Unusual Suspects

Last updated on October 24th, 2018

With a quarter of the season now gone it’s an interesting time to look at statistics from the season so far as there have been enough games to allow us to draw some conclusions. Following the weekend I’ve been looking into some expected goals (XG) statistics and below I’ve highlighted three players with unusual numbers that piqued my interest for one reason or another. These guys are not as high profile as Salah or Kane who themselves have very interesting numbers, but they are far less discussed so I’ll give them some air time here.

Written by Mark Mansfield (#10 on all-time list). You can catch him on twitter @ginger_assassin.

Callum Wilson: Breakout or burnout?

Callum Wilson has never reached double figures in the Premier League but this is surely the season he achieves that. This is Wilson’s fourth season in a Premier League career ruined by cruciate ligament knee injuries. It’s to Wilson’s huge credit that he’s come back from two such injuries to perform at such a high level.

The reason Wilson is interesting is that in this season where he is evidently performing so well as the second highest scoring striker, he may in fact be underachieving in one respect. With 3 goals Wilson is underperforming his XG by about 2.5. Making things more interesting is the fact that he has slightly over performed his XG in each of his Premier League seasons so far. In any prior season it would be a reasonable expectation that Wilson would have scored 5 or 6 goals from the chances he has had so far.

However this optimism must be tempered slightly because Bournemouth have had a forgiving schedule in the first quarter of the season. This is very likely contributing to their fluent attacking play and chance creation. Also, Wilson has given more assists that would have been predicted by the expected assists figure. Overall Wilson has provided 6 career Premier League assists and 4 of those have come in the first 9 games of this season.

It’s possible that finally getting a prolonged spell of fitness under an reputedly excellent coach in Eddie Howe, Wilson has begun to develop his game and is truly having a breakout season. In the next quarter of the season Bournemouth will face Manchester United(h), Arsenal(h), Manchester City(a) and Liverpool(h). It will be interesting to review Wilson’s performance at Christmas. If he continues to pick up FPL points through the stiffer fixtures as he is now, even despite the current potential for improvement, then at his price he would be a must for all teams.

Gabriel Jesus: Forgotten but not gone

Gabriel Jesus is the one Manchester City forward/midfielder not under consideration by FPL managers at the moment and rightly so. With 14 points after 9 games, he has exactly half the points of a 352 minute, and  injured Ilkay Gundogan. Nothing to see here, you may say, and certainly given the City juggernaut’s momentum that is very much the case. It’s hard to see a way into the starting 11 for him.

Situations change fast in football. Particularly when Sergio Aguero is involved. Who can forget the consternation caused by his late-night car crash in September 2017? Overall, Aguero probably has an unfair reputation for injury having played between 23 and 34 games in each of his 7 seasons in England. Also, this season he appears to have diminished international responsibility so will be less prone to rests. However, it is always prudent to be prepared in FPL and an Aguero injury could occur any time.

This is where Jesus’ expected goals  and expected assists numbers become interesting. In his 283 minutes over 8 appearances so far this season his expected goals of 3.14 and expected assists of 1.53 have rendered merely 1 goal without any assist. The goal was a fine one, a ferocious left-footed drive from the edge of the area. Of his other 12 attempts in the area only 3 were off target, the rest being blocked or saved.

As a comparison Raheem Sterling has XG/XA of 3.24 and 1.62 respectively with 4 goals and 2 assists coming from that. Not noted for being an excellent finisher (again, unfairly in my opinion) Sterling is the joint third highest scoring midfielder at the end of game week 9. This would suggest that pitch time isn’t what is holding Jesus back right now. He is getting the chances to score goals and he’s certainly in the right team.

In general in his career Jesus performs slightly below his XG but not to the extent we see this season. His shot map shows a player getting very good shooting positions in front of the goal as per usual for Man City players. This is the way Guardiola likes to play after all; pull-backs provide the most straight-forward finishing position for the receiver.

Perhaps Jesus has just been unlucky so far this season. Perhaps his confidence isn’t what it should be. He had a poor world cup for which he received a lot of criticism and not being first-choice at City this season may add to the malaise for the 21-year old. However given his lack of game time, his 13 shots in the box are a very positive sign. If it looks like Jesus is going to get a regular place at City either due to injury, a shift to a regular 3-5-2 or just one of Pep’s whims then he could very quickly bag some points for the alert FPL manager before the rest of the community has tuned in.

Matt Ryan: Ryan’s Gig?

Brighton have conceded about 3.5 less goals than their expected figure. This is a sign that those considering Matt Ryan should think carefully before transferring him in.

Over the last few seasons FPL managers have been conditioned to believe that 4.5M keepers should be pulling in huge amounts of points. The stand-outs over the last few seasons have been custodians at West Brom a few years ago and Burnley over the last two seasons. Certainly both clubs adopted systems of play which provided conditions conducive to big keeper scores, namely Pulisball and Dycheball.

Pulisball was based on two very tight defensive blocks that moved in a synchronised fashion to shut off space between the lines, as well as several imposing and skilful centre-halves. Dycheball was, and possibly still is, based on adversely influencing opposition shot quality. In both cases, more than one keeper has performed well under the system. Foster and Myhill at West Brom, Heaton and Pope at Burnley. This emphasises that the success of these keepers may be down to their coaches systematic approach rather than their magical goalkeeping.

As Crystal Palace’s fixture schedule takes a turn for the worse, many of Wayne Hennessey’s owners are on the lookout for an alternative. Hennessy is the fourth highest owned budget keeper with a place in 7.5% of squads. Ryan is a name that is coming up quite a bit and his ownership is on the increase this week. Heads have been turned by successive monster hauls against West Ham and Newcastle. Due to this and the upcoming easing of Brighton’s fixture schedule he looks like the logical choice.

Or does he? Ryan has 35 points, 10 of those are save points. 5 of those 10 are against what would be considered this seasons sterner opposition; Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City. So, a significant number of his points have come from saves in difficult fixtures. Looking at how the games against West Ham and Newcastle played out, if the games were decided by XG (I can dream!) then Brighton would have lost both. Ryan made 10 saves over the course of these two games, so it is fair to say it is likely that these successes were not down to systematic defending. Which brings me back to the point about Pulisball and Dycheball. Sustained outstanding budget keeper performances are more often than not related to a systematic approach rather than goalkeeping heroics. With Matt Ryan at the moment, it would appear that potential buyers are relying on continued heroics which normally, De Gea aside, is not sustainable.

Rui Patricio may well be the keeper to benefit from the team’s system this year. Wolves are doing this in a possession-based fashion not usually used by clubs with 4.5M FPL keepers so he really is an interesting case to keep an eye on.

In summary, if you are looking for a replacement for Hennessy maybe Patricio is your man or maybe even stick with Hennessy and hope he pulls out the heroics in some of Palace’s tougher fixtures.

Mark De Carvalho
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