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Fantasy football: How to deal with Lukaku's absence?

Published on: 21 October 2021

It looked like the big debate for gameweek nine was going to be whether to captain Mohamed Salah or Romelu Lukaku, but now it's how do we go about replacing Lukaku in our teams?

The exciting thing is that there are plenty of different avenues to explore which will also bring a bit of difference to the game as a whole, considering Lukaku is owned by a third of managers in the game.

Now the first thing to say is you don't have to transfer him out and it's well worth waiting to get Thomas Tuchel's update on the injury before the deadline but it's a lot of money to be sitting on your bench if he's going to be out for more than a couple of games, which looks likely.

The easiest thing to do is to go for the straight swap, which won't be a problem with the budget unless you want to sign Harry Kane, who costs £0.4m more than Lukaku, or Cristiano Ronaldo, who costs £0.8m more. Neither of them have the most appetising run of fixtures coming up though and neither have been their usual prolific selves in the Premier League - Ronaldo hasn't scored in his past three Premier League games, while Kane's goal against Newcastle was his first in six starts.

Jamie Vardy, on the other hand, has racked up 49 points in his past six games, only failing to score against Manchester City in that time, and goes to Brentford refreshed on Sunday after letting Patson Daka get on with the goalscoring in Russia in midweek. He was certainly Statman Dave's choice when we discussed it in the Fantasy 606 podcast this week. Chris Sutton continues to back his man Kane.

We also explored the idea though of replacing Lukaku with a cheaper striker and then using the spare funds to boost your midfield, with the names of Kai Havertz, Phil Foden, Son Heung-min and Sadio Mane right at the top of potential targets.

Lukaku struck four times in his first four games for Chelsea this season but has not scored in his past seven club matches

Havertz is certainly a way in to the Chelsea attack with Timo Werner also out injured and these upcoming games against Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley are where a lot of managers felt Lukaku might make hay.

Havertz will cost you £8.1m, Foden is just £0.1m cheaper and was outstanding again when I watched him live in Belgium on Tuesday. He also came off after 64 minutes in that game against Club Bruges, which bodes well for a potential start at Brighton on Saturday, although you can never take anything for granted with Pep Roulette.

You do know that Son will start every game for Tottenham if he's fit. He'll cost you a couple of million more but is currently the third highest-scoring player in the game. He also looks a good long-term bet with Tottenham starting a nice run of fixtures from gameweek 12 and they definitely looked a more cohesive attacking unit in the recent games against Aston Villa and Newcastle with Oliver Skipp alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in central midfield and Tanguy Ndombele allowed to get on the front foot to help Lucas Moura, Son and Kane.

Finally onto Mane, who is the most expensive option at £11.9m. At this point I want to hand over to 14-year-old Toby, one of our Fantasy 606 listeners, who sent us a brilliant email this week.

In it he pointed out that Mane has the third-highest ICT (influence, creativity and threat) of any midfielder in the game behind Salah and Bruno Fernandes, he's only owned by just over 3% of managers and he's only failed to provide an attacking return once all season.

Toby went on to say that with Salah in the form of his life then surely Mane is only going to benefit, so why not go for the Liverpool double-up in midfield?

It's a strong argument, particularly when you look at the delicious pass that Salah played to create Mane's goal against Watford last weekend and it certainly has the benefit of a being a differential selection.

Personally, I'm quite tempted by the Havertz option purely from a fixtures point of view, even though it would mean taking a four-point hit to have him in for the game against Norwich - Ivan Toney in for Lukaku and Havertz in for Ismaila Sarr.

Mason Mount would also come into consideration in that Chelsea midfield but if you've already got a double Blues defence, including one of their flying full-backs, then you may feel you already have enough cover there.

As for the captain's armband, it's staying with Salah for me.

Alistair Bruce-Ball presents the Fantasy 606 podcast alongside former Premier League winner Chris Sutton and Statman Dave. The latest episode previewing gameweek nine is available on the BBC Sounds app. You can email the pod on [email protected]

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