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 campaign.
Sheffield United were promoted to the Premier League on 28th April 2019 following a 2-2 draw with Leeds.
P R O M O T E D 🔥 pic.twitter.com/tbnxyQpyDD
— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) May 5, 2019
As usual, FPL managers started to home in on the Blades’ squad to try to figure out who might be a pick for the upcoming season.
Inevitably, left wing back Enda Stevens’ name was the one quickly gaining traction across social media, especially in the context of inflated pricing for all defenders:
I think when we saw the £5m pricing we all dismissed him as an option. But given how high the prices have gone for ALL defenders, it doesn’t seem like bad value at all.
Anyone considering starting with him?
— Heskibo (@FPLHeskibo) July 8, 2019
So, how good is the 28-year-old Irishman?
Let’s find out using WhoScored data and match reports.
Prospecting the Prospects
I’ll do a quick look through the data to investigate, as well as the usual look in to match reports and data to get a feel for if the current bps system would have rewarded the Blades full back if he was in the Premier League.
Appearances: 45 appearances (All over 60 mins, 45×2) = 90 points
Goals: 4 goals (4×6) = 24 points
Assists: 6 assists (6×3) = 18 points
Clean Sheets: 20 cs (20×4) = 80 points
Disciplinary: 8 yellow cards: -8 points
Times conceded more than 2 goals: 11 = -11 points
Raw point total: 193
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.
25th August, 3-0 win v Bolton: Assisted the 3rd goal; a clean sheet may also have meant he’d be in the running for 2 or 3 bonus too with different goalscorers. 2
22nd September, 3-2 win v Preston: Assisted David McGoldrick’s winner but the 2 goals conceded, plus a goal and assist for McGoldrick and a goal for fellow defender Chris Basham may push him out of the bonus. 0
3rd October, 2-0 win v Blackburn: Assisted Billy Sharp’s second goal; however, a yellow card may mean 0
27th October, 4-2 win v Wigan: Assisted 4th goal for a Sharp hat trick. 2 goals conceded but a decent match score may see him nab a bonus or two in the absence of other good performances. 1
24th November, 2-2 draw v Rotherham: Assisted Mark Duffy (Muffy)’s opener, but another goal for fellow defender Basham as well Muffy, and a strong performance by Jon Taylor for the Millers means he might have been pushed out of the bonus. 0
29th December, 3-0 win v Blackburn: Stevens loved Blackburn, assisting the second goal for a Sharp brace. A brace for Sharp and a goal and assist for McGoldrick, though, may have seen him just get 1
10th April, 1-1 draw v Birmingham: Our man scored the opener and played well according Whoscored match ratings. Potentially swept all 3 in the absence of other standouts? 3
19th April, 2-0 win v Nottingham Forest: Scored the second goal. Strong performance rating, could well have swept the board and got the 15 point holy grail here with goal, cleanie and all bonus. 3.
22nd April, 3-0 win v Hull. Scored the 3rd goal. Brace for McGoldrick may have pushed him down to 2, though. 2
5th May, 2-2 draw v Stoke. Scored the equaliser to make it 2-2, assisted by Sharp. 2 goals conceded. Strong performances by Shawcross and Vokeswagon on the other side. May have nabbed 1.
Guesstimated bonus from G/A: 13
Remaining Clean Sheets:
Already assessed 5/20 of the cleanies.
For brevity, allocating a further 12 bonus from examining performances in these games. Looked through who had scored etc and the bulk of these bonus points would have come in the closer games/0-0s (e.g. 1-0 win over Hull on 6th October)
Total guestimated bonus = 25
Scores on the doors
That makes 218 points for Stevens’ season, which corresponds to a score of 4.84 points per game.
Scaling this to the Premier League’s 38 games, that equates to a total of 184 points.
That’s 9th overall if he scored that in the Premier League, 1 point below Trent Alexander-Arnold’s haul and 4th for defenders after TAA’s Liverpool team mates Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson’s stellar seasons.
Enda Stevens 😎
The Blades LWB netted 4 times during the final 6 games of the season 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/L3t82XZGjL
— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) May 17, 2019
Very encouraging numbers indeed if we narrowly focus on the potential output. OFPL seem to be aware of this output – even if Stevens scored all 4 of his goals in the final 6 games – pricing him at 5.0.
They do this every year with one member of promoted teams’ defences, with Tommy Smith at Huddersfield in 2017/18 and Barry Douglas at Wolves in 2018/19 prime examples. These guys are both useful to cite, too, as they’re two price tags that clearly didn’t work out: Smith was pushed out by Hadergjonaj, whereas Douglas was surprisingly shipped off to Leeds in preseason and replaced with now 5.5m (LOL) Jonny Otto.
This means that the natural comparison with last year’s breakout star of the cheap defence bracket Matt Doherty is slightly tainted; “Doc” received a 4.5 presumably because of the hype surrounding Barry Douglas, whereas his fellow Irishman Stevens got the 5.0.
Nonetheless, it’s very interesting to compare the stats of Doherty in the Championship winning season for Wolves with Stevens.
Both appear to play similar roles, albeit on opposite flanks. This means there is potential for the attacking returns beloved of FPL managers. On a per game level, in 2017/18, Doherty managed an average of 0.5 shots for Wolves – something he more than doubled in 2018/19, with 1.2 in the Premier League, 46 overall – 1 key pass and 0.9 crosses. Stevens holds his own comparatively here with 36 shots overall, a ratio of 0.8 shots, 0.9 key passes and 0.6 crosses per game for the Blades. Doherty ended up on 144 points in FPL following 4 goals, 7 assists and 8 clean sheets – inarguably, that would be a huge return on investment if Stevens mimicked that, though I’d wonder if the Blades will be able to hit that number of clean sheets to give the base line score.
So if Stevens can step up to the level set by his fellow Irishman this year, it’ll certainly be interesting. The 0.5m extra we may need to spend to get us there could indeed warp this comparison, but I think the biggest factor here is relative team strength: Sheffield United are not Wolves, and have legal wrangles at board level disrupting harmony in the hierarchy. This may have a knock-on impact on transfers to beef up the side, meaning that they’ll have to focus on their vaunted squad unity to compete.
Another nice example of the kind of player Stevens mirrors is (current) Leicester left back Ben Chilwell, whose 0.6 shots, 1.3 key passes and 0.6 crosses per game this season are in a similar ballpark to Stevens. 5 assists and 10 clean sheets saw him net 118 points this term, which again would be an acceptable return for Stevens at 5.0. Chilwell created 45 chances to Steven’s 39, but in fewer games, showing again how the Irishman will need to improve slightly in order to be a fully fledged FPL asset.
A cautionary stats tale exists through Fulham’s forgotten 5.0 man Joe Bryan, who was purchased from Bristol City after scoring 5 goals and laying on 3 assists in the Championship in 2017/18. That year, he took an average of 1.1 shots per game and provided 0.8 key passes and 0.8 crosses – very similar to Stevens. Fulham, of course, tried to do too much too soon, resulting in just 5 clean sheets and 52 points for the Englishman. I don’t think Sheffield United under Chris Wilder will implode in quite the same way, but it’s always important to remember that for every Matt Doherty there is a Tommy Smith or Joe Bryan.
Stevens has the potential to perform like Matt Doherty did provided his club find their feet at Premier League level. However, at 5.0 you have to be wondering if that 0.5 can be better spent elsewhere, or if a more established 5.0 defender (e.g. the likes of Tarkowski) might be a better early gambit.
bou CRY LEI in the first three isn’t too bad, though, so I’d expect some to take the plunge.
So, is Stevens the new Doherty? Unsure. Could you get a few points from an early punt? Sure. But, as with Doherty’s emergence ~GW3 last season, the best way forward seems to be to watch and wait with newly promoted players; I’ll certainly be observing this in terms of Enda Stevens, especially at 5.0.
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.