This article is aimed towards making a case to own both Harry Kane (11.0m) and Son Heung-Min (9.8m), not just one, now that we know they play in Gameweek 18. To provide a brief overview, I look into the general value in attacking double-ups (with some hot takes), and delineate the difference between attacking and defensive double-ups via their defensive ownership. Then I use these concepts to explore the unique value within owning both Kane and Son, both into and beyond Gameweek 19.
The value of attacking double-ups
Attacking double-ups (or even triple-ups) are often seen as a high-risk, high-reward play. You bank on one attacking team producing an above-average goals tally, and to gain more rewards, you place more eggs in that basket; since one player rarely hogs the scoresheet when the team scores 3, or more, goals. It goes great when Man City score 5 and spread the goals around. However, it can collapse quickly if Man City have an off-day.
Given premium assets tend to be the highest scoring players, and score the most against weaker sides, attacking double-ups are most popular when a top 5 side has a favourable run of fixtures. Attackers win out over defenders when it comes to double-ups since they score a lot more points, Pedro Neto (6.0m), the 9th highest scoring midfielder in Gameweek 17, has scored as many points as Andy Robertson (7.2m), the top scoring defender; despite playing fewer minutes.
However, given the rarity of circumstance where a double-up is favourable, most FPL managers tend to spread the risk, getting a good attacker per team and using the captaincy to target fixtures with higher potential for goal involvement. This assumption is backed up by data.
Going into Gameweek 17, using the player ownership tool in (the magical) LiveFPL, 82% of the top 10k owned both Bruno Fernandes (11.3m) and Mohamed Salah (12.5m). However, less than 5% owned both Fernandes and Marcus Rashford (9.6m), or Salah and Sadio Mané (11.9m); despite these two being cheaper and in good form. Even Kane and Son as a duo was only held by just 36% of FPL managers in the top 10k.
Attacking double-ups seem high risk because an FPL manager forgoes an (in-form) premium attacker. The gamble is that two premium assets from one side will each outperform a premium asset from the team you’re skipping on. Otherwise, they can be hard to justify.
If you are confident that all three of Kevin De Bruyne (11.7m), Salah and Fernandes will outscore atleast one of Kane and Son (not both), then the highest reward comes from not doubling up. As an example, if the total points over 5 weeks is “Kane 40, De Bruyne 35, Son 30”, then the play was picking De Bruyne first and then picking Kane over Son. Picking both Spurs attackers is only the optimal strategy if you feel confident both outscore De Bruyne.
In some cases, double-ups actually represent an aversion to risk. For one, you don’t have to pick between two good assets as to who will score more points. Just pick both, and drop one later if you have to.
But more than that, there is more confidence that at least one will score. As we have seen in recent weeks, Liverpool can score but Salah may not have an attacking return. However, it is a lot less likely that Liverpool score a goal, and both Salah and Mané fail to be on the scoresheet.
On the other hand, the trade-off is the reduced prospects of both returning double-digit hauls unless Liverpool go on a rout, which as we’ve seen over the festive fixtures can be hard to predict for any game. And as mentioned before, if they both do not equally share the goals on offer, one of the assets will underperform and would be better off never picked.
That’s a good start, let’s look into defensive double-ups quickly to show what that’s all about, and then tie both concepts together into Kane and Son this season.
Going into Gameweek 17, Ruben Dias (5.8m) had an ownership of 15% in the top 10k. This is similar to the ownership of De Bruyne (17%). But actually, a clean sheet for Dias will provide a lesser rank boost than an assist (3+1 for CS) for De Bruyne. Why? Defensive ownership.
Whenever Man City keep a clean sheet, it’s 4 extra points for the 15% owners of Ruben Dias. It is also, however, 4 extra points for the 16% who own Joao Cancelo (5.8m), the 10% of John Stones (5.0m) owners, and the 1% who own Ederson (6.0m). In total, over 40% of FPL managers who owned atleast one Man City defender going into gameweek received clean sheet points. That is a big jump from the 10% to 16% per defender.
Such shared points are a rarity in attack. Man Utd tore Leeds to shreds by scoring 6 goals, but both Fred (5.3m) and more notably Rashford, received no extra points beyond the two for appearances.
As such, if you truly believe in a defence, doubling up on them is a safer risk to an attacking double-up. Most top defences will have a defensive ownership of at least 30-40%, which can be as high as 80%, so the real ground is made through owning two of them. There is a much lower risk of one asset underperforming. When Robertson hit 213 points in 2018/19, Virgil Van Dijk (6.3m) also scored 208 points; matching Roberton’s 12 assists with his 4 goals and 4 assists.
The question becomes “Can I commit two defenders to Man City keeping more clean sheets than Tottenham or Man Utd over the next 10 weeks?”, rather than wondering “What if Cancelo does well but Dias doesn’t?”.
In the end, while it does suck to see “Dias 2 Stones 2” when others have “Dias 2 Dier 7”, it does not matter in the long run if Stones can get atleast as many cleansheets as Dier.
Note: I recognize the framework for thinking I use here is very general, and does not take into account attacking returns, price or (Pep-)rotation. The nuance is deliberately left out since this is just a general overview.
The case for Kane and Son
So why is this a case for Kane and Son? After all, the article so far seems closer to some weird way to advocate for Eric Dier with another defender (not the first time I have done so).
Mainly, because based on the data, I think they are a unique combination of an attacking double-up that also embodies the best qualities of a defensive double-up.
We all know they love to assist each other, but it is important to note just how unprecedented it is.
Kane and Son have scored 21 goals combined so far, and have assisted the other for 13 (65%) of them. That number of goal combinations is already an all-time PL record for a season, and we are not even half-way through.
80% of Son’s assists have been for Kane (4 of 5), while 82% of Kane’s assists have been for Son (9 of 11). In the goalscoring department, 40% of Kane’s goals have been assisted by Son (4 of 10), while 82% of Son’s goals have been assisted by Kane (9 of 11).
But it does not end here, Spurs’s reliance on the duo far exceeds any other side in the league. Over 75% of Spurs’s goals come from them, with no high-scoring side coming close.
Given Spurs have scored 29 goals, which is the 6th highest, they’re likely to score in any game. And until now, 45% of their goals have involved Kane and Son assisting each other.
These are unreal numbers and, over 17 gameweeks, cannot be dismissed as a fluke. A combined ownership of 36% indicates that managers have wisened up to this, but as we see from Greyhead’s (amazing) articles, only 5 out of 12 managers there owned Kane going into the Leeds match.
This is the first attacking double-up in FPL history where even one goal for Tottenham seems enough for both players to get a respectable haul. The likelihood that one outscores another is low. From GW1-9, Kane and Son both had 84 points. From GW10-17, Son scored 48 while Kane scored 41.
You may choose to not go for both, or only one (as an insurance), but in my opinion: This appears a once-in-a-generation double-up, and is still very effective when it is owned by around 40% managers.
This is because it is hard to fit both of them while having all three of Salah, Fernandes and De Bruyne (the latter two have better fixtures, the former is Salah).
But in previous cases, there was an argument “I am confident that one of Kane or Son will score lesser than my Man Utd, Man City and Liverpool attacker of choice; so I will just pick one”.
Now, it is a bit closer to “if Son can (massively) outscore one, or more, of Fernandes, De Bruyne and Salah, I can get Kane in addition to that as a differential, banking on the fact that if Son does well, so will Kane”. (This is why I went on about defensive double-ups, it is a similar question asked there, except attackers tend to provide a much higher ceiling)
This could go wrong, perhaps Kane plays further forward and Son’s through balls come from a midfielder. Perhaps their long shots stop going in. Perhaps Kane finds alternate routes to score, such as penalties or headers from crosses. But this is FPL, and a lot of things with any of the other assets I mentioned could also go wrong. And for now, Tottenham seem to be playing into the fact these both are their main scorers and creators.