In this weekly series, @connect_nate will compare enticing players and project how they will perform over the coming gameweeks in FPL. Here, ahead of FPL Gameweek 9, he previews Lukaku and Vardy.
Lukaku vs. Vardy GWs9-12
In preparation for this article, I asked the Twitter FPL community to make requests about the decisions they’re struggling with most…
With Ronaldo and Lukaku not quite living up to expectations, it’s no surprise to see interest switch to the likes of Vardy and Kane. Vardy’s 7 goals in a disjointed Leicester team is a reminder both of Vardy’s level, and his incredible capacity for to be clinical.
Leicester are improving, and Vardy is one of the few fixture-proof players in the league so he deserves our attention. Meanwhile, Kane was brilliant in GW8 and collected a goal and an assist for his efforts, which will have many managers plotting a move for him in GW12.
Comparison to rivals (GWs1-8)
Recent performances aside, there is no doubt that Ronaldo is a phenomenal talent that gobbles up shots and touches in the box (3.45 and 7.32 per 90 respectively). However, Vardy has been by far the more clinical of the two, boasting an incredible 0.85 goals per 90 from an xG of 0.48 per 90 – a 77% overperformance.
Despite Vardy’s undeniable shot conversion history (22% vs. Lukaku’s 19% vs. Kane’s 18% vs. Ronaldo’s 16%), he usually converts xG just above expectation and so sustainability questions will arise. That said, an improved Leicester with Nacho starting may well lead to an improvement in Vardy’s goal threat.
Lukaku compares well to Vardy considering his difficult fixtures and known difficulties in recent games: 5.05 touches in the box per 90 (vs. Vardy’s 5.45), 2.24 shots in the box per 90 (Vardy: 2.54), 0.47 xG per 90 (Vardy: 0.48). Very little separates the two and once Lukaku’s fixtures are factored in, it’s hard to ignore that Lukaku may just edge the underlying numbers.
It’s tight between them, not least because it’s hard to quantify the effect of Leicester’s indifferent start to the season vs. Chelsea’s challenging fixtures. There is one metric (besides the obvious goals per 90) that is significant: Vardy has had 0.73 Big Chances per 90 compared to Lukaku’s 0.56 Big Chances per 90.
In terms of goal threat, there is little to say about Kane except that he is far far below the standard. However, he does reasonably well when it compares to creativity, just falling short of Lukaku who is the clear winner of the four. Lukaku has created 1.54 chances per 90, 0.42 Big Chances per 90 and 0.11 xA per 90. Meanwhile, Kane has created 1.09 chances per 90, 0.31 Big Chances and 0.14 xA per 90.
Lukaku and Vardy xMins
While Vardy now has both Nacho and Daka to contend with for minutes, there is no doubt that he is the number 1 choice and Daka and Nacho will get their minutes as second strikers or from the bench. Because of Vardy’s excellent performances this season, and last, there is no reason to think that Vardy’s minutes will drop. Towards the end of last season, when Vardy and Nacho played in a 2 up front, Vardy did lose some goal threat in order to create for Nacho, but so far this season, it seems Nacho has taken on more of a creative role when the two of them are on the pitch.
Lukaku can continue to play mass amounts of minutes, and yet Tuchel’s recent press commentary puts some pause on that as Tuchel indicated he feels Lukaku is overplayed and mentally tired. FPL managers will need to anticipate a rest or two soon, although it seems most likely to come in the UCL game on Wednesday night. Whatever happens on Wednesday, it is hard to see how a single rest can negate a year of regular gametime and unless Tuchel gives Lukaku a couple of weeks off, long term fatigue would continue. A more likely scenario is that Tuchel is deflecting to buy himself and Lukaku time to prove the money has been well-spent.
Fixtures – GWs9-12
Chelsea’s fixtures are sublime with 2 of the most targetable fixtures in Norwich and Newcastle followed by 2 teams that have struggled defensively recently in Burnley and Leicester.
Meanwhile, Leicester have a tricky Brentford game against one of this season’s surprise packages. Then they have Arsenal who have improved defensively and a very difficult Chelsea defence in GW12. GW11 against Leeds is the one shining light of hope.
Projections for GWs9-12
Finally, we move to the crunch of the matter – using bookies odds and historic career numbers weighted with the most recent run of games, I have projected Vardy’s and Lukaku’s point totals over the next 4 GWs.
Despite Vardy’s greater xMins and base FPL points, Lukaku comes out on top. No small part of this is down to his fixtures in an otherwise very evenly contested affair. While Vardy may make short work of difficult fixtures, it is hard not to anticipate a slight drop in numbers given the Brentford and Chelsea games in particular.
However, Lukaku has the potential to smash any of his 4 fixtures, and may well make a mockery of his current underlying numbers and these projections should he find the form we saw of him last season. Even with this season’s numbers weighted against him somewhat, Lukaku is expected to get over 3 returns in the next 4 games and a host of bonus points as well to make up almost 5 points a game.
It is tempting to pick Vardy based on form, and as a long term hold given his lower price and Leicester’s fixtures improving after the Chelsea game. The alternative strategy looks more lucrative though – playing the fixtures and backing Lukaku, the flat-track bully to cause serious damage over the next 3-4 games. The statistics back up this play, even if it can be hard to bring in or hold a player who has blanked so many games in a row.
The fixture strategy also lends itself nicely to hopping on the next premium player to see their fixtures improve – Vardy or maybe Kane should his form continue to rekindle. The cycle continues from there with Ronaldo having a fixture swing shortly afterwards, and in this way a Lukaku strategy ties in nicely with a premium merry-go-round.
Thank you for reading!
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If you like this week’s article, feel free to check out the rest of the series. The information and analysis remain relevant and you can decide for yourself how accurate my projections have been.
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