A few eyebrows were raised when Jermain Defoe returned to the Premier League following a mediocre MLS spell last January. Now he’s rolling back the years and proving those critics wrong.
- Name: Jermain Defoe
- Position: Forward
- Fantasy Price: £7.6m (PlayON), £5.1m (FPL)
- Appearances: 17
- Goals: 9
- Assists: 0
Big Sam and little Jermain.
If his manager had his pick of strikers in the Premier League, you get the impression that on physical specifications at least, Defoe would rank some way down the pecking order.
Allardyce is after all, the man well known for his preference of the Kevin Davieses, Roque Santa Cruzes and Andy Carrolls of this world. To say that the 5ft 7′ Defoe is an undersized piece in his managers’ Sunderland puzzle may have been true at one stage, but on current form, the Black Cats simply can’t afford to leave the ex-England international freezing over on the bench.
While it’s not clear whether the burden of watering his house plants, stocking his fridge and designing various apps has finally been lifted from Defoe’s shoulders, something is currently going very right for the striker, by design or chance.
Age hasn’t dulled the goalscoring instinct and Defoe is now enjoying his best patch of form for many years.
With five goals in his last two Premier League games, the 33 year old has given Allardyce little option but to utilize him as the lone centre-forward in a more organized 4-5-1 – demoting the more traditional target man, Steven Fletcher, to the bench.
We’ve got Jermain scoring all our goals, so at the moment we’ve only got one. But one will be enough if he continues to score like he does. – Sam Allardyce, following Sunderland’s 4-2 victory over Swansea
Among Premier League strikers, Defoe bucks the trend. No forward in the league of comparable goal tally has been so ruthlessly economical in his goalscoring exploits. With just 34 attempts on goal in 13 starts, the ex-Spurs man has made it nine league goals this season – to put that in perspective, no other striker with less than 50 efforts has scored over five.
Scoring from 26.5% of his shots, the forward has capitalized on whatever limited creativity to come his way. To put that in perspective, Vardy (21.4%), Giroud (20.7%) and Lukaku (20.3%) all now trail the 33 year old for goal conversion.
Across the 2015/16 season, Sunderland tie with Aston Villa as the third worst team in a creative capacity – serving up a chance every 8.9 minutes on average – and also ranking third from bottom among their contemporaries for attempts on goal, with just 225 in 21 matches.
As a fantasy player, Defoe represents a bold but potentially rewarding differential selection. The next two games on the horizon for Sunderland are at the striker’s old Tottenham stomping ground, and then at home to fellow bottom dwellers, Bournemouth.
The omens don’t bode particularly well for the Black Cats against Spurs.
Not only have Sunderland lost five of their last six games at White Hart Lane, but Defoe has only scored once against his ex-employers – a penalty for Portsmouth back in 2008. That said, with Spurs recently wounded by Leicester City and bearing in mind his superb form, Defoe could conceivably come back haunt his old side. It is a risky bet, however.
A game against Bournemouth in Gameweek 23 though, could be a major boost in fantasy terms. The Cherries have kept just two clean sheets all season at home and could be at pains to deal with the improving Sunderland front four, with Borini, Johnson and Lens in support of main man Defoe.
In Dame N’Doye – impressive despite Hull’s relegation last season – a more conventional Allardycian striker has arrived at the Stadium of Light. Nudging out this veteran Englishman however, is now easier said than done.
Big Sam has mentioned his desire to enlist the powers of Derren Brown to aid his team’s survival chances this season – having used a hypnotist to rescue Bolton in the past – but if Defoe continues to pull rabbits out of the hat, he may not need to.