Fantasy Premier League managers were dealt with a huge blow on Saturday, as Everton midfielder Richarlison got sent off for a headbutt on Adam Smith.
The big money summer signing is likely to earn a 3-match ban for his transgressions, 2 of which will be served in the Premier League. Owned by almost 40% of all managers before Gameweek 3, the suspension is a big blow to many. Richarlison had proven himself as one of the most reliable budget midfielder options, scoring 3 in the first 2 games, in light of Everton’s brilliant opening fixtures.
However, with a suspension and price drops looming, managers have been forced to look elsewhere. A host of mid-priced options have propped up as potential replacements. In this article, I will delve into a statistical analysis of the top 7 Richarlison replacements in close price brackets – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Theo Walcott, Pedro, James Maddison, Roberto Pereyra, Ryan Fraser and Demarai Gray – and aim to offer a conclusion.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£7.1m)
If you can stretch your budget a bit – Mkhitaryan might be the most expensive of the lot, but he’s one worth considering. One thing to bear in mind is that the Armenian faced Man City and Chelsea in his first two fixtures, thus posing him a significant challenge to amass stats. Yet, he does well on most counts – with a goal and an assist against Chelsea away.
Mkhitaryan has nailed down a spot in Arsenal’s lineup, as the only natural right winger – if Ozil or Aubameyang are shunted out wide, they tend to play on the left instead. The ex-Man Utd man has been the only Arsenal attacker to play all 270 minutes so far, showing his security of starts in Unai Emery’s system.
Mkhitaryan ranks up there in both the scoring stats, as well as creation stats – although neither are quite outstanding, he’s up there in both. His 2.66 shots per 90 is the third highest amongst the category, pointing towards his constant scoring threat. The winger’s 2.33 key passes show that he’s also a menace in the creation stats – when Aubameyang and Lacazette find their scoring boots, those will start converting to assists and points.
At 19.9%, he is by far the highest owned amongst the lot – showing that he is, perhaps, the safe pick. Playing in a better team than most other options also helps his cause. A pick it’s hard to go wrong with, given his price and potential.
Theo Walcott (£6.6m)
A legend of the Fantasy seasons past, Walcott has forced his way back into Fantasy reckoning. He represents as like-for-like a replacement for Richarlison as one can get – a similar price, same team, same fixtures and top form. Despite playing for a team that has played with 10 men for the majority of two games, Walcott has also stood out as an option.
Walcott ranks up there in most scoring stats – having scored 2 goals in his opening 3 games. Most notably, Walcott’s expected goals is the highest – pointing towards the lowest regression factor out of all options as we move into the future. Richarlison’s absence might also mean more attacks start going through his wing, where he’s been a menace regardless – his average position ranking higher than striker Cenk Tosun.
Although Walcott’s creation stats are near the bottom for most categories – creation is not what you buy Theo Walcott for. It’s for his goalscoring potential, and with a 50% goal involvement so far, it looks like he’ll be central to most of Everton’s goals. With an agreeable price, a fast-rising ownership, 2 goals and an assist in the last 2 and great fixtures, Walcott is also a pick it’s hard to go wrong with.
Another budget choice from a top 6 team, Pedro has also stood out in the opening weeks with a pair of goals. Looking at the stats alone, Pedro stands out as an excellent choice – second highest points per 90, second highest goals and xG, most shots and on target, as well as most touches by a large distance.
His shooting stats, as well as influence, stand out of the lot – with agreeable creation stats – all while playing for a top 6 team which have rediscovered an attacking bite under a new manager.
But perhaps out of all, the most telling stat is the 238 minutes played. Two of Pedro’s starts came when star Eden Hazard missed out due to World Cup fatigue – he was subbed off in the 68th minute in the third, after a blank.
With a player of similar calibre – Willian – looming as a rotation option, Pedro might not be quite as good a choice as his stats may make him seem. Chelsea are also in the Europa League this season, which could result in more rotation owing to the Thursday night games. He’ll score points, but bare in mind you can be frustrated finding Pedro on the bench – which could become a regular occurrence if Willian finds form.
James Maddison (£6.5m)
Leicester’s big money summer signing, Maddison was counted upon to replace the creative void left by Riyad Mahrez’s absence. Although the 21-year-old has impressed many so far, his stats rank quite poorly. Having only played 220 minutes, Maddison has shown a propensity of getting subbed off early.
Despite the stats being per 90 minutes to maintain a common standard, Maddison’s stats still compare poorly – the least xG, least shots, least goal involvement. Although his creation stats are more competitive, it’s certainly nothing outstanding. It’s perhaps wiser to wait for Maddison to show something more before considering the bandwagon, especially in Jamie Vardy’s absence.
Roberto Pereyra (£6.2m)
Javi Gracia’s Watford have been one of the success stories of the season so far – the only ones to amass a perfect start, alongside Liverpool and Chelsea. The man at the forefront of the Hornets’ success has been Roberto Pereyra, who has also forced his way into our Fantasy considerations.
Pereyra’s stats back that up – a staggering 8.80 points per 90 so far, having scored 3 goals. The highest shots in the box, and the second highest shots also stand out. However, one underlying stat that suggests a regression, is a paltry 0.17 expected goals – Pereyra’s goals so far have been stunners, which is a hard act to follow week in week out.
As a result of the underlying stats, it’s wise to perhaps tread with caution with Pereyra too. The extremely tough fixtures on the horizon for Watford, with 3 of the top 4 in the next 4 games – only back that sentiment up.
Ryan Fraser (£5.6m)
Moving into the budget options, it’s important to keep in mind that the cheaper options free up a crucial £1.0m or so. The extra money could be handy in getting an extra premium player, say Marcos Alonso or Benjamin Mendy, so it’s important to not hold the cheaper options to the same standard as the more expensive ones. Even keeping that in mind, Fraser’s excellent underlying stats outline him as a brilliant pick.
Amongst the lot, Fraser is the only one, along with Mkhitaryan, to have played all 270 minutes – underlining his importance to Bournemouth. Despite 1 goal, Fraser’s shooting stats are fairly middle of the road. But it’s the creation stats where he shines – with more expected assists than actual assists, Fraser’s regression might actually be a progression – Callum Wilson’s wastefulness (5 big chances missed, most in the league) can’t last forever.
His 1.67 big chances created, 3 key passes per 90 and 6 crosses are also massive, ahead of the rest of the pack by a large margin. Fraser also seems to be a bonus points darling, which again bodes positively for the Scot winger. Playing for an attacking side, Bournemouth, also helps his cause a lot. Given his stats and price, Fraser is one of my favorite picks of the bunch – especially if you need an extra £1.0m to fit in an Alonso or a Mendy.
Demarai Gray (£5.5m)
A wildcard pick at just 1.4% ownership, Gray is the second half of Leicester’s Mahrez succession plan. The winger has also been impressive, with his efforts finally yielding a goal against Southampton in the last fixture. The stats don’t back up the eye test, however – he ranks near the bottom of both creation and shooting stats, and for just an extra £0.1m Fraser seems like a much better pick.
Mkhitaryan certainly steals a march over the rest here – with a sparkling set of fixtures, including 3 home fixtures and 2 away fixtures at newly promoted teams in the next 6. With 4 plum home fixtures in the next 6, Walcott isn’t too far behind either.
Pedro has 2 plum home games in the next 2, but then has 2 games against two of the tighest defenses in the league interspersed with 2 away fixtures. The Leicester duo have two tough fixtures sandwiching 4 more comfortable ones, with 2 at home.
Pereyra’s fixtures, as aforementioned, are a horror show – 3 games against the top 6 in the next 4. It may be wiser to consider him after Gameweek 8 instead. Fraser, on the other hand, has an agreeable schedule after Chelsea away this week, with 2 plum home fixtures and 2 away fixtures he’ll fancy – especially a Burnley side exerted after Europa League.
It’s a tough one – it really depends on how much money you can spare. If your purse is loose, Mkhitaryan at £7.1m is certainly a good bet – with form, great fixtures, underlying stats, security of starts and playing in a top 6 side. If you’re looking for a replacement more in a similar price range, Walcott at £6.6m seems like the pick of the bunch. If you’re looking to make money to fund moves elsewhere – especially for Alonso and Mendy, who look increasingly essential, Fraser at £5.6m looks like fantastic value – and it’s the option I’ve personally gone for too.