Prospecting the Prospects: Naby Keita

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. 

[Wolves’ Jota, Cardiff’s Morrison and Fulham’s Sessegnon are who we’ve looked at so far].

On 29th August 2017, Liverpool announced the capture of Guinean international midfielder Naby Keita for around £48m:

The catch was that they let his old club, Red Bull Leipzig, keep him for the 2017/18 campaign before being allowed to move to Merseyside.

The 23-year-old started his professional career with lower league outfit FC Istres in France, before moving to RB Salzburg in summer 2014. He scored 17 goals in 59 appearances for the Austrian side (where he lined up alongside a prolific young Senegalese forward called Sadio Mane), which prompted a transfer to sister club RB Leipzig in June 2016. His stats for Leipzig have been similar, at 14 goals scored in 58 appearances.

It is thought he’s long been on Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s radar, and already much is being said about the Guinean ahead of the new season.

But how good is he as an FPL prospect?

We used Squawka and Whoscored data to find out.

Prospecting the Prospects

Apps: 21 (6) = 48 points

Goals: 6 goals = 30

Assists: 5 assists = 15

Yellow cards: 7 = -7

Red cards: 2 = -6

Clean sheets: 4 = 4

Bonus:

Keita scored the winning goal on 2 occasions last season, both of which would’ve probably earned him 3 bonus points, or 6 bonus points overall: this was in the 2-0 victory against HSV on 8th September and on the 25th November against Werder Bremen. He also scored the opener and assisted the winner in the 2-1 home victory over Bayern on 18th March, though he also picked up a yellow card which may have seen him go down to 2 bonus points for that game. His remaining goals were scored in circumstances that may have compromised any further bonus: he scored the opener in the 3-1 victory over Schalke on 13th January but was also booked; he added the second in a 2-0 victory over Augsburg on 9th February; and finally he scored to make it 4-1 in the 5-2 home defeat to Hoffenheim on 21st May, but only played 45 mins in that game. Let’s give him 1 bonus point more from somewhere there.

Keita supplied four more assists in addition to the one versus Bayern. He assisted the winner in the 1-0 victory over Gladbach on 3rd February, and also assisted the opener in the 1-1 stalemate with Dortmund on 3rd March; let’s say he’d have received 1 bonus point in one of those games. The remaining duo are nil points – this includes an assist for the equaliser to make it 2-2 in Leipzig’s eventual 3-2 away win at Hanover on 31st March, and an assist to make it 2-1 in the 2-2 draw with Glabach on 16th September in a game in which he was also red carded.

Total guesstimated bonus: 10 points

Scores on the doors:

94 points. Pretty low to get the sub-100 score, but minutes wise Keita perhaps didn’t get a fair crack of the whip.

Let’s make this into points per game score based on those minutes – 1962, translating into ~22 games – which is 4.27 points per game over 38 games. Over 38 games, that gives him a score of 162 points, which is actually pretty decent. That score would place him in the top 20 in FPL last season, 4 points above Ederson and 2 below Pascal Gross.

Evaluation

We’ll mostly look at Keita on a per-game level rather than a total level stats wise, due to his limited time on the field this season.

The first thing to note is that Keita loves a card. He’s picked up 15 yellows in the last 2 seasons for Leipzig, indicative of his combative midfield style. He won 1.72 tackles per game last season – as a barometer, N’golo Kante won 2.21. However, that’s not really of interest to FPL managers given the current points system, and the hard-tackling side of his game immediately feels a bit off putting when sizing up his prospective value to us as an asset as cards compromise any bonus his positive contributions may elicit.

Switching the focus to offense, Keita’s game is dynamic and box-to-box. His shot output is solid, averaging 1.5 shots per game over 2 seasons in the Bundesliga. The majority of Keita’s shots, though, come from outside the area (1.04 per game outside v 0.52 inside). His overall shot accuracy was only 39%, though.

Finding comparisons to Keita which ticked all the boxes in terms of offence, creativity, all-action style and club provenance has been difficult. The impressive per minutes stats show that he is a dynamic player who seems to make things happen for teams he plays in. It’s uncertain, however, whether this will translate into a bonanza of FPL points.

Image: Forbes

In terms of all action midfielders, the man who came to mind for me immediately is the (now former) Man City star Yaya Toure in his heyday of 2013/14, when he scored 20 goals, supplied 9 assists and stormed to a 241 point haul. That year, on a per game basis, Toure was slightly superior to Keita in terms of shots, with his 1.83 shots per game near to Keita’s 1.56. Creatively, the Ivorian is outdone by Keita, with 1.48 chances created per game beating out Toure’s 1.14. The majority of Yaya’s shots did come inside the box, though, and the big man took almost double the shots in total (69 v 34) that season compared to the Guinean, boasting a 54% shot accuracy in the process. I don’t think Keita will score the goals Yaya did (the former City man was also a set piece specialist lest we forget) but he could track him for assist potential. Yaya managed a 7.3 points per game score that season – way above Keita’s 4.27 – which might show that the Guinean is some way off that kind of prospect despite decent per game stats.

Image: Premier League

Another who popped when looking at the data is Spurs’ hand shake impresario Dele Alli. Last season, the England midfielder scored 9 goals and supplied 13 assists for an 175 point haul. On a per game basis, Alli’s offensive and creative stats track Keita’s closely; it’s 1.33 key passes  per match for Dele, closely comparable to the Guinean’s 1.28. Dele shoots slightly more – 1.81 shots per game, at a 37% accuracy rate (compared to Keita’s 39%). Alli’s shots mostly came from inside rather than outside the box, but the similarity in player profile shows what – if Keita plays the majority of games, of course – the new Liverpool midfielder might be able to produce provided he’s not stationed too deep. Alli’s points per game score of 5.3 was slightly above Keita’s 4.27, so we might need to keep looking.

Image: Premier League

Moving the bar lower, another with a similarly all-action style of play and a slight lack of time on the field is Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey. In the 2015/16 season, he scored 5 goals and 5 assists for an 119 point haul. It was a notable season for Ramsey, as it’s the most recent one where he played regularly (29 x 90 minutes played), with the last couple hampered by injury. It is worth noting that his 130 point haul this season is his best since his breakthrough year in 2013/14 as the Gunners’ goal machine. In 2015/16 Ramsey took far more shots per 90 (2.37 to 1.95) from inside the box than Keita, whereas the Liverpool signing created more than the Welshman (1.85 chances created v 1.27 per 90). Ramsey wound up on  4.1 points per game for that season – very similar to Keita’s 4.27. Perhaps Ramsey, playing in a slightly more withdrawn role that year, could be an indicator of a conservative estimate for Keita at around the 120 point mark; despite the player profile stats not quite tracking, FPL wise it seems they are fairly similar.

Image: Scout Nation

So we end up in a bit of a funny place with Keita.

He’s not quite a finisher, not quite a creator, not quite a long shot specialist, but somewhere in between as a jack of all trades but master, possibly, of none so far.

He does produce a lot during his time on the field despite the limited time he had on it last season. It could be said that this may be a problem for Keita this season as well, but I would wager that as a big money signing that Klopp has wanted for a long time we’d expect to see 30+ games for him (though who he replaces is up for debate), and an outcome around Ramsey’s at 110 to maybe 140. Anything above that and he’s owned by everyone.

I think in terms of pricing, between 7.0-8.0 is what I’d expect, with 7.5 feeling about right. We’ve got to think if that reflects value or not, given that you may be able to spend a bit less to get a talisman from another side who is likely to play every minute and also using up a Liverpool slot. Indeed, the deepening of Liverpool’s squad points to rotation to me as being a regular thing, which might be a bit worrisome too. Also, without the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult to say how his adaptation will go. However, it’s worth noting that some Bundesliga imports have recently landed well in the Premier League (see Auba, Gross).

Keita’s been a tough one to judge, and I’m a bit on the fence with him, but think he is worthy of consideration. If Keita does play most weeks, and is given licence to go box-to-box, there’s a good chance he’d well in the game. This is bearing in mind that there’s always the risk that guys like him are simply great players without that corresponding to FPL dominance. At 7.5 early on though, it might just be worth the early punt if you don’t fancy any of the options around him.

I’ll also need to see how he’s used by Klopp more, starting in preseason, before taking the plunge and confirming the transfer in I think. But the signs from Keita’s per-game output are promising – you’ll just need to hope he’s more Yaya in the Premier League if you’ve got the new Liverpool midfielder on Gameweek 1.

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.

Special thanks to Con for proofing.


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