Prospecting The Prospects – Pablo Fornals

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.

We kicked off with Daniel James, who you can read about here.

On 14th June, West Ham United announced the capture of attacking midfielder Pablo Fornals from Villareal.

The Spaniard reportedly cost in the region of £24m, and is a personal favourite of mine from Football Manager. Here’s how he developed in my all-conquering Arsenal team by 2026:

But enough of this, let’s leave the fictional world where I’m a Champions League winner behind and re-enter the real one by using Fornals’ WhoScored data to judge how good a prospect he’ll be in FPL. FFS data is also used in the evaluation.

Appearances: 28 appearances + 7 under 60 minutes = 63 points

Goals: 2 goals (2×5) = 10 points

Assists: 3 assists (3×3) = 9 points

Clean Sheets: 8 cs = 8 points

Disciplinary: 4 yellow card = -4 points

Raw point total: 86

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.

26th Sep – 3-0 win over Bilbao, scored the opener/winner and assisted Karl Ekambi’s third for 3

Looong gap

3rd Jan – 2-2 draw with Real Madrid, assisted Santi Cazorla <3’s 2nd in his brace, but goals for Varane and Benzema may have meant 0

Loong gap

14th Apr – 1-0 win over Man City’s Girona, assisted Samuel Chukweze’s early winner, but got a yellow card so another blank as defenders and Chuk would crowd him out 0

28th Apr – 1-1 draw with Huesca, scored opener but good booked, meaning Ezequiel Avila’s good goalscoring performance on the other side may have netted maximum, so 2

Total guesstimated G/A bonus: 5

Scores on the doors

That makes 91  points for Fornals’ season, which corresponds to a score of 2.6 points per game (for 35 appearances). If we crudely (never said this was scientific) discount sub appearances, that moves to 3.3 points per game.

Scaling this to the Premier League’s 38 games, that equates to a total of 124 points – he doesn’t break 100 if we include the subs (98).

That’s in the top 40 overall for the 124, 2 points above Anthony Martial and 4 behind Marcus Rashford.

Evaluation

A bit of a disappointment, really, with my high hopes after a good FM impression somewhat quashed.

Fornals’ numbers do not dazzle; his 2 goals and 3 assists was an underperformance, but not by a large margin: understat reports an xG of 3.92 and an xA of 5.41. Even if he’d achieved that, I’d probably still feel underwhelmed.

Fielded in a no10 role that often saw him drift leftward, Fornals managed 58 shots this year, 27 in the box. He also created 45 chances, completing 1130 passes through the season. Judging by this, his acquisition may enhance the appeal of other West Ham assets like Andrey Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson (though I’m aware the Brazilian is on many a sh!tlist!), as Fornals may be the man to link it all together and make things happen.

Fornals’ number of complete passes is equal to James Maddison, for example, which may be an idea of the kind of central role he’ll be expected to play in Manuel Pellegrini’s team. We gave Maddy a 3* rating in his Prospecting the Prospects article last year, and 137 points from 6 goals 6 assists was a good debut. He was insanely creative, though, with almost double Fornals’ chances created with 99. He also took a good deal more strikes at goal (3rd among midfielders with 63). The stats don’t quite match, but using Leicester’s no10 as a yardstick for an FPL asset who we think will cost 7.5m, ~135 points seems something we’d accept. In certain situations, Fornals may well venture on to the radar, but much like Maddy will I doubt will be deemed a season keeper.

That kind of overall score immediately made me think of Fornals’ new team mate, Manuel Lanzini. The Argentinean missed most of the recent season through injury, but I examined his 2017/18 data and, sure enough, there’s a fair bit of similarity with Fornals despite again a lack of appearances (27). He created 40 chances that year, and managed 22 shots in the box for 106 points. In his prior, fuller season, Lanzini managed 136 points from 8 goals and 3 assists, but the goals came off the back of a few wonder strikes that year as his stats are a bit lesser; understat report a +1.96 on the xG delta. Lanzini does play slightly deeper, which may impact his chances a bit more (he took less shots in the box as a proportion of his overall shot count, for example), nonetheless ~105-135 seems the kind of range Fornals may land in if he’s to have a fair-to-middling first season.

We stay with West Ham for our “Rolls Royce” comparison, with former FPL darling Dimitri Payet – my most successful ever Triple Captain thanks to two late assists and 33 points – coming into focus. Payet scored 9 goals and supplied 11 assists in 2015/16, earning himself 171 points whilst creating many a top FPL memory. Priced at 7.5m, the same price I’m thinking Fornals may be, Payet came from a decent season at Marseille where we scored 7 goals and 16 assists. He also had form on his side in that full season as a Hammer, overperforming his xG by 3.25 according to understat. 76 chances created and 51 shots at goal – though only 11 in the box – that year seem achievable stats to match for Fornals, though it very much comes down to the quality the Spaniard is able to summon in terms of his chances of emulating the Frenchman as the sparkling Hammers creator.

So, Fornals – I’m wary, and will be giving him time to settle in to the Prem. The physicality may well be something he’ll have to adapt to, and I’m also a bit more interested in what Fornals’ impact will be on the more settled Felipe Anderson now.

However, if at 7.5m and given free rein to conjure at will, responsibility could be the conduit for him to step up and provide more. I’d be expecting him to be a situational pick at best this year, although the Payet memories may be rekindled if he can start to produce end product in Claret & Blue early doors.

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.