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Scouting Report: Crystal Palace Forward Michy Batshuayi

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The former Chelsea flop arrived in the recent winter transfer window on loan to Crystal Palace. Will Michy Batshuayi’s Premier League return provide a boost to the listless Eagles’ offense and an appealing addition for fantasy managers?

Michy Batshuayi - Crystal Palace - Premier League
Loaned to Crystal Palace, Michy Batshuayi gets another chance to make Premier League fantasy managers clap.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

There are many descriptors that can be associated with Michy Batshuayi, but the most applicable one has to be well-traveled. Crystal Palace is his new destination following recent stops in Valencia (La Liga), Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga), Chelsea (EPL), and Marseille (Ligue 1) following his start at Standard Liege (Belgium First Division A). With this latest loan to the Eagles — his third loan from Chelsea — the “Batsman” earns a second chance to impress in the Premier League following a disappointing spell with the Blues.

Can Batshuayi make a better impression on the Premiership this time around? Is there enough time to make a big impact? What should we expect over these final dozen EPL games with the south London outfit?

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Why Does Crystal Palace Need a Striker?

Followers of the Premier League in recent seasons surely know the answer to this question without having to think more than a nanosecond. The Crystal Palace offense has featured several well-known and highly-regarded players on offense, but for whatever reasons, the goals generally have not come. After Palace was promoted from the Championship to the Premiership for the 2013-14 season, the 2014-15 campaign represented its high water mark of 10th place and 48 points (1.26 points per game), while its best offensive output came in 2016-17 with 50 goals (1.32 goals per game). Things have since slipped to a poor combination of 27 points (1.04 ppg) and 27 goals (1.04 gpg) so far in the 2018-19 season.

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Crystal Palace Ranks by Season

Season Place in Table Points Pts/Gm. Goals Goals/Gm. Scoring Rank
Season Place in Table Points Pts/Gm. Goals Goals/Gm. Scoring Rank
2013/14 #11 45 1.18 33 0.87 #18
2014/15 #10 48 1.26 47 1.24 #10
2015/16 #15 42 1.11 39 1.03 #17
2016/17 #14 41 1.08 50 1.32 #9
2017/18 #11 44 1.16 45 1.18 #9
2018/19 #13 27 1.04 27 1.04 #16

Palace has had only two players — and just one forward — score double digit goals in the past five full seasons, and that may very well extend to six this year. Christian Benteke ranked #10 in the EPL with 15 goals in 2016-17, but that looks like an outlier in the list below.

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Crystal Palace Leading Scorers by Season

Season Leading Scorer Goals EPL Rank
Season Leading Scorer Goals EPL Rank
2013/14 D. Gayle/J. Puncheon 7 #30
2014/15 Glenn Murray 7 #31
2015/16 Y. Bolasie/Y. Cabaye/S. Dann/C. Wickham 5 #51
2016/17 Christian Benteke 15 #10
2017/18 Luka Milivojevic 10 #16
2018/19 Luka Milivojevic 7 #25

Most crucially — and dangerously — Palace finds itself in the thick of the relegation scrap yet again. Currently sitting in 13th place, which may sound safe, the team’s 27 points are only 3 points clear of 18th place Southampton and the drop zone. Among the six teams closely bunched in the 13th-18th range, Palace and Burnley tie for the best defenses, clearly better than the others. But the Palace offense actually lags slightly behind Burnley, Southampton, and Brighton, while not being terribly better than Cardiff or Newcastle. Offensive-minded additions in the transfer window by Burnley (Peter Crouch), Cardiff (Oumar Niasse), and Newcastle (Miguel Almiron) may have helped prod Palace into action.

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Comparison of Teams Fighting to Avoid the Final Relegation Spot

Place in Table Team Points Goals Scored Goals Conceded
Place in Table Team Points Goals Scored Goals Conceded
#13 Crystal Palace 27 27 34
#14 Brighton & Hove Albion 27 28 39
#15 Burnley 27 29 47
#16 Newcastle United 25 22 34
#17 Cardiff City 25 24 47
#18 Southampton 24 28 44

Injuries and ineffectiveness at the striker position from Benteke, Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew, Conor Wickham, and Frazier Campbell in recent seasons have left Palace at this low point. The Palace forward position combined for 18 goals while suffering only 13 big chances missed in the 38-game campaign of 2016-17. But in the 64 fixtures since then, Eagles’ strikers have netted only 18 more times while amassing a staggering total of 37 BCM. (Note: I am considering Zaha a midfielder in 2016-17 and a forward in 2017-18 & 2018-19; the official FPL platform moved his positional designation from midfield to forward in 2018-19, based on where he actually most played in 2017-18.)

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Crystal Palace Forwards’ Performance in Recent Seasons

Season Forwards Combined Goals Combined Big Chances Missed
Season Forwards Combined Goals Combined Big Chances Missed
2016/17 C. Benteke/F. Campbell/C. Wickham 18 13
2017/18 C. Benteke/W. Zaha 12 29
2018/19 J. Ayew/C. Benteke/W. Zaha 6 8
Christian Benteke - Crystal Palace - Premier League
What does the arrival of Michy Batshuayi portend for Christian Benteke?
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Quite simply, the Palace offense has been a mess these past two seasons, and the finger has to be pointed at the striker position, most particularly in the direction of Christian “BCM” Benteke who has scored only 3 goals against 25 big chances missed since the start of 2017-18. Given the possible prospect of relegation, the south London side desperately needs a boost up front.

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Is Batshuayi the Solution, or Merely a Continuation of the Same Problem?

Earlier in the January transfer window, Palace loaned Jason Puncheon to Huddersfield, while acquiring Bakary Sako on loan from West Brom; that move was something of a wash in attacking midfield. It was clearly at forward that the Eagles felt the need for a boost in the offense, hence the loan move for Batshuayi. But can the Batsman provide the desperately needed shot in the arm, or will striker remain a sore spot? Let’s look at Batshuayi’s recent history.

After moving from Belgium’s top league to France’s Ligue 1, Batshuayi performed well largely as a super sub in 2014-15 at Marseille. Given a chance as a starter in 2015-16, Batsman delivered with 17 goals and 9 assists. Upon his move to Chelsea, Batshuayi again started out as an impact bench player, delivering 5 goals and 1 assist in only 235 minutes in 2016-17, helping the Blues take the EPL trophy.

With Diego Costa being frozen out by Antonio Conte over the summer, Batshuayi would have hoped to take over the role of primary striker in 2017-18. However, that task was given to big money Real Madrid transfer Alvaro Morata. While Batshuayi’s production faltered significantly, his 2 goals in 353 minutes still translated to a solid rate of 0.51 scores per 90 minutes. Batsman finished that season as a regular starter with Borussia Dortmund, scoring 7 times with an assist in only 10 Bundesliga games.

Morata endured a lackluster first season with Chelsea under Conte, but instead of bringing Batshuayi back into the fold, new manager Maurizio Sarri chose to allow a loan of the Batsman to La Liga for the first half of 2018-19. Unfortunately, instead of building on his strong finish with Dortmund, Batshuayi returned to a substitute role, remarkably failing to crack the starting line-up ahead of Rodrigo and Santi Mina for a Valencia side that currently sits in 8th place, having scored only the 14th most goals in Spain’s top league.

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Michy Batshuayi Performance in Recent Seasons

Season Team League Minutes Goals Goals per 90' Assists Assists per 90'
Season Team League Minutes Goals Goals per 90' Assists Assists per 90'
2014/15 Marseille Ligue 1 897 9 0.9 0 0
2015/16 Marseille Ligue 1 2937 17 0.52 9 0.28
2016/17 Chelsea EPL 235 5 1.91 1 0.38
2017/18 Chelsea EPL 353 2 0.51 1 0.25
2017/18 Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga 838 7 0.75 1 0.11
2018/19 Valencia La Liga 518 1 0.17 0 0
ALL SEAS. ALL TEAMS ALL LG. 5778 41 0.64 12 0.19

Batshuayi’s numbers tell an up and down, back and forth, uneven and incomplete tale, which makes it difficult to predict what to expect with Crystal Palace. But let’s take a crack at it anyway.

To start, I’d like to look at that dastardly statistic that has haunted Eagles’ forwards recently. Was the Batsman efficient or wasteful in his previous EPL spell with Chelsea? In 2016-17 and 2017-18, Batshuayi totaled 7 goals with only 2 big chances missed. That’s wonderfully efficient, particularly when compared to Benteke & Co. As we well know, though, Chelsea is not Crystal Palace. With the Blues, Batshuayi was surrounded by better players facing inferior (and exhausted) teams.

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HOW HAVE BATSHUAYI’S FIRST 2 GAMES WITH PALACE BEEN?

What has the Batsman done so far with Palace in his two substitute appearances (against Fulham and West Ham) thus far? Zero goals, zero assists, and one big chance missed. A very small sample size, but not an inspiring start toward efficiency.

On a more positive note, Batshuayi has been very industrious. In only 38 minutes, he has taken 7 shots, 2 on target. In the same two games, starting forward Benteke managed only 5 shots with 1 SOT in 132 minutes while also failing to register a goal or assist. Jordan Ayew did not play against West Ham, but started against Fulham, taking 3 shots with 1 SOT in his 82 minutes. In the reverse scenario (starting against West Ham but missing out suspended against Fulham), Wilfried Zaha took 6 shots with 3 SOT and a goal in his 90 minutes. Zaha and Batshuayi have clearly been the most active players for Palace at forward since the Batsman returned to London town.

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WHAT TYPE OF A PLAYER IS BATSHUAYI?

The Batsman features fancy footwork with the ball, but more importantly, he finds open space around the middle of the box where he can calmly strike with either his right or left foot. Crystal Palace fans will be hoping for a repeat of what he did with Dortmund a year ago:

When at the top of his game, the Batsman is not just a scorer or a showboat, but he also displays keen all-around ability and unselfish teamwork qualities, quick to make a pass to an open player to get the ball going forward from the defensive half or to create a scoring opportunity for someone else close to goal:

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Should You Add Batshuayi to Your Fantasy Team?

Batshuayi has shown himself to be an impact performer on a per-minute basis. But there is obviously a huge difference between what he can do if he features for 70+ minutes or merely comes on for the last 15 or 20’. Zaha and Batshuayi have demonstrated the most activity for Palace at forward. But can they start together from here on out, or will Batshuayi merely remain a super-sub? That’s the €1.15m question.

Right now we don’t know the answer. Given the failings of Ayew and Benteke, and with the Palace brass going through the considerable effort and expense of taking Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea, I certainly think that Zaha and the Batsman should start up front the rest of the way. Were Zaha, Batshuayi, Andros Townsend, and Luka Milivojevic to combine in the XI, I could even get a bit (emphasis on a bit) excited to tune in on television, words I have not muttered in longer than I can remember when it comes to Palace.

The fact that Batshuayi’s minutes increased from 8 in the first game up to 30 in the second, along with Palace having scored two goals during the mere 38’ Batsman was on the pitch — compared to one goal across the 142’ he wasn’t — point hopefully to him starting at Leicester.

Unfortunately, though, it remains unclear for the time being. For the first clue, you’ll want to take a gander at Hodgson’s line-up in the FA Cup fixture against Doncaster on Sunday to see how the team performs. Following that, we will have to follow team news next week and read Roy Hodgson’s tea leaves from his presser ahead of the tilt against the Foxes.

What if Batshuayi does become a starter now and remains a regular in the XI? Will he be an attractive option? Let’s compare him to other players at or around his price point.

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OFFICIAL FPL

Batshuayi enters at £6.5m in the Official game. Compared to fellow newcomer Gonzalo Higuaín (£9.5m) on loan to Chelsea, that sure sounds like a bargain! But next to teammate Zaha (£6.7m) who is a proven performer and guaranteed starter (if he avoids further suspension and injury that is), along with other strong forwards at around the same cost [e.g. Wolves’ Raul Jimenez (£6.8m), Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.5m), and Bournemouth’s pair of Callum Wilson (£6.3m) and Josh King (£6.4m)], Batshuayi’s price tag isn't that special after all, is it?

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FANTRAX

The Fantrax pricing algorithm has fumbled Batshuayi and other January transfer players down to $1.00 from which they must climb. On the offensive end, you have a plethora of choices:

  • Chelsea F Gonzalo Higuaín ($2,02, 9.67 ppg in 3 games),
  • Cardiff F Oumar Niasse ($1.67, 5.25 ppg in 4 games),
  • Fulham F/M Ryan Babel ($1.11, 4.0 ppg in 4 games),
  • Crystal Palace F Michy Batshuayi ($1.00, 5.0 ppg in 2 games)
  • Leicester M Youri Tielemans ($1.00, 3 pts in 1 game), and
  • Newcastle M Miguel Almiron ($1.00, 3 pts in 1 game)
  • Arsenal M Denis Suarez ($1.00, 0.5 ppg in 2 games)

Higuaín and Chelsea blank game-week 27, so you will want to avoid the loan star from Juventus for now. But how many available spots do you have to fill at midfield and forward at around that price point? And how many of the other players is Batshuayi more appealing than in that realm? Yes, I can see the logic in taking a chance on the Batsman in Fantrax moreso than in FPL, but it’s still far from an open and shut case.

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THE REMAINING SCHEDULE

The Palace schedule over the next 12 EPL games is as follows: at Leicester, v. Manchester United, at Burnley, v. Brighton, at Tottenham, v. Huddersfield Town, at Newcastle United, v. Manchester City, at Arsenal, v. Everton, at Cardiff, v. Bournemouth. Facing four “Big Six” fixtures is mathematically fair, though otherwise things are less than ideal since the two clear worst sides in the league — Fulham and Huddersfield — are already out of the way. Every game from here on out will come against a team clearly better than Palace, or roughly of the same quality.

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The Final Verdict

As with much in life, it may depend on your personal situation. If your fantasy team is faring well in the global ranks and in your mini-league, there is absolutely no need to take a risk on such a big unknown. If you are lagging behind and desperate for a boost, then taking a chance on the Batsman will be a more attractive option. And it could pay off.

Batshuayi backers can point to his strong finish with Borussia Dortmund a year ago and his potent spell with Marseille a few years back. They may highlight his solid goal scoring rates (per 90 minutes) at most of his stays. And add to that his low tally of big chances missed from his prior EPL history, unlike the wasteful performances by Benteke in recent times.

But there are so many things that I’m finding it difficult to get past. Why was Chelsea so quick to ship Batshuayi out — and then not bring him back — when their top option was Alvaro Morata, who quickly proved to be a bust? How could the Batsman not crack the XI of such a bad Valencia offense this season? How certain are we that he will now start regularly with Palace? Shouldn’t we worry about the remaining schedule? And returning to the memories of Dortmund and Marseille, cobble these tidbits together:

  • Marseille scored the 3rd most goals in Ligue 1 in 2014-15, and the 8th most goals in 2015-16.
  • Borussia Dortmund scored the 3rd most goals in the Bundesliga in 2017-18.
  • Crystal Palace has managed only the 16th most goals in the EPL this season.

The only time that Batshuayi has played with a subpar offense in a top league — at Valencia — he not only failed to earn a starting spot, but he performed awfully as a sub. And what is Crystal Palace? Most definitively a subpar offense (and that may be an overly polite term) in a major league.

Ultimately, the negatives outweigh the positives, leaving me wary of Batshuayi. Sure, I would absolutely love to see the Batsman bring Palace an offensive boost and deliver a strong finish for fantasy managers, but an abundance of caution seems in order.

[Note: Statistics and prices utilized above came via the official Premier League and Fantasy Premier League websites, as well as www.transfermarkt.com and Wikipedia.]

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How excited are you about Michy Batshuayi’s loan from Chelsea to Crystal Palace? Will the Batsman boost the Eagles’ offense and keep the Selhurst Park side from relegation? Is he in your fantasy designs? Take the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Poll

Are you adding the Batsman to your fantasy team?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Yes of course, that’s an easy riddle!
    (3 votes)
  • 13%
    No way, are you joking?
    (2 votes)
  • 66%
    Will wait to see more box office returns first
    (10 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now