Ben Chilwell (£6.0m) has been ruled out of Gameweek 13 of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) after limping out of Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Juventus in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening.
Chilwell suffered a worrying-looking knee injury at Stamford Bridge and had to be helped from the field of play midway through the second half.
Contrary to media reports, he’s not quite ruled out for the season just yet but will be sidelined for at least six weeks before a decision on whether or not he’ll need surgery will be taken.
WHAT TUCHEL SAID ABOUT CHILWELL’S INJURY
“[Chilwell] is out. He has a partial injury of his ACL and the decision is to treat it conservatively and the next six weeks will tell the story if he makes it and be fully available or needs the surgery after that.
“We are very positive because the first reaction of his body is very positive, so hopefully it stays like this. Now the full focus from everybody is towards the next six weeks and bringing him back to the pitch.” – Thomas Tuchel on Friday
WHY DID AZPILICUETA AND NOT ALONSO REPLACE CHILWELL ON TUESDAY?
Eyebrows were raised when Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.8m) and not Marcos Alonso (£5.6m) was chosen to replace Chilwell at wing-back against Juventus.
However, Tuchel explained that he had been meaning to bring Azpilicueta on for Reece James (£6.1m) just before Chilwell’s injury, opting to merely deploy him on the left flank instead.
“It’s my fault. Hopefully, Marcos doesn’t take this personally! I was so focused to bring Azpi on the field, because I wanted to have him on the field… every game we have this discussion if he plays or not. We have these decisions now against him since he injured his shoulder and I said ‘we need to bring him on the pitch’. We actually prepared a substitution for Reece James, and then there was the injury, so I said ‘OK, he plays left’. Meanwhile, of course, the guys called Marcos… there was a bit of confusion!” – Thomas Tuchel
BEST CHILWELL REPLACEMENTS?
While most of Chilwell’s owners will be waiting for more concrete news on the England international before deciding whether to ditch him, thoughts inevitably turn to possible replacements.
We’ll highlight a few players below should the worst-case scenario unfold.
|% of Chilwell’s owners in the top 10k who also own the below|
Most of Chilwell’s owners in the top 10k can also count Joao Cancelo (£6.6m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) among their squad but less than a third had gone with the double-up with James.
A little bit of FPL budget will be needed to make the straight swap from Chilwell to James but it’s arguably an upgrade based on recent on-field exploits, with James trailing only the Liverpool right-back for expected goal involvement (xGI) per 90 minutes this season.
Rotation risk has frequently been cited as a downside to James, particularly as he’s seemingly more prone to coming on a substitute when benched and registering a ‘one-pointer’.
After successive 90-minute run-outs and with a triple-header of Premier League matches for Chelsea to negotiate in the space of seven days, there’s also a decent chance that he drops out of the starting XI in one of the next three fixtures – logic would suggest Watford away in Gameweek 14.
But we are approaching a time of the year when most players will face bench-warming duty once or twice – even Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) has been handed festive breathers in the past – and we can’t exactly have a squad full of James Ward-Prowses (£6.3m) to tide us over.
If the James risk is too much for some to swallow, at least over this coming week, then Antonio Rudiger (£5.9m) has started more league fixtures under Tuchel when available for selection (26 of 29, about 90%) than any other Chelsea defender since the German’s appointment. He’s also top for shots in the box among Blues defenders this season, such is his threat from set plays.
There is, of course, another Chelsea defender who immediately sprung to mind when Chilwell hobbled off the pitch on Tuesday.
Alonso had been posting Chilwellian figures in the first six Gameweeks of the season and actually betters his positional rival for xGI in 2021/22, with little between them for goal attempts (13 v 11 in Chilwell’s favour) or chances created (12 v 10 in Alonso’s favour).
While Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.3m) are other possible options in this position, looking at who Tuchel has picked at left wing-back in Chilwell’s non-starts clearly shows that Alonso is the favoured deputy:
|Competition||Matches in which Chilwell has failed to start under Tuchel||Starts for Alonso|
Antonio Conte’s arrival at Tottenham Hotspur has seen the Lilywhites adopt a wing-back system, something that raises interest in Emerson Royal (£4.9m) and Sergio Reguilon (£5.1m).
No FPL defender has registered more shots in the box (four) or big chances (two) than Reguilon since Conte took charge in Gameweek 11, with the Spaniard even matching Harry Kane (£12.2m) for penalty box touches (eight) in that time.
Spurs’ ticker-topping next four fixtures look particularly appealing (see above) but the swift turnaround between Gameweeks 14 and 15 is one to watch, as Reguilon has clearly been struggling from a fitness perspective with the extra demands under Conte and was substituted in each of the last two matches.
While ‘big at the back’ is currently en vogue in the FPL world, Fantasy fads and fashions are typically cyclical and before we know it, the currently underwhelming crop of forwards may fire themselves into some kind of form to put a 3-4-3/4-3-3 back on the menu.
While James, Alexander-Arnold and Cancelo are squad staples for many of us, a possible injury to Chilwell – the fourth musketeer in the premium defender template – would open up the question of whether we go for a Rudiger, Alonso or Reguilon or instead downgrade to a budget option and reinvest the cash in midfield or up front.
Tino Livramento (£4.6m) has been the bargain-bin option of choice at the back for many of us this season but one or two other (now cheaper) options are starting to emerge in the budget defender pool.
Tariq Lamptey (£4.4m) has really caught the eye since his return from injury in Gameweek 11, playing very far up the right flank, registering nine penalty area touches and being presented with goalscoring opportunities from just outside the six-yard box in each of his last two matches.
Rayan Ait-Nouri (£4.3m) has banked 20 points over the last four Gameweeks. On a share of set plays, he’s second for crosses, joint-fifth for chances created and eighth for final-third touches among all FPL defenders from Gameweeks 9-12.
Both of the above could be wheeled out over the easier festive fixtures and then benched when the matches look more daunting, although it’s worth stating that Graham Potter surely won’t start Lamptey in every game in December given the young defender’s propensity to pick up injuries. The availability of Marcal (£4.4m) also means that Bruno Lage has the option to rotate Ait-Nouri should he feel the need to.
Sean Dyche generally eschews rotation even in the busiest periods, so Matt Lowton (£4.4m) is another possibility in the budget defender pool. He’s joint-top among £4.5m-and-under options for key passes and big chances created this season and Burnley rank high on our Season Ticker over the next seven Gameweeks.
A shortage of clean sheets for the Clarets is a consideration, of course, something that also is a black mark against the set-piece-taking, chance-creating Matt Ritchie (£4.9m) at Newcastle United and Timothy Castagne (£5.3m) at Leicester City for the time being.
Villa’s defenders might turn out to be revitalised under Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, but rank bottom of our Season Ticker over the next four Gameweeks.
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