Firstly, apologies it’s so late. I know we’re in mid-October and have already played three games this month, but I was tinkering with the formula that generates these scores.
Second, as I was just saying, the formula has changed (if you’re not interested, just skip straight to the scores). In the past two years it took an average score, weighted it against appearances, and added a player of the match bonus. That formula put too much emphasis on average performances.
A player who gets 6s and 7s every week would average out at the same rating as a player who got a 9 one week and a 4 the next. Yet, that 9 rating implies a player made a match-winning impact and that should be rewarded. So now, players who score higher ratings will receive higher scores, even if their average rating is the same as a player who gets consistent middling-scores.
Third, EFL Trophy matches will no longer be included in these scores (though League Cup and FA Cup matches will) since rotation is so heavy on both sides that it seems an unfair influence on rankings.
Forth (and last), I’ll provide an update on our player rankings next week, then every two weeks after that to give an idea of how we’re ranking the most impactful players on Argyle’s season.
Player of the Month: Danny Mayor (11.61)
Don’t worry – we’re as surprised as you! Before putting the numbers into the calculator, we were mulling over whether Conor Grant could be beat.
But – it’s important to note that while Grant picked up two goals and two assists in August, his overall performances weren’t of the same standard in every game and his average score against Blackpool dragged him down.
Meanwhile, Mayor put in strong showings in both cup matches and ultimately that clinched it for him. Excluding the cup matches against QPR and Leyton Orient – in which he picked up his only goals and assists in the month – he and Grant would tie as player of the month.
I’m not sure why I’m making excuses for Mayor to be honest. Perhaps it’s to fit in with the narrative that Mayor should be doing more, scoring more goals and making more assists. But goals and assists aren’t the only important elements in the game and Mayor does do a huge amount in enabling Argyle to play the way they do.
2. Will Aimson (10.31)
Will Aimson takes an unexpected second spot despite missing the final game of the month and making a horrific mistake that eventually cost Argyle a point against AFC Wimbledon.
However, his surprise entry at second is the first example of a player benefiting from the new scoring mechanism that weights the score in favour of players who made match-winning impacts. His opening two games, against QPR and Blackpool, were his two best displays, and arguably match-winning displays given some of his interventions. That’s not to forget that he provided the assist for Luke Jephcott’s winner as Argyle took all three points.
Defenders rarely score highly in people’s minds. They’re usually overlooked because people remember goals, assists and defensive mistakes. It might already be forgotten just how good Aimson was against QPR and Blackpool, and that’s partly why I enjoy this scoring mechanic so much. Players efforts that would otherwise be neglected are instead remembered.
3. Conor Grant (9.86)
Interestingly, Grant is the one we thought would be winning this! Yet, here he is in third. More than anything, that’s the result of a poor display against Blackpool when he was subbed off early, injured. His absence against Orient also limited his score this month.
Yet, Grant ranking third is a surprise in another way: who thought he’d be ranked that highly for the first player of the month of the season? How many expected him to secure his spot ahead of Camara, who was going the way of becoming a fan-favourite before the season had even begun.
You might be thinking: if Aimson got a bonus for his “match-winning” display against Blackpool, why didn’t Grant get similarly high ratings for his “match-winning” involvements against QPR, as well as his goals against Wimbledon and Shrewsbury. The answer is that his average rating against QPR was 6.7, with all of us agreeing that he was not a stand-out player thoughout the match and did not deserve one of the highest ratings despite providing a sumptuous cross to set up Nouble’s winner.
Similarly, his average rating against Shrewsbury was only 7.3, despite scoring an (albeit heavily deflected) equalising goal. The only game he earned a bonus for was against Wimbledon, where he put in a man-of-the-match performance. Yet, his average rating was just too low to overtake Aimson. I hope this makes sense.
Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. Then again, maybe Grant isn’t as highly rated as I am making him out to be: it’s hard to know sometimes.
4. Michael Cooper (9.59)
Cooper might be another surprise top four ranking, alongside Will Aimson, and given some of the goals he let in against Wimbledon and Orient, plus QPR’s second. Again, like Aimson, his man-of-the-match performance against Blackpool is what elevated him so high with so few others playing every game in the month. He also made a string of good saves against QPR, it should be noted.
In the end, his significant efforts, which guaranteed Argyle’s only league victory of the month, were enough to net him a top four spot.
5. Niall Canavan (9.28)
Amazingly, Niall Canavan sneaks in past George Cooper by 0.03 points despite making only one start and one substitute appearance. That probably says a lot about the average rating of the rest of the team…
I mean… Our model factors in the number of appearances. That is to say, a player who only appeared in two of five games is not expected to beat a player who, like George Cooper, appeared in all five. Then again, the average rating is also important – incentivising higher scores rather than more appearances, and that’s how Canavan did it.
His first appearance off the bench against Wimbledon rapidly settled down a twitchy Argyle defence, showing off his usual, outwardly nonchalant style, with his goal minutes later bring Argyle back into the game at 4-3. He then came into the team against Shrewsbury and helped Argyle hold the opposition at bay relatively comfortably, save for a 20-yard deflected shot.
He’s secured his place in the team ever since and the entire defence looks much more stable already. Put another way: Argyle conceded a goal every 42 minutes (excluding the EFL Trophy) before Canavan entered the pitch against Wimbledon, ever since the number has more than doubled to once every 98 minutes.
How we calculate the score
Each player receives a match rating from 1-10 and one player from each match receives a man of the match bonus. Players who played fewer than 15 minutes of a match do not receive a match rating unless they made a significant impact. The players are scored by a variety of individuals who have witnessed every match this season.
The scores are aggregated and weighted against the number of appearances, before the man of the match bonus is added. In this way, we are ranking the impact of a player across the season. The more often they have played and the better they have performed, the more of an impact they have made on the team’s season, and therefore the higher they rank.
The formula also adds weight to higher scores. A player who gets 6s and 7s every week would average out at the same rating as a player who got a 9 one week and a 4 the next. Yet, that 9 rating implies a player made a match-winning impact and that should be rewarded. So, players who score higher ratings receive higher scores, even if their average rating is the same as a player who gets consistent middling-scores.
This way of ranking players enables us to be more impartial when speaking of the impact made by each player across a season, as it significantly reduces:
- recency bias (players who hit a spell of form often have their season-wide impact overstated because of their recent performances).
- statistical bias (players with lots of goals or assists relative to their position tend to be rated above those whose performance levels have been consistently superior but are not involved in goal-scoring, often because it is hard to visualise a player’s impact across a season without resorting to these stats. It explains why attackers, or defenders involved in a high-number of goals, predominantly receive most recognition throughout a season – we’re looking at you, Garth Crooks).
- conformation bias (fans who favour some players tend to fixate on their positive performances while neglecting to factor in their bad performances when ranking them across a season).