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.
Norwich City were promoted to the Premier League having won the Championship in 18/19
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) May 5, 2019
Naturally, thoughts turned to their key men, with nomadic 29-year-old Finnish striker Teemu Pukki garnering much of the limelight after top scoring. He signed for Norwich on a free transfer at the start of the season, and has been nothing short of a revelation for them – his 29 goals was massively above expectations, with his previous highest according to transfermarkt being 16 goals for Brondby in the Danish league in 2016/17.
How well did he actually do last season though if he had been performing in the Premier League?
Prospecting the Prospects
Appearances: 43 appearances (All over 60 mins, 43×2) = 86 points
Goals: 29 goals (29×4) = 116 points
Assists: 9 assists (9×3) = 27 points
Disciplinary: 2 yellow cards = –2 points
Penalties missed: 1 = -2 points
Raw point total: 225
Note: Ben Mayhew has already given us a head start here by calculating his overall points (without bonus). Glad to see this matches!
Bonus (n.b. skippable, and please do unless you really fancy it as it’s long – 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.
11 Aug- 4-3 loss v West Brom, goal and assist for 1
22 Aug- 2-0 win v Preston, winning goal but defender with assist/cs would get max, so 2
15 Sep – 1-0 win v Boro, only goal of the game, 3
19 Sep – 2-1 win v Reading, goal and man of the match on whoscored for 3
22 Sep – 1-0 win v QPR, only goal of game 3
3 Nov, 4-0 win v Sheff Wed, brace and winner 3
10 Nov – 4-3 win v Milwall, brace, winner, but missed pen however motm so still 3
24 Nov – 4-1 win v Swansea, 1 goal scored, but lots of other scorers and good performances so maybe missed out 0
1 Dec – 3-1 win v Rotherham, goal and assist but Todd Cantwell equalled that and was MoTM so maybe just 2
8 Dec – 3-2 win v Bolton, scored winner but Marco Stiepermann goal and MoTM could mean 2
22 Dec – 1-0 win v Blackburn, scored winner but good performance from defence may mean just 2
29 Dec – 4-3 loss v Derby, but brace and MoTM for 3
18 Jan – 3-1 win v Birmingham, scored winner (make it 2-1) but subbed off, 1
26 Jan – 2-2 draw with Sheff Utd, goal and assist but Billy Sharpe brace probably means 2
2 Feb – 3-1 win v Leeds, scored winner but Vranic brace and other good performances for 1
10 Feb – 3-0 win v Ipswich, brace, 3
16 Feb – 4-0 win v Bolton, brace including winner and assist for 3
2 Mar – 3-1 win v Milwall, 1 goal scored by maybe no bonus 0
6 Apr – 4-0 win v QPR, brace and Buendia (goal and 2 assists) red carded, so all 3
14 Apr – 1-1 draw with Wigan, other goalscorer got booked so 3
22 Apr – 2-2 draw with Stoke, scored once so in the mix for 1
5th May – 2-1 win over Villa, 1 goal, maybe in the mix for 1
Total guesstimated bonus = 41
Scores on the doors
A massive 266 points for Pukki we think – though we may have been generous in some of the bonus allocation, it wouldn’t change the story all that much.
This means over 43 games it’s a points per game of 6.18 (which is insane), and pro rata across 38 PL games it’s therefore 235 points.
Unsurprisingly, that’s pretty high in FPL – third in fact, 1 point above Raheem Sterling.
First things first, a trigger warning for the delicate literalists out there:
We are in no way suggesting that Pukki will match this haul in the Premier League.
I’ll say it again.
We are in no way suggesting that Pukki will match this haul in the Premier League.
It’s obviously a strong performance from the Finn, especially considering his past record. Since the Championship was renamed as such in 2004-5, only one player – Glenn Murray then of Crystal Palace with 30 – has bettered his tally. Last season Matej Vydra’s 21 was the top score, though the season before that Chris Wood hit 27 for Leeds, so it’s not too uncommon for strikers to hit near to 30.
Pukki’s 29 is the 4th highest since 1992-3 by the way, with Guy Whittingham somehow hitting 42 for Sheffield Wednesday that year, with Lee Hughes with 31 for WBA in 1998-9 also joining Murray on the podium.
Onto the man himself, then, and it’s fair to say that Pukki is the epitome is a standard no. 9 who does what all good 9s are supposed to do: lead the line and score goals. There isn’t much more to his game: from what we can see, he simply plays on the shoulder of the last defender and latches onto through balls.
He isn’t a particularly proficient header of the ball, winning a paltry 9 of his 67 aerial duels last season. However, he doesn’t need to be: the Canaries craft the majority of their chances through the middle. In fact, last season they had the lowest number of crosses in the Championship. He makes up for the lack of headers in terms of shots – he took 144 strikes at goal last season, 108 of which were in the box, which works out at 3.4 shots per 90. That’s a pretty decent volume, similar to both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (3.1) and Gonzalo Higuain (3.3) – but still somewhat behind the most frequent shot taker of last season, Sergio Aguero (5.4).
Much like Aubameyang, as we saw Pukki takes most of his shots inside the box – of his 3.4 shots every 90 mins, 3.0 were inside the box. Additionally, he has a good technical ability which allows him to drop back in a more false 9 role if required; he’s able to hold up the ball to bring his teammates into the fold. This helped him record 9 assists (0.2 per 90) last season by merit of 54 key passes – 1.3 per 90 minutes. This is a good creative tally for a striker – 1 more than the top creating striker Wilf Zaha who created 54 chances (mostly from the wing, but still valid as an FPL striker).
The Norwich account revealed he’ll be 6.5m to start with,
🎮 @OfficialFPL Price Reveal!
Teemu Pukki will start the season priced at £6.5 million… Worth every penny 😎
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) June 27, 2019
Obviously the 29 goals (0.68 per 90) and 9 assists from last season will not be repeated in the coming year. I expect Pukki to be a situational pick, unless he stays in the rhythm and proves he’s a good answer to the well wrought “FPL Viagra Conundrum”: can he keep it up?
I’ve spoken a lot about “situational picks” in recent times, and it’s one of these who is our first comparator in Troy “Cojones” Deeney. It was 116 points, 9 goals and 5 assists for the Watforward this time round, but what could be interesting actually is looking at his first season in FPL in 2015/16, when he scored (a very surprisig in hindsight) 166 points from 13 goals and 9 assists. Flanked by the legendary Odion Ighalo, the then 5.5m priced Deeney fired in 94 shots – 59 in the box – and created more chances than any other forward that season with 56. Deeney’s physicality may be different to the perhaps more slippery Pukki, but definitely seemed to be an unknown quantity that surprised defenders and allowed him to flourish early on. In terms of FPL, that first year would be an incredible output, and last season’s more modest output perhaps acceptable as 116 points from a newly promoted player feels OK – but at 6.5m we’d maybe be justified in feeling a touch underwhelmed.
Speaking of newly promoted players, in terms of the sheer volume of shots, a comparison between the Norwich no9 and Aleksander Mitrovic at Fulham is worth glancing at. Mitro managed 134 points from 11 goals and 4 assists at 6.5m. The Serb fired a chart-topping 131 shots at goal, 96 in the box, and also created 32 chances for his team mates. He also had more headed attempts than any player has ever had since OPTA stats began with 54, beating out former record holder Christian Benteke (49 in 2016/17). Obviously, Pukki isn’t going to be heading his way to that sort of total, but in terms of raw shots we might see something similar. Would 130ish points at 6.5m provide good value for money? I think so.
A cautionary tale may exist in Dwight Gayle. We Prospected the Prospects of the diminutive striker when he came up with Newcastle back in 2017, and were quite positive about his prospects. After 23 goals in the Championship, we expected big things, but at 6.5m producing 93 points from 6 goals and 3 assist was not what the doctor ordered. He managed 57 shots, 44 in the box and created just 21 chances for team mates despite appearing in 35 games. We gave him 3* back in 2017, which makes us temper our expectations on the newly promoted strikers nowadays.
It’s hard to predict until we see all the transfers made, but it is likely that this Norwich team, that play almost exclusively through the middle, may struggle to break down the more robust defenses of the Premier League teams. It’s worth noting that a lot of the smaller teams’ main scorers possessed a strong aerial threat as part of their arsenal (e.g. Murray, Rondon, Barnes, Mitrovic). Without one, Norwich may find themselves struggling to break down defenses.
Having said that, Pukki should be able to make this up somewhat with the aforementioned intensity and technical ability.
I’ll be watching Pukki closely to see if he can indeed be FPL Viagra, but I suspect that he may be a situational pick at best. Nonetheless, as with Deeney, the element of surprise may be on the Finn’s side which may see him do better than I expect. But he won’t be in my squad – especially at the anticipated 6.5m – on Gameweek 1.
Overall rating: 2.5 / 5 – An above average prospect for FPL
*derived from a completely subjective scale from 1-5, where 1 is bad and 5 is excellent
Caveat: we thoroughly accept this system of evaluating players isn’t flawless. However, we feel that it’s a nice approach to getting a feel for how a player might do.
Many thanks to Con for the support with writing this article.