With an intense month of Premier League action just around the corner, perhaps it is time to avoid any crazy decisions, before Ben Chilwell is injured. Reports indicate that this is an anterior cruciate ligament tear and that the lateral one will be lost for the rest of the year. One wonders how to replace the superstar.
When Ben Chilwell limped out of Chelsea’s 5-0 beating of Juventus during the midweek round of matches, FPL managers around the world were deeply concerned. This is a defender who, after all, is owned by 16.6% of the world’s teams and has only been beaten by five other players in the same position. It’s not great news given we’ve been twelve games into the league season, but it’s made even bigger by the fact that it could be an ACL injury.
Nothing has been confirmed by Chelsea or Thomas Tuchel with Chilwell’s injury still in a reported state and yet he has had more than a few coaches panicking. At the time of writing, the coaches let the defender go with Marcos Alonso in the top six replacements and that was not a surprise.
Option 1: Get on the Marcos Alonso train
The Spaniard started the season excellently until he was replaced after a horrible display at Manchester City. But while Chelsea also have Cesar Azpilicueta, Chilwell’s Alonso makes more sense as a replacement, especially given the similarities the two wingers have. However, Tuchel ignored that factor against Juventus and sent the Spaniard in his place. However, in the long run, it is one that cannot be changed.
Especially when Alonso is averaging an attacking comeback once in three games with five goal contributions in fourteen league games with Tuchel. Not only that, his numbers when he played this season have been good with an average of two chances created per game and an average of two shots per game. In addition, according to FBref, it ranks in the 94th percentile for goals without penalty, 99th in total shots, 82nd in xA and 92nd in shooting actions.
He’s behind players like Ben Chilwell and Reece James, but that’s a small sample of data, since Alonso has only made six starts in the league this season. At the same time, he feels threatened by the fact that the presence of César Azpilicueta allows Tuchel to be a little more defensive if he wants, which leads us to …
Option 2: sign Joao Cancelo or Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold, if you haven’t already done so
They are arguably the top three full-backs in the world and they all play in the Premier League for the best clubs in the English first division and right now all three are in their prime. It’s also why all three men top the charts for the most transfers in (per round) before the start of Week 13 with Reece James leading the way. But since one is looking for a replacement for Ben Chilwell, the answer is there in one of these three men.
Why? Well if you don’t have Reece James then the Englishman is the obvious replacement for Chilwell and not just because he plays for Chelsea. Partly because of that and mostly because since Gameweek 7, the winger is averaging an impressive 13.3 FPL points per outing. Add that to the fact that he has more touches in the final third, he is on par with Alexander-Arnold in terms of 90 expected goal participation and the fact that Chelsea are on a good defensive streak, he’s the obvious choice.
If you already have James, or three Chelsea players, move on to Joao Cancelo and once again the argument is pretty obvious and straightforward. The winger is just behind James for last-third touches, behind tied James and Alexander-Arnold, and the now-injured Chilwell for expected goal participation and has kept eight clean sheets while providing five assists this season.
They want more? Then go for England’s best right-back in Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Liverpool player has six clean sheets and assists this season, but is only behind James in assists by 90, tops the xA charts, has the best overall expected goal share and is on free throws plus corners for the Reds. Combining that with what can only be called an excellent match streak through January and no more Champions League football, with Liverpool ranked and at the top of the table, makes it perfect.
That is until you take a look at that huge, big and very expensive £ 7.8 million price tag. That’s why we have …
Option 3: Sergio Reguilon is the man you need
£ 5.1 million, playing for Antonio Conte, who absolutely loves his full-backs and the fact that the Italian coach has told him to put himself in more threatening positions. No one is quite sure what that means, but Reguilon is already playing later in Tottenham’s new formation, and that proved to be a real threat against Leeds United. He saw him score a goal and produce an xA of 0.3, which is the highest of the entire season.
That shows a real improvement that, when combined with twice as many touches he had in the penalty area in attack, as well as fewer touches in the middle and defensive third, shows that Conte really wants him to play later. At the same time, it makes Reguilon a differential pick because this is a Tottenham team that is still coming to terms with a new manager and their status as a club, especially after that horrendous defeat in the Europa Conference League.
They still have a long way to go before they actually find their way to Conte and that means clean sheets are the furthest thing from being guaranteed. However, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min slowly finding their balance, Reguilon’s offensive threat could raise a few notches in the near future.
Option 4: fancy fashions are cyclical, so save money and save money
Life as an FPL manager is never easy, especially when you need to predict trends before they actually happen and then jump to the next one just before the previous one expires before repeating the cycle. Also, when spending a massive amount of money on your defensive assets is the rage, that’s never a good thing. But when such expensive defensive assets thrive and do so with incredible flair, it forces one to lose other options.
However, like most trends, the hope is that this is also cyclical and therefore someday in the near future we will be forced to spend a lot on midfielders and defenders. When that day comes, you’ll be happy to see the likes of Valentino Livramento, Tariq Lamptey and Rayan Ait-Nouri again. especially considering how good all three have been this season. Toni Livramento has been a gem for Southampton, with him the bargain option, but Lamptey has thrived since returning from injury.
There are other options like Matt Ritchie, Matt Lowton, Marcal and even Timothy Castagne for a Leicester City team that can’t keep a clean sheet for their lives. but the three mentioned above seem to be the best of the bargain basket.
The question remains, who do you want?
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