Romelu Lukaku (£11.7m) is poised to miss Gameweek 9 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) after injuring his ankle in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League win over Malmo.
Thomas Tuchel may give us a more exact prognosis on the Belgian’s fitness in Friday’s pre-match press conference but the premium FPL forward is seemingly set to sit out Saturday’s home fixture against Norwich City at the very least, with the Chelsea boss saying Lukaku would miss “some games”.
Over three million Fantasy bosses owned the Belgium international after Gameweek 8 but the mass exodus has begun, with around 400,000 of those having already ditched him at the time of writing.
So who are the best replacements for the injured Lukaku in FPL?
We take a look at the options available to Fantasy managers in the article below.
All our stats and graphics are taken from our Premium Members Area, where there is currently a seven-day free trial on offer.
BEST LUKAKU REPLACEMENTS: PREMIUM FORWARDS
Top among FPL forwards for transfers in ahead of Gameweek 9, Jamie Vardy (£10.6m) is the go-to Lukaku replacement for many Fantasy managers.
It’s not so much the immediate fixtures – Brentford (a), Arsenal (h), Leeds (a) and Chelsea (h) is a mixed bag over the next four Gameweeks – as the form, with Vardy now the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer after scoring on five occasions in his last four appearances.
Some of us may have wanted to wait for Gameweek 13 and a ticker-topping four-game stretch for Leicester City but moving for Vardy now at least saves a transfer further down the line, and opposition difficulty doesn’t seem to be much of a barrier to the veteran hitman anyway: last season, for example, he bagged 10 goals and assists combined in 12 fixtures against the ‘big six’ sides.
It’s true that 50% of his attacking returns this season have come against Norwich City and Burnley, two of the weakest defences in the division.
And the return to the starting XI of Kelechi Iheanacho (£7.0m) is also worth monitoring, as the Nigerian was the bigger goal threat of the two when Brendan Rodgers paired them up top towards the final third of last season.
Vardy hasn’t been adversely affected so far, with totals of six shots and five attempts in the box in the last two Gameweeks in keeping with his output in 2021/22 before that, and it has been Iheanacho who has been playing slightly wider and deeper.
Above: Touch heatmaps for Vardy (left) and Iheanacho (right) over the last two Gameweeks
One word of caution for medium-term holders of Vardy is that the 34-year-old striker is currently enjoying midweek breathers in the UEFA Europa League to aid with his recovery between league games. More Premier League matches replace those European nights throughout November and December, with nine top-flight games to contest in the space of 35 days from Gameweeks 13-21. The Leicester striker may not escape a benching or two over that period, then, but the same could be argued for huge swathes of the FPL players in our teams.
The August curse extended to mid-October this year, with Harry Kane (£12.1m) only opening his Premier League account in last week’s win over Newcastle United.
As is the case with Vardy, it’s not until next month that Spurs’ fixtures really leap off the page – a four-match period from Gameweeks 12-15 looking like the ideal time to pounce on the Lilywhites.
Kane’s extra cost is the main deterrent considering that Vardy and an alternative route into the Spurs attack, Son Heung-min (£10.1m), can be snapped up for some £1.5m-£2.0m less.
Kane’s underlying stats have really stepped up a gear over the last four Gameweeks, as he’s joint-top among FPL forwards for shots alongside Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) and Vardy.
While plenty of those efforts are coming from distance, the typically dead-eyed Kane has still had more shots on target than any of his positional rivals – and the same number of big chances as Ronaldo.
Still, Son is outgunning Kane for big chances, shots in the box and expected goal involvement (xGI) even over this four-match period, so justifying that extra £2.0m outlay if it’s a ‘one or the other’ dilemma is not easy.
Cristiano Ronaldo dominates his premium peers stats-wise over the course of the season but some stiff fixtures, not to mention United’s iffy form and inability to carve out a single ‘big chance’ for him over the last three Gameweeks, leads us away from the veteran Portuguese.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£9.9m) is arguably the pick of the rest from the premium pool. Having found the net in each of his last three appearances at the Emirates, the Gabon international and his Gunners teammates have four more very favourable home encounters against Aston Villa, Watford, Newcastle and Southampton between now and Gameweek 16.
Trips to Leicester and Manchester United needn’t be feared from a defensive perspective either, with those two hapless backlines on just one clean sheet apiece in 2021/22.
A lack of big chances this season (two, fewer than 17 other forwards) is the main downside and he’s having to rely on his historically strong goal conversion rate to maintain his output. A possible recall for Alexandre Lacazette (£8.3m) would also presumably see Aubameyang shunted to the left flank, as has happened many times before.
Gabriel Jesus (£8.6m) is being routinely overlooked by many of us, with the week-to-week rotation risk and a ‘reverse out of position’ tag cited as the main reasons. And yet, despite registering fewer minutes than 15 other FPL forwards, he is still third among players in his Fantasy position for points.
The no-shows and one-pointers will be as regular as the double-digit hauls, nevertheless still resulting in a decent points-per-match average (Jesus’s is currently 5.90). Strong benches will be needed to negotiate those rests, so with many of us taking punts on rotation risks such as Phil Foden (£8.0m), Reece James (£5.5m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.7m), the Man City man may be one gamble too many.
BEST LUKAKU REPLACEMENTS: MID-PRICE/BUDGET FORWARDS
Lukaku’s injury doesn’t just allow FPL managers to move sideways between premium forwards but downgrade to a mid-price or budget option in order to reallocate funds elsewhere, perhaps with a view to recruiting Son, Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) or the man who looks set to lead Chelsea’s line in Lukaku and Timo Werner‘s (£8.6m) absences, the ‘out of position’ Kai Havertz (£8.1m).
One such cut-price striker is Ivan Toney (£6.4m), whose Brentford side sit top of our Season Ticker from now until Gameweek 18.
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