FPL Family’s Sam Bonfield, who currently sits at 791st in the world, examines some of the strikers competing for places in our Fantasy squads.
The three forward spots have always been precious. The way that Fantasy Premier League managers choose to fill these positions in their team is always vital in terms of how the rest of the team is set up.
When the game first launches, a lot of my early thought processes are around the strike force I want. I like to start the season with one from the premium bracket and then two from the middle price point if at all possible – although if the rest of the team needs it, I will start with one of the cheaper picks. This gives me flexibility to move to the form picks once the season gets underway as there is always money in the premium asset.
However, at this point in the season, what is the best strategy for these three coveted spots, how should we be structuring them in terms of our FPL budgets, and who are the best options moving forwards?
We are heading into the season of blanks and doubles and with the second Wildcard burning a hole in the pockets of many FPL managers – myself included – working out the way to fill these front three spots is important.
Do you invest in premium?
The pricing structure this season means we started 2019/20 with just three premium strikers, Sergio Aguero (£12.1m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) and Harry Kane (£10.8m). With Kane’s injury ruling him out for the foreseeable future, that leaves us with just the two forwards in the £10m plus bracket – Aguero and Aubameyang.
However, in this case I’ll included Jamie Vardy (£9.8m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.7m), whose FPL price tags now bring them tantalisingly close to the traditional £10m premium threshold. Are any of these FPL assets worth spending so much of our FPL budget on?
With at least a goal in three of his last four Premier League matches, Aguero has the form to back up his selection in our FPL teams. His heatmap above also shows he is in all the right areas to bring the attacking returns we would expect for his lofty price tag.
However, the fixtures don’t make for pretty reading. City face a trip to Leicester in Gameweek 27, followed by a blank in Gameweek 28, the Manchester derby in Gameweek 29 and then, after a nice game at home to Burnley, matches against Chelsea (which itself maybe a blank due to FA Cup involvement) and Liverpool.
Alongside these fixtures, the next stage of the UEFA Champions League restarts and this makes me question Aguero’s ability to haul across the next six Gameweeks.
For me, in order to justify the £12.1m needed to own Aguero, he would need to play and score in every match. With the rotation that exists at Manchester City, especially during Champions League and indeed FA Cup weeks, it’s hard to be sure that Aguero will consistently get the minutes that we would want as FPL managers.
Now there is a solid argument that Aguero can score points only playing 20 minutes of matches. However, against the big six sides this season he has only managed one goal v Spurs in Gameweek 2 and this doesn’t bode well for his potential returns over the next half-dozen weeks.
Aubameyang’s red card back in Gameweek 22 saw a large number of transfers out for the Arsenal striker with FPL managers unwilling to hold him while he was unable to play. As a result, the Gabon international’s ownership is still relatively low at 16.8%.
Aubameyang failed to return any FPL points on his return from suspension in Gameweek 25 v Burnley, a fixture that many FPL managers saw as a great opportunity for Aubameyang to haul in giving his previous record against the Clarets.
I thought that this match, coupled with a fixture ticker which looks primed for FPL returns for the foreseeable future, would have led to more transfers in for the Arsenal captain. Arsenal have three home matches v Newcastle, Everton and West Ham to come either side of a blank in Gameweek 28, plus games against Brighton, Southampton and Norwich thereafter – all of these should offer great opportunities for Aubameyang.
However so far this season, Aubameyang has scored 14 goals and recorded one assist in 23 starts, which when compared with Aguero, who has managed 16 goals and three assists in just 14 starts, tempers Aubameyang’s appeal.
Another worry for me, much like with Aguero, is the blank in Gameweek 28. Having so much of the value of the team unable to play in that Gameweek makes me wary of investing at this stage, especially with a fixture against in-form Everton in Gameweek 27 where I wouldn’t expect huge returns from the Gunners or from their man.
The lack of consistency at Arsenal this season also gives me cause for concern: a shortage of consistent returns, disappointing results, defensive uncertainty as well as the unpredictability of who starts alongside Aubameyang all seem like red flags to me as an FPL owner.
However, the fixtures are definitely there and thus even though Aubameyang is only managing an attempt every 35.1 minutes, which is much lower than some of his in-form, cheaper counterparts, it would be amiss to rule him out, especially if Arsenal can get into a rhythm early on in this nice run of matches.
It wasn’t so long ago that Vardy was a nailed presence in many of our FPL teams, returning goals, bonus points and green arrows for his owners every week.
Fast forward to this calendar year and Vardy’s ownership has plummeted. A new baby, a calf strain and an injury to his glute alongside no goals, one assist and a missed penalty to his name in 2020 have seen a remarkable fall from grace.
But could Vardy still be a viable FPL asset? Alongside his lack of form, part of the drive behind selling the Foxes’ forward was the expected blank in Gameweek 28. However, Leicester’s exit from the League Cup means that Vardy will now play at a time when FPL managers are worrying about what to do with their Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United and Aston Villa assets.
Vardy has a tough game against Manchester City in Gameweek 27 but his record against the big clubs is historically very good and these are the sort of matches in which Leicester will want to prove how far they have come under Rodgers.
After the City game, Vardy then faces a lovely run of fixtures where you would anticipate there being plenty of goal opportunities for him.
At £9.8m, Vardy still offers good value for money, especially if you have money tied up in him. Having Vardy or Firmino as your premium forward asset allows plenty of budget to be redistributed across the rest of the side as he is a whole million cheaper than Aubameyang and £2.3m less than Aguero.
Firmino is the dark horse of the FPL premium forward bracket. Prior to Double Gameweek 24, his ownership was under 10%. Whilst this has now doubled to 19.3% he still offers a differential way into the Liverpool attack without taking up the level of budget that the likes of Mohamed Salah (£12.8m) and Sadio Mane (£12.2m) do.
Firmino’s record home and away this season has been markedly different in terms of goals scored. All of his ten goals have come away from home so far this season, however seven of his eight assists have arrived at Anfield and so there are still attacking returns even with no goals there so far.
Of the four premium assets discussed in this article, Firmino has registered more minutes and assists than the other three and has yet to be booked so far this season, something none of the other three have in their weaponry.
When looking at the Baseline Bonus Points System (BBPS), Firmino is the stand-out winner with 189, Aubameyang is the next closest with 105, followed by Vardy with 88 and finally Aguero with 52. For me, this is something that impacts my thinking when it comes to FPL forwards as bonus points make a big difference in terms of whether I will captain a player. If so much of my budget is taken up by a premium forward, the BBPS score needs to look good too.
What if I don’t want to own a premium striker?
The budget limitations of wanting to own Salah, Mane, Kevin De Bruyne (£10.8m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.7m), Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) etc means that it is not always viable to own one of the premium strikers. Moreover, there are many FPL owners who simply don’t want to as it doesn’t fit with their strategy.
Up until recruiting Firmino for the Double Gameweek and since losing Kane prior to Gameweek 16, I had played with one premium, one middle and one cheap forward.
Since Gameweek 24 I have owned the two cheapest premiums (Vardy and Firmino) along with a cut-price striker in Danny Ings (£7.0m). This season, many of the strikers that fall into both the middle and lower price brackets offer exceptional value for money.
When you sort by total score, Raul Jimenez (£7.7m), Marcus Rashford (£8.9m) and Tammy Abraham (£7.7m) all rank above Aubameyang, Firmino and Aguero for the season so far, with the super-cheap Ings sitting just one point behind Aubameyang but still ahead of Firmino and Aguero.
Indeed, when you look at the ICT Index, Jimenez is second to Firmino with the likes of Rashford, Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m), Abraham and Ings beyond them. Vardy is seventh for this statistic, with Aguero and Aubameyang ninth and tenth respectively.
The stats especially for the likes of Jiménez and Ings highlight that it isn’t necessary to use the budget on an expensive striker if that cash can be better used elsewhere.
The fixtures for Southampton between now and when they play Manchester City in Gameweek 33 look excellent for attacking returns for Ings. Couple this with the fact that Southampton have a nice match against a West Ham team lacking in clean sheets in Gameweek 28, when other teams blank, and he looks like an exceptional asset to own.
Whilst he hasn’t scored in the last three Gameweeks, prior to that he had returned in nine of 11 matches – his consistency making him an exceptional buy especially for the money needed to own him.
Much like Ings, Jimenez has proved to be highly consistent over the course of the season with returns in 14 of his matches.
Wolves as a team started the season slowly as they adjusted to playing in the Europa League alongside the Premier League.
However, they are now successfully managing both and are about to embark on a lovely run of matches which, with the exception of four more tricky fixtures against Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester, runs through until the end of the season. Given how leaky those four aforementioned teams have been of late, I see no reason why Jimenez cannot return in most of the remaining games.
With 11 goals and six assists so far, I can only see Jimenez’s totals in terms of FPL points, goals and owners growing over the remainder of the season, especially as they play in the all-important Blank Gameweek 28.
Jimenez’s xG, xGI and xA stats (see image below) also all point towards him being an excellent asset to buy now and hold until the end of the campaign.
For me, the stats show such exceptional value in the cheaper and mid-priced brackets – the likes of Ings and Jimenez in particular- and filling the front three places with them seems like a good decision.
Right now, I own Firmino and Vardy. Firmino has both lovely fixtures and form, and while the pull to double up at the back is definitely getting stronger right now, he is offering too much for me to sell him.
Vardy on the other hand, I am definitely wavering on. His form has dropped off the FPL cliff and if it wasn’t for the fixture shift and the lack of a blank in Gameweek 28, he would have gone for Jimenez already.
He will get a couple of games more to find his scoring boots simply because of the form he showed earlier in the season and the fixtures incoming but if his returns don’t start coming soon, Jimenez will be taking his spot in my team.
Right now, with fixtures and form the way they are, it feels like a front three made up of one premium and two cheaper assets is the way to go: for me that would be Firmino, Jimenez and Ings.
However the appeal of Jimenez, Ings and someone like Abraham is definitely there as this enables the expensive midfielders and defenders to all find a place in our 15-man squads.
Sam Bonfield is a member of our Pro Pundits initiative, a team of Fantasy managers here to bring you regular advice and updates on their teams. Sam has served up two top 30k finishes in the last two seasons and is currently inside the top 1k in the world.
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