Budget Forwards, Revisited

We take a fresh look at one of the most profitable but volatile positions in any fantasy football team; the budget forward.

Earlier in the season we weighed up the pros and cons of budget forwards for our Fantasy Football teams compared to defenders and midfielders of similar value, as well as highlighting Steven Naismith as a player in whom great value may be found in this bracket of player. Since then several players have emerged onto our fpl radar that fall into the budget forward category and so it is only right to assess the options available and investigate whether any of these players really deserves a place in our team. But first, let’s remind ourselves once again of what we should expect from a budget striker and what the pitfalls of owning such a player can be.

What to Expect

In the article above we suggest that each player in our team should produce at least 1 point per game per £1.5m spent which works out to be approximately 4 points per game (PPG) for a budget striker (~£6m). In striker terms this equates to 1 goal every other game (excluding bonus points), which is an unrealistic 19 goals over the course of the season. When accounting for bonus points and assists the total number of goals needed would decrease but would still be well into double figures (only 13 strikers achieved double figures last season). The past few seasons have suggested that budget strikers rarely hit this PPG target whereas midfielders and defenders are more likely to. However, there have been several in the past few seasons who have turned out to be an exception to the rule by hitting the 4PPG threshold so it is worth investigating the options now we have a fair idea what to expect from the mid-bottom of the table teams, where the budget striking options usually arise from.

Possible Pitfalls

Team Value
If you take a gamble on a budget forward and it doesn’t quite work out then it will often take significant re-structuring and points-hits to rectify the error. This can lead to an imbalance of your squad and an unnecessary, frustrating use of your valuable free transfers. Obviously, if you’ve decided on having a budget striker so you can spread your budget out elsewhere then you can chop and change between them depending on fixtures, especially since teams and expectations are now established. The question is do you really want to be spending your free transfer on a budget striker every other week?

This leads us onto the next possible issue with budget forwards and that is point-chasing. The reason budget strikers come in at around the £6m mark is because of consistency. We’ve seen from Aguero and Costa so far this season that what you pay the premium price for is a consistent goal threat, which often comes from playing for a top club. Budget strikers can’t offer that so we can often go chasing players who have had one or two good games, bring them in and sit back expecting a couple of goals in their next game but are left disappointed when they have a couple of weeks without scoring. We get frustrated and move them out of the team, gambling on another budget striker who has scored well recently only for our original choice to get a goal and our new choice to blank. Only a close analysis of the fixtures and a whole lot of luck can help if you’re in this situation.

Budget Striking Options

If you’ve weighed up the pitfalls against the potential gains of owning a budget forward and are opting for one then your next choice is who to go for. Here we briefly investigate the options for the coming weeks so you can make an informed decision.

Saido Berahino (£6.1m)
Fixtures: che, ARS, WHM, hul, AVL, qpr
Ownership: 20.9%

Berahino has had a very strong start to the season scoring 7 goals in the opening 11 games, including goals against strong outfits such as Liverpool and Man United. His goalscoring record has been helped by the fact he’s West Brom’s penalty taker, having converted 3 penalties already this season. Many of Berahino’s underlying stats are superior to his rivals as he’s had more ‘big chances’ and ‘chances from open play’ than others in the same price bracket and comes out way on top of our ‘threat index’.  So far he has exceeded the 4PPG target by achieving a total score of 56 and looks well on the way to hitting double figures for this season.
Despite Berahino’s excellent start to the season there are some concerns. Firstly, Berahino drew blanks against teams you would expect him to produce against (Leicester (A), Newcastle (H)). With a tough run of upcoming fixtures in the next 3 games especially we can’t expect too much from the young English striker. Secondly, Berahino’s underlying stats have also has tailed off recently when compared to other strikers in the same bracket.  He’s getting fewer touches in the penalty area than you’d hope and fewer chances from open play. Finally, Berahino also offers very little away from home with 6 of his 7 goals coming at The Hawthorne’s and does very little in terms of creating opportunities for others.  
Berahino is a solid option in the budget forward bracket and is probably worth sticking with if you already have him but wouldn’t be a wise investment if you’re looking to buy now due to the better options available.

Charlie Austin (£5.8m)
Fixtures: new, LEI, swa, BUR, eve, WBA
Ownership: 3%

Charlie Austin has been one of the most impressive performers in the Premier League over recent weeks with 4 goals in his last 3 games which included one away to Chelsea and another at home to City (not to mention his 2 disallowed goals in that game). The introduction of Bobby Zamora into the QPR team has helped bring the best out of Austin; Zamora is the ideal foil for a goalscorer like Austin and their relationship on the pitch looks instinctive already. 
Austin’s fixtures over the last 6 weeks have been tough which is why it is surprising to see him behind just a handful of players for many key performance indicators for strikers during that time. He’s behind only Aguero for big chances and is in the top 5 in the league for chances from open play, goal attempts, shots inside the box and penalty area touches. He’s managed to convert his chances into goals recently and his owners will be hoping for more positive performances from Austin as the fixtures become a lot easier over the coming weeks with 3 attractive home games against Leicester, Burnley and West Brom. 
Austin is proving to be a handful to even the best of defences and offers a very good option if you’re looking for a budget forward since he’s proven he can score at this level and has a good run of fixtures.

Diafra Sakho (£5.9m)
Fixtures: eve, NEW, wba, SWA, sun, LEI
Ownership: 8.5%

West Ham’s good start to the season has certainly been a surprise to many and Sakho’s form in front of goal has been a major contributor to his team’s early success. With 5 goals so far he hasn’t scored quite as many as Berahino or Austin but he has produced 2 assists and 11 bonus points in that time. He’s managed the same number of points overall as Austin so far, and is only five behind Berahino despite playing 200 minutes less than the former and 340 minutes less than the latter.
Again, Sakho’s stats over the last 6 gameweeks are impressive for a budget striker, with 5 big chances, the highest number of shots from within the 6 yard box and sitting in the top 5 for goal attempts, shots inside the box and penalty area touches. Sakho is getting himself in good goalscoring opportunities, converting his chances and creating openings for others suggesting that if he can stay fit (which has been a slight issue recently) he will make for a very good budget striker. Lots though depends on the form of West Ham and whether or not they are able to continue the results they’ve managed to achieve in the opening part of the season. 

Note: Sakho has struggled with injuries over the last few weeks and is a doubt for their GW12 game away to Everton.

The Best of the Rest

The three outlined above have been the standout performers in this price bracket so far but there are a few other options for those who don’t fancy one of the three obvious choices. Leonardo Ulloa (£5.4m) was a popular choice early on as he hit 5 goals in as many appearances. However, since then he’s failed to register any attacking returns and has even struggled for game time over the last couple of weeks. Definitely one to avoid. Steven Naismith (£5m) was another payer who started the season very brightly with 3 goals in his first 3 games but since then has registered just one goal. It’s interesting to note though that Naismith’s ‘threat level’ has been maintained over the last few weeks despite his lack of attacking returns. However, his game time in the last couple has been limited to just 88 minutes. Steven Fletcher (£5.3m) offers an interesting option for those wishing to find a differential. He’s an experienced Premier League striker who knows where the goal is and scored a brace against both Stoke and Palace in the past 5 Gameweeks. However, he plays Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool in his next 4 games suggesting Fletcher will have a low likelihood of many attacking returns over the coming weeks. An out-of-the-box option at this present moment in time would be Ayoze Perez (£4.9m). He’s something of an unknown quantity in the Premier League and up until GW9 he was just a bit-part player in Alan Pardew’s squad. Perez’s emergence has coincided with Newcastle’s upturn in form and he’s managed 3 goals in his last 3 appearances including an excellent improvised finish in the 2-0 win at The Hawthorne’s. He would be a risky choice once Cisse has recovered from injury and is one for the gamblers out there, but has reasonable fixtures in the next 3 weeks and is on form. 


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