I made reference to this new strategy earlier in the week, which to be honest isn't all that new or clever, just something I wanted to sound out to see what people think of it. The idea is to forget the likes of Torres and Drogba, and even Anelka and Keane. The plan is to get 3 strikers for around 7m each which should then leave sufficient money to get 4 quality defenders and midfielders, allowing a rotation of the front three.
The argument behind this strategy is that these mid range strikers, if selected based on form and fixtures, can all but match the bigger names, which just isn't possible with defenders and to a lesser extent midfielders (where exceptions - Ireland - can be found).
The best candidate so far this season is Amr Zaki, who after missing three games lately still heads this list. His value has fallen to 6.9m which makes it a great time to buy the big Egyptian. Wigan's next 7 games are against opponents who all give up more than a goal a game, and 5 of these give up over 1.5. Zaki trails only Anelka in goals per game and costs 3.3m less. Add in the fact that he has just one less bonus point in 3 fewer games, and is guaranteed to play every minute when fit and you can see where this strategy can pay dividends.
Marlon King is extremely well priced at 6.1m and has been impressive for Hull since his loan move from Wigan. King has notched 9 bonus points, which is 6th among strikers as well as 4 goals. After two tricky ties against Mid and @Liv, Hull then face just one top defense in their next ten games. King has missed only one game this season, starting all 14 others which is a major factor going into the busy Christmas break. Hull's relatively thin squad should also spare him being benched anytime soon.
Djibril Cisse/Kenwyne Jones. I've put these two together as the uncertainty of the Sunderland team makes it hard to choose between them. Keane seemed to favour 4-5-1 away from home, as will early replacement favourite Big Sam. If this is the case, one, or both, of these two become devalued. If, however, they both play they are a dangerous strike force and well worth the 6.9m/7m price tag if the matchup is right. Monitor this situation as a new manager is announced.
Johan Elmander is an emerging force and could be a differentiator over the coming weeks. The Swedish hitman has scored 4 goals in 11 games this season and is going from strength to strength after an injury plagued start to his Premier League career. Elmander's career strike rate is around 1 in 3 so a 12-15 goal season is well within his grasp, which is a great return for a 6.7m striker. Comfort can also be gained from the fact that Gary Megson has shown a willingness to play Elmander and Davies, even way away from home.
Obafemi Martins is a frustrating player whose talent is clear, but he seems to lack something to make him an elite player. Nevertheless, the Nigerian speedster has 5 goals this season despite rarely being fully fit and has notched 4 in the last 6, including a man of the match brace against Villa. Newcastle face just one opponent who concede less than a goal a game in the next 11 and at 6.9m, Martins could be well placed to notch 4 or 5 goals in that period.
I almost didn't include Ricardo Fuller here as he isn't mid-priced - he is very cheap - but I decided I couldn't hold that against the Jamaican! Fuller has scored an impressive 6 goals and costs a cool 5.6m. My main concern is that Fuller may not play every minute due to Stoke going 4-5-1 in some games. However, Fuller has proven he can score from the bench and has taken over penalty duties in the absence of Liam Lawrence. Stoke's fixtures are pretty tough though and so I would avoid Fuller from the rotation unless you really need to save cash.
Looking slightly higher in the price range leads to three more intriguing prospects who still represent good value and may add a touch of fantasy class to your front line:
Peter Crouch is enjoying his strike force with Defoe, which has yielded 13 goals in the 13 games they have played together, with Crouch scoring 5 of these, along with a further 3 assists. The fact that he is only 0.5m less than Defoe may lead some to suggest the saving is not worth it, but consider that that 0.5m could be the difference between, say, a big four keeper and David James, as well as giving your team a differentiating factor (Defoe 26% v Crouch 6%).
John Carew had a storming start to the season, scoring 5 goals in 11 games and earning 9 bonus points. Since then he has missed all but 10 minutes of the last 4 games with a back injury which may keep him out for between a week and 2 months depending on who you believe. When he returns, providing he is fit, Carew has shown himself to be a top 10 striker for a top 20 price and demands consideration within this strategy.
Finally, Darren Bent has already had an up and down season and its only the start of December, which is reflected in his fantasy price that has fallen from 7.5m to 6.9m and back again. Bent has 7 for the season, 5 of which came in a 5 game run in October/November. Spurs have improved under Redknapp (though the long term effect of the appointment is yet to be seen) and Bent is one of those who have benefited the most. Spurs have decent upcoming fixtures and Bent is a good option to have in your front line. However, the fact he is owned by 16% of owners (and rising) is a turn off for me and for that reason, as the Dragon's may say, I am out.
So what do people think? I know the consensus at the moment is to go big on big four defenders, but many owners do this whilst holding Anelka/Torres/Berbatov and so are forced to hold budget strikers on their bench. Using this strategy I could keep my key pair of midfield stars (Lampard and Ronaldo), add to my defense to include Reina, Arbeloa, Carvalho and Evra and still have room for solid squad players like Geovanni, Ireland, Valencia and Matt Taylor and bargain defenders like Luke Young, Panstil and Gary Cahill.