Brighton is in a precarious position — literally — in the table. Sitting in 16th place, the Seagulls are a single point clear of 18th place Southampton and the drop zone. While the team’s defense is average, having allowed 33 goals (10th fewest in the league), its offense desperately needs a boost. Its nearly lifeless tally of 17 goals stands above only last place Swansea.
Enter forward Jürgen Locadia from PSV Eindhoven of the Dutch Eredivisie for a club record fee reported in the range of £14-16m. Can Locadia boost Brighton’s offensive fortunes and keep the team from returning to the Championship, or is this a futile effort?
Wow, A Club Record Transfer!!!
Every time the transfer window comes, there are headlines all over the place heralding the CLUB RECORD TRANSFER by this, that and the other team. Just this summer, such bold neon lettering applied to Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake, Brighton’s José Izquierdo, Burnley’s Chris Wood, Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Everton’s Gylffi Sigurdsson, Huddersfield’s Steve Mounie, Liverpool’s Mo Salah (unless you count Naby Keita, who is yet to feature), Southampton’s Mario Lemina, Swansea’s Sam Clucas, Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez, Watford’s Andre Gray, West Brom’s Oliver Burke and West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic. Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is!
The Smiths sum it up nicely:
Saying that inflation in the pro footballing world has run rampant is like saying that Morrissey is miserable. Among the glut of record transfers, let’s pare things down and focus on the forwards (or wingers) from non-Big Six teams at prices similar to Locadia’s:
- Izquierdo scored 9 goals and had 2 assists for Club Brugge (Jupiler League) last season in 21 games. This season for Brighton, he has 2 goals and 2 assists in 19 games.
- Wood scored 27 goals at Leeds United (Championship) in 2016/17 in 44 games. This season for Burnley, he has scored 4 goals with no assists in 15 games.
- Mounie netted 14 goals plus 3 assists at Montpellier (Ligue 1) last season in 35 games. This season for Huddersfield, he has scored 4 goals with no assists in 16 games.
- Gray scored 9 goals with 3 assists in 32 games for Burnley (Premier League) in 2016/17. This season for Watford, he has 4 goals plus 2 assists in 23 games.
- Burke scored 1 goal with 2 assists for RB Leipzig (Bundesliga) last season. This season for West Brom, he has no goals and 1 assist in eight games.
- Arnautovic scored 6 goals with 5 assists for Stoke in 2016/17 in 32 games. This season for West Ham, he already has 6 goals and 3 assists in 19 games.
Out of those six examples, the only success story is Arnautovic, who transferred within the Premier League and went to a team with a storied history therein as well as a drawing card in its London locale. As it so happens, none of those markers applies to Locadia’s situation at Brighton.
How Successfully Have Eredivisie Transfers Worked Out?
There have been several recent offense-minded Netherlands-to-Britain successes in the summer transfer window, with outstanding immediate performances from Wilfried Bony (from Vitesse to Swansea in 2013/14), Christian Eriksen (from Ajax to Tottenham in 2013/14), Graziano Pelle (from Feyenoord to Southampton in 2014/15), and Georginio Wijnaldum (from Eindhoven to Newcastle in 2015/16).
However, the failures have been glaring and all too plentiful, including painful flops in their first Premier League seasons from Bryan Ruiz (from Twente to Fulham in 2011/12), Oussama Assaidi (from Heerenveen to Liverpool in 2012/13), Brett Holman (from AZ Alkmaar to Fulham in 2012/13), Jozy Altidore (from Alkmaar to Sunderland in 2013/14), Nacer Chadli (from FC Twente to Spurs in 2013/14), Dusan Tadic (from Twente to Southampton in 2014/15), Memphis Depay (from PSV to Manchester United in 2015/16) and Stephen Burghuis (from Alkmaar to Watford in 2015/16).
Depay and Altidore were particularly enormous busts, scoring 22 and 23 goals, respectively, in the Eredisivisie season before coming to the Premier League, then following that up with two and one goal(s), respectively. Tadic and Chadli eventually found success, but teams flirting with the relegation zone are looking for an immediate impact and simply cannot afford to wait.
On balance, in recent years Eredivisie summer transfers on the offensive end have struggled to make an immediate impact compared to players coming over from other major European leagues such as La Liga, the Bundlesliga, Ligue 1 or even from other Premier League clubs, though results have been better than Serie A.
This trend has continued since then in more recent seasons:
- Vincent Janssen scored 27 goals with five assists in 34 games for AZ Alkmaar in 2015/16, but scored only two goals with two assists in 27 games for Tottenham in 2016/17.
- Davy Klaasen scored 14 goals with 9 assists for Ajax in 2016/17, but has no goals or assists in 4 games for Everton this season.
Of course, winter and summer transfers are slightly different beasts, but summer transfers are far more plentiful, offering much more in the way of examples for the purpose of data mining. What can we find looking only at the winter?
In the prior three seasons, there have been only two winter transfers of offensive players from the Eredivisie to the Premier League, both in 2016/17:
- Markus Henriksen scored 2 goals with no assists in three games for AZ Alkmaar, then had no goals or assists in 15 games for Hull City. (He had 12 goals and seven assists in 28 games for Alkmaar in 2015/16.)
- Luciano Narsigh had 1 goal and 1 assist in 15 games for PSV Eindhoven, then had no goals and 3 assists in 134 games for Swansea City. (He had eight goals and six assists in 30 games for Eindhoeven in 2015/16, explaining why he was in demand.)
This small selection does not look promising, either. The investigation of the Eredivisie as a feeder to the Premier League is insightful, but of course, each player should be looked at on an individual basis.
What Does Locadia Bring to the Table & How Does He Fit In?
In 2012/13, the Dutch native broke out with 6 goals and 4 assists in only 15 games for PSV, memorably scoring a hat trick in his debut at the age of 18. He followed that up with 13 goals and 5 assists in a full 2013/14 campaign. Following a disappointing 2014/15 (6 goals, 3 assists), Locadia bounced back with an 8 goal, 13 assist effort in 2015/16. Another down season (3 goals, 3 assists) limited to 14 contests followed in 2016/17, but with 9 goals and 6 assists in only 15 games so far this season, it is likely that, had the 24-year old stayed, this would have been his most prolific season yet. In total, Locadia has tallied 45 goals and 34 assists in 127 Eredivisie contests.
Does he have blinding speed? No, but he’s fast enough. Is he big and strong? Well, he’s not going to bully every defender, but he won’t get pushed around either. There is no single skill that stands out with Locadia, rather he is a solid all-around player, adept with both feet, good at dribbling, passing and finishing, unlikely to do too much damage in the air but can pop in with a useful header occasionally. He’s not going to turn Brighton into an offensive powerhouse, but a player of his caliber should make the team better.
Under manager Chris Hughton, Brighton has been unable to settle on a regular formation, generally alternating between a 4-4-2 and 4-5-1. On top of that, the forward(s) in the XI has/have been somewhat haphazardly selected as well, with Glenn Murray (14 starts), Jose Izquierdo (10) and Tomer Hemed (9) unable to stake a clear claim. Murray leads the team with six goals, but only one of those has come in the last nine games.
When a club makes a record transfer, it looks to put him in the XI right away. There is certainly no player on Brighton who should keep Locadia from becoming an immediate starter... at least when he is healthy. Currently recovering from injury, he will have to wait a short while.
Prior to his mid-December injury, Locadia teamed explosively with winger Hirving Lozano (11 goals, 7 assists) and central midfielder Marco van Ginkel (10 goals, 3 assists) in the lethal attack of first place PSV. Brighton will be starved for possession and space compared to what Locadia was accustomed to at Eindhoven. Even so, he is the type of versatile player who should pair well with whomever among Murray/Izquierdo/Hemed is preferred in the 4-4-2, or link up adeptly with Pascal Gross, Anthony Knockaert and Solly March in the 4-5-1.
Does Locadia Offer Fantasy Value?
In Official, nobody on Brighton costs more than £5.8, and no field players other than Pascal Groß have scored more than 67 points. The forward position for the three promoted teams (Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle) is a wasteland, with the 71 points by Laurent Depoitre pacing the field. Locadia’s price has not been entered into the system yet, so it remains to be seen how affordable he is. Anything £5.5 or under would seem fair. If you are struggling to find an affordable secondary or tertiary striker to mix in to your fantasy side, Locadia could be worth a punt.
In Fantrax, he comes in at the standard entry rate of $7.00, which unfortunately seems a bit much since you can get proven goal scorers Callum Wilson ($7.54) or Joshua King ($6.12) with the same money, and punts can be had for $1. More importantly, though, you don’t want to waste a precious forward spot on a cheap somebody who isn’t sure to produce (see our editor’s lamentations over Cenk Tosun’s back-to-back -3 outings). Forward spots are much more precious in Fantrax than in Official since so many midfielders in Official are designated as forwards in Fantrax. Plus, you can easily wait and grab him on the barn door if he has a big game or two.
Similarly, in Togga Perfect XI, it would take a plague of frogs falling from the skies for you to use Locadia in one of the precious two forward spots. In a Togga draft league, if you’ve had some injury problems and your squad is spread thin, he could provide some relief. You can always stash him on your bench and use him in favorable match-ups as one of your last starters when needed.
Locadia has a chance to make a difference fairly quickly, as the next four fixtures are favorable: at Southampton, v. West Ham, at Stoke, v. Swansea. He is expected to be available around the middle of that run, before the fixture list becomes more mixed.
The Eredivisie has fallen out of favor as far as valuation and expectations go for transfers to the Premier League (in parallel with losing its automatic CL qualifying spot). Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Luis Suarez are distant in the rear view mirror. However, there have been some notable success stories in the intervening years that you should not forget. You won’t want to add Locadia to your team until he is ready to feature in February, and your expectations should not be too lofty, but you would do well to keep an eye on Brighton’s Dutch import.
(Note: Statistics used in this article came via the Official Premier League site as well as www.transfermarkt.com.)
What do you think of Brighton’s record-setting signing from Holland? Are you planning on adding Locadia to your fantasy teams when healthy, are you in wait-and-see mode, or do you have another preferred option? Let us know in the comments!