With the almost all the premium forwards firing big, it has become hard to accommodate them. Going for one cheaper forward up top has seemed the best way to achieve this, without imbalance in the midfield. In this article, I take a look at this category of forwards.
With no forwards in the £8.7m-£10.2m bracket, it has forced managers to look in the bracket below for their third striker in order to have firepower both up front and in midfield. In this article, I will be comparing Marcus Rashford, Chicharito Hernandez, Chris Wood, Shinji Okazaki, Tammy Abraham, Joselu and Tomer Hemed. I will also be comparing them to Jamie Vardy and Roberto Firmino in the next price bracket, to see if they are worth the extra money.
Marcus Rashford (£7.6m)
Despite playing on the wing, even though he’s classified as a forward in FPL, Rashford’s stats do point to a decent pick. His points per 90 are substantially the highest amongst the lot, while his shooting stats are only second to Joselu. His goal involvement %, at 41.67% when he is on the pitch, might seem lower than the others. But that’s because almost all the rest are the focal points of their team’s attack, while Rashford has to play second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku. Playing for a team that scores more goals also contributes to that. Rashford’s creation stats are the best amongst the lot – the others barely contribute anything else to their team. With 5.52 dribbles per 90, he’s also a nuisance to defenders himself.
The England international has also developed his free-kicks as a new weapon in his arsenal. It showed in the last Gameweek against Crystal Palace, with a sublime assist from a set-play for Marouane Fellaini. Perhaps the only thing holding Rashford back as a top choice is his gametime. He has finished only one league game so far, which was the only game he made it past the 80th minute too. It seems like he’s destined for 70-75 minutes each time out, with Anthony Martial coming on for him then. But his starting position looks all but nailed on now, as he has started 6/7 games so far. Clearly, Mourinho prefers Rashford to Martial in the league, with the Frenchman getting his starts in the Champions League instead. It seems he’s doing a decent amount of damage in the 70 odd minutes he gets too, with 5.5 points per start.
Chicharito Hernandez (£7.0m)
The ex-Man Utd forward arrived in east London amidst a lot of hype, but it has failed to materialize into something big so far. He has scored only 4.2 points per 90 so far – the lowest of the lot. Despite the third highest goals per 90, his shooting stats don’t rank up that well. Perhaps he’s not the one to blame for that. At 75%, his goal involvement % is the highest. He has scored 3 of the 4 goals West Ham have scored while he was on the pitch. But that’s where Chicharito suffers – the Hammers have only scored 5 goals in 7 games so far, and have shown little to no creativity to service the man renowned for his predatory instincts in front of goal.
His creation stats are fairly decent, but perhaps that’s because he’s also been playing on the wing – another point against him. With Andy Carroll back in the fold, the Mexican has had to play out wide. Manager Slaven Bilic has confirmed this will be the way when Carroll is fit, terming a Carroll-Chicharito partnership with 2 up top ‘almost impossible’. Playing in a role alien to him has certainly hurt his goal threat. Playing second fiddle to Carroll, in a team devoid of any creativity since Dimitri Payet left just makes it worse.
Chris Wood (£6.6m)
The summer signing from Leeds started off in red hot form, scoring 2 goals in his first 2 appearances for Burnley. Since then though, he has cooled down, with 3 blanks. Perhaps Burnley’s shyness in front of the goal is the cause here too. The Clarets haven’t scored more than a goal in a game since GW1, while they have only scored 4 goals in the 6 games since. His shooting stats are nothing special either – he ranks middle of the tree in most. His actual goals are twice his expected goals (xG) as well, pointing to possible regression in the future. Wood’s creation stats don’t help him out either, ranking near the bottom. The New Zealand striker might just be another pick rendered mediocre due to his team’s lack of creativity.
Shinji Okazaki (£5.6m)
On the face of it, Okazaki seems to be an excellent pick for the price, with some good stats per 90 mins. He ranks on top in goals, xG, he actually has less goals than his expected, has highest shots in the 6 yard box, both pointing towards high percentage shots. The Japanese striker’s creation stats are decent too, while unlike some others, he plays for Leicester, a team that actually creates chances. But crucially, the stats are per 90 – Okazaki’s red flag lies in his game time.
He has started only 5 of the 7 games so far. With record signings Kelechi Iheanacho and Islam Slimani waiting in the wings as competition for that spot to partner Jamie Vardy, Okazaki is far from nailed-on. Even when he starts – he is perpetually substituted off early. Let alone finish a game, he has only made it past the 75th minute on one occasion. That was against Brighton at home, where he was substituted off in the 76th minute. It’s just the Rashford problem, only worse. He seems to get substituted off earlier, and his starts aren’t secure in the first place either.
Tammy Abraham (£5.6m)
Abraham is yet another exponent of the team-not-creative-enough syndrome. Life at Swansea has been tough since Gylfi Sigurdsson, with goals coming anything but a dozen a dime. The Welsh club have only scored 3 goals this season – only Crystal Palace have fewer. The lack of creativity shows in Abraham’s stats too. He has the lowest goals per 90, with the second lowest shots. He only has 3 shots on target so far, having scored with 2 of those. With creation stats less than impressive too, despite good upcoming fixtures, it doesn’t seem as if the Chelsea loanee can deliver on his potential just yet.
Joselu does have the best shooting stats – taking the most shots, on target and in the box by far. His xG is also second highest, comfortably higher than his actual goals, showing that he has been underperforming so far. The Spaniard has also missed the most big chances – missing more than one every 90 minutes. The question that remains is, whether Joselu has just been genuinely unlucky or is just an awful finisher. That remains to be seen, but at least he does avoid some of the common red flags for strikers in this category. He is nailed on, with Aleksandr Mitrovic’s temperament as questionable as it can get, and Dwight Gayle out of favor with Rafa Benitez. And his team are having no problem creating chances either – as his shooting stats show. At the lowest ownership with 1.0%, he may also just be the ultimate differential.
Tomer Hemed (£5.0m)
Even though he is still suspended for two more games after stamping Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin, Hemed still may have a role to serve in the forwards ecosystem. His stats may not be very exciting, and he plays for another team frugal in front of goal – Brighton. But Hemed is the ideal third striker for those going with a 3-5-2, teams which will start with 5 midfielders most weeks. At the cheapest price point for a starter, the Israel international offers a decent rotation option with a budget midfielder for his easier fixtures. If you’re going to bench him most weeks, he also can be carried through his suspension.
Jamie Vardy (£8.6m)
With his points per 90 only second to Rashford, who has played substantially less minutes, Vardy does have a lot going for him, despite the price tag. Having scored 5 goals so far, only Lukaku, Aguero, Kane and Morata have outscored him amongst forwards – both in goals and in points. Even though he’s been overperforming relative to his xG, that’s a trend for Vardy. Last season, he scored 13 while his xG was 9.95, and the season before, he scored 24 despite an xG of 22.14. It seems he’s just good at finishing.
Impressively, the ex-non league player’s stats have come in the hardest of fixtures – Leicester have already faced 4 of last season’s top 6 sides. He has only missed 24 minutes of the season so far, plays for a side that scores goals, and is on penalties despite his latest miss against Liverpool. With 3 goals in the last 4, he’s in great touch too.
Roberto Firmino (£8.5m)
As discussed in my Liverpool attackers analysis, Firmino’s stats may well count for nought due to Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s rotation shenanigans. When Daniel Sturridge starts, he has either been benched or put out on the wing. His output on the wing, frankly, isn’t much better than that on the bench. Last season, in all competitions, he produced 7 goals and 9 assists in 21 apps in the middle. On the wing, it reduced to only 5 goals and 2 assists in 19 apps. Crucially, Sturridge has started only the easier games – CRY (H), BUR (H) and NEW (A). Since those are the games you’d expect Firmino to produce in, it doesn’t bode very well for him. Certainly, not the risk you’d want to be taking if you’re paying this much for a forward.
In this regard, Abraham perhaps has the most conducive fixtures – with 4 plum games in the next 5, and only one tougher fixture. Okazaki/Vardy don’t rank too far behind either, with only one tough fixture, and 5 easier ones. Joselu, with 3 plum home fixtures and only one hard fixture, also has a kind schedule, while Rashford’s 2 tough games are made up by 3 plum ones. Firmino faces the top 3 defenses in the next 6, and perhaps has the toughest fixtures of the lot.
If you can afford Vardy, it has to be him. Nailed-on, team has creativity, penalties, in-form, proven in the league, he checks all the boxes you’d want him to. In the cheaper section, every contender has red flags – it’s between the ones that have the less significant ones, or the fewest. And for me, it’s between Rashford and Joselu. If you can afford him, and especially if you don’t own Lukaku – Rashford might be a good alternative route to Lukaku into the free-scoring Man Utd attack. If you want to go even more budget, Joselu might be the man. He’s nailed on, and those shooting stats are too hard to resist for that price, with fairly good fixtures too.