This is our “prospecting the prospects” series, where we run the rule over lots of FPL prospects who will enter the game next season– read these 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.
This time we are evaluating a newly promoted player to the Premiership and Championship player of the year, the French winger Anthony Knockaert. Instrumental to Brighton’s success last year from the wing, the challenge for him next season is whether he will be able to replicate his hitherto lethal form when he faces much tougher opposition.
He is hugely valued by the Seagulls, as seen by manager Chris Hughton’s comments after he signed a contract extension in March 2017:
“Anthony has been an integral member of the squad since his arrival in January last year… This new contract recognises the hard work and relentless effort he has given to the team, and I am looking forward to working with him over the coming years.”
From the outset, the one thing we do know is that there will be no question that this guy will be starting for Brighton. Playing 41 games last year, he was virtually ever present throughout the season (missing just the one game due to a family bereavement) and the winger will be key if Brighton are to survive in their first season in the Premier League.
As with our previous articles in this series, we will be using Squawka data to review his potential. We will also try to evaluate his potential, as per some suggestions rooted in feedback from previous articles, by reflecting upon two other examples of players who have experienced similar situations.
Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)
So, how good would Anthony Knockaert have been if he had been in FPL last season? Well, using the Squawka data and our knowledge of the FPL bonus point system we can attempt to analyse him.
(Just a note on the data: to analyse Knockaert, we’ve used a combination of Squawka data, cross-checked against WhoScored records and match reports from Sky Sports to get a full view of his season. This is because there appear to be a couple of issues with the Squawka data, which we will mention below. We’ve sent Squawka a message on Twitter to make them aware of this, but have received no response so far.)
Appearances: 41 appearances (40x played over 60 mins; 1x subbed on at 70 mins) = 81 points ((40×2)+1)
Goals: 15 goals (5×15) = 75 points
Assists: 8 assists (3×8) = 24 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 (this can also be a bit fuzzy when it comes to some match winning goals given the vagaries of the bps system, so we’ve made adjustments which are documented below); where he was involved in changing the result but didn’t win the match, it’s 2bps; where he was on the scoresheet but it wasn’t a telling contribution, we will give the metrics and make an approximation.
- Match winning: Knockaert is a player who made a key difference to Brighton’s fortunes this year. He scored the opening goal in the 3-0 win v. Forest on 12th August, and then repeated the trick four days later on 16th as Brighton beat Rotherham by the exact same score line. He scored the only goal on 13th September as they beat fellow Premier League new boys Huddersfield 1-0. He scored the second goal versus Sheffield Wednesday in their 2-1 win on 10th October (which would be deemed the winning goal by the bps system), and, later in the year hit a brace to win the game for his team 2-1 in the reverse fixture with the Owls on the 20th January (n.b. this is according to Sky Sports’ match report as this data is not recorded on Squawka). He scored yet another opening goal on 7th March in the 2-0 win against Rotherham. He recovered to play again just three days later scoring the opening goal against Derby on 10th March. He then got a brace on 14thApril in the 2-0 win over Wolves.
- In three of these games (v. Huddersfield; v. Sheffield Wednesday; v. Wolves) he would definitely have received 3bps. For the other 5 games in which he scored the winning goal, he would have been in the mix for 2 or 3 bps, depending on who else contributed in those games. Let’s give him 3bps for two of those games, with 2bps awarded for the other three. This nets him a total of 21bps ((3×5)+(2×3)) for being a match winner.
- Result change: Knockaert put Brighton 2-1 up in the eventual 2-2 draw v. Reading on 20th August. He also equalised in the 2-1 win v. Birmingham City on 17th December –he also assisted the winner. For the 2-2 draw, we’ll give him 1bp, but for equalising and then assisting the winner versus the Blues, he definitely gets all 3bps. This gives him another 4bps overall.
- Contributions: Knockaert scored a further three goals for Brighton, adding the 5th in their 5-0 thrashing of newly-relegated Norwich on 29th October, adding the 3rd in the 3-0 win over QPR on 27th December and doing the same thing in the 3-0 win over Reading on 25th February. He might have snuck a further 1bp out of these goals.
Total guessimated bonus for goals: 26 points
For assists: We’ve already covered the assist he got for the winner v. Birmingham on 17th December. He also got 2 assists in the 3-3 draw with Brentford on 5th February. He then, again according to Sky Sports’ match report (recorded by WhoScored, but not by Squawka), got 2 assists in the 4-1 win over Burton on 11th February. He did the same a week later, assisting both goals in the 2-0 win over Barnsley on 18th February. Finally, once more corroborated by Sky Sports’ match report (and again recorded by WhoScored but not Squawka), he assisted the only goal for Glenn Murray in Brighton’s 1-0 victory over Blackburn.
We’ve already given him 3bps for the assist v. the Blues. For the remainder, his 2 assists v. Brentford and v. Burton would probably have netted him a further 1bp in each match. In the game v Barnsley, when he assisted both goals, a Sam Baldock brace would have meant Knockaert would have been awarded 2bps. The same would go for the 1-0 win over Blackburn, as Murray would have received top bonus. This means he gets a total of 6bps from assists.
Total guesstimated bonus: 32 points.
Not conceding: 18 clean sheets (1×18) = 18 points
Disciplinary: 9 yellow cards = –9 points / 0 red cards
Scores on the doors
221 points. That puts him equal to Lukaku in 5th overall best player, 4th for midfielders behind Sanchez, Alli and Hazard. Oh my.
Of course this is from 41 appearances, so if we were to divide the total by 41 and multiply by 38 (under the assumption he is ever-present in the Premier League) his points per game (ppg) works out at 5.39ppg (221/41). This means his total as if he was in a Premier League season becomes 204 points (5.39×38). That’s still an exceptionally high score, dropping down to 7th in the overall rankings, behind Christian Eriksen but ahead of KdB. He’d be the 5th highest scoring midfielder with that total. High roller.
Evaluation and conclusion
Well, the stats reflect the fact that Mr Knockaert was undeniably one of the stand-out stars of the Championship last season. However, there will be one question on everyone’s mind when looking at him as an FPL asset: can he replicate the same kind of form in the Premier League? We can’t be sure from the stats of last season alone so, to help us to answer this, I looked at stats from two players who had similar experiences in stepping up from the Championship to the Premier League: Gaston Ramirez and Robert Snodgrass.
Firstly, Gaston Ramirez wasn’t a Premier League virgin, having had spells at Southampton and Hull City on loan – but, at each club, he had never really stood out from the crowd, meaning he was in effect an FPL non-entity. However, after going on loan to Middlesborough and helping them gain promotion to the Premier League he suddenly looked like he may fulfill his potential. In 18 games on Teeside, he got 7 goals in the Championship and, if he could have replicated that kind of form in the top division, we could have been onto a winner. Priced at 5.5 at the beginning of the 16/17 season, I (stupidly, in hindsight) saw potential in him as a cheap midfield asset given Boro’s favourable run of fixtures at the beginning of last season, which meant he seemed value for money in the fourth midfielder slot. However, like previous seasons in the Premier League, he wasn’t able to perform at the level required, and only got 2 goals and 3 assists last season, ending up with a measly 59 points (a diabolical 1.68ppg). Yuck.
In contrast, Robert Snodgrass had a better time of it, especially in the first half of the season when he played at Hull. He proved himself to be a solid FPL asset and looked part of the ‘template’ as a fourth midfielder for large stretches of the early season due to his kindly 5.5 price. He finished up with 7 goals and 6 assists and a grand total of 133 points for the season, with only Josh King and Wilfried Zaha outperforming him in players in his price bracket. However, in the Championship, he only managed 4 goals (though with the caveat that he was still recovering from a career-threatening injury). The key difference is that Snodgrass, unlike Ramirez, was not unknown to FPL managers, with many fondly remembering the 12/13 season, when he played at Norwich and finished with 6 goals and 9 assists: a more than decent 152 points, which would’ve comfortably positioned him in the top 20 midfielders if that was for this season. Last season, his FPL stats up until he moved to West Ham prior to Gameweek 23 were more than decent: his 7 goals and 2 assists for Hull works out at 4.71ppg: if he’d have continued at that rate, he would’ve achieved 179 points for the whole season, 1 point above King and 1 point below Roberto Firmino at 8th in the overall standings. The fact he only registered 4 assists for West Ham after his move in the January transfer window showed how moving from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a larger one can really take its toll on players – especially from an FPL point of view. Strikingly, this isn’t far off what we our process suggests Knockaert might’ve gotten.
Anthony Knockaert does not have Premier League pedigree (an unimpressive 9 appearances 0 goals for Leicester in 14-15 does not count). The jump to the Premier League is a tough one, and we have seen many stars of the Championship unable to adjust (Patrick Bamford anyone?). Added to this, Brighton have mixed fixtures from the outset with a tough opening encounter against Manchester City.
There is cause for optimism, however, in his solid output for Brighton in the second tier and his presumably enduring status as the main man going forward at the Seagulls; we will just have to hope he goes the way of Snodgrass (at Hull) rather than the flop that was Ramirez. It would therefore definitely be a risk to start with Knockaert from the beginning, but, with goals and assists in his locker (plus the majority of set pieces, unless new man Pascal Gross challenges that dominance), he could well be a force to be reckoned with if he seizes his chance in the Premier League with both hands. I think he’s likely to get 6.0, though 5.5 is obviously more preferable.
EDIT: FPL today announced Knockaert at 6.0:
BRING. IT. ON. pic.twitter.com/o8URwS32Tk
— FPL (@OfficialFPL) July 7, 2017
We can’t quite give him the 4, but his potential as the “main man” for Brighton has potential – especially if he can mimic Snodgrass’ output rather than falling into Ramirez-esque oblivion. A favourable (~5.5m) pricetag would be a bonus.
Overall rating: 3.5 / 5 – A fairly 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.