Starting the season with a more-than-favourable fixture run for the first eight games (EVE-sou-NEW-mun-WHU-bur-BHA-wba), Spurs assets are on many FPL managers’ radars. With the main attacking threat – as usual – likely to come from Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane, I wanted to delve into the pair a little to see which of these might be the better FPL asset to start this season.Embed from Getty Images
To start with, let’s look at the raw numbers from the 19/20 campaign:
We can see from this that while the expected outcome (Kane scores more goals, Son more assists) is true, Son provided much greater potential with the dual-threat of both goals and assists, with both measures falling within the 0.35-0.45 x90 range.
Looking across all players, Son had the 10th best Gx90 and the 5th best Xa90 for all midfielders who played 1000+ minutes last year. Using the same measure (1000+ mins), Kane was 8th among forwards for Gx90, and just 27th for Ax90, so again, Son’s numbers come out a bit stronger.
What about their expected involvement?
This shows us that both players outperformed their expected numbers across the board, except for Kane slightly under-performing on xA, and particularly when looking at xGI, both players have very healthy numbers.
But are they too good? Are they unsustainable?
To understand this, I looked back at both players stats for the last three seasons, shown here:
In terms of Son, his xG has dropped down from last years high of 4.53 back to his 17/18 levels around the 1.8 mark, and for xA he has shown improvement year-on-year. Son’s xGI is similar to that of last year too, proving that this is no fluke.
Kane’s story is similar: he had a dip in 18/19 in his xG performance, but last season was back to the 5+ level of 17/18, and his xA numbers are in line with historic returns too – he averages 1.06 xA over three seasons, proving assists aren’t something we should expect from him in FPL. Kane’s xGI is incredibly consistent, with three consecutive returns between 4.35 and 4.8.
So actually, the answer is no. The numbers are not too good, and they are sustainable. Expected data is a really useful guide for fantasy returns, but with both players being elite level finishers over a sustained period of time, these are figures they are always likely to outscore.
Spurs formation and the Mourinho effect.Embed from Getty Images
When looking at players you have to consider the team they are in, the manager and formation. There has been a lot spoken about Mourinho’s negative tactics – much of which is entirely valid – where he prefers his team to contain the opposition and transition quickly from defence to attack, often in a counter-attack style.
These tactics can hurt Son, who ends up spending a lot of time on the wing, deeper than we would like to see, tracking his full-back, rather than high up the pitch, close to (or beyond) Kane, where he can get those opportunities for FPL returns.
This can also hurt Kane in that he’s a part of the press and drops deep to aid the midfield, and when Spurs do attack, Kane is usually highly involved in the build-up due to his superb link-up and passing abilities.
However, a common theme among the games since the restart is that Kane has not been alone upfront. In the majority of the games, Spurs have played with a clear second striker with Son, Lamela, Dele, and Bergwijneach having a chance to play off and with Kane upfront. In the other matches where this was not the case, Spurs rolled out a three-man front line.
Regardless of formation, what is clear from that is Mourinho’s plan to try and get Kane more involved in matches by having more company for him to play with and interchange with. Son (along with Lucas and Bergwijn) give extra options when paired with Kane uptop given their speed, whereas Lamela and Dele are more in the playmaker mould (although we all know Dele can make a great run from deep).Embed from Getty Images
If this continues, then Kane should definitely benefit from additional support – in the 9 games post-restart he registered 25 attempts, had 9 big chances, and scored 7 goals – by far the most of any Spurs player.
For Son – he will benefit hugely from this IF he is the player closest to – and going beyond – Kane. The problem is when he is stuck out wide and spending too much time without the ball – and when looking at Son’s heatmap compared to Kane’s from GW30+ to GW38+, it doesn’t make for great viewing. Kane, while still deeper than many of us would like to see, is much more central and has a lot of penalty box involvement, while Son is hugging that touchline and spending less time centrally.
Heat map from GW30+ to GW38+:
With the volume of premium midfielders in the game this season, budget management and finding value is key. The two players we’re looking at here are £9.0m and £10.5m, so these are hardly ‘budget’ options, but there is still a discussion to be had.
At £10.5m Kane is the most expensive forward (alongside Aguero), and with many alternative, cheaper options (Vardy – £10.0m; Werner – £9.5m; Martial – £9.0m; Jimenez/Ings – £8.5m), it’s a difficult price for many to justify. However, I would argue that if Kane flies out of the gate, finding the money to move up to him might not be so easy once managers have startedwith one of those alternative options is. Another way to look at it is that Kane could be a ‘cash cow’ whereby if he starts well then great, and if he doesn’t, you can turn him into literally any other forward.
Son, at £9m, is arguably easier to fit in from the outset. He’s underneath that premium bracket where the Liverpool and City mids sit, making him much more affordable, and like Kane he’s at a great price point if you need to move him on, with Fernandes (£10.5m), Rashford (£9.5m) and Pulisic (£8.5m), among others,within easy reach. However, with the premium midfield bracket overflowing, depending on how FPL managers are intending to structure their team, that medium-high price range might be one that needs to be sacrificed in order to balance your squad.
VerdictEmbed from Getty Images
Both, in my opinion, are good options to start with, but Kane would get my nod of approval.
He has the pedigree, we know that, but based on the data from post-restart, he also has the form and the team are now starting to play in a way that best utilises his incredible finishing. Many people thought (and still think) that Kane is finished, yet last year he quietly amassed 18 goals (4th most in the PL).
Another thing that seems to been overlooked by a lot of people is that for the first time in many years, Kane actually had a good rest period this year following his long injury lay off and then lockdown. That’s something he hasn’t had the benefit of due to international tournaments and the like before, so I expect him to come out of the blocks flying.
If you want Son, that’s absolutely fine. He’s a great player and a very good option, but my fear is that his position in this formation out on the wing will affect his returns. Once Kane does get his annual injury, though and Son moves up top, jump on him and fast!