Prospecting the Prospects: Sean Morrison

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. [Here’s our opener of the season, Wolves’ Jota]

Neil Warnock’s Cardiff were promoted back to the Premier League after a four year absence on Sunday 6th May. The club captain that marshaled the Bluebirds to that success is burly centre-back Sean Morrison, who was mobbed both at full time when Cardiff completed promotion and also during a taxi ride the next day.

Morrison Mobbed
(pic: Getty via https://www.walesonline.co.uk)

Morrison began his career at Swindon, scoring 6 goals in 50 games which caught the attention of Reading (then in the Premier League). He was farmed out on loan to Huddersfield in 2012, with one notable contribution that Terriers fans remember:

After getting into the Reading first team, playing 38 games and scoring 4 goals for the Royals, he moved on to Cardiff in August 2014. He was made club captain after goalkeeper David Marshall departed two years later in September 2016.

But with the permanent interest in the 3rd/4th defender slot in FPL lineups, and a few established options already in that position, how good is Morrison?

We used Whoscored data to find out.

Prospecting the prospect

Appearances: 41 appearances (3 of these sub) = 85 points

Goals: 7 goals (7×6) = 42 points

Assists: 1 assist (1×3) = 3 points

Clean sheets: 19 clean sheets (19×4) = 76 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.

Morrison scored 3 winning goals, earning him all 3 bonus each time for 9 bonus points to start us off – this includes the dream only goal in a 1-0 v Boro on 17th Feb, and an even dreamier dream of a brace(!) away at Hull on 28th May. He also added the second in a 2-0 victory over Bolton on 13th Feb, and was given a 10/10 by Whoscored, meaning he’d probably have nabbed a further 3 bonus points. He’d have been in the running for 2 bonus points in the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest, with him netting the opener and also receiving an 8.8 rating for Whoscored. He also assisted the winner in the 2-0 victory over Sheffield United on 15th Aug last year, which would probably have seen him score 1 bonus point more.

Defenders tend to be in and around the bonus whenever clean sheets are kept. To this end we also looked at the clean sheets (he got 19 in total) and have assigned 7 further bonus in games where the scoreline was close (0-0 or 1-0) where he hadn’t already scored.

Total bonus = 27 points

Disciplinary: 5 yellow cards = -5 points

Conceded more than 2: 3= -3 points

Scores on the doors

217 points with that performance over 41(3) games. Let’s do a points per game score (excluding sub appearances) – which is 5.3 – and gross up to reflect 38 games in the Premier League: 201 points. Many double figure hauls: for context, Gary Cahill was top scoring defender last season with 6 goals and 17 clean sheets, giving him 15 bonus and 178 points.

Of course this is a bit ridiculous that he’d be just above Christian Eriksen, but it’s worth making the point that. relative to how his club performed in the league, especially with regard to the mammoth 7 goals and 19 clean sheets haul, Morrison had a stellar season. Players like him are always going to be an outlier using this method, especially if they’re going from title winners to relegation battlers – so let’s look at his stats instead to work out what kind of defender he is, and what our expectations should be.

Evaluation

When asking for the Cardiff man to look at, the verdict was pretty clear, summed up well by FPL Pasq on Twitter:


Others (such as OsborneRHCP, Gingerpick, vlall123 and Poison3k reddit) also picked out Morrison for one key reason: his aerial prowess, which is absolutely first class.

He won more aerial duels (258) last season than any other defender in the Championship, winning a frankly ridiculous 7.2 aerial duels per game (!). This translates into some pretty impressive goal attempt stats too, with 1.2 shots per game at 44 shots over the course of last season – a potency exhibited by his 7 goal haul, giving him a conversion rate of 16% (for context, Alonso as top scoring defender with 7 goals only had a 9% conversion rate). This also adds to his creative threat as the man it seems aiming to get the nod on at the near post; he made 21 key passes last year, which is more than Cedric (19) managed for Southampton to give a ballpark. It’s also important to note that Morrison’s poor pass completion rate (only 55%) shows that he’s a no-nonsense defender: Warnock loves a long ball!

This puts me in the mind, of course, of Lewis Dunk (who we looked at last year here) and his defensive partner Shane Duffy. Dunk, we reported, had 0.9 shots per game in the Championship last season – unfortunately, we didn’t account for him finishing into his own net, which he managed an astonishing four times this season (and I think I owned him for at least 3 of them). Dunk scored one goal at the right end last season, whereas Duffy disappointed his owners by finishing the season empty handed. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though: Dunk had 25 shots, and Duffy 28. It just didn’t go in for either of them. In terms of the defensive stats, Morrison is more similar to Duffy than Dunk: where Dunk is winning tackles (30 v 19 for Morrison and 18 for Duffy), Morrison and Duffy rely on their aerial presence for clearances (317 for Duffy, 278 for Morrison, 217 Dunk). They also win more aerial duels (259 as mentioned for Morrison, then Duffy on 185 and Dunk on 112). The similarity between Morrison and Dunk is in interceptions, where Dunk made 66, Morrison 57 and Duffy 48. Finishing with 100 and 97 points each, I think that the Brighton boys are probably a yardstick for what Morrison can achieve, having kept over 20 clean sheets themselves in the Championship in 2016/17: it just depends if Morrison can better their paltry one goal, three assist combined return.

Another good comparator is fellow unit Harry Maguire. He finished the season at Leicester with a modest 117 point haul from two goals, four assists and just seven clean sheets (Brighton got 10!). He cost 5.5 at season end (up 0.5 from the start price of 5.0). It was an improvement of his score for Hull in 2016/17, though, when two goals, three assists and just four clean sheets for 74 points underlines why Hull went down. However, statistically Maguire’s profile from that season with the Tigers in the Premier League is very similar to Morrison; Maguire took 1.17 shots per game that year (albeit with an accuracy rate of 34% versus Morrison’s decent 51%), and completed 64 interceptions. But 74 points is not too great: if Maguire was Hull’s best defender (arguably apart from Andy Robertson!), then I think there’s a fair parallel to Morrison here. 75 points – a similar points total to Angelo Ogbonna this year – seems about right.

From my initial look into them, Cardiff are reminiscent of Middlesbrough during their dour season in the Premier League (predominantly under Aitor Karanka). They struggled to score (not that those captained Alvaro Negredo in DGW34 two years ago will need reminding!) and relied heavily on their defence to eke out points. If Warnock can’t sign a prolific striker, nor find goals from the likes of Football Manager fave Kenneth Zohore, supplied by Callum Paterson (a converted wing back we’ve been tipped off about), then goals may come from elsewhere. (Paterson, by the way, is in our sights for an article later on)


I think with Morrison and his FPL prospects, it depends on three things.

Firstly, his fixtures: if he has a seemingly kind opening schedule, or picks one up during the course of the season, he may be on some manager’s radars as a 4th defender as a punt in the hope he can deliver in home games.

Secondly, his price: central defenders from promoted clubs tend to be 4.5 (witness Dunk, Duffy, Lascelles, Schindler etc from last season), however there are occasional 5.0 designations such as Tommy Smith at Huddersfield. Odds are it’ll be 4.5 I think, though.

JULY EDIT: He didn’t dodge the 5.0. Unfortunately this consigns Morrison to being avoided early doors, with a watching brief in case he turns into a goal machine. 

Thirdly, his continuing threat: Morrison has averaged 5 goals a season whilst playing for Cardiff, taking just under 1.2 shots per game. If he can maintain that level in the Premier League and keep threatening to net the odd goal, he could be worthy of consideration.

Set pieces aimed for aerial monster Morrison must feature in Warnock’s tactical armory, meaning there will definitely be chances: it’s just whether he takes enough of them to ever merit inclusion despite the probable lack of clean sheets.

I think we’re looking at between 70-100 points for Morrison in the end; it’s probably going to be about catching him at the right time, rather than sticking with the big man all season. There’s usually ample choice for 4.5 defenders: unless he turns into a goal machine, it’ll be a case of if or when it becomes Morrison’s/Cardiff’s turn on the fixtures carousel that’ll dictate if he’s popular or not. To that end, he’s not someone to quite write off, but equally probably not going to attract huge ownership come Gameweek 1.

Overall rating: 2.5 / 5 – An 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.