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.
Lewis Dunk, the burly Brighton and Hove Albion centre back, is gaining something of a following amongst the most engaged FPL managers, with him being on the radar for many as a 4.5 option at the back (though his 4% ownership belies the fact word has not reached the masses quite yet).
Upon promotion to the Premier League, Dunk himself (who went through heartbreak the year before, missing out on promotion in the play-offs) told a local news outlet that he wasn’t going to waste any time establishing himself in the top tier:
Hopefully I can show what I can do in the Premier League, do enough and follow in Michael Keane’s footsteps and get the [England] call-up like he did.
So will it be a case of boom goes the dynamite for Dunk in the Premier League? Let’s use WhoScored data from last season, plus the performances of some key comparators, to give an indication of what to expect from him.
Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)
Appearances: 43 appearances (41x played over 60 mins, 2x subbed on/off) = 84 points ((33×2)+4)
Goals: 2 goals (2×6) = 12 points
Assists: 1 assist (1×3) = 3 points
Not conceding: 19 clean sheets (4×19) = 76 points
Conceding: Conceded more than 2 goals on 9 occasions (-1×9) = -9 points
Bonus: Let’s analyse the games he contributed in. This (of course) covers goals, assists and clean sheets for defenders.
(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: Dunk added the 3rd goal in the 5-0 victory over Norwich on 29th October. 0bps for that I think. He did, however, score the winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Fulham on 2nd January, which he might well have been in line for all 3bps for.
For assists: He assisted the opener for Brighton in the game they would eventually go on to win 2-1 on 1st October. This might have led to 1bp.
For clean sheets: In addition to the clean sheet we documented above for the goals section, there were a staggering 18 clean sheets kept by Brighton’s mean defensive machine as they went on to finish 2nd last year. I’ve had a look through each of these games and analysed his performance via looking at WhoScored’s match reports to suggest the bps he might have been looking at during these matches:
I’ve given him bps in places where he would have figured in counts, but where Brighton scored more goals his claim for bonus fades. 14bps overall seems fair given his involvement in those games.
Total guesstimated bonus: 17 points
Disciplinary: 12 yellow cards = –12 points / 1 red cards = -3 points
Scores on the doors
168 points. Let’s take this down to simulate what might’ve happened if Dunk had played in 38 games rather than the 43 he played in last season. A 3.91 points per game (ppg) is what we get (168/43) which gives him a year’s score of 148 points (3.91×38). That’d be 4th for defenders – 6 ahead of Kyle Walker but some way behind the Chelsea boys at the top, and in the top 30 overall, 2 points ahead of Fernando Llorente and just a point behind the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum. A slam dunk?
Evaluation and conclusion
The first thing to deal with is the obvious one: discipline. 12 yellow cards and 1 red is worrying, and the tally of 5y 2r in 15/16 and 8y 1r in 14/15 doesn’t help matters too much; it seems your overall score with Dunk will be lowered by on average about 10 points a season. Ouch.
I think we need some more information here to see if we can counterbalance that bleak starting point. For starters, Brighton were mean at the back last season as we’ve seen with a gargantuan 19 clean sheets which will not be repeated in the Premier League. That reminds us of a team who have just been relegated from the top tier who, the year before, ground their way in a similar way to Brighton to successful promotion: Middlesbrough (with an astonishing 22 clean sheets in 2015/16).
This can only lead us to look at Ben Gibson (Nick’s 14 point captain in DGW34 last season!) as the lynchpin of that defence, much as Dunk is at Brighton. Last season, Boro ground out an impressive 11 clean sheets, but their lack of threat up top meant that they went down in the end. Much like Dunk’s output in terms of attacking last year, Gibson managed a solitary goal and assist last year, but accrued 14 bonus points mainly through being on the field for those 11 clean sheets, ending up with 121 points overall. This isn’t bad at all by the way, playing him in the top 20 defenders equal with Laurent Koscielny. The difference between Dunk and Gibson lies in the detail – using Gibson’s WhoScored stats and comparing them to Dunk’s, the stats heavily favour the Brighton man (obviously there’s a step up involved between the Premier League and the Championship, so we’re including Gibson’s season in the Championship, too). Gibson won 1.6 aerial battles per game last season, and won 1.8 the season before in Boro’s promotion-winning season. Dunk’s output dwarfs this, with a massive 4.4 aerial challenges won last season, and 3.4 challenges the year before. Furthermore, Dunk appears a fair bit more offensive; he managed 0.9 shots per game, compared to Gibson’s 0.4 (this was lower for him in the Championship, at just 0.2 spg). Dunk also wins in the CBI (clearances, blocks and interceptions) stakes, with 7.2 clearances, 1 block and 3 interceptions per game last season (6.2, 0.8 and 3 the season before), whereas Gibson managed 6 clearances, 0.8 blocks and 1.5 interceptions (5.6, 0.9 and 2.5 the season before). What this means is that the bps system would heavily favour Dunk if a clean sheet was accrued for Brighton, especially in a low scoring game; he appears, in many ways, a slightly better defender than the similarly aged Gibson (he’s 25, Gibbo 24), which can only be encouraging if Brighton carry their defensive solidity over from the second tier as Boro did. Gibson also started the season at 5.0, whereas Dunk has been given the 4.5 rating. Ooh.
The second man to look at is Dunk’s role model, Michael Keane (now part of Ronald Koeman’s second season revolution at Everton), with his stats for last season at Burnley what we are interested in. Having also kept 20 clean sheets in the Championship in 14/15, Burnley, like Boro, kept double figure clean sheets with 10 last season. Keane himself, along with FPL darling Tom Heaton in goal, was on the pitch for all of these, alongside (in a similar way to Dunk again) scoring 2 and supplying 1 assist and accruing 10 bonus points to get a total of 113 points. That’s not bad at all – just below Gibson’s 121, but also (just) squeezing into the top 20 defenders overall. Again looking at Keane’s WhoScored stats for the last couple of seasons in comparison with Dunk’s, they actually seem a lot closer in performance than Dunk and Gibson were. As mentioned, Dunk’s CBI read 7.2 clearances, 1 block and 3 interceptions per game last season (6.2, 0.8 and 3 the season before); Keane’s isn’t too dissimilar, with 7.3 clearances, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 interceptions (4.7, 0.8 and 2.3 the season before). Their aerial duels won are also near identical, with Keane winning 4.3 (4.4 Dunk) this season, and 3.5 last (3.4 Dunk). This suggests that Dunk might be in for a similar ride to Keane next year, with the stats encouraging given the good season Keane was reputed to have had which earnt him his big-money move. Similarly, the shots per game are similar, with Keane’s 0.7 spg (0.8 in the Championship) echoing Dunk’s 0.9 and leading to an identical output (albeit in the Prem). This comparison is again very encouraging when looking at Dunk. It’s worth noting that Keane also received the 5.0 pricetag, whereas no-one in the Brighton nor Newcastle defence received this (only Tommy Smith at Huddersfield did, with 4g 10a last season).
Looking at both Gibson (121 points) and Keane (113), it’s not unreasonable to expect Dunk to mirror that kind of performance, which wouldn’t be bad at all. It’s worth drawing attention back to the discipline for a second, though, as Dunk compares poorly in this regard to both comparators, who kept it to 4 yellows apiece this season .
Fixtures wise, a first 5 that reads MCI lei wat WBA bou, means we might not quite be tempted to put him in our starting xi from the off (especially for the baptism of fire against City). However, I think what we have here is a solid back up option to sit on our benches and possible come in as injuries take their toll. As a 100% nailed on option and the main man in that defence, he seems a prime candidate to be bench fodder at his price.
Continuing this vein, the problem for Dunk, possibly, is that there are an abundance of quality options above his 4.5 pricetag in defence. This means that, as Nick predicted, it seems that many are going big at the back (with 4 or even more playing defenders) and could therefore overlook Dunk, or indeed others in the 4.5 slot in favour of the more heavyweight options. I’m not quite going for 4 at the back, rather a 3-4-3 but reflecting the new prices, with a 5.5/5.5/5.0 back three in situ comprising Kieran Trippier, Ryan Bertrand (who may become Cedric, budget permitting) and Craig Dawson. However, there’s definitely a slot available at 4th spot (i.e. 2nd sub) and Dunk is currently occupying that slot for me.
With the stats looking strong defensively, the goal threat (0.9 spg is higher than last season’s highest scoring defender Gary Cahill on 0.6) and having heard the glowing testimonials from Albion fans (reinforced no end by this research), I’m of the opinion that Dunk was undervalued by 0.5 and should really be a 5.0, given his similarity to the other two players I’ve looked at, but, thinking about it, the potential for the penalty of indiscipline may have caused him to receive the lower pricetag. He’s one I’m happy to leave on the bench to come in over the course of the season as a sub or to help me ride out awkward injury crises, with the hope that Brighton, much like Burnley and Boro did last year, carry over some semblance of their defensive solidity from the second tier to the top division.
A tough one to grade as he is starting on the bench if he is in our sides at all, but that’s quite good for a promoted defender; he might well come to the fore during the season as a cheap enabling option, with the 0.5 saved by a defender of his ability (compared to last season’s foremost 5.0 defenders for the promoted sides) perhaps being an enabler in future weeks should Chris Hughton keep Brighton solid. With this in mind, I’m grading him for the long-term offer, and also considering the fact that he is on many a radar amongst involved FPL managers for that bench slot.
Overall rating: 3 / 5 – An above average 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.