Following up on my earlier introductory article which provides a general overview of the functions of the game, it’s now time for a closer inspection of potential candidates for our squads ahead of the big kick-off on July 31st. The primary intention is to highlight a number of players whom I consider to be floating under the radar, encompassing all price points from premium to budget. The notes are data-light at times with regards to underlying stats (availability), but will hopefully provide a few extra names to consider in addition to the usual suspects.
Conflicting with this goal is the fact that I have a terrible habit of using a lot of words to say not very much at all. So without further ado, let’s begin a whistle-stop tour around some of the league’s offerings, quicker than you can say ‘North Coast Five Hundred’.
Between the Sticks
Matt Macey (Hibernian £2.8m)
The former Arsenal prospect joined the club in January as a back-up to the now-departed Ofir Marciano and is finally in possession of the number 1 shirt. The Easter Road side kept 15 cleans sheets on their way to finishing as third best defence with a rate of 0.92 goals conceded per game, whilst their keepers totalled 100 saves (2.6 per game) suggesting save points may regularly supplement clean sheet points at a mid-range price.
Max Stryjek (Livingston £2.5m)
Livingston are typically reliant on their strong home form, owing in part to their familiarity with the plastic pitch at the Toni Macaroni stadium (the best/worst named ground in football surely). They clocked clean sheets in 6 of 19 home games last term (11 total) and their goalkeepers were required to make an average of 2.18 saves per match which bodes well for the occasional bonus save point. Stryjek has fended off competition from Robby McCrorie (on loan from Rangers last season) to make the spot his own and at a budget price could be considered as part of a rotation pairing.
Trevor Carson (Dundee United £2.5m)
The experienced shot-stopper has moved from Motherwell to Dundee United in the off-season, but it remains to be seen whether this is to provide competition, succeed, or serve as an understudy to number one Benjamin Siegrist (£3.0m), who has been linked away from Tannadice. If such a move did materialise, Carson could provide a cheap entry point to a defence that managed 13 cleans sheets (5th best) thanks to Siegrist’s phenomenal effort of 130 saves (1st) in 32 appearances. Carson’s quality has never been I doubt, but he has been hampered by a chain of injuries. One to watch in case a change of circumstances leads to him being in the sticks.
At the Back
Sean Rooney (St. Johnstone £2.8m)
Positioned at right wing-back in the Perth side’s 3-4-3 formation, Rooney managed 1.1 shots and 2.1 crosses per 90 minutes last season, which is amongst the best from sides out with the Old Firm. Whilst the defender only managed 2 goals in 27 league matches, Rooney added a further 4 goals in cup competitions to finish with a total of 6 goals in 39 appearances. His xG of 0.11/90 is joint 4th best out of defenders remaining in the league.
Adrian Sporle (Dundee United £2.6m)
Listed as a defender in FFS, but capable of featuring anywhere from left-back to left-forward, the elusive Argentine is the epitome of an Out of Position prospect. Offensively he provided 4 goals and 2 assists in 24 appearances with 0.19xG/90 (2nd best defender), whilst also recording favourable defensive metrics in 2.01 tackles and 1.74 interceptions per 90. However, he comes with a health warning, as Sporle was often withdrawn before the 60-minute mark when playing in an advanced role. Yet to feature for The Tangerines in pre-season, we must wait and see how he will figure under new manager Tam Courts.
Scott Tanser (St. Mirren £2.4m)
A new addition for the Paisley side after his transfer from St.Johnstone, Tanser will provide competition at the left wing-back berth. The Englishman’s headline stats of 2 goals from 1.7xG and no assists in 30 appearances will not turn heads, but his rate of crosses at 4.59 per 90 was 5th best out of all defenders.
Michael Smith (Hearts £2.9m)
The Northern Irishman has been a stalwart for the newly-promoted capital side over the last 4 seasons and will begin the campaign on the right side of defence. Smith contributed 2 goals and 4 assists for Hearts in their Championship winning campaign and will again play an instrumental role for Robbie Neilson’s side; in the early League Cup games he has adopted a wing-back-cum-auxiliary midfielder role (think Cancelo-lite) and has also been responsible for corner kick delivery. A tough opening set of fixtures (CEL, stm, ABE) will deter early interest, but Smith is one to monitor once the season is underway.
In the Middle
Scott Allan (Hibernian £3.5m)
Hib’s midfield maestro has suffered many false-dawns in his career due to a combination of injury, illness and ill-fated transfer moves, but when on the park he has an enduring quality which can be seen in a career record of 0.33 assists per 90 (168 apps). Allan missed most of last season due to a heart condition, but in the season prior managed 28 starts, 5 goals, 8 assists and was occasionally on spot-kick duty. He has featured in all of Hibs pre-season matches to date, and looks to be a great budget enabler for our squads should he maintain a starting berth.
James Forrest (Celtic £6.2m)
The SWFA Player of the Year 2018-19 should need no introduction having been a key player for Celtic for the last decade, recording 0.58 G+A per 90 over 256 league appearances. However this may not be the case in a fantasy context, owing to his injury-hit campaign last time where he only managed to feature 8 times from the start (3 goals, 1 assist). He has accordingly received a significant reduction in price, down from £8.5m to £6.2m, falling in line with the alternate premium midfielders such as Kent (£6.6m), Turnbull (£6.1) and Christie (£6.3m). It remains to be seen if he can recapture his previous levels, but if he can do so whilst positioned in new manager Ange Postecoglu’s forward line, there is a case to be made that Forrest is one of the most powerful assets in the game.
Ianis Hagi (Rangers £5.9m)
The Romanian creative midfielder is another Rangers player who suffered last season from the fact that he is not a defender named James, Conor or Borna. However, it should not go unnoticed that he finished the campaign as assist leader (11), whilst also notching 7 times in 33 appearances, to provide a very respectable 0.83 G+A per 90. Hagi is a fairly high-volume shooter (2.71 per 90, 5th best midfielder) and has a share of set-piece duties when on the park. For the purposes of comparison, his teammate Ryan Kent (£6.6m) managed 10 goals and 9 assists in 37 apps, a rate of 0.57 G+A per 90. They both accrued xG at a rate of 0.25 per 90. The lack of guaranteed minutes is a significant barrier to entry, but he is one to monitor in case that changes.
Daniel MacKay (Hibernian £3.9m)
Undoubtedly the ‘puntiest’ selection in this list, 20 year-old MacKay is a new arrival at Easter Road this season, having been purchased from Inverness on the back of a break-through season in the Championship. A goal scoring wide forward, MacKay notched 7 times and provided 1 assist in 24 appearances but is listed as a midfielder in FFS, therefore potentially operating as an OoP asset. MacKay will provide competition for Martin Boyle (£6.0) and Jamie Murphy (£4.4m) in the wide slots of Hib’s front 3 and whilst likely to start the season as an impact substitute, there is potential for increasing game time as Kevin Nisbet (£6.2m) continues to be linked with a move away. One to monitor as the season progresses.
Liam Boyce (Hearts £5.1)
Few forwards in the league can boast as enviable an SPFL goal record as Heart’s front man – Boyce has notched 50 goals in 112 appearances in the Scottish Premiership for Ross County and Hearts, claiming the golden boot in 2017. He scored a further 14 goals and 5 assists in the second-tier last year, again the best record in the division. He is a talismanic central presence up front, ably supported from the wide areas by Gary Mackay-Steven (£4.4) and Josh Ginnelly (£3.5). Also in possession of spot kicks, we can be sure that if Hearts are to do well then Boyce will be heavily involved.
Nicky Clark (Dundee United £4.4m)
A support striker who has often had to live in the shadow of teammate Lawrence Shankland (£5.5m) in recent seasons, Clark delivered 8 goals (0.26 xG/90) and 1 assist last season (31 apps) and notably wrestled penalty duties away from his striker partner, converting twice from the spot. Minutes were always the issue with Clark, as previous manager Micky Mellon only elected to start him 24 times. If new boss Tam Courts has a preference for Clark in the starting eleven then it could push The Tangerine’s front man to the top of the budget enabler pile.
Albian Ajeti (Celtic £5.7m)
The Swiss International was a new recruit last term, but found himself limited to only 10 starts as Celtic struggled to find consistency in their line-up. Nonetheless, he managed 6 goals (from 2.7xG) and 1 assist when on the field and has started all of The Hoop’s pre-season games in the build-up to their Champions League Qualifiers, netting twice in the process. He faces stiff competition for a starting spot from Odsonne Edouard (£8.0m), the established star who continues to be linked with a transfer move away. Should this materialise and Ajeti claims the Number 9 shirt, then the term ‘no-brainer’ springs to mind.
To conclude, the above is not an exhaustive list of players but merely a nod in the direction of some players who have more merit than their current standing might suggest, and which I hope will be particularly useful to managers who are new to the game, or indeed football north of the border. There is a saying in Scotland which goes; “what’s fur ye’ll no go by ye”, meaning to say: what will be, will be. And I think this is a fair sentiment to take forward into a beckoning fantasy season; if you are the kind of manager to land on these kinds of pages in the pursuit of that little bit of information to give you an edge, then I am sure you will be well rewarded over the coming months.
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Source : www.fantasyfootballscout.co.uk – https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fantasyfootballscout.co.uk%2F2021%2F07%2F21%2Ffantasy-football-scotland-scout-report%2F