FPL Value: Which Forwards Are Worth Their Weight In Goals?

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The striker position used to be the first place an FPL manager would look to invest in £10m+ assets. And then in 2017 Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) arrived at Anfield, heralding the decline of the Premier League target-man and sparking the debate that continues to this day about attacking classifications. 

Salah’s own midfield position has never been changed, but players like Marcus Rashford (£6.5m) and Kai Havertz(£8.0m) have seen their designations altered while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had the distinction of seeing his switched from forward to midfielder and then back again in consecutive summers.

Strikers remain very attractive FPL assets, but many pre-season drafts are overlooking proven forwards in favour of loading up on attacking midfielders or wing-backs and the extra points they attract for goals and clean sheets. Could this be a mistake? Is there value to be found at the striker position? And what would a forward new to the Premier League have to do to justify their price?

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Strikers: What Are They Worth?

The top three most owned forwards with a week left before the big kick-off are Gabriel Jesus (£8.0m, 65%) who has just switched clubs, Erling Haaland (£11.5m, 58%) who has never kicked a ball in the Premiership and Sam Greenwood(£4.5m, 26%) who played only 231 minutes for Leeds United last term but has the magical basement price tag of £4.5m. Remove the names and present these bare facts to seasoned FPL managers and many would shudder, yet here we are.

In the opening article for this series(The Salah Standard) I took the ABC transfer principles for FPL that I established two years ago, used top-scoring, highest-priced FPL asset Mohamed Salah’s performance and price as a benchmark and generated a ‘True’ value for all players who appeared in FPL last season compared to the £13.0m valuation of Salah himself. The list of forwards with a ‘True’ Price of £5.0m or higher is as follows:

(“May 22 Price” refers to the end of last season while “Jul 22 Price” refers to the starting price for the 22/23 season. Player Name in bold indicates classified as MID last season.)

The most striking thing about the ‘True’ Prices is how many of them land within £0.5m of the actual valuations given by the FPL game for the start of this season. This gives some confidence that players with a True Price £1.0m or more higher than the FPL price might be genuine bargains. However, the list of such ‘undervalued’ players is actually soexclusive it includes only one name.

Toney Awards

Ivan Toney (£7.0m) was a popular FPL choice at the start of last season despite having no previous Premier League experience, playing up front for newly-promoted Brentford and, at £6.5m, costing the same as more established names such as Neil Maupay and Allan Saint-Maximin (both still £6.5m, though Saint-Maximin is now classed as a midfielder). Toney finished the campaign a little up in value at £6.9m, but his new price of £7.0m appears to be very generous if you take last season’s performance as the only evidence:

NbGWs indicates the number of Gameweeks where a player registered an FPL score (Non-blank Gameweeks)

Toney scored more goals than any of these more expensive peers. He also Returned (5+) and Hauled (10+) at a better rate (R% and H% respectively) than any of them. He is edged into second here on a stat or two, but if you were just shown the bare numbers he is surely the one that you would pick. And he did all this while playing for promoted Brentford where his role is now well-established going into this season. There’s no doubt that Christian Eriksen (£6.5m) helped the team significantly in the closing months, but Brentford would have to suffer a heavy dose of second-season syndrome for him not to at least make good on his actual asking price, let alone what he has shown he is capable of.

The Elite Musketeers

The three key metrics that make up my ABC transfer criteria (Haul Marks Part II) are:

A)           Returned (5+ pts) in at least 50% of appearances (5+ in the table above)

B)           Hauled (10+ pts) in at least 15% of appearances (10+ in the table above)

C)           Played at least 76% of the time available (2600 minutes over a whole season)

Players sustaining those levels of performance are almost certain to score 200+ FPL points over a season. Players falling a little short in one of the criteria are heading for 160-200. 

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Ivan Toney qualifies on minutes and Hauls, but his rate of Returns (5+ points) is 11% below the ‘elite’ minimum of 50% and the other two performances don’t balance that out. No regular striker cleared that bar of 50%, but Diogo Jota(£9.0m) was one of six regularly-playing midfielders to get there including Son (69%) and Salah (72%).

In terms of Returning and Hauling rates (%) the top 3 strikers by ‘True’ Price are in a photo-finish. What clearly differentiates them is their time on the pitch. Tottenham captain Harry Kane (£11.5m) always starts when fit and is rarely substituted. Cristiano Ronaldo (£10.5m), at 37 years old, is going to be rested for some games, but still does enough when in the side to be worth £10.5m if he stays. Jamie Vardy (£9.5m) continues to be as dangerous as anyone when spearheading a Premier League attack, but is 35 himself and increasingly struggles with injuries. His price of £9.5m has a little upside if he can manage a few more appearances, but his output has been gradually declining over the last two years.

Kane finds a place in one out of five squads, but Vardy features in fewer than one in twenty. Broadly, the prices for the three main elite forward assets are fair value when set against Mohamed Salah’s £13.0m and Kane in particular isunlikely to let you down if you select him.

Mid-Price Muddle

Looking below the top four forwards according to ‘True’ Price it is noticeable that all except former midfielder Bryan Mbeumo (£6.0m) have a Return rate of 30-39% and mostly near the top end of that, suggesting that a Return in roughly two of every five Gameweeks is ‘standard’ for a mid-priced FPL forward.

At the lower end of this bracket it’s usually straightforward to find a reason for the valuations: Raul Jiménez (£7.0m)doesn’t haul (and is now out for a while), the Dannies Ings(£7.0m) and Welbeck (£6.5m) don’t play enough and Mbeumo will lose his midfielder extras. 

Of the pair of £7.5m options, Ollie Watkins is probably £0.2m cheaper than his ‘True’ value and Michail Antonio £0.3m cheaper than his based on last season alone where Antonio bagged a tidy twenty goal involvements. However, he was a frustrating own after the first few weeks and now has Gianluca Scamacca (£7.0m) to compete with him for minutes. Watkins looks the steady pick who’ll be at least worth his price.

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Samba Switches

Since joining Manchester City in 2016/17 Gabriel Jesus has never played more than 2056 minutes in a season. He has scored more than 10 goals only twice in that time (14 in 2019/20 and 13 in 2017/18). He reliably adds five to eight assists a season. Just before he arrived at Arsenal his putative understudy, Eddie Nketiah (£7.0m), was persuaded to sign a new contract instead of leaving, presumably on the understanding that he would receive significant game-time.

My ‘Salah baseline’ calculations suggest Jesus should be the same £7.5m price as Watkins, but increased minutes could certainly make a case for £0.5m more. FPL managers making Jesus comfortably the most owned player in the game suggests they strongly believe that he will be installed as the main man at the Emirates where chances will flow just as easily as at City and that the only thing holding him back in Manchester was a strange unwillingness to start him regularly.

investing in Jesus comes with a lot of uncertainty (and apparently now a slight injury). Ten days into the season his price will either be £8.2m because literally everybody owns him or £7.7m as managers cash him in for a striker with two unexpected Returns.  

Spurs newboy Richarlison (£8.5m) has a similar goal and assists record to Jesus over the last five seasons at Watford and Everton. However, he has played a lot more and has generally been at clubs in a poor situation rather than teams eyeing-up the Champions League crown. Richarlison is suspended from the first game of the season and is competing for a place with two of the most prolific attackers in the English game. But there he is, the seventh most expensive striker in FPL, on 0.4% ownership just behind Danny Welbeck. Richarlison has the ownership of last season’s Sadio Mane, but could he turn out to be this season’s Diogo Jota at a position where points are becoming more scarce?

Slip Sliding Away

The True Price of many forwards suggests they should not be acquired for your opening squad unless you believe something about their performance or situation is going to change very significantly for the better:

Somebody will have to play up front for Chelsea and whoever that turns out to be would probably be worth £6-7m. Roberto Firmino and Dominic Calvert-Lewin round out a quartet of £8.0m options that should have a fascinating battle to see if any of them can make it to 100 FPL points. 

Over at Leeds United nobody is really sure if Patrick Bamford (£7.5m) is properly fit yet and a lot of money is being dragged around Europe trying to capture some expeienced competition for him. Jessie Marsch’s admiration of Sam Greenwood’s versatility means he is genuinely a good prospect for a weekly one-pointer, but that is as likely to come from ten minutes at left back as half an hour up front. Joe Gelhardt (£5.5m), on the other hand, looks poised for a breakout season of a dozen or so goal involvements which is what you’d expect from someone costing at least £1m more.

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Haala-la-land?

Clearly, a metric based entirely on last season’s Premier League performances is going to have very little to say about the prospects of players brand new to the division, and, aside from some promoted players, usually their club as well. However, if you look at the table as a whole (and squint a bit) you can make out a sort of sliding scale of Pounds Per Goal Involvement. It looks a bit like this:

For strikers, the goal involvements will generally be two-thirds goals, one-third assists.

To justify his price of £11.5m, Erling Haaland really needs to be managing more than 25 goal involvements over the season, or roughly two in every three games. Harry Kane has shown he can achieve that almost routinely, but if Haalanddrops a little below that rate you’d start seeing him more as a rival for Jamie Vardy rather than the England captain. That’s also the price point that Darwin Nunez (£9.0m) is pitched at, though you’d imagine at least one of him or Diogo Jota won’t quite live up to it.

When he was in the Premier League with Fulham two seasons ago Aleksander Mitrovic (£6.5m) mustered three goals and three assists in limited minutes. At £6.5m you’d have to be hoping he gets closer to his 15 goal involvements of 2018/19.That’s the same price as Manchester City’s other new striker, Julian Alvarez (£6.5m). They’re not loaning him out, you know, and not that long ago Gabriel Jesus was getting 14 goals as the backup to Sergio Aguero.

Given that five goal involvements is the predicted outcome for a striker costing £5.5m you’d be forgiven for not bothering at that price point and just taking Sam Greenwood or Nottingham Forest’s Lyle Taylor at £4.5m. Gelhardt looks like he could outperform £5.5m, though, as do Deniz Undavat Brighton and Armando Broja if he gets the right move. Brennan Johnson (£6.0m) will be keen to make himself a starter for Wales at the World Cup, still looks a bit of a reach to outperform Gelhardt for £0.5m more.

Forgotten men

Antony Martial (£7.0m), who feels like he didn’t play in the Premier League last season and whose ownership of 7.7% puts him directly in between Mitrovic and Toney, could yet be the early bargain of the season at £7.0m if Cristiano Ronaldo decides he’s had enough of Old Trafford after all.

Emmanuel Dennis is still at Watford, which is a bit surprising given that, in a losing relegation fight, he managed the same number of goal involvements (17) and Gameweekdouble-digit Hauls (5) as Ivan Toney. If any Premier League club did come in for him his potential value would be hard to ignore at £6.5m or below.

Best Buy: Ivan Toney
Worth The Money: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Ollie Watkins
Breakthrough Potential: Antony Martial, Joe Gelhardt, Deniz Undav, Julian Alvarez
Third Benchers: Sam Greenwood, Lyle Taylor
Your Mileage May Vary: Gabriel Jesus, Erling Haaland, Richarlison, Brennan Johnson

stats: All stats taken from:

https://www.ffstuff.co.uk/playersFPL202122.php

74380cookie-checkFPL Value: Which Forwards Are Worth Their Weight In Goals?
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