Theo Walcott Conundrum

Who would of thought that 2 weeks ago, Theo Walcott would become the ‘must-own’ FPL player for gameweek 4. Well that’s what happened when Richarlison needlessly head-butted Adam Smith in GW3, throwing a huge spanner in the works for the 2 million FPL managers that owned him. That led to over 1 million transfers out for the Brazilian, and the most popular replacement being his Everton teammate Theo Walcott.

Over 220,000 transfers were made directly from Richarlison to Walcott, in the hope that the ex-Arsenal man continues his fine start to the season. Walcott registered 2 goals and 1 assist in his opening 3 fixtures, and seemingly went under the radar due to Richarlison’s equally impressive start. So as most FPL managers who owned Walcott will know, a lot was riding on the Englishman’s shoulders going into gameweek 4, with a tasty home fixture against Huddersfield. However, what many managers didn’t foresee was a 1 point score and injury in the 56th minute, finally being replaced by Lookman.

It now seems like many Walcott owners have a decision to make in regards to what to do with him. Needless to say Twitter exploded into action after the injury, with many questions being asked around about the best course of action to take. We are hoping that the following can help put some clarity into the mayhem, and make that decision a little easier.

International Break

Firstly, if you didn’t know by now, the thrilling international break has arrived which means fellow FPL managers have 2 weeks to ponder over their FPL teams. And with the break – as boring as the internationals are – it provides time to make decisions with justified reasons behind them. This is especially the case with injured players like Walcott and Zaha, who haven’t had official confirmation of their recovery time. This gameweek, Walcott has been transferred out by over 150,000 managers while Zaha has had over 250,000 transfers out. Although the injury makes a player seem an unattractive asset, the duration of recovery must be taken into consideration, in particular when you don’t have the luxury of 2 free transfers.

We recommend that you use this international break to assess the options that you have and hopefully with the help of this article, come to a correct solution. FPL prices have been extremely volatile this year, with many players rising twice in one gameweek. Thankfully, the international break offers a slight downtime on the price changes due to the pausing of the premier league.

Statistics

Before making any transfer in FPL, a great tool to identify the value of a player is looking at their underlying stats. We use Understat as our source of statistics, and provides detailed analysis on each player in the EPL. The Walcott problem is one that should be decided with stats in mind, and understanding whether the possible replacement has the potential to outscore him.

Here are some of the underlying stats for Walcott:

xG90 (Expected goals per 90) – 0.36

xA90 (Expected assists per 90) – 0.18

Sh90 (Shots per 90) – 1.65

Kp90 (Key passes per 90) – 1.10

To give some context to the stats mentioned above, we’ll compare them to midfielders priced at a similar price tag who have been previous alternatives for him:

NamexG90xA90Sh90Kp90
Richarlison0.500.032.060.83
Fraser0.170.431.752.50
Moura0.320.031.590.79
Pedro0.400.073.741.70
Mkhitaryan0.270.242.662.32

As it can be seen from the table, it is Richarlison who tops the xG90, while Fraser (£5.5m) tops both xA90 and Kp90. In comparison to Walcott’s stats, it seems like his are pretty average when comparing with realistic transfer alternatives. And although Walcott has been transferred in by many managers after gameweek 3, the general consensus is that it was due to his fixtures rather than his underlying stats. Otherwise, if managers had researched his stats it would be interesting to see whether the similar amount of transfers would of been made.

Transfer Options

As mentioned previously, we urge FPL managers to not rush transferring out Walcott over the international break. If you still own him, take this break as the opportunity to reassess your squad and check whether it is a priority to get him out. The main reason to be patient is as mentioned before, getting confirmation on the extent of his injury. Everton still have favourable fixtures coming up, and even with his average underlying stats we wouldn’t put it past him grabbing a goal or assist against some of the opposition.

If however, the injury is worse than first thought, managers must consider whether their bench is good enough to cover his absence over that time period. For many managers who own both Zaha and Walcott, it could be a stretch too far for some squads covering multiple injuries. In this case, we have selected a few alternatives that could be transferred for Walcott.

Pedro (£6.8m) has started the season well with 3 goals from 4 games, while posting impressive underlying stats. The risk with owning Pedro has always been the rotation risk with Willian, which happened last gameweek against Bournemouth. Pedro’s substitute goal will have supported his claim for a starting place, and hopefully see him in the starting 11 for Chelsea’s home match against Cardiff in GW5.

Fraser (£5.6m) registered 1 goal and 1 assist in his first 2 games of the season. He has created the highest xA90 and Kp90 of the mentioned FPL players, and at the cheapest price has proved to be a great purchase for managers. If you have 2 free transfers over the break, Fraser could be a great alternative to free up some funds to improve other areas of the squad. If you are a Zaha and Walcott owner and the injury news doesn’t come good, he could be a great player to provide freedom to buy other players.

Richarlison (£6.7m) may seem as a strange inclusion but hear us out. If you have found yourself in the situation where your squad is strong regardless of the Walcott injury verdict, then holding Walcott for one more week may pay dividends. Richarlison will be returning in GW6 and it seems clear that he will start or play a significant part of that game. As seen in the table earlier, he has great goal scoring threat and already has scored 3 goals.

At the same price as Walcott, it wouldn’t require any changes to other players in the squad, and in regards to stats you would be upgrading to a better player. The question for this option is when the best time to buy Richarlison would be. His return is Arsenal (A), a team that have struggled defensively since the arrival of Emery. It doesn’t seem like the best entry point for the Brazilian, however with the xG90 that he has he will create chances against most teams. After that match, Everton have more favourable fixtures where he could pick up from where he was prior to his suspension.

FPLadvice verdict

It seems like there are a number of options that can be made for FPL managers depending on their squad strength and the eventual injury news. If the worst happens and Walcott is injured for longer than expected, then we recommend the players mentioned above. Many managers jumped onto the Walcott bandwagon early, so when making this transfer be sure to know the players fixtures, stats and rotation risk.

If the injury news is good, then managers have to decide whether they brought in Walcott for his ability or short term solution with Richarlison. We would recommend holding Walcott for the next home match against West Ham, and then look to transfer back to Richarlison either in GW6 or 7 depending on how you rate Arsenal’s defence. Richarlison’s stats, goal threat and first team security makes him the obvious choice to make way for Walcott.

The main thing to remember for FPL managers is that you need to consider your team, as all teams are different. We hope this article has helped provide some insight into the options available, but all decisions need to include your situation, not the situation of other managers.

 

 

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