Who is the best premium striker out of Ronaldo and Lukaku in FPL and what’s the best combination? Jian Batra analyses various factors in this broad overview.
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The article below is split up into four sections in order to form a conclusion on Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) and Romelu Lukaku (£11.6m).
This will help to answer whether we should acquire both, neither or just one of them. The one thing I’d advise with this problem is to remove any biases you may hold over the two particular players.
Look at the evidence directly in front of you because from my perspective, there isn’t much of a disparity in terms of quality (Ronaldo is better but it’s not the gap it was a few years ago).
Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.5m) – FPL Ronaldo and Lukaku
It goes without saying he is one of the best players to ever grace the game. He will also, almost inevitably, be successful in his second spell.
Ronaldo will score goals, win Manchester United games they wouldn’t have won without him and increase their overall goal tally. His finishing ability is good (not exceptional), he underperformed his xG in 20/21 by 0.84.
However, whilst he is not a hindrance to himself, the players around him and the system may limit his ceiling. In turn, this devalues him as an FPL asset compared to if he played for Manchester City.
Starting with the positives; his movement is the best in the world for any forward. It will create chances for himself when other players would make nothing out of the situation.
Simply reference his second goal with his movement on the inside left channel rather than a more central one. This, in combination with his pace, ensured an avenue for a passing lane.
His heading ability is without question the best in the world. With what I saw on Saturday, the more defensive sides in the league who set up in low blocks will tailor a system by which his opportunities to get heading chances will be amplified.
A low block often crowds central spaces to limit the effect of the opposition’s central creative quality. The wingers and full backs almost become wide central midfielders and defenders positioned in the half spaces. This is exactly what Newcastle did with a 5-4-1 formation off the ball.
This creates a lot of space for Luke Shaw (£5.5m) and Aaron Wan Bissaka (£5.4m) on the flanks. In turn, they can consistently deliver the ball for Ronaldo. Shaw specifically has brilliant delivery which Ronaldo can profit from.
A mixed factor is United’s potential overreliance on Ronaldo. He often dropped between the last two lines to receive the ball and help speed up play.
This wouldn’t be a good thing for managers as you would want him in the box with Bruno Fernandes (£12.0m), Mason Greenwood (£7.7m) and Jadon Sancho (£9.2m) creating chances.
Now onto the negatives. United’s poor ball circulation was the reason Ronaldo had to drop in between the lines to receive the ball. Translate these slow patterns of play against better opposition and they could really struggle to create opportunities.
The centrebacks, Nemnja Matic (£4.5m) and Paul Pogba (£7.7m) tried to play one splitting pass far too often rather than try and build up the play at a fast tempo.
They also often stalled on the ball excessively which will allow teams to get back into shape and limit chance creation.
This tunnel vision of providing Ronaldo with the ball as much as possible forces poor decision making because there are often better avenues of opportunities with a shorter or stretching pass.
Fernandes in the Portugal side is a good example of this. His erratic passing often leads to Portugal having problems on both transitions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must implement a system where his creative players receive the ball in the half spaces quickly and consistently. This will allow his side to create numerous high quality chances.
This is why a ball playing number six would fix so many of United’s problems. It would also make Ronaldo practically essential.
Romelu Lukaku (£11.6m) – FPL Ronaldo and Lukaku
I feel Lukaku benefits from the “talisman theory” more than Ronaldo. This theory has proven to be consistent in all FPL seasons.
Chelsea’s system of the three up top means Lukaku will be involved in a large proportion of their goals. The front three comprising of himself, Kai Havertz (£8.3m) and Mason Mount (£7.5m) is arguably Tuchel’s preferred combination.
Havertz is a highly intelligent footballer. The German international often drops into pockets of space which drags defenders. As a result, this creates more space for Lukaku higher up the pitch.
It allows the ball to be played into him directly with a larger channel being opened up from the pass. Subsequently, the opportunity then arises for him to roll the defender, his signature move, and as he told Jamie Carragher once he gets you in that position “it’s finished”.
Chelsea try to utilise Lukaku as much as possible for their build up which is achieved through the Belgian’s hold up play. This, in combination with the system, is fantastic for FPL managers.
The point of getting the striker to drop in is to create space in behind the defence in wider channels by sucking in the defenders. Lukaku is so strong so it often takes two defenders to stop him creating more space naturally.
However, Chelsea’s speed comes through their wingbacks rather than the inside forwards. Their central focus is the delivery from wide areas by creating spaces which they now have.
Similar to Frank Lampard, Lukaku can now arrive late in the box unmarked for the cross. I expect Chelsea to abuse this manoeuvre to Lukaku’s and FPL manager’s benefit.
Lukaku is a top finisher and has progressed immensely in recent years. 50 goals in his last 50 games for Belgium and three goals from an xG of 1.89 so far this season.
His physicality is unmatched and as stated earlier, it brings so many other variables into play. In turn, this leads to prospective avenues for points.
The arm across the defender and the roll is a manoeuvre which allows him to create something out of nothing. Similarly, his excellent play when his back faces the goal is crucial.
Whether it’s receiving the ball in tight spaces or allowing Chelsea to go long consistently, all of these assets increases his goal involvement potential throughout the season.
He created the most chances (58) and had the most assists (11) for Inter Milan last season.
Lukaku will make the difference
Similar to Lautaro Martínez, I expect Kai Havertz and Lukaku to form an excellent partnership. When Chelsea need to play counter attacking football, this pair suits it perfectly due to intelligent runs, pace and movement.
Lukaku will be an absolute handful. The only negative I see is that he may not be on penalties. However, my gut feeling is that he will get them and he will only score more points as a result.
Alongside Mohammed Salah (£12.6m), I expect him to be a fierce contender for the golden boot.
Combinations not Individuals – FPL Ronaldo and Lukaku
FPL is a game which is relative not absolute. It is a game of combinations rather than individuals. Owning a premium player who is returning consistently doesn’t automatically equal success.
This is because your points total is just as reliant on the budget player you acquired in order to facilitate the premium.
By definition, these “budget players” are cheaper because the probability of them returning X amount of points is lower than a player who is more expensive.
These assets can’t be acquired due to the expensive nature of the premium. There are undoubtedly some cheap gems but there are also overpriced players so in the end it balances out across the game.
A theory I discussed in the Harry Kane article linked below is one which I’m still sure of. It’s the reason why having both of these two excellent assets (alongside Salah who is non-negotiable for me) isn’t justifiable.
We have a plethora of options such as Patrick Bamford (£7.9m), Michail Antonio (£7.9m). There are also cheaper ones in the near future (Adam Armstrong, £6.0m and Odsunne Edouard. £6,5m) to consider.
In combination with a lack of valuable midfield assets around that price range, it makes it difficult to balance the rest of the team.
It’s one reason why I’ve held back on my Wildcard and think going big at the back could be the way to go. I will discuss this is in more detail in a future article.
Realistic Captaincy Selection – FPL Ronaldo and Lukaku
Below are two images of their fixture runs spanning from Gameweek 5 to Gameweek 20.
Lukaku’s games are on the left, Ronaldo on the right.
If you own Salah, the captaincy is straight forward.
- Salah – Gameweek 5
- Salah – Gameweek 6
- Lukaku – Gameweek 7
- Salah/Lukaku – Gameweek 8
- Lukaku – Gameweek 9
- Salah/Lukaku – Gameweek 10
- Lukaku – Gameweek 11
- Ronaldo – Gameweek 12
- Salah – Gameweek 13
- Lukaku – Gameweek 14
- Ronaldo – Gameweek 15
- Salah/Ronaldo – Gameweek 16
- Salah/Ronaldo – Gameweek 17
- Ronaldo – Gameweek 18
- Ronaldo – Gameweek 19
- (You guessed it) Ronaldo – Gameweek 20
With premium players, you want to captain them. As evidenced in the list above, there is no overlap in captaincy rotation between Ronaldo and Lukaku. The latter starts strong and then passes the baton in the future to Ronaldo.
Conclusion – FPL Ronaldo and Lukaku
In the next seven Gameweeks, I can see Lukaku outscoring Ronaldo significantly, but certainly not the other way around.
Getting Ronaldo in now, assuming you only pick one, practically books a transfer for Gameweek 7 which is better to avoid in my opini0n.
Coming in a million cheaper, playing in a better side and more aligned with the “Talisman Theory” makes Lukaku the better option for me.
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