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Fantasy Watchlist: Is Shinji Okazaki about to become Leicester City's next star?

While they may not be ready to make their way into your fantasy squads just yet, we'll be highlighting a number of under-the-radar players to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

This might be the first of many goals for Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki this season. Get him now before his value rises.
This might be the first of many goals for Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki this season. Get him now before his value rises.
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The start for Leicester City this season has been nothing short of spectacular. With two wins and two draws in their first four matches, they return from the international break sitting third in the table, with a favorable schedule ahead of them. Fantasy owners have cashed in on the Foxes' quick start, as midfielders Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton are finding themselves added to many fantasy rosters across all formats.

However, it is a player who isn't as highly owned that might be on the verge of breaking out and becoming the next hot commodity for fantasy Premier League managers. Forward Shinji Okazaki is a player that all managers should not only be keeping an eye on, it might be prudent to buy him and stash him now; his value might be about to take off just as Mahrez's did earlier this campaign.

Who is Shinji Okazaki?

He is a twenty-nine year old forward from Japan, and a star of their national team, sitting third on their all-time goals scoring list with forty five goals. He is also the most prolific Japanese player in Bundesliga history--a league that has often showcased talent from the Land of the Rising Sun, most recently Shinji Kagawa.

Leicester City liked him so much that they not only tracked him for two years, they tried--and failed--to buy him from Mainz for two consecutive transfer windows, before finally securing his services for a fee of approximately nine million pounds this July. He has an eye for goal, as he converted 26.1% of his scoring chances last season in Bundesliga play.  He has also shown that he can go on a tear, as his fifteen international goals were the most for any player in the world in 2009.

What Does He Bring To My Team?

Standing only 5'8", he is not going to be a target man. He is not someone who will beat a lot of defenders in a footrace.  However, he is a player who will work his tail off, as evidenced in his first four matches for Leicester City. He will track back on defense, he will drop deep to pick up the ball between the opposition midfield and defense, and he will interchange often with other forwards such as Jamie Vardy.  That interchanging play is what led to his first goal for LCFC, a headed finish after his attempted volley off a Vardy cross was saved, to give the Foxes a 2-1 victory over West Ham United in the first match of the season.

He is able to play at striker and at both left and right winger, which means his versatility should continue to him being given plenty of chances to play. On top of that, he is in form at the moment, having scored twice for Japan this week in World Cup 2018 qualifying in a 6-0 win over Afghanistan. While scoring goals at the international level doesn't always carry over to the Premier League (Wayne Rooney, anybody?), it certainly doesn't hurt current form.

Why Should I Have Him In My Team?

Two reasons: he's a very good player, and nobody else has him. I mean nobody. He is owned by less than TWO PERCENT of all fantasy teams in the official Premier League game.  He costs 6.0 right now, and he is owned less than strikers who don't have the ability or playing time that he does. In comparison, Mahrez--who costs one tenth of a point more--is owned by almost forty percent of all owners.

It's not much better in Fantrax: he is only active in twenty five percent of all lineups. When you consider that he costs only $6,270 on the game, his value is even better.  That's less what you would spend on Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Loic Remy and.....Ola Toivonen. Yeah.  He's a good value, get him now.

If his cost isn't enough of an enticement for you, then maybe his long-term value will be.  Have you taken a look at the Leicester City schedule for the next two months? If not, then here's a quick visual for you:

vs Aston Villa (currently 12th in the table)

at Stoke (18th)

vs Arsenal (6th)

at Norwich City (14th)

at Southampton (10th)

vs Crystal Palace (2nd)

at West Brom (15th)

vs Watford (17th)

at Newcastle (19th)

That is six teams in the bottom half of the table over their next nine matches.  That is as favorable of a schedule over a long-term period as you will get.  Only one team in that schedule (Arsenal) is a team that you might view as a poor matchup.  With the form that Leicester City is exhibiting at the moment, that has to make your eyes light up a little bit.

Low cost, lower ownership numbers, and a favorable schedule. These are the things that create a terrific value for an underrated player. Shinji Okazaki is not a lock to be a breakout in fantasy Premier League, but taking a chance on a player with those attributes, at the right time, can often be the move that turns a contending team into a championship team.  If you're still not sure, then take a look at what he can do on the pitch, and decide for yourself if he's worth taking the chance on.  Whatever you decide, there's little doubt that he is one to watch!

Do you agree that the Japanese striker is a breakout candidate, and will you be adding to your team? Share your comments with us and tell us why you agree or disagree!