Reading confirmed their third signing of the summer transfer window earlier this week with the capture of Pavel Pogrebnyak on a free transfer. After finally being granted a work permit, the 28-year-old arrives on a four-year deal and follows Garath McCleary and Danny Guthrie to the Madejski as Brian McDermott goes about bolstering the Royals first-team options for the season ahead.
The deal is a major coup for the promoted club – Pogrebnyak was expected to sign a permanent deal at Fulham after his hugely successful loan spell at the Cottage last term but, after meeting with owner Anton Zingarevich, decided to opt for Reading instead. A clearly delighted McDermott, enthused over the player’s acquisition, went on to say:
Pavel is exactly the kind of player that we need. I know him really well as a player and have been watching him closely for some time. I believe he is a ‘Reading’ player in that he works very hard for the team. He’s a team player and he can also score goals….We’re delighted. It’s been a long process to get Pavel to the club and now he’s officially a Reading player and everyone is looking forward to working with him.
Pogrebnyak started playing at the age of six for the Spartak Moscow football school and rose up through the ranks before making his first-team appearance at the age of 19. He failed to convince, though, scoring just twice in 18 matches and was farmed out on loan to a variety of teams over the next three campaigns before being snapped up by Russian outfit Tom Tomsk in 2006. He lasted just a season, scoring 13 goals in 26 games, before Zenit St Petersburg came calling. Over three campaigns he racked up 39 goals in 90 appearances in all competitions before Pogrebnyak then moved to the Bundesliga to join Stuttgart.
His time in the German top-flight failed to harvest the goals, though; the Russian found the net just 15 times in 68 league games before making his way to Fulham midway through last season. At the Cottage, he wasted little time in settling in, grabbing six goals in just 12 games – an average of 4.5 points per game in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game was second only to Clint Dempsey for Martin Jol’s side before Pogrebnyak’s loan deal expired at the end of the season.
Certainly, Pogrebnyak looks nailed-on to be installed as one of Reading’s front two for the season ahead. McDermott favours a 4-4-2, with plenty of crosses from out wide and a conventional front two leading the line – with the Russian set to be handed the target man role, a drop down the pecking order for Jason Roberts looks on the cards at the Madejski. The Reading boss will be hoping his new signing can bolster an attack that scored just 69 times last season; considerably less than fellow promoted clubs Southampton (85) and West Ham (81) and a stat that is likely to make Fantasy managers think twice over investing in the Royals’ attacking options.
Bearing in mind he is turning out for a promoted side, a price of 5.5 looks the most likely valuation for Pogrebnyak. His form for Fulham suggests he could flourish as a cut-price alternative next term, though the downside is a lack of spot-kick duties, with Ian Harte the club’s number one penalty taker. Fantasy managers shopping around for value forwards from the promoted clubs will perhaps be more inclined to lean towards Rickie Lambert – the Southampton forward is nailed-on for spot-kicks under Nigel Adkins.
A double Gameweek 1 may tempt many to take a punt on Pogrebnyak, though. Reading play host to Stoke before travelling to Chelsea before their schedule stiffens. With a trip to Sunderland, a blank Gameweek and home clashes against Spurs and Newcastle by Gameweek 6, Pogrebnyak will need to bring his Fulham form to the table in order to justify his inclusion in our teams over the opening part of the season.
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For Gameweek 38
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby