With the use of in-depth analysis, some surprising value-for-money signings can be found in the Premier league ahead of the transfer deadline on Thursday night
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 30/01/13 2:30pm
As the January transfer window prepares to slam shut at 11pm on Thursday, a report has revealed the 'must haves' and 'must avoids' for managers searching for a last-minute bargain.
Using official Premier League data, the findings reveal a number of intriguing statistical insights that follow the impending Financial Fair Play-influenced trend for moneyball signings and prove there is value to be had without breaking the bank.
The report was collated in conjunction with EA SPORTS FIFA 13 Ultimate Team, and provides in-depth analysis of several possible deals which could go through on deadline day and why Chelsea should offer Frank Lampard a new contract.
Statistics also show a shock move from Newcastle United for Steven Fletcher at derby rivals Sunderland would prove great value for money as a replacement for Demba Ba, while Swansea City's Ashley Williams would be a good man for Liverpool.
The research demonstrates a recurring theme that while the big names and the big clubs will always demand high transfer fees, it is the players outside the traditional 'Big Six' of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool that stand out as the hidden gems.
Value for money XI
Fletcher has proved to be a fantastic signing for Sunderland, hitting 10 goals with an incredibly efficient 3.8 shots-per-goal to make him the pick of players outside of the 'Big Six'. In fact, if Fletcher could be tempted to move to Newcastle, manager Alan Pardew would gain a striker more deadly in front of goal than Ba. The Senegal international, who moved to Chelsea at the beginning of January, has 14 goals this season but has needed 88 shots to get there, averaging 6.3 shots-per-goal. Using each player's average chance conversion, Fletcher would be the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals, if he had the same number of chances as Ba this season.
Chelsea are rumoured to be considering a £15million move for Brazil's Paulinho but the data proves they might be better off securing a more familiar face. Lampard has averaged a goal every 116 minutes and 53 seconds this season, the best minutes-per-goal ratio of any midfielder in the Premier League. Needing an average of only 3.5 shots for every goal, his conversion rate is better than even that of Manchester United superstar striker Robin van Persie and seems good enough to warrant a new contract.
Finding a balance in midfield is an art and, while Arsene Wenger's Arsenal has never been short of quality on the ball, every midfield needs that bit of graft. Rumoured target West Ham's Mohamed Diame trumps all Arsenal's current midfield in the tackling stakes. Diame wins 60 per cent of his tackles compared to Jack Wilshere's 44% and Mikel Arteta's 40%. Add a minutes-per-interception rating that shows Diame making an interception every 62 minutes and 48 seconds compared to Arteta's 83 minutes and 24 seconds and Wilshere's 96 minutes and 22 seconds and it becomes evident Diame could add that bit of bite to Arsenal's gracious midfield.
Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge have all worked with Brendan Rodgers previously before moving to Liverpool and, as the Northern Irishman aims to stamp his own philosophy on the club, he has been linked with another former player in Swansea captain, Williams. The centre-back has made 243 defensive contributions (measured by tackles won, interceptions, clearances and blocks) this season - second only to Everton's Phil Jagielka - which suggests, for a rumoured £8m, Rodgers could get a bargain if he bags the Swansea star.
Elsewhere, Peter Odemwingie issued a 'come and get me' plea over Twitter at the weekend and it looks like Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion are set for protracted negotiations as the deadline looms. Odemwingie has had limited opportunities this season but has still managed to notch up five Premier League goals at a rate of 7.2 shots-per-goal. Compare that to the man he would be replacing at QPR, Djibril Cisse, and Harry Redknapp would be gaining a striker twice as deadly. Cisse laboured to 13 shots-per-goal for his tally of three Premier League goals. Jamie Mackie's strike rate is not much better, averaging 11 shots-per-goal. In fact, only the injury-plagued Bobby Zamora has a chance conversion rate of less than 10 shots-per-goal at QPR.
Although the majority of transfer window activity is expected to happen over the remaining hours, there was some early movement in January, with both Liverpool and Chelsea seeking to boost their firepower. But have they made the right moves?
With three goals for Chelsea already since moving, Ba looks like one of the bargains of the season at £7m. Ba's introduction sees him fight for a starting berth with the misfiring Fernando Torres but the data shows there is very little cause for comparison. On current form, Spain international Torres is averaging a goal every 276 minutes which is more than twice as long for each strike as Ba who averages 127 minutes-per-goal. Torres is actually more accurate in front of goal than Ba, getting 72% of shots on target compared to Ba's 56%. But the short-of-confidence Torres has only had 43 efforts at goal this season, compared to Ba's 88.
The arrival of Ba at Chelsea allowed Daniel Sturridge to move to Liverpool. The Anfield club already had the Premier League's second top goalscorer in Luis Suarez but, with the Uruguayan scoring 16 and assisting in five of Liverpool's 40 goals this season, they looked over reliant on their No.7. However, the data shows signing Sturridge could be a masterstroke that leaves Rodgers with the deadliest duo in the business. The bad news for Liverpool's Premier League rivals is that Sturridge is even more lethal in front of goal than Suarez. Over the last two seasons, Sturridge has scored 14 goals from 106 shots, with a conversion rate of 7.57 shots-per-goal compared to Suarez's 8.67 shots-per-goal.
The report comparing players in the transfer window was conducted by EA SPORTS FIFA Ultimate Team, using the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the official player rating index of the Premier League. For more information go to www.ea.com/uk/football