So far as part of our “prospecting the prospects” series, we’ve run the rule over newcomers like Kolasinac, Bernardo Silva, Klaassen and Knockaert – read these 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, plus our thoughts on the player ahead of the new season.
On 22nd June, Liverpool announced that they had signed Egyptian Mohamed Salah from Serie A runners-up Roma: 3-and-a-half years after seemingly losing out to Chelsea in January 2014 for his signature, it seems Liverpool have finally gotten their man for a reported record fee of £36.9m.
So, how well will he do in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) next season?
In this article, we’ll be using WhoScored data to run the rule over the former Chelsea man in order to assess whether the Egyptian should be worthy of FPL managers’ attention for the forthcoming campaign.
Prospecting the prospect (using last season’s data)
Appearances: 31 appearances (29x played over 60 mins, 2x subbed on/off) = 60 points ((31×2)+3)
Goals: 15 goals (5×15) = 75 points
Assists: 11 assists (3×11) = 33 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: Salah scored a hat trick in the 3-0 win over Bologna on 6thNovember. He scored the 2nd goal in the 4-1 win over Torino on 11th February, which the bonus system would class as a winning goal. On 19th March, he scored the 2nd goal in the 3-1 victory over Sassuolo, as well as assisting the opener. He also scored the equaliser and the 4th goal (classifiable as the winning goal) in a brace against Chievo in the 5-3 goalfest victory on 20th May.
For the hat trick, the goal and assist against Sassulo and also the brace against Chievo we will give him 3bps per game, for 9bps. In the 4-1 win over Torino, Radja Nainggolan’s goal and assist would probably have seen him awarded 3bps, so perhaps 2bps for that game is good, giving him 11bps overall for winning goals.
- Result change: He scored the opener in the 3-2 victory over Sampdoria on 11thSeptember. He scored the opening goal and assisted the 4th (but received a yellow card) in the 4-1 victory over Palermo on 23rd October. Let’s say he snuck a 1bp here.
- Contributions: Salah scored 8 other goals last season (in his impressive haul of 15). He added the 4th in the 4-0 win over Udinese on 20th August. He scored the 2ndgoal (and assisted the 4th) in the 4-0 victory over Crotone on 2nd September. He scored the 3rd goal, and assisted the opener once more, on 15th October in the 3-1 victory over Napoli. He scored the 2nd in the 3-0 victory over Bologna (the reverse to his hat trick game) on the 9th April. Finally, he turned in a brace (the 3rd and 4thgoals) in a man of the match performance in the 4-1 victory over Pescara on 24thApril. For game with assist (v. Crotone) he may well have received 2bps. For his brace, the 3 assists by Stephen el-Shaaraway might have pushed him down to 2bps. For the other 3 goals, let’s give him 3bps overall. This gives him a total of 9bps from contributions.
Total guessimated bonus for goals: 21 points
For assists: Let’s assess this in the same way as goals, given the amount of assists (8) Salah contributed. We won’t consider the four games we’ve already mentioned in which he scored and assisted as they have already been counted for goals – these were 4-0 v Crotone (21st September), 3-1 v Napoli (15th October), 4-1 Palermo (23rdOctober), 3-1 v Sassuolo (19th March).
- Match winning: Salah assisted both goals in the 2-0 victory over Crotone on 12thOctober. Let’s say he’d get 2bps here, given Federico Fazio is deemed by WhoScored to have been man of the match for that game and the goals were spread out.
- Result change: He assisted the equaliser in the eventual 3-1 victory over Sassuolo on 26th October. He also assisted the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Atlanta on 7thMay. Let’s give him 1bps for each contribution.
- Contributions: The Egyptian winger supplied the assist for the 2nd goal in the 2-0 victory over Empoli on 11th April. He assisted the opener in the 4-1 victory over AC Milan on 7th May. Finally, he assisted the 3rd goal in the 3-1 victory against Juventus on 14th May. I don’t think we can award him bonus for any of these.
Total guesstimated bonus for assists: 4 points
Total guesstimated bonus: 25 points
Not conceding: 7 clean sheets (7×1) = 7points
Disciplinary: 2 yellow cards = –2 points / 0 red cards
Scores on the doors
198 points. This puts him 8th overall, and 5th for midfielders – 1 point below Kevin de Bruyne.
However, this was only in 31 appearances. If we work out our points per game (ppg) this gives us a frankly ludicrous 6.39ppg (198/31), and therefore 243 points over the FPL season. That’s 2nd to Sanchez (!) overall and amongst midfielders. Madness.
Evaluation and conclusion
Wow OK. We need to relax and settle down a minute and remember one key thing: Mourinho didn’t like him. After signing for Chelsea from Basle (as mentioned before, ahead of his new side) he only played in 15 games (8 of which were off the bench) and contributed a solitary goal and assist before being shipped off to Fiorentina to be replaced by Juan Cuardrado… who barely figured either! He then, eventually moved (controversially) to Fiorentina’s division rivals, Roma.
That said, it’s not as if Mourinho’s eye for a player is anything but proven: Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Arjen Robben count as just some of the players he, for whatever reason, didn’t like.
The 15 goal and 8 assist haul last season looks really promising; for a lot of the time, if Roma turned it on, Salah was definitely involved. This sounds a lot like what his new team, Liverpool, are like.
To further help us here, let’s have a look at some comparators to try to help us understand how well Salah might do in his first season.
Firstly, the season following Alexis Sanchez’s move from Barcelona to Arsenal could be a good yardstick to go on, with the Chilean (unfathomably) being let go by the Catalan club after striking 19 goals and nabbing 10 assists in La Liga in 2013/14 – a slightly better output than Salah, albeit in a league where actual opposition is fewer and far between, which would render their performances roughly even. In his first season in the Premier League, Sanchez managed 16 goals and 8 assists, and 204 points – again, just 1 goal more than Salah managed in 31 fixtures in Serie A last season. Could that be what we could be expecting?
Another man worth looking at is Man City wing tyro Leroy Sane. Despite only figuring in 26 matches, he managed 5 goals and 7 assists last term, with 105 points scored. This was off the back of a final season at Schalke figuring 8 goals and 6 assists . Sane’s ppg works out at 4.04, meaning a potential output of 154 points (top 30 overall, and top 20 midfielders; 2 below Sadio Mane). Salah has a few more season’s experience than Sane, which could also be an indicator of where Salah might well end up.
The final comparator is his new club mate Sadio Mane. Following his £36m move to Liverpool in June 2016, off the back of an 11 goal 6 assist 160 point season for Southampton, he went on to get 13 goals and 6 assists in a 156 point season – but he got injured toward the end, and missed a couple in the middle to due to AFCON, meaning he only played 28 games. This gives him a 5.57ppg, and could’ve seen him score 212 points if he’d played 38 games. That would have meant he was 5th overall and, given how Liverpool floundered without his direct threat, you can see on one hand why he could have achieved that kind of figure and, on the other, why Klopp is trying to sign Salah.
Taking these examples together, it could be feasible to expect something around the 180 point mark from Salah this year.
There are further considerations, though.
The first is cannibalised points, as Liverpool, through Mane, Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, not to mention Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum, too, have threat from across the attack. Could Salah lose out to the points spread to them? A rejoinder to that could be that Roma has Stephen El-Shaaraway, Radja Nainngolan, Edin Dzeko and others but still managed a huge contribution to their season. Much will depend on the rapport Salah will form, especially with Mane who, to all intents and purposes, is Liverpool’s key goal threat. Salah’s eye for goal could mean either greater output from Liverpool generally, or come at the expense of other areas: it could be that Bobby Firmino’s goal threat could suffer as he might be charged with running defenders out of position to allow Salah and Mane to nip into the space. I expect to see this kind of pacy gambit a fair bit from Klopp’s side, and Salah’s potential does mean he has a good chance to make an impact on the division.
The second point is price. Coutinho will probably be 9.5-10.0 (8.0 from last season seems madness in hindsight), and Mane will probably occupy the same bracket. I personally can’t see Salah below 9.0 but equally I can’t see him above 10.0 – my intuition is that 9.5 “feels right”.
If Salah can really get involved and get producing for Liverpool early, an initial fixture list that’s decidedly mixed after a bright opening duo – wat CPL ARS mci BUR – may go a long way to determining his utility for FPL managers. I’m still likely to look at Mane, who is surely Liverpool’s main goal threat plus always an extra captaincy option, to begin with. But I’ll keep an eye on the proven quality on the opposite flank.
In closing, the stats are in Salah’s in his favour and, in Liverpool’s penchant for early season “heavy metal” football under Klopp, I can’t help but feel a bit excited about the prospects of the Egyptian winger. If he gets a place in the team from the off, and begins doing what he did for Roma, he could be a player pushing for consideration in the eyes of FPL managers. In many ways, this is the first signing of the summmer that feels really relevant for FPL. I’m going to give him a 4, but this is basically a 4.25.
Overall rating: 4 / 5 – A good 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.