posh’s attacking combination proved too good for third tier level. The rest of the goals and assists were shared out around the team.

Play-off winners Blackpool’s attacking strengths were mainly about their forwards and not their midfield, particularly after switching to a 3-5-2. Sullay Kaikai was the best of their midfielders with 7 goals and 8 assists from 33 starts. He will play on the wing in a 4-4-2 or as one of the front 2 in a 3-5-2, where he started in the play-off semi final first leg. Ironically, after a season with so few goals from midfield, Kenny Dougall scored both goals from the edge of the area in the play-off final after only scoring 1 goal in the entire season. Maybe Dougall was due a goal, but allowing Dougall and midfield partner Grant Ward, who also only scored once last season, to get forward more might be a tactic Neil Critchley tries more often in the Championship.

In summary, it will help you out in Gaffr to see the incomings at these new Championship clubs to help you work out who will fit into which positions to fill gaps in each team’s starting line-ups before the start of the season. For now I have highlighted the most favourable Gaffr options from those likely to stay put at their current club.

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