In this weekly series, @connect_nate will compare enticing players and project how they will perform over the coming gameweeks. Here, ahead of Gameweek 4, he previews Ronaldo and Lukaku.
Ronaldo vs Lukaku GWs4-8
In preparation for this article, I asked the Twitter FPL community to make requests about the decisions they’re struggling with most…
No surprise at all to see Ronaldo taking the headlines yet again. For many managers, the big question over the international break has been how to get Ronaldo into our teams. However, Lukaku’s quality is undeniable, and despite difficult fixtures, he will push Ronaldo pretty close for points…
How Ronaldo and Lukaku vs Premium Rivals (2020/21 Season)
*Ronaldo’s and Lukaku’s numbers are Serie A statistics from fbref. I couldn’t find statistics on Total Big Chances for the pair.
Kane’s ridiculous level last season was matched by Lukaku and Ronaldo, who were also posting roughly a goal contribution per 90 minutes. However, the underlying numbers hint at the different roles each player had/has in their respective teams.
In Ronaldo’s least creative season at Juventus, his reasonable xA of 0.09 per 90 and Big Chances Created of 0.16 per 90 are decimated by the other three. Even Vardy pales in comparison to Kane and Lukaku for chance creation, despite posting excellent creativity numbers because of his increased game time spent in a 2 up front. Lukaku’s 0.24 xA per 90 just tops Kane’s 0.22. Kane, however, created more Big Chances per 90 (0.41 vs 0.3).
Moving to goal threat, again Vardy is distanced – this should be emphasised, because for many years, we’ve seen Vardy be competitive in the premium bracket. Kane and Vardy had similar xG 90 figures (0.56 and 0.58 respectively) with Kane’s finishing being the key difference. However, smashing above this was Lukaku, whose xG per 90 stood at a massive 0.71. Although, Lukaku took more shots in the box than Kane (2.59 vs 2.45), he took fewer shots in general and had fewer on target. Perhaps Lukaku’s high touches in the box, 7.47 per 90, gives some indication of him as a player – he fashions himself high quality chances before shooting, while Kane and Ronaldo rely much more on volume.
In typical fashion though, it is Ronaldo that towers above them all with 0.93 goals per 90 – an outrageous number that… well… yeah, wow.
Still to be determined is how both Ronaldo’s and Lukaku’s numbers will convert to life in the Prem. However, early indications for Lukaku are extremely encouraging, and we know from both of their previous stints in the Prem, that they are proven and prolific.
Impact of New Teams
Given Juventus’ long dominance in Serie A, Inter’s revelation of a year last season, and United’s and Chelsea’s inconsistent seasons, it’s no wonder that Ronaldo and Lukaku are actually joining less threatening teams. Within this, there is of course the facts that Serie A and the Premier League aren’t the same standard, and that Chelsea and United have both gone on for goal-scorers for a reason – namely to become more threatening.
While Ronaldo has posted mad underlying numbers in the Premier League before, a lot has changed since – the quality of his teammates, the quality of opposition, and, crucially, his age. While Ronaldo’s goal-scoring prowess was as evident as ever last season, his time at Juventus hasn’t hit previous heights. Whether that’s down to the league, tactics or Ronaldo himself is likely to be judged by how he gets on at United.
Lukaku, on the other hand, has never posted ridiculous numbers in the Prem (although his have always been very respectable). He is a different player now with so much more to his game, and is joining an evolving Chelsea team that has increasingly created chances for fun.
While a lot is unknown, there is reason to be hopeful that both players can reproduce something close to last season’s form in their return to their old clubs.
Ronaldo and Lukaku xMins
Neither Ronaldo or Lukaku missed many games for their respective clubs last season. Both were benched on one occasion, but played every other game barring injuries. Ronaldo was less prone to being pulled before the 90-minute mark, reflecting possibly his fitness, but probably just his prestige.
It is very difficult to predict future minutes for both players at completely new clubs. Lukaku seems the missing piece of the jigsaw for Chelsea, and they lack a threatening alternative. However, Tuchel is known for rotation, and with Champions League games coming up, we can expect to see Lukaku losing minutes. Assuming no injuries (as always), I’d expect Lukaku to play 80% of minutes in the coming GWs.
Unlike Lukaku, Ronaldo has a keen competitor for his place in the line up – Cavani. Champions League games also presents rotation questions, and we did see Ronaldo’s minutes be managed at times for Juventus so he could be fresh for big games – he is getting older after all. Ole is, however, not one for changing his line up each week. Given all this, I’m going for a conservative 82.5% of minutes in the coming GWs.
It’s OK if you disagree with these xMINS – it’s very difficult to be accurate with so little information.
Fixtures – GWs4-7
Far too much has been made of the fixture disparity between these two sides. Newcastle at home and Villa at home (potentially without Martinez) have been celebrated as fixtures to target. However, West Ham and Spurs away are not so dissimilar in difficult for attacking players. United have the easier GW6 fixture, but managers holding Chelsea assets will be encouraged by Chelsea’s brilliant display at Anfield. They attacked mercilessly until James’ unfortunate red card, and then closed up shop but still went out on productive excursions. We probably all need to un-train ourselves in terms of Chelsea fixtures – they’ll find clean sheets and goals easier than we expect against tough opponents.
All this said, the fixtures do favour United, and this will be shown in the projection weightings below.
Projections for GWs4-7
Finally, we move to the crunch of the matter – using historic career numbers weighted with the most recent run of games, below are my point projections for Ronaldo and Lukaku over the next 4 GWs.
Given the fixtures, particularly United’s against Newcastle and Chelsea’s against City, there is no surprise to see Ronaldo projected to receive over 1 point more per game than Lukaku over the next 4 GWs. While Lukaku is likely to boast the greater assist potential, Ronaldo’s wonderful goal-scoring consistency means he’s projected to mop up goals and bonus points.
I always like to compare my projections with others, and in comparing to FantasyFootballFix, I was really taken aback by how much more generous my model was to Lukaku, who project Lukaku to take 15.9 points over the next 4 GWs. Perhaps this is a reflection of rotation risk or their evaluation of the Spurs and City fixtures, but whatever the reason, it’s a marked difference (while Ronaldo is projected similarly on Fix at 27.2 points).
For me, there is no doubt that Ronaldo is the better short term option. I plan to switch between these two often, because I rate Lukaku highly and when the fixtures swing, Lukaku will match and maybe even surpass Ronaldo.
My only word of warning is that Ronaldo’s return has become one of the biggest events of the season, and all that anticipation comes with expectation. So much is assumed about Ronaldo’s place in the team (I think these assumptions are fair), but we don’t really know if Ronaldo will start against Newcastle, take pens off of Bruno or complete 90 minutes regularly.
Thank you for reading!
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