GW26: Emerging Prospects, Fading Stars

With just 2 days to decide your transfers before GW26 we look at whether Ince or Jelavic are worth your attention.

With just two days in-between Gameweeks 25 and 26 there’s not much time to consider which transfers you want to make, so we change tact this week highlighting just three players and giving an overview of the remaining contenders for the Emerging Prospect moniker.

Emerging Prospects

Thomas Ince

Just as we expected in our deadline day deals wrap-up, Ince came straight into the first XI, but surprisingly it wasn’t at the expense of Puncheon or Bolasie. The new boy was fielded as a striker alongside Chamakh, and was Palace’s most advanced player in the 3-1 win over WBA. It took Ince just 14 minutes to score his first goal and 13 minutes later he added an assist when he directed a corner towards Joe Ledley’s head. Maximum bonus points saw Ince finish with 13 points and an immediate addition to everyone’s watchlist.

A goal and assist weren’t Ince’s only attacking involvement in the game, he had 2 shots on target, made 2 key passes, and had 17 touches in the final attacking third. Those aren’t incredible numbers, and Palace’s allround attack play wasn’t too strong, but they are certainly encouraging. When you consider he’s a young player in a completely new team and system, they are especially promising, all signs point towards a player with great fantasy potential if he can grow and develop in new surroundings.

While the fixtures are encouraging long term, with a run against Swansea, Southampton, Sunderland and Newcastle approaching, Palace face an away trip to Everton next and then welcome Man United to Selhurst Park. Those are two tough fixtures, even with United’s poor form, and two tough defences that Palace will struggle to break down. If Pulis is true to form he’ll look to play defensively and threaten these teams on the counter and from set-pieces. With Ince’s pace and set-piece taking he may be the most likely to pick up points in those games, but we shouldn’t expect too much from open play.

At 5.5 he’s slightly more expensive than other budget midfielder options, but he could make a mockery of his price tag. It’s worth pointing out that Raheem Sterling is in great form and is 0.1 cheaper than Ince. The stats certainly suggest Sterling is likely to get more points, so you really need to be looking for a differential to consider Ince over the Liverpool winger.

Verdict: Buy. Out of position, goal threat, assist potential and a kind price tag, there’s every reason to be excited about Thomas Ince as a fantasy player. It may be worth delaying this transfer for 2 games though and Sterling is perhaps a better immediate purchase.

Nikica Jelavic

I wanted to pick Jelavic as an emerging prospect almost 4 weeks ago when he first signed for Hull, and he was a consideration for the first emerging prospects article, but feared it would be laughed at after the Croatian has had such an extended run of poor form. However, after scoring in the weekend win over Sunderland I feel I can pick him as a prospect without fear of ridicule.

It may be Shane Long who has gained fantasy recognition so far, with 2 goals and 3 bonus points since leaving WBA, but it’s Jelavic who has been taking far more shots. The two have struck an immediate partnership and look set to thrive at their new club after struggling for gametime and form at their recent employers.

Here are the pair’s key stats from the 3 games they’ve played together.

Mins Shots On Target Touches Penalty Area Chances Created Touches Final Third
Jelavic 250 17 6 23 1 81
Long 279 7 2 13 6 111

With over twice as many shots as Long, and three times as many finding the target, we expect Jelavic to be the one with more goals to his name by the end of the season. Long does boast much greater attacking involvement and has created more chances, but if all that work ends in Jelavic having a shot then we’d sooner take the 4 points for a goal than 3 for an assist. The dynamic between the two is quickly developing. Long is the work horse and provider, while Jelavic is tasked with getting into position to get the final strike, something he excelled at when first joining Everton. Long himself is a potential prospect, but has limited upside compared to his partner.

In fact, if we look at the last 3 gameweeks exclusively, where Long and Jelavic have played together, Jelavic has had the 2nd most shots in the league! Only Dzeko has more, with Jelavic outshooting RVP, Hazard, Sturridge and even Suarez. We have to be wary of small sample sizes, but those 3 games have been away at Palace and Sunderland and home to Spurs, so they haven’t been against poor defences.

Up next for Hull is a home game against a resilient Southampton defence, but following that they face Cardiff, Newcastle and West Ham, a great run of fixtures that could see some goals. The only blemish on the fixture list is a home game against Man City in GW30, but even that is followed by WBA and Swansea home games. Actually, Hull probably have the nicest run of fixtures over the next 8 gameweeks of any team in the league, giving them a perfect opportunity to secure their safety and stay away from the relegation dog fight.

As always with forward it's difficult to recommend differential options when we have so few slots and so many big options such as Suarez, Sturridge and RVP that command a place in your team. Jelavic’s prospects are hampered even more by his 6.9 price tag, which is inflated due to his pre-season pricing as though he were Everton’s first choice striker. For a team of Hull’s attacking quality that’s about 1.0 more than we’d want to pay.

Verdict: Punt. It’s a shame his price is so inflated, as there are some promising metrics from the former Toffee and he could make a good differential. But with proven assets like Rodriguez, Lambert, Bony or even Adebayor in a similar price range, Jelavic would be an almighty punt.

The Other Contenders

Leon Osman

As we mentioned in last week’s emerging prospects, it seems to be Leon Osman who has benefitted most from the absence of Romelu Lukaku. At White Hart Lane he continued those good performances, with 5 shots against Spurs, more than anyone else, 2 of which forced a save from Lloris. While he is in the team Osman is certainly asking a lot of questions of opposition defences, but with Traore closing in on his debut, it remains to be seen how long that will continue. With Mirallas, Pienaar, McGeady, Naismith and Barkley also competing for attacking places in the team, Osman may find his gametime limited.

Stevan Jovetic

The start against Norwich was the third straight appearance for the hotly tipped forward as he looks to finally be getting his City career underway after struggling with injuries. While his attacking involvement hasn’t been great, as he returns to full fitness and settles into the team he may recapture the form that saw him score 27 in 58 games in his last 2 seasons at Fiorentina. Man City have two mouth-watering fixtures next with Sunderland and Stoke both making the trip to the Etihad before the GW29 blank. After failing to score in their last 2 games, Pellegrini’s men will be desperate to get back to their destructive ways on Wednesday and with Dzeko and Negredo struggling for form, Jovetic could well be the man to step up. At 8.8 and a blank coming up, Jovetic is a risk but one with huge possible rewards.

Charlie Adam

A renaissance in Charlie Adam’s play has occurred recently, culminating with 2 assists against Southampton in Stoke’s previous game. One was a beautiful through-ball for Odemwingie that unpicked Pochettino’s defence, the other was a corner that found the head of Peter Crouch. While a wholly uninspiring pick, Adam is a solid fantasy buy that gives you goal threat, assist potential and a share of set-plays. Stoke have a good fixture home to Swansea this week, but then face Man City and Arsenal, so he’s perhaps one to keep but not buy this week.

Fading Stars

Christian Eriksen

After two blanks and a frustrating withdrawal on 58 minutes against Everton, fantasy managers are losing patience with Eriksen and are deciding to ditch him from their teams. With Townsend coming back from injury, Eriksen might be in for more limited game time. His stats have taken a dip too, just two shots on target in his last 6 games is not the sort of performances that saw him become a great fantasy player over the New Year period. With recent star performances from Lallana and Nolan, the move away from Eriksen is understandable.

Before we get too doom and gloom, let’s have a look at the positives. While the return of Townsend might see Eriksen drop out, it may also increase his fortunes. With Soldado still out of the team, Sherwood has the option of playing Townsend and Lennon wide and Eriksen in his favoured position in the hole behind Adebayor. If this does happen then I see Eriksen becoming a great fantasy player with the potential to find himself points from all over the field. Expect through balls to Lennon and Townsend, late runs into the box to get on the end of their crosses, feeding off knockdowns from Adebayor and a few long range strikes. Throw in set pieces and Eriksen is a complete fantasy player. Before getting carried away, this is certainly a big if. Sherwood’s team selections have been nothing if not unpredictable so far and it’s tough to read how he’ll proceed with his team.

The other positive is the fixtures, while Spurs do have 2 away games next, they are against Newcastle and Norwich, two poor defences. Cardiff at home follows that, concluding a run of games that Sherwood will target to pick up maximum points in before they face a difficult run against Chelsea, Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool starting in GW29.

With that fixture list is also a huge negative: the return of the Europa League. Being drawn against FC Dnipro in the Round of 32 sees Spurs take a long trip to Ukraine next week, and a return leg at White Hart Lane the following week. This could spell bad news for Eriksen, as the former Ajax man has plenty of European experience that Sherwood may want to utilise. The games fall either side of a promising game against Norwich and with a big squad at his disposal, Sherwood could construct a team to beat Norwich that saves Eriksen’s legs for the two Europea League games.

Despite the form and rotation issue, Eriksen is a quality player with great past performances and there’s no reason to suspect he can’t repeat those performances. It was just two weeks ago that Hazard was a fading star, how many of his sellers that week have since regretted that decision?

Verdict: Hold for the trip to Newcastle and await the lineup for the Europa League trip. Eriksen still has potential, but there’s enough risk to consider selling.

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