The 21 year-old Welsh winger’s development has been dizzyingly steep. A season-long loan to Shrewsbury Town in 2017 saw him fail to break into their first team. To then rise to Swansea’s first team and move to United shows a young player who has responded well to negative experiences so far. Training and playing under the eyes of United legend and Wales manager Ryan Giggs seems to have fast-tracked his path to Old Trafford. Giggs is rumoured to have suggested the club act quickly to secure James.
What he brings to the table
James brings raw pace at an eye catching level, as pointed out by Pep before facing him in Manchester City’s FA Cup match. “James is incredibly fast, so it’s not easy. We knew that, we spoke about it.” – Pep Guardiola
A further example of the raw explosive pace was shown in Swansea’s 4-1 FA Cup win against Brentford seen here.
Post game, then-Swans manager Graham Potters explained further:
“Dan’s not playing against bad players, they’re not physically weak defenders, but he leaves them for dust, The ability to sprint repeatedly, it’s as high a level as you’re going to see. He’s got lots to work on but he had an end product today and I thought he was sensational.”
James has also shown a decent ability to read play and press from high up the pitch at times, and he is a player who gets fouled but doesn’t commit fouls often. You can easily see him winning penalties for his side either early in games when defenders have yet to settle, or late from the bench when legs and minds are tired.
While he has pace that you cannot create or teach, the side of the game you can learn is where the hard work is needed. James is currently a player whose pure pace can win himself opportunities in the final third, but his end product has been inconsistent to say the least. Swansea fans will tell you he’s as likely to fire a cross into the side netting as he is to find a fellow attacker in the box, and he has yet to develop a strong shooting technique or composure in his finishing. He is very raw but with potential. Raheem Sterling should act as a role model for James. Raheem had the same weaknesses a few seasons back, but plenty of hard work and commitment have seen him develop his game into a much improved position.
Where will he play and will he start?
Though Swans experimented using James both on the right hand side and as a false 9, they predominantly played him on the left hand side of their attack. If this positional choice continues, then his most immediate rivals for a starting spot will be Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez (if he stays) and potentially Marcus Rashford.
The most likely role for James this season will be to just acclimate to the club’s system, its evolving squad, and its enormous pressures. I’d expect moments in games where his blistering pace causes havoc. His issues with end product may be tested most against sides sitting deep and in numbers, so his positive moments could be late in games, perhaps even against sides who press high up the pitch like Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal.
In the 2018-19 Championship season, James played 28 times scoring 4 goals and providing 7 assists. Of those, all the goals and 6 of the 7 assists came at home. He also had over 3 shots per game and won over 3 fouls per game.
When adding in his likely rotation these are not the type of numbers to make James anywhere near must-have in FPL. Before investing, we would need to see him hit the ground running in preseason to give us the confidence Solskjaer sees him as a first choice selection.
How do you see the signing? At the right price, could he get into your fantasy football plans for the season ahead?