With the big name strikers disappointing week after week, we have been forced to look to cheaper options up front. A common point for debate these days, I take a statistical look at this segment.
Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata have blown hot and cold. Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Alexander Lacazette have been embroiled in rotation tussles. Quality options for our 3 forward slots have diminished. This has coincided with the rise of quality options in midfield. Mo Salah, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phillippe Coutinho, Paul Pogba, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez are just a few premium who have tempted us lately. This has seen a shift of funds from forwards to midfield, with budget strikers becoming popular enablers.
In this article, I will take a look at Everton duo Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle, Swansea youngster Tammy Abraham and Huddersfield boys Laurent Depoitre and Collin Quaner.
It’s almost 2018, and somehow, Wayne Rooney has still found a way into our Fantasy considerations. The most expensive of the lot, Rooney does have some good underlying numbers. He has scored the highest points, goals, takes the most shots on target and has the best creation stats by far. One crucial aspect is also how he is involved in a remarkable 81.25% of goals Everton score when he is on the pitch. Yes, 81.25%. That stat surprised me as much as it did for you. However, one important point to note is that he’s got 4 goals and 1 assist from penalties.
Penalties are, of course, a big plus, but such an amount of penalties is unsustainable, especially when some of these penalties Everton are getting quite dodgy (the ones against Swansea and Liverpool come to mind). He might also relinquish spot-kick duties to Leighton Baines once he’s back, since he’s really a poor taker (77% conversion rate in the league, 60% this season). Taking that out of the equation, Rooney fails to justify his price over the others. £2.0m could be the difference between a Ramsey and a Coutinho, a Groß and a Pogba or a Richarlison and a Sterling. Considering that Rooney plays in central midfield these days (also why the creation stats are much better), he’s not worth the extra outlay. A decent pick, but a luxury pick. If only he was classified as a midfielder..
Back in Rafa Benitez’s thoughts with some impressive performances, Gayle has taken over the Newcastle lead striker role with 3 goals in his last 6 starts and Joselu’s profligacy. Much like Rooney, he’s unfortunate to be in a higher price tag – Gayle costs £6.1m. He doesn’t have many outstanding stats, ranking middle of the park in most. His points per mil per 90 is also the lowest, showing how his higher price tag lets him down. At just 1.1%, the ultimate differential, but not a worthy one..
After an injury cut short his form and temporary reign as the best budget striker, Abraham is back, now available at a cut-price £5.7m after hitting a peak of £6.0m. Furthermore, Wilfried Bony’s absence in the festive fixtures will help his cause, making him certain to start all games. But the problem with Abraham is his side don’t create much in the post-Sigurdsson era.
Swansea have only scored 11 goals so far. 11. At this rate, they will have only scored 2 more goals than the infamous 2007-08 Derby County side. His stats are also nothing impressive, and you can’t blame him for no creativity, but that should be enough to keep him out of serious consideration.
The most popular of the cheaper strikers, Calvert-Lewin’s stock has risen as Sam Allardyce’s #9 of choice. His output, however, in points per 90, hasn’t quite been good – only Quaner ranks worse. He’s also scored the least goals of them all bar Quaner, and even though his xG (expected goals) show that he’s underperforming, it’s not by much. Even though the 20-year-old does seem to take a lot of shots – the highest – the goals and xG stats show that most of them aren’t quality shots.
Calvert-Lewin does rely a lot on assists – he has twice as many assists as goals – which is also not the best sign from a striker, and also keeps him down on bonus points. Everton signing a striker in January would also spell the end of his run as their first choice striker. But given his price, you can excuse some his red flags.
Having started the season as Huddersfield’s second striker, Depoitre seems to have usurped Steve Mounie to the role with some promising form. Indeed, the Belgian has now netted in each of his last 3 games, while his scalps this season include the likes of Chelsea and Man Utd. Although his points and goals are the best barring Rooney, his xG and disappointing shots tally show he might be overperforming – even teammate Quaner has more.
Or he is just way too good at taking his chances. He has proven to be good value for money so far, delivering when he’s gotten a good run in the side. Although he might face rotation with Mounie, David Wagner might be compelled to continue giving the in-form man a go. At 3.3%, a solid differential as well.
With Elias Kachunga out injured for 2-3 months, Quaner should get an extended run of starts on the right hand side of the Huddersfield midfield. The cheapest active striker in the game, you’ll get what you pay for with the German. His creation stats, however, are unexpectedly decent. He could be a solid rotation option with a cheaper 5th midfielder in a 3-5-2, say a Ruben Loftus-Cheek, to slot in when his fixtures are good and provide an unexpected return. Or he could provide you with a solid 2 points and a chance of an attacking return when you’re hit with injury. But don’t expect more.
In this regard, Depoitre/Quaner rank the best with Huddersfield’s promising run of fixtures in the short-term. The Terriers face no top 6 sides in their next 5. They also take on Stoke, officially the worst defense in the league – having conceded 40 goals this season, twice in this period.
Gayle ranks second, with 4 plum fixtures, and 2 tough ones. Gayle has 3 plum home fixtures, and away to Stoke, so he marginally edges Rooney/Calvert-Lewin who have 4 plum fixtures too, but 2 of them away.
Abraham’s horror run of fixtures just give you even more of a reason to stay away from him.
Honestly, it’s quite slim pickings in this segment too. It’s pretty much a toss-up between Depoitre or Calvert-Lewin. Depoitre’s the differential, and the one with the better short term fixtures. If you want the safer pick, and better fixtures over the medium term, Calvert-Lewin’s the man. Quaner‘s also worth considering if he’s a 3rd striker in a 3-5-2. Don’t expect much from your budget forward, though. Be happy with an attacking return every third game, and the big name midfielders/forwards they help enable.