At the end of August, Spurs managed to sign Wolves’ Matt Doherty for around £15m. In terms of a ripple effect, it’s greatly weakened Wolves as they don’t have a direct replacement, it’s given Spurs an upgrade on the erratic Aurier, has pumped a stack of cash into the coffers of Bohemians, and has given us a bit of an FPL headache.
Doherty has been an FPL hero over the past few seasons – even if most people can’t pronounce his name. He’s scored 167 and 144 points in the past two seasons, respectively, tallying up 8 goals and 15 assists, on top of 20 clean sheets. He was the fourth top-scoring defender in FPL last season, only being outdone by the ludicrous Liverpool trio of Alexander-Arnold (210 points), Robertson (181), and Van Dijk (178).
This move is an interesting one, with him starting in FPL this season at 6.0m, though being likely to play in a much different system for a team that hasn’t been as solid in comparison to his old club.
Here, we’ll take a look at how his role looked at Wolves, how it may differ at Spurs, and what kind of a prospect Matt Doherty might be this season.
Doherty’s Role at Wolves
Kicking things off, we can take a quick look at how Doherty actually played during his time at Wolves. They’d most commonly play a 3-4-3 system, or a 3-5-2, with Doherty stationed out on the right-hand-side as a wing-back.
Here’s a general overview of his heatmaps + touches over each of the past 2 seasons (19/20 season on the left, 18/19 season on the right):
Source: Fantasy Football Fix
His touch maps are different to pretty much any other defensive option in the league, with there being a rather wide spread of touches in the box. A part of his overall play at Wolves revolved around his ability to get into the box to be more of a direct attacking threat, attacking the far post.
He registered the 2nd-most shots of any defender in the league last season with 35, with 27 of those being from open play – the most of any defender. He also had 13 big chances, which is comfortably the most of all defenders last season.
Looking at the Expected Goals stat – basing the probability of a shot resulting in a goal based on other shots in that same situation – he had quite a few high-xG chances from open play last season:
At Wolves, he wasn’t used as a prolific crosser of the ball – in the 19/20 season he only put in 45 crosses, completing 7 of them. For a comparison, Trent Alexander-Arnold attempted 382 crosses that season. For a more human comparison, Spurs’ own Serge Aurier attempted 137.
Looking at his attempted assists – of which there were 21, similar to the likes of El Mohamady and Montoya – they’re generally cutbacks from open play.
It was generally Adama Traore doing the crossing for Wolves, racking up 183 crosses last season. Doherty would be tasked with building play up on that side, or underlapping to allow for Traore to wreak havoc with his outstanding dribbling ability, and his oiled-up arms.
Spurs’ Defence Under Mourinho
One area worth looking at before we get to how Doherty could get on personally would be how Spurs have fared defensively under Mourinho.
Since arriving at Spurs in late 2019, he’s managed 26 games for Spurs, in which they’ve conceded 30 goals. In terms of xGA (Expected Goals Against), this sits at 37.11 during that same period. For a relevant comparison, Wolves conceded 25 goals in that time, with an xGA of 22.77 – a pertinent part of Doherty’s points potential. Spurs kept 8 clean sheets throughout all of last season, with Wolves keeping 13.
Spurs’ record was slightly better post-lockdown, conceding 7 goals in 9 games after the restart. 4 of the 8 clean sheets they kept took place following the collapse of civilisation.
The whole purpose of looking at this is the fact that Doherty is a defender in FPL, despite his goalscoring antics. His bread and butter comes in the form of clean sheets – 4 points are earned by defenders for keeping one, after all.
A worry for Doherty at Spurs is that Wolves have been fantastic defensively since coming to the Premier League, with Doherty being a part of 20 clean sheets in 2 seasons. Spurs may well be a worse team defensively than Wolves – most are, in fairness. Wolves were joint-third for clean sheets last season, conceded a total of 40 goals, and had the second-best xGA in the league with just 37.39 over the whole season.
That being said, the positive outlook here is that Doherty would replace Aurier, somebody who isn’t known for his defensive prowess. Also, the fact that Spurs did in fact improve after the restart could suggest that things are clicking a bit more for them. 4 clean sheets in the bag, as well as having conceded the 2nd-fewest big chances of any side in that time – second only to Wolves, funnily enough.
Doherty’s Potential Role at Spurs
Getting into how Doherty could slot in at Spurs, it’s important to note that Spurs have generally played a 4-2-3-1 system under Mourinho, differing from the 3-5-2/3-4-3 systems at Wolves which use more traditional wing-backs.
Aurier was the first-choice full back for Spurs last season, playing the role you’d expect from a modern full back. In terms of overall numbers, he managed 1 goal and 7 assists in FPL, amassing 124 points. FPL’s own ICT Index – looking at the calculated Influence, Creativity and Threat of each player – ranked him 11th of all defenders.
Compared to Doherty, he was used as far more of a creative outlet in Spurs’ system. Aurier only had 13 shots last season compared to Doherty’s 35, though he registered 33 attempted assists, 4 big chances created, and attempted the fifth-highest number of crosses of any defender last season.
Here are Doherty and Aurier’s touchmaps from the 19/20 season, side by side:
The primary difference is the activity in the box – Aurier was tasked with providing the width, while Doherty underlapped and got into the box.
Regarding Aurier’s positional play, this was a big part of Spurs’ play going forward last season, with it generally being Lucas Moura on the right wing who would tuck inside – fairly standard wide play.
This looks fairly promising for Doherty, but it’s different from what we’d expect of him. As noted earlier, Doherty is suited to underlapping and being a central threat, not being the one tasked with getting chalk on his boots over on the touchline.
Having this level of freedom represents a lot of potential in terms of FPL returns, but we’ll have to see if he’ll pose the same level of a goalscoring threat considering the change of system.
Overall, I think he’s certainly a very viable option going into the 20/21 FPL season. With Aurier looking likely to leave, he’ll be the first choice right back, with him likely being given the license to provide width on the right-hand side. I would absolutely imagine Spurs would make the most of his abilities, with what has helped him flourish at Wolves. It’s likely we’ll see Doherty being able to get into the box, providing that central threat with the likely right winger – Lucas Moura – drifting deeper or out side to facilitate for this.
That being said, more frugal options could be to buy into the Spurs defence at a cheap rate – such as Dier for 5.0m – with their excellent fixtures, or even whoever replaces Doherty at Wolves. This may well be Ainsley Maitland-Niles, priced at 5.0m.