This category is always a tough one, though because we only need three strikers, the need for budget strikers is not so important. That being said, in recent years, premium strikers have not proved to be great investments, and so money saved here can allow extra to be spent on the big name midfielders.
A quick look at the value (2008-09) of the big name midfielders and forwards illustrates this point well:
Further analysis on where best to spend your money will be done in a later post, but for now, the main point is that top line strikers can be very hit and miss, and so bargains can be extremely valuable if selected well. Without further ado then, the best bargains I like for the upcoming season are as below (a budget of 5.5m has been set):
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (5.5m) Wolves
The England Under-21 international will get his chance to shine in the big leagues this year, having led the Championship in scoring for the past two years (with 23 and 25 goals respectively, including this absolute peach). While many think of the Kevin Phillip's landmark 1999-2000 season as the prime example of a promoted player doing well the Premier League after promotion, there are plenty of examples in the last few years of players enjoying moderate success in their first season:
Ricardo Fuller - 11 goals in 2008/09
Kevin Doyle - 13 goals in 2006/07
Henri Camara - 12 goals in 2005/06
Mikael Forssell - 17 goals in 2003/04
Yakubu - 13 goals in 2004/05
While not in the Phillips (30 goals) class, a similar return for a 5.5m man would be excellent value and would lead to 100+ point season and a PPMS of over .500. I think Ebanks-Blake has the speed and finishing ability to match and top some of these numbers and I could absolutely see a 15 goal season within the realms of possibility, especially considering he takes the penalties for Wolves. The lack of supply is a slight concern but the addition of Milijas is a good move and the Serbian playmaker should be able to provide extra opportunities for Ebank-Blake, as should the signing of the next bargain striker on my list.
Kevin Doyle (5.5m) Wolves
Those paying attention will notice Doyle on the list noted above, due to his 13 goal haul in Reading's 2006/07 season. This was followed by a disappointing 2007/08 when the Irishman managed just 6 goals, but it nevertheless shows that Doyle has the ability to trouble Premier League defenses. Doyle was back on form last year notching 18 goals in 39 games, taking his career goal to game ratio to over 1 in 3. Some will point to the failings of Dave Kitson as a pre-cursor to Doyle's future but I think Doyle is a much purer finisher and should enjoy better success in the top league. His partnership with Ebanks-Blake looks promising and I could see it producing some 25 goals between them. I like Ebanks-Blake to benefit the most from this, but I also like Doyle to threaten the 100 point mark this year.
Bobby Zamora (5.5m) Hull City?
As I write this, news is breaking that Fulham have accepted a £5m bid from Hull City for the former Brighton star. Zamora is a bit of an enigma who is probably a better player than the stats show, but he nevertheless managed to top 100 points last season despite just 2 Premier League goals. His total was helped by his 10 bonus points and 6 assists and his consistent appearances for the Cottagers. Hull's team is not as talented as the Fulham side he leaves behind, but Zamora should feature every week and be supported by the likes of Geovanni, Bullard and Cousin, playing in a 4-4-2 rather than being stranded in the 4-5-1. He should therefore easily surpass last year's meagre total and instead threaten 6-8 goals; leading to an improved fantasy contribution. Marlon King managed 5 league goals in 19 games for the Tigers and I can see Zamora having a similar level of success.
Cameron Jerome (4.5m)/Kevin Phillips (5.0m)
The winner of this battle is likely to feature alongside new record signing Christian Benitez and should therefore get plenty of opportunities to make a fantasy contribution. Benitez is himself one to watch but I am always wary of players from South/Central America as they can often take a long time to settle into the Premier League. As for the other two Birmingham players, I think if one player solidifies a starting role, he could be in for a 6-8 goal season, which is not bad value for such a small investment. I rate both these players as decent Premier League standard strikers and Phillips obviously has a proven track record of scoring in the big leagues. The midfield behind them is a bit thin and I would therefore favour the options mentioned above, but if you are looking for a differentiator then definitely watch this battle and ride the bandwagon if a clear winner is shown.
Carlos Vela (5.5m) Arsenal
This is a probably a season too soon, but when a player has this much talent, it is hard to not see the possibilities coming sooner rather than later. The chance for Vela to shine may have been opened up by the apparently imminent departure of Emmanuel Adebayour, who is due to sign for free spending City within a matter of hours. This could lead to Vela jumping to third on the depth chart behind van Persie, Eduardo - who have each suffered from injury in the past - if Nicolas Bendtner continues to struggle to find the net. Of course, Wenger could look to bring in another striker such as Chamakh or Huntelaar, but if not Vela could well see action in 20+ games and in turn become a useful fantasy player. Vela is a better player than Bendtner in my eyes and the inconsistent Dane managed 97 points last season despite battling injury and inconsistent play. Vela could therefore crack the 100 point mark, with an upside of perhaps 120+ if he managed to establish himself as the next Arsenal prodigy. Perhaps this move is too early to start the season but the little Mexican is certainly one for the shortlist.
As always, let me know your thoughts and if you've got any other bargains stashed away on your shortlist in the lead up to the new season. You can also follow me on twitter to keep up to date with all the transfer news and gossip and its fantasy impact.