Middlesbrough are back in the big time after a lengthy spell in the Championship. The success of the Teesside club is based on a solid defensive record, as for two consecutive seasons they have led the division in the fewest goals conceded and the most clean sheets (22 last season). Aitor Karanka was very consistent with his selections last season and deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation more or less every game. However, with the loan signing of ex Man City and Valencia striker Alvaro Negredo looking in place, I would say that makes 6 new arrivals that could play a major part for Middlesbrough this season. Unfortunately, that now makes it very difficult to be sure of nailed on players when picking out useful fantasy football assets.
Let’s be honest, we’re only interested in Middlesbrough as a club to fill in the gaps of our Fantasy Football squads. However, last season the choice of cheap defenders and fifth midfielders was massively pivotal in boosting weekly scores and league positions. Since the handicapper has caught up with last year’s bargains, I say Middlesbrough is the team to look to for a new wave of solid options. For me, they look set up to be the most likely of the promoted teams to survive and even become a surprise package, so cast your eye over these boys…
STAR MAN – Jordan Rhodes (6.0m)
Middlesbrough is a team with no obvious star man, but it could end being a defender, or a returning Gaston Ramirez (not yet listed or priced) who we know is worth a few points. But I am going with Jordan Rhodes (26), because he wears the number 9 shirt and it looks as though he will be given his rightful opportunity to lead the line and play week in week out at the highest level. He has an undeniable Championship pedigree with 91 goals in 189 appearances in the division, so it will be exciting to see how he gets on in the Premier League.
Rhodes started last season with a flurry of goals for Blackburn and finished it in good form at Middlesbrough. His final goal tally was 16 and he also contributed 3 assists – that would go down nicely for Middlesbrough in the Premier League and would likely keep them up. Maybe the addition of Alvaro Negredo adds some uncertainty to his position, but maybe Aitor Karanka even has a 4-4-2 formation up his sleeve. It would certainly be an interesting strike partnership that’s for sure! Either way, Rhodes is a solid 3rd striker option in the 6.0m category.
HIDDEN GEM – Viktor Fischer (5.5m)
This is probably the stand out signing of a number of impressive transfers/loans already in place on Teesside. Viktor Fischer (22) is a full Danish international and straight out of the Ajax school of Football. He is a left winger and takes the steal of hidden gem because he is classed as a Midfielder in FPL, he could even be seen as a bargain buy at 5.5m as well! The exciting young talent scored 24 goals and laid on 13 assists in a total of 79 appearances (many of which were off the bench) in the Eredivisie. He also scored twice in 6 Europa League appearances last season.
Fischer has been likened to Dennis Bergkamp in the past and after scoring twice on his debut and helping Ajax lift the title in his maiden season in the first team, he attracted interest from Bayern Munich and Manchester United. If he can fulfil what seems to be huge potential at Middlesbrough, he can take a haul of fantasy points that far outweigh his measly price tag.
BARGAIN OPTION – George Friend (4.5m)
Middlesbrough should be strong in defence and their opening fixtures are very kind. They face Stoke & Palace at home and Sunderland & West Brom away in their first 4. For me, that spells an opportunity to pick up a 4.5m defender (or 2!) that has a fantastic opportunity to earn points during one of the most important, but uncertain periods of the season. My choice is Left Back; George Friend (28). He was an ever present figure in Karanka’s set up last season and he notched 1 goal and 6 assists in 40 appearances. Due to a couple of new faces entering the squad at GK, CB and RB, it would appear that Friend is also the most nailed on. So, if he can re-produce his numbers from the Championship and Middlesbrough continue their strong defensive showing this season, then Friend is primed for a lot of Fantasy Premier League love.
Written by Robert (@TheAccaClub)