Old timers of the Fantasy Premier League will remember fond memories of 3-4-3 formations. Back in the day, there were decisions to be had of selecting the best forwards with a certain Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Torres at Liverpool, Didier Drogba, and even players like Defoe all in the mix.
They were followed by the beloved SAS duo of the Merseyside involving the heyday of Suarez and Sturridge along with Aguero at City and Harry Kane emerging during the later period of that time.
It is Dire Straits for the Forwards and there are no Sultans of Swing playing
A decade since and the landscape for the strikers has been engulfed much in the mist. To create more uncertainty in an already under-saturated era for the forwards, Ivan Toney will be sitting out for the next eight months. It is a different issue and discussion of football’s proximity to betting culture. Players still get heavily punished if they are caught partaking.
Patrick Bamford seemed a shadow of himself before returning to the Championship with Leeds. Injury woes and packed stadiums didn’t bring out the best in him like it was during the pandemic months when matches took place on empty grounds. Isak and Callum Wilson will be fighting for places again. Newcastle’s tough run of fixtures doesn’t assist matters.
Alvarez will likely remain an understudy still to either Kevin De Bruyne or Haaland. So, he becomes a non-option for now. Jesus and Nkunku, the two forwards from London were for many providing answers to the dearth at the helm of the Premier League spotlight. Pochettino was building his team around Nkunku. Chilwell was playing him crosses in pre-season. It was all set up, time for the mid-priced forwards to rise and shine. Now, both are injured and out for the opening months of the campaign. They will likely be joined by Mr. Calvert Lewin, soon enough again.
All of a sudden, Dominic Solanke might seem the real deal.
These are facts at the surface of it. Darwin Nunez can’t get on the pitch even when there are four forwards in the starting line-up at Liverpool. The sorrowful facets of modern football when it comes to the good old-fashioned number 9 can be seen and reflected throughout. There were 276 goals scored in the entirety of the campaign in the season of 2021/21, and only 314 goals in the last season.
The purpose of this article will be to make a case against this, that there still can be three at-front formations applied and not just for the sake of nostalgia.
Erling Haaland, £14.0m:
It is better to get Erling Haaland, out of the way. At £14m he is the best asset of the game. He would remain the best asset even if his price was £15m or £16m. Assumptions of going against the Norwegian will be a move akin to Don Quixote.
The city’s fixtures are great in the first eight games. Haaland would remain the best asset even if City had the toughest run of fixtures. He will be captained the most barring any injuries and there is simply no point going against the grain with Haaland. It is simply throwing the game away.
Haaland’s performance in the recently gone by Community Shield was largely an anomaly or repeat of what took place last year. He will have scored on another day and in another time. The 0.00 xG that he recorded in the match against the Gunners is alright. There is no need to overthink this one, just buy Haaland.
Harry Kane, £12.5m:
There is now a great chance of the England captain staying back at Spurs. Bayern officials have found it hard to negotiate with the maverick that is Daniel Levy. The Bavarians’ latest bid to vie Kane away has failed as well.
Here is the ploy here then. Narratives are flying around amongst popular Spurs journalists of if Kane stays still Saturday, that the first day of the season, he will stay for the rest of the season and leave the season next.
In the season last, while Haaland took away all the plaudits, Kane scored 30 goals and managed 9 assists along the way, under the conservative management of Antonio Conte. Tottenham last season mainly played without a creator or a creative spark in midfield. Kane had to drop deep in matches to link up play to help out midfielders.
Fantasy-wise, the Spurs and England forward finished with 263 points, just 9 behind Erling Haaland, who finished with 272 points across the campaign. Managers had strayed away from Kane largely due to a lack of explosive potential.
Kane was ticking along the way but while Haaland was proving scores of 15 points plus, Kane had a ceiling of 8 to 12 points. By the time, the curtains were drawn on game week 38, the difference between the two was only as mentioned 9 points.
Attention to this season brings to light a much more hopeful and interesting picture. Kane, so far in the previous few campaigns had operated under the management of Nuno, Mourinho, and Conte. All of them are known for their conservative style of play.
Ange Postecoglou, the new head coach at Tottenham is known for his extremely attacking style of play. Often dubbed as a disciple of loved Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa, Ange will be applying an attacking philosophy from the very onset. In pre-season so far, Spurs had a total of 100 shots. That is a lot indeed. If Kane stays, his ceiling can be enormous. In particular, creative midfield problems can be considered as looked into with the signing of former Foxes man, James Maddison.
Kane, with the license of the primary duty to bag the goals with Tottenham’s fixtures post-game week 2, reading Bournemouth away, Burnley away, Sheffield United at home and Luton away and Fulham at home till game week 9 with Arsenal and Liverpool in the middle makes Kane an extremely explosive asset. By season end, there will be expectations of him running Haaland very close.
Ollie Watkins, £8.0m:
Ollie Watkins has found his way into drafts being the most trusted and nailed in the mid-priced forward category. The injury to Jesus and Nkunku resulted in many managers migrating to the Villa Man. Under Unai Emery, Villa’s fortunes have seen a great up tide. It would also be wrong to hold notions of the Spaniard as a primarily defensive manager. Emery has deployed an attacking philosophy on display in his time back in the big time in England.
Cautions to the wind can be raised about Villa’s moderately tough start to the campaign in terms of fixture readings. They face Newcastle, Liverpool, and Chelsea all away from home in the first six and there is the matter of a Conference League qualification tie. The first leg of the mentioned tie is scheduled before game week 4, that before the match against Liverpool. Safe would be to assume Emery fielding out his first eleven in both legs if required.
Counterarguments to such worries are pretty simple based on the proven track records of the player being discussed here. Watkins scored 8 goals away from home in the season gone by, Villa as a team under Emery is strong enough to hold the fort against tough oppositions even away.
The counter-attacking style of Villa in these matches suits Watkins’s style of play staying centrally pouncing on the chances and hitting on the counter. Villa also faces Everton and Burnley and Crystal Palace in the other three games of the first six. There will be chances expected for Watkins having enjoyed a sort of resurgence with Emery’s arrival. He is the mid-priced forward asset with the capability of hurting non-owners.
Joao Pedro, £5.5m/ Yoane Wissa £6.0m/Coady Gakpo £7.5m
Joao Pedro is the new asset at Brighton catching the attention of many Fantasy managers. He enables drafts to include Mo Salah, and at 5.5m, the Seagulls’ record signing is also on penalties. He took a penalty while Gross was on the pitch. The German is expected to be the main rivaling contender for penalties at Brighton. Insecurity of playing time is on the mind of most managers going for the former Watford player. It is the playing position that must warrant more interest from a Fantasy perspective rather than playing time.
Pedro will be expected to start games, well, at least most of them. However, his playing role in the team is not as a number or as someone whose job is to get the goals. He is playing in a primarily Bobby Firmino style benefitting the players around him. Pedro often dropped deep in pre-season to help build attacks rather than being the focal point of the attack himself.
Similar to Pedro, is Coady Gakpo at Liverpool. The Dutch international will be expected to play the most minutes outside of Mo Salah but from a Fantasy perspective, Gakpo has operated in the number eight role or the number ten role in the pre-season.
Particularly in matches against the weaker teams, where Liverpool will be expected to dominate much of the ball, chances are Gakpo can start at midfield in number 8. The ceiling therefore should not be of a high expectation. The same applies to Joao Pedro. Jota is probably the better bet at Liverpool, but his minutes are nowhere near secured.
Yoane Wissa will start game week 1 at Brentford in the absence of Ivan Toney. The Bees have a terrific schedule start to the season. However, caution must be applied, Brentford is in the market for a new forward. Wissa’s minutes as the season rolls into game weeks 3 or 4 will come under the scanner. There is a better option in 0.5m less Joao Pedro.
Jackson (£7.0m) is not an option at the start. The loss of Nkunku will hurt Chelsea. For now, the best it is perhaps to place Jackson in the wait-and-watch category.