Recently I gave you a Championship team that could do the business in the Premier League next season (see Parts 1, 2, and 3 here). As a reward for my troubles, the footballing gods decided to mock me by having Al Habsi mess up for Fulham’s goal, Scott Malone and Tommy Smith play distinctly average, and Gareth McCleary stay as an un-used substitute (though at least Tom Cairney put in a man of the match performance). Never mind.
This week, I present to you a summer signings edition. That is, with the endless transfer speculation, who should we be looking out for from a fantasy football perspective? Which of the rumours are music to a Togga manager’s ears and which should be discarded along with Hull City, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland’s top flight status?
Unlike with the Championship Togga squad, these players are not necessarily the ones whose data suggest would provide the best fantasy football value next season. Rather, these are the biggest name players who (according to the media) are most likely to be arriving in the Premier League in the summer. Certain players that have been linked with transfers are not included, either because they will in all likelihood be staying put (Gianluigi Donnarumma, Toni Kroos, Neymar) or because it was felt there are more realistic options ahead of them (Serge Aurier, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Dries Mertens). Finally, only players from the Spanish, German, Italian, and French top divisions have been included, as these are more comparable with the Premier League. Thus, players like Victor Lindelof (Benfica) and Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) also miss out. Data has been taken up to and including May 4th. Caveats to note are included at the bottom of the article.
So without further ado, here is Part 1: Forwards
Forward: Andrea Belotti Team: Torino
Reasons for Promise: Torino IS Andrea Belotti. The lethal forward – scorer of 25 goals in Serie A; second only to Edin Dzeko – has a WhoScored rating of 7.57 (7th in the league). Torino’s next best player (of those to have played more than 5 games) is Adem Ljajic with a 7.18. Still only 23, Belotti made his international debut for Italy at the start of the season and the £85 million target has been linked with Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea.
Words of Warning: As explained in the caveats section, the PPM’s of players here will be overestimated due to the difficulties in obtained accurate data. This may be no more relevant than for Belotti, whose hypothetical PPM of 20.68 is bumped up considerably by the SoT of 115. Bearing in mind the highest shots on target in the Premier Legaue this season is Lukaku’s 51, and you’d have to think at least 100 points are coming off his total (reducing the PPM to a still impressive 17-or-so). Oh, and it goes without saying that Arsenal, United, and Chelsea would all be a significant step up from Torino.
Premier League Equivalent: Olivier Giroud; Arsenal. Though not as tall as the Arsenal man, Belotti is just as good in the air, with his 2.4 aerials won per game joint 15th highest in Serie A. Both players are target men, rather than the type of forward who will run into channels, dribble with the ball, and put crosses into teammates.
Forward: Antoine Griezmann Team: Atletico Madrid
Reasons for Promise: Griezmann is a forward who has everything. He’s quick, he works hard, he can set up others, and of course, he can finish. What’s more, at 26 years old he should – in theory – be approaching the height of his powers. In an Atletico team that he has perhaps taken as far as he can, it may be time for Griezmann to move on, and Manchester United looks a likely destination. According to the FIFA Ballon d’Or votes, he is the third best player in the world right now.
Words of Warning: Griezmann has failed to hit the heights of last season, or indeed, the summer when he led France to the Euro 2016 final. Yes, it was always going to be difficult to match those performances, but his 16 goals in 35 games is below Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas and level with Athletic Bilbao’s Aduriz who has played considerably less. Is this down season (which is very harsh to even call it that!) a one off? Or indicative of more to come?
Premier League Equivalent: Roberto Firmino; Liverpool. Some may say this is a favourable comparison for the Brazilian, but Firmino’s PPM is higher than the likes of Lukaku, Aguero, and Diego Costa. Both players have been used as forwards this season, though with the capability to play as a second striker or out wide.
Substitute: Kylian Mbappe Team: Monaco
Reasons for Promise: Is there a hotter prospect in world football right now? The 18 year old forward (yes, that’s right – 18!!) is Monaco’s second top scorer having bagged 14 goals in 25 games. He’s also the clubs second highest provider of goals, has a WhoScored rating of 7.22, has been on the score sheet against Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, and Juventus, and has won 5 man-of-the-match awards. All of this despite only playing 1230 minutes of league football this season!
Words of Warning: Mbappe has only completed 90 minutes 8 times this season. He has all the makings of a great player, but he is not there yet. Any club signing Mbappe will be signing the potential first and foremost, which means from a Togga perspective, game time is a concern. Not to mention issues of adaptability (to a new country), consistency (is he just having an extraordinary season?), and tactical development (Monaco’s 4-4-2 formation is not currently used by any of the top 6 Premier League clubs).
Premier League Equivalent: Alexis Sanchez; Arsenal. Right now he may be more like Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford: young, raw, and full of potential. If he continues to develop as expected (or hoped) his playing style may make him the next Alexis Sanchez, given his ability to create chances as well as score goals.
Substitute: Alvaro Morata Team: Real Madrid
Reasons for Promise: Morata has been highly tipped to be re-united with Conte at Chelsea, possibly replacing China-bound Diego Costa. The 24 year old striker has been Real Madrid’s joint 6th best player this season (according to WhoScored rating) – an impressive feat given who he is surrounded by. As is being the club’s second top scorer.
Words of Warning: Morata’s spell at Juventus wouldn’t fill you with confidence if you are a Chelsea fan (15 league goals over 2 seasons). In addition, most of his 15 league goals this season have come against La Liga’s weaker teams. There are plenty of examples of La Liga hotshots coming to the Premier League and failing to live up to their billing…Roberto Soldado anyone?
Premier League Equivalent: Diego Costa; Chelsea. It’s no wonder Conte is lining up Morata as a potential ‘new-Costa’, given the similarities between the two. Both score goals first and foremost, and neither shy away from the physical aspects of the game, whether that’s winning free-kicks or giving free-kicks away. Morata’s hypothetical PPM is very similar to Diego Costa’s real one (12.13).
All OPTA 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.
- 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.