While there was little to cheer among the budget forwards, there is a bit more to interest Fantasy Premier League managers when we step up a tier.
Our trawl through the mid-price FPL forwards covers the 25 assets who currently find themselves in the £6.0m-£7.5m bracket, with our look at the premium options to follow.
You can read our run-through of the best goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders via the links below.
‘BIG SIX’ BACK-UPS AND POSSIBLE STARTERS
We have opted to include the sole £7.5m-rated forward in this mid-price analysis as much of what we write of Tammy Abraham will also be true of Olivier Giroud (£7.0m).
Both players might be playing understudy to Timo Werner (£9.5m) for much of 2020/21 following the German attacker’s arrival in west London, although an injury to Christian Pulisic (£8.5m) could see Werner reprise the inside-left role he often played for RB Leipzig and open up a central spot for Abraham or Giroud in the early stages of the new season.
The final third of Abraham’s previous campaign was something of a non-event, with the Chelsea striker making only two starts in the final 13 Gameweeks as injury and Giroud’s form saw him reduced to bit-part player status.
Thirteen goals, five assists and 20 bonus points had arrived from Gameweeks 3 to 25, however, with Abraham starting all but one of Chelsea’s league fixtures over that run.
In total, the pair plundered 23 goals and seven assists between them in the Premier League in 2019/20 – which is a testimony to the Blues’ creativity, especially as Abraham was quite profligate following his early-season purple patch.
Pre-season will hopefully tell us whether Pulisic will be fit for Gameweek 1, whether Werner will initially be operating wide-left as a result and, finally, which – if any – of Giroud or Abraham could be leading the line on the opening weekend.
Whoever gets the nod could consequently be a decent differential for the appealing early fixtures but rotation and bench duty would appear to loom large beyond that point.
Michy Batshuayi (£6.0m) will be a mere FPL footnote if he stays at Stamford Bridge but a loan move could renew interest, as happened in 2018/19.
Odion Ighalo (£6.5m) has extended his loan deal at Manchester United until January 2021 but the Nigerian will likely be reliant on an injury crisis hitting the Red Devils to gain meaningful game-time, as Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) or Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) could just as easily deputise as the spearhead of the United attack if Anthony Martial (£9.0m) ever faced a period on the sidelines.
Ighalo, indeed, is still waiting for his first Premier League start since moving from China.
Pitch-time may also be an issue for Eddie Nketiah (£6.0m), with Willian‘s (£8.0m) arrival handing Mikel Arteta the chance to use Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) centrally if ever the Arsenal boss opted against fielding Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) or indeed moves the Frenchman on.
Arteta clearly rates Nketiah, as the youngster was handed seven Premier League starts after returning from a loan spell with Leeds United in January.
While FPL managers could have stomached semi-regular benchings at Nketiah’s 2019/20 cost of £4.5m, the same might not apply after his price hike given the more ‘nailed’ starters elsewhere in this bracket.
As is the case with so many players, pre-season minutes will be a good way of gauging just how involved Nketiah might be in the Gunners’ appealing double-header against Fulham and West Ham United in Gameweeks 1 and 2.
The 21-year-old striker was given the nod to lead the line in the Community Shield on Saturday, which is a good start.
One of the joys of picking a Burnley asset is that, providing the team is in relatively good form, there is little danger of Sean Dyche rotating.
Chris Wood (£6.5m) is a bit of an unheralded mid-price forward and he delivered more goals (14) and registered more big chances (31) than all bar Abraham of the 25 strikers profiled in this article, despite starting just 29 games in an injury-disrupted season.
He has also registered more shots from inside the six-yard box than any other Premier League player in each of the last two campaigns, which is a great indicator of how often he gets into dangerous positions.
Few managers will be interested initially thanks to a Blank Gameweek 1 and a trip to Leicester City thereafter but he is one for the watchlist when the fixtures improve from Gameweek 3 onwards.
It remains to be see which of Ashley Barnes (£6.0m) or Jay Rodriguez (£6.0m) is Dyche’s preferred option alongside Wood next season, meanwhile, with Barnes starting 2019/20 as first-choice before injury curtailed his season in January.
The pair are more than capable of grabbing a goal or two themselves but Wood did outperform them on most ‘per 90’ metrics and he may well warrant the extra half a million outlay.
Sheffield United offered a lot of FPL value last season but not so much in attack.
The fact that none of their strikers started more than 24 matches or scored more than six league goals is a worry, with Chris Wilder fond of rotating his front two in an otherwise very settled side.
Only four clubs scored fewer Premier League goals than the Blades last season, meanwhile.
Oliver McBurnie (£6.0m) seems to be the pick of the three Bladesmen at this price, having belatedly established himself as a regular up top and having started 16 of Sheffield United’s final 17 fixtures – more than Billy Sharp (£6.0m) or Lys Mousset (£6.0m) managed in the whole of 2019/20.
Kelechi Iheanacho (£6.0m) looks good for a goal whenever he features for Leicester City but game-time is the main issue with the Nigerian, who hasn’t played more than 1,000 minutes of league football in any of the last five seasons.
Unless we get wind of a Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) injury in pre-season or Brendan Rodgers hints at starting two strikers up front, then there seems little value in a player who started just 12 matches in 2019/20 and who was described as an “impact player” by his manager as recently as July.
THE BEST – AND WORST – OF THE REST
There’s only one place to start our ‘rest of the league’ round-up.
Many of us would have anticipated a positional reclassification for Michail Antonio (£6.5m) but, given what occurred after lockdown ended, few would have thought the West Ham United striker would be available at his cheapest price since 2015/16.
Granted, he’ll lose a handful of points for goals and clean sheets (not that the Hammers kept many) after his move from ‘midfielder’ to ‘forward’.
But the price drop and increased chance of bonus points will partly offset that and, comparing his credentials with other mid-price FPL forwards, he still stands out.
Ten goals and four assists from just 19 starts and five substitute appearances was impressive, with nine of those attacking returns arriving in West Ham’s post-restart fixtures.
Antonio’s season-long minutes-per-xGI (expected goal involvement) figure was also better than any other mid-price forward in this piece bar the peripheral Batshuayi and superior to the likes of Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m).
As with most players, there are caveats.
His injury record has long been a cause for concern but he largely assuaged those fears with 14 successive starts at the end of 2019/20, even when the fixtures piled up.
Then there are questions over whether Sebastien Haller (£6.5m) will be reintegrated into the side and whether Antonio will be moved wide as a result or, as happened before coronavirus stopped play, whether they will be paired as a front two.
Perhaps the biggest downside is the tricky early-season fixture schedule but, that aside, he could represent excellent value in 2020/21 based on what we saw at the back-end of last season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.0m) was a popular FPL purchase immediately after Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival but ten successive blanks in the run-in blotted his copybook.
The Everton striker scored eight goals and set up another in the ten Gameweeks following the Italian’s arrival and he was a reliable starter, with his only benching under Ancelotti coming in Gameweek 38+ when the Italian allowed Moise Kean (£6.0m) a rare run-out up front.
Barring any new arrivals, Calvert-Lewin will still be expected to begin 2020/21 as one of Ancelotti’s go-to picks in attack ahead of Kean and the injured Cenk Tosun (£6.0m).
No other forward now in the £6.0m-£7.5m bracket registered more attempts on goal or shots in the box than Calvert-Lewin from Gameweek 19 onwards, so the underlying stats (and opening fixures) bode well if he can rediscover his finishing touch.
Our sole mid-price representative from the newly promoted sides is Aleksandar Mitrovic (£6.0m).
The Serb is priced up cheaper than he was in 2018/19 and Werner is the only FPL forward who has a higher ownership figure than him at the time of writing.
With 26 goals and two assists last season, it’s not hard to see why: Mitrovic played a part in 49.1% of the goals that Fulham scored when he was on the pitch, a similar involvement figure (46%) that he posted in the Premier League in 2018/19.
Mitrovic also impressed on the underlying stats front last season, as he did the last time he was in the Premier League.
He isn’t particularly clinical, with a goal conversion rate of 17.2% in 2019/20 not too eye-catching considering the inferior standard of goalkeeping and defending in the second tier.
Indeed, Mitrovic only converted 8.4% of his chances when he was last in the top flight.
Despite the wastefulness, the sheer volume of opportunities that came his way in the Premier League meant that, even with a poor conversion rate, he still managed to find the net on 11 occasions.
Mitrovic also has penalties on his side, while none of his teammates had more direct free-kick attempts last season, either (six).
Security of starts is another string to his bow, if we ignore his fitness-related benching in the play-off final.
The ex-Newcastle striker started all 40 Championship games that he was available for, with his one and only substitution being enforced by injury.
Dwight Gayle (£6.0m) had hit a purple patch of form after lockdown ended, scoring on four occasions and assisting another goal, but the Newcastle United striker looks set to be ruled out for several months after picking up an injury in pre-season.
We won’t waste too much of your time talking up Joelinton’s (£6.0m) credentials in Gayle’s absence as, even if he had been half a million cheaper, there would still have been precious few takers in FPL.
The Brazilian didn’t miss a single Premier League match last season but two goals in 32 starts and six substitute appearances tells its own story.
Jordan Ayew (£6.0m) was prolific in comparison to Joelinton, scoring nine goals and assisting another three as a value-for-money £5.0m forward in 2019/20.
Security of starts was a big plus regarding Ayew, with the Ghanaian starting 37 of Palace’s 38 games, but that rise of one million does dent his appeal considering that he has not hit double figures for goals in a single season since moving to England in 2015.
The Eagles were the division’s second-lowest scorers last season, too, with the capture of attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze (£6.0m) from QPR no doubt an attempt to address that issue – and there were promising signs in the pre-season win over an admittedly limited Charlton Athletic side.
Like Calvert-Lewin, there was very little wrong with Neal Maupay‘s (£6.5m) underlying statistics last season.
No forward previewed in this piece registered more penalty box touches or attempts on goal and, while not rotation risk-free, he is still probably the safest route into an improving Brighton and Hove Albion attack after starting 30 of the Seagulls’ 38 league fixtures.
Too often his finishing let him down, however, and a price rise after a modest ten-goal haul when the likes of Wood and Antonio are available for the same money does raise questions over his value.
Similar concerns can be expressed over Aston Villa duo Wesley (£6.0m) and Mbwana Samatta (£6.0m), too, despite them being half a million cheaper.
A combined six goals in 32 starts was a fair reflection of their indifferent debut seasons but they weren’t helped by the supply line or Dean Smith’s brand of play, with their remit as lone target-men as much to bring the midfielders into play as it was to find the back of the net themselves.
Villa, of course, blank in Gameweek 1.
Finally, a word on the man many FPL managers are hoping can partly emulate Danny Ings‘ (£8.5m) achievements of last season.
Che Adams (£6.0m) caught the eye after the summer restart, finding the back of the net on four occasions; Giroud and Antonio were the only two FPL forwards who could better his goals-per-90-minutes average after lockdown.
It’s still a bit early to say for sure whether Adams will become a regular starter alongside Ings as Shane Long (£5.5m) had been preferred before coronavirus stopped play, starting all but one of the matches he was available for between Gameweeks 15 and 29.
With little to play for after football resumed in June, Ralph Hasenhuttl brought Adams back into the fold and it may be that he impressed enough to be given more of an opportunity in his sophomore season.
Pre-season will hopefully give us an indicator, one way or another.
Best players by position:
- Goalkeepers: Budget
- Goalkeepers: Premium
- Defenders: Budget
- Defenders: Mid-Price and Premium
- Midfielders: Budget
- Midfielders: Mid-Price
- Midfielders: Premium
- Forwards: Budget
- Forwards: Mid-Price
- Forwards: Premium
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