With an intense month of Premier League action around the corner, it’s perhaps the moment to avoid any mad decisions, before Ben Chilwell gets injured. Reports indicate that it’s an ACL tear and the wing-back is set to miss out on the rest of the year. One wonders, how to replace the superstar.
As Ben Chilwell limped out of Chelsea’s 5-0 thumping of Juventus during the mid-week round of fixtures, it had FPL managers all around the world very concerned. This is a defender who is, after all, is owned by 16.6% of the teams in the world and has been outscored by only five other players in the same position. Not that big news given that we’re twelve games into the league season but it has been made even bigger by the fact that it could potentially be an ACL injury.
Nothing has been confirmed by either Chelsea or Thomas Tuchel with Chilwell’s injury still at a reported status and yet, it has had more than a few managers panicking. Around the time of writing, managers have let go of the defender with Marcos Alonso amongst the top six replacements and that has come as no shock.
Option 1: Hop on the Marcos Alonso train
The Spaniard started the season superbly until he was replaced following a horrific display at Manchester City. But while Chelsea does have Cesar Azpilicueta as well, Chilwell to Alonso makes the most sense as a replacement, especially given the similarities both wing-backs have. Yet, Tuchel ignored that factor against Juventus and sent on the Spaniard instead. However, in the long-term, it’s one that can’t be changed.
Especially when Alonso averages an attacking return once in three games with five goal contributions in fourteen league games under Tuchel. Not just that, his numbers when played this season have been good with an average of two chances created per game and an average of two shots per game. Plus according to FBref, he ranks in the 94th percentile for Non-Penalty Goals, the 99th for Shot Total, the 82nd for xA and the 92nd for Shot-Creating Actions.
It’s behind the likes of Ben Chilwell and Reece James but that’s given a small data-sample as Alonso has made only six league starts this season. At the same time, he is threatened by the fact that Cesar Azpilicueta’s presence allows Tuchel to be slightly more defensive if he wants to which brings us to…
Option 2: Sign Joao Cancelo or Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold, if you haven’t already
Arguably, the three best full-backs in the world and they all just happen to play in the Premier League for the best clubs in the English top tier and right now, all three are at their best. It’s also why the three men top the lists for most transfers in (per round) before the start of Gameweek 13 with Reece James leading the list. But given that one is looking for a Ben Chilwell replacement, the answer is right there in one of these three men.
Why? Well, if you don’t have Reece James then Englishman is the obvious Chilwell replacement and not just because he plays for Chelsea. Partly because of that and mostly because since Gameweek 7, the wing-back is averaging a stunning 13.3 FPL points per start. Add that to the fact that he has most touches in the final third, is level with Alexander-Arnold for expected goal involvement per 90 and the fact that Chelsea are on a roll defensively, it’s the obvious choice.
If you already have James, or three Chelsea players, then move onto to Joao Cancelo and once again, the argument is rather obvious and an in-your-face one. The full-back is behind only James for touches in the final third, behind the tied James and Alexander-Arnold, and the now injured Chilwell for expected goal-involvement and has kept eight clean sheets while providing five assists this season.
Want more? Then you go for England’s joint best right-back in Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Liverpool man has six clean sheets and assists this season but is behind only James for assists per 90, tops the xA charts, has the joint best expected goal-involvement and is on free-kicks plus corners for the Reds. Combine that with what can only be called an excellent run of fixtures until January and no more Champions League football, with Liverpool qualified and top of the table, it makes him perfect.
That is until you have a look at that massive, big and very pricey price-tag of £7.8 m. That's the reason we’ve got…
Option 3: Sergio Reguilon is the man you need
£5.1m, playing for Antonio Conte who absolutely loves his wing-backs and the fact he has been told by the Italian manager to get into more threatening positions. Nobody is quite sure what that means but already Reguilon is being played further forward in the new Tottenham formation, and that proved to be a real menace against Leeds United. It saw him net one goal and produce an xA of 0.3, which is his highest all season.
That shows a real improvement which, when combined with double the touches he had in the attacking penalty area as well as fewer touches in the middle and defensive third, shows that Conte really does want him to play further forward. It does, at the same time, make 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 loss in the Europa Conference League.
They’ve still got a long way to go before they actually find their path under Conte and it does mean that clean sheets are the furthest thing from guaranteed. Yet with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min slowly finding their footing, Reguilon’s offensive threat could go up a few notches in the near future.
Option 4: Fantasy fads are cyclical so go budget and save money
Life as an FPL manager is never easy, especially when you need to predict trends before they actually happen and then leap onto the next one just before the old on expires before repeating the cycle. Moreover, when the vogue thing is spending an insane amount of money on your defensive assets, that’s never a good thing. But when the said expensive defensive assets thrive and do so in incredible style, it forces one to lose out on other options.
However, like most trends, the hope is that this is also cyclical and thus eventually, some day in the near future we’ll be forced to spend big on the 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 given how good all three have been this season. Toni Livramento has been a gem for Southampton, with him the go-to bargain option, but Lamptey has thrived since his return from injury.
There are other options like Matt Ritchie, Matt Lowton, Marcal and even Timothy Castagne for a Leicester City side who can’t keep a clean sheet to save their lives. but the aforementioned three seem to be the best out of the bargain bin.
The question remains, who do you want?