It seems slightly bonkers to be devoting a second article in two days to Anthony Martial given the 19-year-old has only played 116 minutes of Premier League football. However, after more than 150,000 more transfers in since my post yesterday, the Manchester United striker has recorded back to back price rises and is the biggest story so far of this Fantasy Premier League season.
The evidence base for assessing Martial is tiny, but FPL managers are leaping to judgment with their transfers so I feel justified in taking another look at the small amount of data available to us.
Yesterday, I looked at how Martial’s underlying data suggested his goal production was primed for regression. I also discussed how I am struggling to see the merits in swapping Bafétimbi Gomis for Martial, but today I want to take a broader look at the men he is replacing in FPL squads.
So far 11 strikers have been sold by more than 15,000 FPL managers this gameweek, with four – Christian Benteke, Gomis, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku – suffering at least triple that number of sales. As you can see from the chart below, they are all in a similar price bracket to Martial (now 8.2m).
I not sure comparing the four of them with Martial is very useful because the teenager’s limited game time means his data could easily be the result of a performance blip that hasn’t had time to smooth out. Nevertheless, I thought some FPL managers might be interested to see it anyway.
Given the other forwards have all played more than four times as many minutes as Martial, I thought the fairest way to compare them would be to look at the time in minutes between events rather than raw numbers.
With a large sample size, each set of bars in a chart like this would be taller than the set to its left. Shots are the most frequently occurring metric we are looking at here, followed by Shots in the Box (SiB) and Shots on Target (SoT). Goals are the least commonly occurring of these four measures in football. Short bars show something is happening more regularly – for example, Gomis is hitting the target more frequently than Benteke.
The problem with Anthony Martial’s data and the reason I warned about regression yesterday is that his bars are almost flat. If we compare it with the other strikers we see that his minutes per Shot is roughly on a par with the other four strikers, as are his minutes per Shot in the Box. However, by the time we reach minutes per goal we see he is performing significantly better than the others.
Players will have patches where they perform better than average. It could be that Martial “is in form” and, if so, buying now could be make sense, but with just 116 minutes of data it is also possible that this is just a blip.
Players will also have periods where their performance is below average. Poor Harry Kane is an example of a player out of form. Last year he averaged a minutes per goal rate similar to that seen by Gomis now, but he has yet to score this season so we can’t give him a minutes per goal figure. As you can see, he is still shooting frequently and doing so in the box with a similar regularity to these other striking options, but he is failing to hit the target as often. Watching him play against Crystal Palace, Kane seemed to be snatching at some of his shots and that appears to be showing through in his minutes per Shot on Target rate.
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Strikers are not all equal and some will perform better than others. Last season, 328 was the average minutes per goal among strikers who scored five or more goals. Even Benteke and Lukaku, who many FPL managers are selling, are scoring more frequently than that this season.
The best of the best last season was Sergio Agüero, who clocked up a goal just over every 100 minutes on average. In one particularly fruitful match last year he averaged a goal every 23 minutes.
Martial has scored a goal every 39 minutes on average this season. That can be done in one match, as Agüero showed, but even the best striker in the league couldn’t keep that rate of return up all season long.