Crystal Palace has a range of intriguing options in midfield for the Fantasy Premier League manager looking for a replacement for the injured Dimitri Payet. On the surface, the Eagles may seem a strange choice given they scored their first goal from open play since August in the Gameweek 12 win over Liverpool. However, they haven’t had the easiest fixture run having faced six of the top 10 clubs, plus defensively solid Watford and West Brom Albion in the last eight gameweeks.
The fixture list improves now through to 2016 (SUN, NEW, eve, SOT, sto, bou, SWA) and their regular midfielders – Yohan Cabaye 6.6m, Bakary Sako 5.3m, Yannick Bolasie 6.1m, Jason Puncheon 5.8m, James McArthur 5.0m and Wilfried Zaha 5.3m – are well priced for potential Payet replacements. The first problem with Crystal Palace is that there are six main midfielders vying for five midfield spots, or nine if you count Joe Ledley, Jordon Mutch and Mile Jedinak. In terms of playing time this season, the first six are well ahead.
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Looking a little deeper, it appears Puncheon (1037 minutes), Cabaye (1019 minutes), McArthur (950 minutes), Bolasie (809 minutes) are pretty much regular starters when fit and available, with Zaha (745 minutes) and Sako (583 minutes) the less secure options. The picture has been clouded somewhat though by Palace playing some games without a striker and fielding six midfielders instead.
Given the hectic December schedule is looming, many FPL managers will want their Payet replacement to be sure of good game time and for that reason I’m going to exclude Zaha and Sako from this review. Both players could be worth another look for managers with higher risk thresholds though, particularly Sako because he has some good underlying statistics.
To make this review managable, I’m going to exclude McArthur too because he has shown very little goal threat, which leaves Cabaye, Puncheon and Bolasie. Let’s start with Cabaye as I roll out my new look charts. (Please let me know your thoughts via the comments section.)
Following my research on the penalty taker’s advantage, I have separated out penalty kicks (PK) from Cabaye’s regular statistics. Being on penalties can be a major advantage and it is one that every FPL manager should think about carefully when selecting a player, but they can also skew our perception of the player’s all round game. As you can see, Cabaye has seen the benefit of having penalty duties. With spot kicks his shots on target conversion rate is a touch high but without it the rate is low – taking 75 per cent of his shots from outside the box probably hasn’t helped.
Puncheon is doing a little better at shooting inside the box, although he is still below the league average. His problem is accuracy and so it is not a huge surprise that he hasn’t found the net yet. He has some creativity and these have turned into assists at a rate roughly consistent with the league average.
Bolasie has a much better shots to shots on target ratio, maybe a touch too good. His shots on target conversion rate is slightly low though. Interestingly for a player who delivered six assists last season, he has shown little creativity this season. He has been the furthest forward of the midfielders in some of the games where the Eagles have been playing without a striker and that might be a factor. (Fantasy Football Scout records a slightly different number for his chances created, but this observation still stands.)
Overall, none of the Palace midfielders comes close to replacing Payet’s creativity, but they do match him in the shooting department. The actions per 90 minutes chart shows Cabaye’s performance without penalty kicks. FPL managers will have to weigh up the advantage spot kicks bring against the lower production by other metrics if they want a Palace midfielder.
At 0.8m cheaper, Puncheon offers a balance of creativity and shooting at a tempting price. Until his accuracy shows signs of improving though I doubt many FPL managers will take the plunge.
Bolasie has shown little creativity so far this year, but is slightly better than Payet in every shooting metric other than goals.