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Spotlight: Burnley Midfielder Dwight McNeil

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The Clarets are undefeated since their teenage midfielder joined the starting lineup. Sean Dyche thinks the 19 year-old is a critical part of his squad — should he be in your team too?

Dwight McNeil - Burnley FC - Premier League
Dwight McNeil applauds Burnley’s fans after scoring in the 2-0 win over West Ham on December 30.
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Fantasy managers are always on the lookout for under-the-radar players who are quietly producing attractive fantasy returns at prices that are still reasonable. By identifying these players before they become popular, elite fantasy managers can set themselves apart from the competition by adding valuable differentials to their squads.

Last season I tipped Aaron Wan-Bissaka to you before he developed into a fantasy Jedi, and this season I called Lucas Digne to your attention before he turned to fantasy gold. I’d now like to put another player on your watchlist: Dwight McNeil.

The young man is not yet 20 years old, so there’s not a lot of background for me to detail for you. He started off in Manchester United’s youth system before joining Burnley’s Academy in 2014. He thrived as a Claret, winning a two-year scholarship in 2016 and signing a professional contract in January of 2017. He was a starting striker for both the U-18s as well as the Development Squad. In May 2018 he was named Burnley’s Youth Team Player of the Year, and later that month he was handed his first EPL appearance as a late sub in Burnley’s final game of the season (a 2-1 loss to Bournemouth).

McNeil remained with the senior squad after the close of the 2017-18 season, and he started the Clarets’ September 2 match against Manchester United in Game Week 4. He then made no further appearances until subbing in against Everton on Boxing Day. He has started every game since, scoring his first Premier League goal on December 30th against West Ham.

Burnley are clearly better with McNeil in the side. The Clarets lost six of the seven games immediately preceding his first start, but they’ve not lost any of the seven games he has started since. True, his run coincides with Tom Heaton displacing Arrgh Joe Hart Arrgh, and much of the credit for Burnley’s turnaround during this period has gone to the goalkeeper. But Dyche thinks both players have been critical to Burnley’s resurgence. When asked about Heaton, he said:

“It doesn’t get a mention. You know Dwight McNeil came in at the same time? He’s been fantastic, 19 years old, running around the Premier League, enjoying his football — fantastic. Tom’s definitely played his part, Dwight as well. He’s a young man with a bright future as long as he keeps working hard, which I believe he will.”

The youngster lines up as a left midfielder now, but his attacking instincts from his days as a striker are still there. In the six games since he scored against the Hammers, he has registered three assists, two shots on goal, eight accurate crosses, and four corners forced. That productivity has reaped Fantrax returns of 17, 11, 10, 10, 7, 3, and 11 across his seven starts since Boxing Day. Indeed, he has put up double digits in that platform every time he has played the full 90 minutes, earning an overall average of 8.1 ppg.

What other players have similar Fantrax averages? How about Marcos Alonso, Anthony Martial, Marko Arnautovic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Alexandre Lacazette, Andros Townsend, Dele Alli, and Willian? At $9.61, the doubtful Dele Alli is the only name on that list priced under $10. McNeil is still available for $5.08.

Because the FPL scoring system is not as generous with rewards for secondary statistics, McNeil has not been as productive in that format as he has in Fantrax. Nevertheless, over his 7 starts he is averaging over 4 ppg, and is priced at just £4.4. There are no similarly-priced players that even approach his average return in FPL, which for me makes him a very compelling 5th-midfielder option in that game.

Will the baby-faced English teenager eventually develop into a blockbuster fantasy stud, å la AWB or Digne? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I’d at least advise putting him on your watchlist. I think he’s a strong play right now as bench cover, and he’ll also be a fine S11 pick whenever Burnley face lower-half opposition (in fact, he’s already made a few appearances in our Player Picks articles). But if you’re still not convinced of the young lad’s potential, then take in his MOTM performance against West Ham:

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Has McNeil already caught your eye? Have you already added him to your squad? If not, will you now? Join us in the comments below and let us know your plans.

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