Only 14 midfielders fall into this price bracket at the time of writing, all of whom now play for one of the “big six”.
Seven of the ten highest-scoring players in Fantasy Premier League last season were midfielders, every one of whom features in this analysis.
With 50 league goals between them last season, Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling‘s performances in 2017/18 have come at a cost to FPL managers with price hikes to £13.0m and £11.0m respectively.
While Sterling’s price rise has contributed to a drop in owners (the England international currently sits in just 3.5% of FPL squads), Salah is once again the most popular asset in the game with a 46.3% ownership.
Of the 14 midfielders priced at £8.0m or above, only three didn’t feature at this summer’s World Cup: Alexis Sanchez (£10.5m), Leroy Sane (£9.5m) and Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m). Participation in Russia could be a significant issue for the other 11 premium picks, with fatigue and a lack of pre-season preparation with their respective clubs set to impact on their early-season availability and form.
Sterling, Eden Hazard (£10.5m), Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m), Dele Alli (£9.0m) and Paul Pogba (£8.0m) went deep into the tournament with England, Belgium and France and would seem most at risk of missing the first few Gameweeks of the 2018/19 season.
With so few premium midfield assets to discuss and all 14 playing for teams that finished in the top six of the Premier League last season, we’ll assess the big-shot midfielders by club rather than price bracket.
Over a third of the premium midfielder options are on City’s books. Only Mohamed Salah scored more FPL points last season than Raheem Sterling (£11.0m), whose 18 goals and 17 assists was his best ever single-season return.
Sterling’s average of 6.9 points per match was also second only to Salah (discounting Sergio Romero’s solitary seven-point appearance for Manchester United) among all FPL players. The Egyptian star was the only midfielder to have more penalty box touches and big chances than Sterling last season, meanwhile.
Fantasy managers lived in what seemed like perpetual fear of rotation from Pep Guardiola last season, but from Gameweek 11 onwards, Sterling started all but two of the league matches in which he was available for selection.
Rotation, of course, could be a very real prospect this season. Having started six of England’s seven World Cup matches this summer, Sterling would seem likely to miss the beginning of 2018/19 – or, at least, feature as an impact substitute. The former Liverpool winger failed to score in Russia this summer and looked mentally and physically fatigued by the tournament’s end.
In Riyad Mahrez (£9.0m), City have a rested and ready-made replacement for Sterling on the right flank. Priced £2.0m cheaper than Sterling, Mahrez contributed to 25 of Leicester City’s 56 league goals last year (12 goals, 13 assists) and his average of 5.4 points per match was the best by any player who didn’t play for a top-six side.
Sterling was the only City midfielder who had more shots inside the box than Mahrez in 2017/18 and, while the Algerian’s underlying statistics were generally inferior to that of his new team-mates‘, it should be noted that Mahrez played in a Foxes side that scored 50 fewer goals, had over 200 fewer attempts on goal and had almost half as many big chances than Guardiola’s side last season.
Mahrez and Leroy Sane (£9.5m), who was a surprise omission from Germany’s World Cup squad this summer, will be in many FPL managers’ thoughts as the season approaches. City’s run of fixtures from Gameweeks 2 to 7 – Huddersfield Town (h), Wolverhampton Wanderers (a), Newcastle United (h), Fulham (h), Cardiff City (a), Brighton and Hove Albion (h) – demands Fantasy investment and the pair’s non-involvement in Russia means they should play a prominent role in City’s early fixtures. Sane scored on ten occasions and assisted a further 15 strikes last season, despite only starting 27 matches.
Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m) is a favourite of Guardiola’s and started 36 of City’s Premier League fixtures – the first league match that the Belgian failed to start fell in Gameweek 33.
Despite his involvement with his country at this summer’s World Cup, De Bruyne is a player who we can expect Guardiola to rush back at the earliest opportunity.
The former Chelsea cast-off is the creative heartbeat of the City side and created more chances than any Premier League player last season. De Bruyne also had as many shots on goal as Sergio Aguero in 2017/18, though admittedly most came from distance.
David Silva (£8.5m) is the cheapest premium route into the City midfield. Having missed eight of City’s final 21 league matches through compassionate leave and with Spain being eliminated in the World Cup round of 16, the diminutive playmaker may not – physically at least – be too jaded for the coming season. The psychological effects of his son’s premature birth are, of course, a factor, but a fit and firing Silva is a serious contender for one of our three permitted Manchester City slots. Silva averaged more points per match (5.8) than De Bruyne and Sane last season and had registered five goals and eight assists before his first absence on compassionate grounds in Gameweek 18 (Silva was to score on a further four occasions and assist another three strikes after this point).
Spurs’ premium assets are far from essential in the early weeks of the 2018/19 season. Five of the Lilywhites’ first seven matches are on the road, while one of the “home” games – the appealing Gameweek 2 fixture against Fulham – will again be played at Wembley as the redevelopment work on their new stadium nears completion.
Dele Alli (£9.0m) scored half as many goals last season (nine) as he had managed in 2016/17 but still averaged 4.9 points per match, helped by a career-best total of 13 assists.
Alli’s participation in Spurs’ opening fixtures looks in some doubt, given that his World Cup campaign with England ran until July 14. The former MK Dons midfielder was also plagued by a thigh injury in Russia and would appear to be in need of rest, having started 34 league games for Spurs last season.
Despite South Korea’s group-stage exit from the World Cup, Son Heung-min‘s (£8.5m) availability in August is in even more doubt: the attacking midfielder is set to be on international duty for Korea in the Asian Games and could miss Spurs’ first four league matches.
We discussed the Fantasy prospects of Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela as cover for Alli and Son in our look at mid-priced midfielders, but there is little doubt as to which premium midfielder whose return Mauricio Pochettino would covet the most.
Christian Eriksen (£9.5m) hit a career-best total of 11 league goals last season (one was subsequently awarded to Harry Kane, but not before the Dane’s FPL owners had collected five points for the strike) and was the fourth-highest scoring midfielder of 2017/18 – despite registering half the assists (ten) he had managed in 2016/17.
Mohamed Salah was the only midfielder to have more attempts on goal than Eriksen last season, while just Kevin De Bruyne topped Eriksen’s total of 95 chances created.
With Denmark having exited the World Cup in the round of 16, Eriksen could be the first of Spurs’ premium picks to return to the first-team fold ahead of the new season. The 26-year-old attacking midfielder is about as rotation-proof a selection as any £8.0m+ midfielder: the Dane started all but one of the north London side’s 38 league matches in 2017/18.
While Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) has seen off a possible positional reclassification in FPL this season, there was no escaping his inevitable price rise. Salah’s total of 32 strikes last season was the most any Premier League player has managed in a 38-match season and his 303 points was an FPL record.
No midfielder had more penalty box touches, attempts on goal, shots on target or big chances in 2017/18 and while it would be difficult to imagine Liverpool’s talisman (Salah played a part in over 50% of the Reds’ goals last season) matching his heroics again this year, it would be a brave Fantasy manager who went without the Egyptian.
The “fear factor” alone would be enough to warrant his inclusion in our squads: with almost one in two FPL bosses owning the former Roma midfielder at this stage, an early-season haul from last season’s Player of the Year would see non-owners soon playing catch-up.
Other Fantasy managers, of course, may baulk at the Liverpool star’s steep price tag and view a Salah-less squad as one that is far better balanced.
With a trip to Crystal Palace punctuating home matches against West Ham United and Brighton, Liverpool’s early fixtures bode well for a bumper August return from Salah.
Sadio Mane is £3.5m cheaper than Salah, starting 2018/19 – as he did last season – at £9.5m. While Salah stole the limelight from his Senegalese team-mate, Mane still managed to score on ten occasions and assist a further eight strikes. Mane is the less expensive option for a reason: his rate of 5.1 points per match was over three fewer than Salah averaged, while Salah also had more than twice as many shots on goal as Mane in 2017/18. Salah recorded almost double the amount of penalty box touches, too.
Mane started all but one of Liverpool’s leagues matches in 2018, but increased rotation in the front three positions looks a real prospect this season following the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City.
A lack of squad depth meant that Jurgen Klopp’s capacity to rest Salah (who made 34 starts across the season), Mane and Roberto Firmino towards the end of 2017/18 was limited, but Shaqiri’s capture suggests that matches around the UEFA Champions League fixtures and at Christmas are now ripe for rotation.
READ MORE: The complete Members’ analysis of Liverpool
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal
Jose Mourinho’s comments about Alexis Sanchez (£10.5m) and Anthony Martial starting the season up front for Manchester United are sure to rekindle interest in the Chilean midfielder.
Having played no part in the World Cup over the summer due to his country’s failure to qualify, a rested Sanchez will start his first full season with the Red Devils with plenty to prove. Nine league goals in 2017/18 represented his worst single-season tally since 2012/13, although the former Arsenal star did hit double figures for assists.
Sanchez’s goal attempts and penalty box touches were way down on his figures from 2016/17, but the Chilean’s minutes-per-chance creation average improved from 41 to 34 minutes.
Paul Pogba‘s (£8.0m) extended run to the World Cup final with France would cast some doubt over his availability in the first few weeks of the season, but big things are expected of the former Juventus man in 2018/19. The capture of Fred to play alongside Nemanja Matic could unleash Pogba in the United midfield and his underlying statistics from last season hint at greater things to come.
Only five midfielders had more shots than Pogba, despite the Frenchman only playing 27 games. Pogba’s minutes-per-chance average was better than the likes of Raheem Sterling’s and Sadio Mane’s, too. A total of 13 assists was beaten only by three City players, meanwhile. Pogba’s average of 5.1 points per match was also better than Sanchez’s (4.9).
With only Spurs of the “big six” to play in the first eight Gameweeks, United’s Fantasy assets are worthy of serious consideration.
Eden Hazard (£10.5m) and Mesut Ozil (£8.5m) are Chelsea and Arsenal’s only premium midfield representatives. Both players will play under new managers next season, following the arrival of Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery to the Premier League.
Hazard’s future in west London remains in some doubt but were he to stay with the Blues – as Sarri desires – then the Belgian would be a strong premium midfield candidate if Chelsea are to emulate the swashbuckling style that Napoli displayed under Sarri.
Hazard has hit double figures for goals in four of the last five seasons, though will be a doubt for Chelsea’s matches in August after his World Cup exploits for Belgium. A return ahead of the double-header against Newcastle and Fulham at Stamford Bridge in Gameweeks 4 and 5 would be an appealing Fantasy prospect.
READ MORE: The complete Members’ analysis of Chelsea
No midfielder who made more than one start had a better chance creation rate in 2017/18 than Mesut Ozil, who has supplied 55 assists in his five seasons with the Gunners.
Ozil averaged fewer points per appearance last season (4.3) than all of the other premium assets above, but could find a new lease of life in Emery’s 4-2-3-1 system. Arsenal’s run of fixtures from Gameweeks 3 to 10 is hugely appealing, but with Henrikh Mkhitaryan available for £1.5m less, investment in the German international has been minimal so far: Ozil’s current 2.3% ownership is the lowest of the 14 players we have discussed in this feature.
READ MORE: The complete Members’ analysis of Arsenal
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