The arrival of Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain (£9.5m) at Chelsea could prove a landmark moment in this Fantasy Premier League season.
Starting at the low end of the premium range among forwards there is the potential for the Argentinian international to widen the pool of viable Fantasy assets.
He is likely to have some impact on new club Chelsea, as well as Eden Hazard (£11.0m), who has divided opinion in the Fantasy community once again this season.
We have conducted research into Higuain’s recent history to assess whether he could be a Fantasy asset worth considering, while Fantasy Football Scout members can view the impact we expect him to have on Hazard.
Higuain is certainly a player who has divided opinion among English football fans in recent years. The 31-year old is seen by many in the wider football world as renowned for spurned chances for Argentina at World Cups, or failing to show up in the latter stages of the Champions League.
In Italy, however, Higuain is practically revered as the ultimate goal-scoring machine, the striker to which all other forwards are compared. After all, in his five and a half years in Serie A, no player has scored more than him.
Only Lionel Messi (20.94%) has a better shot conversion rate than Higuain (19.96%) when comparing the six players to have scored 200 or more goals in the big five European leagues since the beginning of the 2006/07 season.
Since the Champions League arrived on the scene, 10 players have recorded 30+ goal seasons in La Liga, eight men have done it in the Premier League but only two have done so in Serie A. They are Luca Toni and Gonzalo Higuain, whose goals for Juventus proved pivotal in their title-winning campaigns of 2016/17 and 2017/18.
The campaign for which Higuain will be remembered most for in Italy, was in 2015/16 when he hit 36 goals for Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side. That equalled a long-held Italian top-flight record, held by 87 years by Gino Rossetti, sparking his controversial transfer to rivals Juventus for the following season. Obviously, that was a move that upset Napoli supporters and Sarri himself, as it was Juve who had just pipped them to the Serie A title.
“I could have accepted it if he had gone to the Premier League. But not Juventus. Going there made his goodbye all the harder.” – Maurizio Sarri
However, Sarri claimed to have forgiven Higuain soon after his switch, the two of them sharing a hug before they faced each other for the first time in October 2016. Incidentally, that was a match in which the Argentinian scored the winning goal for Juventus.
“It’s a bit like when one of your sons makes you angry. You can rip into them for a few days, but at the end of the day he’s still your son.” – Maurizio Sarri
However, after two years as the chief goal threat at Juventus, Higuain, in his own words, was “kicked out” of the club to make room for Cristiano Ronaldo to come in from Real Madrid. The Argentinian landed in a loan move to AC Milan, where he initially started out well, scoring four goals in his first five Serie A matches of the 2018/19 campaign.
After that, it went downhill with just one strike in the next 12 appearances in all competitions. To make matters worse, his first league meeting with Juventus since his departure saw him miss a penalty, his replacement Ronaldo found the net, and Higuain was also sent off.
There have been suggestions in Italy that he has taken his ejection from Juventus too personally, while others will point to other factors at AC Milan for his recent downturn. Their most creative player Hakan Calhanoglu is not having his best season, while the team’s inverted wingers are more likely to come inside and shoot on their stronger foot than supply crosses for Higuain. Ultimately, it could be a combination of both.
Whatever the reason, despite his impressive past, there is no doubt Higuain does come to England on the back of a troubled period, almost certainly with a point to prove. That could go one of two ways, either he uses that frustration to hit the ground running the Premier League and solve Chelsea’s recent striker problems, or, like Alvaro Morata (£8.4m), he struggles under the pressure when things don’t go his way.
There will, of course, be hope for Sarri and Higuain, that a reunion between the pair, as well as with central midfielder Jorginho (£4.7m) could see them recreate the connection they had at Napoli three seasons ago.
“It was my best year as a player and (Jorginho is) a wonderful midfielder who contributed to that. He’s also a very good friend of mine so it’s been a real pleasure to once more be joining up with him, and I hope we can achieve great things together again.” – Gonzalo Higuain
|2018/19 unless stated||Mins per goal||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in the box||Mins per shot on target||Goal conversion (%)|
|Higuain 15/16 -> 17/18||115.3||21||30.6||46.9||18.1|
Comparing what Higuain has done in Serie A so far this season with his new Chelsea colleagues does actually raise some concerns initially. First of all, his minutes per goal of 213.33 is significantly worse off than Morata, who has found the net every 188.6 minutes between Gameweeks 1 and 23.
If Fantasy managers were put off by Morata’s accuracy, then they might not be so keen on the fact that Higuain’s minutes per shot on target is also worse than the Spaniard’s. At AC Milan he has recorded one every 71.1 minutes in Serie A, compared to Morata’s accurate effort every 58.9 minutes in the Premier League. Not surprisingly, the Argentinian’s goal conversion is also below that of his new colleague’s.
The only area where Higuain has outperformed Morata this season is minutes per shot, his one every 22.9 minutes better than 26.9. It should also be pointed out that, for attacking threat, Chelsea’s new centre-forward is largely ahead of Olivier Giroud (£7.7m). He has outperformed the Frenchman in every attacking area in the table above, with the exception of shots in the box, Giroud having one every 31.6, Higuain every 38.8.
Whether these statistics at AC Milan are a result of mitigating factors, as referenced above, or the fact that Higuain himself is declining as a player is hard to tell.
That’s why the real hope for Chelsea fans, or Fantasy managers looking to sign him, lies in how impressive Higuain was between 2015 and 2018. Across the 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18 campaigns he scored 76 times, averaging a goal every 115.3 minutes, which is better than any of his new colleagues can boast this season.
Furthermore, he had a shot every 21 minutes, one in the box every 30.6, and an accurate effort every 46.9. All of those numbers are considerably better than Morata, Giroud, Hazard and the rest of Chelsea’s current attacking options. Also, the only Chelsea forward player with a better goal conversion rate in 2018/19 compared to Higuain’s best three seasons is Pedro (£6.3m), with 19.4%.
The fact that Higuain arrives in England priced at £9.5m does present an exciting opportunity for Fantasy managers. If he does hit the ground running he could redefine the template, especially when it comes to the allocation of funds up front. With Harry Kane (£12.4m) injured and budget options abounding, premium strikers are largely out of fashion currently, with the possible exception of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.3m). Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) is currently the only viable option in his position above the £7.5m mark. Furthermore, at £1.5m cheaper than Hazard he has the chance of being a real alternative to the Belgian when it comes to covering Chelsea in the future.
With Bournemouth (away) and Huddersfield (home) Higuain’s first two Premier League opponents, after a potential FA Cup debut against Sheffield Wednesday, the schedule is definitely favourable enough for Chelsea’s new signing to make a statement early on. The Gameweek 26 trip to Manchester City might be off-putting and it is still a possibility that Sarri’s men won’t have a fixture in Gameweek 27 when the League Cup final takes place.
For that reason, it might be in our best interests to wait and see with Higuain. After all, as we’ve seen above, there are one or two concerns about the player as he arrives at Stamford Bridge.
While we can be fairly confident that he’ll start games ahead of Giroud and Morata, there are still question marks over his form and state of mind following Ronaldo’s switch from Real Madrid to Juventus. As with most players who join FPL with no experience of the Premier League, it is worth monitoring how they settle in.
Of course, the fact that Higuain has worked with Sarri, and Jorginho before, with great success, might be enough justification for some Fantasy managers to dive in and sign the striker straight away.
However, to assume that Chelsea will turn into Sarri’s 2015/16 Napoli side over night would be somewhat naive. Even as Higuain arrives in England, Sarri and Jorginho are relative newcomers and having problems of their own settling into the Premier League. The central midfielder especially has been pinpointed as one of the reasons for Chelsea’s recent slump, as his lack of mobility makes him an easy target for opposition looking to apply pressure. If the Italian continues to be stifled in the middle of the pitch, it is hard to see him being able to help Higuain out without making improvements of his own.
Jorginho’s recent isolation might increase the onus on Higuain to drop a little deeper and involve himself in the build-up to Chelsea goals, although this is not an area he is especially confident in. As an advanced forward, his career has seen him make runs behind defenders finish moves off. 12 league assists since the beginning of the 2015/16 season offer some potential for sporadic assists, but it would be difficult to predict a creative streak in him on the same level as a Hazard or Firmino would.
Also, the fact that Higuain has shot more often than any of his new attacking team-mates but has a worse minute per accurate effort than Morata, Pedro, and Hazard suggests he might not be a friend of the Bonus Points System (BPS). At full-time, baseline bonus points are deducted for off-target shots, which could punish Higuain if he does not rediscover his ruthless streak from his best years.
Furthermore, frustration has boiled over on occasion for Higuain in his time at AC Milan, picking up four yellows and a red so far this season. If those feelings carry over to his Chelsea loan spell, and things don’t necessarily go his way either, then his discipline could also hamper his bonus potential.
Higuain’s impact on Hazard
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