Alvaro Morata

This is our “prospecting the prospects” series, where we run the rule over lots of FPL prospects who will enter the game next season– our directory for these (over 20!) is here. This series analyses a selection of significant newcomers to the FPL game by simulating how they would have performed using last season’s stats (wherever they played) in FPL, then provide our evaluation of the player as an asset ahead of the new season.

On 21st July, Chelsea’s reportedly near £60m deal for Spanish international Alvaro Morata was announced. The striker has signed from Real Madrid to replace the anywhere-but-near-Conte bound Diego Costa:

He immediately enters FPL as a “low end” premium price option at 10.0m – 0.5m lower than fellow newcomer Alexandre Lacazette and 1.5m lower than Lukaku – and, excitingly, as another captaincy option into the usual mix.

Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)

So how good would Morata have been in FPL if he played last season? Let’s use WhoScored data to find out.

Appearances: 26 appearances (14 over 60 mins, 12 times sub on/off) = 40 points ((14×2) + 12)

Goals: 15 goals (4×15) =  60 points

Assists: 4 assists (3×4) = 12 points

Bonus: To give an estimation of the bonus points he would have got, we need to review the games that he was instrumental in, ie when his goals and assists arrived to come to a rough calculation of how well he did.

(Occasional random bonus points (bps) are sometimes awarded in FPL where a player has bossed it but not actually got on the score card. We’re not estimating these as we’re using pure data rather than contextual data (e.g. watching the games he played in) to make perform this analysis. Plus it’ll only be an extra one or two points either way, which won’t change the story.)

For goals: this is best looked at by breaking down his contribution to games – where he was undisputed difference in the game, we will assign 3bps; where he was involved in changing the result but didn’t win the match, we’ll look at each game on merit; where he was on the scoresheet but it wasn’t a telling contribution, we will give the record of what happened and make an educated guesstimate on what may have been awarded.

Match winning: On as an impact sub (which was how he was used a lot by Real Madrid last season), he scored Real Madrid’s winner in the 2-1 victory over Athletic on 23rd October, but also received a yellow card in that game. On 18th February, he scored the first goal (and technically the winner according to the bonus system) in the 2-0 victory over Espanyol. Yet again on as a sub, Morata scored the winner in the 3-2 victory over Villareal on 26th February. Morata scored a hat trick – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, which would include the winner – in the 4-2 victory over Leganes on 5th April. For the hat trick, he would certainly have received 3bps. For the Espanyol game, he’d have been in the mix; let’s give him 2bps. For the games as an impact sub where he scored the winner, I think he’d have been in the mix to nick a bonus; let’s give him a further 1bp there: total 6bps for winning goals.

Result change: Morata scored the first in the 2-1 victory over Celta on 27th August. He scored the opener in the eventual 3-2 victory over Deportivo on 10th December. He scored the equaliser for 2-2 – but got a yellow card – in the eventual 3-2 victory over Sporting Gijon on 15th April. He got Real Madrid off the mark, and assisted the fourth, in the 6-2 victory over Deportivo on 26th April. For the 6-2, a brace for James Rodriguez would have seen the Colombian snaffle the 3bps, but Morata may well have gotten 2bps, For scoring the openers versus Celta (2-1) and Deportivo (3-2) he would be in the mix for 1bp each time; let’s say he got 2bps there. The yellow versus Gijon would probably have jeopardised his bonus. 4bps total here.

Contributions: On as a sub, he scored their third in the 4-1 victory over Alaves on 29th October. He assisted the second and scored the third in the 3-0 victory over Leganes on 6th November. Again, as a substitute, he added the 3rd in the 3-0 victory over Real Sociedad on 29th January. He added a brace to add gloss to the 4-0 victory over Granada on 6th May. For scoring and assisting in the 3-0, he may well have received 2bps. For the brace, he would have received 2bps again as that man (and new Bayern signing) James Rodriguez scored the opening 2 goals. He wouldn’t have received anything for the other goals. 4bps here.

          Total guessimated bonus for goals:  14 points

For assists: We’ve already looked at two of Morata’s four assists as part of the goal bonus (v Deportivo for 6-2; v Leganes for 3-0). The others are as follows. For the first, on as a sub, he supplied the assist for the sixth goal in Real’s 6-1 victory over Betis on 15th October. For the second, again on as a sub, he assisted the winner – but got a yellow card – in the 2-1 victory over Valencia on 29th April. I don’t think he’d have received a bonus for those.

Total guesstimated bonus: 14 points.

Disciplinary: 8 yellow cards = 8 points0 red cards

Scores on the doors

118 points over 26 games. This is a tough one to just make a points per game (ppg) score for, as for some games he barely figured, but for continuity let’s do this the same way. His ppg is therefore 4.54ppg, which works out at 173 points over 38 gameweeks.

That would put him in the top 20 overall, two points ahead of Phillippe Coutinho and one below Heung-min Son. That’s also in the top 5 strikers, displacing Jermain Defoe and just 2 points behind Sergio Aguero’s haul for 2016/17.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if we looked at his minutes played, which was 1334 mins, that this translates into just 15 games (rounded up from 14.82, arrived at by doing 1334/90). This would give him a mammoth 7.86ppg and a game-topping total of 299 points – not even Didier Drogba in his prime hit that.

Evaluation and conclusion

Will we get Morata him than the other options?

OK so this is a tough one to weigh up from the outset. Morata is an odd case as, at 24, he has never played a full season in which he’s been starting regularly: he has never racked up 20 starts in the league, including the time he was at Juve. It would appear he’s the classic example of a highly talented young player whose turn has constantly been taken by other, more expensive imports. In some ways, the £58m Chelsea are reported to have paid for him is a little bit of a gamble as he is not someone who has had experience in consistently leading the line, unlike the man he’s replacing, Diego Costa, had at Atletico Madrid before moving there.

This assertion is backed up by an interview with the man himself by the ever excellent Sid Lowe in the Guardian, in which Morata acknowledged that, at his age, he had to start playing more:

 I have that desire to start more, then I think I can reach a much higher level. It’s difficult to play 10 minutes one game, then 20 another, then two weeks later play again. It’s a difficult situation you have to live with until, one day, it changes…

I have to take off now. I have to play every Sunday, but that doesn’t only depend on me.

He’s certainly very highly rated, as his ability to hold his own and maintain his reputation despite playing essentially a bit-part role at both clubs shows, but the lack of consistent appearances is clearly bothering him – and could be what he was promised at Chelsea.

Given that lack of appearances, I think we need to do a bit of number work to have a look at Morata’s output to help us to analyse his potential on top of our FPL equivalence above – especially when we’re assessing his potential versus comparators.

(Let me put in a caveat here: I know this is not the most scientific way to look at this, but I think that this is an easily understandable and accessible way to look at the player and his potential. This series is designed to give you a feel of what a player might be able to produce, and I think that this approach fits that aim well.)

What I’ve done to do this is analysis is to use his WhoScored stats, taking his mins played, converted that to a (rounded) number of full games that translates into, and then looked at the goals, assists, and then that figure combined (i.e. any output) to see how he contributed during his time on the field, and find his average outputs from both. Here’s the table:

What we see straight away is his productivity; for Real, despite only being used sparingly, he contributed a goal a game last season – and contributed to an even greater extent. The averages over the last few, patchy, seasons also tell the tale of a striker who has been delivering the goods but not been rewarded with the starts. Morata’s downturn in goal outputs whilst at Juventus is down to sharing the responsibility up top with another, prolific striker: Carlos Tevez (29g in 14-15) and the incredibly talented Paulo Dybala (23g in 15/16), with Fernando Llorente (14-15) and Mario Mandzukic (15-16) tending to get the nod over the on-loan Morata. When at Madrid, where he performed best, he was usually deployed as a lone striker with wingers supporting him when he played, or came on as the lone forward when substituted.

Morata is also liable to pick up a booking or two, with 8 yellows last season according to WhoScored; not great given his limited time on the pitch! He also picked up 6 bookings in consecutive seasons at Juventus.

He’s joining a club (objectively) a smidge lower in quality than Madrid in Chelsea, but, if deployed in the lone forward role for a season the signs are good from his time last season at least that he could be a force to be reckoned with.

Let’s put this in context. We’ve already mentioned him, so let’s delve right in to Diego Costa‘s data. A hothead whom you’d love if you were a fan of the team he was representing but is viscerally hated by the opposition (players, fans and managers alike), he moved from Atletico Madrid to Chelsea in 2014/15. In his first season in English football, off the back of a 27-goal season for Atleti, he was an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s title winning return to Stamford Bridge, scoring 20 goals and supplying 3 assists (150 FPL points, only 8th for strikers this year) as his side rampaged to the title. I’ve done the same analysis for Costa as I did for Morata, looking at his time at Chelsea and also his final season at Atleti, which throws up the following:

(n.b. Costa’s stats have been adjusted from WhoScored to reflect “FPL assists”, which also include assists credited from things like a shot from him rebounding to another player to score)

Despite playing far more games than our man Morata, we see that the his output is slightly lower, especially in terms of “any contribution” per game – he is on 0.9 as an average contribution per game (still pretty damn high) over Morata’s 1.1. This simple analysis already indicates the potential for Morata to mimic the kind of output produced by Costa, and bodes well for the new man.

Another big-name striker to move from Spain to a top English club – coincidentally, also from the same Madrid side as Costa – is, of course, Sergio “Kun” Aguero. Kun – whom I always rated on Football Manager prior to his joining City – absolutely smashed it in his first season in the our top tier, racking up 211 points with 23 goals and 9 assists (3rd in FPL this year, behind Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku. This immediately endeared him to managers and saw him become a mainstay in our FPL teams for many a year (yet he’s only owned by a surprising 10% at the time of writing, priced down at 11.5). Recently linked to Chelsea in a prime example of a “silly season” transfer rumour that was swiftly dismissed by Pep Guardiola recently, he seemingy will be again this season one of the box office strikers in the Premier League.

Looking at his past stats in the same way as I have for Morata, the comparison is again highly encouraging for the newcomer. I’ve included all of Kun’s seasons at City, plus his last season in La Liga with Atleti, here:

(n.b. I have also included “FPL assists” for Kun in this table)

What’s really cool here is immediately apparent: Kun’s average goals and contribution per game ratio, across the time period we’ve assessed, is identical to Morata’s. What makes it even more interesting is if we widen the decimals to two places – Kun averages 0.80 goals per game and 1.06 contributions per game, where Morata’s stats are 0.82 and 1.07.

The striking similarities in terms of average outputs between Morata and Kun, plu s the slightly better score for Morata over Costa’s stats (all three can be seen side-by-side, plus Lukaku, here – was getting too much to include him, but Morata beats him out too), make us quite intrigued about the Spaniards prospects. They are certainly pretty encouraging if you’re thinking of introducing him as a wildcard factor to your side from Gameweek 1, too. We’ll have to see how he adapts this year, but, provided he’s not a complete flop, I feel like the 150 point first season for Costa and the 211 point one of Kun provides a nice floor and ceiling to what to expect from Morata. That’s not too bad a proposition, I might add; if he scores in the middle of that (180), that’d get him to 5th for forwards (5 points ahead of Kun, but behind Costa on 196) last season, or in the top 10 overall. The potential seems to be there for him to do just that.

Chelsea’s opening fixtures read BUR tot EVE lei ARS, which are actually fairly stern, with them meeting 3 sides finishing in the European places last season, plus Champions League quarter finalists in the shape of former champs Leicester. The opening fixture with Burnley, though, could well catch the eye as an immediate chance for a prosperous punt on Morata: with Chelsea beating Burnley 3-0 in Gameweek 3 last year (featuring a goal from my current Chelsea asset, Willian), this could represent a great fixture for him to stake a strong claim to a slot in our FPL sides and, more pertinently, one of those three precious striker slots.

The counterpoint to Morata is context. In a vacuum, this looks like a fantastic addition to the Prem. But, at his price, he is joining a bracket crowded with big hitters that have proven Premier League credentials, with Romelu Lukaku (11.5 – 45% owned at time of writing), Kun (11.5 – just 10%) and Harry Kane (12.5 – 35%) already proving a conundrum for many fantasy managers, with what seems like a small majority (including people like me, as I attempt to justify in point 4 in our recent 5 asides article) *at the moment* opting to stick with Kaku and Kane just because the combination of opening fixtures (Kaku v WHU and Kane v new) and FOMO (fear of missing out) regarding not owning either is too much to bear, with the result being no room for Kun at the inn. Morata would also seem destined to be gazing in from the outside on the hearth’s warm fire from the beginning. The opening fixture is in his favour and in truth quite tempting the gambler in me, but the key drawbacks of him being new to the league, the mixed fixture list, and others having a better claim than him in both the Chelsea spot (my Willian, Pedro and David Luiz(!) are currently in vogue) or the premium striker slot.

His effectively being fourth (arguably) in the pecking order of premium strikers certainly dents his appeal – for me, I won’t have him – from the outset. However, there are clearly points in the season where he could feature heavily in our squads if he hits the ground running. A prime example of this is the absolute humdinger of a run I picked out for our second pod during the Chelsea section between GWs 14-27. This reads: SWA NEW whu hud SOU eve BHA STO ars LEI bha BOU wat WBA.  That is a frankly ludicrous run of fixtures, slap bang in the middle of the season. It seems fairly likely that Morata will feature heavily on our shortlist near or within this time frame if he starts producing in a way that threatens to equal his potential. At 10.0m starting price, too, he’s an ideal price for us to jump on to, away from our more expensive, established, assets if they stop performing, or an easier one to make room for than the likes of Kane at 2.5m more.

All in all, then, Morata is from the outset unfavoured. There’s probably no room at the inn for him at the premium striker to begin with (even at 10.0 this is true). But he certainly has the potential and, eventually, will have the fixtures to give him all he needs to force himself into our thinking and break up the triumvirate of heavyweights currently top of mind. I think he has a real chance to do this looking at the outcome of the analysis, and almost certainly has the extra motivation, given what he has said, to seize the opportunity with both hands. Him doing this and hitting the ground running would open up a real, new and exciting captaincy option for us as FPL managers. It’s a 4 from me, but it’s really a 4.25.

Overall rating: 4 / 5 – A good prospect for FPL

*derived from a completely subjective scale from 1-5, where 1 is bad and 5 is excellent

Caveat: we thoroughly accept this system of evaluating players isn’t flawless. However, we feel that it’s a nice approach to getting a feel for how a player might do.

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