The final part of Championship Togga takes a look at the defenders and goalkeepers that might prove useful fantasy acquisitions impact in the Premier League next season (if they make it there!). As with Part 1 (Forwards) and Part 2 (Midfielders), there are some limitations to be aware of at the bottom of the article, but here are the players who made the cut:
Goalkeeper: Ali Al Habsi Team: Reading
Reasons for Promise: An experienced pair of hands who has tasted life in the Premier League before with Wigan Athletic, Al Habsi is 1 of only 5 goalkeepers to play every single minute of his club’s league season. His WhoScored rating of 7.02 is far superior to the other 5 goalkeepers that could have been included here, whilst his 3.6 saves per game is also considerably higher too.
Words of Warning: Reading have conceded more goals than any of the other top 6 clubs. They’ve let in 62 in total; that’s 23 more than Brighton, 22 more than Newcastle, 19 more than Sheffield Wednesday, 7 more than Huddersfield, and 6 more than Fulham.
Premier League Equivalent: Eldin Jakupovic; Hull City. Lloris and Guzan have a more similar PPM to Al Habsi’s hypothetical one, but their teams are fundamentally different in stature and style. Hull City’s leaky defence make Jakupovic a better equivalent for Al-Habsi.
Defender: Tommy Smith Team: Huddersfield Town
Reasons for Promise: 4 goals and 10 – that’s right, 10! – assists make Smith a no-brainer. Whilst the stats suggest he doesn’t dribble with the ball much, the right back makes 1.3 key passes per game – 43rd most in the Championship amongst all positions. Smith was at Manchester City’s academy until the age of 18.
Words of Warning: For all his eye-catching stats, Smith only has a 6.77 average rating from WhoScored.com. This may not matter when it comes to Togga, but it is something to be aware of in case his numbers start to reflect his performances.
Premier League Equivalent: Cedric Soares; Southampton. A roaming right-back with an eye for goals, the two players are born just 6 months apart.
Defender: Shane Duffy Team: Brighton & Hove Albion
Reasons for Promise: Lewis Dunk may be the more fashionable player when looking at the Brighton centre-backs, but Shane Duffy is the superior Togga choice. Far more disciplined that his teammate (5 yellows and 0 reds compared to Dunk’s 12 yellows and 1 red) the Irishman is also a monster in the air, winning 6.1 aerials per game.
Words of Warning: Duffy has been out injured since early March, and despite having had himself a very good season (7.56 WhoScored rating), his replacement Uwe Hunemeier has also done very well (7.35). Duffy should regain his place, but it’s far from guaranteed.
Premier League Equivalent: Michael Keane; Burnley. Both are great in the air and both play in a solid defence. Interestingly Duffy played 1 game for Burnley on loan in 2011.
Defender: Ciaran Clark Team: Newcastle United
Reasons for Promise: A bit like with Duffy and Dunk, many might think that the Newcastle defence is held together by the captain, Jamaal Lascelles. In fact, it is Ciaran Clark that has had the better season. Though his stats aren’t incredible (just 1.1 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game) he should be worked a lot harder next season when facing greater opposition. His 7.32 rating suggests he has a good chance of coping with the added workload.
Words of Warning: Clark only played 18 games for a woeful Aston Villa side when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2015/16. Unable to consistently break into a team that often preferred Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott at centre back, is this an indicator that maybe the Premier League is a step too far for Clark?
Premier League Equivalent: Ben Mee; Burnley. Another Burnley comparison, this time due to both players preferring a long-ball approach to passing, rather than any of the short, intricate stuff. They would both also be ideally suited to the left-centre role in the increasingly popular 3-4-3 formation championed by Chelsea and Tottenham.
Substitute: David Stockdale Team: Brighton & Hove Albion
Reasons for Promise: Brighton have conceded the fewest goals in the Championship this season and the experienced Stockdale is one of the main reasons behind that. Unlike fellow Premier League bound Newcastle United, Brighton’s number 1 is not in question, so there should be no concerns over Stockdale starting or not. Heaton, Pickford, and Jakupovic have all shown that relegation battling keepers are a decent choice in Togga, and barring a miracle season, that is what Brighton will be next year.
Words of Warning: Because of how well Brighton’s centre backs have played this season, Stockdale hasn’t really been tested that much. He has been forced into only 2.3 saves per game; 17th amongst Championship goalkeepers to have played at least 20 games. Just halving the number of clean sheets Brighton achieved this season (a favourable estimate given the significant increase in opposition that they’ll face next year) would see Stockdale’s hypothetical PPM reduced to just 5.49.
Premier League Equivalent: Lee Grant; Stoke City. Given that Grant’s PPM (as of this writing) is exactly 7.13, it seems like any other comparison would be silly. Stoke are also (traditionally, though a little less so this season) a solid, defensive-minded team, like Stockdale’s Brighton.
Substitute: The Fulham Left Back Team: Fulham
Reasons for Promise: Pretty much everybody knows the name Ryan Sessegnon. The 16 year old has been linked with all the top clubs, and looks set for a bright future. What is perhaps less known though, is that he isn’t actually Fulham’s regular left-back; Scott Malone is. Regardless, both players have had good seasons (and remarkably similar stats), and the fact that they have scored 11 goals between them suggests that manager Jokanovic is playing a system that gets the best out of whoever plays there. It may be that Sessegnon (if he’s still there!) gets more game-time next season, but either way, a Fulham left-back could be a useful acquisition.
Words of Warning: Aside from the obvious lack of clarity regarding who actually starts next season, neither player has ever played in the Premier League before. That lack of experience could impact productivity.
Premier League Equivalent: The Tottenham Left Back. Another team that has two players of seemingly equal measure (at least statistics-wise) in one position. Whilst admittedly Danny Rose’s injury is the main reason behind Tottenham’s split playing time at left-back, it doesn’t change the fact that both they and Fulham seem to use the full-back position as a means of attack, rather than defence.
Just Missing Out: Tom Lees; Sheffield Wednesday. Lewis Dunk; Brighton & Hove Albion.
All data is taken from WhoScored.com. The data provided is not a 100% accurate reflection of Togga scoring, but rather, the best approximation I could make given the difficulty (and time-consuming nature) of finding and calculating the appropriate statistics. Some of these limitations are listed below. It should also be remembered that the PPMs are based on performances in the Championship. In the Premier League – against much tougher opposition – these are all likely to be considerably lower.
- Dispossessions aren’t included in goalkeeper and defender stats.
- Penalty saves aren’t included in goalkeeper stats.
- The difference between a second yellow cards and a straight red card is not made (as it was unclear to me from the data source used).
- Shots on target are actually shots per game. This is probably the biggest impacting difference, as it will over-play the points contribution considerably. This was done because the shots per game data was more easily accessible than the shots on target data.
- The above difference is also applied to crosses (i.e. successful crosses are actually total crosses).
- All appearances – regardless of how long the player played for – count as 1 appearance. This will influence all the data, as well as stats such as clean sheet bonuses which are based on having to play for a certain length of time. However, it should affect all players equally, and therefore the relative comparisons should still be fair. This was done simply for ease of data collection.
- Positions of players are estimated based on WhoScored’s data. Togga’s classifications next year may be different.