Tom Ince

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.

On 4th July, Huddersfield announced the signing of Tom Ince, son of ex-United legend Paul, for a reported club record fee of £8.5m. This is our third rundown of a Terrier, with prior articles on winger Elias Kachunga and left back Chris Lowe.

In this article, we’ll be using WhoScored data to run the rule over the former Blackpool man in order to assess whether the Guvnor’s son should be worthy of FPL managers’ attention for the forthcoming campaign.

Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)

Appearances: 45 appearances (40x played over 60 mins, 5x subbed on/off) = 85 points ((33×2)+4)

Goals: 14 goals (5×14) = 70 points

Assists: 6 assists (3×6) = 18 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, it’s 2bps; where he was on the scoresheet but it wasn’t a telling contribution, we will give the metrics and make an approximation

  • Match winning:  Ince scored the opener – the winning goal as deemed by the bonus system – in the 2-0 victory over Cardiff 27th September. On 5th November, he scored a brace – including the winning goal from the penalty spot (more on that very shortly!) in the 3-2 victory over Wolves. Against Rotherham two weeks later on 19th November he also scored a brace, including the opener and the third goal, but managed to miss two penalties (one in the first 20 minutes, another in the last 20 minutes) in the 3-0 win. He scored the only goal in the 86th minute in the 1-0 victory over QPR in 14th December. He also scored the winning goal in the very last minute of the 2-1 victory over Birmingham on 8th April.

For the brace against Wolves, he’d have gotten 3bps. He would also be likely to receive the same tally when he scored the only goal v QPR. For his last gasp effort against Birmingham and his opener against Cardiff he’d have been in the mix for 1-2bps, so let’s give him 3bps from those too. For the game against Rotherham, despite being the game winner his two missed penalties really count against him in terms of bonus: 1bp there. 10bps from winning goals.

  • Result change: Ince made it 1-0 in the eventual 2-2 draw with Fulham on 17th December, but also assisted the equaliser. He also put Derby 2-1 up v Reading in the eventual 3-2 victory, but got a yellow card in that match. Against Bristol City on 11th February, he scored the goal to get his team back to 3-2 down in a match the Rams would go on to draw 3-3 – he also received the man of the match award in that game according to Whoscored. He equalised for his side in the eventual 2-1 victory over Barnsley on 4th March. Finally, he equalised from the spot against Rotherham in the 1-1 draw on 7th May.

When he scored and assisted v Fulham he would have been in line to receive all 3bps. For the 3-3 draw with Bristol City, his motm performance may have seen him elicit 1bp; a brace for Tammy Abraham (perhaps shortly of Swansea) would have seen the Chelsea loanee gain the 3bps. For game where he equalised against Rotherham, he may have received 2bps.  For the other games (v Reading) I think we’d be looking at 1-2bps, so maybe 1bp there. 7bps for result changing goals.

  • Contributions: Only 2 of Ince’s 14 goals didn’t alter the result in some way. The first was when he added the second in the 3-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on 11th December. The second contribution came when he put his side 2-0 up in the eventual 3-0 victory over Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich on 3rd November. He also assisted the opener in that game, which was technically the winner. He probably wouldn’t have received bonus v Forest, but in scoring and assisting v Ipswich may well have received all 3bps as he was also awarded motm in that game according to Whoscored.

          Total guessimated bonus for goals: 20 points

For assists: We’ve already covered two of Ince’s six assists above. For the others, he assisted the winner – but received a booking – in the 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on 29th October. He did the same against Wigan in the 1-0 win on 3rd December by setting up ex-Norwich man Bradley Johnson. He supplied the assist to help put his side 2-0 up against Cardiff on 14th February, but would go on to be on the losing side in a 4-3 reverse. He also assisted the opener in the 3-1 victory over Wolves on 29th April. For assisting the winner against Wigan, he would have received probably 1bp as the defence tends to be favoured in a 1-0 win. For assisting v Wednesday, he might not have received any bonus due to a yellow card. For the other two assists, I doubt he would have received anything.

Total guesstimated bonus: 21 points

Not conceding: 16 clean sheets (16×1) = 16points

Disciplinary: 8 yellow cards = 8 points0 red cards

Not scoring pens: 2 missed penalties = -4 points (-2 x 2)

Scores on the doors

198 points. This puts him 8th 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 4.4ppg (198/45), and therefore 167 points over the FPL season. That’s in the top 20 overall players – equal to Mesut Ozil – and just outside the top 10 for midfielders, 4 points behind Phillippe Coutinho. Not bad at all, Tommy!

Evaluation and conclusion

So, Tom is finally having a crack at the big time for real. After a couple of underwhelming attempts at Hull and Palace in the past, he’s going to hope that shining for new boys Huddersfield could see him kick on to an established Premier League star.

His Dad said of him:

“At the age he is at now, 25, for two years he should have been in the Premier League.”

(quoted by Sky Sports)

This could mean that he’s keen to make up for lost time, with his potential as a former Liverpool trainee needing to be realised sooner rather than later.

His general involvement – providing meaningful goals and assists for Derby – is highly encouraging, with two consistent seasons (he also got 12 goals and 8 assists in 2015/16) perhaps indicating that it could be his time to shine. That added motivation could really see him wasting no time in making an impact in the Premier League and, in turn, on our radars.

Furthermore, the fact that he is a penalty taker – and, as we noted on the article about Chris Lowe, this is a bit up in the air – could see him, as the record signing, take over spot kick duties. That could be another pull factor for FPL managers.

A really good comparator for Tom Ince, 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 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 price. 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). Like Ince, Snodgrass was not an unknown to FPL managers, with many fondly remembering the 12/13 season, when he played at Norwich and finished with 6 goals and 9 assists: a more than decent 152 points, which would’ve comfortably positioned him in the top 20 midfielders if that was for this season. 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.

A kind opening 6 games for Huddersfield that avoid the big guns (cpl NEW SOT whu LEI bur) could well see us opting for Ince as our 4th (3-4-3, or Nick’s 4-4-2) or 5th mids (3-5-2, probably as I will go) in our squads from the outset as a cheeky punt from the promoted sides. He also gives us another option in the Huddersfield set up, and competes with the offering of Kachunga, who will presumably sit on the opposite wing.

The one thing that could divide the two is the price. Looking at Hull again – Huddersfield’s probable nearest comparators from last season’s stock of teams – we saw in midfield that both of their wingers (Lazar Markovic and Snodgrass) received a 5.5m pricetag . It could be the case for Kachunga – who we speculated could receive this – and Ince, too. It’s also worth noting that Boro’s Vikor Fischer, who totally flopped in the Premier League, received a 5.5 valuation, as did Robbie Brady when he moved to Burnley in the winter transfer window. However, as mentioned, Snoddy in the Championship only got 4 goals; Matt Ritchie was given a 6.0 rating in 2015/16 for newly promoted Bournemouth after a humdinger of a season in the second tier. Given his output in the Championship, compared to the luminaries mentioned above it could be that Ince is given the 6.0 – this would be a surprise, though, and I think 5.5m could be the allocation. If that’s the case, a 5.5 rating for a player who seems to score game-changing goals – and hog the bonus as a result if he does so – means Ince could be regarded as an astute punt by FPL managers seeking a cheeky differential on the opening weekend.

EDIT: FPL today announced Ince as 6.0 on their Twitter feed:

I’m still considering him to be honest, but I wonder if Kachunga is now the man who, if 5.5, could be a better punt?

I think  we can’t give a 4 rating here to Ince as there are still questions about how quickly he will adapt to the Premier League. However, with the motivation of needing to prove himself, and the strong recent seasons’ stats behind him, it could well be that he takes over Snodgrass’ mantle as a player on many a managers’ radar in the budget midfielders category and ensconced as the 4th midfielder in many a team in the early stages of next season.

Overall rating: 3.5 / 5 – A fairly good prospect for FPL (Nick says 3)

*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.