Harry Kane blanks again

Before the season started there was a lot of talk about how Harry Kane had never scored a Premier League goal in August. There were good reasons to believe this season might be different. Unlike his first two Premier League seasons, Kane is now a starting striker and unlike the last two Premier League seasons he was coming into August off a proper pre-season break.

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Yet, with two games gone this August and just one Premier League match left to play before September rolls around, Harry Kane has so far failed to find the net in the last full month of summer. It’s certainly not for want of trying. I was able to watch part of Tottenham Hotspur’s game against Chelsea and there were moments where Kane played like a man possessed, determined to break his August duck.

Indeed, a look at his stats from the first two games tells a similar story. In his first match, against newly promoted Newcastle United, he unleashed six shots, including five in the area and one on target. Against Chelsea, last season’s Premier League champions, he performed even better with eight shots, six of which were in the area, and three of which tested the goalkeeper.

Harry Kane - actions per 90 minutes to GW2, 2017-18

Harry Kane – actions per 90 minutes to GW2, 2017-18

The chart compares Kane’s output to previous seasons, with penalty kicks excluded from the calculation of actions per minute. It shows that Kane has actually been shooting more frequently this year and doing so inside the box more regularly too. His Shots on Target output is similar to previous years and it is only the goals column where he has failed to register so far.

The sample size for this season is tiny – just two games – so there is more scope for variance in the results. During the season we may see that the shots and shots in box frequency decline at one end of the chart while the goal numbers increase at the other end. However, it’s also not completely out of the realm of possibility that these shooting numbers are the first tentative indications of a step up in output for Harry Kane – if that is the case Premier League defences should be getting very nervous.

More games will help give us a clearer picture. Up next for Spurs is Burnley at Wembley. The Clarets were the eighth best team in the league for goals conceded at home last year, but on the road they were the joint seventh worst. This could be a good opportunity for Kane to finally break his August goal drought.

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Everything but the Goal: GW16

Neither the Everything but the Goal pick nor the control selection for Gameweek 16 had the highest shot tallies last week, but they did fire their efforts from more dangerous areas. The Everything but the Goal pick is Leicester City’s Islam Slimani, who failed beat Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with four shots. Three of those efforts were off target but taken close to the six yard box, while the fourth was hit from just outside the box and was on target.
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The control pick is Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente, who also fired four shots. He netted twice past Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with his two shots on target. His other two shots, which were also taken well inside the area, both missed the target.

For both players the objective is to score, which is what the Everything but the Goal selection for Gameweek 15, Victor Anichebe, and the control pick, Harry Kane, failed to achieve.

Sorry for the lack of an Everything but the Goal post last week. Emre Can, the Everything but the Goal pick for Gameweek 14, found the target in Gameweek 15, but Sergio Agüero, the control selection, did not.

Season EBTG score: Found 3 – 11 Missing

Season control score: Found 4 – 10 Missing

Picking a Gameweek 30 captain

Gameweek 30 throws up an interesting captaincy selection. Three of the top four teams in the Premier League face the three bottom teams. Furthermore, those top teams have three of the top four Premier League goalscorers spread between them.

My gut is telling me to put the armband on Harry Kane but my head is telling me to put it on Agüero as he is likely to be the most popular option among the players I am competing against.

I thought I would dive into the statistics to see if they can help me make a decision. I’ve added Jamie Vardy into the mix because he also looks a great option this week. I stopped short of including Riyad Mahrez as I liked the idea of a straight comparison between strikers who are also their club’s current designated penalty takers.

Captain choice GW30

The chart shows 11 types of data. The first seven are shown by the bars charted against the left axis and they show actions per 90 minutes played (P90): goals (G), shots on target (SoT), shots in box (SiB), shots (Sh), chances created (CC), assists (A) and penalties taken (PenT). The remaining data shows percentages against the right axis: the proportion of penalties converted (PenConv%), the proportion of games with no goal (Blank%), the proportion of games with two or more goals (2G+%) and the proportion of their team’s goals the player has been involved in by scoring or assisting (TGI%).

It is important to note here that the percentage stats for Kane and Vardy are based on all their performances in the Premier League this season, but the data for Agüero, who has played fewer minutes this season, is based on Premier League games in which he has played at least 60 minutes. This may not be ideal, but seemed fair. His proportions might be a little different if you include the two Premier League games in which he played less than 30 minutes.

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The chart shows why Agüero is great, even when being compared to two other strikers having good seasons. In all the P90 shooting metrics he comes out ahead. He is more explosive than the other two and more involved in his team’s goals.

As you would expect from a player who broke a Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games this season, Vardy has notched more consistently than Agüero or Kane. Agüero’s penalty miss last week leaves him lagging behind the other two in terms of penalty conversion.

The second part of this analysis focuses on the fixtures. The Team Goals Involvement percentage (TGI%) showed what proportion of a team’s scoring pie a player has a hand in, but it helps to know how big the pie is.

Captain choice GW30 player's team dashboard

In this case, Agüero’s team, Manchester City (MCI), have a slightly larger pie but there is not much in it. Tottenham Hotspur (TOT) test the opposition more frequently than the other two teams, but tend do so from long range more often – a pattern shared by their striker Kane. The most interesting data here comes from Leicester City (LEI). They blank less frequently than the other two sides and have punished their opponents heavily more often.

Remember, though, that this is data from all games this season and there can be variations within that. Leicester, for example, haven’t been punishing teams as frequently in the second half of the season so far as they were in the first half. While every team has played each other at least once, this data has not been adjusted for strength of schedule, nor have I broken it down by home and away performance.

Finally, let’s look at the opposition, the teams we hope will be scored upon multiple times by our captain.

Captain choice GW30 opposition team dashboard

All three teams like to concede goals (GC), though Aston Villa (AVL) and Norwich City (NOR) tend to do so off fewer shots conceded (ShC). Despite their reputation, Villa and Newcastle United (NEW) have been better at keeping clean sheets (CS) than Norwich. But Villa have conceded two or more goals (2GC+) more often.

All in all, this run through has made me excited for the gameweek, but not made the captaincy choice much more obvious. All three look good for different reasons, but the differences between them are not huge. Anything can happen in one game, so it could be luck of the draw.

I have to put the armband on someone though and I think it will be Agüero. His shooting metrics are ahead of the rest, he is more involved in his team’s goals and Norwich rarely keep a clean sheet.

Harry Kane

The hat-trick hero in Gameweek 10 of the 2015-16 Premier League season was Harry Kane. The Tottenham Hotspur forward bagged 17 points for the 16.6 per cent of Fantasy Premier League managers who have him in their team.

Goals were always likely to start flowing at some point from the England international, who came second in the race for the Golden Boot last season despite not being Tottenham’s starting striker for the first 10 games. Kane’s underlying statistics show why.

Harry Kane GW1-10 2015-16

Only two strikers have fired more shots in the Premier League than Kane this season. Only in Spurs’ Gameweek 2 clash against Stoke has the PFA Young Player of the Year failed to fire at least three attempts in a match. Furthermore, a large portion of those shots have been hit from inside the penalty area, which is another positive sign.

Where Kane was falling down this season was getting those shots on target. He only managed four shots on target in the first six games. I noted after the Gameweek 6 match against Crystal Palace that Kane seemed to snatching at shots. A player who is struggling to hit shots on target will struggle to score goals.

But notice how Kane has started hitting the target more frequently since Gameweek 7. I suspect he was low on confidence and forcing his play, but is now playing with more freedom.

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The fixture list mostly looks promising for Spurs (AVL, ars, WHM, CHE, wba, NEW). Some FPL managers might worry that Kane’s hat-trick was against an injury-ravaged Bournemouth side, but we know from his goal against Manchester City in Gameweek 7 this season, plus braces against Chelsea and Arsenal last year, that he can score against anyone.

A bigger issue is whether there is room for Kane (9.2m) in one of the three FPL forward spots. Jamie Vardy (7.2m) is in amazing form, having scored nine goals in the last seven games. Graziano Pellè (8.4m) hasn’t scored for two weeks, but FPL managers will be in no rush to remove a player with five goals and five assists this season, plus five good fixtures in the next six games (BOU, sun, STO, mci, AVL, cpl).

The third highest scoring FPL forward is Odion Ighalo, who offers great value even at his current price of 5.4m. Just behind Ighalo is Lukaku. At 8.4m, the Everton forward is cheaper than Kane and he doesn’t face another team from last season’s top eight in 2015. And then there is Wildfried Bony (8.3m), who scored two last week on his first start filling in for the injured Sergio Agüero in the normally highly productive Manchester City forward line.

Until Agüero is back, FPL managers can afford to field two 8m+ forwards, Vardy and a strong midfield. But once the Argentinian returns, they could face a tricky restructuring job if the money is spread too broadly. Kane looks a good buy, but FPL managers will have to consider carefully whether he is better than their other options.

Agüero replacements: Premium forwards

“As long as he stays fit” – within days of publishing those six important words in my post considering the Gameweek 8 performance of Sergio Agüero, the Manchester City star striker damaged his hamstring and is reported to be out for at least a month.

Now the hunt is on among Fantasy Premier League managers for a replacement striker as 13.3m is too much value to leave on the bench for long. The game’s most expensive striker being out means every possible replacement option is available for consideration.

I am starting my look at the alternatives with the premium forwards. With Rooney flagged for a knock, there are only three fit options that cost more than 9.0m  – Harry Kane (9.2m), Daniel Sturridge (10.5m) and Diego Costa (10.9m). Kane has started every match and clocked up 683 minutes, but suspension and injury have limited Costa and Sturridge’s game time to 518 and 242 minutes respectively. Given the disparity of minutes, I think the best way to compare them is to look at their minutes per action.

Agüero replacements - premium strikers

I’ve included Agüero’s statistics for comparison and it’s clear that so far this season only Sturridge comes anywhere near close to the man he would replace. I would normally add minutes per goal into the chart, but with Kane and Costa netting only once each this season that would lift the minutes axis so high that it would be hard to see the other metrics. Sturridge has performed better than his counterparts from Tottenham and Chelsea by scoring twice in his three appearances.

On statistics alone then, there is one clear winner in this price bracket. However we have other factors to consider. Firstly, Sturridge’s own injury problems mean bringing him in could be the FPL equivalent of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Furthermore,  Jürgen Klopp’s appointment last week as Liverpool manager means we can’t be sure which players the new man will favour and where Sturridge will play.

We also have to consider fixtures. Liverpool’s fixture list (tot, SOT, che, CPL, mci, SWA) is far from enticing. Tottenham’s fixtures (LIV, bou, AVL, ars, WHM, CHE) are mixed, but many FPL managers will be looking for more signs of a return to form from Kane before heading in that direction. Chelsea have a lovely match this week (AVL) but after that the fixtures are also mixed (whm, LIV, sto, NOR, tot). With injuries and rotation beginning to bite on FPL squads, some FPL managers will be questioning whether it is worth burning a transfer on an out of form striker leading the line for a stuttering Chelsea side. It might work this week, but that could be a false dawn if the Blues can’t sustain a recovery.

The strikers replaced by Martial

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).

Benteke TOR 146579 Gomis TOR 72847 Kane TOR 54290 Lukaku TOR 49460

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.

Anthony Martial v Striker Alternatives

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.