This is our “prospecting the prospects” series, where we run the rule over lots of FPL prospects who will enter the game next season– our directory for these (over 20!) is here. This series analyses a selection of significant newcomers to the FPL game by simulating how they would have performed using last season’s stats (wherever they played) in FPL, then provide our evaluation of the player as an asset ahead of the new season.
In last summer’s transfer window, one of the surprise deals was Bournemouth’s creative winger Matt Ritchie dropping down the Championship to play for Newcastle.
He certainly didn’t seem to mind, saying at the time:
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to come to a football club like this.
I loved it at Bournemouth – I had a fantastic time there and it had a huge impact on my career. But when a club like Newcastle comes calling, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity”
Like with our previous articles in this series we will be using WhoScored to review his potential for as an FPL asset on his return to the Premier League with the Toon Army.
Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)
Appearances: 42 appearances (40 played over 60 mins, 2x subbed on/off) = 82 points ((40×2)+2)
Goals: 12 goals (5×12) = 60 points
Assists: 7 assists (3×7) = 21 points
Bonus: To give an estimation of the bonus points he would have got, we need to review the games that he was instrumental in, ie when his goals and assists arrived to come to a rough calculation of how well he did.
(Occasional random bonus points (bps) are sometimes awarded in FPL where a player has bossed it but not actually got on the score card. We’re not estimating these as we’re using pure data rather than contextual data (e.g. watching the games he played in) to make perform this analysis. Plus it’ll only be an extra one or two points either way, which won’t change the story.)
For goals: this is best looked at by breaking down his contribution to games – where he was undisputed difference in the game, we will assign 3bps; where he was involved in changing the result but didn’t win the match, we’ll look at each game on merit; where he was on the scoresheet but it wasn’t a telling contribution, we will give the record of what happened and make an educated guesstimate on what may have been awarded.
- Match winning: Ritchie scored the 2nd goal – the winner according to the bonus points system – in the 4-1 victory over reading on 17th August from the penalty spot (his first of four penalties, converting all of them, last season). He scored the winner in the 1-0 victory over Derby, but received a yellow card in that game. He scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 victory over Wigan on 1st April, and followed this up four days later by scoring the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Burton. For the latter two games, him being the clear difference would give him 3bps for each game. When he was carded against Derby, this might’ve knocked him off the top spot, but 2bps seems likely. In the 4-1, though he was the match winner, a brace for Dwight Gayle and a goal and assist for Isaac Hayden in the middle would consign him to 1bp. 9bps for winning goals.
- Result change: He scored the opener on the stroke of half time, before his side went down 2-1 to Nottingham Forest, on 2th December. In the reverse fixture on 30th December, he repeated the trick by scoring the opener in the 3-1 revenge victory. He also scored the second goal to put his team 2-1 up, before an eventual equaliser saw QPR draw the game 2-2 on 1st February, but received a yellow in that game. He also scored the opener from the penalty spot in the eventual 3-1 victory over fellow Premier League newbies Huddersfield. For the games he scored the opener in from open play, I think we’re looking at him being in the mix for 1-2bps each time, so let’s give him 5bps there. For the QPR game where he received a yellow card, 1bp might be feasible. 6bps here.
- Contributions: Ritchie added the third in the 3-0 victory over Ipswich on 22nd October. He also added the third from the penalty spot in the 6-0 victory over Preston on 25th October. He scored a brace against Rotherham (his second in 3 days, having scored a brace in the cup in the prior game) in the 4-0 victory on 21st January, his goals being the second and fourth. He also added the third in the 4-1 win over Preston on 24th April, his final penalty of the season. The brace would elicit all 3bps. For the others, he might’ve snuck 2bps. 5bps here.
Total guessimated bonus for goals: 20 points
For assists: We’ve already covered one of Ritchie’s six assists above. Ritchie was on set pieces last season and it really showed in his link up with defenders. He set up Jamaal Lascelles from a corner in the 2-0 victory over Brighton, with Lascelles scoring the opener (thusly the winner according to the bonus system), though he got booked in that game. In the first of three set ups for Ciaran Clark – he set up all of Clark’s goals last season from corners – he supplied the assist for the big Irishman to score the fourth in the 6-0 victory over QPR on 13th September. He set up the second in the 4-3 defeat of Norwich on 28th September. He also set up the second – again, combining with Clark – in the 2-0 win over Barnsley on 18th October. He assisted against Burton on 17th December on the opening goal. His final combination with Clark came as the defender headed in the final equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Bristol City. For setting up the equaliser, in that final game, he may have been in the mix for 1bp, as with setting up the winner in the 2-0 victory, but his yellow card may jeopardise that. He wouldn’t have received bonus for the others I don’t think. 1bp here.
Total guesstimated bonus: 21 points
Not conceding: 13 clean sheets (13×1) = 13points
Disciplinary: 10 yellow cards = –10 points / 0 red cards
Scores on the doors
187 points. This puts him 9th overall, and 5th for midfielders – 1 point below Kevin de Bruyne.
However, this was in 45 appearances. If we work out our points per game (ppg) this gives us 4.16ppg (187/45), and therefore 158 points (4.16×38) over the FPL season. That’s in the top 30 overall players – two points ahead of Sadio Mane, and two behind Jamie Vardy – and top 20 for midfielders, four points behind Pedro. Not bad at all.
Evaluation and conclusion
A big point in Ritchie’s favour is clear: he hogs the dead balls, with penalties, corners and set pieces in his locker. That seems to elicit a fair deal of assists for the player from corners, and goals from penalties. He then immediately represents a good “drip feed” of points throughout the course of the season, especially should be resume his understanding with big Clark at corners.
Ritchie puts me in the mind of Icelandic FPL superstar Gyfli Sigurdsson, who re-joined Swansea after a successful loan spell – followed by time in Germany and then a couple of miserable seasons on the bench, hence our exhortations on the pod for him not to go back to Spurs! – in 2014/15. In his first season back at Swansea, he got 7 goals and 10 assists, bagging 154 points: 158 points in 15/16 and 181 points last season. At a team like Swansea, who, perhaps with Rafa’s expert guidance and anticipated strengthening over the summer, could be feasibly the kind of club Newcastle should seek to emulate (without firing as many managers). Siggy’s 181 this season dropping him 9th in the game and 6th for midfielders, would probably not be something Ritchie will realistically get, but the comparison is not entirely unfair, given Swansea’s travails last season and, as mentioned, inevitable beefing up. Maybe the 154 points from his first season playing full time in the top tier could represent a more likely indicator of what to expect from Ritchie.
A really good comparator for Ritchie, given the club he is joining and how integral he may be to how they shape up going forward, has to be West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass. That’s because, when at Hull in the first half of the season. “Snoddy” proved himself to be a solid FPL asset and looked part of the ‘template’ as a fourth midfielder for large stretches of the early season due to his kindly 5.5 opening pricetag. He finished up with 7 goals and 6 assists and a grand total of 133 points for the season, with only Josh King and Wilfried Zaha outperforming him in players in his price bracket. However, in the Championship, he only managed 4 goals (though with the caveat that he was still recovering from a career-threatening injury), which could be a basis for that 5.5 award. Snodgrass was not an unknown to FPL managers, like Ritchie (4g 6a in 2015/16 for Bournemouth) Last season, his FPL stats up until he moved to West Ham prior to Gameweek 23 were more than decent: his 7 goals and 2 assists for Hull works out at 4.71ppg: if he’d have continued at that rate, he would’ve achieved 179 points for the whole season, 1 point above King and 1 point below Roberto Firmino at 8th in the overall standings. The fact he only registered 4 assists for West Ham after his move in the January transfer window showed how moving from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a larger one can really take its toll on players – especially from an FPL point of view. This kind of movement might also mean that the actual 133 score could also be a viable target for the Scot.
As for price, it’s important to remember that Ritchie has already received a price of 6.0 in the past, having been allocated it when promoted with Bournemouth, which explains why he has received the 6.0 again.
Newcastle have an OK start as well: TOT hud WHU swa STK. I’m not too perturbed by those games, with the return of Tottenham after their 5-1 thrashing at the tail end of the 15/16 season likely to be emotive, and the others probably being ringed by Rafa as winnable.
Ritchie appeared in the vast majority of games last season, being the first to be rested when other competition fixtures were played. He appears to have the manager’s trust and he is perhaps the top option – over Dwight Gayle, whose prospects look good but without similar iron-clad trust in him – for the Magpies. This could be because he has a knack for producing the goods – the four penalties aside, 10 goals from open play is very encouraging indeed.
I like Ritchie. Think he could be a player, especially if the players around him are improved, who could play up and play well for a Newcastle team once they get on form. His record last season was pretty decent, and with perhaps 130-150 points a likely target for him provided he is trusted in the league and not ousted from the team with a big signing. The signs are, given how integral he was in the team, that he might be given a second crack.
I think, at 6.0, on set pieces and perhaps retaining penalties, with an OK run, he’s a player I’d quite happily have at 4th or, if I go for it, even 5th midfielder in a 3-5-2, or a 3rd midfielder in a 3-4-3. The drip feed of points from set pieces, plus the ability to score from open play make me think he’s a good punt. Much will depend on the final architecture of my team set up, but for now I’m definitely considering him.
Overall rating: 4 / 5 – A good prospect for FPL (Nick says 3)
*derived from a completely subjective scale from 1-5, where 1 is bad and 5 is excellent