There has been a fair amount of transfer activity in the Premier League this summer, which can make life tough for fantasy manager’s that know little about some of these new signings. To help out, here at FFC we are taking a look at some of the Premier League’s new arrivals, with Shinji Kagawa our latest candidate.
The Kobe-born playmaker’s rise to the top began at just five years old with Marino Football Club before moving to the local professional side Cerezo Osaka. He signed terms with Cerezo aged just 17 and broke through into the first team in 2007, playing 35 matches in Japan’s second tier. In 2009, he was top scorer in the division with 27 goals in 44 games. His performances attracted the attention of European clubs, with Dortmund eventually snapping him up for €350,000 in August 2010, halfway through Cerezo’s first season back in the J-League.
Kagawa made an immediate impact in his first season at Dortmund and was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Year despite missing half of the campaign through injury. He made himself a fans’ favourite at Dortmund by predicting he would score twice against local rivals Schalke, doing exactly that as they went on to win the match 3-1. United fans would surely love him to do something similar for derby games against City.
Kagawa missed half of the 2010/11 Bundesliga season because of an injury he picked up on international duty, but managed to score 8 goals in 18 appearances in the league. Dortmund won the league at the end of his first campaign and the impressive midfielder went from strength to strength after returning from injury in time for the 2011-12 season. He was instrumental in the club retaining the Bundesliga and securing a League and Cup double for the first time in their history. From January 2012, speculation was rife that he would leave the club and six months later he signed paperwork at Old Trafford, becoming the first Japanese player to play for United.
Any fantasy manager considering Kagawa will need to know how he performed in previous seasons. The table below shows his goals and assists from the past three seasons in all competitions. Bear in mind he was injured for a large part of 2010/11 at Dortmund, and still managed to score 12 goals.
As you can see from the table above, he’s been a regular fixture for both Cerezo Osaka and Borussia Dortmund over the last few seasons. In the last two seasons he played 70 games, averaging 0.41 goals per game and 0.21 assists per game, which on paper makes him good value for money at the £8.5m that the FPL currently has him listed at. Clearly a gifted attacking footballer, the big question for fantasy managers is whether Kagawa will get enough game time at United to make him worth buying? We’ll come back to that question shortly.
Kagawa scored and won man of the match in his second game for Manchester United during their pre-season tour of China. He received the following praise from his new boss, Sir Alex Ferguson:
Kagawa has settled in well. He’s going to be a really good player and he impressed tonight… his awareness of receiving the ball, his speed in turning and how he attacks defenders is an asset to us.”
Rio Ferdinand had this to say about his new team mate:
He’s quick, he’s sharp, he has great awareness, he plays off both feet. I’m excited about playing with him and getting the season started. He’s been one of the better players in Germany for the last few years. I think he’ll bring that form to Manchester United. I think he’ll be a great acquisition.”
Nuri Sahin, a former team-mate at Dortmund, now with Real Madrid, said:
The boy plays like an angel.”
Pre-season praise can always be taken with a pinch of salt, but what we take from what we hear about him is that he is the kind of player who can influence a game, becoming integral to a team’s long-term campaign efforts.
Described as a goal-scoring midfielder with vision, technique, and deft passing Kagawa sounds like the kind of player United have been looking for to create openings and swift counter-attacks. Depending on where he’s played, Kagawa might end up scoring a number of his points from assists, especially if he develops a good understanding with Rooney, but he certainly sounds as if he has no problems finding the net himself.
In United’s pre-season tour Kagawa has scored two match winning goals out of the six fixtures played – one against Shanghai Shenhua in a 1-0 victory, and one in their final game on August 11th against Hanover 96 in a 4-3 victory.
Early Season Fixtures
United’s start to the 2012/13 campaign is not as tough as it could have been with Everton (A), Fulham (H), Southampton (A) and Wigan (H) the opening 4 fixtures. If Kagawa is selected to play from the start of the season, and makes a good impact early on, these first few fixtures could offer him the potential to score some decent fantasy points.
Should We Play Kagawa?
Like all the other highly touted new arrivals to the Premiership, the question is, should we select Kagawa for our opening gameweek?
His ability to score and assist is not really in doubt, but like other players new to the Premiership, how will he adapt? Given that he moved from the lower leagues of the J-League in Japan to the top flight of German football and won player of the year, we don’t see that as a problem.
One question might be where will he play, given that players such as Young, Nani and Valencia all like to play as attacking midfielders that feed the ball into Rooney? Again, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern seeing as one of Kagawa’s key attributes is said to be his versatility, but it does pose the question of how much game time he’ll be given. When it comes to the United midfield, trying to second guess who will start for the Red Devils is almost impossible!
Kagawa signed a four-year deal for £17m, so you’d think he’d feature prominently in Sir Alex’s plans. That being said, Sir Alex has the luxury of selecting a midfield from Valencia, Nani, Young, Kagawa, Giggs, Carrick, Cleverly, Anderson and Scholes! We suspect Kagawa will get a fair bit of game time, although the strength in depth at United means he is not a guaranteed starter. Man United’s pre-season tour has seen them play 6 matches, and you may be interested to know that Kagawa has featured in all of them, albeit not always for 90 minutes. His game time in each of the pre-season matches has been 1 minute, 77 minutes, 90 minutes, 29 minutes, 44 minutes and 90 minutes respectively. Arguably this could be what we can expect to happen in the Premier League this season, but ultimately only time will tell. Trying to 2nd guess Sir Alex Ferguson is a game we gave up playing several seasons ago!
For the more conservative fantasy managers out there you might want to sit on the sidelines for the first few gameweeks and see how Kagawa gets on. However, for those who are a little bit more adventurous, bringing in Kagawa early could mean you secure one of this seasons FPL gems right from the start of the season. Whilst questions over his game time are valid, many pundits are suggesting that Kagawa could prove to be one of the best transfers of the Summer, and if he dove-tails into an attacking line-up at United he could well prove invaluable, especially if your FPL rivals have opted out of fielding him. From the looks of his stats and the accolades he’s won at the highest level, we think there’s more to him than just shirt sales in the Far East.
This article was written by Sharpie