Prospecting the Prospects: James Maddison

Our “prospecting the prospects” series returns for 2018-19!
This is where we run the rule over lots of FPL prospects who will enter the game next season. This series analyses a selection of these newcomers to the FPL game by simulating how they would have performed using last season’s stats (wherever they played) as if they had been in FPL, then providing our evaluation of the player as an asset ahead of the coming period. 

On June 20th, Leicester City announced the arrival of 21-year-old James Maddison for £25m.

Maddison was part of a Norwich City side that finished a lowly 14th place in the 2017/18 Championship season. However, the England u-21 international was one of the bright sparks of that campaign, contributing to an incredible 45% of Norwich’s goals last season. Scoring 14 and assisting 8, Maddison’s exploits caught the eye of the Foxes, who eventually managed to attain his signatureml. They beat out a host of clubs rumoured to be interested in the attacking midfielder, including Chelsea and Tottenham.

The allure of first-team football was likely a contributing factor, as Leicester will be hoping the young Englishman can offset the loss of their talisman from the previous few seasons, Riyad Mahrez (if you haven’t read our article on The Talisman Theory, check it out here).

But how good is Maddison? Let’s find out…

Appearances: 44 appearances (41 over 60 mins, 3 times under 60) = 85 points

Goals: 14 goals (14×14) = 56 points

Assists: 8 assists (8×3) = 24 points

Clean Sheets: 13 CS = 13 points

Bonus: To give an estimation of the bonus points he would have got, we’ve reviewed the games he would have delivered points in to come to a rough number. We’ve done this by researching all the games and allocating probable bonus depending on how well he did.

Goals/Assists: Maddison scored the game winning goal (GWG) in the 3-2 victory over Swindon on 8th August, in a game with 5 different goal scorers and no assists, so let’s assume he gets 2 bonus points from this game. A goal, assist and Man of The Match (MOTM) performance in the 2-1 win over Reading (30th Sept) will have been rewarded with 3 points, as would his GWG in the 1-0 victory over Ipswich (22nd Oct), giving us a further 6 bonus. A goal in the 1-1 draw on 25th November vs Preston would have likely earned Maddison a further 3 bonus points as he was rated higher than the other scorer Barkhuizen (on whoscored) and the MOTM got a yellow.

Another 3 bonus points would have been received on 9th December for a MOTM display against Sheffield Wednesday, in which he contributed a goal and assist. A GWG and assist vs Millwall in a 2-1 win on New Year’s Day would have resulted in 3 bonus points, as would three more MOTM performances: vs Bristol (GWG in 1-0 victory); vs Brentford (GWG in 1-0 victory); vs Derby (goal in 1-1 draw) for a further 9 bonus points.

Despite losing 4-3 to Hull on 10th March, a Maddison hattrick would have found him with 3 bonus points again, and against Reading (17th March), he scored 2 goals (including GWG) and assisted the other in a 3-2 game, giving another 3 bonus points. Finally, he would have received 2 bonus points against Aston Villa (7th April), in a 3-1 win, for a goal and assist, losing out on a final 3 points due to an early yellow card.

Total guestimated bonus = 34

Disciplinary: 7 yellow cards: -7 points

Scores on the doors

That makes 205 points for Maddison’s season, which corresponds to a score of 4.65 points per game (PPG).

Scaling this to the Premier League’s 38 games, that equates to a total of 177 points. For reference, this would place him as the 7th highest scoring midfielder, sandwiched 1 point below Son Heung-Min and just outside the top 10 overall.

Evaluation

Pic: James Maddison official twitter page

For FPL managers, Maddison has one big plus, he is a set-piece taker. He scored two free kicks last season (including one that Toni Kroos copied in the World cup vs Sweden). He also scored four penalties, though if he can take them from Vardy is anyone’s guess. If Puel can get Harry Maguire spearheading Leicester’s set-piece attacks, then Maddison, who could potentially take over set-piece duty from Mahrez, could be a great “drip feed” of points throughout the season (much like Gylfi Sigurdsson two seasons ago when he scored 14.4% of all Swansea’s points).

A number 10 who is equally happy producing chances for others as he is taking them for himself, Maddison reminds me of the Great Dane who lit up the 2018 World Cup with some fine strikes: Christian Eriksen.  The Spurs playmaker is one of few Premier League players who came close to matching Maddison’s stats last season for both chance creation and shooting. Maddison created 2.86 chances per game (PG) for his teammates last season, quite a bit higher than Eriksen at 2.30, and took more shots (2.64 PG) than the Dane (2.43 PG). However, Eriksen had a much higher shot accuracy, with a 67% compared to Maddison’s 43%. Interestingly, both Maddison and Eriksen take a similarly high proportion of their shots from outside the area, 62% vs 64% respectively. These stats suggest that both are open to taking shots from a distance. Whilst Eriksen is the more accurate of the two, Maddison’s higher frequency seems to help even the odds: Maddison scored four goals from outside the box last season, compared to Eriksen’s two. Whilst part of this may be to do with a worse standard of goalkeeping in the Championship, it may be that Maddison may be more open to taking chances and shooting in worse positions, which puts his accuracy down, but the more chances you get, the higher your chance of scoring, especially when almost half of your shots are on target. Of course, it’s very unlikely that Maddison could come close to Eriksen’s 199 point tally in his first season in the Premier League. However, that’s represented in his price: sitting a cool £3m cheaper than Eriksen, Maddison is introduced to FPL managers as a £6.5million midfield option and, perhaps, a very enticing one.

Another midfielder who Maddison’s numbers are in the same vein of are that of the aforementioned Icelandic set piece master, Gylfi Sigurdsson. In his final season for Swansea before moving to Everton, Sigurdsson created a lower amount of chances PG than Maddison (2.03), but he took a staggering 3.05 shots PG, showing that each player created and/or took a similar amount of chances PG as each other. In 2016/17, Sigurdsson managed 181 points, entering the premium-level tallies even at a smaller club. Could we see something in the near future from the young Englishman?

The Premier League is a huge step up in quality from the Championship, so to look at how Maddison may perform in the upcoming season we should see how others fared in the transition. Scoring 12 goals and contributing 7 assists, Matt Ritchie had a tremendous season in the Championship in 2016/17, prompting many FPL managers to select him for their GW1 squads. Unfortunately, like the prom king who goes to college Ritchie was found to be nothing special (at the second time of asking as well, having performed in a mediocre way at Bournemouth too!), managing only 3 goals and 5 assists. This saw him finish with 116 points – the 25th highest scoring midfielder in the game. This is rather uninspiring, but did his stats reflect this reduced output?

Frankly, yes. Ritchie’s chance creation dropped from 1.95 chances per game (PG) in the Championship to 1.34 PG in the Premier League, with his total shots reducing from 2.67 to 1.51 PG. In saying this, 1.34 chances created and 1.51 shots PG is still a decent tally to put up, but FPL managers were hoping for a better conversion of stats into points. Compared to Ritchie’s 2016/17 season, Maddison created more chances PG (almost one more each game – 2.86 vs 1.95) and took a similar number of shots (2.64 vs 2.67 PG). This perhaps suggests that, even if Maddison suffers the typical drop in stats, he may still be producing chances at a decent rate for Vardy and Co.

This drop can also be seen with another of last seasons’ promising promotion stars, Aaron Mooy, of Hudderfield town, who managed 113 points last season, 3 less than Ritchie. Mooy’s chance creation suffered from the division step up, dropping from 2.17 PG to 1.39. His shots dropped similarly, from 1.38 to 0.78 PG. Whilst these are not necessarily bad numbers, it is important to note the steep drop in these stats is likely to hit Maddison, just as it hit Ritchie and Mooy last season.

Nonetheless, Leicester city are a much bigger team than the mentioned sides of Swansea, Newcastle and Huddersfield and, as such, it is not unfeasible to believe that their players should outscore those from the smaller teams. Whilst Leicester should perform better than these teams, Maddison is still young and inexperienced in the Premier League. It is a big step up for him, and whilst he will have better players around him than those surrounding Mooy and Ritchie, he is unlikely to match the exploits of Sigurdsson (in his first season, at least). Therefore, it seems feasible to assume that he will fall somewhere in between these point tallies.

As he had a knee injury at the end of last season, he may not get a full pre-season behind him, which will make the move up divisions even tougher for the youngster, but if he can find his feet relatively quickly, he could turn many an FPL manager’s head who will be looking for value in that 4th midfield spot. He definitely has the potential to produce 140 points in the coming season, but this has several caveats: full pre-season & recovery from injury; if he takes over set-pieces (good chance); if can he adapt quickly to the Premier League.

Having Jamie Vardy in front of him should be profitable for those looking to bring Maddison in early, as the pacey England striker will relish the pitch-perfect passing and through balls his compatriot brings to the table in the absence now of Mahrez. If they can strike up a good partnership both could be very promising Fantasy assets this year.

Maddison starts the season with a slight knock, and fixtures of mun WOL sou LIV bou, so it might be that some start with him and hope for the best, but it may be that he’s a transfer in for a good run of matchups from that Bournemouth game in Gamewek 5 til Gameweek 15, during which Leicester play only one top six team:

125 points should be a realistic aim for Maddison this year at Leicester. He has a good chance to top Ritchie and Mooy’s tallies from last season with a better team around him, and if he can develop a link with Vardy and Maguire early on, he could fall somewhere in between that 125 and Groß’s tally for last season (164).

However, as already stated, there is a precedent for players dropping in form from the division step up, so perhaps we should look to rein in our expectations to avoid getting burned again, though there’s always the chance that as the Mahrez replacement for Leicester he could hit the ground running.

Overall rating: 3.5 / 5 – An above average prospect for FPL*

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

Disclaimer: we thoroughly accept this system of evaluating players isn’t flawless. Predicting how well a player will do is an inexact science, and there are many ways to do it. However, we feel that it’s a nice approach to getting a feel for how a player might do in FPL.

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