As was the case last season, the intial price list for forwards in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) makes it hard to see where you might spend your money if you are trying to use as little of your £100m budget as possible on a third striker who might only rarely be called upon.
Several of last year’s alumni are here once again, some have dropped in price after disappointing seasons and others are arriving in the Premier League with their promoted colleagues.
None are guaranteed a starting spot at their club, but a few have the chance to make one their own if they can convince a new manager in pre-season, recover effectively from a long-term injury or prove that they can make the step up from the division below.
Here’s our look at those most likely to make the breakthrough to the FPL mainstream.
You can get loads more data on all the players in question (plus much more) in our soon-to-be-revamped Premium Members Area – and there’s a completely free trial available right now.
Above: Sub-£6.0m forwards sorted by minutes played in 2020/21
It’s clear from the goal threat table above (from the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members’ Area) that, if it’s the possibility of regular playing time you’re looking for in a bargain striker, Burnley is the place to look. Three potential partners for main man Chris Wood (£7.0m) all got significant starts and minutes last season, though none contributed more than three goals. By the end of last season they were available at a spread of price points, but this time around FPL has tagged them all at £5.5m. So which one is the best option?
Jay Rodriguez (£5.5m) managed about one game less overall than either of his two Turf Moor striking rivals, but he only got on the scoresheet once which puts him on the back foot straight away. The Members Area KPI Attacking table puts some more distance between the former England man and the other two:
Rodriguez lags behind in minutes per touch and per goal attempt in the box and rarely creates chances. Add in reduced goals and starts and, unless a clear preference is shown for him in pre-season, the choice for FPL managers boils down to Austria’s Ashley Barnes (£5.5m) versus the Czech Republic’s Matej Vydra (£5.5m).
Using the Premium Members Area comparison tool highlights the different aspects they bring to Burnley’s attack.
The touch heatmaps suggest that Barnes is more immersed in build-up play while Vydra tends more towards involvement at the sharp end. Statistically, Vydra wins out in all xG categories except set-pieces, touches in the final third and penalty area and particularly on take-ons (26 v 2).
When it comes to actual goal attempts, however, the results are much more mixed:
Vydra gets twice as many big chances, but Barnes has the greater volume and accuracy, resulting in almost identical numbers for goal conversion as well as goals actually scored (three apiece). This pattern repeats with assists:
Once again Barnes has the volume (20 chances created), but Vydra wins on quality (four big chances created) and, this time, even on the end result (two assists to none). Vydra is also the clear choice for bonus points with a BPS baseline of 101 to Barnes’s 36.
If pre-season doesn’t reveal a clear and obvious partner for Wood, and you simply can’t find the extra £1.5m for the New Zealander, then Vydra looks as good an option as you can find as a budget FPL striker likely to get game time and also to do something productive with it.
HURRY UP AND WAIT
Dwight Gayle (£5.5m) scored against West Bromwich Albion in his first game back in December after a long-term absence with a damaged medial collateral ligament, but that goal was to be his only strike of the season despite 500 more minutes in mostly substitute appearances across the frontline.
It was known that Gayle’s contract had run down at Newcastle United, but mystery surrounded his future as the season ended until a report emerged in the local press confirming that he had indeed signed on for the Magpies once again. It looks as though Steve Bruce would like to keep the 31 year-old around as backup for first teamers like Callum Wilson (£7.5m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£6.5m) but regular football or significant attacking returns for him this season look very unlikely.
Wesley Moraes (£5.5m) seemed primed to break out in the Premier League after a summer transfer when he notched his sixth goal for new club Aston Villa on New Year’s Day 2020. Sadly, later in the same match he suffered a cruciate injury that took much longer than expected to heal and it was only in late April this year that he once again stepped onto the pitch for the first team as a late substitute.
In his prolonged absence, Ollie Watkins (£7.5m) has not only arrived from Brentford and cemented himself in Villa’s first-team but has even gone on to England recognition. The club will certainly need backup for the long season ahead, but it will be a while before anyone knows whether Wesley can recapture the form that saw Villa pay Club Brugge £22m for him two years ago.
Jean-Philippe Mateta (£5.5m) arrived at Crystal Palace last winter on an 18-month loan from Mainz in the Bundesliga, but the towering striker faces a battle to establish himself as a first-teamer.
Roy Hodgson clearly rated him highly as he had pursued his signature for many months, but the retired Palace manager still couldn’t find a place for the 23-year old who had scored seven goals in Germany before Christmas as Christian Benteke (£6.5m) showed form and reliability. Hodgson preferred to pair the Belgian with a more mercurial attacking partner like Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) and Mateta could only muster one goal at Brighton in a rare start. It remains to be seen whether the new boss at Palace believes it’s time to use Mateta more prominently.
HELLO, MUST I BE GOING?
Michy Batshuayi (£5.5m) was also on-loan at Crystal Palace last season, but similarly found himself typically staring at the Selhurst Park pitch from the bench and only managed one more goal than Mateta. Batshuayi is currently at the EURO 2020 finals with Belgium, but struggles to get game time with them, too, despite an enviable record of 22 goals in 34 international appearances.
It’s that sort of quality that persuaded Chelsea to pay Marseille more than £30m for his services during EURO 2016. Batshuayi scored the goal that brought the league title to Stamford Bridge a year later, but that was only one of five across a mere 236 minutes of league playing time and soon he was off out on loans to Valencia, to Palace, but first and most successfully to Borussia Dortmund where he scored nine goals in 14 games before injury ended his season.
Batshuayi’s manager at Dortmund was current Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel. With Batshuayi now back at Stamford Bridge under a manager who knows him, could this be his opportunity to lay claim to the slippery prize of becoming Chelsea’s primary front man? Or will he be looking for yet another top-flight club to be his new home for the season?
As Liverpool made their runs to Champions League and Premier League glory, Divock Origi (£5.0m) was the obvious alternative up front whenever the situation required a rest for one of their main attacking trio, and particularly Roberto Firmino (£9.0m), but 2020/21 saw the arrival of Diogo Jota (£7.5m) from Wolves which relegated the Belgian forward to a goalless 182 minutes from nine cameo appearances. His prospects for game time at Anfield now appear more distant than ever and there are reports that the club are looking to move him on.
Eighteen months ago Arsenal were so keen that their young striker Eddie Nketiah (£5.5m) should see plenty of first-team action that they recalled him from a loan at Leeds United six months early. Since then, despite numerous chances to make an impact at the Emirates he has not done so and Arsenal fans are decidedly lukewarm about the idea of keeping him around. It was recently confirmed that a new contract offer is on the table for him, but he is only likely to offer some FPL value if he moves to apparent suitors Watford, West Ham United or Crystal Palace.
Aaron Connolly (£5.5m) at Brighton and Hove Albion is another player who is still very young for the top level, but whose career has stalled somewhat after early signs of promise. He scored twice in 17 appearances for the Seagulls in 2020/21, but Brighton have already shown interest in Stuttgart’s Nico Gonzalez at the £25m price point which suggests Graham Potter is looking to invest up front rather than promote Connolly who has also been dealing with some off-field issues. A spell on loan for him seems the most likely outcome for the season ahead.
Tanzanian forward Mbwana Samatta (£5.5m) spent last season on loan at Fenerbahce having failed to establish himself at Villa Park after an £8.5m move from Genk. He only scored five times for the Turkish club and, despite being under contract until 2025, his future doesn’t seem to lie in Birmingham.
THE £4.5m QUARTET
If all you’re looking for from your third FPL striker is the barest minimum outlay possible then the game at its release offers you four options.
Southampton’s Daniel N’Lundulu (£4.5m) and Michael Obafemi (£4.5m) are both interesting young talents, but with Danny Ings (£8.0m) and Che Adams (£7.0m) the clear starters and Nathan Tella (£5.0m), classified by FPL as a midfielder, seemingly jumping the queue as a third attacking option (and £0.5m more expensive accordingly), it would seem to take a major injury, or more likely two, for either of them to see significant game time. N’Lundulu did manage 13 appearances last season, but that only amounted to a total of 102 minutes on the pitch.
Watford’s Croatian centre-forward Stipe Perica (£4.5m), formerly of Udinese, did take the field 25 times in their promotion season, but on 60% of those occasions it was from the bench and he ended the season with as many red cards as goals or assists (one of each).
Aston Villa’s Keinan Davis (£4.5m) has already been utilised as a bargain third striking option by many FPL managers in recent times and is offered once again at the lowest possible price, but with the success of Ollie Watkins, the return of Wesley and a general disenchantment amongst Villa supporters with his performances a season-long loan looks on the cards with some reports suggesting West Bromwich Albion back in the Championship as the most likely destination.
NEWLY PROMOTED OPTIONS
Coming the other way with a much larger fanfare than usual for a team promoted via the playoffs, are Brentford. Ivan Toney (£6.5m) is clearly the man creating most of the buzz in FPL circles, but 22-year old Marcus Forss (£5.5m) nabbed 10 goals himself in the campaign from 16 starts and 34 substitute appearances in all competitions.
Brentford’s attacking philosophy, like Leeds United before them, is simply part of who they are and seems very unlikely to change just because they’ve stepped up a level. Forss, now appearing and scoring at international level for Finland, could provide as many cheap goals as you’ll find anywhere else in this price range.
With Norwich City, it’s hard to see past the talismanic Teemu Pukki at £6.0m who, taken overall, had a decent season for a promoted striker two seasons ago (it was just a bit of a roller-coaster). If he were to be unavailable for any length of time, Jordan Hugill (£5.5m), signed for around £3m from West Ham last summer, is his most likely deputy.
Young Republic of Ireland international Adam Idah (£5.0m) played 12 times for the Canaries in their previous Premier League adventure, but did not find the scoresheet. He did bag three goals in the Championship-winning campaign, but 16 of his 17 games came as a substitute.
With Watford captain Troy Deeney (£5.5m) back in the Premier League, you could perhaps be the most certain of any asset here of what your bargain outlay might bring you. Over the last few seasons it’s typically been nine or ten goals, three or four assists and just over 100 FPL points, but this time Deeney needs to show he has recovered fully from the effects of the achilles tendon injury that kept him out of all but the final game of Watford’s run-in. At this price Deeney represents a pretty good deal if medical issues don’t finally get the better of a veteran who is always in the thick of the action.
However, for those seeking after the diamond in the rough of this season’s crop of bargain FPL forward options, take a long look at the talent and opportunities at the feet of João Pedro (£5.5m). So far, he has followed the same path from Fluminense in Brazil to Vicarage Road as Richarlison (£7.5m), with whom he has been in regular contact.
The teenager scored nine times, second only to winger Ismaila Sarr (£6.0m), including highlight-reel strikes like this one, and added three assists in 38 league appearances as the Hertfordshire club finished runners-up in the Championship to Norwich. He has just extended his contract at Watford to last for another six years and it’s not unthinkable that his debut season in the Premiership might match Richarlison’s five goals and eight assists for the Hornets in 2017/18.
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