Our position-by-position analysis of Fantasy Premier League assets continues with a look at budget forwards.
With FPL managers granted the option of making unlimited transfers or deploying their Free Hit chip ahead of Double Gameweek 30+, many of us will be going big on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m) and Sergio Aguero (£11.8m).
To afford these heavy hitters, we’ll need a cut-price asset or two to plug the gaps.
In truth, there isn’t an abundance of budget FPL forwards who are anything more than bench fodder – hence why we’re covering strikers all the way up to £5.8m in this piece and slightly eating into ‘mid-price’ territory.
A total of 57 players fall into this category, with the stand-out names discussed below.
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- Price: £5.8m
- Ownership: 0.4%
- Next four Gameweeks: SHU + CHE | new | WOL | liv
Jack Grealish (£6.4m) is perhaps the only Aston Villa asset that many of us will agree on for Double Gameweek 30+.
The merits of the Villans’ defence, John McGinn (£5.4m) and Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) will be widely discussed ahead of Wednesday’s deadline and we can now add January capture Mbwana Samatta (£5.8m) into the mix.
With Wesley (£5.4m) injured, Samatta was thrown straight into the starting XI in Gameweek 25 and has played all three games since.
Scoring on his debut against Bournemouth, the Tanzanian striker looked fairly decent up top despite Villa slipping to four defeats in the games he featured in.
His aerial ability particularly caught the eye, with half of his efforts in a Villa shirt and his debut league goal coming from his head (he also nodded in his side’s solitary strike in the League Cup final).
Arguably the main concern would be the players behind him: Grealish aside, do Villa possess anyone who can supply Samatta with good enough service? The new signing has averaged only two shots per match in his four appearances so far, which is on the meagre side.
Had Villa not had a Double Gameweek 30+, many of us probably wouldn’t have looked at him – but then, that is likely true for a number of assets who will end up in our overhauled squads.
Samatta does at least have the advantage of facing Newcastle United in Gameweek 31+, which could be a decent match-up given how susceptible the Magpies have been to crosses in open play and at dead-ball situations.
- Price: £5.7m
- Ownership: 0.3%
- Next four Gameweeks: avl + new | mun | TOT | bur
Sheffield United have been one of the most settled sides this season, at least in defence and midfield.
Rotation has been more commonplace up top, however, with Chris Wilder opting to frequently shake up his two-man frontline.
Changes were particularly rife when Sheffield United last encountered a period of serious fixture congestion in December.
Not one of the Bladesmen’s strikers has more than 16 starts to their name this season, although Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) and Billy Sharp (£5.6m) had been the preferred pairing before the suspension of play, having racked up seven and five consecutive starts respectively.
McBurnie had encouragingly accumulated a lot of pitch-time shortly before football ground to a halt, lasting 90 minutes in each match from Gameweeks 23-27 and then being substituted in the 89th minute of the Gameweek 29 win over Norwich City.
It’ll be a surprise to see any Sheffield United forward lasting the full duration in the first two fixtures back but, given that those matches make up a Double Gameweek for the Blades, McBurnie should still hit triple figures for minutes on Wednesday and Sunday combined.
Goals won’t come at a furious pace but then this is a sub-£6.0m forward we’re talking about and there is a reason that these assets don’t cost as much.
Only four FPL forwards, all of them way pricier, registered more shots in the box than McBurnie in Gameweeks 22-29.
Like Samatta, McBurnie is a perhaps a punt purely for the early Double Gameweek as the fixtures stiffen thereafter.
- Price: £4.4m
- Ownership: 1.4%
- Next four Gameweeks: mci + bha | sou | NOR | wol
The search for a dependable £4.5m-or-under FPL forward has been a largely fruitness one this season, with Mason Greenwood (£4.3m) and Aaron Connolly (£4.3m) only briefly threatening to establish themselves as the go-to bargain-bin options.
The return to fitness of Marcus Rashford (£8.8m) looks to be a blow to Greenwood’s chances of starting more regularly in the run-in, although the increase in permitted substitutes from three to five will likely see the teenage Manchester United striker continue to make cameos off the bench.
Could Eddie Nketiah (£4.4m) be the snip we’ve all been waiting for, then, particuarly with Arsenal enjoying two fixtures in Double Gameweek 30+?
It’s too early to tell for certain and, so long as Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) remains fit and available, there will be plenty of jostling for the central striker’s role in Mikel Arteta’s new-look Arsenal side.
Nketiah had been given the nod ahead of the more experienced Frenchman in Gameweeks 26-29, scoring once against Everton, although was hauled off before the hour-mark in the narrow win over West Ham, with substitute Lacazette bagging the winner.
There have been some positive omens in the friendlies Arsenal have contested ahead of the restart, with Nketiah hitting a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Charlton Athletic and then leading the line for the first half of the Gunners’ 3-2 defeat to Brentford.
We don’t anticipate that he will start every match (maybe not even the bulk of them) but then we can’t really expect too much anyway given the dirt-cheap price tag.
With Arsenal’s two Gameweek 30+ fixtures separated by less than 72 hours, he will surely get a decent number of minutes to begin the season with – and that might be enough for those of us who are only relying on him for this opening Double Gameweek.
- Price: £5.2m
- Ownership: 8.8%
- Next four matches: bou | liv | BUR | lei
While the likes of McBurnie and Nketiah are rotation risks, Jordan Ayew (£5.2m) has been an altogether more secure starter this season.
The Ghana international has made Roy Hodgson’s line-up in each of the last 27 league games and has scored more FPL points (108) than anyone featured in this article.
The loan capture of Cenk Tosun (£5.7m) and the return to fitness of Christian Benteke (£5.7m) has seen Ayew move to a wider position in Palace’s attacking trident but, as we discussed in our Crystal Palace team recap, the Belgian’s presence could be more of a help than a hindrance.
Ayew scored in back-to-back games shortly before the lull in proceedings, taking his total to eight for the season – again, a tally that can’t be beaten by any other striker in this piece.
The biggest downside to Ayew at present is perhaps the Eagles’ fixtures, with seven of their remaining nine games against teams in the top half.
One of their only favourable match-ups, against Bournemouth, comes in Double Gameweek 30+, when many FPL managers will have their eyes on assets with two fixtures.
With Palace heading for safety and mid-table obscurity, the question would also have to be raised over what Roy Hodgson has in mind for his peripheral squad players, minutes-wise, in the closing quarter of the campaign.
Still, with his versatility and work rate being huge ticks against his name in Hodgson’s eyes, Ayew remains one of the more trustworthy forwards in this price bracket, ready to be deployed as an emergency FPL substitute if needs be and perhaps even handed a start when the odd good fixture does pop up (Aston Villa in Gameweek 35+, for example).
No, we’re not advocating a move for Joelinton (£5.5m) just yet, but it’ll be interesting to see if playing behind closed doors has a galvanising effect on the Brazilian, given that he won’t have the weight of 50,000 Geordies’ expectations on his shoulders.
He had quietly impressed in pre-season and has scored twice in unofficial kickabouts this week, so maybe the much-maligned striker can be liberated without the bellows and groans that plague his appearances on Tyneside – or maybe not.
The effect of playing with or without a crowd is one of those unquantifiable variables that makes the end of 2019/20 tough to predict.
The compact Selhurst Park can be an intimidating cauldron when the Palace ultras are making a din, so it could be that Hodgson’s troops are handicapped without their vociferous home support.
Then again, perhaps playing without a raucous audience is exactly the thing that Christian Benteke (£5.7m) needs to up an abysmal goal conversion rate of three seasons in the making.
A pest of a presence to opposition defenders, human wasp Shane Long (£4.7m) refuses to leave Fantasy managers alone at the budget forward picnic table.
Just when we think he’s gone for good he re-emerges afresh, despite our repeated attempts to swat him away.
Now 33 years of age, Long has impressed so much of late that he has been rewarded with a two-year contract extension by the Saints.
The Irishman has been a regular starter from Gameweek 15 onwards and his only absence from the line-up in that time (two no-shows and a substitute’s appearance over Christmas) were injury-related.
The physical demands put upon the front two will likely see the occasional refresh up top given the frequency of the fixtures, while Long has been substituted in 11 of his 13 starts so far in 2019/20.
Never the most clinical of strikers, we can’t expect a deluge of goals from the veteran forward either.
Like Ayew, though, he would seem to be one of the more dependable characters in the budget forward bracket should he need to be called upon as an emergency auto-sub during the run-in.
Graham Potter’s unpredictability puts us off Neal Maupay (£5.7m) to an extent, with the Frenchman having been benched twice already this calendar year.
Winless in 2020, Brighton and Hove Albion also have one of the worst fixture runs in Gameweeks 30+ to 35+, although things do improve thereafter and he might be one to consider in the final three match rounds.
Underlying stats haven’t been Maupay’s problem and he sits third among FPL forwards of any price for efforts on goal in 2019/20.
Making the most of those chances has been an issue, however, with his conversion rate of 10.1% well below what we usually demand of our strikers.
It’s worth keeping an eye on Sean Dyche’s press conferences over the next week, meanwhile, as both Chris Wood (£6.1m) and Ashley Barnes (£6.1m) are struggling with fitness issues at present.
That could open the door for Jay Rodriguez (£5.7m) and Matej Vydra (£5.3m) at Burnley, who have some agreeable fixtures from Gameweek 31+ onwards.
Rodriguez has started every match from Gameweek 23 onwards with Barnes on the sidelines and sits joint-fourth among FPL forwards for attempts on goal in that time.
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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