Prospecting The Prospects: Daniel James

Our “Prospecting The Prospects” series returns for 2019-20!

This is where we run the rule over the of FPL prospects of some 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 7th June, it was announced 21-year-old winger Daniel James had made the step up from the Championship in style, signing for Manchester United for ~£15m to bring the strike rate of rumours>reality for Red Devils signing up to around 1.5%:

James, twice capped by Wales, was close to joining United’s rivals across the Pennines Leeds in January, but the transfer seemingly broke down allowing him to instead join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s red revolution in Salford.

So, how good is Daniel James? Will he figure in our FPL teams this year? Let’s use Whoscored and FFS data to find out:

Prospecting The Prospects

Appearances: 27 appearances + 6 under 60 mins = 60 points

Goals: 4 goals (4×5) = 20 points

Assists: 9 assists (9×3) = 27 points (includes 2 “assists” for penalties won)

Clean Sheets: 7 cs = 7 points

Disciplinary: 2 yellow cards: -2 points

Raw point total: 112

Bonus (n.b. skippable – just a record to show I haven’t made it up)

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 match performance and allocating probable bonus depending on how well he did.

Attacking contributions:

23rd Oct – 3-1 win v Blackburn: Assisted the 2nd goal, high match rating on WhoScored but lots of other good performances 0

27th Oct – 2-0 win v Reading: Assisted both of the Oliver McBurnie brace, with an “assist” for the penalty and an outright one for the second. Described as a “livewire”, which may have taken him above the defenders though McBurnie would get the maximum 2

3rd Nov – 2-1 loss v Rotherham: Brace for Ryan Manning from the spot for the Millers would see him take 3, but McBurnie (assisted by James) got a yellow card and James played well – a generous 1

24th Nov – 4-1 loss v Norwich: scored the consolation but good performances from Marco Stiepermann, Teemu Pukki and Emiliano Buendia would probably relegate him to 0

29th Jan – 3-3 draw with Birmingham; scored the opener and good performance, but yellow carded 0

2nd March – 2-0 win v Bolton; assisted the second goal, but McBurnie also missed a penalty and Besant Celina (other scorer) only on as a sub, so maybe a generous 1

2nd Apr – 3-0 win v Brentford; assisted the opener and scored the third 3

6th Apr – 3-1 win v Boro; “assisted” Matt Grimes’ opening penalty, described as “livewire” in match report, good score on WhoScored, so maybe a generous 1

9th April – 3-1 win v Stoke; scored the opener, MoTM, no cleanies for a possible 3

19th Apr – 4-3 win v Rotherham; assisted the 2nd, but goals everywhere so 0

27th Apr – 2-2 draw v Hull; assisted 2nd for another brace for McBurnie, but good performances elsewhere (e.g. Jarrod Bowen for Hull) may mean another 0

Guesstimated bonus from G/A: 11

Scores on the doors

That makes 123 points for James’ season, which corresponds to a score of 3.7 points per game (PPG). He only featured in 33 of the 46 games available, though.

Scaling this to the Premier League’s 38 games, that equates to a total of 142 points.

Obvious caveats applybut that places him in the top 40 for FPL, 3 points above Jota and 1 below the likes of Zaha.

Evaluation

Clearly, you’d suspect Anthony Martial will provide stiff competition for the left wing berth (provided the Frenchman remains at United), meaning James may be a “situational” pick from the outset. He may have to wait a while before he starts to try to emulate his countryman Ryan Giggs on the United left.

In terms of pricing, I’d expect to see 7.0-7.5 for James based on the possibility that he may break through and play regularly for a top 6 team – if he’d joined a club like Villa or Brighton, he might well have gotten away with a 6.5 but because it’s United I’d expect that extra bump.

So, from the outset I’m viewing him as a player to bear in mind, keep an eye on, but certainly not purchase from day one unless OGS says “he’s my starting left winger”, or words to that effect. This evaluation should be viewed through that lens of what he could do, rather than maybe what he will – to that effect, he’ll probably join young players like Jesse Lingard in learning his craft from senior players like the aforementioned Martial.

NB he can play across the frontline and is versatile, so it might be that he’s not signed to play LW. Will update if I get more info.

The highly coveted Welshman certainly does seem to have all the tools to make his move a success looking at him, though.

Described by commentators as a “livewire”, “electric” and “fxking rapid”, James certainly has pace and the ability to beat a man on his side. This is borne out in the stats, too. James attempted 76 dribbles last season and was successful in 44 of them (58%) – still learning, but brave enough to have a go. That’s 1.6 successful take-ons per full game.

A prime example of the searing pace the Welshman possesses is the game in which James broke onto radars – the 5th round FA cup tie against Brentford back in February – when he covered 84 yards in 8.48sec to score this sterling individual effort:

James also caused no less than 3 bookings for Brentford players in the game as well. This may point to an additional “points revenue stream” – him winning 2 penalties last season could mean this is a nice extra source of points.

Coupled with this athleticism, he also managed to create 40 chances and take 87 shots last season. What’s interesting about these stats is the “in box” cut on whoscored, which shows 39 of the 40 chances he created were “short”, along with 66 of the 87 shots he took being in the opposition penalty area. I also suspect (though there’s no data available I could find) that equates to a good number of pen box touches, too. Make no mistake, these are exceptionally good underlying numbers given his lack of overall game time. However, he’ll need to learn to find some end product – just 4 goals out of all those shots is a pretty poor 0.5% conversion rate!

The sheer number of shots James has had is quite hard to match up with anyone in truth, with his 87 overall even beating out Mo Salah – very impressive considering he only played 27 full games – but I’m in no way of course suggesting James could replicate Mo (it’s sad I have to write this clarification, but it’s the way of things nowadays).

Looking at other stats in a similar vein, starting with a real “Rolls-Royce” comparison, Leroy Sane’s numbers in the Premier League are actually fairly close to James’ – though obviously whether James can replicate the German speedster’s performances in the top flight we’ll have to see. Last season and the one before, Leroy probably scored well over what we’d expect for James to match, but Sane’s first season in FPL in 2016/17 saw him score 105 points from 5 goals and 7 assists, priced at 7.5m. That year, he made 53 successful dribbles and created 35 chances, in James’ ballpark, though he took far fewer shots (33) – maybe Pep was screaming at him to get out wide. Either way, 105 points from a lively winger, in-and-out of the team at a Manchester club, does provide a nice yardstick for what James could achieve – again, this points to him being a situational pick for us, as Sane was back in that season when he dovetailed nicely with Kun/Silva picks.

Moving a little down the spectrum, Nathan Redmond comes to mind as an example of a tricky winger with pace. He’s had an interesting couple of years at Southampton, in and out of OOP land, and may well end up being a forward this season (written pre release). He had 46 shots last season, similar to James, but had fewer in the box with just 21; he also created fewer chances (27 to 40) but had more successful take-ons than James with 52 to the Welshman’s 44. 6 goals, 5 assists and 137 points for the Englishman this season was a decent return for a 5.5m price tag, though – and I’d wonder, if James did break into the United first team eventually, if something like that may be on the cards with United (on paper, at least!) a higher quality side than Saints.

Another example in terms of peppering the goal with shots is James Maddison, who launched 83 attempts at goal last season and also topped the chance creation stats amongst midfielders with 99 (two more than Eden Hazard).We looked at the Englishman for Prospecting the Prospects last summer here, and in the article we gave him a conservative 3/5 as a rating. It’s fair to say, matching Redmond’s output with 137 points, 7 goals and 7 assists, he lived up to that at 6.5m. Perhaps in the unlikely event that James plays the regularity of games the Leicester no10 was blessed with, ~135 points feels like a reasonable first season expectation if he establishes himself in preseason: otherwise, it’s just situational again.

A more sobering comparison in terms of an FPL comparator is Arsenal’s highest scoring midfielder in 2018/19 (!), Alex “Jay Jay Okocha’s nephew” Iwobi. At a 5.5m start price, a 99 point return is obviously a little below expectations from 3 goals and 8 assists. In the equivalent to 21 games on the field, Iwobi created 40 chances (same as James), completed 46 take-ons (2 more than James) and 30 of his 35 shots came from inside the box – a similar ratio to James, who probably had the licence to shoot at Swansea… but will he do so at United? Either way, as a template for the kind of player James may be – in and out of the team but with the potential and unpredictability to do something for you – Iwobi is a good comparator and perhaps a cautionary tale.

So, James is an interesting one. Perhaps a player who will be of interest if injuries and rotation bite, or playing his way into the first team, but likely a player that will be very situational this season whilst we observe his development. It may be all about next season as he acclimatises to the Prem this, but his stats are hugely impressive and there’s a chance he could make his mark quickly. There are many unknowns at United, too, with a summer of upheaval no doubt to come.

As such, I’m going to mark him conservatively this year, whilst highlighting that impressive potential: the question is could he be a first season Sane, or consigned to Iwobi non-entity status?

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.