Talking heads say that the most difficult task in football is scoring goals, which means that the players who are good at it become heroes worthy of head-spinning transfer fees and massive weekly wages.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that fantasy managers should spend their funds that way. Let’s take a look at the field of forwards to see where the best FPL values lie.
Best Forwards <= £6.5M
Rodrigo Moreno (LEE, £6.5)
“Rodrigo” (never to be confused with “Rodri” at Man City) signed for a club-record fee last summer, but he soon fell out of favor with manager Marcelo Bielsa due to injury and poor performance. He found his stride in the closing weeks of the campaign though, notching four goals in the final four matches.
Fantasy Football Scout is bullish that he’ll carry the positive form into this season. Based on Opta stats, FFS projects 10.5 goals and 6.7 assists for the Spanish international, ranking him the third-best FPL value among all of this season’s forwards.
Ivan Toney (BRE, £6.5)
We have no Premier League track record to guide us here, but Toney set a goal-scoring record in the Championship last season and takes PKs and FKs. FFS projects that he’ll hit a double-digit goal total this season, the #4 FPL value among all forwards.
Teemu Pukki (NOR, £6.0)
FPL managers who were in the game two years ago will remember the first three weeks’ “Pukki Party”, when Norwich’s Finnish striker hit a hat trick on his Premier League home debut and was briefly the EPL’s leading scorer. Unsurprisingly, he was unable to maintain that searing form, ending the season on 11 goals — solid, but not enough to keep the Canaries from the drop.
Norwich is back in the Prem now, and FFS is projecting that Pukki will generate pretty much the same numbers this time as last: 11.9 goals plus 4.2 assists. That may not be another “party,” but at just £6.0, he is FFS’s #1 value among all FPL forwards.
Best Forwards £7.0M - £8.5M
There are 15 forwards in this price bracket, so we need to begin to separate the wheat from the chaff. As a first step, here are all the forwards in this price bracket who notched double-digit goal tallies last season:
But to get a sense of exactly how lethal a striker is, we can’t simply look at the number of goals he scored. Injuries, illness, COVID isolation protocols, national team commitments, European tournaments, personal crises, and other factors can keep players off the pitch, denting their ability to accumulate FPL points for reasons that have nothing to do with talent.
So in addition to looking at total goals, it’s also instructive to look at minutes per goal. This table displays all mid-priced forwards who averaged less than 200 minutes per goal in the last campaign.
This table reveals that Iheanacho was the most efficient mid-priced forward in the league last season, averaging a goal for every 121.3 minutes he was on the pitch. This metric provides us a way to distinguish him from say, Chris Wood, who scored the same number of goals but required almost twice as much playing time to do it.
But so far we’ve only looked backwards at what players did last season. Obviously we’re most concerned with how players will do this season. To that end, here are FFS’s projections for the top 15 scorers among FPL forwards for the upcoming campaign, as well as their projected goal totals.
The mid-priced forwards who make this list are DCL, Jesus, Bamford, Antonio, Cavani, Watkins, Ings, Wilson, and Wood. Note: Ings has since moved to Aston Villa, so expect his production to change.
To identify FPL’s best-buy forwards in this price bracket, I cross-referenced all three tables to combine past performance with expected performance. Five players appeared in all three tables, your top-choice mid-range FPL forwards for 2021-22:
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£8.0M, EVE)
DCL was the #5 forward overall in FPL last season, second-best in this mid-priced short list. Among the five, he tied for the highest xG/90 (expected goals per 90 minutes), and his delta(xG) of -0.01 illustrates that we can continue to count on him to finish his chances.
The 6’ 2” striker had the most headed goals in the Prem last season, and adding Andros Townsend — who had the league’s best successful-cross rate last term — should have DCL (and fantasy managers) salivating.
Our concern is his new manager. DCL experienced a break-out season under Carlo Ancelotti, who was appointed in December of 2019. But Rafa Benitez is now in charge at Goodison Park, and the Spanish gaffer is renowned for defensive stability more than swashbuckling attack. DCL was #1 among our five mid-priced finalists for big chances/90 last season, so it’ll be interesting to see what Rafa’s appointment will mean for DCL and Everton’s offense.
Patrick Bamford (£8.0M, LEE)
Bamford had the highest xG (expected goals), and xGI (expected goal involvement) among our five mid-priced finalists. He also had the fewest minutes per chance. But although his delta was positive vs xGI, it was negative vs xG, suggesting that he missed some scoring opportunities that he should have tucked away.
Nevertheless, he is the top goal-scorer on our mid-priced short list, second FPL points-scorer among all of last season’s forwards. And those who worry that the recent resurgence of Rodrigo might eat into Bamford’s returns should rest easy. Although Rodrigo was white hot at season’s end, scoring four goals over the last four games, Bamford still notched three over that same period.
Michail Antonio (£7.5, WHU)
Antonio had the highest xGI among our mid-priced finalists, as well as the fewest minutes per xG and minutes per xA. He also had the most penalty-area touches per 90 of any of our five mid-priced finalists.
But Antonio’s stats really only shine when prorated on a per-minute basis. Why? Because chronic injury problems have too often left him on West Ham’s sidelines. Over the last two seasons, his fragile hamstrings, miscellaneous knocks, strains, pulls and niggles have forced him to miss a total of 28 games.
Nevertheless, he has still managed to notch 10 goals in each of the last two campaigns, and he’s on course to become West Ham’s all-time record Premier League goalscorer this season. When he’s healthy, there are few better forwards at any price. He’s healthy right now; ride that for as long as you can.
Danny Ings (£8.0M, AVL)
Ings is the only forward in this group with a positive delta (xG). Normally we would worry that he overachieved last season and that we should expect regression to the mean. But Ings has a long track record as a clinical goalscorer who can create and finish his own chances, so seasoned managers know that he’s an asset they can trust.
News broke on Wednesday that Ings has signed for Villa. The abrupt transfer just ten days before kicking off the season may put some fantasy managers off, but Ings is already well-acclimated to life in the Prem, and he participated fully in Southampton’s preseason preparations, including all three friendlies.
With Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey on either flank, and with Buendia behind him as the No. 10, Ings could be the spearhead of a better attacking setup than he ever enjoyed at Southampton. Plus he’ll undoubtedly claim penalty kick duties.
As with Antonio, the asterisk is his health: His career has been plagued by injury. But in spite of his fitness misfortunes, only the great Harry Kane has scored more non-PK goals than Ings over the last two seasons.
Callum Wilson (£7.5, NEW)
Wilson had the most goals/90 and second-most total assists/90 among our mid-priced finalists, and the highest xG/90 at 0.6. A known flat-track bully, 91% of his goals last term came against non “Big 6” sides, but he is always clinical, and his goal conversion rate of 24.5% leads our group of mid-priced finalists.
Newcastle’s talisman, he is 100% nailed-on when healthy, and virtually every Newcastle attack ultimately flows through him. Wilson led the Magpies in both goals and assists last season, and he was involved in more than a third of all the team’s goals.
There is speculation that Wilson could leave for a more ambitious club before the end of this transfer window. Newcastle has brought in no transfers this summer despite losing six players, including their second-best scorer Joe Willock. Were Wilson to land at a club better geared to exploit his talents, he could become an even more enticing fantasy investment (and Newcastle an even better relegation punt).
Thoughts on Others in this Bracket
Choosing the “best” values inevitably involves some subjectivity, and especially in this bracket I recognize that arguments can be made for including others.
Below I’ll try to answer for some of the more prominent names I didn’t mention here.
Edinson Cavani (£8.5, MUN): Rotation risk. He’s 34 years old now. We can’t expect him to play every game, and the arrival of Jadon Sancho gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer more freedom to play Mason Greenwood centrally, which is the youngster’s most natural position. Plus, Cavani took a full month of vacation after representing Uruguay in the Copa America, so he’ll have only about a week of training ahead of the new EPL season. He may need time to regain match fitness before he’s back to his best, and by then Man United could be in the thick of Champions League play. Wait to see how and where he will be utilized.
Ollie Watkins (£7.5, AVL): We could analyze the underlying stats, but for me they were rendered moot the moment Danny Ings signed for Villa this week: Ings is the man there now. However, if/when Ings goes down, Watkins could reenter the conversation as the go-to fantasy Villa forward. Leave Watkins on your watch-list.
Kelechi Iheanacho (£7.5, LEI): There’s no question he had an amazing spring. But his delta (xG) of a whopping +3.80 suggests that it was probably a little too good. I don’t expect that form to last, especially with the signing of Patson Daka now clouding the picture.
Best Forwards £9.0M and Above
Harry Kane (TOT, £12.5M)
Last season, Kane won both the Golden Boot and the “silver platter” (providing most assists). He was the top-producing forward in FPL, just two points shy of most points period (pipped by midfielder Mo Salah).
Among forwards, Kane played the second-most minutes and had second-best minutes/goal ratio. FFS is calling for more of the same this season, predicting 20.7 goals and 7.1 assists. And that’s modeled at Tottenham. If he moves to Man City, those numbers could be even higher... unless the Champions League steals minutes — somebody ask Pep and get back to us.
Kane’s the best forward in the Prem and one of the best on the planet. If you can find a way to fit him in, just do it.
There are four other forwards in this price bracket: Jamie Vardy (LEI, £10.5M), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ARS, £10M), Timo Werner (CHE, £9M), and Roberto Firmino (LIV, £9M).
However, in my view, none of them are worth the spend. Let’s compare them to one of the mid-priced forwards to see why. As our reference we’ll use Patrick Bamford, who can be had for £8M.
Bamford vs Vardy
Here we see that not much separates these two. Although Vardy did notch three more total assists than Bamford, the Leeds man made six more starts and scored two more goals. Is an aging Vardy at Leicester worth the extra £2.5M, especially since he’s likely to cede pitch time to Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka this year? I don’t think so.
Bamford vs PEA
PEA was uncharacteristically abysmal last season, and the data lay the facts bare. We can blame his family issues, his bout with malaria, and Arsenal’s lack of midfield creativity for his plunge in form. Some, if not all, of these problems will be fixed this season, so I expect 2021-22 to be kinder to him. But until we see evidence of that, are you willing to shell out £10M? Me neither.
Bamford vs Werner
Werner is another player who mostly disappointed last year, scoring only six goals for Chelsea while squandering 18 big chances. As with PEA, I expect Werner to improve this season, but these stats show that he’ll have a long way to go to justify a £9M layout.
Bamford vs Firmino
Just as with PEA and Werner, Bamford’s numbers dwarf Firmino’s. At £9M, that makes Firmino hard to justify, especially when there is only room in your FPL squad for three players from star-studded Liverpool.
My advice for you, then, is to think carefully before busting your FPL budget by dropping big money on forwards. With the exception of Kane, none of the high-priced names are worth the extra spend over the best economy- and mid-priced options. Save your cash for the marquee midfielders and premium defenders!
Stats and info referenced in this article were sourced from fantasyfootballscout.com, wikipedia.com, transfermkrt.us, hammers.news, liverpoolecho.co.uk, themag.co.uk, sofascore.com, fbref.com, fantasy.premierleague.com, fantrax.com, and reddit.com.
Which of my top FPL forward picks could make your squad? Are you drafting anyone whom I haven’t named? Are you pulling out your wallet to splash cash across the front? Or are you building from the back? Please join us in the comments to tell us your plans!