Having analysed the Goalkeepers in addition to Budget, Mid-Price and Premium Defenders on offer in this season’s Fantasy Premier League (FPL), our assessment of the Player List now moves to midfield. First up, then, we look at the cheaper end of the market as we cast an eye over the potential on offer from 5.5 and below.
Villa new boy Aleksandar Tonev has the potential to be a decent value option after being handed a 5.0 price tag. The Bulgarian could be fielded as the most advanced central midfielder in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, with a role in “the hole” behind Christian Benteke suiting his style of play and penchant for a long shot. With four goals and three assists for Lech Poznan last term, he’s one to watch though with games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and City in the first six Gameweeks, many will be giving Paul Lambert’s side a wide berth. If the match with Jose Mourinho’s side is moved to Gameweek 1, thus handing Villa a double, Tonev may appeal to those searching for a cut-price option in their initial squads.
Last time out, Aron Gunnarsson, Peter Whittingham and Craig Noone all registered the strongest attacking stats from the Cardiff midfield but the latter two are far less likely to be nailed-on for game time, with Whittingham falling out of favour and failing to find the net since October in 2012/13. Frustratingly, while Gunnarsson looks the most secure starter of the 5.0 priced trio, he’s struggling to be fit for the start of the season after sustaining a shoulder injury on international duty during the summer – given he produced eight goals and five assists in 2012/13, his potential is obvious. Bo-Kyung Kim (5.0) was installed as a regular as the previous season unfolded, though, and could play a pivotal part for the Bluebirds in central midfield next time out – he also has a share of free-kicks and corners in his locker and could be a real under the radar option.
Jerome Thomas looks set to afford us a cut-price option at Crystal Palace. The former West Brom man comes in at just 4.5 and, as mentioned in our recent Moving Target piece, has revealed he is set to be given the freedom to attack by Ian Holloway. Granted, our expectations are relatively low but Thomas should appeal to those on the lookout for a cheap fifth midfielder and also rotates with Hull, for Fantasy managers scouring the market for a budget midfield pairing. The likes of Robbie Brady (four goals, 13 assists), Ahmed Elmohamady (three goals, nine assists) and Robert Koren (nine goals, five assists) all seem nailed-on under Steve Bruce and will each set you back 5.0. With spot-kicks and a share of set-pieces and corners in his locker, in addition to the role in “the hole”, Koren looks the most enticing of the Tigers trio, though Stephen Quinn, at 4.5, is another Hull midfielder to consider – he produced three goals and six assists from 42 appearances last term.
Bryan Oviedo’s situation is one to monitor at Everton. If United snap up Leighton Baines, the Costa Rican could be handed the role on the left of the Toffees midfield if Roberto Martinez moves to 3-4-3. While Seamus Coleman likely to offer an out of position option on the opposite side of midfield, Oviedo’s 4.5 price tag could turn a few heads if such a scenario transpires – nevertheless, the former still looks the better bet overall. Steve Sidwell (5.0) looks the most secure for starts amongst Fulham’s budget midfield options, though Fantasy managers will be hoping Alex Kacaniklic or Pajtim Kasami can establish themselves as a regular on the flank, with 5.0 and 4.5 price tags respectively. Both have the potential to be cut-price options but right now, the jury remains out. Similarly, Newcastle’s Sylvain Marveaux (5.0) has the ability to flourish, though question marks remain over his consistency of game time – the Frenchman has already scored in pre-season and is one to keep an eye on, should he finally convince Alan Pardew he’s worthy of a first-team spot.
Norwich new boy Nathan Redmond has been priced in the budget bracket following his move from Birmingham. Much depends on whether Chris Hughton manages to add to the Canaries ranks before the summer transfer window closes but although the 5.0 priced Redmond produced his best season at St Andrews under Hughton, he may struggle for starts in the campaign ahead. With Robert Snodgrass settled nicely in the mid-price bracket, though, Redmond looks a real punt.
Southampton’s Victor Wanyama is sure to earn a few new suitors at a price of 5.0. The summer buy from Celtic is expected to sit alongside Morgan Schneiderlin in the double-pivot in the Saints’ 4-2-3-1 and with six goals and three assists last term, produced a decent attacking contribution. Certainly, his physical presence in front of the back-four should bolster Southampton’s clean sheet potential and with a strong home/away rotation with Jerome Thomas in the first nine Gameweeks (TOT, SUN, SUN, WHM, SWA, CPL, SWA, FUL, FUL) he’s another who could appeal to those looking to double up on cheap midfielders.
Elsewhere, the likes of Sunderland new boy Cabral, Swansea’s Leon Britton and West Brom central midfielder Claudio Yacob all come in at 4.5 but may struggle to get more than two point returns in any given Gameweek, with Fantasy managers somewhat limited for attacking options in the budget bracket.
Still Under 6.0
Step up just a notch, however, and there’s a lot more on offer. The situation at Arsenal looks intriguing, should Arsene Wenger fail to add to his current squad. Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky are both priced at 5.5 – while the return of Jack Wilshere is likely to dent one of the duo’s game time, both played prominent parts in the Gunners end of season run which harvested eight wins and two draws from 10 matches. If Wilshere gets the nods ahead of Rosicky in “the hole”, Ramsey may benefit from the new bonus ruling, though a deeper-lying role for Wilshere could see Rosicky rise in our Fantasy estimations if he tucks in behind a lone forward. Ultimately, though, both players’ fortunes are likely to be determined by Wenger’s willingness to spend.
At 5.5, Craig Bellamy is the most expensive midfield option on offer at Cardiff. The Welshman is likely to retain his place on the flank, though, perhaps only moving to a central role on occasion when Malky Mackay moves to a two man frontline. He has a share of free-kicks and corners but his propensity to pick up injuries, allied with cheaper options in the Bluebirds midfield (or similarly price alternatives up top) may see many overlook the veteran.
Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah started to see more game time on the right in the final few months of last term but, as mentioned above, question marks remain over the pecking order on the flanks under Martin Jol. Setting you back 5.5, he’s pricier than Kacaniklic and Kasami but may offer less security than (the slightly more expensive) Damien Duff. Once again, Raheem Sterling is amongst the cheapest Liverpool midfielders available but his prospects look less promising than last term after Brendan Rodgers strengthened his wing options – with Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas favourites for the wide roles and with Stewart Downing and Luis Alberto seemingly ahead of Sterling in the pecking order, giving him a wide berth looks the best answer.
Jonas Gutierrez is likely to offer the security of starts for Newcastle but his form last year was symptomatic of his side’s problems. A goal and a pair of assists hardly makes a persuasive case for his consideration but at 5.5, he’s relatively budget-friendly and remains key to Alan Pardew’s plans. Both Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington have been priced at 5.5 apiece but with Chris Hughton expected to add further to the Norwich midfield over the next few weeks, the pair will be concerned over their game time. Certainly, Hoolahan looks the most likely for the chop – Pilkington managed five goals from 25 starts in 2012/13 and, providing he remains injury-free, may yet continue as the Canaries first-choice left winger. As mentioned above, though, Robert Snodgrass’ kind cost casts a shadow over the rest of the Norwich midfield options.
Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin seems set to benefit from the new Bonus Points System. The Frenchman’s all-round game in the heart of the midfield is finally set to be rewarded but, while his security of starts is far more certain than the similarly-priced Jason Puncheon (5.5) at St Mary’s, Schneiderlin may be overlooked as a result of kind pricing for the likes of Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana in the attacking midfield three for the Saints. Stoke’s Matt Etherington couldn’t fare any worse from an attacking perspective than last season. The Potters winger failed to produce any goals or assists but with new boss Mark Hughes primed to go on the attack, Etherington’s delivery from the left may be key to his side’s fortunes – at 5.5, the winger drops from last term’s price and will be looking to return to the sort of form that harvested 146, 124 and 121 points in the three seasons prior to 2012/13. While their away schedule is a concern, Stoke have six out of seven strong opening fixtures at the Britannia (CPL, MCI, NOR, WBA, SOT, SUN, CAR).
Sunderland’s Craig Gardner is also priced at 5.5 but may suffer from Paolo Di Canio’s squad overhaul in the season ahead. Gardner – who is the Black Cats’ first-choice spot-kick taker – found himself playing at right-back last term but with the Sunderland boss expected to add to his back-four, there’s no guarantees over his game time. The fact he is also suspended for the opener gives us time to steer clear and assess the situation in light of Di Canio’s multitude of new signings.
Swansea wide boys Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer both come in at 5.5. Routledge comfortably outscored his fellow winger by 126 points to 102 in 2012/13 but with Michael Laudrup bolstering his midfield with a handful of new acquisitions (including 5.5 priced Jonjo Shelvey) the threat of rest and rotation is likely to hang heavy over the Welsh club in the season ahead. If the Swans get past their Europa League qualifier, there will be real concerns over the consistency of starts offered by their mid-price options, with Laudrup expected to utilise the depth of his squad time and again.
Mousa Dembele has been kindly priced at 5.5. His appeal will depend on Tottenham’s formation next time out, though; many feel the addition of Paulinho will allow Andre Villas-Boas to shift from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3; the latter formation could allow Dembele the opportunity to push forward more often and join in the Spurs attacks. West Brom’s Chris Brunt had his poorest season in years last term, with hamstring issues limiting him to just 23 starts. Having racked up 130 points in 2010/11, he’s clearly capable and may yet flourish if he can steer clear of injury, with a share of set-pieces in his locker – with Southampton, Swansea and Sunderland visiting the Hawthorns in the first five, the fixtures are in the Baggies favour.
West Ham trio Matt Jarvis, Mark Noble and Joe Cole all come in at 5.5, with a kind opening schedule to boost their early season appeal. Sam Allardyce’s side have (CAR, new, STO, sot, EVE, hul) in the opening six and could be quick out the blocks – for those unwilling to spend 7.0 on Kevin Nolan, Noble’s spot kicks and share of set-pieces could prove tempting, while Cole and Jarvis’ wide roles in a 4-5-1-/4-3-3 formation may benefit from such an enticing run of fixtures.