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Who Would Make A Premier League XI Using The MoneyBall Method?

The MoneyBall method was created by a man named Bill James and popularised by Billy Beane at the Oakland Athletics in 2002. The MoneyBall way of thinking is statistic-based, and it overlooks the traditional way of thinking to prioritise data to find which players are undervalued.

It’s a way of doing things that allowed a small team like the Oakland Athletics to win 20 games in a row in the 2002 season, the longest winning streak by any American team at that particular time. They also finished first in the American League West that season, something nobody expected them to do considering the players they had sold and brought in during the campaign.

A Premier League MoneyBall?

There is a club in the Premier League that has applied the moneyball method and been significantly successful while doing so. Brentford applied the moneyball method during their ascent to the Premier League, with Matthew Benham spearheading the work done at the club when he took over in 2012.

Benham used statistical analysis to try to gain a deeper understanding of the game. Benham’s work at the club led to a complete rehaul of the recruitment policy, with the fruits of that labour eventually culminating in the side being promoted to the Premier League for the first time ever in the 21/22 season under Thomas Frank.

Brentford, at one stage, had around 85,000 players on a database that they analysed in a statistical sense to try and find the best fit for the team. They use metrics such as xG to judge whether they think a striker is a suitable option, which means you’ll very rarely see the Bees sign a player who has a major xG overperformance at one stage in their career.

MoneyBall essentially overlooks the traditional way of scouting using the human eye and allows statistics to take the wheel to try and figure out which players are the best to recruit.

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All that stuff gets you thinking, however, about how you could build a Premier League starting eleven using certain metrics to find the best-suited player for a team with a cap on spending of £150 million, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do here today.

The MoneyBall Starting XI

Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola £8.5m

It was extremely tough to decide the goalkeeper, but in the end, Areola was the better option. Jose Sa has the most goals prevented, but Alphonse Areola faces more shots per game and has a higher save success rate. Both have a 65.3% pass completion rate, with Sa having more high claims than the Frenchman. Sa perhaps would have been the victor if it weren’t for his significantly higher errors per game record of 3. Areola has yet to make one, which makes the West Ham United keeper the clear winner.

Right Back: Nelson Semedo £12.8m

This one was a bit easier, but with Matty Cash just outside our budget range, Nelson Semedo made sense. Winning 59.2% of his challenges, playing 110 progressive passes throughout this season, and having an xA of 1.1 meant the Portuguese full-back got the nod over Ola Aina and Mads Roerslev.

Right Centre-Back: Moussa Niakhate £13.6m

Niakhate’s ability in the tackle (57.7%) and his aerial prowess (61.1%) got him the nod over the other candidates. The Forest defender can also pass the ball quite well, boasting a 77% pass completion rate, as well as averaging 3.05 progressive passes per game. Niakhate also averages 2.92 tackles+interceptions per 90.

Left Centre-Back: James Tarkowski £11.1m

Tarkowski didn’t have the highest tackle success rate, but his progressive passing and interceptions were simply too good to ignore. He attempts the most tackles out of the four defenders we examined, so it makes sense he may have a bit lower of a success rate. The Everton man has played 106 progressive passes this season, and has made 90 tackles and interceptions, which comes in at 3.14 per 90, meaning both centre backs are hitting 6.06 per 90.

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Left-Back: Antonee Robinson £17m

All the relevant statistics pointed towards Fulham left-back Antonee Robinson. Luton Town defender Alfie Doughty cut it close, but the American is the perfect MoneyBall signing to slot into the system we’re building here. His interceptions are the most in his position in the league with 65, and he also has the most progressive passes out of the other left-backs we examined with 92. His 55% tackle success is quite low, but he has attempted a whopping 80 tackles so far this campaign. A great addition.

Defensive Midfield: Vini Souza £10.2m

It was between the Sheffield United man and Wataru Endo of Liverpool, but Souza edged it out with his quality defensively. The Brazilian has the second-most tackles and interceptions (133) combined out of any other defensive midfielder apart from Joao Palhinha, and the third-most in the entire division (5.52 P90). He has won the most tackles in the middle third of the pitch (41), and he has also played 53 progressive passes to go along with that.

Central Midfielder: Ryan Christie £10.2m

Ryan Christie has pretty much everything the moneyball method could want. Statistically, he stacks up perfectly, with 46 progressive carries this season, as well as 111 progressive passes. Christie has 3 assists from an xA of 4, which means he should eventually begin to hit the higher numbers of assists. The Scottish international averages 3.39 shot-creating actions per 90, which makes him the perfect midfielder for our central spot.

Attacking-Midfielder: Pascal Gross £6.8m

While Gross is overperforming his xA by +3.2, his underlying numbers are so impressive that it would be wrong not to put him on this moneyball based side. Gross has 137 shot-creating actions in the Premier League this season, which on average comes out at 5.57 per 90, the 5th best in the entire division. Gross is the definition of an undervalued player who can improve a team immensely.

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Right-Wing: Marcus Tavernier £14.5m

The Bournemouth winger just creeps in due to the fact he’s completed the most take-ons (37), the joint highest xG (3.6), and the third highest xA (3.7). Tavernier is actually underperforming his stastics this season, which is sometimes something MoneyBall points to as a reason to take a gamble on somebody. The wingers has a high number of progressive carries (69) up the field, and has also completed 83 shot-creating actions this season.

Left-Wing: Dwight McNeil £17m

You don’t need stats to tell you how good Dwight McNeil is, but they tell us that anyway, luckily enough. The Everton winger has 85 shot-creating actions this season; he’s nearly on point with his xG (2g, 2.8xG) performance (big bonus), and he’s also created the most xA (5.5) and is in line with that performance due to recording 5 assists. He’s what the moneyball community would likely call a sure thing.

Striker: Carlton Morris £11.1m

Carlton Morris has scored 8 goals from an xG of 8 this season. The Luton Town forward has 58 shot creating actions, averaging 2.79 per game. Astonishing numbers, which make him one of the most undervalued strikers, as well as probably the most undervalued in the entire division. Morris has also played 41 progressive passes this season. A moneyball dream.

Overall Team Price: £132.8m

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