In this episode of Hot or Not, we preview FPL Gameweek 27. We assess the potential replacements for Harvey Barnes and look at the best route to Kevin De Bruyne.
We are in the midst of yet another double gameweek, at the time of writing we are just over halfway through gameweek 26 and naturally our thoughts are starting to turn towards the next deadline.
Gameweek 27 is currently the last scheduled double of the season, however there are still a number of postponed fixtures to be added to the calendar so we can expect further double gameweeks at some point.
Team selection and transfers ahead of DGW27 carry the added difficulty of being one step closer to blank gameweek 29, so while attacking the doubles should always be a priority, we must also consider options that allow us to be flexible in the weeks beyond.
Gameweek 26 has already thrown up its fair share of talking points, with last week’s hot pick Harvey Barnes (£6.9m) suffering what looked like a potentially serious injury. Although we don’t yet know the exact status of the injury it seems likely Barnes will be out for an extended period and as such will need to be replaced.
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) completed 90 minutes for the first time since returning from injury and immediately reminded FPL managers of his quality. The Belgian’s eight points in round one of City’s double gameweek has certainly got people talking and it now looks like the perfect time for those with a spare City spot to find a way to include him.
Salah vs. Bruno – Fitting in KDB
We can’t have them all, a phrase you’ll hear or read many times over the course of an FPL season, never more relevant than in the build up to DGW27.
Kevin De Bruyne’s assist and pass completion versus West Ham was enough to secure him the maximum three bonus points, a timely reminder of how easily he attracts a good score.
The midfielder ranks third for successful passes in the opponent’s half and final third so far this gameweek, his two chances and one big chance created (BCC) also ranks highly. Consider also that this was achieved against the superb West Ham defence, who had limited Kane, Son and Bale to just one goal a week earlier.
City also have a number of appealing fixtures coming up, with ties against Southampton, Fulham and Leeds in their next five. The stage is set for KDB to regain his top form, due to how involved he is in his side’s play we can expect returns to come and when they do Kevin normally runs away with the bonus points as well.
Something will have to give though, even with a spare City spot it is unlikely that any of us have the money for KDB without having to make a sacrifice elsewhere.
In my own team, it will have to be one of Mo Salah (£12.6m) or Bruno Fernandes (£11.6m) that makes way. It might seem odd to look at stepping away from the first and third highest scorers this season, but with Liverpool’s lack of form, United’s fixture swing and De Bruyne’s relative differential status, we are unlikely to find a better time.
The above table compares the three players in a number of key metrics over the season. It should be mentioned that De Bruyne has played roughly 600 minutes less than the other two, or approximately six and half matches fewer.
We can see that De Bruyne wins for minutes per chance, showing the incredible frequency in which he is presented with an opportunity to return. Despite his comparative lack of minutes, De Bruyne also scores closely in the other metrics and when adjusted for minutes he is ahead in all apart from goal attempts, where he is second.
The value in going for Kevin is clear, he’s an elite level chance creator who carries strong goal threat from open play and set pieces. In fact, his 3.32 chances created per 90 is the best in the league and his 0.87 BCC per 90 is the highest of all players with more than 300 minutes played.
The trickier task is separating Salah and Fernandes. Mo dwarfs Bruno for minutes per shot in the box (SiTB) but loses out in virtually every other area, especially chance creation and bonus points. Salah’s 16 bonus points this season is virtually doubled by Fernandes’ 30, an enormous difference and largely what separates their scores so far.
The table above shows data over the last six gameweeks. The two players track pretty closely (as they have done all season) and indeed their respective sides have both accumulated an expected goals (xG) total of ten in the same period.
How this data has translated into on field form however is a different story. Liverpool have scored seven goals in their last six games, while United have managed 16. Salah has returned four times in that period (4 goals), while Fernandes has returned seven times (4 goals, 3 assists).
The data also shows us that United and Fernandes have outperformed their expected goals by a significant amount, one would expect this to regress but a glance at the season wide total shows us that Fernandes has consistently outperformed his xGI over the campaign.
This suggests that the metric alone shouldn’t be used to measure the Portuguese’s prospects and a degree of over performance should be expected for a player of his quality.
Salah has perhaps been unlucky not to return more often in recent weeks, despite blanking away to Sheffield United on Sunday he amassed an xG of 0.78, the fourth highest among midfielders this weekend.
Liverpool face Fulham and Wolves in their next two gameweeks, two sides with potential to frustrate but have also struggled for large parts of the season. Both sides rank in the bottom half for xGC over the campaign and despite recent improvements both should still be considered favourable fixtures for Salah.
Fulham in particular could be fruitful for the Egyptian, the Cottagers concede the majority of their chances down their rotation heavy left flank, an invitation for Salah?
Fernandes on the other hand faces a more difficult run, with the defensively strong Man City and West Ham in their next two, with games against Brighton and Spurs after GW29 to follow.
With the two players so evenly matched, I believe their respective fixtures are the key to setting them apart. United have struggled to score goals against the sides around them in the league, their 0-0 draw with Chelsea being their sixth goalless display against a traditional top six team this season.
Fernandes only averages five points per game against the eight best teams for xGC this season, a drop off from his season average of 7.46. United face three of the top four teams for the metric in their next three games, suggesting that they are likely to score fewer goals and as such we can expect Fernandes’ output to regress in line with his recent numbers.
Salah on the other hand has already returned against each of his next five opponents, his underlying numbers also appear far more sustainable than those of Fernandes, suggesting that the Egyptian is primed to convert his good performances into results in the coming weeks.
While it may seem daunting to step away from the highly owned and often highly captained Fernandes, his recent data and tough upcoming fixtures suggest that regression is on the way soon. As FPL managers we always strive to get ahead of the curve, this appears to be good time to play differently.
Not only do we gain an immediate extra fixture out of KDB in DGW27, but we also gain arguably the best captain for the upcoming week. Furthermore, by holding Salah over Fernandes we are retaining one of the best captaincy options for GW28, 31, 32 and 33, while we are unlikely to look to captain Fernandes before United play Burnley in GW32 at the earliest.
The similarity in price between Fernandes and De Bruyne makes swapping back and forth easy, should the move be unsuccessful, while Salah will be much harder to fit back in should funds be spread across the team.
We shouldn’t expect Fernandes to stop scoring points completely, but the signs are there that he will slow down and as such I plan to take advantage.
Having left a City spot open I am likely to transfer KDB in for Bruno for GW27 and take a calculated gamble that De Bruyne’s extra fixture and awesome stats, coupled with Salah’s high goal threat and favourable run will yield more points than Fernandes’ more difficult spell over the next five gameweeks.
Who should we choose to replace Harvey Barnes?
With over 1 million transfers in before DGW26, the hype around Harvey Barnes had reached fever-pitch. In typical FPL fashion, this was reduced to a sombre hush less than an hour into Leicester’s match with Arsenal as Barnes was stretchered off with what looked like a serious injury.
The subject of last week’s article fully justified the enormous amount of attention he has received of late, but for injury I believe he is still the outstanding option at his price and indeed several price points above his own.
As sad is it is we must look elsewhere, the fourth midfielder spot is not one that can be left unattended for long.
I considered Mason Mount (£6.8m) and Pedro Neto (£5.7m) as secondary options to Barnes last week, and while I still favour a fit Barnes over both I would absolutely consider either as his successor.
Neto has had a great individual season, his total of 112 points ranks highly and his 12 attacking returns are a rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing season for Wolves. The Portuguese grabbed an assist away to Newcastle this game week and has a steady three returns in his last six matches.
However, Wolves’ inconsistency and mixed upcoming fixtures are enough to make me wary. Fortunately, we are blessed with an excellent alternative in the form of Mason Mount.
In Barnes’ absence he is the standout asset around that price range. He also appears to be one of the few who is safe from the tinkering of Thomas Tuchel, having started all but one of the matches in which the German has been in charge.
Mount is posting strong numbers, he ranks only behind Bruno Fernandes for passes in the final third over the last six matches and his 14 chances created is also on par with the United star.
His eight SiTB in that time matches Neto, but his goal conversion is virtually three times better, meaning he is making more of the opportunities provided to him. Mount has also accumulated a higher xG (1.74 – 1.33), a far better minutes per xG (293 – 403) and a better minutes per xGI (179 – 191).
Mount has also under-performed his xGI recently, suggesting he has been unfortunate not to register more returns and should in fact have registered nearly one additional involvement.
The Chelsea mid also appears to be the side’s backup penalty taker, having scored from the spot in Jorginho’s absence against Southampton. This added possibility further adds to Mount’s value and complements his existing set piece threat.
There are other possible routes to replacing Barnes, Raphinha (£5.4m), Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) and Bertrand Traore (£5.9m) have all been posting good numbers for a while. The three budget options have provided great value when called upon and are worth considering.
Raphinha is the pick of the three, but with Leeds’ mixed fixtures in the short term I believe his returns are likely to be limited and he is probably best reserved for GW29 onwards. Lookman and Fulham have a similarly mixed schedule and despite his side’s recent improvement it would still be risky to put too much faith in a player representing the league’s fourth lowest scorers.
Traore is a player I would enjoy owning, his flashy style and recent good form make him very appealing. The uncertainty surrounding Villa’s fortunes without Jack Grealish (£7.6) and their somewhat mixed fixtures make a transfer for Traore or any of his colleagues somewhat of a risk, however.
Villa may also look to take a less attacking approach to cover Grealish’s absence, their match against Leeds suggests that this may be something to keep an eye on. The Villains’ 10.6 minutes per chance and one big chance puts them in the bottom five attacks for the current week, interesting considering in Leeds they faced a typically generous defence.
The fixtures again provide the key. Chelsea are in good form and one would expect that to continue given the favourable run they are about to embark on.
The next four look prime for returns. Everton have been inconsistent all season and are in the bottom half for xGC in both the last six matches and season as a whole.
Leeds, West Brom and Crystal Palace are the three worst teams for xGC over the season, suggesting all three are likely to offer up plenty of chances. Even in more recent times each side is still ranked near the bottom of the defensive charts, while there has been some improvement I would still consider all three as defences to target.
Couple that with the fact that Chelsea rank seventh for expected goals over the last six, I would expect Mount to be afforded plenty of opportunity to both create and score chances. Chelsea also rank near the top for SiTB (59) and big chances (15) over the same period, while each of their next four opponents rank in the bottom half for big chances conceded lately.
While Tuchel has taken a pragmatic approach so far, the ingredients are there for Chelsea to turn on the style and add to their goal tally in the coming weeks. With Mount playing a central role in their attack under Tuchel, it is highly likely that he will be heavily involved should the Blues find the net.
While there are a number of exciting options to replace Harvey Barnes, none of them tick the boxes quite like Mason Mount. He is a great differential option in a team that is coming into form. His influence on the Chelsea play is significant and as such he is likely to be one of the main architects of any positive results.
While the likes of Raphinha, Neto and Traore carry similar threat to Mount, they are facing more difficult fixture runs. Mount has the ideal combination of fixtures, form and underlying numbers to support his form. Although Chelsea have yet to fully flourish in front of goal they have also played a number of strong defences. This upcoming fixture swing is one to target and should see them find the net more often.
I’ll be sad to let Barnes go, but I feel confident that Mount can step up and fill the void. In my own side Mount is likely to arrive for GW28, with KDB coming in this week. If you don’t have any other fires to fight, dealing with Barnes should be high on your list. With Everton and Leeds up next I fancy Mason Mount to serve as the ideal replacement.
*Underlying statistics and tables obtained via the author’s paid subscription to Fantasy Football Scout*
*Featured image source: http://www.teamtalk.com*