So we’ve made it to the International Break. A chance for GAFFR managers, particularly combined with the end of the transfer window, to take a breath, take stock of their teams and look ahead. Before doing that, we’ll take a look here at some takeaways from GW5 as well as the initial part of the season.
The top two just keep on going
Fulham and West Brom look like they’re going to be a class apart at the top of the division. Fulham produced a very good display at home to beat Stoke 3-0. Most of the big players were involved in the goals. Aleksandar Mitrovic (11.1m) was heavily involved in the game. He had a perfect lay-off for Harry Wilson (9.6m) to score the opener, it was his shot that was saved for Bobby Decordova-Reid (7.6m)to score the second, Mitrovic added the third himself with an assist from Wilson, before the one downer of his day when he had his late penalty saved by Stoke keeper Josef Bursik (5.0m). Fulham were very good in this game and will be very hard to stop this season. The solid additions to the squad at the deadline of Nathaniel Chalobah and Domingos Quina should help them in that regard as well. For their part, West Brom actually struggled a bit more to get a result away at Peterborough. They had a lot of efforts, as well as a lot of long throws (with a hooded jumper featuring heavily in the coverage), but it took until the 94th minute for them to break the deadlock when Matt Phillips (7.6m) found an unmarked Semi Ajayi (6.4m) unmarked in the six yard box to turn the ball in and secure all three points for the Baggies. West Brom will hope that the return of Callum Robinson (9.1m) after the international break will help their attack, as well as the addition last week of striker Jordan Hugill (8.5m). These two teams are full of potential assets for GAFFR managers, who are probably going to need assets from both going forward!
Promising starts, but what happens next?
There are a few teams in the top 8 that we did not expect to be there before the season. While we don’t necessarily expect these teams to stay up there, it will be interesting to see how they progress as the season goes on. We don’t have to read far down the table to find the first of these, with Huddersfield occupying fourth place in the table. It already feels like a long time since some fans were calling for manager Carlos Corberan’s head after a heavy home defeat to Fulham in GW2, but consecutive wins against Preston, Sheffield United and Reading have seen them push their way up the early season table. They are also coming out of the serious Covid and injury issues they had, at one point they had doubts around as many as 14 players as well as the manager. Getting more of their players back has been key, but it is a man who has played all of their games who has been the shining light so far in Sorba Thomas (5.2m). The January addition from Boreham Wood has made a fantastic start to the season, playing as an attacking wing-back and taking a lot of the team’s set pieces. Thomas has started the season with 1 goal and 4 assists in the first 5 games and while he is unlikely to maintain that level of output, he does look set for a big season. Josh Koroma (8.1m) and Danny Ward (5.5m) have provided good parts of the attack, while Matty Pearson (5.0m) has notched 2 goals from centre back, while also having 2 more disallowed. All 4 of the players mentioned had returns of some sort in their GW5 4-0 thrashing of Reading. Huddersfield are probably not a playoff team, but they look increasingly like strong preseason concerns of relegation may well not come to pass. But for now, the most optimistic of fans can dream of Corberan being reunited with his mentor Marcelo Bielsa in the Premier League!
Second in this group, at seventh in the table, is Coventry City. Another team with some preseason concerns around them, Mark Robins’ team have made a really solid start to the season. They have a decent looking defence, but maintain an ability to strike teams going in the other direction. Even in their GW5 2-0 defeat at QPR, Mark Warburton admitted that Coventry were the better team in the game and were unlucky not to come away from the game with anything. GAFFR managers will have been pretty pleased so far with goalkeeper Simon Moore (4.0m), while Kyle McFadzean (4.1m) has also provided excellent value for money. Viktor Gyokeres (5.7m) has been the most impressive part of the attack, while Callum O’Hare (5.0m) has done very well so far in terms of creating chances, even if that hasn’t translated into any attacking returns yet. The fact that a number of the Coventry defenders have scored decently so far shows where the strength of the team lies, but that is not to discount the attack by any means for GAFFR managers. Coventry are another team that will probably not maintain this position, but will probably move back into a lower mid table finish, which will be a positive season for them all things considered.
Finally in this group, possibly most interestingly, we have Birmingham City. Lee Bowyer’s side entered the international break 8th in the table following a 1-1 draw in GW5 away at Barnsley. Birmingham really should have won that game, with the likes of Scott Hogan (6.1m) and Chuks Aneke (7.0m) having great chances to add to Lukas Jutkiewicz’s (6.5m) goal. Their team have played some really good football early in the season and probably look the most likely of this group to maintain their promising early season position in the table. They will hope that the arrival of Birmingham fan Troy Deeney will help them in this regard, the final arrival in what was a packed summer of business for the club. There are potential GAFFR assets throughout the team, from the goalkeeper Matija Sarkic (5.1m), to defenders like Maxime Colin (5.6m) and Marc Roberts (5.1m), to go with attacking players like Jeremie Bela (5.7m), Tahith Chong (5.6m) and Jutkiewicz. They are probably the most likely one to maintain any sort of playoff push, but how capable they are of doing so will become clear as we move further into the season, with some very nice fixtures in their next 8 games, surrounding games against Fulham and West Brom.
A good deadline for some, not so much for others
One thing that had become clear in the early part of the season and was clear again in their GW5 goalless draw with Luton was that Sheffield United needed some improvement in the squad, particularly when it came to creativity going forward. That made the late window acquisitions of two players familiar to GAFFR managers, Morgan Gibbs-White and Conor Hourihane all the more important. Those two should really help the team going forward, with the addition of goalkeeper Robin Olsen likely to help them at the other end of the pitch as well. The Olsen move in particular should also help the Sheffield United defenders live up to their higher prices going forward into the season.
Another team that made significant additions following a 0-0 draw, this time against Hull, were Bournemouth. They added two new attacking players in Ryan Christie from Celtic and Jamal Lowe (8.4m) from Swansea. It remains to be seen what impact these players have and who drops out of the team for them (particularly for owners of Jaidon Anthony (6.2m), but these are players who should help add goals to the Bournemouth attack, both for themselves and for Dominic Solanke (11.2m).
Other interesting positive moves for teams from deadline day included Abdallah Sima to Stoke, Josh Murphy (5.0m) to Preston and Djed Spence (5.0m) to Forest.
One team that followed up their very disappointing 3-1 defeat to Preston in GW5 with a disappointing deadline were Swansea City. Their star of last season Connor Roberts (7.5m) departed for Burnley, as well as the aforementioned Jamal Lowe sale. They already needed to bring in players before these sales, but holding onto Matt Grimes (7.0m) ensured there was one less player to replace, even if the captain is still due to be able to leave the club on a free next summer. They managed to get two players in, with Rhys Williams joining on loan from Liverpool and Olivier Ntcham on a free. These are potentially positive additions, but this squad has come out of the deadline looking weaker than before it and there will now be very real concerns about the job ahead of new manager Russell Martin this season.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of the details of GW5, as well as a look at some of the notable business from the end of the transfer window. We will be back recording on Sunday with a more in depth look at that transfer business before we start looking ahead to GW6. See you then!
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