Another FPL Gameweek; another positive COVID-19 test. This time, it’s Wilfred Zaha (MID, £7.3), the out-of-position Crystal Palace frontman who provides FPL managers with joy and frustration in seemingly equal measure.
Zaha was supposed to be a set-and-forget player until Gameweek 12 when Palace’s fixture-swing begins. This makes his exclusion from Gameweek 10 all the more troubling in that it forces owners to expedite transfer plans that we’d rather delay.
For many managers, myself included, Zaha’s absence opens the door to an early return for Mohamed Salah (MID, £12.2), who, incidentally, was last week’s high–profile COVID-19 casualty.
The issue, though, is finding the funds to make the swap: £7.3 to £12.2 is a steep jump, likely requiring multiple transfers. In most cases, this will involve “downgrading” a player we’d otherwise prefer to keep in place. For me, the obvious candidates are Tottenham duo, Harry Kane (FWD, £11M) and Heung-Min Son (MID, £9.5).
Son vs Kane
I’m a big fan of both players, but I think it could be risky to hold both during Spurs’ tricky fixture run that extends through to Gameweek 15. If one of them has to go to facilitate Salah, then so be it. It’s a trade-off that makes sense.
But choosing between Kane and Son is no easy decision. In fact, it’s the toughest dilemma I’ve faced this season.
Looking at the raw numbers, Kane has the upper hand. He’s outperforming Son across a range of key categories including xG, xA, goal attempts, and shots on target. Kane also has the edge when it comes to actual goal involvement, with 7 goals and 9 assists, to Son’s tally of 11 and 2. Son, though, is in slightly better form with an eyewatering, and likely unsustainable, xGI Delta of 6.54.
But the numbers only tell one side of the story. Though Kane might be the better of the two options, I think I can find a suitable replacement for him in the form of Jamie Vardy (FWD, £10.2M). Whereas outside of maybe Diogo Jota (MID, £6.6M), I can’t identify a midfield replacement for Son who would give me anything like the returns I’ve come to expect from the South Korean.
In other words, any move away from Son would be a downgrade. But Kane could possibly be replaced as part of a sideways move.
Vardy, the “enabler”
So the question, then, is whether Vardy is indeed a like-for-like replacement?
Judging by the comments I’ve received on TikTok this week, the idea of abandoning Kane is blasphemy for many FPL managers. Indeed, his goal involvement this term is exceptional, and he’s gone a long way toward establishing himself as the best player in the league.
But Vardy is no slouch either – and with Fulham, Sheffield United, and Brighton on deck in his next three, we could well be set for a party. Though Kane is out-performing Vardy across most key categories, it’s actually the latter who boasts the higher xG. Leicester, it’s true, have been the beneficiaries of a wealth of penalties this season, but who’s to say that won’t continue?
Vardy also represents an excellent captaincy option for the next three Gameweeks. This will be particularly important in Gameweek 11 when Salah & co. face Wolves.
It’s important note that even if you don’t think Vardy will outperform Kane over the next 4-5 Gameweeks, he actually doesn’t have to in order for this transfer to be considered a success. In this situation, we’re simply using Vardy as an “enabler” – and a very good one, at that. The idea is to use the Kane > Vardy transfer in order to facilitate the return of Salah, who I will be captaining in two out of the next three Gameweeks.
The question, then, is simply whether Salah and Vardy will outscore Kane and Zaha (+4 points). And I see no way of answering that other than in the affirmative.
Good luck out there.