Fantasy Premier League managers may have to wait a little time before they can decide whether or not they should consider Odion Ighalo (£6.5m).
The Nigerian centre-forward was a surprise arrival at Manchester United on transfer deadline day and, because of the 2019/20 winter break, is yet to make his Premier League debut for the club.
That has given us some time to assess his credentials as a Fantasy asset as we wait for the next round of Gameweek 26 matches.
The History and Statistics
Ighalo arrives at Manchester United with some Premier League experience but it is three years since he last played in the English top-flight.
The Nigerian international played for a number of clubs before joining Watford on loan in 2014.
Ighalo began his career with domestic outfit Prime FC (now known as Osun United) until Lagos-based side Julius Berger picked him up in 2006.
He then moved abroad to spend the 2007/08 campaign in Norway, netting nine goals in 20 league games for Lyn.
2008 was when Udinese noticed Ighalo and brought him to Italy. Loans at Granada (twice) and Cesena followed before Ighalo came to England with Watford.
His stay at Vicarage Road was made permanent in 2014 and in 2015/16, Ighalo became a well-known figure in FPL after an impressive season, in which he scored 16 times and provided a further six assists.
That made for a total score of 175 points that year, although the majority of these points came in the first half of the campaign.
Ighalo struggled in his sophomore year in the Premier League too, managing just one goal in 18 matches before Chinese Super League outfit Changchun Yatai came calling in January 2017.
Naturally, Igahlo accepted the lucrative offer and went on to rediscover his form in China.
He scored 36 goals in 55 league appearances for Changchun Yatai before moving to Shanghai Shenhua in 2019. In his first campaign there, Ighalo found the net 10 times in 17 matches before his loan move to Manchester United was confirmed.
Last summer, Ighalo also impressed on the international scene, scoring five times for Nigeria as they finished third at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, claiming the Golden Boot award in the process.
Understanding Ighalo’s strengths and attributes is not hard. The former Watford man is a textbook poacher, whose style revolves getting on the end of chances created by his team-mates.
Ighalo is not normally expected to hold the ball up or offer much in the air, while he has not historically contributed much in the way of passing to his colleagues.
However, he does tend to get fouled very often and can be a threat from set-pieces in the second phase.
While he has largely been successful in China, fans of Manchester United, as well as Fantasy managers, will be expecting him to improve his game a little bit to cope with the difference in difficulty level between his surroundings for the last three years and the Premier League.
|2019/20 season||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in the box||Mins per shot on target||Mins per key pass|
Fantasy managers may well have to be patient when it comes to assessing Ighalo’s viability as an option – although there is some hope that he could start life at Manchester United very well.
As you can see from the data above, when compared with his new team-mates during 2019/20 so far, Ighalo has the best minutes per shot, shot in the box and shot on target, by a reasonable margin in each category too.
Of course, we have to stringently apply the caveat that the Chinese Super League is nowhere near the Premier League in terms of difficulty.
However, Ighalo’s numbers still indicate the type of player they have signed – somebody willing to shoot regularly in dangerous areas with a relatively high level of accuracy too.
As we mentioned at the top of the article, a player of this description representing Manchester United for just £6.5m is naturally an attractive prospect.
Furthermore, we should point out that while Ighalo’s opposition will be more challenging in England than it was in China, his colleagues will also be of a superior level too.
As we discussed recently, the addition of Bruno Fernandes (£8.0m) to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad looks set to boost creativity at Old Trafford once he has settled into life in the Premier League.
Finally, the main thing that Fantasy managers need to know before being confident that Ighalo is a worthwhile signing is his role at Manchester United.
As things stand, Solskjaer has favoured using Anthony Martial (£7.9m) in the centre-forward role this season while Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) has primarily been stationed on the flanks of attacking midfield.
With Ighalo coming to the club, he is arguably the sort of player who can only operate in a central role and is not suited to a winger’s berth, even if it were to be an inside forward position.
Therefore, Solskjaer may have to move Martial, with more experience on the flanks, out wide to accommodate Ighalo in the team.
Therefore, we could potentially see the Frenchman’s Fantasy appeal dip if he is pushed away from his current out-of-position role at Manchester United.
Alternatively, Solskaer may want to stick with Martial as a centre-forward, in which case, Ighalo may end up operating as an impact substitute, while the likes of Daniel James (£5.9m), Mason Greenwood (£4.4m) and Juan Mata (£6.2m) continue to take up wider positions.
If that were to be the case, then, of course, Ighalo will struggle to live up even to a £6.5m price tag.
Therefore, Fantasy managers are encouraged to adopt a wait-and-see policy on the Nigerian ahead of the 2019/20 season run-in.
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