Over the course of the 17/18 FPL season so far, a lot of the attention has been on the top strikers in the game.
Going into the season, there was so much intrigue with this set of players. Morata, Lukaku and Lacazette all made big money moves, Kane had the August curse on his shoulders after a second consecutive golden boot, people were unsure about how Jesus and Aguero would get on together, and Costa was off partying with no intention of kicking a ball for Chelsea again.
We’ve all seen Kane’s August hoodoo in full effect, though the other names listed here have generally done well – something we’ll look at later on. Well, Diego Costa hasn’t been up to much outside of being linked with loan moves to Everton and Fenerbahce, and apparently going on strike to force a move back to Madrid. The days of those consistent returns while on the knife edge of a suspension from last season are long, long gone.
There were also quite a few cheaper striker options that were floating around before the start of the season, with these players being more customary options for the third striker slot. That being said, none of them have really impressed all too much as of yet – something else we’ll look at.
Anyway, this has led to a lot of discussion amongst the FPL community, centring around the idea of having 3 premium forwards in your team, using either a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3 formation.
This hasn’t been overly common over the years, as the third striker slot is usually used on a cheaper option to allow cash to be spread throughout the team – sometimes even on a 4.5m striker who’ll just grab a pew on the touchline for the season, allowing for a 3-5-2 formation.
We’ll have a quick look at the situation regarding both the cheaper strikers and the premium ones, focusing on how we can shoehorn as many superstars into our front lines as possible.
Cheap Third Strikers
A lot of the premium striker bonanza talk stems from the third striker slot and the cheaper options therein. If we look at strikers who are under 7.5m, there aren’t any options which really jump off the page at the moment. Here are the most owned strikers under 7.4m as we head into GW5:
Hernandez started off brightly enough with a brace against Southampton, but has failed to impress since with just 4 shots and booking in the subsequent two games, even being shunted out to the left wing to accommodate Andy Carroll.
Sam Vokes also started off brightly with a 13-point haul against Chelsea but has really dropped off. Since then, he’s clocked just 2 shots in the past 2 games, being subbed off at around the hour mark with Stone Cold Sean Dyche’s new lump du jour being record signing Chris Wood.
The less said about Gabbiadini the better.
Mounie started brightly but hasn’t returned at all since his GW1 haul, while the likes of Okazaki, King and Abraham aren’t exactly nailed or reliable. The untimely demise of Josh King is particularly painful to watch as a long-time owner last season, almost single-handedly saving my season.
Joselu has emerged as an option recently, racking up 8 shots and 4 attempted assists in the last 2 gameweeks, putting him up there with the big boys in terms of attempts so far this season.
That being said, for a 27-year-old who has never scored more than 10 league goals, a bit more time may be needed to assess him.
Going back towards the higher end of this bracket, there’s Wayne Rooney, who managed 2 goals in his first 2 games back at his boyhood club. While not too bad considering the fixtures Everton have had to kick off the season, he’s only registered 1.5 shots per game, not really playing as an out-and-out number 9 as Everton are still trying to piece together a consistent forward line. Their Thursday night exploits in the Europa League certainly won’t help things (as I’m writing this, they’re 3-0 down away against Atalanta. Ouch.)
Below, we can see Everton’s average positions against Spurs (left) and Stoke (right), where Rooney has generally been behind the likes of Calvert-Lewin and Sandro.
Another player in this bracket is Marcus Rashford. United’s golden boy has started off the season in fine form, scoring 2 goals and grabbing an assist, but his minutes have been somewhat limited, not playing the full 90 minutes once yet. This is due to his rotation with Anthony Martial, with United bringing one on for the other to run against tired defenders. This makes him really difficult to include in any FPL side.
Now of course, it’s hard to expect enormous returns each week from lads who are priced at such a level – that’s why they cost that much in the first place. But none of these players are really offering a great amount of value at the moment.
So, with the lack of options here, which premium forwards should we focus on, and how can we get them all into our team? Let’s take a look at each of them, including some that are slightly under the premium bracket, but are still bloody expensive compared to what we usually see in the third striker slot.
The Heavy Hitters
Harry Kane – 12.4m
Apparently nicknamed “H” by his teammates, Kane’s first few games were a complete tragedy for his FPL managers. The August curse reared its ugly head, consigning Kane to returns of 1, 1, and 2 in the opening 3 games of the season. Thanks to this lack of form, there was a target placed upon Kane’s back, with him being shipped out by an enormous amount of people, even leading to a price drop for a player who has won two consecutive golden boot awards. At the start of the season, Kane’s ownership was nearing 40%. As of now, even with his 2-goal haul, it sits at 27%.
That being said, Kane is seemingly back to his best now that August is but a bitter memory for both H and his FPL managers. In Spurs’ last Premier Legaue match away at Everton, Kane managed 4 shots, with 3 on target (the 2nd most of any player that week), resulting in 2 goals and a handy 13 points.
It also helps that as of writing this, Kane managed 2 goals and an assist in Spurs’ Champions League fixture against Borussia Dortmund – both of his goals being utterly superb finishes.
A phrase that’s been heard before is: Kaneless = Brainless. While I won’t go that far, it’s safe to say that with Kane’s newfound form and Spurs’ upcoming fixtures, he should be at the top of the shopping list of managers who don’t have him.
Oh, and searching for “Kaneless is Brainless” on Google came back with Mike and Maria Kanellis’ WWE theme song, a certified banger.
Romelu Lukaku – 11.7m
Lukaku made his big summer move to Manchester United, much to the excitement of both United supporters and prospective FPL managers. A man who scored 25 league goals last season playing for a much better side? Lovely old job.
Big Rom hasn’t disappointed so far, scoring 4 in 4 league games, with 6 in 6 if you’re looking at all competitions. He looked fantastic against West Ham on the opening day, but didn’t set the world alight in their other fixtures, even though he managed 2 goals. As we saw earlier on, he’s managed 5 shots per game so far, second only to Harry Kane of all players in the Premier League.
He’s the main outlet for United’s attacks and has added a whole new element to their game with his ability to peel off into the channels and run in behind, something they lacked when Zlatan led the line last season.
It’s rather interesting how he tends to drift to the right-hand side, allowing space for the likes of Mkhitaryan and Martial/Rashford, with his link-up play improving, completing more final third passes per game than any premium forward, and the second-highest number of attempted assists of his rivals, showing his all-round involvement.
One area worth looking into here is that you’re investing 11.7m into a striker that you may not necessarily be giving the captain’s armband to each week if you’ve got Kane in your team. One of the internal debates I’ve been having recently has been whether Lukaku could potentially be dropped in favour of one of the cheaper options that we’ll look at later on, using that money to beef up other areas of the team.
It’ll really be worth seeing how he and United get on without Pogba, who should miss the next few gameweeks after pinging his hamstring in the Champions League fixture against Basel – a timely reminder that you really should wait until Friday to make your transfers.
Sergio Aguero – 11.4m
One of the true recent legends of FPL, Aguero was an instant pick for any FPL side over the years. Well, at least until messrs Jesus and Guardiola strolled on into Manchester, casting a shadow of doubt over Kun’s head.
This uncertainty has come from the odd occasion where Aguero has been left on the bench in favour of Gabriel Jesus, which helps to explain his obscene 10% ownership.
This season though, we’ve mainly seen both Jesus and Aguero play up front together for City in a 3-5-2 system, aside from their game away at Bournemouth which saw Jesus play up front in a 4-3-3. Though there have been questions about them playing together, they’ve generally done very well playing alongside one another. Aguero has 2 goals and an assist so far this season, with that assist being for Jesus in City’s 5-0 tonking of Liverpool.
Stats-wise, Aguero has managed a respectable 2.3 shots per game, with 4 actions in the penalty area per game – actually 2 higher than that of Gabriel Jesus. Also, Aguero has made 2.5 key passes per game and has 9 attempted assists (2.3 per game) – more than any other premium forward.
Aguero sits at an awkward price point. Jesus seems to be the more nailed starting option and at a cheaper price, with Kun being priced similarly to Lukaku – United’s main man. If you’re looking for a City attacker, it’d probably be Jesus you’re after, though if you have Aguero already, there’s no real reason to bin him.
Alexandre Lacazette – 10.4m
Almost the odd one out amongst his fellow premium cohorts, Lacazette hasn’t really hit the ground running so to speak, with him being the lowest scorer of the main premium options up front.
He’s managed two goals so far this season, with his first touch of a ball in the Premier League being a header that put Arsenal 1-0 up against Leicester on the opening night. He then failed to notch in the subsequent two matches, actually being benched for the trip to Liverpool – a decision and a match which helped line the pockets of Robbie from Arsenal Fan TV as Arsenal lost 4-0.
He hasn’t looked bad per se, but his stats don’t really stand up all too well when compared to other premium strikers.
He doesn’t stand out for any of the key attacking stats, also having the fewest shots per game.
In the game against Bournemouth, where Arsenal won very comfortably, he wasn’t the furthest forward player. He was deeper, on average, that Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil – the former of which was the star of the show with 2 goals and an assist.
Lacazette represents a good option after this week with Arsenal having a lovely run of fixtures following their game away at Chelsea, which we can’t really expect much from. That being said, other players in this price range are currently offering far more value.
Gabriel Jesus – 10.4m
A player who we’d really covered while looking at his South American strike partner/rival, Gabriel Jesus has been a superstar since he arrived in the Premier League. Since January of this year, when he joined the City squad, Jesus has scored 10 goals in 14 Premier League games, claiming 7 goals and 4 assists in just 651 minutes last season.
Jesus has 3 goals so far this season, including a brace in City’s 5-0 win against Liverpool, with him claiming all 3 bonus points in his last 2 games.
If we look at his numbers per game, he’s had 3.3 shots per game with 2.5 shots per game coming in the area – both higher than his teammate/rival Kun Aguero. Though it’s a small sample size, both of these figures are also improved from last year. His outright attacking stats are very similar to those of Alvaro Morata, the final player we’ll look at among the 10m+ strikers.
Jesus really does offer excellent value considering his price and how much Pep bloody loves him. He’s one of the best young talents in world football and Pep knows it, starting him in every game so far this season, including City’s first Champions League fixture against Feyenoord.
City won that match 4-0 with Jesus scoring, seemingly playing up front with Aguero but in a much different system:
He’s a fantastic option for your 2nd striker slot, and maybe even your third slot if you’re adamant on having Kane and Lukaku up front; I know I’m temped.
Alvaro Morata – 10.2m
The final 10m+ striker to look at is Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata. Heavily linked to United in the summer, it was highly expected that we’d see him and Lukaku in each other’s current roles, with Lukaku at Chelsea.
United ended up splashing the cash for Lukaku, but Chelsea really can’t be disappointed with how Morata has done so far. He’s the top scoring forward in FPL this season with 3 goals and 2 assists. I think Chelsea would be more pleased about the latter point, but Abramovich could have him in his FPL side, you never know.
He’s managed 3.5 shots per game so far this season, with 2.5 of them being on target; similar stats to Jesus, as mentioned.
With his returns so far, you may have seen that all of his goals and assists so far this season have come with his head. Chelsea have several set piece specialists such as Willian and Fabregas, as well as the likes of Alonso, Azpilicueta and Zappacosta who have the ability to find his head from out wide.
He’s also been in fine form for Spain, scoring a goal in both games during the international break, though one of them was with his feet, the show off.
One stat that stands out is his shot accuracy of 71%, higher than all other premium forwards. He’s also scored his 3 goals from 5 shots on target, a lower number than Jesus (6), Kane and Lukaku (9 each). As Peter Blake mentioned in his GW 5-10 ranking article, he may be overperforming somewhat.
That being said, he really is offering some excellent value right now at just 10.2m. Chelsea play both Arsenal and City at home in the next 3 weeks, with their other fixture being Stoke away – it could be worth looking elsewhere for now.
Now, with the 3 big boys up front, there are two players that stand out as the third striker options that aren’t necessarily in the 10m+ bracket, helping to save at least a little bit of money for other positions.
Roberto Firmino – 8.6m
The first option is Roberto Firmino, who is actually the 2nd top scoring forward in the game so far this season with 28 points. The lion’s share of these points have come in 2 games, with Bobby grabbing a goal and an assist, as well as all 3 bonus points, in Liverpool’s matches against Watford and Arsenal.
There are a few reasons why Firmino is so damn popular, with his ownership sitting at 31.2%. First of all, with James Milner dropping out of the side after the resurgence of Moreno and the purchase of Robertson, Firmino has become Liverpool’s chief penalty taker. He missed a penalty against Sevilla in the Champions League, but he should still be on them going forward. I bloody well hope so at least, he’s in my team.
He’s also doing very well in terms of bonus points. He racked up all 3 bonus points in 2 matches this season, even though Mo Salah claimed a goal and an assist in these games too. He’s picked up 104 BPS so far, which is more than any other premium forward.
He creates chances due to his play style, essentially feeding the runners of Salah and Mane, being heavily involved in the play – he’s had more touches of the ball (193) and completed more passes (125) than any other top forward by some distance. This all plays nicely into the BPS system.
In terms of striking stats, he’s not doing particularly well in this regard. He’s only had 10 shots so far, with him ranking around 20th for shots per game across all players in the league this season.
While he’s not having too many shots, he’s a bonus point magnet who plays up front for one of the best attacking sides in the league, and is (as far as we know) their chief penalty taker.
How he’ll do without Mane in the side is worth monitoring, but he looked a superb pick so far.
Jamie Vardy – 8.4m
The second sub-10m player work looking at is Mr. Vodka & Charlie, Jamie Vardy. The man who finished in the top 10 of the Ballon D’Or voting not too many moons ago is currently priced at 8.4m in FPL, scoring 3 goals so far.
His first two goals came against Arsenal on the opening night, with them showcasing how incredibly dangerous his can be on the break.
In terms of getting his shots off, Vardy has actually only attempted 6 shots so far this season, with 3 of them being on target. This could stem from the awful run of fixtures Leicester have had so far, facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United so far this season – Vardy didn’t register a single effort against United.
Comparing him and Firmino, it’s Liverpool’s bright-teethed Brazilian who leads the way:
The bonus points are interesting here – Vardy outdoes Firmino in terms of total BPS, but has only claimed 4 bonus points compared to Firmino’s 6. Vardy is likely picking up small bonuses due to lesser actions, such as winning free kicks, committing fewer fouls, etc. Nothing fabulous or glamorous, but it all adds up.
Vardy’s fixtures will be picking up very soon, with their only red FPL fixture being Liverpool at home, a side who are notably rather poor at defending.
Vardy represents more of a rogue, differential shout with his 11% ownership, and could really help you climb the rankings if he performs and the far more popular Firmino fails.
The main combination of top striking options in the game amongst the FPL community is seemingly Kane – Lukaku – Firmino. This will set you back a pretty penny, but you’ve got three lone strikers who are all on penalty taking duties for their respective clubs. Kane and Lukaku have been the absolute kings of attempted shots so far, with both of them having some handy fixtures coming up.
Another option floating around is Kane – Jesus/Morata – Firmino. This will save you a substantial amount of money by opting for Jesus/Morata as opposed to Lukaku, which can then be invested elsewhere in the squad while still having 3 superb options going forward.
It’s hard to really suggest a combination without Kane, as he seems to be utterly essential going forward, though you could opt for Lukaku – Jesus/Morata – Firmino/Vardy. Putting the armband on Lukaku should net you plenty of points, with it being the most common captaincy option each week so far, while the likes of Jesus, Morata and Vardy represent relative differentials.
Now, you could go all-out attack with a front line of Kane – Lukaku – Jesus/Morata. This would take up around 34m worth of funds – over a third of the entire team’s value – and would be a very high risk strategy. If you aren’t finding value in other positions, this could be an option.
In order to accommodate such a forward line, different formation options are being mulled over. The rise of wing backs in the Premier League presents the option of 4 or even 5 at the back formations, with cheaper midfields being used due to the lack of a real Ramsey/Alli/Mahrez-style bargain player.
The 4-3-3 is fast becoming an option, as evidenced by Walsh of FMLFPL and Az of Fantasy Football Scout’s current sides:
— AZ (@ffscout_az) September 8, 2017
Personally, I’m running the first of these options, though I’m flirting with the idea of dropping Lukaku for Jesus, and using the money to beef up my defence.
How are you treating your forward line? Post your lineups below!