Prospecting the Prospects: Sokratis

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 2nd July, Arsenal signed Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund:

Rumours he has been signed to boost shirt letter sales were quickly confounded when, much to the relief of sports writers everywhere, it was confirmed he goes by his first name.

The 30-year-old started his career in his home country, breaking through at AEK Athens in 2005 and earning a move to Italy with Genoa in 2008. He moved on from them in 2010 to AC Milan in a move that didn’t work out due to Italy’s co-ownership laws being changed. This led to him eventually moving to Werder Bremen and the eventual upgrade to most recent club Dortmund.

The new Arsenal man comes in at 5.5m in FPL this season. But how good a prospect is he?

We used Whoscored and Squawka stats to find out.

Prospecting the prospect

Appearances: 30 appearances (2 of these sub, 2 off on booking 40’/45′) = 56 points

Goals: 2 goals (2×6) = 12 points

Assists: 0 assists (0×3) = 0 points

Clean sheets: 10 clean sheets (10×4) = 40 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.

The defender scored two goals this season. In one game, the 2-0 victory away at Mainz on 12th December, he opened the scoring and thus scored the winner, as well as keeping a clean sheet. 3 bonus there. His other goal came as part of a 5-0 storming of Cologne, where he scored the second; impresario performances from others mean he is probably unlikely to have accrued any bonus there.

In terms of clean sheets, Sokratis was involved in two 0-0s, one 1-0 win, one game 2-0 wins and six with a winning margin of three or more. He wouldn’t have gained any bonus in the 3+ games. In the 2-0s, he doesn’t appear to have played well. In the 1-0, he got a high match score on Whoscored, giving him maybe 2 bonus. In the 0-0s, he’s Whoscored’s man of the match on one and did OK in the other – let’s say more from those two, giving him bonus overall for clean sheets.

Total bonus = 10 points

Disciplinary: 5 yellow cards = -5 points

Disciplinary: 1 red card = -3 points

Conceded more than 2: 7= -7 points

Conceded more than 4: 2 = -2 points

Scores on the doors

101 points – just about in the top 30 defenders overall, level with James Tarkowski.

His points per game score where he played over 60 minutes comes to 3.88ppg, which makes for a score if he played 38 appearances of 148 points. This hypothetically posts him at 4th for defenders, 2 points ahead of Antonio Valencia.

An intriguing position for the Greek defender to end up in.

Evaluation

Still: Arsenal FC new signing video

Arsenal have kept 13 clean sheets each time over the last two seasons, which was in the top 5 on both occasions, so he’s joining a good enough defence (though the obvious caveat is that it may be all change under Emery).

His record shows he’s not historically a goalscorer. His two goals this season amounts to his equal best ever return in front of goal. He’s also not an assister: his last assist came in 2013/14.

We therefore need to look to bonus points as a potential route to returns from the 5.5 defender.

This draws me to last year’s BPS king Cesar Azpilicueta (6.5), who accrued 914 BPS last season (bonus-friendly actions), realising 25 (I’m treating him as a centre-back here) as part of a Talisman‘s 175 point haul. Looking at their stats, they seem to have a similar kind of profile: Sokratis’ key strength is tackles, making an average of 1.62 per game last season; of all our comparators, Azpi is the closest to that figure at 1.49. Furthermore, in terms of CBI (clearances, blocks, interceptions), there is similarity: in line with most “big team” defenders, Sokratis’ main currency was in clearances (4.19) and interceptions (1.5) per game – which is superior to Azpi, actually. Furthermore, as we know, the Chelsea man was also involved going forward (assisting Morata for a PL record 7 times last season), which Sokratis isn’t as good at, but, interestingly, Sokratis shoots on average double the amount Azpi does per game (0.77 v 0.35).

Nicolas Otamendi (6.5) is another comparator, though with 156 points from 4 goals he might be too high a bar. He managed 0.94 shots per game, superior to Sokratis. Nevertheless, several of his 742 bps came from pass completion last season, which stood at 92%. Sokratis is close, on 88%, and of all the people we compared the Greek defender was second to Otamendi in terms of average passes completed per game, on 62. However, Otamendi’s 82 was head and shoulders above the rest. A superior CBI for Sokratis than the Argentinian defender may point to a decent opportunity for bonus points if he contributes to his side keeping a clean sheet, however – Otamendi scored 21 in the 2017/18.

A little further down the bonus list, we come to Three Lions hero Harry Maguire (5.5), who perhaps surprisingly finished in the top 3 for baseline BPS last season.The same price this season as Sokratis, Maguire managed an owner-bashing 117 points last season despite his lofty price tag as 2 goals and 4 assists left those investing in the Moai-faced one wanting more. Their per game CBI stats are really quite similar, and both defenders are very good in the air, winning over 3 aerial duels per game each on average. This may translate into more “FPL assists” for Sokratis, with perhaps headers on or deflected attempts potentially leading goals to others and artificially inflating his barren assist record in recent years. Crucially, their total shots count is near identical, at 0.77 spg for Sokratis and 0.76 for Maguire. In the Greek’s favour, too, is that Slabhead managed 10% lower pass accuracy last season per game, at just 78%.

Leicester kept 5 less clean sheets than Arsenal last season, at 9 versus the Gunners’ 13.  But if their player type is similar, and Maguire managed 117, I think we start to home in at around 125-130 points looking like a realistic target for the Greek international this season provided Sokratis plays often. Which, pending preseason, we have to assume he will for Emery.

So, basically, Sokratis is Maguire except a bit older, more Mediterranean and smaller-faced. Easy way to remember it.

Arsenal start with two very difficult fixtures, which draw the gaze away from the good run past Gameweek 3. Caution is to be advised from the outset – hard games reduce the odds of a clean sheet, which are what Sokratis seems to rely on historically. Howrver, if they get a good run of games and begin to pick up clean sheets regularly, he has the attributes to really dominate the BPS in matches. These kind of centre-backs do tend to get decent ownership levels at some points, especially around hot periods – though at 5.5 you’ll need to be reasonably sure of returns coming.

In conclusion, you may not get goals nor assists regularly from Sokratis. However, if Emery does succeed in making Arsenal’s defence more obstinate, then the bonus point potential may just be enough for you to go for the Greek.

Overall rating: 3 / 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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