FPL transfer guide: The best options for your Fantasy Premier League forward line
The Fantasy Premier League forward selection is absolutely crucial for FPL managers, with the percentage of budget spent on strikers generally determining the balance of a squad.
As the anticipation ramps up ahead of the new Premier League season kicking off on Saturday, we assess the best goalscoring forwards to pick for your team.
Cheap (£4.5m - £6.0m)
These forwards are really just budget enablers. If you are purchasing from this miserly price range, a good plan is to ensure your fifth midfielder (who you should now be able to splash a little more cash on) rotates well with the player who in all likelihood will be your third-choice forward. Hull City offer up two options in this bracket, with Adama Diomande (£4.5m) and Abel Hernandez (£6.0m) having scored three and four goals respectively through pre-season. However, with the club in limbo following Steve Bruce's exit and ties against Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal in their opening five games, a wait-and-see approach for two strikers who have the potential to offer outstanding value might be the best approach.
If the much-mooted transfer of Christian Benteke to Crystal Palace doesn't go through, Connor Wickham (£6.0m) could be the real budget forward star. Playing in what should be an attacking side, boosted by the signing of Andros Townsend, the 23-year-old could shine in a nice opening set of fixtures for the Eagles once he can stay injury free.
Across London, a risky but potentially profitable selection could be Arsenal's Chuba Akpom (£5.5m). The 20-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Hull, has netted four times over the summer and could provide a stop-gap solution up front for Arsene Wenger until Olivier Giroud is fit to start. A lively transfer strategy would be required if you take a gamble on the young forward.
Other bargain buys include Sunderland's Fabio Borini (£5.5m), who will play as a wide forward after news emerged of Jermain Defoe's return to training, and Middlesborough's Jordan Rhodes (£6.0m), who will face intense competition from former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo for a starting spot up front.
Mid-price (£6.5m - £7.5m)
With fantasy managers spoilt for choice in the premium midfield bracket, a mid-priced striker can be essential for sparing funds to splash on desired targets. Shane Long (£6.5m) is one of the standout candidates at this price as the Saints play Watford, Sunderland and Swansea at home in their opening five games. The Ireland star, owned by almost 15% of managers, scored 10 times last season while assisting four goals last season as he cemented himself as the club's number one striker during the second half of the season.
Priced the same as Long, Burnley hitman Andre Gray (11.4% ownership) is drawing huge attention from fantasy managers. 23 Championship strikes have been followed up by nine pre-season goals, with the only question mark over the nailed-on 25-year-old being whether or not he can produce at the highest level. West Ham United's Andy Carroll is also available at £6.5m but the arrival of Andre Ayew from Swansea places question marks over the big man's pitch time.
It was against the Hammers that Bournemouth's Callum Wilson gained FPL notoriety with a stunning hat-trick early last season, with just 4% of managers predicting that the rapid striker will continue in the same vein this season after a horror injury ruined his debut Premier League campaign. The aforementioned Negredo is also a viable option for this lowly price-tag, while Swansea new boy Fernando Llorente could be worth a punt with opening fixtures against Burnley (a) and Hull (h).
If he can nail down a starting berth, Liverpool striker Divock Origi (£7.0m) will represent excellent value. Yet another Daniel Sturridge injury means Origi heads the line of out-and-out frontmen at Anfield. However, Roberto Firmino could spearhead Jurgen Klopp's attack as the German boss has numerous options in attacking midfield positions. Watford captain and penalty-taker Troy Deeney, available for the same outlay, laid on nine goals while scoring 13 last year in a consistent campaign, while Defoe (fitness permitting) also represent a tempting option at this price point.
Deeney's strike partner Odion Ighalo (£7.5m) was Fantasy's hottest striker for a large part of the first half of last season before cooling off quite spectacularly. A wicked opening set of fixtures for Walter Mazzarri's charges should allow FPL bosses to get a handle on Watford's attack before investing. At the same price, the also previously mentioned Benteke could make a laughing stock of his lowly price tag should he move on from Liverpool. Leicester City's Ahmed Musa showcased his blistering pace against Barcelona with a quickfire double and could take over Shinji Okazaki's (£6.0m) role behind Jamie Vardy in the Foxes' attack.
Expensive (£8.0m - £13.0m)
The wide gap in price for premium strikers is indicative of the dearth of options, though each one of the limited offerings here are key players in top Premier League sides. These are the selections that could make or break the early part of your season.
Romelu Lukaku, Olivier Giroud, Wayne Rooney and Michy Batshuayi are the £9.0m options, with the Everton hitman the only really tempting buy here as Giroud won't make the season opener while Rooney is likely to take up the position behind the striker in Jose Mourinho's team. Rumours are still hanging over the Belgian striker's future at Goodison Park, meanwhile. Ronald Koeman's comments on Lukaku ahead of Everton's opener against Spurs should worry potential investors:
"He is still an Everton player but finally the board makes those kind of decisions.
"Of course, I would like to keep all my best players but I know football. I know business. Let's wait."
Diego Costa (£9.5m) is another premium option who it seems could possibly move on from his current club. If that does happen, and Chelsea target Lukaku stays put, a perfect fantasy storm would see Batshuayi emerge as a serious option. However, if the fiery Spaniard remains at Stamford Bridge and rediscovers his 2014/15 form under Antonio Conte, his value (from a relatively low price) could rocket.
Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) sits in over one-fifth of fantasy teams after an incredible 2015/16 season saw him rack up 24 goals, while an opening fixture against Hull does not hurt.
For an extra million, Golden Boot winner Harry Kane can be yours. A poor Euro 2016 campaign for the 23-year-old might have dented his appeal but consecutive seasons with a 20-plus goal haul renders the Tottenham Hotspur man fantasy gold.
For his first Premier League season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been extremely expensively priced at £11.5m. An incredibly productive Ligue 1 campaign, which saw the enigmatic Swede score 38 goals while providing 13 assists, has certainly contributed to the huge outlay required for Ibra. Nonetheless, the Manchester United striker sits in a massive 38.4% of teams as away fixtures against Bournemouth and Hull in the club's opening three games turn managers' heads. Downgrading the 34-year-old if he struggles early on is certainly easier than freeing up funds to jump on a potential bandwagon, though his price can hinder a balanced squad.
Unsurprisingly, the cream of the fantasy forward crop is Sergio Aguero. The Manchester City hitman is the best striker in the league when fully fit. At £13.0m, the little Argentine does represent a conundrum for FPL players. Almost 40% of managers have decided that Aguero is too good to leave out, though many (including myself) were stung last season by repeatedly captaining the diminutive striker as he largely drew blanks in the opening gameweeks while others (particularly Leicester players) plundered the points. Then again, he's still the only striker in the league who will hit a side for five, as he did against Newcastle United in GW8 last October. An intriguing option, one way or the other.
*Player percentages correct as of August 10