One of the many peculiar aspects of Fantasy Football is where the lines between fantasy and reality merge. This what I call the Modric-Bohinen Void. (I’ll explain about Bohinen later). Modric has always been a world-class player, has been for as long as I can remember, but he was never going to be a good Fantasy pick. He’s the guy who would get a move going, pass it around a bit, then either assist the assister or the guy before that. But he was always heavily involved in a team’s success. Kind of like a better version of Jordan Henderson/Gini Wijnaldum who have both undisputedly been integral to Liverpool’s phenomenal title charge this season. Even if it has gone a bit rubbish lately.
For Norwegian football, for at least this season, I think of Emil Bohinen (5.9m). If he’s still at Stabaek next season it’ll be a tragedy. There’s quite a few people raging on about Anton Saletros (4.9m) – and not without good reason – but Emil Bohinen has been insanely good. His heatmap covers pretty much the entire pitch, excluding penalty areas. He has run his legs into the ground for his team, allowing players such as Hugo Vetlesen (5.6m), Oliver Valaker Edvardsen (6.5m) and the very much in-form Kornelius Normann Hansen (5.1m) to prosper ahead of him. He has less points than all of them – bar Edvardsen – but eight of his 31pts have come in the form of bonus points (the exact total bonus points of his teammates).
While he has not had an awful start to this campaign by any means, there’s simply not much reason to own him in Fantasy Football. He has a goal and an assist and even though he’s scored thirteen points in the last two games, there are undoubtedly better options out there. Six players who are cheaper than him have scored more points than him, as well as there being a handful of other players who play in more advanced positions who should return more over the course of the season. Of course, this is just my opinion, based on what I’ve seen so far. He could be given more set-piece duties, be pushed higher up the pitch and start contributing more directly to attacks, at which point you’d have to be very stubborn to ignore him from a Fantasy point of view. For now, at least, he looks set to remain a pass or two away from acceptable points.
As it stands, it’s fairly obvious who the best players to own are. I’m focusing primarily on midfielders in this article as that’s where the biggest points spread seems to be. The go-to defenders are pretty self-explanatory at this point, and only three forwards have scored more than 35 points. So for now at least, I’ll be focusing on the players in the middle of the pitch and usually right in the thick of it.
Exactly ten midfielders have scored 40pts or more. That’s an average points return of at least five a game. Regarding ignored, overlooked potential, we’d probably be better off looking those players dragging behind the leading pack, but for now, I want to see how well or elite group are actually performing in real life, no just in the world of Fantasy Football.
The 10 midfielders we’ll be focusing on are the highest scoring midfielders in the game:
1. Philip Zinckernagel (73pts)
2. Jens Hauge (66pts)
3. Amahl Pellegrino (64pts)
4. Ulrik Saltnes (56pts)
5. Magnus Wolf Eikrem (52pts)
6. Gilbert Koomson (49pts)
7. Etzaz Hussain (44pts)
8. Niklas Sandberg (43pts)
9. Patrik Berg (40pts)
10. Mikkel Maigaard (40pts)
I’ll be focusing on the following categories:
2. Assists (Total)
3. Shots/Shots on Target
4. Passing Accuracy
5. Accurate Opposition Half Passes/Final Third
6. Key Chances and Big Chances Created
Six of our top ten feature in the ‘Top 10 Goal Scorers’ in the league with Eikrem, Berg, Sandberg and Maigaard all missing out. This is quite conclusive that real-world exploits of scoring goals leads to very real fantasy points. The four goal scorers to replace them are Kasper Junker (66pts), Torgeir Borven (54pts), Leke James (33pts) Holmbert Fridjonsson (31pts). This strong correlation between goals and Fantasy points makes sense – forwards get 4pts per goal, and midfielders 5pts. Not much insight to be gained from this other than pick the players who are scoring the goals, dummy.
When we take minutes played into consideration, it’s clear that a couple of players are pushing the boat much farther out than others. Pellegrino is averaging 1.5 goals every 90 minutes played. That’s pretty insane. He’s not even played 500 minutes this season. To contrast, Borven is currently on a goal a game and Junker is slightly over, on 1.2. Somewhat surprisingly, Fridjonsson matches Junker for efficiency and he’s only one behind Zinckernagel for total goals scored. If he keeps getting starts for Aalesunds, he could very quickly become a lot of people’s go to third striker.
(Goals: Zinckernagel 6, Hauge 4, Pellegrino 8, Saltnes 4, Eikrem 2, Koomson 5, Hussain 4, Sandberg 3, Berg 2, Maigaard 3).
2) Assists (Fantasy and Actual)
I was going to focus on just actual assists but I think it serves us more to take both real and Fantasy assists into consideration. Zinckernagel doesn’t need any help here, all seven of his assists being very real indeed. That’s almost one a game and puts his direct goal contribution to 13 in just 8 games. Hauge benefits by another two to match his flying teammate while Saltnes lags a bit behind on 5(3). Eikrem also sits on 5 but has played over 200 minutes less than Saltnes, showing that while some may see him as being a bit too expensive (even though he is one of the best, if not the best player in the league) he is still incredibly efficient when on the pitch.
Zinckernagel, Hauge, Eikrem, Saltnes and Maigaard make the Top Ten for both lists – Real and Real plus Fantasy – and are joined by a few well-known names as well as a surprise or two. Junker makes both lists with 4(3) along with Pal Andre ‘I Wish I Was Eden Hazard’ Helland 3. What’s quite interesting is that while Erling Knudtzon doesn’t have an actual assist, he has three fantasy assists. Make what you will of that. He’s played just ten minutes less than Helland this season which makes them pretty even for usefulness. It also shows that while Helland commands a heftier price tag, Knudtzon offers much better value for money. (They’re both on 29pts).
Hussain is the biggest winner from our Top Scorers, gaining two assists from the land of Fantasy to bring him up to, two… Pellegrino is all about the goals and not much else to be honest but at least a real assist whereas Berg and Koomson don’t have either. At least half our group are the top providers in the league and it makes sense much like in the same sense for those players who score more goals to end up being the highest points scorers in the league. It’s also worth mentioning another Aalesunds player when talking about assists: Simen Bolkan Nordli. He got four attacking returns in his first five games but has blanked in his last three. Still, he sits just inside our top ten for total assists. At 7.0m he may be seen as slightly overpriced by some, a shrewd investment by others.
Players like Helland and Kristoffer Tokstad and Knudtzon might do well for assists, but if that’s genuinely all they’re doing, they’re never going to be scoring highly. Three assists at this stage is clearly not bad going but it’s not a direct reflection of game involvement and potentially only indicative of a game or two’s performance. I’d be wary of chasing players on the back of their Fantasy assist potential alone, as we all know far too well not every Fantasy assist means much more than points. And if you want a consistent, go-to kind of a player, a fluky one is far from a solid choice.
(Total assists: Zinckernagel 7, Hauge 7, Saltnes 5, Eikrem 5, Junker 4, Knudtzon 3, Helland 3, Tokstad 3, Nordlii 3, Maigaard 2).
3) Shots/Shots on Target
This is where the true nature of things starts to be seen. He tops the charts for both total shots and shots on target, yes, it’s him again, Philip Zinckernagel. The man is a machine. With 22 shots (14 on target) he’s joined by Lars Jorgen Salvesen, also on 22, at the top of our mini-table. Maigaard (16) and Pellegrino (15) are the two other players to make the top ten for most shots, with the former being replaced in the ‘shots on target’ table by Hauge 13(9). There’s certainly some correlation between shots and points – only Patrik Berg has averaged less than one shot a game, and 6/10 of the top scorers registered more than 2/3’s of their shots on target.
Two names stick out from these tables and they are Tobias Lauritsen of Odd, and FK Haugesund’s Kristoffer Velde. Velde is experiencing a brilliant start to 2020, earning himself 27pts thus far, while Lauritsen – Odd’s replacement for recently-departed Borven – is a mere 8pts behind James despite having played only forty minutes more. They both scream potential and are being given the chance to make a name for themselves. While their contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed, they are not reaching the loftier heights of their peers even though they are clearly having similar, if not more opportunities to do so.
There’s less correlation in this area and it probably shouldn’t be too surprising. These are midfielders we’re focusing on and so they’re less likely to find themselves in the area, waiting to pounce on a striker’s dinner. Still, efficiency is king, and it’s clear that our elite don’t let too many chances go begging. Maigaard’s poor conversion rate is a cause for concern. Is he missing easy chances or simply taking too many shots? Does he not have the ability to see a better alternative, or has he been unfortunate in not being able to find the back of the net? He’s a player that goes down on my list of one’s to watch, though I’m far from convinced he’s worth the outlay right now.
(Shots/on target: Zinckernagel 22(14), Hauge 13(9), Pellegrino 15(10), Saltnes 12(8), Eikrem 12(8), Koomson 10(8), Hussain 9(5), Sandberg 12(5), Berg 6(3), Maigaard 16(7)).
4) Passing Accuracy
I’m running out of ways to say the words Philip and Zinckernagel. If you hadn’t worked it out, yes he is the best passer in the league. He’s not even in the top ten for most passes played but he doesn’t need to play 400 pointless passes – pretty much everyone one of them is incredibly important. When we look at accurate passes in the opposition half it’ll all become much clearer. Only Berg (674) Hussain (458) and Maigaard (404) make the top ten for overall passes (excluding defenders) in the league. All three are truly part of the passing elite as they all make the top ten most accurate passers list too.
Berg has played more passes than anyone else – defenders included – and a whopping 606 of his 674 attempted passes have been on target. That’s almost 90% success rate. Ridiculous. That will become a synonym for Bodo/Glimt come the end of the season I’m sure. Hussain has is fourth for both passes and completed passes, with an accuracy rating of 82.5% and Maigaard is some way off with just under 77% of his passes find their intended target.
Only Koomson, Sandberg (surprisingly) and Pellegrino have less than 81% passing accuracy from the remainder of our top ten and while Saltnes (339), Zinckernagel (222), Hauge (357) and Eikrem (296) might not be up there with the likes of Fredrik Aursnes, Martin Ellingsen or Saletros for passes played, it’s the kind of passes they play that is what really matters and how many of those important passes they send out. We’ll get to that in just a minute.
Saletros’ value speaks for itself. He’s 4.9m, owned by just over 10% of players and is one of his side’s most important players. Sarpsborg love to shoot and he’s more than happy to be feeding his colleagues with as many passes as they want. He offers great value for money as a midfielder who likes to get involved with build-up play both directly and indirectly. Another player that catches the eye in this regard is Johan Hove. He’s a mere 4pts behind teammate Maigaard and he’s played almost 100 minutes less. His passing 383(305) is not to be sniffed at and he’s scored 3 goals already this campaign. He’s just 5.6m and not in even 5% of teams. His passing capability is clearly showing him to be a player who hasn’t fluked his points – it’s just a matter of time before he registers his first assist to go with his overlooked three goals.
(Zinckernagel 180/222(81.1%), Hauge 296/357(82.9%), Pellegrino 73/105(69.5%), Saltnes 285/339(84.1%), Eikrem 240/296(81.1%), Koomson 157/208(75.5%), Hussain 378/458(82.5%), Sandberg 142/228(62.3%), Berg 606/674(89.9%), Maigaard 308/404(76.2%).
5) Accurate Opposition Half Passes/Final Third
Zinckernagel clearly is not one of the most indulgent passers in the game. Judging him solely on how many passes he makes, you’d be forgiven for wondering how on Earth he’s made so many assists. This is where we delve deeper into the statistics and find out. The guy is an animal. 179 of his 222 passes – or 80.6% – have been accurate passes made in the opposition half. 102 of those 222 passes have been accurate passes made in the final third. That’s almost 50% of his passes played in the final third, finding their target. That is absolutely outrageous. To put that into perspective, Zinckernagel’s wunderkind teammate Jens Hauge has accurately played 62.7% of his 357 passes in the opposition half. That’s almost 20% less accuracy. Staggering.
While Zinckernagel can’t claim most accurate passes in the opposition half or in the final third, no-one comes close to his accuracy. Whatever this guy does, he does it well. He simply doesn’t need 400 attempts at finding the right ball. He’ll do it in half that number. It may be not too surprising to see more of our ten in these lists as they are predominantly attack-minded midfielder/forward players. Berg tops the list for most accurate passes in the opposition half with 324 (almost 50% of his passes) closely followed by Aursnes (279) and Saletros (234). Hove (205) and Bohinen (177) complete the list. (Pellegrino, Koomson, Saltnes and Sandberg missing out).
At this point, I’d like to apologise for the expression of all this data. Tables were one way to go but I simply didn’t have the time. I’m hoping brackets with a short explanation are adequate but my apologies if it’s beginning to get a little bit confusing/muddled!
To fully appreciate how efficient Zinckernagel is, we can even look at how many accurate opposition half passes and final third passes he plays per 90 minutes. At 23.7 and 13.5 respectively, his numbers are less than Bohinen, Hove, Saletros. Which begs the question, how? The answer, however, is incredibly simple. The man is a genius. He provides less service but the quality of his service is quite literally twice as good as anyone else around. It really is that simple.
Hove’s numbers really are impressive. If he was playing for a better team, he’d have more Fantasy points and more direct goal involvements. I’m 100% sure of it. He’s playing almost 30 accurate passes in the opposition half every game as well as 17 in the final third. Only a handful of players beat him in both these categories – he’s got points in him. After looking into this information myself, I am starting to think whether or not I’m missing a very plain and simple, very obvious-looking trick by not having him in my team. I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before he becomes my 5th midfielder.
We shouldn’t leave out Patrik Berg when we discuss these things. He might only have one goal but it should become very clear why he’s amassed such an array of bonus points this season. His passing is exceptional. Most passes, most accurate passes, most accurate passes in opposition half, second most accurate passes in final third. It’s almost mind-boggling how he is still yet to register a single assist. He’s 4.6m. RIDICULOUS. No wonder he’s in 30.2% of all teams. He could be a very cheap enabler to fill a Hauge-shaped void in the Bodo/Glimt team in just a matter of weeks if indeed the move is still on.
(Zinckernagel 179(102), Hauge 224(156), Pellegrino 58(35), Saltnes 155(96), Eikrem 177(110), Koomson 111(70), Hussain 188(93), Sandberg 127(89), Berg 324(138), Maigaard 227(134).
6) Key Chances/Big Chances Created
Can anyone confirm if Philip Zinckernagel’s middle name is Ridiculous or some variation on that? Because that’s exactly what he is. You can stick an ‘utterly’ in front of that if you want. With 30 key passes, he’s played 6 more than anyone else (Eikrem – 24) and not only that, but it means 13.5% of all of his passes have been understood to be classified as ‘key.’ Eikrem has an exceptional rate of playing key passes himself, but only racks up 8.1% conversion rate. These are both crazy numbers and show how the best of the best approach the game. Quality over quantity. Efficiency over running around like a headless chicken. Playing the best pass rather than the backwards one, or the sideward ones or, well, the wrong ones.
Per 90 minutes these two are in a league of their own. Zinckernagel provides 4 and Eikrem 4.2 every ‘game.’ Quite surprisingly, Maigaard is third for key passes made with 23, just one short of Magnificent Magnus. He clocks up almost 3 per 90 minutes for a total of 5.7% of his total passes. This is a stat I was totally unaware of coming into this research. That’s phenomenal. And I think this is another stat we can use to point towards Stromsgodset massively, massively underperforming. With Hove and Maigaard providing such incredible service, it’s worrying how they are not higher up the table with more goals scored and games won.
Budget midfield option Saletros is here once more. In amongst the big boys. 21 key passes played – 2.8 every 90 minutes. That’s as much creativity as a player over 3m more expensive than him. He’s certainly shaping up to be one of the best bench options available. At least, at this point it doesn’t seem like a fluke he’s so involved. Although he has just half of Pellegrino’s points, Kristiansund midfielder Liridon Kalludra seems to be massively overlooked this season. He’s played 20 key passes in not even 450 minutes and already has 4 attacking Fantasy returns. He looks a cheap way into a potentially high-scoring side at just 6.1m and owned by 4.4% of managers.
Sandefjord’s William Kurtovic has been surprisingly creative, playing a 2.4 key passes every 90 minutes to sit in 8th place for total key passes played ahead of both Jens Hauge and Kasper Junker. That’s no mean feat especially when you consider the difference in style of play and quality in both sides. He’s not returned since his opening day assist, but he can’t be accused of not putting in the legwork. I wouldn’t expect too much from him as Sandefjord are particularly goal-shy, but he could very well be one to watch for 5.0m.
Before we get on to big chances created I want to quickly talk about Amahl Pellegrino. I’m struggling to understand how this guy plays football. As we’ve seen from his figures – even taking his shortened playing time into consideration – he doesn’t do passing. To his credit, he has played 9 key passes (a huge 8.6% of his total passes) but the fact he’s played so few passes is cause for concern. He’s not the same type of player as Zinckernagel. While he has a mean right foot and is capable of scoring great goals, he’s much less involved in the game than his peers. I’m not sure whether this means he’s just brilliantly talented and will continue scoring, or whether this is nothing more than a purple patch and will fade away. He’s one of the most talented players in Norwegian football – but does he need to get a bit more involved with moving the ball around? Maybe, maybe not.
While Berg is a phenomenal and dangerous passer, he’s yet to get an assist and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise after being told he’s played just 7 key passes – just 1% of his total passes – which means he’s averaged less than 1 a game. He’ll no doubt earn bonus points for moving the ball around more effectively and dangerously than most, but he seems to fall into our Bohinen-Modric Void, where he’s destined to assist the assister or not even that. This also seems to be the case for Etzaz Hussain. I am a big fan of his but with just 4 key passes in 582 minutes, he needs to be far more decisive if he’s to be considered a great ESN asset.
Finally we come to big chances created. We are nearly done – stay with me. Eikrem leads the way with 7 (1.2 a game – crazy), Maigaard in second with 5 (0.6 a game) and Zinckernagel, Hauge and Pellegrino make up the top 5, all with 4. Salvesen 4, Junker, Niklas Castro, Tokstad and the severely underrated Markus Kaasa complete our list, having all provided 3 big chances.
Eikrem is way out ahead in this category and it’s potentially one of the most important categories in the game. This is why he is priced so highly. As good as Zinckernagel has been (for me he’s the best player in the league to this point) Eikrem has almost double the number of big chances created and in 164 minutes less football let’s not forget. The guy is all about getting plates, throwing them in front of his teammates and putting the ball on it. It’s what he does. Is it enough to justify his price tag? Do big chances created mean as much as we think it does? Maigaard has just two less – an entirely credible figure. The difference is, he is part of a much weaker, less attacking, less efficient team. It’s not just about the individual. A good provider needs those ahead of them to finish what they start. Not every creative, hardworking, talented player has the luxury of being blessed with equally talented co-workers.
(Zinckernagel 30KP/4BCC, Hauge 14/4, Pellegrino 9/4, Saltnes 17/2, Eikrem 24/7, Koomson 6/1, Hussain 4/0, Sandberg 17/2, Berg 7/1, Maigaard 23/5).
Zinckernagel is having a laugh. Hauge is exceptional. Eikrem is a beautiful player. Saltnes is somewhat flying under the radar. Pellegrino is a goal-machine. Koomson will score you a few goals but don’t expect too many assists. Sandberg is massively underperforming. Berg loves to pass but will he forever remain in the Modric-Bohinen Void? Hussain has benefitted from being in such a good side – he’ll need to add more to his game going forward. And Maigaard… He should have more points. It’s surely a matter of time. Though, how many times have we said that about other players?
Players to watch: Hove, Velde, Lauritsen, Saletros, Kaasa, Kalludra and Fridjonsson. And Maigaard. If he can start turning his maybes into definites, he could become unstoppable.