It may seem weird to be thinking about buying a Southampton midfielder prior to a game against Chelsea – or maybe not given Chelsea’s form this season. But the idea is circulating in my head as I think about options should I need to replace Yaya Touré.
There has been some buzz around Dusan Tadic (6.9m) this week after his performance against Swansea City took him to 39 Fantasy Premier League points, joint fourth best among midfielders alongside Touré and Barkley. He has been drafted in by more than 22,000 managers, making him the sixth most popular buy this week. When I started researching this article on Tuesday I thought I would be writing about him alone, but the more I delved into the data the more I was drawn towards two other Southampton midfielders instead.
None of the Southampton midfielders has played every minute this season, but Victor Wanyama (4.3m, 540 minutes) might have done so if he hadn’t missed one complete game because of transfer speculation. Next come Sadio Mané (7.8m, 483 minutes), Tadic (478 minutes), Steven Davis (4.8m, 471 minutes), James Ward-Prowse (5.7m, 376 minutes) and Oriol Romeu Vidal (4.4m, 308 minutes).
Romeu’s game time is too uncertain for my taste so I’m going to skip past him. Davis has offered zero goal threat. The Northern Ireland international is something of a chances created machine – he ranks joint seventh in the Premier League by that measure – but he hasn’t bagged an assist yet. Ward-Prowse is one to monitor having missed only 15 minutes of the last four matches. Twice in those games he has been fielded as the central man in the three lined up behind striker Graziano Pellè, according to FourFourTwo StatsZone. The young Englishman has created nine chances and delivered one assist. He has also taken six shots, though all but one was from outside the box.
The three players I am most interested in however are Wanyama, Mané and Tadic.
Before I dive into what the radar chart shows, I need to mention that there are two discrepancies in the stats here from what you will find on the Fantasy Premier League website and Fantasy Football Scout.
Firstly, Tadic’s goal against Swansea (pictured above), is not counted here. Some data sources credit him with the deflected goal, others mark it down as a Ki own goal. FourFourTwo StatsZone does the latter. If you want to make your own mental adjustment, you can add one each to his shots, shots in box, shots on target and goals scored numbers. Given that “goal” may be a big driver behind why people are buying him this week, it is quite an important distinction and shows why we should be cautious about using the statistics, particularly when the sample size isn’t huge. Secondly, Mané is credited in some places with an extra shot on target in Gameweek 1 than is captured by the radar chart.
What the chart does demonstrate is that Tadic is an elite creator of chances this season and should be a good source of assists if Pellè can knock them in (and that’s a debate for a different day). However, with or without his goal against Swansea, Tadic has a totally unsustainable shots on target conversion rate of 100 per cent (or 150 per cent if you credit him with the goal against Swansea but don’t believe the Serbian’s attempted pass to Mané was heading towards the goal).
Looking at Wanyama’s data, we see that while he has yet to record a goal or an assist, his other shooting stats are not very different from those of Tadic. Wanyama is a lot cheaper though. Having been dropped by nearly 325,000 FPL managers so far this season, including more than 13,000 this week, the Kenyan international is the joint cheapest midfielder in the game but has the most secure playing time of those around him. Given he has some goal-scoring threat – he netted three times last season – he is definitely on my shortlist for a cheap fifth-midfielder if I revert back to a 3-4-3 formation.
Finally, we have Mané. Looking at his underlying data, I would suggest trying to find an extra 0.9m to buy the Senegalese winger rather than Tadic if you want a Southampton midfielder for their upcoming run of fixtures (che, LEI, liv, BOU, sun, STO). He may have only scored once, but his goal threat has been nearly double that of his team mate in the first seven gameweeks.
There has been some speculation circulating about whether Mané will play in Gameweek 9, after the international break, because of his commitments to his country. I have not researched the validity of the claims yet but I am flagging it as something to check out if you are considering Mané.