I like Juan Mata as a Fantasy Premier League option and he has graced my teams on multiple occasions over the last few years.
The Spaniard is rocking along nicely this season, clocking up three goals, three assists, five clean sheet points and six bonus points in the first seven games. He is now the third highest FPL points-scoring midfielder and the third highest FPL points scorer in the game.
Despite his success, the Manchester United midfielder only began surfacing in discussion in the last couple of weeks. He recorded his first price rise of the season on September 17 and has risen twice more since then, reaching 8.8m on Tuesday morning. There are a couple of reasons for him appearing late and low on FPL managers’ radars. Firstly, he delivered no major returns in two of the first three gameweeks. Secondly, there was some uncertainty about whether he would keep his place.
The former Chelsea man has been subbed twice before the 70-minute mark this season, but if he can keep up his current rate of minutes played he will top 3,000 minutes for the first time since arriving in the Premier League. While the situation may need monitoring, I don’t see concerns over playing time as a reason not to bring him in.
Mata isn’t among the best midfielders when it comes to his underlying stats. Where he shines is in the top level stats, particularly goals – Mata is joint second with the six other midfielders who have notched three times.
At this point you might expect me to make some reference to Mata’s goals to shots on target ratio being too high and to expect some regression – but I’m not going to.
In the last three seasons, Mata has consistently recorded an above average shots on target conversion rate and done so with more than 2,000 minutes played each year. Only in his first season in the Premier League did Mata record a below average shots on target conversion rate. Therefore, in the context of the player, I think his current goal-scoring performance can be sustained.
Where Mata is arguably over-performing is in assists. Some midfielders, like Cesc Fàbregas last year, can be exceptional at having chances created turn into assists, but Mata has not been one of them during his Premier League career.
Mata’s fixtures are tough over the next three weeks (ars, eve, MCI), but the Red Devils have scored three goals in each of their last three games (LIV, sot, SUN) so they have attacking form on their side. From Gameweek 11, Manchester United’s fixtures look more promising (cpl, WBA, wat, lei, WHU, bou, NOR, sto).
I discussed Kevin De Bruyne as a possible Yaya Toure replacement earlier this week. At 1.4m less, Mata should be considered as another good option for a vacant midfield slot.