The transfer window has just shut, bringing to a close possibly the greatest summer of spending ever seen in the Premier League. While big names, big fees and big clubs naturally catch the eye, there is a wealth of new players with low ownership, some of which have the capacity to deliver not just value but arguably outscore the heavy hitters. Here I’ve pinpointed 6 players who I’d characterize as credible differentials with considerable upside. All are below 7.9 in price, and all I would consider putting in my team if I only had a free transfer…
Steven Fletcher (7.0)
Fletcher is simply very good at one thing: poaching. With most of his goals coming from around the six-yard box, he makes Van Nistelrooy’s shooting look like David Beckham. Fletcher is particularly gifted in the air with numerous headed finishes. He was perhaps the only shining light in a woeful season for Wolves last year, grabbing 12 goals and 2 assists. Impressively, he demonstrated an immunity to fixtures, scoring against United and Arsenal to name a few. Having prospered with undistinguished service, Sunderland offer him the very real possibility of blowing that tally out of the water. With the signing of Adam Johnson, set to return soon after injury, Sunderland are ideally placed to service Fletcher by his favourite route: crosses. As partners in crime, he will have McClean and Johnson crossing from the wing, Larsson’s set pieces and Sessegnon supporting the striker with his personal brand of magic.
Of course, this is one differential that is rapidly ceasing to exist: Fletcher walked straight into the starting lineup just days after signing and scored twice in his debut in a tricky match away to Swansea, who hadn’t conceded yet. Both goals were classic poacher finishes. Fletcher is clearly sharp as a razor and hitting the ground running. In my view, he could be this year’s Papiss Cisse.
Arouna Kone (6.5) & Franco Di Santo (5.5)
Stereotypes have to be updated occasionally. Arsenal being poor at the back… Fulham only being good for home cleanies… Man City being chokers. For this particular differential, I think the relevant stereotype is that of Wigan being no-hopers. I won’t bore you to death with the glories of the formation change and Martinez’s positive football, but suffice to say, three games in, they are happily refusing to struggle. The difference this season is in the forward line. Last year, of the three forwards, Maloney played on the left, Moses in several positions including the right, and Di Santo as center-forward. With the sale of Moses and the arrival of Kone, Kone has become center-forward with Di Santo moving to the right. The effect has been pronounced – all three of the frontline have scored, with Di Santo notching twice and Kone scoring once. To see the full glory of the stats you should bag yourself an FFS membership, but suffice to say Kone’s stats so far at center-forward utterly blow Di Santo’s from last season out of the water. It may well be that both strikers have found their best positions.
In Chelsea’s galaxy of midfielders, Oscar has slipped under the radar somewhat due to the delightful distractions of Hazard and his understandable lack of early gametime. Even without knowing he has represented Brazil at virtually every level, become the first player to score a hat-trick in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final, scored in a friendly against Argentina, and provided all the goals in Brazil’s 2012 Olympic campaign alongside Neymar, you know from watching him once that he’s a supremely gifted player. He’s already been given two cameos of 27 minutes and 34 minutes against Wigan and Reading, though he stayed on the bench for the tricky visit of Newcastle. For me, Oscar is on course to become Hazard’s partner-in-crime in attacking midfield this season, with the two fluidly interchanging anywhere in the strip behind Torres. If we reasonably expect him to continue to be deployed against smaller teams, upcoming fixtures of qpr, STO, followed two weeks later by NOR, offer chances for him to explode. Definitely one to watch – this boy is coming to the back pages very soon.
Charlie Adam (6.8)
Adam going to Stoke is one of those transfers that seems like a perfect fit. Peter Crouch up front. A team built around crossing. A new central midfielder to sling in ‘Hollywood’ long balls. Liverpool were characterized as a failure last season and Adam has gone down with the ship in that regard with an ownership of only 1.3%. Adam’s record from last season is considerably better than you might expect. 2 goals and 11 assists is a particularly impressive return in a team which only scored 42 goals. Adam also played exclusively in deep central midfield in Dalglish’s ill-fated 4-2-3-1. At Stoke, he’ll be playing a little more advanced in the midfield two of a 4-4-2. There’s obviously very limited data from this season with only a 58 minute appearance, but his average position looks about as expected. Adam is on free kicks, while we may yet see if he establishes himself as a corner-taker. All these add up to improved assist potential relative to a season where he managed double-figure assists. He’s now 2.2 cheaper.
Pablo Hernandez (6.5)
With Laudrup’s Swansea playing sparkling attacking football and a good run of fixtures, any of their attacking assets has to be considered. Pablo Hernandez’s arrival is likely to oust Routledge playing on the left, instead of Dyer, particularly given that Routledge comes out inferior to Dyer on most stats so far this season. That’s not to say that Routledge has failed to deliver – with 3 assists and 1 goals he is currently a major scorer in FPL. Dyer and Routledge, as the wide midfielders in the attacking three, have prospered from Rodgers’ tactical change bringing them closer to the centre and increasing their involvement. The question is: what Hernandez can bring to the table? He certainly has some pedigree having played for Valencia, and his total time in La Liga yielded 19 goals and 22 assists from 139 appearances. It should be noted that a considerable fraction of these were off the bench – of his total appearances of 30, 27 and 33 in the last 3 seasons, he was subbed on for 11, 7 and 8 times respectively. If he can offer threat comparable to his compatriot Michu, he is definitely an option at 0.9 cheaper.