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Mathematical Musings: Which Summer Transfer Strikers and Midfielders Should You Target?

As usual, there has been no shortage of movement this summer, offering plenty of intriguing options to add to your fantasy rosters. Taking a gander at the success (or lack thereof) players have had coming over via transfer/loan from other leagues or from other Premier League teams in recent seasons, what are your best bets when it comes to offensive stars looking to make an impact on new squads?

Will Manchester United transfer Paul Pogba follow in the footsteps of fellow French star Dimitri Payet or Italian bust Mario Balotelli?
Will Manchester United transfer Paul Pogba follow in the footsteps of fellow French star Dimitri Payet or Italian bust Mario Balotelli?
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Everybody loves a shiny new toy, and fantasy BPL is no exception. Last year's offensive-minded values, whether transfer/loan deals (such as Kevin De Bruyne, Roberto Firmino, Dimitri Payet and Georginio Wijnaldum) or nice buys who stayed put (Harry Kane, Riyad Mahrez, Mesut Ozil, Jamie Vardy et al.) are now more properly and thus less attractively priced. This leaves players who have changed locales in summer 2016 with particular allure on the bargain-hunting scene.

Sure, it takes a roll of the dice, but the payoff can be substantial if that toss goes your way. How should you choose from among the big name likes of Michy Batshuayi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sadio Mane, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Ahmed Musa, Nolito, Paul Pogba, Leroy Sane, Andros Townsend, Giorginio Wijnaldum and a host of others (including some yet to come)?

There are several factors you may want to consider when knocking around the options, such as:

  • the player's age
  • the player's injury history
  • the player's strength and speed
  • the player's skill set and most effective position
  • the coaching system and surrounding players in place at the new team
Those are all well and good. However, in this post, I am going to focus more on the following three factors:

  • the player's performance in the season prior to the transfer/loan
  • the quality (or lack thereof) regarding the league that the player came from
  • the success (or lack thereof) the team and/or manager has had integrating new players in recent seasons

After all, where you're from is pretty important, isn't it?

I compiled a list of players who came over (or simply moved over) to new BPL teams via summer transfers or loans in recent seasons. Focusing on offensive players who would have been on the fantasy radar, they had to meet the following criteria:

  • midfielders and strikers only
  • summer transfer or loans only (no winter transfers)
  • national top leagues only (no English Championship, French Ligue 2, etc.)
  • at least three goals or five assists in the previous season for midfielders
  • at least six goals or six assists in the previous season for strikers
  • this covers the previous five BPL seasons 2011-12 through 2015-16 (and correspondingly the players' single pre-transfer/loan seasons 2010-11 through 2014-15)
I utilized a rudimentary scoring system similar to, but certainly with some differences from, that of Official BPL fantasy:
  • 2 points per start and 1 point per game played entering as a substitute
  • 4.5 points per goal for a striker, 5.5 points per goal for a midfielder
  • 3.5 points per assist
  • no bonus points
  • no penalty points for yellow or red cards
  • the number of points in the originating season is adjusted to the 38 game BPL season if necessary; i.e. if a league only plays 30 games, that player's score is prorated to get an idea of what that player would have been expected to score in a 38 game season ("Adjusted Points")
  • the team/league holding the rights to the player is irrelevant, if different from where the player played; the league/team credited with the statistics is the one for whom the player played
  • if a player played in multiple leagues in the originator season, the statistics were combined but the only only league/team receiving credit was the one for which the player made more starts; in the secondary season, only BPL statistics were counted
  • with players moving around in the football world frequently, several players appeared in multiple seasons (none more than twice): Charlie Adam, Christian Benteke, Mohamed Diame, Stewart Downing, Samuel Eto'o and Aroune Kone
  • injuries and coaching choices are part of the game; if a player did not play much due to injury, coaching decisions or other concerns in the transfer/loan season, the statistics were still included

Admittedly, this did leave out players who have made significant impacts following wayward seasons such as Romelu Lukaku who scored 16 goals at Anderlecht in 2010-11, then played only 8 games at Chelsea in 2011-12 before netting 17 times for West Brom in 2012-13 or those who had starred for second-tier squads such as Diafro Sakho, who notched 20 goals for French Ligue 2 squad Metz in 2013-14 before scoring 10 times for West Ham in 2014-15. However, cases like that were fairly few and far between, so following a hard and fast rule concentrating on players who made impacts only in the pre-transfer/loan season seemed to make more sense.

In the end, the survey included 186 players coming over from 23 different leagues (including the BPL). Transfers/loans within the Premier League were by far the most frequent with 63 instances (accounting for just over a third of all occurrences), but there was also plenty of representation from the other top leagues around the world as the Bundesliga, Eredivisie, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A each accounted for at least nine occurrences; the round number 10 would have been a preferable cutoff, but going down to nine allowed for including Serie A.

1. BPL Integration Effectiveness of Originating League by Efficiency Ratio

So, the first question I want to ask is, How do offensive players fare when coming over from other Premier League teams or from other top leagues?  In other words, which leagues have provided the most fertile ground and which have been the most barren for players in their first season following a transfer or loan? Let's take a look at the variation in retention of statistical production from a different league (or the BPL itself) to the BPL.

Generally speaking, the best leagues should be those with the highest average efficiency ratios for their transfer/loan players. As you can see, La Liga is the standout performer, with players averaging a 0.78 efficiency ratio (i.e. a return of 78%) in the BPL on their prorated/adjusted score from the prior season in Spain.  The Spanish players also averaged by far the highest score in their BPL seasons, with their 103.3 average easily outpacing the 82.2 of the Bundesliga. While the BPL ranked only fourth in points for its transfer/loan season, it ranked #2 with a 0.67 efficiency ratio in carrying over scoring from the originator season, nipping the Bundesliga's 0.63 mark as both came out  higher than the 0.57 average ratio from all players covering all leagues.

On the other end of the spectrum, Serie A was an absolute dumpster fire, ranking last both in efficiency (0.38) and in total score (42.9 points) in its BPL transfer/loan season. The Eredivisie was almost as bad as Serie A in efficiency (0.43) but performed significantly better in total score (65.9) in its transfer/loan season thanks to delivering the highest originating season score (154.0 points thanks to lofty averages of 11.7 goals and 6.6 assists) by far of any league.

Originating Season (on the left) Vs. Transfer/Loan Season Averages (on the right)

Orig. League # Occ. Games Goals Assists Adj. Points Games Goals Assists Points Efficiency Ratio
All Leagues 186 29.6 8.9 4.8 122.2 27.2 4.3 2.7 70.2 0.57
La Liga 21 33.1 11.0 5.6 133.2 28.1 7.4 5.8 103.3 0.78
BPL 63 30.3 7.0 3.6 103.2 23.9 4.2 2.3 68.8 0.67
Bundesliga 16 28.8 9.0 5.7 131.1 27.3 5.8 3.0 82.2 0.63
Ligue 1 21 32.4 9.8 5.2 126.6 24.9 3.8 3.1 70.7 0.56
*Other Leagues 39 25.8 9.0 5.3 128.5 22.7 3.2 1.7 57.7 0.45
Eredivisie 18 28.7 11.7 6.6 154.0 24.0 3.7 2.3 65.9 0.43
Serie A 9 28.6 9.6 3.9 113.0 17.6 2.4 1.1 42.9 0.38

*Other leagues: Scottish Premier League (8), Portuguese Premier League (4), Russian Premier League (3), Ukrainian Premier League (3), Belgian First Division A (2), Brazilian Brasileiro (2), Chinese Super League (2), Danish Superliga (2), Greek Superleague (2), Mexican Liga X (2), Turkish Super Lig (2), Arabian Gulf League (1), Argentine Primera (1), Austrian Bundesliga (1), Polish Ekstraklasa (1), Serbian Superliga (1), Swiss Superleague (1)

As for the other leagues, the Scottish League was an enormous disappointment, delivering a paltry 0.39 efficiency rating while being easily the most represented of the lesser major leagues. The second-most represented of these other leagues, Portugal's Primeira, also performed poorly at a mere 0.25 ratio. Standing out with high efficiencies were the Belgian First Division A (0.94), Mexican Liga MX (0.82) and Brazil's Brasileiro (0.78), but with each being represented by only two players, it would be inadvisable to put too much weight in those marks.

2. Integration Effectiveness of Orig. League by Top Individual Scoring Averages

While the above ratio is a valuable metric, we are not interested solely in the scoring retention percentage from another league to the BPL. For instance, if someone puts up a ridiculous arcade-type score of 30 goals and 16 assists in the Eredevisie, you're not going to mind if there's a 50% drop off; you'll be happy with 15 goals and 8 assists, won't you?

We also should consider that averages may be brought down significantly by the bottom feeders, which could be unfair to the top scorers in absolute numbers. After all, say there are five players who come over from the Bundesliga and five who come over from Ligue 1. There could be a situation where the top performer was from Ligue 1, but if the four other Ligue 1 players performed poorly, the Bundesliga could end up with a higher average. From a fantasy perspective, you'd be better off picking that top Ligue 1 star than anybody from the Bundesliga despite the higher Bundesliga average, right?

So let's take a look at the highest scoring averages in the secondary season by originator league from a different, and perhaps more relevant, angle. In this case the question is, How many players delivered top performances in their transfer/loan season compared to how many strong performances their league would have been expected to be responsible for based purely on their concentration of players in the overall sample?

Representation of Individual Top 50* Scorers by Originating League

Orig. League Overall % Representation Expected Top 50 # Occ. Actual Top 50 # Occ. % Difference
La Liga 11.3% 5.76 12 +108%
Bundesliga 8.6% 4.39 6 +37%
Eredivisie 9.7% 4.94 5 +1%
BPL 33.9% 17.27 17 -2%
Ligue 1 11.3% 5.76 5 -13%
Other Leagues 20.4% 10.42 6 -42%
Serie A 4.8% 2.47 0 -100%

*Due to a tie at the 50th spot, this is actually a top 51

The results of this second chart were fairly similar to those of the first, but with some differences, notably with the BPL ranking worse and the Eredivisie looking better. In this instance, La Liga again came out on top, having around more than double the top 50 performances than would have expected based on the percentage of the French league's players in the overall sample of 186 occurrences. The Bundesliga also fared well with a 37% difference on the plus side. The Eredivisie and BPL were each represented at expected levels, with Ligue 1 a bit off the mark. Meanwhile, Serie A and other leagues were big disappointments by this measure, coming in at well below expectations. Serie A did not have a single player in the top 50!

Looking at these comparisons of origin leagues from Sections 1 and 2, it is clear that La Liga comes out on top, with the Bundesliga and BPL also faring fairly well. The Eredivisie is somewhat a mixed bag, though on balance not particularly strong.  Meanwhile, Ligue 1 was below average in both cases and Serie A comes out at the bottom.

3. Integration Effectiveness of BPL Teams by Weighted Efficiency Ratios

Now let's turn to see how successful BPL teams were at integrating players, comparing the actual points of players scored to a weighted average of what could have been expected for each player (using the originating league efficiency ratios from the first chart) as a basis of team-to-team comparison.

One might be tempted to argue that this is where some of the smaller teams perhaps may benefit from relying more heavily on lower-priced players from lower-tier leagues for their incoming transfers/loans, which often leaves lowered expectations which are easier to meet due to both a smaller multiplication ratio and less flashy goal/assist figures from the originating season. However, utilizing the weighted ratio of a league's prowess (or lack thereof) to determine a fair expectation based on the players' origin season scores is designed to even the playing field, leaving any teams with a ratio above 1.00 sitting pretty and teams below that mark looking less than impressive.

Thus, all due credit should be given to Swansea, Leicester City and Sunderland for coming out on top of the so-called heavyweights by this metric. Given Leicester City's amazing title winning season of 2015-16 and Swansea's reputation for finding needles in the haystack, perhaps the Tigers' and Swans' positions on the table should be no shock at all, while at first glance Sunderland stands out as a bit of a surprise.

BPL Team # Occ.. Prior Season Pts. Adj. Prior Pts. w/ Lg. Ratios Goals Assists Points Eff. Ratio
Swansea City 10 117.4 66.1 6.4 3.4 89.4 1.35
Leicester City 5 90.7 52.1 2.8 1.8 64.9 1.25
Sunderland 8 113.7 60.3 4.3 2.1 74.7 1.24
West Ham 9 98.8 57.5 3.3 2.6 69.8 1.21
Arsenal 7 161.8 109.1 9.3 6.9 123.5 1.13
Stoke City 12 94.8 58.0 3.5 1.8 62.4 1.07
Chelsea 13 142.7 89.4 6.5 4.8 93.1 1.04
Southampton 10 143.1 64.8 3.6 1.6 62.8 0.97
Manchester City 9 139.0 93.1 7.0 4.4 89.6 0.96
Tottenham 11 133.3 75.1 4.5 3.4 71.8 0.96
Manchester United 9 146.7 93.4 6.0 4.2 84.1 0.90
West Brom 6 112.6 62.1 3.3 1.3 54.3 0.87
Everton 9 120.2 66.7 3.8 2.4 56.6 0.85
Liverpool 17 124.3 75.8 2.8 2.1 57.6 0.76

(All 2016-17 BPL teams with at least five occurrences total from the past five BPL seasons)

Among the squads which regularly battle for Champions League spots who tend to pay more for better quality players, Arsenal was the most efficient, while Chelsea sat merely in the middle of the pack overall, with Manchester City and Tottenham (the latter of which largely failing to take advantage of the Gareth Bale haul) both a bit off the pace. Meanwhile, the recent struggles of Manchester United and Liverpool on the pitch are reflected in extremely poor incoming transfer/loan efficiency ratios (with lowlights from Maroune Fellaini and Memphis Depay for Manchester United, along with Iago Aspas, Mario Balotelli, Danny Ings and Rickie Lambert for Liverpool).

While Arsenal has been more efficient than the other top-tier teams, it has comparatively made fewer offensive transfers than not only the other top tier-teams but also almost all of the teams on this list, giving Gunners fans who complain about the relative lack of activity (and particularly the failure to bolster the team at striker) something to point at yet again.

4. Integration Effectiveness of BPL Teams by Top Individual Scores

Again, point averages and ratios are important factors, but having a player put up a lot of points can be the most vital thing when it comes to fantasy, even when done inefficiently in comparison to previous scores and when taking into account the relative strength of the originating league. Which BPL teams have been responsible for the most impressive individual player seasons?

Let's take a look at the top 20 striker and top 20 midfielder scores:

Season Striker Team Goals Assists Pts Season Midfielder Team Goals Assists Pts
2011-12 R. Van Persie Man. Utd. 26 9 219 2014-15 A. Sanchez Arsenal 16 8 167
2011-12 S. Aguero Man. City 23 8 195 2012-13 S. Cazorla Arsenal 12 11 165
2011-12 E. Adebayor Tottenham 17 11 177 2012-13 E. Hazard Chelsea 9 11 141
2012-13 C. Benteke Aston Villa 19 4 165 2015-16 G. Wijnaldum Newcastle 11 5 140
2012-13 Michu Swansea 18 2 158 2014-15 C. Fabregas Chelsea 3 18 139
2014-15 D. Costa Chelsea 20 3 150 2015-16 D. Payet West Ham 9 12 139
2013-14 R. Lukaku Everton 15 6 147 2011-12 J. Mata Chelsea 6 13 132
2013-14 W. Bony Swansea 16 4 146 2015-16 A. Ayew Swansea 12 2 129
2011-12 D. Ba Newcastle 16 2 145 2014-15 G. Sigurdsson Swansea 7 10 128
2012-13 D. Berbatov Fulham 15 3 142 2015-16 R. Firmino Liverpool 10 7 123
2012-13 L. Podolski Arsenal 11 9 137 2012-13 A. Johnson Sunderland 5 6 117
2014-15 G. Pelle S'hampton 12 2 136 2015-16 J. Milner Liverpool 5 11 114
2012-13 A. Kone Wigan 11 5 132 2014-15 S. Mane S'hampton 10 3 109
2013-14 L. Remy Newcastle 14 3 123 2011-12 S. Nasri Man. City 5 9 108
2014-15 M. Diouf Stoke 11 3 121 2015-16 K. De Bruyne Man. City 7 9 108
2012-13 O. Girioud Arsenal 11 3 117 2011-12 Y. Cabaye Newcastle 4 6 106
2011-12 P. Crouch Stoke 10 2 115 2013-14 C. Eriksen Tottenham 7 8 106
2015-16 A. Mitrovic Newcastle 9 5 113 2013-14 M. Ozil Arsenal 5 9 103
2015-16 S. Rondon W. Brom 9 2 111 2011-12 S. Larsson Sund'land 7 2 102
2012-13 S. Fletcher Sund'land 11 1 109 2013-14 J. Puncheon C. Palace 7 2 101

Team representation (counting only squads in the BPL in 2016-17) for the above chart combining those two lists goes as follows:

# Top 20 Striker and Top 20 Midfield Scorers Team(s)
5 Arsenal
4 Chelsea, Swansea City
3 Manchester City, Sunderland
2 Liverpool, Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham
1 Crystal Palace, Everton, Man. United., West Brom, West Ham

This is where big gobs of money along with the allure of a (supposedly) secure Champions League spot paid off, as the big clubs fared better on the charts directly above focusing on pure performance than on the efficiency chart from section #3. Even so, some of the less prestigious clubs previously mentioned still managed to punch above their weight. In this case, Arsenal has not only been the best top-tier team, but has been the most successful team overall. Chelsea tied for second place and Manchester City tied on the next rung with lower-tier teams Swansea City and Sunderland, respectively.

Despite having the top scoring player on the entire chart in Robin Van Persie, Manchester United failed to add any other players among the top 20 strikers or top 20 midfielders. Leicester City was absent here, as its excellent efficiency was belied by its inability to attract high-priced talent (something that very well may change in the future when taking into account the 2016-17 season).

5. Is a New Manager an Advantage or Disadvantage?

There was extreme turnover in managers from 2015-16 to 2016-17, particularly at the top clubs as Jose Mourinho was sacked with Antonio Conte coming in, Manuel Pellegrini gave way to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Louis Van Gaal departed in favor of the aforementioned Mou at Chelsea. Elsewhere, Southampton's Ronald Koeman moved to replace Roberto Martinez at Everton, with Claude Puel taking over for the Saints, Puel Francesco Guidolin replaced Alan Curtis at Swansea, David Moyes returned to the BPL at Sunderland with Sam Allardyce stepping into the England national team job, and Walter Mazzari got the top post at Watford with the exit of Quique Flores.

One would expect that there is something to be said for continuity. After all, Arsene Wenger has been the manager of Arsenal for a long time, and he clearly has demonstrated a deft touch for identifying foreign talent and integrating new players into the squad, with Olivier Giroud (2012-13), Santi Cazorla (2012-13), Mesut Ozil (2013-14) and Alexis Sanchez (2014-15) all delivering with strong returns in their first season with the club as seen in the chart above.

On the other hand, there is also something to be said for an incoming manager. When a shiny new skipper enters the picture, the owner(s) and board members tend to accompany that with an abundance of funds for fresh purchases, exciting the fan base in welcoming players who are expected to thrive in the manager's system while jettisoning those deemed extraneous or ill-suited.

However, as we have seen from Manchester United, bringing in a new coach can lead to disastrous results. Longtime skipper Alex Ferguson did brilliantly in his penultimate season bringing Robin Van Persie over from Arsenal and even found success that same campaign with Aston Villa's Ashley Young (7 goals and 10 assists followed by 6 and 7). Ferguson's successors have fared poorly, with David Moyes' acquisition of Everton's Maroune Fellaini blowing up in his face (11 goals and 5 assists in 2012-13 followed by 0 and 1 in 2013-14) and Louis Van Gaal presiding over high-priced disappointments such as Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria (4 goals and 17 assists in 2013-14, then 3 and 10 in 2014-15), PSV Eindhoven's Memphis Depay (22 and 5, then 2 and 0) and Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger (5 and 4, then 1 and 0).

While at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho experienced more success with new transfer players as a returning manager, enjoying the 2014-15 additions of Athletico Madrid's Diego Costa and Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas, than as a newcomer (albeit in his second tour of duty). That said, he did decently in the season of his return with a trio of somewhat less heralded new transfers in 2013-14:  Andre Schurrle (11 and 7 at Bayer Leverkusen, then 8 and 2 at Chelsea), Samuel Eto'o (10 and 7 at Anzhi Makhachkala, then 9 and 2) and Willian (3 and 7 at Shakhtar Donetsk, then 4 and 2).

Is there a trend? Of the top 20 midfielder and top 20 striker scores combined as listed in the previous section, 23 came under returning managers while 17 played for new skippers. While there was not a huge difference pointing in either direction and it may be wise to look at things on a case-by-case basis, coaching continuity is clearly nothing to be dismissed.

6A. Which Players Should You Target and Which Should You Be Wary Of?

Now finally we sink our salivating teeth into the bread and butter! Let's take a look at a selection of seemingly attractive transfer/loan strikers and midfielders who I like the most and least, based on analysis utilizing the above research along with some other thoughts. (Keep in mind, there's still undoubtedly a slew of transfers to be completed in the summer window which is not even close to completed despite the fact that the BPL season is on the verge of starting. I know, it makes no sense, but unfortunately I'm not running the league!)


Nolito - Midfielder (Celta Viga to Manchester City) at a cost of 9.0 units in Official BPL

So we've established that La Liga is the best BPL feeder league in terms of both efficiency and output. While Manchester City has been somewhat uneven bringing in talent in the past handful of seasons, its notable misses have been from the Premier League (Scott Sinclair and Raheem Sterling) and Serie A (Stevan Jovetic). It has actually fared pretty well with La Liga imports, hitting huge with Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas (Navas jumped from 0 goals and 6 assists at Sevilla to 4 goals and 7 assists at City), and while Alvaro Negrado was a disappointment from a team viewpoint he was at least a middling performer from a fantasy perspective (falling from 25 goals and 1 assist at Sevilla to 9 goals and 2 assists for the Citizens).

Nolito isn't cheap, but he comes in at less than the current costs of Alexis Sanchez (11.0), Kevin De Bruyne (10.5) and Dimitri Payet (9.5), and he'll pay off if he turns out to be an incoming splash like those players were way back when they could be scooped up for closer to Nolito's price. Nolito notched 12 goals and 7 assists last season (and 13 goals and 13 assists the prior season, though that's cheating a bit, being out of this piece's purview), so even if he falls off a bit to say, 10 goals and 5 assists, you should do just fine.

Leroy Sane - Midfielder (Schalke to Manchester City), 8.0

Sane tallied 8 goals and 6 assists in the Bundesliga, which admittedly is not as strong as La Liga in terms of BPL integration but is not too far off. He comes over to consistent goalscoring powerhouse Manchester City and costs significantly less than Kevin De Bruyne (10.5) and a bit less than injury-prone David Silva (9.0). Tempting? You betcha!

Andre Ayew (Swansea to West Ham), 7.5

Ayew has already proven adaptability following his move from Marseille to Swansea last season where he took the league by storm before tapering off a bit and finishing with an impressive tally of 12 goals and 2 assists. While Swansea is the most efficient team at integrating summer newcomers, West Ham isn't too far off at fourth-best. Perhaps more glaringly, the Swans scored 42 goals last season, while the Hammers notched 65. You don't have to be a math genius to envision him being part of a lot more net busting in London than in Wales.

Ahmed Musa - Striker (CSKA Moscow to Leicester City), 7.5

Musa notched 13 goals and 5 helpers for CSKA last campaign, but the charts scream "Stay away!" as minor major leagues such as the Russian Premier League have generally been extremely ineffective at feeding talent into the BPL. But here's the rub: the past two newcomers who scored at least 10 goals in Russia before venturing to English shores, Samuel Eto'o (10 goals and 7 assists for Anzhi Makhachkala in 2012-13) and Salomon Rondon (13 and 2, respectively, for Zenit St. Petersburg in 2014-15) delivered for their BPL teams the following season (9 goals and 2 assists each for Chelsea and West Brom, respectively). After a dream season, Jamie Vardy's price has risen to 10.0 and he will likely come crashing back down to Earth, leaving Musa as an attractive cut rate alternative in the Foxes' front line.

Andros Townsend - Midfielder (Newcastle/Tottenham to Crystal Palace), 6.5

Townsend delivered 4 goals and 3 assists across his 12 starts and 2 relief appearances last season, mostly with Newcastle following his midseason transfer from Spurs. BPL to BPL transfers have fared fairly well compared to some of the other leagues. While Crystal Palace does not have too much history integrating notable transfer players (hitting with Jason Puncheon from Southampton but missing with Reading's Jimmy Kebe in 2012-13), Alan Pardew has the benefit of constancy at the manager position and Townsend is a nice bargain selection as you can probably expect somewhere around 5-10 goals and assists each over an entire season with the Eagles.

Nathan Redmond - Midfielder (Norwich City to Southampton), 6.0

The young, pacy winger scored 6 goals and added a pair of helpers last season, while Southampton has been pretty decent at integrating new offensive-minded transfers, having success with Graziano Pelle, Gaston Ramirez and Dusan Tadic in recent seasons. Redmond offers another attractive budget selection, especially with Sadio Mane's disappearance making room in wing attack.


Fernando Llorente - Stiker (Sevilla to Swansea), 6.5

While Llorente managed only 4 goals and 3 assists last season for Sevilla, those came in only 14 starts (with 9 bench appearances) following a nice La Liga pedigree from earlier days. Swansea, which has thrived at integrating summer transfers, suffers with a dearth of options up front as Llorente looks to secure the starting nod ahead of the extremely unheralded duo of Modou Barrow and Marvin Emnes, with Eder, Bafetimbi Gomis and Alberto Paloschi having departed.

Granit Xhaka - Midfielder (Borussia Monchengladbach to Arsenal), 5.5

Unfortunately Xhaka falls well short of the offensive pedigree of immediate midfield successes Alexis, Cazorla and Ozil, having managed but 3 goals and 1 assist last season for Monchengladbach. But you can get him for a song, Arsenal has had a great deal of success integrating transfers, and the Bundesliga has been solid as a launching ground, so he's a solid option as a fourth or fifth midfielder if your funds have been burned up elsewhere.


Henrik Mkhitarian - Midfielder (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United), 9.5

The man whose name even Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has trouble spelling is coming off a brilliant 11 goal, 15 assist campaign for Borussia Dortmund. While not quite up to La Liga's level, the Bundesliga has offered a pretty strong platform for BPL success, with Demba Ba, Mame Biram Diouf, Kevin De Bruyne, Robert Firmino and Lukas Podolski all having wonderful post-German seasons in recent history. On the other hand, Manchester United has been dreadful at integrating new summer talent since the departure of Sir Alex. Meanwhile, as mentioned, new manager Jose Mourinho had a decent but unspectacular track record from his first season (in his second term) at Chelsea. Six of one, half dozen of the other, right?

Michy Batshuayi - Striker (Marseille to Chelsea), 9.0

Ligue 1 transfers are not generally attractive, although Chelsea was very successful with its only offensive French play in the last five seasons, Lille's Eden Hazard in 2011-12. Since then, Chelsea has generally looked to La Liga and BPL for its infusion of goal scoring talent. Batshuayi notched 17 times with 9 assists for Marseille last season, and Belgians have taken well to the Premier League in this decade.  But the Blues still have strikers Diego Costa and Loic Remy on the roster and Romelu Lukaku is rumored for a return to Stamford Bridge, so you may be left biting your nails waiting for everything to shake out on that front. Having a new manager in the form of Antonio Conte adds to the uncertainty. Sounds like a coin toss.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Striker (PSG to Manchester United), 11.5

Yes he is a Swedish (and French, by way of Paris) legend. He's coming off a mammoth 38 goal, 13 assist campaign. Manchester United certainly needs him to remain a star performer for the Red Devils to fashion a return to the Champions League or even further up the chain as a legitimate BPL title contender. While fellow newcomer Mkhitarian hails from the more attractive Bundesliga, Ligue 1 players have not had nearly as much success coming over to the BPL as a number of other top leagues have and the Red Devils do not have a good recent history with ncoming transfers, so a word of caution is in order with the big Z, especially at such a hefty sum when you could get Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and a host of other established BPL stars for less coin.

Sadio Mane - Midfielder (Southampton to Liverpool), 9.0 and Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle to Liverpool), 8.0

Mane (11 goals and 6 assists) and Wijnaldum (11 goals and 5 assists) are both coming off big seasons in the BPL as big fish in small ponds. They both come to a Liverpool squad that is crammed like a sardine tin on the offensive end with Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Handerson, Danny Ings, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Daniel Sturridge looking to put up their own stats. On top of that, Liverpool has been absolutely dreadful integrating newcomers into the squad in recent seasons on average. Sure, it's certainly possible that Jurgen Klopp will be able to work magic with his first set of summer transfers, but unless you have a reliable divining rod or are a devout Reds fan with blinders on, buyer beware.

Paul Pogba - Midfielder (to Manchester United), 8.5

8 goals and 12 assists for Juventus is nice. Really nice. I feel bad piling further on top of Man U players, but I can't help it, the numbers just haven't looked good for them in recent times. On top of that, Serie A has been absolutely dreadful as a feeder league. Admittedly, a star as big as Pogba hasn't come over from Italy in quite some time. But just look at the numbers; in the past five seasons, six players have come to the BPL in the summer after scoring five goals and/or providing five assists in Italy: Ricardo Alvarez, Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Gaston Ramirez, Erik Lamela, Dani Osvaldo and Gaston Ramirez, who combined for 63 goals and 28 assists. That plummeted precipitously to a total of 10 goals and 5 assists in the BPL. Talk about falling off the cliff! Doesn't that have to give you pause?

Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar to Tottenham), 8.0

It seems like BPL teams have finally pretty much gotten the memo as far as the Eredivisie goes. (You know, it's that league-wide letter which reads: "Stay away! No, seriously, don't even think about it! Come on now, I'm not kidding, please do not buy anyone from the Eredivisie!!") That said, it didn't stop Spurs from jumping on Janssen, who scored 27 times with 4 assists in Holland last season. In the past five seasons, there have been four players who have scored 20 or more goals and 10 players who have scored at least 10 goals in the Eredivisie before moving to Britain...whereas only three of them have managed 10 or more goals in the subsequent Premier League season. On top of that, Spurs have been great at grooming Academy players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but aside from Christian Eriksen have not been especially adroit at bringing in outsiders. The odds are certainly not in Vincent Janssen's favor, and you could get Troy Deeney, Musa, Callum Wilson and plenty of other strikers for cheaper.

6B. But Wait, Couldn't This Manchester United Trio be Absolutely Legendary?

There is a caveat to the Manchester United situation that could possibly temper harsh expectations due to the combination of poor results in recent history for the Red Devils as well as for Ligue 1 and Serie A players as demonstrated in the above charts. These three moves for Mkhtarian, Ibrahimovich and Pogba are not happening in a vacuum, they are happening together. And they are absolutely enormous collective moves. The trio combined for a whopping 57 goals and 40 assists, which is practically off the charts.

Let's look at big, ballyhooed incoming collective classes from recent seasons for perspective. How did other high scoring trios (and quartets) follow up on their previous exploits? Arsenal's 2012-13 trio combined for the most goals and assists of any grouping while also having the least percentage dropoff in goals and being the only group to increase its output in assists as Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski all delivered quality fantasy seasons. But that appears to be an outlier, as the other groupings that had put up big numbers together tended to fall off harshly for their new BPL teams.

# Pl. Players Goals Assists Season Team Goals Assists % Ch. (G) % Ch. (A)
4 Chadli/Eriksen/Lamela/Soldado 59 31 2013-14 Tottenham 14 17 -76% -45%
4 Costa/Drogba/Fabregas/Remy 59 22 2014-15 Chelsea 34 22 -42% 0%
3 Mane/Pelle/Tadic 52 33 2014-15 S'hampton 26 12 -50% -64%
3 Cazorla/Giroud/Podolski 48 21 2012-13 Arsenal 34 23 -29% +9%
3 Jovetic/Navas/Negredo 38 12 2013-14 Man. City 16 11 -58% -8%
3 Hazard/Moses/Oscar 36 24 2012-13 Chelsea 14 17 -61% -29%
3 Balotelli/Lallana/Lambert 36 21 2014-15 Liverpool 8 5 -78% -76%
3 Benteke/Ings/Firmino 31 16 2015-16 Liverpool 21 10 -32% -38%
3 Cabella/De Jong/Riviere 31 8 2014-15 Newcastle 3 2 -90% -75%
AVG. 43.3 20.9 18.9 13.2 -56% -37%

Yes, of course it is possible that this exciting Red Devils trio could spearhead a breahtaking offensive resurgence and go down in lore. But for you to bet against recent history in this situation, you would have to feel that the quality of Manchester United's current accumulation of fresh talent compares more favorably to the Gunners' 2012-13 group than to the other examples, or that you are picking the correct single player(s) who will thrive.

So what do you think? How will this impact your team building for the new fantasy season? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section!