Choosing a mid-priced forward in FPL has become a decision of unexpected significance.
The emergence of Erling Haaland (£14.1m) as a must-have asset, the plethora of high-performing midfielders and the lack of reliable routes to clean sheets so far this season has cemented 3-5-2 as the game’s go-to formation.
However, Haaland can be found in 92% of teams, while the six most-owned midfielders and four most-owned defenders can be found in over a quarter of squads, meaning managers may find that most teams have a similar feel.
Key, then, to getting a leg up on your FPL rivals is picking the right forward to partner Haaland.
The template pick – owned by more than 27% of players at the time of writing – is Newcastle United’s Alexander Isak (£7.7m), but the Magpies’ imminent foray into Champions League football heightens the risk of rotation with fellow striker Callum Wilson (£7.8m) – giving managers a prime opportunity to select an alternative option.
Using the Twenty3 Toolbox to crunch the numbers, we picked out three alternatives to the Sweden international.
Darwin Núñez (£7.4m)
Darwin Núñez began Liverpool’s season on the bench, with Diogo Jota (£8m) and Cody Gakpo (£7.3m) preferred at the point of attack.
However, the Uruguayan’s two-goal cameo in the Reds’ astonishing 3-2 comeback win over Newcastle despite being a man down earned him a starting spot in the next game against Aston Villa – bagging an assist in the 3-0 victory.
The 24-year-old has looked positive in his 133 Premier League minutes so far, taking more shots per 90 than any other player in the division (5.41), while his tally of 0.54 expected assists per 90 ranks third.
His phenomenal rate of 2.03 goal contributions per 90 – the second-highest in the league – is clearly unsustainable, with his limited minutes skewing the data slightly.
Despite that caveat, the numbers indicate Núñez is hitting form and could be set to embark on a rewarding run for his FPL owners – as long as he keeps his place in the starting line-up.
Julián Álvarez (£6.7m)
Ahead of the season, we highlighted Julián Álvarez as an FPL differential worth taking a punt on.
The Argentina international has delivered in style, scoring twice and notching an assist to earn 28 points and second spot in the forward rankings – sitting joint-sixth among FPL assets overall.
The departures of Riyad Mahrez and İlkay Gündoğan, as well as Kevin De Bruyne (£10.2m) being out injured, have seen Álvarez secure a regular starting berth.
He has played every minute of every Premier League game so far – at this stage last season, he had yet to make a start.
The 23-year-old has taken his chance with both hands. Only four players in the league have registered more non-penalty shots on target than his total of six.
Furthermore, he sits behind only Crystal Palace pair Eberechi Eze (£6.3m) and Odsonne Edouard (£5.5m) for post-shot xG from direct free-kicks (0.31), highlighting the variety of his goal threat.
Nicolas Jackson (£7.2m)
Chelsea’s summer signing Nicolas Jackson is yet to truly deliver on his potential, producing just 10 points so far – but the underlying numbers suggest that potential is quite considerable.
Unlike the other two players on this list, Jackson has scored just once and has yet to provide an assist.
However, he ranks third in the competition for both shots (15) and non-penalty xG (3.07), suggesting that regular returns are not far away if he continues in this vein.
The 22-year-old’s proactivity and positivity on the ball is evidenced by the fact that he has won 27 of his 59 attacking duels – the fourth-most in the division and more than any other centre-forward.
FPL managers who own the striker may have been frustrated by him thus far – but patience with the Senegal international is likely to be rewarded in time.
All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.