We Explore: Has Pogba Affected The Appeal of Bruno Fernandes?

Is Fernandes expendable in FPL terms?

After contributing two assists (of which one was debatable), and scoring another debatable penalty in his last five league appearances, various managers have put question marks over Fernandes’ value in FPL.

Hitting his highest haul and his third highest haul of the season in consecutive games against Leeds and Leicester, managers expected more from the Portuguese in his following three matchups and his DGW. Fernandes earned six points against Wolves, a ten-pointer against Villa, only two points against relegation-threatened Burnley and couldn’t reach double digits in his DGW. Still, over this period he managed 6.5 points per gameweek. Is it really worth talking about him?

The answer is yes. And the answer is yes, because his points are negatively influenced by the presence of another player: Paul Pogba. And with the Frenchman fully back in the frame, it is worth discussing Fernandes’ value. Simply put, not being the main man affects him.

  1. This season Bruno Fernandes has reached double-digit hauls eight times. He has started every league game bar the West Ham fixture, which means he has started 18 times. A simple calculation shows us he hauled in 44% of his starts. Lovely.
  2. Paul Pogba had a very tough start to the season. Due to poor form and injuries, he didn’t start in seven league games. In six of those games Fernandes got a double-digit haul. Which means, almost halfway through the season, Fernandes hauled in 86% of the games Pogba didn’t start in. That’s insane.
  3. However, after going through lots of speculation about his contract and his future, Pogba has found his form and obviously started the other 12 league games. In 11 of those games Fernandes was part of the starting eleven too. The number of Portuguese hauls in those? Just two. Just 18%.
FernandesStartsHauls% of hauls
Total up to GW1918844
When Pogba doesn’t start7686
When Pogba starts11218
Hauls summary

These numbers are absolute. And as FPL managers we try to guess which numbers these players will produce in games to come.

What can we expect in the future? Will Fernandes still be the desirable asset he has been in the first half of the season?

Firstly, we’re going to have a look at the difference in position he plays in and the amount of touches he has when Pogba does and doesn’t start. We try to connect the dots between that difference and Fernandes’ points per game with and without Pogba. Secondly, we look at his set pieces taken.

Positioning

The big questions are: 1) does Bruno get as high up the pitch when Pogba starts as he does when Pogba doesn’t start? and, 2) does Bruno have as many touches when Pogba starts as he does when Pogba doesn’t start?

Touch heatmap Bruno with NO Pogba.
Touch heatmap Bruno WITH Pogba.

With the unaided eye it’s hard to notice a difference between these heatmaps. In both maps he seems to drift wide left a lot more than you might imagine. However, if you have to extract something, it could be that Fernandes is playing a little more centrally without Pogba than he does with him.

Shot heatmap with NO Pogba.
Shot heatmap WITH Pogba.
Chances created heatmap with NO Pogba.
Chances created heatmap WITH Pogba.

Now, these heatmaps tell us more. Fernandes has had more goal attempts and has had a better chance creation in less games when Pogba didn’t start compared to when the Frenchman did start.

Fernandes is generally more involved in United’s attacking display. He is way more threatening taking more shots in the box and creating chances closer or even from within the penalty area.

The absolute numbers tell us the same thing. Although his minutes per touch are more or less the same, 1 to 1.1, in seven games without Pogba Fernandes has had 31 penalty touches compared to 29 in eleven and a half games with Pogba. The difference in goal attempts is clear and obvious (stats without Pogba presented first):

Minutes per shot: 19.1 to 30.9
Minutes per shot in the box: 38.2 to 106.4
Minutes per big chance: 76.4 to 191.6

… and the difference in chance creation also. His minutes per chance created are close, 25.5 to 29.9, but if you exclude his second-half appearance against West Ham in which United were trailing, it’s 25.5 to 38.0. His minutes per big chance created are 87.3 to 191.6. These are big differences and it’s showing in his points per 90 this season. When Pogba doesn’t start, Fernandes is averaging 11.9 points per 90. When Pogba does start, Fernandes averages ‘only’ 5.5 points.

Set pieces taken

This is also an important subject to take into consideration when discussing Fernandes’ fantasy ability. Fernandes usually takes a lot of set pieces and obviously carries assist threat when he does. However, what struck me lately, is that he isn’t on a lot of set pieces anymore. It appears that Luke Shaw has taken over, and the stats seem to support this.

Since GW11 Fernandes has only taken nine corners for Man United. They’ve had 44 corners since then, meaning Fernandes took 20.45% of those. From GW1 until GW10 Fernandes took 27 corners. Man United received 53 over that period, meaning Fernandes took 50.94% of those. It’s also reflecting in his attempted crosses.

In the first ten gameweeks Fernandes attempted a total of 54 crosses. Since then, not even half of that: 26. These numbers include crosses from set plays, which apparently United’s left-backs have taken over. Luke Shaw for example, took 7 corners in the first ten gameweeks compared to 16 since GW11.

Furthermore, Shaw also attempted more crosses since GW11 whilst being less involved from open play in fewer minutes played.

Therefore, Fernandes’ assist threat from set pieces during the first ten gameweeks has been superior to the same threat in the last couple of weeks. His total of set pieces outside from penalties has taken a real nosedive and if he wants to register an assist for Harry Maguire, he will have to take more set pieces in the remainder of the season.

Resume

Fernandes is a great player but evidently has been affected by the roles of Pogba and Shaw. Not only does his goal and assist threat drop significantly when Pogba plays, he is also not the main man on set-piece duty anymore. If that is to continue in future games, he doesn’t have the same fantasy appeal as he had in the first weeks of the season.

Does it make him expendable though? Hard to say. With 11 goals and nine assists in only 1565 minutes this season he has done an exceptional job for fantasy managers. But unless Pogba gets injured or starts playing less, Fernandes won’t be as essential as he has been before. A desirable asset, but at a price of £11.3m I’d say he is expendable.

Data and heatmaps taken from Fantasy Football Scout.

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