Fantasy Football

FPL tips: How to replace Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:58, 2 January 2024 | Updated: 17:35, 4 January 2024

There’s now a little break before the next FPL gameweek, but there are big decisions to be made.

Following the last action of 2023 and first few games of the new year, a host of players are set to be unavailable for the next month.

That’s because we have the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup to look forward to.

While both tournaments will be treats for fans, many FPL managers will have to make do without prime assets, the biggest being Son Heung-min and Mohamed Salah.

For Son, it’s the Asian Cup with South Korea, which runs from 12 January to 10 February. If South Korea go all the way, Son would be guaranteed to miss four gameweeks, and could even miss a fifth if given a short break following the end of the tournament.

Likewise, with Salah, the Africa Cup of Nations running from 13 January to 11 February. Liverpool’s top scorer will miss four gameweeks if Egypt go all the way, plus another if given a rest.

So that’s at least four gameweeks we’ll be without FPL’s top two players this season (Salah leads the way on 156 points, ahead of Son’s 136).

Nearly half of all managers will feel the blow, too, with Salah owned by 49% of FPL users, and Son at 40%. Quite a few will have them both. So, the question is, how do you replace these premium midfielders?

Usual suspects

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

  • Price: 9.0
  • Points: 207
  • Squawka FPL Score: 79%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Crystal Palace (H), Nottingham Forest (A), Liverpool (H), West Ham (A)

Obviously the easy option is to replace expensive player with expensive player, perhaps making sure you go with the crowd so as to not fall behind. The most obvious of those options is Bukayo Saka, the most-owned player in FPL (after Erling Haaland ownership dropped massively following his injury). Saka recently ended a four-game streak without an attacking return with his goal against Fulham, albeit in defeat. But that hasn’t been for a lack of trying, with the Englishman posting an Expected Goal Involvement total of 1.15 against West Ham and 0.94 against Brighton.

Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)

  • Price: 8.0
  • Points: 111
  • Squawka FPL Score: 53%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Sheffield United (A), Bournemouth (H), Man Utd (A), Arsenal (H)

Jarrod Bowen is currently owned by 28.6% of FPL managers but that is likely to increase over the coming weeks. The Englishman has had a great season so far and is in a rich vein of form, with attacking returns in four of his past six games. In fact, he has only failed to produce in six of his 19 games this season (he missed the other game through injury).

Bowen is West Ham’s leading scorer with 11 goals, getting 55 points from that alone, while adding two assists. One downside might be the last two fixtures of Bowen’s run, but that’s where you can mix things up.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

  • Price: 5.6
  • Points: 92
  • Squawka FPL Score: 63%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Fulham (H), Liverpool (A), Wolves (H), Crystal Palace (A)

If you want a slightly cheaper option, look no further than Cole Palmer. Chelsea have a favourable run of fixtures, with the exception of their trip to Anfield, and it has become quite clear that their team is built around Palmer.

Against Luton he registered 18 points thanks to two goals and one assist, taking his goal involvement tally for the season to 13. Four of his eight games have come from the penalty spot and while that may be sniffed at by some fans, it’s exactly what you want in FPL, someone reliable from 12 yards.

Phil Foden (Man City)

  • Price: 7.8
  • Points: 96
  • Squawka FPL Score: 76%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Newcastle (A), Burnley (H), Brentford (A), Everton (H)

Phil Foden is the man of the moment for Man City right now, and it’s seen his FPL ownership rise to 17.4% — the seventh most-owned midfielder. The Englishman has 25 points across his past three games, scoring once and providing three assists since his last blank against Luton. Crucially, at the moment, Foden seems hard to drop, starting Man City’s last eight league games and completing the full 90 minutes six times.

Bold moves

Willian (Fulham)

  • Price: 5.3
  • Points: 62
  • Squawka FPL Score: 53%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Chelsea (A), Everton (H), Burnley (A), Bournemouth (H)

Fulham welcomed Willian back from injury against Arsenal and their return to winning ways wasn’t necessarily a coincidence. The Cottagers have won their past four games when Willian has started, compared to a run of three consecutive defeats while he was injured and another loss to Liverpool when he came off the bench.

Willian registered a blank in the win over Arsenal, but he was in good form before his injury, recording six points against West Ham and Nottingham Forest as well as his 15-point haul in the win over Wolves. Fulham have a favourable fixture list coming up, even with the trip to Willian’s former club Chelsea.

Pascal Groß (Brighton)

  • Price: 6.4
  • Points: 79
  • Squawka FPL Score: 51%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Wolves (H), Luton (A), Crystal Palace (H), Tottenham (A)

Brighton are another team with a good upcoming fixture list, and theirs stretches way past the four-game span of the international tournaments. In fact, between now and March 16, Brighton have seven fixtures given a difficulty rating of 2, with the other two rated 3. Pascal Groß seems to be the Brighton man to go for during this period, with attacking returns in three of his past five matches.

That run includes 12 points from a goal and assist against Brentford, as well as two bonus points. The German is averaging 0.37 assists per 90 minutes and 0.44 Expected Goal Involvements this season, as well as 25.28 final third pass attempts.

Marcus Rashford (Man Utd)

  • Price: 8.4
  • Points: 60
  • Squawka FPL Score: 54%
  • Next 4 fixtures: Tottenham (H), Wolves (A), West Ham (H), Aston Villa (A)

Now this isn’t exactly a bold move, but any given gameweek you just don’t know how Man Utd are going to perform. Rashford’s price makes him an even bigger risk. But is it one worth taking?

The allure of Marcus Rashford might be slightly affected by recency bias with a goal against Nottingham Forest and assist vs Aston Villa ending his run of five appearances without a return. However, it’s worth noting that four of those games saw him come off the bench amid difficulties, and now he appears to be finding his feet.

Michael Olise (Crystal Palace)

  • Price: 5.8
  • Points: 55
  • Squawka FPL Score: 70
  • Next 4 fixtures: Arsenal (A), Sheffield United (H), Brighton (A), Chelsea (H)

On paper, Crystal Palace’s next four fixtures don’t look great, and they may struggle for wins. But that doesn’t mean they’ll struggle to score, with the Eagles having found the net in their past five matches, including against Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. At the heart of their attacking run has been Michael Olise, with the Frenchman in fine form. He has attacking returns in each of their last four games, totalling 39 points. Olise has scored four and provided one assist, hitting an xGI of at least 0.80 in all four matches.

However, this one comes with a bit of a caveat that you might want to wait to find out the full extent of the hamstring problem, and whether he’ll be back by the time Palace return to Premier League action on January 20.

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