One of the potentially most significant moves of the last few weeks from a Fantasy perspective involved a player who has yet to play a minute of Premier League football.
Sheffield United completed the signing of 20-year-old Rhian Brewster for a reported £23.5m at the beginning of October, with the former Liverpool striker signing a five-year deal with the Blades.
Priced up at £4.5m by Fantasy Premier League upon the game’s relaunch earlier this summer, Brewster would have likely been nothing but non-playing bench fodder had he remained on Merseyside for the rest of 2020/21.
His move to Bramall Lane likely ensures game-time, however, and he has understandably caught the eye of the Fantasy community over the last fortnight.
Already transferred in by over 100,000 FPL managers ahead of Gameweek 5, Brewster could be the bargain-bin ‘enabler’ many of us have longed for in attack.
Born in London at the turn of the Millennium, Brewster progressed through Chelsea’s academy system before being snapped up by Liverpool in 2015.
Promising goalscoring displays for the under-18s and under-23s edged him closer to the first-team squad but an ankle injury sustained at the beginning of 2018 effectively cost him an entire year of development, with the then-teenage striker not making his competitive Liverpool debut until September 2019.
Three cup appearances for the Reds was the sum total of Brewster’s involvement in the senior set-up before a loan move to Swansea City was agreed upon at the beginning of this calendar year and it was during his time in Wales that the young forward made huge strides, scoring 11 goals in 22 Championship and play-off appearances for the Swans.
Returning to Merseyside in the summer, Brewster caught the eye in pre-season with three goals in Liverpool’s tour of Austria.
Capped by his country at four different age levels, Brewster has yet to open his account for the England under-21s despite having made eight appearances for the Young Lions.
With precious little to go off from his time at Liverpool, we turn to Brewster’s half-season spell at Swansea for a closer look at his statistical output – with the obvious caveat that numbers recorded in the Championship aren’t always a reliable gauge.
The breakdown of his 11 goals in the English second tier showed the variety of his play, with two poacher’s strikes coming from inside the six-yard box and three arriving from outside the opposition area.
Compared to three other notable names who came up from the Championship last season, Brewster lags behind for most metrics.
This can be partly mitigated by considering the team he played for, however: Swansea were ranked only tenth for goal attempts in 2019/20, behind Leeds United, Brentford and Fulham for shots registered, goals scored and possession.
When we assess goal conversion rate, Brewster was the most clinical with 20.4% of his opportunities finding the back of the net.
|Player||Mins per goal||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in the box||Mins per shot on target||Goal conversion rate|
Indeed, his 11 strikes came from an expected goals (xG) total of 7.91 – suggesting he was either very lucky or, as appears more likely from what we are about to discuss, that his finishing is a real strength.
Brewster is, in the words of former boss Jurgen Klopp, a “natural goalscorer”.
That sentiment was repeated by his new manager, Chris Wilder, who said upon the striker’s move to South Yorkshire:
He’s a natural goalscorer. He finishes from any aspect, whether it is in the air or whether it’s spectacular goals, free-kicks or off his shin – he has a lovely habit of scoring goals, which is crucial in the Premier League.
The compilation video of his 11 Championship goals below highlights Brewster’s predatory instincts, with the bulk of them being opportunistic, first-time strikes – a valuable quality to have in the Premier League when half a yard of space is perhaps all a forward will get.
A complete lack of assists also betrays a slightly selfish streak (in the best possible sense) and Brewster created just 11 chances in his 22 appearances for the Swans, averaging a key pass only once every 168.4 minutes; not many Premier League forwards had inferior rates to that in 2019/20.
The player himself said at the beginning of October:
I am ready to come in and show everyone what I’ve got. It is a team that creates a lot of chances, the three at the back, overlapping, they get crosses into the box and that’s my game – being in the box, finding space and one and two touch finishes. That’s what I am going to try and do, and try and score goals for Sheffield United.
The prospect of a playing £4.5m forward in FPL is often an irresistible one, as an on-song Mason Greenwood (£7.4m) proved towards the end of 2019/20.
With so little money needed to be spent on this ‘eighth attacker’, it opens up cash to be reinvested elsewhere on a power five in midfield or premium options at the back.
Below Patrick Bamford‘s (£5.8m) price point, there really isn’t a great deal elsewhere among budget forwards, with Callum Robinson (£5.5m) and Aaron Connolly (£5.5m) about the pick of the bunch at present.
Even then, Brewster offers a saving a whole one million on those two strikers.
First, the caveats.
Sheffield United aren’t renowned for their goalscoring exploits, having found the back of the net on just one occasion so far this season. Even their hugely successful campaign in 2019/20 was predicated on a solid defence, and only four Premier League clubs scored fewer goals than the Blades.
Brewster could maybe help improve his new side’s goalscoring output (they missed over two-thirds of their big chances last season) but he will need service all the same, and the fact is that only Crystal Palace carved out fewer opportunities than Wilder’s troops in 2019/20.
Then there is the possibility of rotation.
Wilder chopped and changed his front two with frustrating regularity in 2019/20, with not one of his forwards starting more than 24 of the Blades’ 38 Premier League games.
Oli McBurnie (£5.8m) was, as Brewster is now, Sheffield United’s record signing when he moved from Swansea in August 2019 but he started just six of the Blades’ first 17 league matches last season as his integration began at a slow pace.
In McBurnie, David McGoldrick (£5.4m), the out-of-position Oliver Burke (£4.5m), Lys Mousset (£5.8m) and Billy Sharp (£5.8m), Brewster has some serious competition for his place when everyone is fit.
The good news on that front is that three of those players could potentially be unavailable in Gameweek 5: Mousset is a medium-term absentee with a toe problem and Burke and McGoldrick both picked up injuries on international duty this week.
Wilder had already pledged that Brewster would “be involved” against Fulham next weekend, although to what extent remains to be seen as the youngster needs a lot of “conditioning” work given that he has not had much competitive action of late.
Benchings are likely to happen, then, particularly in periods of fixture congestion, but this is a £4.5m forward we are talking about and minutes of any variety are a boon at that price point.
While completely unproven at the highest level and with the disclaimer that Sheffield United aren’t a free-flowing attacking side, that instinctive eye for goal we saw at Swansea earlier this year does give cause for optimism.
Before he has even kicked a ball in the Premier League, he already looks to be the pick of the options for those Fantasy managers considering a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 set-up.
Time will tell over the coming weeks and months if he can actually become something other than an emergency substitute in FPL. If he hits the ground running ahead of the Blades’ fixture swing in Gameweek 9, it’s not an exaggeration to say that he could be the catalyst for a new ‘template’ squad.
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