New Hub contributor Jon Proudfoot aka @FPLBrain has been playing FPL seriously for 3 years – 16k OR in 19/20, 28k in 18/19, 224k in 17/18. 2x Telegraph top 500 prior to that. He wrote ‘The Universal Guide to FPL‘ to help beginners hit the ground running and others to improve their skills. Jon has a background in financial research and quantitative methods, and has played and followed football for 30 years.

In this article, I’m going to take a look at the biggest Fantasy Premier League (FPL) under-achievers and over-achievers of the 19/20 season and examine whether these players are strong candidates to fall back to earth or for a bounce-back season respectively.

I’ll be judging under and over-performance based upon the simple attacking returns (points for goals and assists, not including bonus points) players posted relative to the simple attacking returns they would have had if they’d performed in line with their Expected Goal (xG) and Expected Assist (xA) figures.

I will run the numbers for the top 250 FPL points performers of 19/20, identify the 20 biggest positive and negative cases and then narrow this down further to players we’re more interested in (regular starters, no injury concerns, not defensive midfielders, etc).

I will then be judging the sustainability of the candidates’ output based upon the following criteria:

  • Resume:           How has the player performed versus xG previously? (career xG delta)
  • Opportunity:    FPL price and position, real-life team strength and role
  • Ability:              How the player looks according to the good old fashioned ‘eye test’
  • Reliability:        Anticipated playing time in 20/21, degree of ‘teamsheet risk’

In other words, they will be judged according to the ROAR data (‘ba dum tish’).

Career xG delta:  This is simply a measure of how much the player has over or under-delivered versus what we would expect based upon their Expected Goals numbers. The data can be a little patchy depending on how long the player has been a professional and where he’s been playing, but we’ll use the best information we can get and I’ll give a warning if the sample set is too small to be very reliable.

Expected Goals and Assists are something of a nuanced (and much debated) area but I believe this data is valuable if you can interpret and apply it appropriately, which I will try to make sure I do here.

Bonus points:  Since we’re excluding bonus points (as we can’t accurately say how many would have been received with changes in attacking returns), please not that our results will likely underestimate the true degree of over and under-performance that occurred.

Process Recap:

  1. Take the top 250 FPL points scorers in 19/20 season
  2. Calculate simple (ignoring bonus points) attacking points (goal and assist points)
  3. Calculate simple expected attacking points (based on xG and xA)
  4. Calculate expected attacking points delta (#2 minus #3)
  5. Identify and examine top 20 under and over-performers
  6. Give a STRONG BUY / BUY / WATCH / AVOID recommendation depending on the above

Cold Fish (Part One)

Here are our top 20 biggest under-achievers from the 19/20 season in terms of expected attacking points delta (simple attacking points minus simple expected attacking points):

19/20 Top 20 Under-Achievers

Next let’s make some cuts to whittle those 20 players down to 10 more interesting players:

  • Players that are not necessarily expected to be regular starters in the 20/21 season
  • Players that lack appeal due to a combination of their real life position and unattractive FPL prices

Let’s take a look at our remaining 10 players, with additional focus on their 19/20 xG delta and their long-term xG delta (far right columns):

19/20 Under-Achiever Shortlist

That final column gives us some important perspective – it’s not too surprising or interesting if a career-long lackluster finisher has a difficult year in front of goal, but if a player who usually converts opportunities at a good clip simply had an uncharacteristically bad year, then this could create an opportunity for us.

Now let’s dig through that rubble to see if we can find any gems for the 20/21 season, using the criteria we outlined earlier:

  • Resume:           How has the player performed versus xG previously? (career xG delta)
  • Opportunity:    FPL price and position, real-life team strength and role
  • Ability:              How the player looks according to the good old fashioned ‘eye test’
  • Reliability:        Anticipated playing time in 20/21, degree of ‘teamsheet risk’

 

Roberto Firmino (20/21 price £9.5m, 19/20 under-performance of -25.7 points)

  • Resume: Firmino should have a bounce-back year versus his xG, given he’s put away chances well enough historically.
  • Opportunity: FPL Towers surprisingly left him at 9.5m despite an FPL down-year in 19/20 (155 points), pricing him 1m above Danny Ings and Raúl Jiménez who scored 43 and 39 more points.
  • Ability: As a key member of Liverpool’s multi-talented, title-winning front three, there can be little question of Firmino’s quality, albeit his unselfishness is not necessarily ideal for FPL.
  • Reliability: A sure-fire starter for Liverpool aside from very occasional rest / rotation, there’s little lineup risk here with the Reds likely to come out all guns blazing in defence of their title.
  • VERDICT: AVOID – I expected 8.5-9.0m but remaining at 9.5 while other strong options have come in cheaper means I’ll be passing on Bobby and his beautiful white teeth.

Neil Maupay (£6.5m, -20.1 points)

  • Resume: Limited expected data but certainly was unfortunate as far as assists, and looking at his basic headline stats, Maupay has basically ‘scored goals wherever he’s been’.
  • Opportunity: Brighton appear to be moving in the right direction under Graham Potter, but 6.5m is still a lot to ask for a forward who finished last season at 5.7m after a middling year.
  • Ability: Maupay often looked the part in 19/20 but that didn’t translate into as many returns as managers would’ve liked. I would expect Maupay to post a solid second Premier League season.
  • Reliability: Played the large majority of available minutes in 19/20 and I don’t see that changing.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Diego Jota (£6.5m, -19.6 points)

  • Resume: A bad year in front of goal has taken Jota’s xG delta at Wolves to -23% (no xG data prior to that unfortunately). He is direct and not afraid to shoot so this isn’t hugely surprising, but he talented enough that you’d expect this to improve over time.
  • Opportunity: Advantageous shift back to midfield while remaining at the potentially attractive price of 6.5m, if he was a more regular starter up front with Jiménez then this would be enticing.
  • Ability: Can look like a star in the making at his best, other times struggles to make an impact on the game. Personally I believe Jota is a very good forward in the making but only time will tell.
  • Reliability: Competition from Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto are a concern here – coupled with the uncertainty that comes with Nuno Espírito Santo’s regular shifts in formation.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Miguel Almiron (£6.0m, -19.3 points)

  • Resume: Underperformed both xG and xA significantly. His expected data is limited but he does look like a player who’ll never be much of a finisher – unfortunate when his lightning speed regularly gets him into great positions. Should see some mean reversion in terms of assists.
  • Opportunity: More expensive than Allan Saint-Maximin? Really? Kills a lot of any potential appeal for me, but should play a key attacking role for Newcastle, who improved in the 2nd half of last season.
  • Ability: Runs and works tirelessly and often impresses until the end product. Scored and created goals for fun in the MLS but the step up to the EPL has curtailed that. Still only 24 though.
  • Reliability: As one of Newcastle’s best players he’s going to start almost any game he’s fit for and he tends to play big minutes (3034 in 19/20).
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Michail Antonio (£6.5m, -18.4 points)

  • Resume: Antonio is known for his strength, pace and adaptability, so I was expecting his xG delta to be weak, but it’s perfectly sound. Despite superb per-minute production in 19/20 (111 points in just 1767 minutes), he could’ve done even better both in terms of goals and assists.
  • Opportunity: I think he’s been significantly underpriced as I can’t see him being shifted back out of attack after being West Ham’s best player and savior post-restart. There is a slight risk that he could be moved back out wide or elsewhere to accommodate Sébastien Haller, which is my only concern here.
  • Ability: Antonio looked outstanding once moved up front last season, and you could argue that he’s essentially been played in the wrong positions (and plenty of them) most of his career.
  • Reliability: I believe he’s a sure starter given his exploits before the summer break, and the only concern here are the regular injuries he’s had over recent seasons.
  • VERDICT: BUY – I think he’s good enough and cheap enough to start with and hold your nose through the bad fixtures, but at minimum he’s a player to consider as soon as the fixtures improve

James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m, -18.2 points)

  • Resume: The volume here is not super high so this isn’t a huge opportunity, but he is likely to have a bounce-back year after underperforming both xG and xA.
  • Opportunity: Stuart Armstrong offers an interesting alternative for 0.5m less, but Ward-Prowse stacks up just fine as an FPL asset and should retain penalty responsibilities.
  • Ability: Always looks solid in open play without ever looking particularly special, and then turns into bargain-bucket-Beckham when it’s time for corners and free-kicks.
  • Reliability: Played every single minute of the 19/20 season and I’d expect him to play the great majority of them in 20/21.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Harry Maguire (£5.5m, -17.8 points)

  • Resume: As a center back, the volumes weren’t high, but Maguire under-performed both xG and xA. You would think he has a hot streak in him sooner or later – he could easily get five or six attacking returns this coming season without anything crazy having to happen.
  • Opportunity: Came in at the reasonable price of 5.5m. We can expect a good number of cleansheets in 20/21 and he’ll remain the number one target at corners.
  • Ability: While he has his critics – largely due to the enormous price paid for him – Maguire is a good defender, plays his part in a solid United defence and does offer attacking threat.
  • Reliability: Incredibly reliable – played every minute of the season twice in the last three years.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m, -16.2 points)

  • Resume: Under-achieved in terms of both goals and assists but posted by far his best season as a professional and looked a new player under Carlo Ancelotti. Weak career xG delta (-17%) but is only 23 and showed encouraging signs as a finisher during the middle third of the season.
  • Opportunity: Reasonably priced at 7.0m but would have appealed more at 6.5m after finishing last season at 6.1m. Should start regularly up front for Everton and little has changed here.
  • Ability: He finished the season in a slump (and as something of an FPL punching bag) after Everton lost several midfielders to injury and the supply lines dried up, but in early March he was being talked about as an option for England after a run of 10 goals in 13 league games. I expect him to continue to progress in 20/21 under Ancelotti, who clearly rates him highly.
  • Reliability: There is some rotation risk from Moise Kean but I would expect Calvert-Lewin to start the large majority of games as his partnership with Richarlison looked excellent at times.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Mohamed Salah (£12.0m, -16.0 points)

  • Resume: I’m a little skeptical of the sustainability of his 14% career xG delta, as a lot of the over-performance came in his incredible 17/18 season (32 goals, 303 pts), and because he can have brief spells where he looks like he couldn’t kick a ball into the sea. However, if he just performs more in line with his likely xG and xA numbers in 20/21 then he could easily have another 250-point-plus season.
  • Opportunity: I find 12.0m to be kind given that Mo plays furthest forward for the defending champions, is classified as a midfielder, takes penalties and has a 303-point season in the books.
  • Ability: He gets some criticism over his finishing touch – which seems to come and go – but Mo is an electrifying player who has scored 73 goals in 108 league games for Liverpool and who constantly looks hungry for more. A great player at the peak of his powers.
  • Reliability: One of the first names on the team sheet, rarely rested or rotated, usually plays 90 minutes.
  • VERDICT: STRONG BUY – If he has a mediocre finishing year then he’s still likely to post circa 230-250 points in 20/21 (assuming good health), and if he ever has another 9-month purple patch akin to 17/18 then there’s the potential for a 260-300 point doozy

Oli McBurnie (£6.0m, -14.8 points)

  • Resume: McBurnie should’ve notched two more goals and two more assists last time around, which would have put him on a triple-digit return (2105 minutes)
  • Opportunity: Much like Maupay, McBurnie is someone I thought might be an interesting budget striker who disappointingly came in 0.5-1.0m more than I expected.
  • Ability: A solid all-around contributor who works hard and plays selflessly for the team. He’s still fairly young at 24 and looks like he will be able to stick around in the Premier League as long as he continues to gradually round-out his game and add some more end product.
  • Reliability: He played a good amount of minutes in 19/20 and I expect him to play even more in 20/21 unless Sheffield United splash out on a new forward (or get Rhian Brewster on loan).
  • VERDICT: AVOID – I like McBurnie but after 6 goals in 36 games I think he should have come in under 6.0m to make him a more interesting option.

As something of a ‘mean-reversionist’ I wasn’t expecting to dig into 10 under-performers and only end up recommending two of those, but as Tyler Durden once said, ‘let the chips fall where they may’. FPL Towers does tend to be fairly savvy with player pricing for the most part, and some of the opportunities I expected us to get (Firmino, Maupay) were neutralised by larger price tags than anticipated.

Now let’s move from last season’s zeroes to last season’s heroes…

Hot Shots (Part Deux)

Using the same methodology, here are our 20 biggest over-performers from the 19/20 season:

19/20 Top 20 Over-Achievers

Once again, let’s eliminate 10 of the 20 players to narrow things down to the more interesting candidates:

  • Players that are not necessarily expected to be regular starters in the 20/21 season
  • Players that lack appeal due to a combination of their real life position and unattractive FPL prices
  • A player that is in almost every draft I’ve seen (and should probably be added to the others) – Trent Alexander-Arnold
  • A player who slightly outperformed but whose appeal depends purely on health and minutes – Sergio Aguero

This whittles us down to our sure-shot shortlist:

19/20 Over-Achiever Shortlist

Now let’s go into more depth and judge our remaining 10 over-achievers based upon our ROAR criteria.

  • Resume:           How has the player performed versus xG previously? (career xG delta)
  • Opportunity:   FPL price and position, real-life team strength and role
  • Ability:             How the player looks according to the good old fashioned ‘eye test’
  • Reliability:       Anticipated playing time in 20/21

Kevin De Bruyne (11.5m, +33.4 points)

  • Resume: De Bruyne outperformed even his own extremely high career xG delta. This is likely to come back down to earth to a degree, even if he’s able to sustain a super-elite long-term xG delta of ~30%. Penalty duties and his ability to convert low xG long shots and direct free-kicks should help to offset some likely mean reversion.
  • Opportunity: The price looks generous given his ability to contribute FPL points in almost every possible way (assists from set pieces and open play, goals from set pieces and open play, cleansheet points, bonus point-magnet)
  • Ability: Looked phenomenal throughout the 19/20 season and is undoubtedly one of the world’s best players operating at the peak of his powers.
  • Reliability: One of the few players who rarely loses out in the ‘Pep roulette’, De Bruyne usually plays the full 90 minutes and you would imagine City will highly motivated to make up for a lackluster league campaign last time out.
  • VERDICT: STRONG BUY

Anthony Martial (£9.0m, +24.7 points)

  • Resume: Posted an extremely clinical year but his track record suggests he is a clinical finisher so this doesn’t look unusual or concerning.
  • Opportunity: Hit with both a substantial price hike and a reclassification to forward but these were both appropriate and he should remain Manchester United’s first choice number nine.
  • Ability: He looked better and better as the 19/20 season went on, growing into the central striker role and developing excellent chemistry with United’s impressive attacking cohort.
  • Reliability: He tends to come off around the 75-80 minute mark (much to his displeasure) but it was great to see him stay healthy all season. United should be challenging for the UCL places once again and have the firepower to dish out some thrashings to weaker sides.
  • VERDICT: BUY

Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m, +22.0 points)

  • Resume: Wild outperformance of xA, less so of xG. Bruno should continue to return at an elite level given he is on penalties, other set pieces and in a number ten role but this is still likely to normalise (lower) somewhat.
  • Opportunity: Bruno got a very fair price at 10.5m and looks almost automatic from the penalty spot in a team that has won a lot of penalties historically and has some excellent penalty winners. Even if he drops from the insane 8.4 pts/game he posted in 19/20 to something like 6.5 or so then he’s still a great value and eminently captainable in easier United fixtures.
  • Ability: Plenty has been written about this already but Bruno was clearly one of the signings of the season in 19/20, immediately lifting United to a higher level through his excellent play and his apparent gift for bringing the best out of his teammates.
  • Reliability: He looks crucial to the way United play and showed incredible stamina and/or recovery levels to play a huge number of full matches in a short period post-restart.
  • VERDICT: STRONG BUY

Sadio Mane (£12.0m, +19.9 points)

  • Resume: Mané outperformed his expected numbers substantially but has established himself as an excellent finisher and is surrounded with great players. Still likely to see some mean reversion.
  • Opportunity: Will continue to start as Liverpool’s left wide-forward and another strong season is likely, but the 12.0m price tag makes it hard to see a great deal of upside.
  • Ability: A world class player in his peak years – I don’t have any qualms in terms of his quality.
  • Reliability: Has rarely been injured across his career (with one notorious double-Gameweek exception) and is only occasionally rested or rotated, typically playing 75-90 minutes.
  • VERDICT: WATCH – Personally I’ll always lean towards Salah over Mané given that the former has penalty duties and significantly higher xG volumes

Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m, +19.6 points)

  • Resume: Mahrez outperformed meaningfully versus both xG and xA, but his track record suggests he’s a clinical finisher and he’s surrounded by a plethora of top talent to tee up.
  • Opportunity: Remains at 8.5m where he is essentially a steal when he starts, as an attacking midfielder / wide-forward on the most prolific attacking team in the league.
  • Ability: Mahrez usually looks like one of the best players on the pitch when he’s out there, and at 29 years old he should have a few more peak years.
  • Reliability: Heavy rotation risk. Mahrez was healthy and in Pep Guardiola’s good graces for most of 19/20 and was still given less than 2000 minutes. He’ll likely get similar in 20/21 and is capable of an impressive points return in that time, but it’s the path that is so difficult to navigate.
  • VERDICT: WATCH

Danny Ings (£8.5m, +18.7 points)

  • Resume: To me Ings’ 19/20 season does raise a couple of flags. He massively outperformed his xG and – having last managed a full season in 2014/15 – played in all 38 league games. On the positive side, he did underperform a decent amount versus his xA which could help offset some of the almost inevitable drop-off in finishing.
  • Opportunity: Having made a legitimate challenge for the Golden Boot, Ings got a significant price hike into 20/21. On the positive side, he should be playing in an improved Southampton side (5th highest team xG post-restart) and will hopefully carry over the impressive form and fitness he finished last season with, given it was only 5 weeks ago.
  • Ability: Ings is still only 28 and over the last 12 months he’s looked like the best possible version of himself – firing on all cylinders and a perfect fit for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s high-pressing side.
  • Reliability: Undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet for as long as he avoids injury, but it would be remarkable if he played as many minutes (2800) as he did last season, having averaged just 563 over the previous four campaigns. Right now though, he’s fit and raring to go.
  • VERDICT: BUY – No longer a bargain but a strong candidate to hit the ground running in 20/21

Mason Greenwood (£7.5m, +18.5 points)

  • Resume: ‘Deadshot’ made a mockery of his xG (4.4) by finding the net 10 times last time out having started the season at just 17 years old. There isn’t much of an xG track record to speak of, but Greenwood has a reputation as a superb finisher with either foot. If we brought him down to an elite xG delta of +30% then we’d have expected only five or six goals from him last season, which would have made for a solid but not spectacular return in 1303 minutes.
  • Opportunity: He was always going to get a substantial price hike into the 20/21 season, but the bump to 7.5m was made palatable by a position reclassification to a midfielder. Unless United spend big money on a more established wide-forward / attacking-mid then he should continue to start on the right of the front three. At minimum he’ll rotate with the other forwards.
  • Ability: While an xG delta of 138% (!) last season obviously raises sustainability concerns, it would be hard to pass the eye test more impressively than Greenwood did. With incredibly quick feet and virtually as good with either, it is very difficult for defenders to stop him getting shots away. When he did it looked like he had lasers in his boots – with most of his goals fired unerringly into a top or bottom corner as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
  • Reliability: While he looks like he might be a generational finisher, we still want to see much higher xG volume in 20/21 for his compelling returns to be sustainable. If Greenwood continues to start on the right of a talented Manchester United front three then opportunities should arrive, and if they do, I’ll be surprised if Greenwood does not convert them at an excellent clip.
  • VERDICT: BUY (unless Sancho arrives!)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m, +14.7 points)

  • Resume: An incredibly clinical year which isn’t really supported by his long-term track record.
  • Opportunity: Fortunately, Aubameyang could potentially be blessed with the rare and compelling combination of an FPL-reclassification to midfield along with the potential to spend more time as a central striker in 20/21, with Alexandre Lacazette looking likely to depart.
  • Ability: Looks to be at his peak right now, arguably among the elite strikers in world football.
  • Reliability: Arsenal should continue to improve under Mikel Arteta, Aubameyang will start almost every game he is available for and usually plays 90 minutes.
  • VERDICT: BUY

Heung-Min Son (£9.0m, +11.9 points)

  • Resume: The only one of the ten who was slightly under his xG in 19/20, while substantially over-performing his xA. While there’s some potential for give-back on the latter, this could be offset by higher volumes, and Son should rebound significantly in terms of his finishing, taking into account his incredible Premier League xG delta of 37% (64 goals from 46.8 xG).
  • Opportunity: Got a handy little price cut to 9.0m despite taking on an increasing responsibility for set pieces and maintaining his near-elite points/game levels. Unless he’s been significantly neutered by Mourinho-ball then he should continue to produce FPL returns at a nice clip.
  • Ability: A tremendous player only now coming into his peak years – I would be willing to captain him in plum home fixtures which is an added bonus here.
  • Reliability: While Jose Mourinho may not instill the kind of expansive playing style that FPL managers favour, he does not rotate much and tends to play his key players for 90 minutes, which we love to see. Has always looked capable of breaking the 200-point barrier without ever going above 178, thanks to averaging only 2217 minutes over the last four seasons. Could this be the year?
  • VERDICT: STRONG BUY

Harry Kane (10.5m, +11.6 points)

  • Resume: While he had a very clinical year (over and above his elite career xG delta), he was unfortunate on the assists side, so this is largely a wash.
  • Opportunity: ‘Mourinho-ball’ is not ideal for attacking players but if Kane is often one of the only Spurs’ scorers then he could have a great year for bonus points. Comes into 20/21 at his cheapest price in several years, on penalties and will be the tip of the Tottenham spear.
  • Ability: Remains an elite finisher who continues to improve the rest of his game. Looked to be back to his best in the final games of 19/20.
  • Reliability: Kane has had some frustrating injuries in recent seasons, but is one of the most ‘nailed’ players in the league when fit and plays the full 90 minutes unusually often for a striker.
  • VERDICT: BUY

Conclusion

When I started out on this analysis I did not expect to end up recommending more of last season’s over-performers than under-performers, but it’s important to let the study lead you to the conclusions, not the other way around. To recap, these are my recommendations for our selected over and under-performers:

Recommendations

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