At a time when Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers are using their transfers to prepare for Double Gameweek 25, Blank Gameweek 26 and beyond, the 2.7 million Anthony Gordon (£6.2m) owners will have hated his early removal at home to Luton Town.
It’s the start of a good-looking fixture run for Newcastle United but, unfortunately, an ankle injury saw the bargain midfielder leave the stadium on crutches.
“It looked like he twisted his ankle, I wasn’t sure of the incident. I did not necessarily see the moment that he did it but he was in a lot of pain at half-time so he had to come off.
“No idea (how long). It was sore enough for him to come off, that was his decision, and he knew he could not continue. Obviously, we hope it is not bad, he’s such an important player for us and we missed him when he went off.” – Eddie Howe
It restricted him to one assist in the 4-4, where he was played out-of-position in the absence of other forwards.
So, assuming that most own in-form Cole Palmer (£5.9m) – 89% of the top 500k do – here are some of the leading replacements for Gordon if he is indeed ruled out.
PASCAL GROSS (£6.4m)
When millions sold international representatives Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) and Son Heung-min (£9.6m) before Gameweek 21, around 400k transfers brought in Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Gross. It quickly felt like a failure, as two immediate blanks extended his fruitless run to four matches.
However, two assists, three bonuses and 11 points versus Crystal Palace brought the German back to his productive best. A high rate of chance creation (59) means his expected goal involvement (xGI) of 9.43 has overtaken Gordon’s tally.
Above: All players, ranked by chances created (CC)
The appeal of Gross is that he tends to play all 90 minutes and take set-pieces for the team that ranks third for shots on target (138). Furthermore, discounting those who play twice in Gameweek 25, the Seagulls sit top of our Season Ticker until Gameweek 28.
PEDRO NETO (£5.6m)
Slightly cheaper than Gordon is the exciting Neto, in tandem with superb forward Matheus Cunha (£5.7m) as Wolverhampton Wanderers have scored 14 times in their last five outings.
Until suffering an October hamstring injury, Neto had recorded an attacking return in eight straight matches from Gameweek 3. Back in full flow, he seems determined to make up for lost time, recording six penalty area shots against Manchester United and Chelsea before emerging with a goal and two assists.
Above: All players, ranked by FPL assists (TA)
South Korea’s Hwang Hee-chan (£5.5m) will soon return to their front line, in time to host Sheffield United in the same Gameweek 26. It’ll coincide with the non-appearances of Palmer, Richarlison (£7.2m) and Diogo Jota (£8.1m).
MOHAMMED KUDUS (£6.8m)
Meanwhile, at a higher price is a summer signing whose first Premier League start didn’t come until late October. Since that Gameweek 10 afternoon, only six players have collected more attacking returns than Kudus’ nine. This includes his African Cup of Nations absence.
In particular, five goals and three assists squeezed into Gameweeks 11 to 18 – albeit from just seven shots on target and 2.02 expected goals (xG).
Above: Kudus was FPL’s joint-top scorer between Gameweeks 11 and 18
Whilst his two comeback appearances have been quiet – as West Ham United wobble – both Kudus and team-mate James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m) could replace Gordon well. The latter scored recent penalties against Sheffield United and Bournemouth.
ALEJANDRO GARNACHO (£4.8m)
Yet the Hammers couldn’t score at Man United on Sunday, as the incredibly cheap Garnacho netted twice. It’s his second brace from five league matches, earning Erik ten Hag’s trust when starting the last 13 of them.
Garnacho provides amazing value because he’s the price of cheap fifth-midfielder fodder but is more than capable of stepping in. In fact, he probably shouldn’t be kept on benches right now. The shot-friendly attacker ranks third amongst sub-£7.0m midfielders for attempts (46) and first for shots inside the box (37). Additionally, since Gameweek 11, only Bukayo Saka (£9.0m) narrowly betters his 102 penalty area touches.
Above: All players, ranked by penalty area touches during Gameweeks 11 to 23
Depending on the FA Cup, Man United could have home games with Fulham, Everton and Sheffield United before Gameweek 29. With such form and fixtures, Garnacho could be hard to resist as a premium enabler.
ROSS BARKLEY (£4.9m)
It’s the same for Barkley, whose stagnating career has been rejuvenated at Luton. Providing similar price benefits to Garnacho, only a half-dozen midfielders have had more shots (25) since Gameweek 14, with three goals and four assists in this period peaking with Saturday’s double-digit haul at Newcastle.
Above: Midfielders ranked by attempts since Gameweek 14
Throughout the whole campaign, Barkley’s 16 shots from set plays sit fourth – where the top three are all centre-backs. Luton have actually been superb for quite a while when it comes to goal-scoring. The Hatters netted eight times during last week’s matches and have only failed to grab any on four occasions.
Double Gameweek 25 follows Sheffield United (h), with the previously postponed Bournemouth match still to be rearranged and a decent chance of playing in Gameweek 29. But Barkley’s big problem is Blank Gameweek 26.
LEON BAILEY (£5.9m)
Finally, a sub-£7.0m midfielder with the most attacking returns after Gordon and Palmer. Bailey is on seven goals and six assists but from only 10 overall starts, slowly playing his way into Unai Emery’s favour by being named in eight of the last 10 line-ups. The other two cameos both brought an assist.
Although he’s not great for bonus points or lasting the full 90 minutes, a regularly starting Bailey could be very useful during Aston Villa’s attractive fixture run. In particular, he’s at home to Nottingham Forest when Palmer, Richarlison and Jota blank. Their Gameweek 29 status hinges on Wednesday’s FA Cup replay versus Chelsea.