Everton midfield options

Everton assets are attracting the attention of Fantasy Premier League managers as the club continues a run of kind fixtures that started last week against West Bromwich Albion. In the next five gameweeks the Toffees play Stoke City, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

When many FPL teams have, or are looking to pair, Sergio Agüero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their forward line, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku is too expensive at 9.0m for those who want to keep their spending in various areas of the team somewhat balanced.

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Instead, attention has turned to midfielders Ross Barkley (7.7m), Gerard Deulofeu (6.5m) and Kevin Mirallas (6.5m), who have been playing as the front three in a 3-4-3 formation in Ronald Koeman’s first two Premier League games in charge. Newly added to the mix is Yannick Bolasie (6.0m), Everton’s expensive new signing from Crystal Palace.

There are several problems with picking an Everton midfielder, including how they will line up following Bolasie’s arrival and Lukaku’s return to fitness. The other issue is that two games give FPL managers insufficient data on which to make an informed decision.

To combat this problem I have gone back and added the players’ data from the 2015-16 season to that from the two Premier League games played so far this season. It’s not ideal because Koeman wasn’t their manager last season but it will have to do.

Everton mids - actions per 90

I’ve broken their contributions down to actions per 90 minutes because it would be unfair to compare Barkley’s raw numbers with Mirallas or Deulofeu, when he played twice as many minutes over that period. I also excluded two penalties Barkley scored against Newcastle in Februrary because penalties generally have a much higher conversion rate than regular shots and Lukaku will likely be on spot kicks this year if last season is any guide. In these circumstances I consider any penalties he gets this year to be an unexpected bonus, but one which some FPL managers might want to take into consideration.

The chart shows that Deulofeu is the most creative of the four when he is on the pitch, but the least likely to score a goal. Although Barkley is more creative than Bolasie was at Crystal Palace, there is not much to choose between them when it comes to goal threat. The leader in that department though is Mirallas. He shoots more frequently, takes more shots in the penalty area and finds the target more often per 90 minutes played.

Everton mids - conversion rates

Although weak in shooting volume, Deulofeu does have the edge when it comes to finding the target, getting more shots on target and scoring more goals per shot taken. The rate at which he turns shots into shots on target looks unusually high and could regress this season. But I am interested to hear in the comments from anyone who watches a lot of Everton games and has a theory that could explain why it is high.

What this chart also suggests is Barkley has a propensity to bulk out his shooting numbers with low quality shots that fail to test or beat the keeper. However, when he does shoot in the box or hit the target the results are not much different from those of his colleagues.

Everton mids - P90

Of course, what matters most in FPL is the ability to generate points. The chart of points scored per 90 minutes played (P90) shows Mirallas leads the way, while Bolasie lags behind the others as the only player not to achieve an average of at least four points per 90 minutes played.

Where Bolasie does have an advantage is in being the cheapest of the four. Being 1.7m cheaper than Barkley catapults the Congolese player above the Englishman in terms of points per 90 per million of FPL budget spent. However, the 0.5 gap to Mirallas and Deulofeu doesn’t make up for the difference in points output per 90.

A major part of the calculation FPL managers have to make is predicting who will play. In the two Premier League games played so far this season, Mirallas and Deulofeu have both been withdrawn early. The latter made way just after the hour against the Baggies so Bolasie could make his competitive debut. Based on game time so far, Barkley’s position looks more secure but that security is reflected in his price.

Each of the four players has his strengths and weaknesses. The challenge for FPL managers will be weighing up the budget demand, gametime risk and potential output of each then deciding if any of them would be a good fit for their team.

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