After a summer-long chase, Sunderland finally secured the signature of Steven Fletcher from relegated Wolves last week. The 25-year joins up at the Stadium of Light on a four-year contract for an undisclosed fee and will afford the Wearsiders a much-needed attacking threat after some poor recent showings:
With Nicklas Bendtner returning to parent club Arsenal, Martin O’Neill has been desperately scouring the market for a striker. The Black Cats failed to score in four of their six pre-season fixtures and, having opened the season with a goalless draw at Arsenal, the Sunderland boss pushed through the transfer ahead of last week’s subsequently postponed match with Reading. A clearly delighted O’Neill paid tribute to his new forward and revealed he has high expectations for the season ahead:
“I think Steven will be terrific. I think he’s underrated – not by me – and is an exceptionally talented player who will help us enormously. He’s capable of scoring goals and has proved that. He’s also capable of linking play, which is very important to us. I’m hoping that now, at 25 years of age, [Steven] has got plenty of room to improve and really make his game even better. I think he’s capable of doing all that. He is a very good player and is improving, too.”
Fletcher’s career began in Scotland with Hibernian back in 2003-04. The 6 foot 1 inch forward stayed with the Easter Road outfit for six seasons, grabbing 43 goals from a total of 156 league appearances, though his final two campaigns with the Edinburgh outfit were by far the most productive. Handed the role as the club’s main forward, he produced double figure goal hauls in 2007-08 (winning the Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year Award) and 2008-09, with the likes of Real Madrid and Man City both rumoured to be interested in acquiring his services.
Ultimately, his next destination was Burnley, where Fletcher teamed up with fellow-Scot Owen Coyle. His lone season for the Turf Moor club harvested eight goals and four assists but, while Fletcher’s contribution wasn’t enough to save his side from the drop, it earned him a move to Molineux in time for the 2010/11 campaign. Fletcher demonstrated an eye for goal by notching double figures in each of his two terms at Molineux – in total, he produced 22 goals and six assists in 60 league matches before making his way to Sunderland. He has also represented Scotland at every level from Under 20 upwards and scored a single goal in eight appearances for the national side.
Barring injury, Fletcher looks nailed-on for Sunderland and seems the perfect capture for the Black Cats’ style of play. Likely to lead the line with Stephane Sessegnon tucked in behind, his arrival on Wearside certainly doesn’t bode well for the game time of Fraizer Campbell and Connor Wickham, while Louis Saha seems set to play the familiar role of impact sub.
Fletcher’s superb aerial prowess will be fed by the delivery of James McClean and Adam Johnson from out wide, with Seb Larsson’s set-piece ability also sure to prove valuable for Sunderland’s new penalty box predator. All three midfielders could well be anticipating an upturn in assists if Fletcher can bring his Wolves form to Wearside; a scenario that will boost the trio’s mid-price appeal across the Fantasy games.
An FPL price of 7.0 looks reasonable for a proven top-flight goalscorer such as Fletcher, while his valuation of 7.7 in the Sky Sports game also seems relatively budget-friendly – it may well transpire that he is on spot-kicks at the expense of Larsson; a situation we’ll be keeping a keen eye on.
With last week’s home clash against Reading postponed, Fantasy managers will be hoping Sunderland can reschedule in the near future, offering us a double Gameweek for the Black Cats somewhere along the line. For now, though, the short-term fixtures are a mixed bag – a weekend trip to on-song Swansea is followed by a home clash with Liverpool before tempting games against West Ham and Wigan. If Fletcher can hit the ground running, he could well entice Fantasy managers as a decent mid-price option, with O’Neill relying on the Scot to add an extra attacking thrust and help the Black Cats improve upon last season’s thirteenth place finish.
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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