An early differential can make a huge difference to an FPL season, but finding them before the Premier League season begins can always prove difficult. Here’s a handful of names that may be worth a watch.
JACK O’CONNELL (SHEFFIELD UTD)
For those didn’t follow Sheffield United’s climb to second in the Championship last season, you mightn’t be aware of the side’s “overlapping centre-back” tactic. For large parts of the campaign, the Blades utilised a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 formation to push forward, the wide-men in midfield working as wing-backs. However, contrary to normal wing-backs, these players (often Enda Stevens and Chris Basham) would cut inside rather than looking for width when attacking. That width would come from two of the three centre-backs, John Egan left alone at the back, who would run the overlap.
One of those players running the overlap is Jack O’Connell. A centre-back known not only for his defensive prowess, but his crossing ability which led to four assists last time out. That, alongside three goals picked up (two with his head and one with his left-foot), make for pretty impressive attacking returns for a centre-back.
Clearly, whether Sheffield United are daring enough to employ the same risky attacking moves at a higher level remains to be seen, and an opening seven fixtures which include trips to Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool is enough to leave O’Connell’s name on the back burner. The arrival of Phil Jagielka could also throw a spanner in the works if Chris Wilder plumps for experience. Nonetheless, watching United’s moves in the opening weeks could be a good pointer for when fixtures turn peachy in December.
HARVEY BARNES (LEICESTER CITY)
A mere one goal and two assists in 16 Premier League appearances for Harvey Barnes last season is easily deceiving when it comes to the youngster’s potential this time out. Only three of those appearances were for a full 90 minutes and he still managed to fire plenty shots off (as the scouts highlighted on Thursday) and is very highly thought of amongst Leicester fans.
Priced at 6.0, FPL have put Barnes on a pedestal with the likes of Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Eric Lamela for a reason. Classified as a midfielder, the Leicester man could well have fallen into the attacker bracket with his attacking mind. The 21-year-old was one of the stand-outs in the Foxes’ pre-season draw with Rotherham United and City fans want to see him play. If he can outmuscle Marc Albrighton, which is very possible, Barnes could be a great way into a Leicester side who look set for a solid season.
GLENN MURRAY (BRIGHTON)
An age of 35-years-old seems to be enough to sway a lot of people away from Glen Murray ahead of the 2019/20 season. Although, that may not be so wise. Netting 13 goals last time out, one more than in 2017/18, Murray has continued to find the net in pre-season with two goals to his name in a few short run-outs. The arrival of £15 million creative force Leandro Trossard only serves to help too – he picked up three assists against Birmingham City last week.
As Brighton prepare to welcome West Ham, Southampton and Burnley to the Amex in the opening five game weeks, who have mustered a mere three clean sheets between them during pre-season fixtures, Murray could be a canny pick. For sure, Brighton must learn not to rely on the veteran to avoid the drop, but every year people question the talisman’s age. And every year he delivers.
JEFFREY SCHLUPP (CRYSTAL PALACE)
Always a popular out of position punt when classified as a defender, there’s still reason to be tempted by Crystal Palace’s Jeffrey Schlupp. As Wilfried Zaha looks ever more likely to be making his way to Goodison Park, Roy Hodgson has been pushing Schlupp up top with Christian Benteke. The Belgian has spoken positively of the new striking relationship, picking up on Schlupp’s desire to run in behind. And, despite Benteke’s poor form in front of goal, he won more battles in the air per challenge than the likes of Harry Kane, Callum Wilson and Romelu Lukaku – the former Liverpool man’s aerial prowess could lean in Schlupp’s favour.
Whether or not Schlupp is still an out of position option does depend on Zaha’s future. If the winger stays, Schlupp isn’t a tempting option. If he goes, the potential of a 5.5 midfield-classified striker is there.
DANNY INGS (SOUTHAMPTON)
Welcoming Danny Ings on a full-time deal following a £20 million agreement with Liverpool, the Englishman’s seven goals and three assists last season was enough to cement his role at St. Mary’s stadium. And with a pre-season brace against Preston late last month, Ings is ready for another comeback season.
He’ll have to compete with Shane Long and Che Adams for a starting spot, although it looks likely for Ings to partner the latter up top. At the same price, Adams is attracting attention as a differential following his 38 goals for Birmingham City last season, but Ings’ Premier League know-how adds to his appeal. Alongside Adams, the two would make a pacey front pair capable of carrying the ball forward. Both could be good picks, but Ings is already proven at the top level.
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The article was originally posted on fantasy football scout.