Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has brought in his first wave of reinforcements in the January transfer window, signing the likes of Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Dame N'Doye. But it's another signing who has my attention from the new crop of charges, £9 million midfielder Wahbi Khazri.
Who is Wahbi Khazri?
The 24 year-old Tunisian had spent the entirety of his professional career prior to his move to the Black Cats in France, starting out at lower-league club Bastia, who he helped achieve back-to-back promotions into Ligue 1. His performances as a central attacking midfielder earned the attention of the Tunisian national team, as well as FC Girondins de Bordeaux. The Europa League regulars signed Khazri in 2013 for a bargain €2m, and reaped the benefits as he scored 21 goals and provided 17 assists in two and a half seasons.
He has been in excellent form this season, second only to Angel Di Maria in assists in the first half of the Ligue 1 season leading up to his move to the Premier League, with set pieces responsible for a large number of chances created. Here's a look at some of the best moments from Khazri's time with Bordeaux:
Where will Khazri line up for Sunderland?
While he has been deployed primarily as a central attacking midfielder, Khazri is also capable of playing on either wing, where his excellent delivery can be at its most effective and lethal. Allardyce called on the Tunisian to replace Jeremain Lens at halftime in the week 24 match against Manchester City, which could portend the manager's plans moving forward. Lens has not lived up to expectations this season and has spent a lot of time on the bench, and he may end up spending even more time there with Khazri's arrival.
Big Sam also trotted out 5 defenders against City in the narrow 1-0 loss, which may or may not be the formation of choice moving forward and will be something to keep an eye on. If the Black Cats do continue with a 5-defender setup, it's likely that we'll see Khazri deployed on the wing, something like this:
Alternately, Allardyce could return to a four-man back line and deploy Khazri centrally behind Jermain Defoe, like this:
What fantasy impact can we expect from Khazri?
Given the price paid for the midfielder and his near-immediate introduction into the team, it should be safe to assume Khazri will be a starter for Sunderland when fit. He is also likely to take a significant percentage of set pieces away from Yann M'Vila and Adam Johnson. He has experience playing for a Europa League quality side in France and has thrived. His pace, vision and eye for goal will make him an attractive prospect in fantasy, particularly in formats like Fantrax and Perfect XI where shots on target, successful crosses and chances created are rewarded.
He could also be a nice differential in the Official FPL game, where he is listed as a midfielder and available for £6.0 (the same value as Lens). At the bargain-basement price of £1m on Fantrax, he's an excellent option for the rest of the season, especially as the form horses like Sergio Aguero, Riyad Mahrez, Deli Alli and Mesut Ozil continue to climb in price.
Sunderland's upcoming fixture list isn't particularly inviting, with matches against Liverpool, Manchester United, West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Everton on the horizon, but Khazri will add a much-needed creative spark to what has been an improved Sunderland side under Allardyce. Will you be buying in?