Our final look through the Fantasy Premier League price list focuses on forwards priced at £9.0m or above. Having assessed the various budget and mid-price striking options available in FPL this season (as well as the goalkeepers, budget defenders, mid-price/premium defenders, budget midfielders, mid-price midfielders and premium midfielders), we weigh up the pros and cons of the nine premium forwards currently available to Fantasy managers.
The temptation to pack a top-heavy Fantasy squad with big hitters in attack is always strong, but the first month of the 2018/19 campaign will be a minefield for those choosing to do so.
Six of the premium picks in attack represented their countries at the World Cup this summer and their pre-seasons at club level have been consequently affected. The early-season availability of Harry Kane (£12.5m), Romelu Lukaku (£11.0m) and Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) is of particular concern, given that their respective nations progressed to the last four of the tournament in Russia.
Sergio Aguero (£11.0m), Gabriel Jesus (£10.5m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) have yet to feature for their clubs in pre-season friendlies, meanwhile, but have at least begun training at Manchester City and Liverpool.
That leaves Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m) and Alvaro Morata (£9.0m) as the only heavy-hitters to have had a full pre-season with their clubs, but this trio are not without their drawbacks either – as we will discuss.
The Nine at £9.0m+
As the most expensive forward option of this season and the highest-scoring one of last, it seems appropriate to start our analysis with Harry Kane.
While a total of 217 FPL points was seven short of his record in 2016/17, Kane matched his goal tally of 29 (technically beating it) and now has 104 strikes to his name in his last four seasons with Tottenham Hotspur.
Kane’s minutes-per-chance average of 16.8 was the best in the top flight among regular first-team players, while the World Cup Golden Boot winner had more goal attempts (184) than any Premier League player last season and almost twice as many as any forward.
No striker had or scored more big chances than Kane, either.
Kane returns to training on August 6, just five days before Spurs travel to Newcastle United for their 2018/19 curtain-raiser. While Kane himself has stated that he hopes to be involved in the trip to St James’ Park, that may well be as an impact substitute at best. Fernando Llorente (£6.0m) has played a prominent role for Spurs in pre-season, suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino is preparing for the trip to the north-east with an alternative spearhead to the Spurs attack in mind.
Then, of course, there is the infamous “August drought”. It’s now 13 matches and counting without a goal in August for Kane, though this bizarre run seems statistically unlikely to continue: Kane had a remarkable 24 attempts on goal during the first month of 2017/18 without finding the back of the net.
Despite the August albatross around his neck and the fact that Spurs play five of their first seven league matches away from north London this season, Kane is still in high demand among FPL managers. The England forward currently sits in over a third of Fantasy squads, with only Roberto Firmino proving a more popular buy in attack.
Liverpool’s appealing opening fixtures – the Reds entertain West Ham and Brighton in the first three Gameweeks – have helped entice over 36% of FPL managers into purchasing the Brazilian forward, who only played a total of 82 minutes in the World Cup for his country.
Firmino’s 15 league strikes last season was his best goal return in a Liverpool shirt and helped the Brazilian striker to a personal high of 181 points in FPL.
Firmino’s all-round play boosted his fortunes on the Bonus Points System (BPS), meanwhile. The Liverpool striker created more chances (57) than any other forward in 2017/18 and sat second in his classification for successful tackles (65). Kane (31) was the only player to accrue more bonus points than Firmino (29), who even out-scored Mohamed Salah for BPS returns.
While the acquisition of Xherdan Shaqiri is cause for concern, Firmino largely avoided rotation last season and appeared in 37 of the Reds’ matches – more than any other team-mate. Only Salah was named in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI more often, with Firmino’s five appearances off the bench mainly down to late-season progress in the Champions League and a congested Christmas schedule.
Firmino’s chances of featuring in Gameweek 1 have been talked up by Klopp in recent days, with the Brazilian already back in training with the Reds.
The possibility of Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly featuring in Manchester United’s opening match against Leicester City has been raised in recent days, with manager Jose Mourinho revealing that the Belgian forward has cut short his post-World Cup break in order to be ready for next weekend.
Lukaku’s FPL haul in 2017/18 (162 points) was his worst in three seasons, though the former Everton striker still found the back of the net on 16 occasions and set up a further seven goals.
The Belgian forward provided a steady drip-feed of points, with his opening-day brace against West Ham the only match in which he scored more than once. That inability to “explode” is Lukaku’s main criticism as an FPL asset although his consistent returns are under-appreciated: the United striker never went more than three fixtures last season without being involved in a league goal.
Kane and Sergio Aguero were the only FPL forwards to have more attempts on goal and shots in the box than Lukaku last season. The Belgian is as nailed a pick as any premium forward when fit: 33 of his 34 league appearances last season (he missed four fixtures through injury) were as a member of Mourinho’s starting XI.
One World Cup participant who probably won’t feature in Gameweek 1 – or at least start – is Jamie Vardy. The Leicester City striker will return to training on Monday but, with the Foxes in action on Friday night in the Premier League curtain-raiser, manager Claude Puel has admitted that his side will likely be without Vardy and defender Harry Maguire following their late summer break.
A return for the Gameweek 2 match against Wolves would seem a more realistic target and the England striker is a name to consider from this point, given that Leicester also face the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Everton in the weeks after their meeting with the newly promoted West Midlands club.
Vardy was the second-highest scoring forward in FPL last season, with his 20 goals and two assists helping him to a total points haul of 183.
Like Lukaku and Kane, Vardy is a name that Fantasy managers can rely on for starts. The Leicester goal-getter started all but one of Leicester’s 38 league matches last season, only missing the New Year’s Day clash with Huddersfield through injury.
It should be noted that Vardy’s 20 league strikes came from just 71 attempts on goal last season, a lower number of shots than Lukaku and Firmino – who finished with inferior goal totals – had.
As a result, Vardy’s goal conversion rate of 28.2% was one of the best in the division – of the Premier League forwards who scored more than one goal, only Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang converted a higher proportion of his shots into goals.
The concern from an FPL point of view is Leicester’s inability to carve out chances for Vardy at the same rate as his premium forward rivals. Of the nine players priced up at £9.0m or above, Vardy’s minutes-per-chance rate was by far the worst (one every 45.8 minutes). The arrival of James Maddison could help address that issue, although Riyad Mahrez‘s departure is a blow given the pair’s almost telepathic understanding.
With Olivier Giroud still not back from his post-World Cup break and Chelsea yet to bolster their striking ranks with just five days of the transfer window remaining (reported target Gonzalo Higuain has joined Milan from Juventus), Alvaro Morata appears set to start the season as the focal point of the Blues attack in Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation.
The Spanish striker has indeed started all three of Chelsea’s pre-season fixtures ahead of their Community Shield meeting with Manchester City, although his sole attacking return was an assist for Pedro’s goal in the 1-1 draw with Inter Milan.
Morata’s torrid display in the draw with Arsenal last week – the Chelsea striker missed from the spot and spurned two other excellent chances – gives cause for concern, although that his wife had just given birth to twins might be cited as mitigating circumstances.
Sarri’s reputation for cultivating an attacking mindset in his players means that Chelsea’s FPL assets are more appealing than they had been under Antonio Conte last season, particularly with their favourable-looking run of fixtures from Gameweeks 1-6.
The jury is still out on Morata, however, given his so-so debut season in the Premier League. The 2017/18 campaign had begun well for the former Real Madrid man, with nine of his 11 goals being scored in the first 15 Gameweeks. With only two league goals since early-December, however, the Spanish international – who missed out on a place in his country’s World Cup squad – has much to do to convince Fantasy managers of his worth.
No premium forward missed more big chances that Morata last season, while his goal conversion rate of 13.9% was the worst among the nine forwards being analysed in this piece.
The four remaining heavy-hitters up front play for two clubs.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have both enjoyed World Cup-free summers and a prolific pre-season under new Arsenal manager Unai Emery. The pair have a combined 11 goals to their names across the six friendlies the Gunners have contested so far (their final warm-up game against Sevilla happening later today), with Lacazette edging his Gabonese strike partner by one goal.
With Emery seemingly set on a 4-3-3 formation, there is only room for one of Arsenal’s premium picks in the centre-forward role.
Lacazette had begun the summer as the focal point of the Arsenal attack, with Aubameyang stationed wide left to accommodate the Frenchman. The matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea featured Aubameyang as the out-and-out striker, however, with Lacazette starting both fixtures on the bench. That the former Lyon striker emerged as a second-half substitute to score in both of those matches, while Aubameyang blanked, further complicates the picture.
Aubameyang looks the more nailed pick for FPL managers considering an Arsenal forward for their appealing run of fixtures from Gameweeks 3-10, although Fantasy bosses should of course be prepared for the Gabonese striker to be deployed on the flank should Emery turn to Lacazette from the start.
Aubameyang’s end-of-season cameo promised much for this campaign. His goal conversion rate of 32.3% was the best of the premium forwards being discussed in this piece, with his ten league goals in an Arsenal shirt coming from just 13 appearances. No striker scored more goals than the former Borussia Dortmund striker after his debut in Gameweek 26.
Lacazette scored 14 goals from 36 appearances (six of which were as a substitute) and his average minutes-per-chance mean was better than that of Aubameyang’s. The nagging doubts over Lacazette’s ability to string a series of starts together under Emery, though, mean that the French forward’s FPL ownership is currently only at 4.6%; Aubameyang, by contrast, sits in 23.5% of Fantasy squads.
Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have both returned to Manchester City training after their somewhat unspectacular summers in Russia, though the pair hadn’t featured in pre-season ahead of City’s Community Shield meeting with Chelsea on Sunday.
Jesus started all five of Brazil’s World Cup matches, but Aguero played only 178 minutes of football for Argentina in the tournament and would perhaps be the likelier to start in the Gameweek 1 match against Arsenal.
Manchester City assets look like a necessity for their run of fixtures from Gameweek 2 onwards (the Citizens play all six of the most-recently promoted clubs in a row), but the impact of the World Cup on City’s pre-season has dampened the Fantasy community’s enthusiasm for Aguero and Jesus, whose combined FPL ownership is less than that of Firmino, Kane and Aubameyang.
Rotation concerns are another factor, given that Guardiola played with one central striker for much of last season. The return to fitness of Benjamin Mendy, however, raises the question of whether Guardiola will revert to the 3-5-2 formation that he started with in 2017/18 before the French left-back sustained a season-wrecking knee injury. The prospect of Aguero and Jesus playing in tandem once again is an appealing one for FPL managers, not least because it would ease the worries about which of the premium forwards would start on any given week.
The sheer number of options available to Guardiola in midfield and attack, however, means that we can never be as confident about Jesus and Aguero’s minutes as we can with Kane, Lukaku et al.
No FPL forward scored more points per match than Aguero (6.8) in 2017/18 and the Argentinean striker scored 20+ goals for the fourth season in a row. Of the premium forwards in this piece, only Kane had more attempts on goal or a better minutes-per-chance rate than Aguero.
Jesus, who finished on 13 league goals last season, posed less of a goal threat in general (having 56 shots to Aguero’s 94) but no premium forward had a better minutes-per-big chance rate (one every 64.3 minutes) than the Brazilian striker.
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