Millennial Musings — Who is the most valuable player to their Premier League Club?
Like most of the country, I was gripped by the Euro run of England this year, but like a smaller group of the country, I was equally gripped by the Euro Fantasy Competition. The use of stats and statistics on Fantasy Euro twitter got me wanting to think about it myself and being an amateur economist (thanks Freakonomics) rather than maximising points I was curious who is the most valuable player in the premier league. Traditionally the best players generate the biggest transfer fees, but thinking about it I think that it diminishing returns where a team is paying exponentially more for a player only slightly better. So instead, I wanted to see if I could work out the player who is the most impact on their club’s profit for a given season.
To start with I needed a data set for the clubs to see what each club was earning and after a quick google, I had found a sport scriber article with all the information I needed for the 20/21 season.
In this chart, the equal share, the international tv rights and premier league commercials are shared equally so player performance has no impact on these values. Facilities also are outside of the players’ control as that’s up to the board to invest in. This leaves one payment that’s correlated to the league position (And thus player performance), merit share. So, adding this to previous years data I got the following merit-based table.
However, this doesn’t tell the whole story as the league position also decides where you will be playing next season so the top teams earn more via the champions league and the relegated teams earn less due to being in the championship. I needed a way for my data set to include this before working out what players made the most difference. For simplicity’s sake, the relegated teams I attributed the lowest premier league overall figure of -96.5 million the money they would have received if they had managed one more season. The clubs that made it into the champions league I attributed 13.2 million as Sporting News reports this figure for purely group stage qualification. In all likelihood, the clubs will go farther in the contest but that would be based on next seasons European performances rather than this year’s premier league performances. Similarly, the Europa league pays 3.630 million euros for the group stage qualification so I have used 3 million pounds for the 5th and 6th placed teams. This now gives a value to each team’s performance for each of the three seasons.
From this table, we can see the year-on-year changes for the different clubs and narrow our search for “valuable players”.
Based on this data, the most valuable players fall into three groups. Players who came in and got a club into a European competition such as West ham in 20/21 and Manchester United in 19/20. Players who were missed by their clubs and the club got relegated in their absence and players who kept a team-up.
So my shortlist of valuable players will be :
Players Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal lost between the 18/19 and the 19/20 seasons.
Players Sheffield and Burnley lost between the 19/20 and the 20/21 seasons.
Players Aston Villa and West Ham gained between the 19/20 and the 20/21 seasons.
Players Manchester United gained between the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons.
Players Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal lost between the 18/19 season and the 19/20 season.
The standout name on this list is Tyrone Mings a future member of the England Euro 2020 squad and the heart of the Bournemouth defence. When they drop off in the performances gets you relegated it’s heading for him getting a large value on our list!
After looking at the players transferred out and the fact that the club went through four managers, I have no idea who to credit with being the difference-makers from the season before. Let me know in the comments if I have missed something obvious!
As a stoke fan, the drama of the Marko Arnautovic transfer is probably the difference maker and likely was the reason for such difference in merit money from the year before and after. In addition, the Hernandez move also took a lot of the feel-good from the team and it was a struggle for them to get back to a good locker room!
The list of Tottenham outgoing’s in the 2019 season was a list of the players that were about to do well at their next clubs. Trippier nailed down a spot in Madrid and Eriksen (Get well soon!) started to get back to the Eriksen that we all know and love. Even Wanyama looked good in the MLS. So it’s really unexpected that with so many quality players leaving their merit payments only went down 16 million.
Arsenal is one of the hardest to judge as to the sheer number of players making a minor impact rather than one stand out person leaving the club. Nketiah was breaking into the first-team squad then went on loan, Peter Chech retired and they still have not “solved” their defensive situation. The value of the change is only 10 million spread across all these players, no one will be making our final list!
Players Sheffield and Burnley lost between the 19/20 and the 20/21 season.
Burnley at first glance didn’t seem to lose much in the way of talent between the 19/20 and 20/21 seasons until you look at the unglamorous loss of Jeff Hendricks. Jeff made 22 appearances in the prior season and was a key miss for the team and thus can take credit for the drop in performance money getting paid to Burnley in the 20/21 season.
Sheffield on the other hand had the biggest loss of 115.3 million in performance pay through religation and drop-in league position. Most of the players that they released didn’t contribute to the previous season and thus can not take the credit for the change in merit money. The man who can take the credit for the valuation change is Dean Henderson!
Players Aston Villa and West Ham gained between the 19/20 and the 20/21 season.
After almost getting relegated the previous season a few key transfers saw a large increase in merit money over the previous season. Three players stand out from the club’s transfer activity as having a notable impact on the pitch. Firstly Matty Cash with 2 assists in the league and 28 league starts helped to improve the defensive side of Aston Villa. However the real star of that turnaround, as anyone who followed last season FPL will tell you, is Martinez. with all 38 games played ranks third in the table for clean sheets, in a team who were battling relegation a year prior. In addition to the defensive side of the ball the third player who made a difference is Ollie Watkins with 16 goals in his debut campaign.
West Ham made three notable in’s between the 19/20 season and the 20/21 season that resulted in them not only improving their merit money but also sneaking into European money in our analysis. These Players are Benrahama (6 assists in 14 starts), Soucek (10 goals in 41 appearances) and Lingard (9 goals in 16 appearances). To give credit where it’s due Lingards returns at a new club are pretty incredible and for me, the main reason the club increased its bank balance from the prior year.
Players Manchester United gained between the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons.
So between the 18/19 and the 19/20 seasons two very notable players were added to manchester united’s squad. Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes. One defensive player and one creative. However, both cost considerably more than the difference in merit money manchester united received! In the 18/19 season Manchester United scored 65 goals in the league and conceded 54 in 19/20 it was 66 goals scored and just 36 conceded. As a result, I am attributing more of the value gained to the defensive transfer than the offensive one!
So Who are my top 10 :
Bruno Fernandes — 3.4 Million Attributed Value
Kieran Trippier — 7.5 Million Attributed Value
Christian Eriksen — 7.5 Million Attributed Value
Marko Arnautović — 10 Million Attributed Value
Harry Maguire — 10 Million Attributed Value
Jeff Hendrick — 11 Million Attributed Value
Jesse Lingard — 12.5 Million Attributed Value
Emiliano Martínez — 15 Million Attributed Value
Tyrone Mings — 104.6 Million Attributed Value
Dean Henderson — 115.3 Million Attributed Value