Following a recent drop in form, Mason Mount’s position in Chelsea’s midfield and 28.9% of FPL squads is under threat. This article will discuss whether or not FPL managers should offload the recently capped England international and suggest two potential replacements in his price range.
Mason Mount: In or out?
Having started the season with three goals and an assist in his first seven appearances, Mount’s goalscoring form has dropped off, with just two more direct involvements in his subsequent seven league outings. Ahead of home fixtures against Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Southampton in the next five, the dilemma is simple – back form and the associated risk of a Jorginho-Kante-Kovacic midfield trio or trust him to come good in those fixtures at the heart of a front-footed approach? Perhaps a comparison between his performances in Gameweek 1-7 and Gameweek 8-14 can provide a clue.
To caveat this, Mount played the full 90 minutes in all of his first seven games, accruing 630 minutes on the pitch compared with 514 in the other seven. Even before considering his lower rate of goal involvements, a difference between the two periods should be expected.
His touch maps in these two periods are not too dissimilar. Predominantly popping up in the half space between opposition right-sided and central defenders or midfielders, Mount seeks to affect the game in and around the final third, with occasional contributions on the opposite side and inside his own half. Slight differences between his total number of touches in the two periods of seven games can be observed, though the slightly reduced minutes are an explanation of that.
Gameweek 1-7: 370 touches, 267 opposition half, 198 final third, 24 penalty box
Gameweek 8-14: 349 touches, 269 opposition half, 180 final third, 17 penalty box
Similarly to his touches, there is little difference across the two periods in terms of his shooting, chance creation and quality of chance.
Gameweek 1-7: 17 shots, 8 shots in the box, 14 chances created, 1.59 xG, 1.04 xA
Gameweek 8-14: 20 shots, 7 shots in the box, 10 chances created, 1.49 xG, 0.50 xA
Statistically at least, not much has changed from Gameweek 1-7, even despite playing 116 fewer minutes between Gameweek 8 and 14. Meanwhile, a goal and an assist is roughly in line with those expected stats. His regression in recent weeks suggests that the early glut of returns was a period where he over performed. An explanation for this could be that Mount was desperate to take his chance in Chelsea’s first-team, provided by new manager Frank Lampard. Both Mount and Abraham attained extremely high performance and goal involvement rates early on in their eagerness to impress, but have since dropped off to more realistic levels. It is not of case of either player doing anything wrong in recent weeks, rather that they set such a high standard that could not be matched indefinitely. With no previous basis of knowledge on either player as Chelsea players in the Premier League, it is possible that FPL managers overestimated how good these assets were. Now with a larger sample size to assess, Mount falls into the category of a good option rather than a gift at his initial and current prices of £6.0m and £6.6m respectively. With lower, more realistic expectations of Mount’s credentials as an FPL asset and N’Golo Kante’s return to full fitness providing Lampard with more options in midfield ahead of the busy Christmas period, there is certainly a case to cash in on Mount. It is more a question of when and who?
Form Pick: Jack Grealish
Grealish has really come to the fore since Gameweek 7, returning three goals and two assists in a reverse-Mount style run of form. The significance of marking that particular gameweek as the start of this scoring spree is the tweak Dean Smith made to his tactics ahead of the 2-2 draw with Burnley. Conor Hourihane was brought into the midfield to partner John McGinn in front of either Marvelous Nakamba or Douglas Luiz as the holding midfielder, freeing up Grealish to operate in a more advanced role.
Whilst denoted as a switch from central midfield to left-wing, Grealish and Hourihane interchange positions down Villa’s left, combining with the overlapping left-back Matt Targett. It has been a particularly effective combination of late, with the three players netting a combined twelve direct goal involvements in the last seven gameweeks. The additional freedom to roam unpredictably in the final third suits a flair player like Grealish, confirmed by his recent form leading to calls for him to be included in the England squad.
His touch maps denote this role change, drifting inside from the left in advanced areas, rather than having to drop deep to get involved in the game.
Grealish total touches
Gameweek 1-6: 367 touches, 218 opposition half, 139 final third, 14 penalty box
Gameweek 7-10 & 13-14: 423 touches, 314 opposition half, 229 final third, 36 penalty box
These statistics indicate how Grealish’s new role have seen him significantly better both his previous six matches in central midfield and Mount’s numbers in fewer appearances. Villa get the ball to him in dangerous areas at every opportunity, whereas Mount is one of many very technically gifted players at Chelsea. That is the basis of owning players like Grealish – an attacker not part of one of the league’s most possession-hungry outfits, but one able and relied upon to do the damage when his team do have the ball.
Three goals and two assists since Smith’s tactical tweak have also left Grealish top of the points per match standings, amongst midfielders costing less than £7.5m. If current form were to continue, he would have to be considered the best long-term replacement option, unless owners had a sizeable amount in the bank to afford fellow England Euro 2020 hopefuls Dele Alli and James Maddison. Whether this will remain the case in the short-term is debatable, given that Aston Villa face Chelsea, Leicester and Sheffield United in their next three, sides all ranked in the Premier League’s top seven. However, as Sunday’s wonder goal at Old Trafford proved, he is more than capable of delivering in fixtures that Villa head into as heavy underdogs.
Grealish also has the stats on his side in this price bracket. Amongst midfielders priced at £7.0m or under, he ranks joint fifth for total goal attempts, first for chances created, third for xG and fifth for xA. No other similarly priced midfielder ranks inside the top five in all of these categories. When comparing the last six matches of such midfielders since his role change in Gameweek 7, Grealish performs even more favourably. A total of 19 goal attempts, 18 chances created and 2.66 xG leave him first, first and second respectively, with an xA drop to 0.78 (22nd) the only blemish. Grealish is delivering FPL points regularly, is in great form, now plays in a role that best suits him, has unparalleled stats and is budget friendly. The only hindrance is Villa’s upcoming three fixtures. In answer to the who part of the Mount replacement question, Grealish is demonstrating all the indications of being that man, but the when could wait until Gameweek 18 ahead of facing all of the Premier League’s bottom three in a row during December. As a talismanic figure within Dean Smith’s side, he ticks yet another box, as a virtually secure starter throughout the Christmas period.
Fixtures Pick: Wilfried Zaha
But with Villa’s unfavourable next three fixtures, Gameweek 15 Mount sellers have an alternative in the form of Wilfried Zaha. The Ivorian international followed up his first goal of the season against Liverpool in Gameweek 13 with the opener at Turf Moor on Saturday. Despite his equaliser against the league leaders ultimately counting for very little, it may turn into the catalyst for a pivotal upturn in his and Palace’s recent form, ahead of a run of important six-pointers. In the Eagles’ next four home league outings, they will entertain four sides within three points of them. On the road, all of the bottom three welcome Crystal Palace, as will Newcastle in the Alan Pardew Derby. Having started a run against the then top five with a convincing home defeat to Manchester City, this is exactly the sort of run Palace needed to elevate themselves back into the top half of the table.
It is during these fixtures that prospective buyers will be hoping for an improvement on his recent FPL returns. A total of 28 points from his last six coupled with back-to-back season long returns either side of 140 points are indicative of his potential, but pale into insignificance compared to Grealish’s recent run of 38 in as many games at £0.7m cheaper. However, Palace’s poor run of fixtures must be reemphasised here.
Palace’s upcoming fixtures and a promising run of three direct goal involvements in five is the basis of the case for buying Zaha. His recent stats are difficult to analyse against such tough opposition, as are his touch maps due to featuring at right-wing, left-wing and centre forward so far this season. If ever there was a time to invest in Zaha this season, it is now.
To summarise, Mason Mount’s recent goal involvement rate reduction is far from a criticism against his form. His eagerness to impress new Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is a possible explanation for an early glut of goal involvements, which was almost certainly bound to reduce in line with his expected stats eventually. After observing this drop-off, and with Chelsea possessing three excellent central midfield alternatives in Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, it is perhaps time to reassess his position in our FPL squads.
It appears to be a question of who and when, not if. Aside from Villa’s immediate three fixtures, Jack Grealish appears to have all the ingredients to step in as a replacement. In an advanced role, with excellent form and underlying statistics to boot, £5.9m currently looks like a steal. But for those who choose to favour fixtures as a primary decision-making metric, a short-term Mount hold or opting for Wilfried Zaha is certainly viable. Zaha’s recent upturn in form and his talismanic status at Palace, suggest that he could be the man to emerge as the standout option in this price bracket. The choice is yours.
Stats via Fantasy Football Scout Members Area & Transfermarkt
Image Credit: Brian Minkoff London-Pixels / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) via https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/17/Mountbrightonoct2_2019.jpg