It is easy to overlook the mid-price midfielder as a Fantasy option. Often either the main men for mid-table Premier League clubs or less-productive assets from one of the “big six”, they may offer neither the near-certain attacking returns of a premium midfielder nor the money-freeing value of a budget pick.
There is plenty to interest Fantasy Premier League managers in the £6.0m-£7.5m price bracket this season, though. Currently, five of the ten most-selected midfielders fall into this grading. The caveat to this, of course, is that the “auto-pick” selection tool will be skewing the numbers slightly in favour of the £7.0m midfielders.
Almost two weeks on since the launch of FPL, however, and with many Fantasy bosses already tinkering with their squads, there is no question that the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan warrant their places alongside the most popular midfield assets.
The £6.0m to £6.5m Bracket
After his goal-scoring exploits as a budget midfielder last season, Luka Milivojevic (£6.5m) is among the most popular picks in this price bracket. No team was awarded more penalties than Crystal Palace last season, with Milivojevic scoring seven of the Eagles’ eight converted spot-kicks.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Roy Hodgson’s side will get as much joy from spot-kick awards in 2018/19. Given that Milivojevic recorded fewer penalty box touches last season than the likes of Eric Dier, Oriel Romeu, Nemanja Matic and Jake Livermore, investment in the Serbian defensive midfielder is, rather obviously, rooted in his role as Palace’s first-choice penalty taker. It should be noted, though, that Milivojevic scored on three other occasions in the Premier League last season, including twice from direct free-kicks.
Ryan Sessegnon‘s (£6.5m) return of 15 goals and six assists in the Championship is all-the-more impressive given that the teenage prospect played half of the season at left-back. The arrival of loan signing Matt Targett in January gave Sessegnon a sustained opportunity to play on the left of Fulham’s front three and all but two of Sessegnon’s goals over the season came when he had dodged full-back duties.
The hopes and expectations are that Slavisa Jokanovic will continue to deploy Sessegnon on the left wing this season. Home matches for the Cottagers against Crystal Palace, Watford and Burnley in the first six Gameweeks are sure to add to Sessegnon’s appeal (14% of managers currently own him), but with Tom Cairney available for £1.5m cheaper the young talent will have to produce something special to justify that extra investment.
Also making the step up from the English second tier is James Maddison (£6.5m), who has signed for Leicester City from Norwich City this summer. Maddison created more chances last season than any other Championship player and his creativity will be even more important to the Foxes following Riyad Mahrez’s departure. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder is also something of a set-piece specialist and scored on 14 occasions for the Canaries in 2017/18. Just three Championship players had more shots than Maddison last season, too.
Options for last season’s top six clubs in the £6.0m-£6.5m price bracket are limited to those with a more defensive remit in midfield or those who aren’t guaranteed game time. Fred and Fabinho (both £6.0m) are examples of the former, although Liverpool’s new defensive midfielder does have an excellent track record from the spot: Fabinho scored all 17 of the Ligue I penalties he took for Monaco. Given Liverpool’s spot-kick woes last season, it will be interesting to see if Fabinho can wrestle penalty-taking duties from Mohamed Salah.
READ MORE: Scout Report on Fabinho
Cesc Fabregas and Pedro (both £6.5m) were in and out of the Chelsea team last season, but all eyes will be on pre-season at Stamford Bridge as Maurizio Sarri runs the rule over his new squad. Were either to find favour with the former Napoli boss, they would be excellent value in a side that promises to be more cavalier than they were in 2017/18. Ross Barkley (£6.0m) is another cut-price Chelsea midfield asset who will be hoping for more opportunities under Sarri than he had last season.
READ MORE: The Maurizio Sarri revolution at Chelsea
Erik Lamela (£6.5m) is one of the few Tottenham Hotspur players who didn’t feature for his country at the 2018 World Cup and could be a beneficiary of the tired limbs among his midfield colleagues. Son Heung-min’s potential involvement in the Asian Games in August would further pave the way for Lamela’s return to the Spurs first team after two injury-hit seasons.
Theo Walcott (£6.5m), Yannick Bolasie (£6.0m) and Davy Klaassen (£6.0m) all missed Everton’s farcical 22-0 win over ATV Irdning at the weekend, but the Toffees’ pre-season is worth paying close attention to in order to assess the worth of this attack-minded trio. With Sam Allardyce gone and new manager Marco Silva set to implement a more offensive approach, Everton assets could be excellent value for money in the first few months of the season given the Toffees’ enticing-looking fixture list (wlv, SOU, bou, HUD, WHU, ars, FUL, lei, CRY).
Watford’s opening three matches – Brighton (h), Burnley (a) and Crystal Palace (h) – are just as appealing, though there will be plenty Fantasy managers who will have been deterred by Richarlison‘s (£6.5m) post-Gameweek 12 returns last season to avoid the Brazilian midfielder this time around: Richarlison didn’t find the net once from 52 attempts on goal after this point.
Abdoulaye Doucoure and particularly Roberto Pereyra (both £6.0m) might be preferential midfield options for the Hornets in August.
Diogo Jota, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ top scorer in the league last season with 17 goals, and Southampton’s Mohamed Elyounoussi are both exciting punts in the £6.5m bracket. The Saints’ Moroccan-born Norwegian international hit double figures in his last two seasons at Basel and is an intriguing option given that his new club doesn’t face any of last season’s top six clubs in the first five Gameweeks.
Brighton and Newcastle’s awful starts to the season are likely to deter interest in Jose Izquierdo and Matt Ritchie (both £6.0m), while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.5m), Manuel Lanzini (£6.5m) and Junior Stanislas (£6.0m) are long-term injury absentees.
Juan Mata (£6.5m) will surely see his chances limited at Manchester United again this season, meanwhile.
With nine assists apiece last season and both their clubs enjoying decent-looking starts to 2018/19, Andros Townsend and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are tempting differentials in the £6.0m price bracket.
The £7.0m to £7.5m Bracket
The midfielders in this range are, some would argue, not quite as appealing. The likes of Bernardo Silva, Anthony Martial and Willian (£7.5m) were never nailed picks in their respective sides last season (not one of these three players made more than 20 starts) and doubts remain over their involvement – and in Willian’s case, his future – with City, United and Chelsea in 2018/19. Martial could, however, start the season up front for United, given Jose Mourinho’s comments today.
The arrival of Naby Keita (£7.5m) at Liverpool casts doubt over Adam Lallana‘s (£7.0m) first-team chances this season, while Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.5m) would appear at this juncture to be back-up for Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in the Reds’ front three.
Keita is one to watch, given that he averaged more key passes and shots per match with Red Bull Leipzig last season than any of Liverpool’s other central midfield options managed in the Premier League.
With Mane, Firmino, Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold also to consider for a maximum of three permitted Liverpool slots, however, Keita will be well down the pecking order in many Fantasy managers’ plans.
READ MORE: Scout Report on Naby Keita
The stand-out candidate at £7.0m is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Arsenal’s run of fixtures from Gameweek 3 onwards (WHU, cdf, new, EVE, WAT, ful, LEI, cry) looks too good to pass up. The Armenian attacking midfielder scored on two occasions and registered four assists in nine starts for the Gunners following his January move from Manchester United.
From his Arsenal debut until the end of the season, Mkhitaryan fired in 21 shots and created 16 chances: statistics that both ranked second among the Gunners’ squad. With no Champions League involvement for Arsenal this season, rotation would surely be at a minimum too.
Mkhitaryan’s surprisingly low price means that Aaron Ramsey (£7.5m) is perhaps not quite as appealing as he might have been. The Welshman, who like Mkhitaryan has had the summer off, scored on seven occasions last season and registered ten assists, but would seem set to play a more withdrawn role in Unai Emery’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. With Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny also competing for a role in the double pivot, game time is far from assured.
Like Erik Lamela, Lucas Moura (£7.0m) could benefit from his fellow Spurs’ midfielders involvement in the World Cup this summer. The Brazilian midfielder played only 206 minutes of Premier League football last season after his arrival from Paris Saint-Germain in January but, with Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min featuring for their countries in Russia, may feature more prominently in the first few weeks of the season. A word of warning, though: five of Spurs’ first seven fixtures are away from home.
A trio of West Ham assets are available at £7.0m: Michail Antonio, Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson. The Hammers’ wretched run of fixtures in the first nine Gameweeks is perhaps reason enough to delay any investment in their side, but Yarmolenko’s impressive scoring rate for Dynamo Kyiv and Anderson’s goal involvement potential (25 goals and 33 assists in 137 Serie A appearances) will inevitably attract some Fantasy money.
Pascal Gross has suffered a price hike to £7.0m after his performances in 2017/18. Just five players created more chances than Gross last season, with only Kevin De Bruyne supplying more big chances than the Brighton playmaker. A difficult start for the Seagulls in 2018/19 would suggest Gross is one to avoid for now, however.
Contrast that to Everton’s run of opening fixtures and Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.5m) has to be a name to consider, with the hope that Sam Allardyce’s departure has released the shackles from the Icelandic attacking midfielder. Four goals and as many assists in 2017/18 were his poorest attacking returns in four seasons but the former Swansea City playmaker has twice hit double figures for assists in the past and could flourish under Marco Silva if afforded the chance to play in his preferred “number 10” role.
Finally, Jesse Lingard‘s (£7.0m) journey with England deep into the World Cup could jeopardise his chances of starting Manchester United’s first few matches this season. Eight goals and six assists in 2017/18 was a commendable return but a decimated pre-season with United would suggest that his involvement for Jose Mourinho’s side in August will be minimal.
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