Pre-Season

Assessing the premium FPL forward options in 2019/20

There are some notable price changes among the premium forwards in Fantasy Premier League this season.

Perhaps the stand-out name is Harry Kane, who has fallen from a starting price of £12.5m in 2018/19 to £11.0m this time around.

There have been rises for Sergio Aguero (£12.0m), Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) and Callum Wilson (£8.0m) but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m), Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) and Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) cost exactly what they did 12 months ago.

For the purposes of this article, we will class any striker at £8.0m or above as a premium forward.

There are ten attackers in this price bracket at the time of writing, the same number as there were ahead of 2018/19.

Three are in action for their countries in international tournaments this summer: Aguero, Firmino and Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m).

The Three Heavy-Hitters

Harry Kane scored fewer home goals (six) than 11 other FPL forwards in 2018/19

Harry Kane is the obvious place to start for this analysis given that he is the cheapest he has been since the 2015/16 season.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker endured an injury-ravaged second half of 2018/19, sitting out ten Premier League matches with two separate ankle ligament problems.

A total of 160 points represented his worst FPL score in five seasons as a first-team regular.

While injuries are of course a mitigating factor, Kane managed to score 64 more FPL points in just 100 more minutes in 2016/17.

Nevertheless, the Spurs and England forward still managed to bank 23 attacking returns last season, more than any of his teammates.

His points-per-match average of 5.71 was also the second-best among FPL forwards in 2018/19 and better than those of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Vardy.

That figure wasn’t a million miles away from the points-per-match average of 5.86 that he managed in his 29-goal campaign in 2017/18.

These returns are all relative, however, and we Fantasy managers expect a lot more from our premium assets than we do from those in the budget and mid-price brackets.

One of the things we ask of our premium attacking options is reliable and explosive returns on their own turf, given that the captain’s armband is often handed to a heavy-hitter with a home fixture.

Kane arguably fell below the standard last season, returning just one double-digit haul at home (12 points v Southampton in Gameweek 12).

The Spurs man also blanked in five of his 12 league appearances at home, averaging only 4.83 points per match at Wembley/the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

If he can settle into Spurs’ new stadium and maintain his output on the road (there were four double-digit hauls in away fixtures last season) then Kane may once again become the go-to premium forward option.

The £1.5m price drop certainly helps his cause, while Spurs’ opening run of home fixtures appeals massively (the Lilywhites avoid any of last season’s top ten in their first eight matches at home).

Trips to both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester and Everton in that time are somewhat off-putting, however.

We’ll have more on Kane in a Members’ article on Sunday.

Spurs and Arsenal’s home fixtures alternate perfectly, of course, so Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang enjoys some enticing matches on home soil when Kane faces tricky trips away.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had more ‘big chances’ than any FPL asset in 2018/19

The Gabonese forward, who will have had a restful summer given that his national team failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, ended 2018/19 as the top-scoring FPL forward and the co-winner of the Golden Boot.

Despite those feats, he is still available for £11.0m.

Unai Emery’s late-season rotation roulette is perhaps one reason why Aubameyang remains steady at this price, with the Arsenal striker failing to start in six of Arsenal’s final 13 league fixtures – be it through Europa League-led tinkering or illness/injury.

It should be said, though, that Aubameyang had started all but two of Arsenal’s first 25 Premier League fixtures, with the rotation only biting hard when the Gunners reached the latter stages of the Europa League.

From Gameweek 4 onwards, Aubameyang never went more than two Premier League appearances without delivering an attacking return.

Only Kane and Aguero had better points-per-match averages than Aubameyang (5.69) among Fantasy strikers.

Of the FPL forwards who cost more than £9.0m, Aubameyang also offered the best value for money over the whole season, returning 19.0 points per million spent.

Aubameyang was, as he had been in 2017/18, clinical with his chances: his goal conversion rate of 23.4% was the second-best among FPL forwards who were regular starters.

Aguero is the same price as Raheem Sterling this season

Sergio Aguero is the most expensive FPL forward in the game in 2019/20, with his price rise to £12.0m from £11.0m matching that of Raheem Sterling’s.

The season just gone saw the Manchester City striker break the 20-goal barrier for the fifth year in a row, with his total of 201 points representing his best FPL season since 2014/15.

No FPL forward had a better rate of points per match (6.1) or banked as many attacking returns (32).

For those Fantasy bosses who like to captain a premium option with a home fixture, Aguero was a reliable asset: the Argentina international started 14 league matches at the Etihad in 2018/19, blanked in only one of them (the Gameweek 37 win over Leicester) and delivered 23 goals/assists in the process.

Aguero wasn’t nearly as effective away from home, registering only six goals and three assists.

A significant takeaway point from last season was just how “nailed” Aguero was.

When fully fit (we’re not counting the comeback match after injury against Crystal Palace in Gameweek 18), Aguero started 31 of City’s 32 Premier League fixtures.

He was, however, substituted in 23 of those games.

Much like the decision over Sadio Mane (£11.5m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.5m), it may be a case of Fantasy managers selecting one of Sterling and Aguero – rather than both – this season given the prohibitive prices of each player and, for example, the fact that premium defenders are very much en vogue at present.

READ MORE: Can De Bruyne cover Aguero and Sterling in the City attack?

Three at £9.5m

Gabriel Jesus missed 18 of his 23 ‘big chances’ last season

Gabriel Jesus could have a big say in Aguero’s game-time, of course.

The Brazilian striker registered fewer attacking returns than Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m) last season and his starting price has dropped from £10.5m to £9.5m as a result of his lack of involvement and returns in City’s title-winning side.

Jesus started only eight Premier League matches in 2018/19, with just two arriving this calendar year.

The City striker’s expected goal (xG) delta was the worst of all Premier League players last season.

The Brazil international would appear to have much to do to force his way back into Pep Guardiola and Fantasy managers’ plans but, should an injury or loss of form befall Aguero, an alternative route into the City attack for £9.5m would be tempting.

The other two players available at £9.5m, Alexandre Lacazette and Roberto Firmino, are the same price they were 12 months ago.

Alexandre Lacazette didn’t record one double-digit FPL haul at home last season despite his consistent returns

Lacazette’s total of 25 attacking returns was beaten only by Aguero, Aubameyang and Wilson among FPL forwards and no striker registered more assists than the former Lyon man (12).

The Frenchman’s achievements are all-the-more commendable given that he started only 27 Premier League fixtures, with his so-so points-per-match average (4.74) skewed somewhat by eight substitute appearances.

Double-digit hauls were few and far between, however, with none arriving after Gameweek 8.

Consistency was the key with Lacazette, though, with the France international stringing together some excellent sequences throughout the season.

Lacazette blanked in only four matches between Gameweeks 14 and 32 – two of which he played 45 minutes or fewer in.

The French forward delivered attacking returns in all nine Arsenal home fixtures between Gameweeks 18 and 35, meanwhile.

The unpredictability of starts will be enough to put many FPL managers off, despite Lacazette’s proven ability to rack up the points and Arsenal’s appealing run of first eight home matches.

Roberto Firmino has hit ten or more goals and registered eight or more assists in each of his four seasons at Liverpool

Security of starts is something Firmino can generally offer, with the Brazilian making Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI in 31 of the 34 matches he was available for (and even one of those substitute appearances came off the back of an injury).

Seven FPL forwards had better points-per-match averages than Firmino (4.71) in 2018/19 but that rate wasn’t a million miles away from the average he posted in 2017/18 (4.89).

Firmino’s problem Fantasy-wise in 2019/20 will likely be the same as it was last season, with the popularity of his teammates in defence and midfield meaning that he may well be overlooked for one of the three permitted Liverpool slots in many FPL squads.

With Mane rising steeply in price and Salah costing £3.0m more than Firmino, however, the Brazilian striker could well be an interesting differential route into the Liverpool attack that sit second in our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 1 to 8.

Firmino, like his fellow attackers, is in international action this summer but will return to England sooner than Mane and Salah, with the Copa America ending a fortnight before the Africa Cup of Nations.

Cheaper Premium Options

Over half of Jamie Vardy’s points in 2018/19 (88 of 174) arrived in the final 13 Gameweeks

Jamie Vardy is another non-mover in terms of FPL starting price and is available at £9.0m again.

Leicester’s opening fixtures are a mixed bag at best (they actually sit bottom of our Season Ticker in the first eight Gameweeks) but in Vardy they have a striker likely to be as “nailed” a starter as any other premium forward option this season.

Vardy started all of Leicester’s ten league games under Brendan Rodgers, while he was the form striker in the division in the final 13 Gameweeks with 12 goals and two assists.

Vardy turns 33 midway through this season but a restful summer and a lack of European action for the Foxes in 2019/20 will surely stand him in good stead.

Vardy’s average of 5.12 points per match last season was the fifth-best among FPL forwards but his mean under Rodgers was vastly superior: the Leicester striker averaging 7.6 points per match when playing for the former Celtic boss.

Over the course of the season, Vardy proved to be better value than any other FPL forward priced above £7.0m, with the Leicester forward returning 19.3 points per million spent.

Vardy’s goal conversion rate has always been high (2018/19 was the fourth straight year it exceeded 20%) but a relative lack of opportunities being created for him has arguably held him back from even more goals in seasons gone by: the Leicester striker scored 20 goals in 2017/18 despite only being presented with a chance every 45.8 minutes.

Under a manager as attacking as Rodgers, 2019/20 could be a prosperous year for Vardy.

Those Fantasy managers going without him in the opening eight matches will no doubt be eyeing him up for the fixture swing in Gameweek 9.

Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford were separated by £4.0m in FPL 12 months ago

Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku are both priced at £8.5m, though there is much speculation about the Belgian’s future and a summer exit is being touted.

Should Lukaku stay at Old Trafford then we will take a closer look at his credentials for 2019/20 but for now, our focus is on Rashford, who, like many of his teammates, has just had an up-and-down sort of season.

Struggling for attacking returns under Jose Mourinho, Rashford enjoyed a purple patch during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s honeymoon period and banked six goals and two assists in his first eight league appearances under the Norwegian.

Rashford managed only one FPL return (a goal against Watford) in the final 13 Gameweeks of the season, however, as United’s form reverted to type.

The Red Devils start 2019/20 with matches against Chelsea and Wolves, so some FPL managers may delay a decision on the England striker until the back-end of August.

With Lukaku and Paul Pogba’s (£8.5m) futures uncertain, United are in a state of flux at present so there is much that could still change in Manchester and affect Rashford’s prospects before Gameweek 1 rolls around.

Callum Wilson delivered more attacking returns (26) in 2018/19 than he had managed in his three previous seasons combined

Apart from a Gameweek 3 clash with Manchester City, Bournemouth’s opening run of fixtures looks one of the more appealing.

The Cherries take on all three newly promoted sides in the opening nine Gameweeks and also welcome West Ham United to the Liberty Stadium.

Callum Wilson will no doubt attract attention, then, even if he has been handed a £2.0m rise from his starting price in 2018/19.

Wilson finished the season as the fifth-highest-scoring FPL forward despite missing eight of Bournemouth’s league matches, while Aguero and Aubameyang were the only players in his position to register more attacking returns.

The Cherries’ striker registered more goals (14 v 13) and assists (12 v ten) than the more celebrated Raul Jimenez (£7.5m) and had a much better points-per-match average (5.6) than the Wolves forward (4.76).

Injuries are sometimes a concern for Wilson but security of starts aren’t, with the mid-price forward starting all 29 league matches that he was fully fit for (Wilson was a substitute in Gameweek 17 having just returned from the treatment table).

Wilson’s streaky form is what sees him maligned in some quarters: in the last nine Gameweeks of the season, he banked three double-digit hauls and blanked in the other six matches.

Five of Wilson’s six returns of ten points or more were on the road, a source of frustration perhaps for those Fantasy managers who target plum home fixtures when considering a player’s worth.

Joshua King will start 2019/20 at £6.5m so is a possible cut-price alternative to Wilson in the Bournemouth attack, of course: the Norway international had outscored his strike partner in the three preceding FPL seasons and is ahead of Wilson in the spot-kick running order.

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  1. @FPL_Chess
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    Joining code cmoq01 for FPL Chess, Grandmaster Edition. 750+ players for previous two seasons. Everyone welcome.