Neal Thurman

Player Analysis

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Impact of Lukaku and Rooney

Monday, July 10, 2017


The presumption all summer, and frankly for much longer than that, is that Romelu Lukaku would be headed back to Chelsea this summer for a silly fee.  That move would allow Chelsea to part ways with prolific-but-volatile forward Diego Costa without denting their hopes of repeating as Premier League champions while ensuring that the other title contenders had to make due with less prolific and proven options as they shopped for new forwards where needed.  Then, seeminly out of nowhere, Manchester United pushed themselves to the front of the line and secured Lukaku's signature while Chelsea stood by looking somewhat flacid.  Let's take a look at the implications in both the real Premier League and for fantasy of what went down over the weekend. 

 

Lukaku to Old Trafford

With Zlatan out injured and not being an option for at least some of the season it is silly to consider this anything but a huge win for Manchester United.  Zlatan was a great band aid to get people excited again but his age meant that he was never anything more than that.   In Lukaku, the Red Devils have a proven Premier League goal scorer who is just entering his prime.  He has all of the physical talents you would want a player to have and there are still skills that he can add and nuances to be mastered to make him better.  He was in the race for the Golden Boot at Everton last season and there's no reason to think he'll be anything but in the same boat at Old Trafford going forward.  Both on the pitch and for fantasy purposes, this is an unqualified win.  Let's see who else won and lost with this deal.

 

Winners

Henrikh Mkhitaryan - In the Premeir League these days, a starting line-up can only have so many players who aren't fleet of foot.  With Zlatan and Rooney in the line-up, Mkhitaryan didn't get as much playing time as you would have expected given his credentials because that would have made for a somewhat plodding line-up.  With Zlatan only in the picture as a potential second half reserve and Rooney packed off back to Everton, Mkhitaryan can take the place we all expected him to take last season as the primary creator who doesn't have to be particularly fast or athletic with Lukaku, Pogba, and Martial around him in the line-up.  The same could apply to Juan Mata as well but the suspicion is that Mkhitaryan gets the lion's share of the minutes.

 

Tottenham - They weren't directly involved in any of the transactions that went down over the weekend but as the owners of one Harry Kane, they are presumably breathing a sigh of relief that Manchester United have their stud young center forward for the next five to six seasons minimum.  Through a combination of financial buying power and their place in the hearts of much of the footballing world as the place England stars play, Manchester United poses a bigger threat to Kane staying at Spurs than Chelsea does.  Perhaps Chelsea will change that perception in the wake of not getting Lukaku but Kane is going to be at the center of what Spurs can achieve with their current golden generation of players and Lukaku going to Old Trafford likely reduces the chances that Manchester United will upset that particular apple cart in the near future. 

 

Ed Woodward - After a few summers as a laughing stock, he spent his way to a great summer last year at this time and this summer he has added doing so with the sort of flare that Sir Alex would appreciate because he did it at the expense of a rival who clearly wanted the same player.  It doesn't get much better than filling a massive gap in the squad while pissing off a rival and potentially weakening them at the same time.  Well, it doesn't unless you can do it twice - ball's in your court Tiemoue Bakayoko

 

Wayne Rooney - The numbers haven't been reported but presumably he got a massive payoff from United to make him affordable to Everton on the two-year contract that he signed to return to Goodison Park.  With the Toffees constructing a strong side with the funds that they knew they would likely be getting for Lukaku and the spotlight and expectations significantly lowered, Rooney could actually have a decent season.  The days of him being an all-action star are over but he still has the technical ability to be a solid "fox-in-the-box" type of center forward.  He is certainly regressing physically but the fit with the other pieces at Old Trafford over the past couple of seasons hasn't done him any favors.  

 

Mino Raiola - Because agents always win and Raiola even more so than most. 

 

Losers

Chelsea - They are the massive loser in this as they are left holding the bag with a disgruntled Diego Costa who seemingly wants to be gone from West London and no obious replacement.  The guys that Manchester United were linked with, Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti, are both still theoretically available but neither are proven in the Premier League and both look to be in the same price ballpark as Lukaku despite being unproven at the same level.  Who knows if the Diego Costa sitution can be rescued but it certainly seems like it will take some expensive making up if reports of Antonio Conte's text message to Costa telling the Brazilian-Spaniard that he was not in the club's plans for the upcoming season were accurate.  

 

Beyond the immediate dent to Chelsea's plans, the fact that Manchester United beat them to a move they clearly wanted to make could be seen as a larger denting of their armor.  Since the Blues ascended to "top club" status more than a decade ago they have used the combination of their location in London and their riches to come as close as anyone in the Premier League to having their way in the transfer market.  When they targeted young, high potential players from Arjen Robben to Didier Drogba to Petr Cech to Thibaut Courtois to Juan Mata to Eden Hazard, they typically got their man and managed to keep him for as long as they wanted.  If they swing and miss on both Lukaku and Bakayoko after seeming to be first in line for both then some serious questions will have to be raised about the health of the back office team at the club.  It's too early to say anything along these lines definitively but it is certainly worth watching.  

 

At least they confirmed the signing of Antonio Rudiger so they have something to show for their summer. 

 

Atletico Madrid (maybe) - If Chelsea don't find a suitable replacement for Lukaku then Atletico are likely to miss out on a cut rate deal for Costa who has undermined his value on the transfer market by telegraphing his intent to go to Atletico and Atletico only.  

 

Not Sure Yet

West Ham - The Hammers looked like they might be awash in options at forward with Michy Batshuayi, Olivier Giroud, and Theo Walcott all potentially available.  If the Chelsea get hung up on finding a replacement for Lukaku in the transfer market then they might be less inclined to sell Batshuayi.  Theo Walcott seems inclined to stay at Arsenal at this point.  Olivier Giroud has been rumored to be going to Everton to form something of an old age home for forwards who can sit on rocking chairs and talk about their glory days in the Champions League.  It could still all break right for West Ham but it certainly isn't as rosey an outlook as it was recently.


Fantasy

Lukaku - My take on the fantasy implications of the two moves is that Lukaku's value will be fairly similar to what it was before.  It's hard to predict someone will improve significantly on 25 goals and 6 assists over a season.  That puts him among the best forwards in any type of game you happen to be playing.  

 

Rooney - Rooney's value certainly goes up but how much will depend entirely on how optimistic you are about him and what else Everton does with the Lukaku money currently burning a hole in their pockets.  If Olivier Giroud does come in then you have to think he'll get more starts at center forward than Rooney and more goals.  If Rooney plays as more of a number 10 behind Giroud then it wouldn't be shocking to see him in the Ross Barkley range from last season with something like eight goals and eight assists.  Not enough to pick him in salary cap formats most weeks since he's likely to be expensive on name recognition alone but perhaps enough to make him valuable in draft and auction formats as a 2nd forward if the other managers in your league have soured on Rooney and leave him to the middle rounds.  The worst of all possible outcomes is Rooney, Giroud and Barkley all being at Everton well into August which will either lead to lots of job sharing or lots of uncertainty about whether Barkley will be leaving opening up starting jobs for Rooney and Giroud. 



Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
Email :Neal Thurman





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