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.
After an afternoon of savvy teasing, on 5th July Arsenal finally confirmed the (reported) record signing of French striker Alexandre Lacazette:
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 5, 2017
He moves for a reported £52m once add-ons are counted, and gives gloomy Gooners still reeling from not finishing in the customary 4th position something to smile about. It could also be the fillip that causes at least Mesut Ozil to sign another new contract (with Alexis Sanchez’s future as clear as mud).
Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)
Anyway, how good would the new Gunner have been if he had played at this level last season in the Premier League? Well using Whoscored data and our knowledge of the FPL bonus point system we can attempt to analyse him.
Appearances: 30 appearances (28 over 60 mins, 2 times sub on/off) = 58 points ((28×2) + 2)
Goals: 28 goals (4×28) = 112 points
Assists: 3 assists (3×3) = 9 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: Lacazette gets his fair share of winning goals. He started the season with a hat trick in the 3-0 defeat of Nancy on 14th August. The next gameweek, he won the game on his own again, with the brace – with both goals coming from the penalty spot – in the 2-0 victory over Caen on 19th August, but he did get a yellow card. He did the same, minus the yc, against Toulouse as he scored a brace to give Lyon a 2-0 win on 29th October, which again included a pen. He scored the first goal (technically the winning goal according to the bonus system) and assisted the second in the 2-0 victory over Angers on 21st December. He also added a brace against Marseille, including the winning goal to put his side 2-0 up before slotting in the third, in the 3-1 victory on 22nd January. He scored the opener against Metz on 5th April in the 3-0 win. Finally, he scored the goal to put his side 2-0 up against Montpellier before again adding a third in the 3-1 win over them on 14th May. For the hattie, a definite 3bps, along with the four braces, giving him 15bps from multiple goals in a game. His goal and assist against Angers would also be 3bps more. For the game against Metz, let’s say he’d have gotten 1bp. So that’s 19bps overall.
- Result change: He put Lyon 2-1 in the game they’d go on to lose 4-2 to Dijon on 27th August. He also scored a penalty to put his side 1-0 up early against Guingamp on 22nd October, but would go on to lose again 3-1. He also put his side 1-0 up from the penalty spot in the eventual 2-1 victory over Bastia on 5th November. On 15th January, he scored a brace – the first from the spot – but couldn’t stop his side losing 3-2 to Caen. He scored the opener in the reverse fixture against Guingamp on 11th February, but again they would go on to lose 2-1. He also scored the opener in the eventual 2-1 defeat to PSG on 19th March. Finally, the 2nd and 3rd goals to put Lyon 2-1 and 3-2 up against Nice on the final day of the season (20th May), but late equaliser from the spot for Nice meant it ended 3-3. For the two braces, it’s a definite 3bps for the draw v Nice, and let’s say 2bps for the loss against Caen. For the four games, he would be in the mix for the single bonus point each time; let’s say he got it twice, so an extra 2bp giving him 7bps overall.
- Contributions: Lacazette added the 2nd in the eventual 6-0 demolition of Nantes on 30th November from the penalty pot. On 28th January, his penalty was a consolation as Lyon went down 2-1 to Lille. On 8th February, he assisted the second goal and scored the third – another penalty – in their 4-0 win over Nancy. He also added their third from a spotkick in their 4-2 victory over Dijon. He also scored the fourth in the 5-0 thrashing of Metz on 26th February. I’m not sure we can award him any bps for these contributions.
Total guessimated bonus for goals: 26 points
For assists: We’ve already covered all his assists in the goals section
Total guesstimated bonus: 26 points.
Disciplinary: 3 yellow cards = –3 points / 0 red cards
Missed penalties: 2 missed penalties = -4 points
Scores on the doors
198 points. That’s 6th overall (1 behind Kevin de Bruyne) and 5th for forwards.
Let’s ramp this up as if he had played in 38 games, as we have done in the rest of our series, by looking at his points per game (ppg). That’s 6.6ppg (198/30) 251 points. That puts him 2nd to Sanchez overall and the top forward. Wow.
Evaluation and conclusion
Right, well, this could be a good one. Lacazette looks capable playing and scoring as both the lone forward (supported from the flanks) or in a partnership. That could be good for Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger’s newfound devotion to 3-at-the-back tending to play the lone forward but adjust to a two pronged attack as the game continues.
He’s also a penalty taker, which stands in his favour provided he takes that over – it’s a big if, with Sanchez nominally on them, having taken the last 3 this year. Of Lyon’s 14 penalties last season, he took 12 and scored 10, according to transfermarkt. This could serve to temper our enthusiasm about him somewhat: without penalties, he’d have scored 18 last season which, whilst a decent return, doesn’t look anywhere near as enticing as the 28 goals he’s been credited with. That’s not to say he completely relies on penalties, but they do seem to burnish his overall goal total to some extent. A bit of a downer there.
However, in terms of his either replacing or playing with Alexis Sanchez up top, a recent guardian article by Sachin Nakrani spoke glowingly about Lacazette:
[He’s] a player whose burgeoning reputation has in part been built on a high work-rate. The 26-year-old is a relentless mover, someone who never stops running, never stops closing down opposition defenders, never stands still.
There are certainly shades of Sanchez about this, with the determination and hard running suggesting either a worthy accomplice or, should Arsenal fans’ worst dreams come true and the Chilean depart, replacement.
Having a look at how highly regarded strikers from Ligue 1 fare in transitioning to the English game, we can only start with new club and international mate Olivier Giroud, who was Montpellier’s top scorer with 21 goals and 9 assists over 36 games in their Leicester-esque title win in 2011/12. Though absolutely different players in style – le donkey is less mobile and (infuriatingly if you watch him as a Gooner) less lethal – his first season in the Premier League, scoring 11 and assisting 4 for 121 points I think could constitute the lower end of what to expect from Lacazette. That’d be in the top 60 overall, equal to new club mate Nacho Monreal, and in the top 20 strikers equal with Burnley’s Sam Vokes. I feel like this will be a really disappointing total for him if that’s what he manages this season, especially if he struggles to convert sitters a la his fellow Frenchman.
Another example of a more similar player moving from France to England is the (younger) Anthony Martial, who played up front for Monaco, scoring 9 goals and 3 assists before finding himself transferred to Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United for a then world record fee for a teenager (a reported £36m). In his first season in the Premier League, designated a striker in his first year, he scored 11 goals and supplied 6 assists for 141 points in 15/16. That’s pretty decent: 9th for forwards this year, 5 behind Fernando Llorente and 5 ahead of Christian Benteke, and just outside the top 40 players in the game equal on points with Thibault Courtois. I still feel like that would be a below average score for Lacazette, though.
To find another comparator that really comes to mind, we need to go even further back to a giant of FPL and the Premier League generally: Didier Drogba. The deadly Drog moved to Chelsea off the back of a single, 32-goal season at Marseille. What follows is both a cautionary tale and also one of promise; the Drog initially struggled in the Premier League when he first arrived in 2004/5, with only 10 goals. It would take him a couple of seasons to get to 20 – in 2006/7 – but then returned just 8 the next season, followed by a shocker of a season under “Big Phil” Scolari in 2007/8, scoring only 5 goals and 76 FPL points. In hindsight, that teething period has been completely forgotten, eclipsed by seasons such as the very next one in 2009/10 in which, as an old Fantasy Football Scout (FFS) article from the halcyon days of 2010 reported, his gargantuan 29 goals and 13 assists elicited 242 FPL points; akin to how Lacazette would have performed this season in our projection. Drogba’s travails before establishing himself as the Premier League titan we remember in hindsight forms a cautionary tale: he was 26 when he moved to the Prem, the same age as Lacazette is now. Will history repeat itself? It’s tough to predict, Arsenal have to hope he doesn’t have such an adjustment period; in an era where clubs demand instant success, taking three seasons to get to 20 goals, followed by another couple in the wilderness, would not be acceptable.
In the case of Lacazette, from 2014/15 onwards (27 g that year; 21 g in 15/16, 28g last) we at least see consistency from him at a club playing at the upper echelons of a big European league (albeit perhaps an inferior one to the Prem), something not matched by Drogba’s history before joining Chelsea: a season at Guingamp (20 goals in 45 appearances) in 2002-3 led him to Marseille (19 goals in 35 appearances) in 2003-4, and then ultimately on to Chelsea. This could be key to his chances of hitting the ground running, as it could be that Lacazette’s extra experience at playing at high levels could help him adjust to the Premier League. Prior consistent outputs may also indicate that it might not be like it was for the Deadly Drog.
Another interesting point here is that his transfer may set off a “domino effect” of other moves: Lyon suddenly have a lot of cash to spend on a replacement; whoever they buy from then has some cash, and so on. Furthermore, Olivier Giroud’s place at Arsenal may be in jeopardy, particularly with this being a World Cup year (I suspect he won’t be happy playing second fiddle to his erstwhile rival in the French national team).
Anyway, optimistically, we could be looking at something approaching 200 points for Lacazette provided he adjusts quickly; his proven quality and characteristics attributes sound like he could be well suited to the Premier League: new (but for how long?) team mate Alexis Sanchez, remember, managed 16 goals and 8 assists (204 points) in his first season, with like characteristics. The signs are good.
As the Independent’s Andy Brassell pointed out in a recent article, the prospect of an Ozil-Lacazette link up akin to the Fabregas-Costa one of 2014/15 (particularly if Ozil is downgraded to a 9.0 pricetag) is really enticing, too. He draws comparisons with Lacazette’s fruitful relationship with Nabil Fekir in a way which is exciting from both an FPL and Arsenal point of view, saying:
The key to his success at the Emirates will probably be his relationship with Mesut Özil, and not just in terms of relying on the German’s supply line of passes. There is no mystery over how Lacazette and Fekir, a left-footer with a hint of Özil about him, hit it off so well.
As always, price could make or break him. A 10.0m floor and 12.0m ceiling seems likely to be the band in which he will be placed – the premium striker category, on other words – with a price tag somewhere in the middle of that (10.5-11.0m) probably the likeliest allocation. The question will be if we invest in him from the outset, or wait and watch.
EDIT: FPL confirmed today that Lacazette will be 10.5m:
Announce Lacazette 🙄 pic.twitter.com/yvrb9ATqkq
— FPL (@OfficialFPL) July 7, 2017
With the Gunners’ opening 5 fixtures being LEI sto liv BOU che it might be latter, though I’m sure many a manager will toy with him in their side when team building and perhaps there will be a number taking a punt on him on the opening weekend. However, it’s worth pointing out that Arsenal, much like Everton, see their fixtures dramatically improve after GW5, with a more than decent run of WBA BHA wat eve SWA to follow between GWs 6-10. This positions Lacazette, as long as he hits the ground running, as a prime asset to bring in on our early wildcards.
The theory I expressed on this week’s podcast special on teams and fixtures – that Arsenal could be this year’s Chelsea, in that they might well target the top 4 over the UEL meaning they play their best XI in the Premier League – could also see a meta develop which eventually favours having triple Arsenal. I would not be surprised to see a Bellerin/Kolasinac – Ozil/Sanchez – Lacazette (analogous to Alonso-Hazard-Costa at times last season) set up permeating a great many teams once the season gets beyond early doors.
He will come into consideration for the majority of FPL managers from early on in the season. With his proven quality over the years being perhaps an indicator that he has the tools he needs to succeed in the Premier League, all that’s left for him to do is to prove it.
Should Lacazette be nailed on, playing in an Arsenal team liberated from the usual disappointment in Europe (and if protected from the Thurs-Sun grind of the UEL), plus takes penalties, he could well take FPL by storm.
As someone with Arsenal sympathies myself, I am excited, but I am not letting that dampen my objectivity in this case: for Arsenal, he’s an excellent prospect, but I think for FPL a 4/5 seems apt given the considerations mentioned above.
Overall rating: 4 (with pens) / 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.