With the January transfer window set to close on Friday, we’re still waiting for the kind of blockbuster trade that could have a major impact on the EPL. After all, legendary EPL players such as Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, and Luis Suarez all joined the league during the winter window.
But one of January 2020’s new transfers has already had a big influence on his club: Slovakian international Ondrej Duda. Let’s look him over with an eye toward his fantasy potential.
Duda is a 25 year-old attacking midfielder who began his professional career at age 17 for Slovakian club Kosice. While there he won the Peter Dubovsky prize for Slovakia’s best young talent before moving to Legia Warsaw in February of 2014. At Legia he scored 16 goals in 101 appearances for the Polish club and won the domestic double. His performances caught the eye of many major European clubs such as Tottenham, Liverpool and AC Milan, but Duda would ultimately transfer to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in July 2016.
Unfortunately, Duda was unable to make his debut with Hertha until 7 months later due to a knee injury he suffered shortly after his arrival in Germany. But his influence grew steadily under manager Pal Dardai, peaking in last year’s campaign when he logged 11 goals and 6 assists. His impressive play again put him on the radar of larger clubs, this time including Sevilla in Spain.
But this season brought drastic change to Duda’s fortunes. Duda had firmly established himself as first-choice under Dardai, who called Duda the “little artist” who “can do things with the ball that very few here can” (pinkun.com). But Hertha sacked Dardai over the summer, and Duda subsequently lost his place in the starting lineup. His situation only worsened when Hertha changed managers again in November, this time appointing Jürgen Klinsmann. The German froze Duda out of the side.
With no place for Duda in Klinsmann’s plans, the club granted the Slovak permission to leave. Not wanting to sever ties with Hertha completely, Duda arranged a 6-month loan to the Canaries in the January transfer window, where he hopes to receive regular pitch time so that he can make a case for himself as a first-team regular wherever he ultimately finds a permanent home.
Rooted to the bottom of the table and six points adrift of 17th-place West Ham, the Canaries are in desperate need of a catalyst to turn their season around. Daniel Farke hopes that Ondrej Duda can be part of the solution:
“We’re bringing in a player who can play in the number ten role or in the wider areas and he’s proven that he can score goals and provide assists at the highest level. We’ll have to see how quickly he can help us and adapt, but we’re hopeful he can be a very good option for us for the second part of the season.” (thesun.co.uk).
As it turns out, it didn’t take Duda long to adapt at all. Signed on January 12th, he was handed a start in Norwich’s very next game, January 18th against Bournemouth. Operating in the No. 10 role behind Teemu Pukki, with Todd Cantwell to his left and Emi Buendia to his right, Duda’s debut was dazzling. Hertha’s former creator-in-chief combined with his new midfield teammates with an understanding that belied his lack of experience with them, and he constantly sought to play Teemu Pukki through. If not for some world-class (illegal) goalkeeping by defender Steve Cook, Duda would even have scored on his Canaries debut. Enjoy the highlights of the win — Norwich’s first in 10 games:
The Canaries were defeated by Tottenham 1-2 in Norwich’s next league game, but Duda was again named to the starting lineup, this time going the full 90 minutes (he was subbed off in the 79th minute against the Cherries). He tendered another impressive performance which also showcased the attacker’s willingness to contribute defensively — he made 3 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Duda’s talents as a creator make him a worthy candidate for fantasy consideration. His instincts and abilities fit perfectly with Farke’s attacking philosophies, and he is already gelling with his partners in Norwich’s midfield engine room. With the improvement he’ll bring to Norwich’s build-up in support of the clinical finishing of Teemu Pukki, we should see Duda create a lot of chances that lead to assists. But we must also remember that this is also a player who is capable of scoring goals himself — 11 in 32 Bundesliga games last season:
While it looks as though he has slotted directly into Farke’s S11 as the gaffer’s preferred number 10 over Marco Stiepermann, Duda is versatile enough to play anywhere across midfield: 47% of his goals have come from the left side of the pitch, 18% from the center, and 35% from the right. Duda’s flexibility to play centrally or on the wings provides Farke with many ways to employ him, which improves his security of starts — an important consideration for fantasy managers.
With recognized specialists such as Buendia, Cantwell, and Mario Vrancic in the side, it’s hard to predict what, if any, set-piece duties Duda will be granted. But he does have free kicks in his locker:
I would not expect to see Duda taking spot-kicks ahead of Teemu Pukki, though. Despite a good record over his career (5/6), Duda has never been a first-choice penalty-taker.
One universal aggravation for fantasy managers is yellow and red cards that deduct points from their players’ fantasy returns (just ask Chris about Jack Grealish’s injury-time caution that cost Chris an FPL Cup win — sorry Chris, too soon?). Happily, Duda should give you no pause in the discipline department. Over more than 6000 minutes of play he has been shown yellow only 20 times, and has never been dismissed. For purposes of comparison, his yellow-card accumulation rate is the same as Todd Cantwell’s, and only slighter higher than James Maddison’s, Leicester’s No. 10 whose role and style is similar to Duda’s.
In FPL Duda is priced at £5.0 and has returned 8 points from two games. Six of those points came from the Bournemouth game, where he registered a fantasy assist and clean sheet (do not count on many more clean sheets from Norwich, by the way). Although Duda played well in the Tottenham game, he did nothing of FPL significance and was credited only with appearance points. So although Duda seems promising as an FPL option, it’s still early days for him, and for the same price you could own his teammate Cantwell, who is a known quantity. For that reason I’m recommending that for now you merely monitor him in FPL, and weigh his value against Cantwell should you later consider purchasing.
I believe the story is different in Fantrax, however. That platform’s points system is more robust than FPL’s, and Duda has thrived in it. Across 168 minutes of EPL play he put up 2 shots on target, 5 tackles won, 1 foul suffered, 2 accurate crosses, 2 interceptions, and one fantasy assist. The result? Ten points in the Bournemouth game, and eight against Spurs. Fantrax rewards handsome phantom points to No. 10s who play the position the way Duda does, and he is currently available for $1 in all three of the Fantrax NMA leagues right now. So unless your midfield is stacked with marquee players whom you hold at discount, a player averaging 9 ppg who only costs a buck should probably be in your lineup. Get him in before the barn door closes!
(Note: information and statistics were sourced and/or derived from statsbunker.com, transfermrkt.com, wikipedia.com)
Did you notice Duda even before this article? Have you added him to any of your fantasy teams? Fantrax or FPL? Also: What other January new boys would you like to see featured? Please share in the comments below!