Looking ahead to the Gameweek 19 Boxing Day fixtures, there a few questions circulating around in the FPL community. Son receiving his third straight red card of the year, even though he’s not that kind of guy, had left a lot of us are looking for a replacement ahead of Gameweek 19. But what is the best way to deal with this setback before the start of the key Christmas fixtures?
The Return of the World Champions
Liverpool (and West Ham if anyone cares) return to action this gameweek after their game being postponed for their trip to Qatar for the Club World Cup. A popular move last week was to move Mane to Son for Spur’s decent run of fixtures and because of Liverpool’s ‘perceived’ harder fixtures. Could the right move this week be to move straight back to Mane or Salah?
In the four gameweeks preceding Liverpool’s blank; Salah had more shots inside the box than any other midfielder with 14 (next best was Pulisic with 13) even though he missed the Merseyside derby with injury. He also had 3 goals and an assist in this time which meant he slightly overperformed his xG of 2.12 which was second only to Sterling.
Mane didn’t perform quite as well during this time with just the 1 goal, but he did get 3 assists even though he also missed a game. His xG was much lower than Salahs at 0.82 suggesting that out of the two Salah is probably the one to go for. A positive for Mane is that he has been consistent this season scoring 9 goals and assisting 7 times in 16 games played.
Salah seems to be high on confidence right now and was named player of the tournament at the Club World Cup. He may also be rotated less over Christmas as a result of missing games through injury. Rotation may also play into Salah’s hands: Milner is unlikely to play every game therefore Salah should be on penalties, and when Shaqiri plays Salah tends to play upfront which usually leads to improved performance. In his two recent performances upfront against Red Bull Salzburg and Watford he scored 3 goals. With price not being factor the moving Son to Salah seems a good option if it is possible.
Tough fixtures were cited as a reason to avoid Liverpool players until Gameweek 20/21 at the earliest; avoiding the challenging Leicester fixture, and potentially waiting to see who is rested in Gameweek 20 before bringing Salah and/or Mane back in. The table doesn’t tend to lie; Liverpool are far better than any other team this season and should be considered fixture proof.
Even though Wolves will be a tough fixture, they have only kept 2 clean sheets in 10 gameweeks conceding 11 goals in the process. Liverpool beat all the other teams shown above in the reverse fixtures except Manchester United. Whilst Liverpool players are unlikely to get massive hauls in these games, fixtures should not be a reason to not get them in. If you have the funds or two free transfers, I believe that bringing in Salah is the obvious move.
Manchester United were woeful against Watford, continuing there poor form against bottom half teams. United looked a lot better when Pogba returned from injury and the stats back up a positive performance from the Frenchman. Pogba had the third best xG and the second best xA of any player in the match even though he only played 26 minutes. This made his Minutes/xGI comfortably better than anyone else in the match at 33.8 minutes per xGI.
For context the next best was Deeney at 76.9 minutes per xGI which included a penalty. Many people will remember Pogba’s great form this time last year, and if you’re looking to climb the rankings, transferring Pogba in before he hits form and before fairly favourable fixtures where he may help open up defences may be help you move up.
In terms of the other options as Son replacements, Manchester City options look to be top of the list as their fixtures turn for the better. De Bruyne is arguably playing better than anyone else in the league at the moment and is backed up by having the highest xGI of any midfielder in the league over the last six weeks.
Second on that list is Sterling, and whilst he hasn’t had consistent points returns since the start of the season, he does have a goal and an assist in the last two games and was unlucky to not score against Leicester. He is due a big haul and may be something of a differential against high ranking managers. Mahrez was man of the match against his former club Leicester and has 2 goals and an assist in the last four gameweeks despite playing just 153 minutes over those matches. If he gets time over Christmas, he could be a good differential.
If you haven’t got Alli yet, then he would be a good option which allows you to still take advantage of Spur’s good fixtures without needing to find extra funds. Alli has had more attempts than Son and has a higher xG over the last six weeks.
With Ancelotti being confirmed as manager on Saturday, now may be a good time to jump on their assets. Richarlison has three goals in the last six gameweeks and only faces Man City from last season’s top six until Gameweek 27. Could Ancelotti improve Everton’s attacking play and improve Richarlison as a fantasy asset?
Grealish will need to step up further for Villa as a result of John McGinn’s injury ahead of key relegation matches at home to Norwich and away to Burnley. Grealish is third for xGI over the last six weeks for midfielders and joint with Salah for most attempts inside the box. Playing against Grealish on Boxing Day is Todd Cantwell who could be a good option if you want to free up cash but still have a decent fantasy option. Cantwell is coming off a goal against Wolves in Gameweek 18 and Villa have been the worst team in the league defensively over the last six gameweeks; they are top for xGC and big chances conceded. He could be a good option to free up funds to move someone up to Salah or Aguero when he returns.
A final differential option at just 0.7% ownership to consider is Harvey Barnes. Barnes is second for xG over the last six weeks for midfielders and from the shot map below it can be seen that most of his shots are inside the box. If he could improve his accuracy (the shots in green are on target) then he could see some returns once Leicester’s fixtures improve after Liverpool.
To conclude, there are many options to replace Son over the next few weeks and the direction you take could potentially lead to a possible climb up the rankings. Personally, I’m looking at Salah and Pogba as I have the funds to go straight Salah and I like the idea of getting on Pogba early.
If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it and discuss with you. Any feedback on this article is greatly appreciated.