Agüero replacements: Budget forwards

After reviewing the expensive and mid-price replacements for Sergio Agüero, it’s time to assess the budget options. They could play an important role for those Fantasy Premier League managers looking to restructure funds to their midfield.

I have included a couple of players in this analysis that some might consider low mid-price forwards, but 7.0m seemed an appropriate split point for looking at the options this week. I’ve chosen to look at the three of the more popular budget options being transferred in this week – Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (6.8m), Watford’s Odion Ighalo (5.3m) and West Ham United’s Diafro Sakho (6.7m). I’ve also included two Newcastle United strikers, Ayoze Pérez Gutiérrez (5.1m) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (6.2m) because their team’s swing to a set of favourable fixtures has been attracting the attention of some FPL managers.

Once again I have broken the statistics down into minutes per action because of the variety of game time played, and I have included Agüero’s stats for comparison.

Budget Agüero replacements

Right off the bat, I’m going to say don’t pick Ayoze on present form. Even among the cheap forwards the chart suggests he is performing in a different league – and it’s not a better one. In the last two matches the Magpies’ boss, Steve McLaren, appears to have been trying out ways of playing with both Ayoze and Mitrovic in central roles. If he retains consistent game time and a central attacking position, Ayoze could become a player to revisit, but for now I would look elsewhere.

For FPL managers wanting a striker with a similar price tag to Ayoze (5.1m), I would recommend finding 0.2m more for Ighalo, whose underlying statistics shown in the chart above are similar to those of the much more expensive Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.

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Since I looked at Watford’s forwards a month ago, Ighalo has notched three more times and racked up six more bonus points. He has the advantage of playing in a low-scoring, defensively minded team so that winning goal may only need to trump the defenders to haul in bonus points. The Hornet’s fixtures (ARS, sto, WHM, lei, MUN, avl) are mixed, but Ighalo is cheap enough to bench at times while also looking capable of potentially delivering returns if needed.

I looked at Vardy in depth two weeks ago, so I won’t dwell on him here. His great form continued into Gameweek 8 where he added five more shots, all inside the box. He scored with one of his three shots on target in that game. His Shots on Target conversion rate over the course of the season is too high, but once the Foxes are past Southampton the next four fixtures (CPL, wba, WAT, new) could be profitable.

Sakho has been quietly gathering points with a goal or an assist in four of his last six games. His statistics so far don’t suggest he  will be an explosive player this year, but with an ownership of just 6.5 per cent he could be a decent differential option to keep an FPL forward line chugging along. The next set of fixtures for West Ham (cpl, CHE, wat, EVE, tot, WBA) are not the most appealing, but neither were Liverpool and Manchester City away and he scored in both of those games.

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Finally, I’ll return to Newcastle and to Mitrovic. After starting the season with two appearances from the bench, Mitrovic celebrated his first start with a four shots in the box in Gameweek 3, though none were on target. His second start, against Arsenal, was cut short by a red card in just 15 minutes. The Serbian striker returned in Gameweek 7 and the following week, against Manchester City, he recorded a respectable four shots, all of them in the box, with three on target. He also notched the goal that got him off the mark for this season. On the negative side, Mitrovic has tallied as many cards as Shots on Target this season.

At 6.2m, Mitrovic is too expensive to bench most of the time, but for those FPL managers determined to access the Newcastle forward line for their good run of fixtures (NOR, sun, STO, bou, LEI, cpl) he currently looks a better option than Ayoze and he’s a significant differential as he appears in less than one per cent of FPL teams. However, he doesn’t look the safest of options to take in a time of FPL turbulence.


Agüero replacements: Mid-price forwards

Yesterday I looked at the expensive forward options for Fantasy Premier League managers replacing Manchester City’s injured hitman Sergio Agüero. Today it is the turn of the mid-price forwards.

The choice in this price bracket is deeper than at the premium end of the field. Five options stand out to me as worth considering: Graziano Pellè (8.2m), Romelu Lukaku (8.4m), Bafétimbi Gomis (7.1m), Anthony Martial (8.4m) and Wilfried Bony (8.2m).

With more than a quarter of a million transfers in already during this international break, Pellè, the top scoring FPL forward with 52 points from 708 minutes played, has emerged as a clear favourite. Lukaku (49 points, 694 min) is another popular choice with over 70,000 transfers in. Despite being the prime candidate to replace Agüero in Manchester City’s normally potent attack, Wilfried Bony (11 points, 218 min) has only received just over 20,000 transfers in. After starting the season with four goals in four games, FPL managers have fallen out of love with Gomis (32 points, 628 min) and he has about 75,000 net transfers out this gameweek. It’s a similar story with Martial (25 points, 296 min), who has failed to score in his last two games and is now in 25,000 fewer teams overall than he was at the start of the international break.

Mid-price Agüero replacements

As I did yesterday, I have included Agüero’s statistics to provide a comparison and displayed the data in minutes per action to account for the wide variety of game time among these players.

Pellè’s stats are comparable to those of Agüero when it comes to shots inside the box, but in terms of the other metrics the Southampton striker does not stand head and shoulders above the other options over the season as a whole. Bony is ahead of Pellè in Minutes per Shot, Gomis in minutes per Shot on Target and Lukaku and Martial lead the way in Minutes per Goal.

Since I looked at Martial after Gameweek 6, the regression I was predicting has begun to kick in and the Manchester United forward has only taken two more shots. The Red Devils next two games aren’t easy but after that their schedule opens up though I wouldn’t say those fixtures are easy (eve, MCI, cpl, WBA, wat, lei).

Two weeks ago, I exposed the myth that Romelu Lukaku only scores against top teams and the Everton man kept up his fine form with a strike in his five-shot game against Liverpool. The Belgian has two tough games up next, but after that the fixtures look almost as good as they can get (MUN, ars, SUN, whm, AVL, bou).

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With four goals and five assists in his last five games, Pellè is clearly a man in form. With a nice run of fixtures (LEI, liv, BOU, sun, STO) before a Gameweek 14 match against Manchester City, it is clear why the Italian is such a popular pick this week. The Saints striker’s Shots on Target conversion rate is a touch high. However, given the high percentage of shots he hits from inside the box, there might be a case for arguing it is the Shots on Target rate that is too low and not that the number of goals scored is too high.

Gomis is an interesting case given the common perception that he is out of form. He was hauled off at half-time in Gameweek 7 after failing to record a single shot. That game aside, however, his underlying stats have continued to tick over since I looked at his performance after Gameweek 4, even if the goals have stopped flowing. As Fantasy Football Scout member Balders pointed out, the four fixtures he blanked in were against some of the better defensive teams in the Premier League (wat, EVE, sot, TOT). With four good fixtures in the next six (STO, avl, ARS, nor, BOU, liv), it wouldn’t surprise me if Gomis rediscovered his scoring touch soon.

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Despite some minor speculation to the contrary, Bony’s minutes so far this season suggest he is the first choice back up at Manchester City to Agüero. It is hard to judge a guy who has only played a significant amount of minutes in two games, but the data shows that per minute he is keeping up with the other options considered here in every metric aside from goals. The Citizens may be missing Silva as well as Agüero this week, but they would remain one of the most potent attacking sides in the league even if they suffered a 20 per cent drop in shooting opportunities created. And with three good fixtures in the four games Agüero is likely to miss (BOU, mun, NOR, avl), Bony could soon notch his first goal of the season. However, as Ruth pointed out in the comments on yesterday’s post, switching back to Agüero from Bony could be tricky unless you have two free transfers or a lot of money in the bank.

Sergio Agüero

I can’t write about anyone other than Sergio Agüero today after the Manchester City forward netted the fastest five-goal haul in Premier League history – he achieved it in just 20 minutes. The Argentinian became only the fifth member of a select group of strikers to net five times in a Premier League match.

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The 20 per cent of FPL managers who, like me, put the captain’s armband on Agüero netted 50 points and set themselves up for a high scoring gameweek. Furthermore, according to FPL Discovery, he was captain of only 6.6 per cent of the top 10,000 teams so there will be a significant shake-up in the rankings this weekend.

Agüero repaid the faith many FPL managers had shown in him despite only scoring one goal in the first seven gameweeks. His underlying data said he was doing better than his goal tally suggested and he finally proved it, as Alexis Sánchez did last week.

Sergio Agüero GW1-8 2015-16

Following today’s heroics, Agüero’s totals in each of the metrics for the season shown in the chart are now exactly as we would expect them to be for a forward of his calibre. He stuttered a little between Gameweek 3, when he recorded just two shots (all in the box and on target) and Gameweek 5, when he failed to register a single shot, but otherwise his stats this season are now almost identical to last year.

In 2014/15, Agüero rattled off a shot every 18 minutes, unleash a strike in the box every 23 minutes, hit the target every 43 minutes and scored every 102 minutes. The same figures for this year are 17, 22, 40 and 93 minutes respectively.Sergio Aguero SoT conversion rate

Some might suggest Agüero’s Shots on Target (SoT) conversion rate is a touch high, but that isn’t case. With the exception of one season where he was closer to the norm for FPL forwards, the Argentinian has consistently converted Shots on Target at or close to his current rate.

Agüero may not score five goals again this season, but those who missed out on his FPL points haul this week should not despair. As long as he stays fit, it looks like he will continue to be a great source of points this season.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Stoke City have yet to record a win this season and sit third last in the Premier League table with just three points. In the first five gameweeks the Potters only netted three times, but they rediscovered their goal-scoring touch against Leicester City in Gameweek 6 with strikes from Bojan and Walters.

Three of Stoke’s next five fixtures are against teams around them in the table (BOU, avl and new) so I took a look at whether there are any Stoke midfielders FPL managers should be considering. Four of them have more than 300 minutes of game time under their belts this season: Glenn Whelan (4.4m), Marco Van Ginkel (5.3m), Marko Arnautovic (6.0m) and Xherdan Shaqiri (7.0m).

Whelan has shown no goal scoring threat this season, but I was surprised how many shots (9) have been hit by Van Ginkel, his partner in the double pivot. Arnautovic, unlike Van Ginkel, is creating plenty of chances for team mates (8), as well as taking shots (7). However, all but one of his shots were from outside the penalty area. The one shot inside the box was the spot kick he tucked away against Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 2.

Shaqiri has the best statistical combination of shooting and creativity so far. The club record signing from Inter Milan only joined Stoke on August 11 so he missed the first two games of the season. Those missing matches make it awkward to judge him against Premier League midfielders who have played six times, so I broke the data down by minutes.

I compared Shaqiri to three other players who started the season at the same price – Swansea City’s André Ayew (now 7.3m), Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli  and Newcastle United’s Georginio Wijnaldum (now 6.8m) – plus West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet (7.8m), this week’s most popular midfield transfer. They are a mix of the popular, the middling and the unpopular.

Xerdan Shaqiri and four mid-priced midfielders

CC = Chance created, SiB = Shot in Box, SoT = Shot on Target

Shorter bars in the chart mean players are achieving an event with more regularity and it is clear why Wijnaldum has suffered two price drops already. Ayew and Chadli have been shooting frequently, but the latter hasn’t been hitting the target much. I mentioned last week my concerns over the long-term sustainability of Dimitri Payet’s goal-scoring form, but his chances created stats look more enticing.

Unlike the other players here, Shaqiri hasn’t found the net this season so he has no Minutes per Goal bar. In other respects his data per minute stands up to comparison with some of the more popular picks; he is creating chances quicker than Ayew and shooting more frequently than Payet. It should be noted though that nearly all Shaqiri’s shots have been from the edge of the area, whether that is inside or outside the penalty box, which isn’t prime territory for gilt-edged chances.

Shaqiri has only played four games so the sample size is small and should be treated with caution. The data shows some promise and some reasons for doubt. He is a player worth monitoring, but that isn’t a helpful conclusion for the immediate set of fixtures. As Shaqiri is in only three per cent of teams, he may make an interesting short-term punt for an FPL manager looking for something different.

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.