Having analysed the Goalkeepers, Defenders and Midfielders, we roll out the final piece in our series of Wildcard articles by focusing on the forwards. Factoring in the upcoming double Gameweeks, we look at short-term and long haul options across the price ranges, from cut-price alternatives all the way up to the premium protagonists on offer…
Robin Van Persie
Slotting in seamlessly to life at United, the Dutchman has continued the sensational displays that kept him head and shoulders above any other Fantasy asset last time round. While many other Fantasy prospects are capable of frustrating in any given Gameweek, Van Persie has scored or assisted in 16 of his 18 starts – highlighting the security and armband consistency that comes with his acquisition. With goals in seven of his last eight, his thirst for Fantasy points is as relentless as ever and while a 14.1 price tag is steeper than any other player by some distance, his performances so far have shown just why.
Second only to Van Persie in the FPL standings, the Liverpool forward has finally translated his Opta statistics into Fantasy returns this season. Fifteen goals and five assists over 20 appearances, in addition to 19 bonus points, has earned Suarez 127 points already – just nine less than his tally for the previous campaign. He does have a tendency to frustrate, however; with nine of those strikes arriving over four matches, Suarez has drawn blanks in eight of his 20 appearances, with a goal or assist in just six of his 11 matches at Anfield demonstrating the armband risk in comparison to Van Persie. The arrival Daniel Sturridge is expected to see a change in role for Suarez, with the Uruguayan moving either to the flank or “the hole” in order to accommodate the new boy – his talents should prosper regardless, however, and at 10.4 he’s proven superb value thus far. Suarez has a tricky upcoming run of fixtures on the horizon, with trips to United, Arsenal and City in the next four, but his sensational festive form is unlikely to deter investors – he averaged over 10 points per game across Liverpool’s last four matches. The Reds’ schedule picks up significantly from Gameweek 26 onwards, for those who are reluctant to jump on board with the Wildcard but perhaps plan for acquisition later.
The former Newcastle man has proven the most popular Fantasy target since the end of Gameweek 21, with a massive 170,000+ snapping up Ba ahead of Chelsea’s double with Stoke and Southampton. While Rafa Benitez’s rotational whims could very well scupper our best laid plans, Fantasy managers will be hoping that a brief 10 minute sub appearance against Swansea in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup defeat is an indication of Benitez’s intention to start Ba against Stoke on Saturday. In spite of his limited game time in the 2-0 loss, Ba showed more hunger and threat than Fernando Torres mustered in the previous 80 minutes and while the Spaniard is surely set to cut into Ba’s minutes over the double, Benitez can surely ill-afford to omit a forward on the top of his game right now, following back-to-back home defeats in all competitions. After the double, the Blues have four home games (ARS, WIG, WBA, WHM) and trips to Reading and Fulham in the following eight Gameweeks – it may well be that Benitez’s rotation will have dented his prospects by then but heading into this weekend’s deadline without the 8.7 priced forward is a potentially dangerous tactic.
The best value forward in the FPL game so far, Lambert has made a mockery of his initial 6.0 price tag and despite sitting sixth in the forward standings, has risen just 0.3 in price this term. A double Gameweek 22 sees Southampton travel to Villa and Chelsea and with goals in three of his last four on the road, Lambert has been in fine away form. With a home clash against Everton and a trip to Wigan in his next four, Lambert looks a strong short-term option – given his consistency, though, he could be worth holding onto beyond this spell, with goals against City and United earlier in the season highlighting his potential to produce.
Two sets of double figure returns in his last four is indicative of the German international’s recent form ahead of Arsenal’s double Gameweek 23. Podolski has flown under Fantasy radars, with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla shaping up as the main protagonists for the Gunners’ games against Chelsea and West Ham next week but his recent exploits suggest he may deserve our attentions. With five home fixtures in the next six Gameweeks (MCI, che & WHM,LIV, STO, sun, AVL) he looks a decent mid-price shout at just 8.2.
The departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea is set to boost his compatriot’s potential over the remainder of the season as Alan Pardew looks to last winter’s signing to fire Newcastle up the table. Cisse has suffered from a change in role this term – Pardew’s decision to field Ba in a central role, either in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 has proved hugely detrimental to his prospects, with the former Freiburg man shuffled out to the flank when the Magpies manager opted for a lone striker system. Clearly, the central role in a 4-3-3 suits Cisse –13 goals in 14 appearances in the latter part of last season attests to his abilities and with Pardew looking to return to this system, the 8.8 priced forward is back on Fantasy radars ahead of a run of fixtures that sees him square up to Norwich, Reading, Villa and Southampton in the next six Gameweeks.
Having started all but one of his side’s league matches this term, the 8.5 priced forward has been an integral part of his side’s march into third place in the league and with 97 points accrued, he sits in fifth spot in the forward standings, with 10 goals and four assists to his name thus far. A cheaper, if somewhat less explosive Tottenham option than Gareth Bale, Defoe won’t be deterred by four away trips in the next six (qpr, nor, wba, whm) – Spurs are the second top scoring away side have racked up 22 goals in their travels so far.
Three goals in his last couple of starts bring the Bosnian into the reckoning as a decent short-term punt. While Sergio Aguero’s “should” return next weekend from a hamstring problem, according to Roberto Mancini, Dzeko could well retain his starting berth ahead of Carlos Tevez, given his recent form. With games against Fulham, QPR and Southampton in the next five, the 7.4 priced Dzeko could well offer an in-form mid-price route into the champions’ frontline over the next few Gameweeks, though his manager’s penchant for rotation up top means his acquisition doesn’t come without risk.
Currently the seventh top scoring forward in the FPL game with 94 points, Fletcher remains something of a differential, with just 5% ownership. The 7.0 priced forward is set for an enticing run of fixtures which hands him five home games (WHM, SWA, ARS, FUL, NOR) in addition to trips to Reading, Wigan and QPR in the next nine – affording him plenty opportunity to add to his current haul of eight goals and three assists. Bonus point potential also plays a significant part in Fletcher’s prospects – so far, only Van Persie’s tally of 25 is superior to Fletcher’s 20; the Black Cats have never lost a league game when Fletcher has netted, a sign of his importance to their attacking cause.
Dimitar Berbatov/ Bryan Ruiz
Bryan Ruiz’s recent return from injury has made an instant impact on the Bulgarian’s Fantasy prospects. Shifted into the more advanced forward slot, with the Costa Ruiz tucking in behind, Berbatov has produced a goal or assist in each of his last three, having previously gone seven Gameweeks without a goal or assist as a result of a more withdrawn role. Up next, he has three favourable home games in the next six (WIG, WHM, STO) to help Martin Jol’s side climb the table after a recent run of poor results – averaging 5.1 points per game so far, in spite of the aforementioned drought, Berbatov’s 7.1 price tag looks enticing, while Ruiz also offers potential. Coming in at a mere 5.4, he will appeal to those looking at a 3-5-2 formation going forward – Ruiz has scored or assisted in eight of his 12 appearances and has averaged 4.8 ppg, suggesting he’s more than just a squad filler.
The one real positive of a hugely underwhelming season for Villa so far, the Belgian could be the difference between top-flight survival and a drop to the Championship. Since Benteke made his debut in Gameweek 4, Villa have scored 15 goals – the 6.7 priced forward has played a part in 10 of those strikes, with six goals and four assists helping him accumulate 10 FPL bonus points. With three home games in the next five (SOT, NEW, WHM) in addition to a trip to neighbours West Brom, Benteke looks a decent short-term acquisition in the mid-price bracket, with an ownership of 3.4% highlighting his differential appeal.
A price of just 5.0 could well appeal to those eyeing up a cut-price forward to free up budget for five premium midfielders. Since establishing a regular role in the Stoke first XI in Gameweek 14, Jones has scored or assisted in all four of his home appearances, racking up 31 points at the Britannia – on the road, he has failed to deliver, making his easy to bench when the Potters are on their travels. With four favourable home fixtures in the next nine (WIG, RDG, WHM, WBA), the Trinidadian could be a real differential prospect, with an ownership of less than 1%.
The Reading forward is another who has found his way into some Wildcard teams on site due to the recent trend for a 3-5-2 alternative. Pogrebnyak seems to have cemented his place in the Royals’ first XI once again and has started the last five, finding the net in each of his previous two Gameweeks. Priced at a mere 4.3 in FPL, he frees up plenty budget to be spent elsewhere, and with four favourable home games in the next eight (WBA, SUN, WIG, AVL), Pogrebnyak looks a viable pick if he continues his recent form and maintains his starts.
Wigan’s loan signing from United is perhaps more of a punt, though is another who may appeal to those eyeing up a 3-5-2. Henriquez is likely to be afforded game time in light of Arouna Kone’s African Cup of Nations departure and coming in at just 4.5 in FPL, could be an intriguing cut-price alternative, with home clashes against Sunderland and Stoke and trips to Fulham and Reading in the next six Gameweeks.