Every 24 months a small panic envelopes the English Premier League as a handful of clubs realize they’ll be without their stars for a prolonged period of time due to the Africa Cup of Nations (and to a lesser extent the Asian Cup). Unfortunately, this offers up a conundrum for Fantasy Premier League players this time round as both Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony both make their way to Equatorial Guinea to take part.
Luckily the clubs involved have replacements at hand and there are, of course, scores of other players ready to step into fantasy teams and make a difference. What follows is a run down of who won’t be available and the players to replace them with in your FPL team.
Note: pricing listed below is for the official fantasy game of the Premier League.
Chris Herd - £4.0m
The Villa defender is one of two Aussies heading home for the Asian Cup and you probably have no idea who he is apart from the fact he’s that £4.0m man warming your FPL bench. That’s right, Herd hasn’t played a minute yet this season.
Mile Jedinak - £5.2m
Australia’s captain has had his most successful FPL season to date after scoring five goals and registering two assists in the opening 19 games of the season. Those five goals are the most by any Palace player and at the back his presence will be sorely missed, as his 3.8 interceptions per game is the best in the Premier League, 3.6 tackles fourth-best and 4.6 aerial duels won also fourth-best.
Replace him with: George Boyd (Burnley) £4.6m
Burnley have been a surprise package in recent weeks and the team’s schedule of QPR (H), Crystal Palace (H), and Sunderland (A) while Jedinak is away makes Boyd a shoo-in as a replacement that will score points. The winger-cum-playmaker has four goals to rank second at the club behind Danny Ings, and he has an assist to-boot.
Yannick Bolasie – £5.5m
Jedinak and goalkeeper Julian Speroni are the only players at Palace to have scored more fantasy points than Bolasie and they have Wilfried Zaha as a ready-made replacement, though Bolasie’s explosive power is hard to replicate. He leads the team with three assists and attempts a team-high 2.7 dribbles per game, 2.3 shots per game, and has been fouled more than any other player at the club (1.7 times per game).
Replace him with: James Milner (Manchester City) £5.4m
City are another side that will be hard hit by the departure of Yaya Toure and this will result in Milner seeing more minutes. The Englishman has been quietly going about his business this season and is tied first on the team in assists (six, five in Premier League play), despite playing just 996 minutes (13th-most at City). Everton (A), Arsenal (H), and Chelsea (A) aren’t the easiest trio of fixtures, but City have scored a joint-high 44 goals in the league and will get more.
Christian Atsu – £5.7m
Chelsea-loanee Atsu has been nothing more than a bench-warmer for Everton this season after manager Roberto Martinez signed him in the hope he would be this year’s Gerard Deulofeu.
Jeff Schlupp - £4.5m
It speaks volumes for Schlupp’s offensive ability that he is the third-highest points scorer on a team that has tallied just three clean sheets all season, even though he’s a defender on FPL. The wing-back has scored three goals plus one assist, has attempted 1.9 dribbles per game (second behind Riyad Mahrez), and is third in shots per game with 1.4.
Replace him with: Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland) £4.2m
Chances are if you have Schlupp then you’ll be bringing him straight back in as soon as Ghana are out of the AFCON. That in mind, van Aanholt’s return to full-fitness is a gamble worth taking given that he contributed two assists in just 10 games early this season and loves to bomb forward. Liverpool (H) and Tottenham (A) are ideal chances for the former-Chelsea youth player to build on his numbers.
Riyad Mahrez - £4.9m
Leicester have problems further up the pitch, as their second-best contributor in the attacking third also makes his way to the AFCON. Mahrez has two goals and three assists, yet that only tells part of the story, as he leads the side in shots per game (2.4), key passes (1.4), dribbles (2.5) and crosses (1.2). The Foxes have Anthony Knockaert and Marc Albrighton waiting to replace Mahrez, and Leicester will want Algeria’s involvement at the AFCON to be kept to a minimum.
Replace him with: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) £4.8m
After spending 10 games out injured already this season, the diminutive playmaker is now back into full swing. In the five games since his return he has four assists and thankfully in the same price bracket as Mahrez. Away games at Manchester United and Newcastle are tough asks, though Ronald Koeman’s side rarely fail to score or impress.
Kolo Toure - £4.7m
Toure’s return to the starting XI at the end of November has signaled a return to form for Brendan Rodgers’ side with only one loss in the seven league games that the Ivorian has appeared in. The big man’s stats aren’t anything to write home about and it’s his influence on the rest of the defense that makes his absence a worrying one for Liverpool fans.
Replace him with: Sebastien Pocognoli (West Brom) £4.3m
Tony Pulis’ arrival as head coach gives the whole club a lift and this will be felt by a back-four that was one of the better parts of the team under former-manager Alan Irvine. West Brom’s run of games against Hull (H), Everton (A), and Spurs (H) present very real clean sheet opportunities, and Pocognoli’s propensity to get forward means that assists are in the cards.
Yaya Toure - £10.9m
Toure was the top-scoring player in FPL last season behind Luis Suarez, though this year has been a disappointing one thus far. That said, the Ivorian has come to life over his last eight games, scoring all but one of his seven goals in those games and has dragged City kicking-and-screaming to the summit of the Premier League. Frank Lampard and James Milner look likely to get more minutes while Toure is away on international duty for a tough run of games against Everton (A), Arsenal (H), and Chelsea (A).
Replace him with: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) £10.7m
Having Toure’s money in the bank leaves only Alexis Sanchez out of reach among FPL midfielders and Hazard is the next-best option with eight goals and five assists already this season. It’s a no brainer.
Papiss Cisse - £5.6m
Leading the line off the bench has become second nature to Cisse, and Newcastle’s new boss, whomever that may be, will miss his presence during January. Cisse’s nine goals in just 635 minutes across 13 appearances have come at a league best 1.3 goals per 90 minutes that will be hard for the likes of Ayoze Perez, Adam Armstrong or Emmanuel Riviere to replicate.
Replace him with: Harry Kane (Tottenham) £5.6m
There are a clutch of strikers at this price point that are currently in a rich vein of form, and no-one has been more impressive than Kane. His 18 FPL points last week against Chelsea came from two goals and two assists, and fixtures against Crystal Palace (A), Sunderland (H), and West Brom (A) guarantee more goals for the homegrown talent.
Cheick Tiote - £4.3m
Anyone that has even a passing interest in Newcastle knows that Tiote is not someone to be messed with in the midfield and that fact alone means he has very low value for FPL players. His low price means he has a place on the bench for most FPL managers and no one will be losing any sleep due to his departure.
Sadio Mane - £6.5m
The winger-cum-striker’s indifferent form at the start of the season put many off Mane, yet those that stayed the course have been rewarded in recent games with superlative form. Mane has three goals and one assist in his last trio of matches against tough opponents in Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal, and is second on the team with four strikes this season. Southampton have brought in Eljero Elia as a replacement and already have Shane Long that can play the same position.
Replace him with: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham) £6.4m
Another surprise package at White Hart Lane is one of Andre Villas-Boas’ signings, and Chadli’s seven goals and five assists will have surprised even the most optimistic of Spurs fans. As we mentioned earlier, Spurs have a fairly easy January and Chadli’s link-up play with those ahead of him mean that assists and goals are always on the cards.
Maya Yoshida – £4.2m
Yoshida has played his role as a squad player at Southampton so far this season and chipped in with a valuable 33 points that will have brought a smile to anyone that has him on the bench. His departure won’t hit Ronald Koeman’s men that hard, unless injuries unexpectedly hit his other first-choice defenders.
Emmanuel Mayuka – £4.8m
Mayuka has appeared just five times this season as a substitute and will not be missed by Koeman or FPL managers.
Mame Diouf - £6.1m
Diouf arrived in the summer and has surprised many by topping the team’s scoring charts with five goals while laying on another two for his team-mates. His departure for a month leaves a big hole and means that Mark Hughes’ team will be reliant on Bojan, Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters.
Replace him with: Danny Ings (Burnley) £5.6m
It’s no coincidence that since Ings returned to Sean Dyche’s side they have looked like having a real chance at survival with the England man contributing five goals and three assists already this season. Games against QPR (H), Crystal Palace (H), and Sunderland (A) provide the chance to increase these numbers.
Ki Sung-yueng – £5.0m
Ki has gone about his business in the Swansea midfield quietly as Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wilfried Bony, et al have fired the Welsh side toward the higher climbs of the Premier League. He does have three goals and one assist in his own right and will be replaced by Tom Carroll in midfield.
Replace him with: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) £4.8m
Wilfried Bony – £8.4m
Bony’s days at Swansea may well be behind him if transfer tittle-tattle is to be believed, and his nine goals have powered Swansea in the headier climbs of the Premier League. The Ivorian will be replaced by Bafetimbi Gomis during the AFCON and beyond, leaving a huge gap in the goal department for the top flight’s only Welsh club.
Replace him with: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) £7.9m
The Belgian has not started firing on all cylinders since his return from a long-term injury with just two goals and an assist, but a run of fixtures in January against Leicester (A), Liverpool (H), and Arsenal (A) come at a good time for him to remedy that poor form.
Nabil Bentaleb – £4.4m
In 10 starts, the Algerian has just 21 FPL points and, though his presence in the center of midfield has kick-started Spurs’ season, he is an almost non-event when it comes to fantasy managers.
Cheikhou Kouyate – £4.9m
With Diafro Sakho ruled out through injury and Alex Song announcing his international retirement, Kouyate is West Ham’s sole absentee to either tournament. In his first season at Upton Park, the defensive-minded midfielder has just one goal and two assists, and will be a big miss for the high-flying Hammers, but is yet another player that won’t be on many FPL teams.
Youssouf Mulumbu – £4.6m
Mulumbu is expected to be a key player under new manager Tony Pulis in protecting the back four, yet his departure won’t be particularly worrying for any FPL players.
Jason Davidson – £4.3m
The Aussie wing back transferred to the Hawthorns in the summer and has played just twice so far this season.