With the first international break around the corner, it’s perhaps the moment to avoid rash decisions, but then Sadio Mane tests positive for COVID-19. Liverpool confirmed the news and that means he will self-isolate for ten days, missing the next game, so how do you replace one of FPL’s best?
Option one: You don’t
Panicking seems to be the norm when it comes to FPL and panicking when one of the few men who have scored in their last two consecutive games, is even worse. But this is Sadio Mane, the same man who finished last season as arguably one of the best players in the league. Hell, maybe even the world and as an added bonus he scored 18 goals and created 10 more just for fun. The same man who finished with 22 goals, and the golden boot, the year before as if that wasn’t enough.
Sure the world is filled with replacements, other players and men who’ll do you just a good a job but they won’t be another Sadio Mane, will they? And yet, as of Saturday afternoon, the Senegalese is amongst the top five transferred out players, with a grand total of 229975 managers doing it, which points to nothing more than a panic move. Yes, he will miss a big game against Aston Villa but guess what?
He has time to recover and get back to his best after that because you took the risk and Mane moves nowhere as you realise that it would be nonsensical to sell him with a ten-day-long international break around the corner.
Option two: Replace him with you know who
But this is £11.9m worth Sadio Mane, and thus the 'rules' state that we must have a replacement for a player worth that much. Well, if that’s the path you pick to go down, you philistine, then worry not because in this particular case, how shouldn’t be a problem. There are two potential options and guess what? They’re both exceptional replacements and ones to consider keeping long term over Mane. Option number 1 is good ol' Kevin De Bruyne and he has had a fantastic start to his new season.
Sure, Leicester City thumped Manchester City all over the Eithad Stadium and the Belgian could do nothing but watch it happen and yet it’s what makes him a great choice. City won’t be facing a Leicester City, Wolves or a Liverpool every single week and this week they face Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United. Now the Peacocks are a great outfit to watch and love scoring goals but despite their recent clean sheet, they’ve got the second-worst defensive record.
That does mean that there are goals available and something for Manchester City to take from this encounter but for those worried about City’s form, option number 2 will help you with that. He happens to be one of the eight men who have not only outscored Mane so far but has done in overwhelming and his a-typical style. That’s what you tend to get from Mo Salah and as per the norm, the Egyptian has delivered in style.
He’s had more shots in the box than Mane, one less on target, two big chances and xG of2.32 but yet Salah has three goals to his name. Now the Egyptian hasn’t scored since his opening day hat trick against Leeds, read above, but his creativity has certainly hit another eleven. As compared to Mane, Salah has 11 key passes, an xA of 1.31 and one assist to his name which means that his teammates have squandered chances. Problems? Not really, cause all those extra chances to add to his bonus points.
Option three: Bring in Harvey Barnes and spend the extra money
Now I was going to pick Leandro Trossard or Neal Maupay but then a quick look at a few Twitter threads and statistics told me that Harvey Barnes is the man to pick. The Leicester winger has nicked himself a consistent place on Brendan Rodgers’ team-sheet, even with the arrival of Cengiz Under and with Ayoze Perez struggling, expect Barnes to keep his place. However, what does make him a great pick besides the fact that he’s priced at a reasonable £7.1m, is the fact that he’s goooood.
The 22-year-old has a goal and an assist to his name but he most definitely should have had more especially against Burnley. Bar from a stellar performance from Nick Pope, the youngster showed his destructive ability causing serious problems for the Clarets and the hope is that he keeps doing that. The Foxes’ fixtures certainly help that cause with only one “Big Six” team until late November and even that is Arsenal, so yeah.
But more importantly, other than the fact he adds about £4 million cash into your bank, Barnes has consistently gotten into the penalty box to either create a chance or take one himself. Now he hasn’t scored or assisted anything since that Burnley game but the underlying numbers tell us that will, and should hopefully, change going forward. Another point? Only Mo Salah has taken more shots inside the box than Barnes for midfielders.
Option four: Reinforce your bench and leave him as it is
Definitely an option out there but what if you don’t drop Sadio Mane but drop someone else, Son for example, and spend a little money. If you’ve read this far then you know that there are budget options especially in the mid-table sides aka the Brightons, the Arsenals, the Leicester Citys and so on, which will allow one to move around their team to make up for the missing Mane.
Yes, that pun was intentional but with an international break around the corner, reinforcing that bench with a few first-team defenders, a cheap goalscoring midfielder and even a striker will help. Especially when they're all in form, looking at you Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James Rodriguez and basically anyone at Everton. It gives managers a catalogue of options and besides, in FPL options are key. Especially if the real paid managers opt to join Pep Guardiola and spin the roulette on their team.