This evening’s article in the ninth in our ongoing assessment of the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) Player List. Having previously published articles on Goalkeepers, Budget, Mid-Price and Premium Defenders, followed by Budget, Mid-Price and Premium Midfielders, we turned our attentions to Budget Forwards the other day. Next up, then, we look at what’s on offer in the mid-price forward bracket.
Gabby Agbonlahor’s progress over the last few months of the previous campaign suggest the Villa forward may be a viable option at just 7.0. Despite playing on the left of the front three, Agbonlahor still managed to rack up nine goals and six assists after a slow start – a total of 117 points, while not overly impressive, was his highest haul since 2009/10. For those unwilling to shell out 9.0 for Christian Benteke, Agbonlahor remains a mid-price option with a double Gameweek 1 also to consider – with Arsenal and Chelsea, Liverpool, a blank Gameweek 3 and City in the opening six, though, the schedule has hardly been kind to Paul Lambert’s side. Languishing in the Villa reserves, Darren Bent, at a mere 6.5, will surely find his way onto Fantasy radars if his mooted move to Newcastle comes to fruition – Fulham are also in the hunt, with Martin Jol admitting on Sunday he is keen to bolster his forward options for the season ahead.
Coming in at 8.0, Romelu Lukaku has the potential to be a real bargain if he gets the nod as Chelsea’s main forward under Jose Mourinho. With 17 goals and seven assists in just 2,005 minutes at West Brom last term, the big Belgian proved his Premier League capabilities but with Fernando Torres and Demba Ba (and possibly Wayne Rooney) as competition, there’s no doubt his acquisition still comes with uncertainty attached right now. Having produced four goals and two assists in 135 minutes over the Blues’ pre-season friendlies, though, Lukaku has already earned plenty praise for Mourinho and, while many may prefer the security offered by the more expensive Juan Mata and Eden Hazard in midfield, there’s no doubt that Lukaku has the potential to plunder the points in double Gameweek 1 at home to Hull and Villa.
Arouna Kone’s arrival at Everton seems to bode well for his security of game time. New Toffees boss Roberto Martinez clearly has great faith in the Ivorian’s talents and moved quickly to secure his services after he produced 11 goals and five assists under the Spaniard at Wigan last term. Coming in at just 7.0, the new boy is more budget-friendly than Nikica Jelavic (7.5), though the latter’s double in the weekend win over Blackburn suggests Kone may have a fight on his hands to nail down the lone forward role. Midfielders Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar offer out of position alternatives if Martinez continues to roll out a front three.
The pricing has been kind to Dimitar Berbatov this time out. Fulham’s main man comes in at 7.5 despite scoring 15 goals and providing four assists in his debut season at the Cottage – with spot-kicks in his locker and starts undoubtedly guaranteed, the Bulgarian remains strong value this time out. The potential downside, though, is Martin Jol’s pursuit of a new forward – Berbatov may be moved into a more withdrawn role depending on the type of player his manager acquires; a little concerning, given his returns dried up when fielded in “the hole” as a result of an injury to Bryan Ruiz last term.
Liverpool new boy Iago Aspas looks an intriguing option at a mere 7.0, though the uncertainty surrounding Luis Suarez’s future has a knock-on effect on his potential. With Philippe Coutinho first-choice for the left flank berth, many feel Aspas will be handed the slot on the opposite wing, with Suarez tucking in behind Daniel Sturridge in a 4-2-3-1 but the Spaniard is more than capable of taking up a central position, having produced 12 goals and seven assists as the lone striker for Celta Vigo last season.
A move away for Suarez would be significant and could see Aspas positioned in the middle of the park, with the likes of Luis Alberto, Stewart Downing and Fabio Borini vying for the right flank role. With Suarez suspended for Liverpool’s opening six matches and Sturridge yet to return to pre-season training, Aspas could yet start the campaign as the Reds lone frontman as he looks to continue the form that has seen him already notched three times through the middle this pre-season.
The recent double arrival of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic looked to signal the beginning of the end for Edin Dzeko but the Bosnian has risen to the challenge, netting the winner in each of City’s last two matches. Having earned the praise of Manuel Pellegrini on the back of his performances, it seems that Dzeko will still earn game time but with Sergio Aguero also in the mix, the former’s lack of guaranteed starts from one game to the next will surely be enough to deter much investment, in spite of a 7.5 price tag.
Both Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck have been handed a 7.5 price tag but despite the change of manager at Old Trafford, in addition to the potential departure of Wayne Rooney, their game time looks limited unless David Moyes opts for a front two. Should Moyes roll out his preferred lone striker system, the duo will remain firmly behind Robin Van Persie in the pecking order; with a reliance on minutes off the bench and the occasional start, neither player appeals in the present situation.
Yoan Gouffran was utilised in “the hole” in a 4-2-3-1 and out wide up top in a 4-3-3 for Newcastle last time out. Despite being fielded through the middle in pre-season due to Papiss Cisse’s ongoing dispute with the club, the Frenchman is expected to revert to one of the aforementioned positions in the upcoming campaign – a security of starts may be likely but the 6.5 priced Gouffran should struggle for goals from a more withdrawn berth.
Norwich’s summer acquisitions,Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, come in at 6.5 and 7.0 respectively. Bearing in mind Chris Hughton has splashed out over £13m on the pair, their arrival certainly hints at a change in formation this term as the Canaries boss puts greater emphasis on attack and moves from last season’s 4-4-1-1 to a 4-4-2 in order to address the lack of attacking threat that harvested just 41 goals in his first year at the helm. With home games against Everton, Southampton and Villa, in addition to a trip to Hull, the Carrow Road club have a kind opening run of matches, with the creativity of Robert Snodgrass (6.5) offering us a real alternative in midfield as the Scot looks to better last term’s 152 point haul in his debut campaign.
Rickie Lambert remains favourably priced at Southampton. Having racked up 15 goals, eight assists and 32 bonus points in his first season in the top-flight, Lambert finished third top scoring forward on 187 points – in spite of his previous endeavours, he will take up just 7.5 of your budget and looks nailed-on, though his owners will be monitoring the club’s reported interest in Brazilian Leandro Damiao. Jay Rodriguez offers a cheaper route (6.0) into the Saints forward line and certainly came into form under Mauricio Pochettino in the second half of the season but with spot-kicks and a share of set-pieces also in his locker, Lambert makes a persuasive case for his potential inclusion on our three man frontlines. Given that the Saints’ first seven home games are against Sunderland, West Ham, Palace, Swansea, Fulham, Hull and Villa, plenty are expected to invest in their attack from the off.
Sunderland pair Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore will set you back 7.5 and 7.0 respectively. Recent report now suggest Fletcher may be set to miss the start of the new season as he continues to recuperate from the ankle injury that ended his previous campaign early – if he fails to return until September, new boys looks set to lead the line for the season opener, with Paolo Di Canio operating a 4-4-1-1 until Fletcher is fully fit. Certainly, having managed double figure goal returns in all three of his seasons in the Premier League, the Scot’s eye for goal could come to the fore once again upon his return, while Altidore arrives on the back of a season which harvested 31 goals and seven assists in 39 domestic matches for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. The new boy certainly seems to have progressed from the player that struggled on loan at Hull in 2009/10 but with Arsenal, Liverpool, United, City, Chelsea and Spurs arriving at the Stadium of Light between Gameweeks 4-15, many will be giving the Black Cats a wide berth to begin with.
Similar to Altidore, Wilfried Bony racked up the goals with regularity in the Eredivisie last year. The new Swansea forward found the net 31 times and also supplied eight assists in just 30 league matches and looks virtually nailed-on as the lone forward for Michael Laudrup’s side – at 8.0 he’s kinder on the budget than Michu (9.0) in midfield and may even be handed spot-kicks. With United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal in the opening six Gameweeks, though, there are surely better options to shop for in terms of the schedule.
A mere five goals in 25 appearances highlights the Fantasy impact of Emmanuel Adebayor (8.0) in the season gone by. Having racked up 194 in 2011/12, the Togo international stuttered to a mere 72 points after making his loan move to the Lane a permanent one – while he still looks ahead of Jermaine Defoe in the pecking order for the lone forward role, Adebayor will surely be resigned to a sub role if Andre Villas-Boas manages to acquire Roberto Soldado from Valencia.
At 6.5, Shane Long is the priciest option on offer amongst West Brom’s forwards after producing eight goals and six assists in 2012/13. The Baggies entertain Southampton, Swansea and Sunderland in the first five and also travel to Fulham – a kind run of fixtures, no doubt, but with Nicolas Anelka priced at a mere 5.5, Long looks set to be overlooked by many due to the Frenchman’s more budget-friendly cost.
Finally, West Ham’s Andy Carroll is another who looks guaranteed for starts – providing he’s injury-free. Coming in at 7.5, Carroll has been handed an outstanding opening six fixtures (CAR, new, STO, sot, EVE, hul) and, after a slow start for Sam Allardyce’s side last term, picked up in performance over the last couple of months. If Carroll can recover from a heel problem in time, he could be quick out the blocks in light of such a favourable schedule but with question marks remaining over his fitness, Kevin Nolan offers a cheaper alternative (7.0) in the Hammers midfield for those looking to capitalise on the Hammers early schedule.