It is stating the obvious that the midfielders available at £5.5m generally offer more of an attacking threat than the cheaper options we have already discussed, with defensive midfielders, deep-lying playmakers and reserves prominent in the £4.5m-£5.0m bracket.
There are 41 midfielders available for £5.5m at the time of writing and we will discuss them all in this latest price list analysis.
Any players featured in this article who don’t cost £5.5m will have their starting price listed in brackets.
PLAYERS FROM THE ‘BIG SIX’ CLUBS
There are eight midfielders available at £5.5m who play for one of last season’s top two.
All four of Liverpool’s assets at this price are central midfielders and the competition for places in the middle of the park is enough to put off prospective Fantasy owners, let alone the fact that many of us will have our hearts set on a double-up or triple-up on the Reds’ premium options.
Fabinho offers little for FPL bosses as the anchorman in front of the defence, while Georginio Wijnaldum (who scored on three occasions last season) is no longer the sustained goal threat he was in his first season at Anfield and final year at Newcastle.
We ought to mention that James Milner is Liverpool’s first-choice penalty-taker but it’s starts that are a problem for the veteran: the ex-Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder only lined up in one of Liverpool’s final ten league fixtures of 2018/19.
With Milner turning 34 midway through next season and competition for places fiercer than ever in the Liverpool engine room (the fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.0m) adding to Jurgen Klopp’s options), Milner may well be even more peripheral this year.
Jordan Henderson hasn’t passed 80 FPL points in the last four campaigns but he began to take on more attacking responsibilities in the season run-in, with all four of his goals/assists coming in the final six Gameweeks.
That positional evolution will be something we’ll be keeping an eye on in the opening weeks of 2019/20.
Competition in central midfield may also pose Fantasy managers dilemmas at Manchester City this season.
Fernandinho has chipped in with a few goals over his time at the Etihad but the veteran Brazilian will perhaps be gradually phased out this season following the arrival of Rodrigo.
The summer signing from Atletico Madrid scored three league goals last season, as many as he had managed in his previous four years.
Phil Foden made only three starts in 2018/19 but this could be a big year for the England under-21 international, with David Silva (£7.5m) set to leave at the end of it.
Ilkay Gundogan adds to Foden’s competition, however, especially as Rodri has arrived to take over as the midfield anchor – a role Gundogan was forced to adopt late last season when Fernandinho was injured.
Barring an injury crisis at City which would lead to less competition for either Gundogan or Foden and the regular starts that we Fantasy managers crave, neither player will feature in many FPL squads come Gameweek 1.
The likes of Mateo Kovacic, Harry Winks and Fred are, arguably, overpriced even in this price bracket.
Winks was neither a secure starter when fit nor a significant goal threat, with his role further back in the Spurs midfield restricting him to just two shots in the box all season.
Fred made just seven starts in the 21 matches that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw, meanwhile, and failed to score in any of them.
Kovacic is another underwhelming asset available at this price, though it’s possible Frank Lampard may be able to get more out of him from an attacking point of view.
The Croatian midfielder, signed on a permanent deal this summer, didn’t find the net once last season and banked only two assists.
Kovacic jobshared his left-sided central midfield role with Ross Barkley (£6.0m) in 2018/19 and Maurizio Sarri’s predictable substitutions became something of a running joke: Kovacic was hooked in 19 of the 21 league games he started.
It will be interesting to see where Kovacic is deployed under the new regime, although he has only seven league goals to his name in as many seasons and we aren’t expecting much to change in that regard.
Granit Xhaka is Arsenal’s sole representative at £5.5m, with the Switzerland international costing exactly the same as he has done in the previous three campaigns.
We pretty much know what to expect from Xhaka now: the odd spectacular free-kick from distance (two of his four goals in 2018/19 were such strikes) and a handful of assists from dead-ball situations.
No Arsenal player took more corners than Xhaka last season, while none of the Gunners’ other midfielders made as many league starts (29).
With the Swiss midfield general we also get yellow cards, however: there were ten of these in both 2018/19 and 2017/18.
PLAYERS FROM OTHER TOP-HALF CLUBS
Andre Gomes has made his move to Goodison Park permanent this summer but, while his contribution to the Everton cause can’t be overstated, the former Barcelona midfielder delivered just three attacking returns in 2018/19 from the base of the Toffees’ midfield.
Tom Davies made only ten starts last season and not one came in the final 11 Gameweeks, so he is expected to be well down the pecking order in central midfield on Merseyside.
Rachid Ghezzal didn’t make a single start under Brendan Rodgers, while Demarai Gray was jettisoned from the flanks in Gameweeks 36 to 38 when Marc Albrighton had recovered from injury.
All three now have Ayoze Perez (£6.5m) to contend with ahead of 2019/20 and we will have to see how Rodgers tweaks his system to accommodate the £30m Spaniard – it may well be that none of the three Leicester £5.5m midfield options can offer us the security of starts we crave, let alone consistent attacking returns.
We’ll also have to monitor West Ham’s pre-season friendlies to see how Robert Snodgrass fits into Manuel Pellegrini’s plans: the Scotland international did make 25 starts last season but the Hammers are very well stocked with options in midfield, as we discussed in our mid-price analysis.
No FPL midfielder available for £5.5m registered more Premier League assists than Joao Moutinho (eight) last season.
We know what to expect from Moutinho and Ruben Neves: regular starts and the occasional attacking return, although their deep-lying roles mean goals from open play won’t be easy to come by.
James Maddison (£7.0m) was the only FPL midfielder to take more corners than Moutinho last season, meanwhile, so the veteran Portuguese star offers plenty of assist potential from dead-ball situations.
PLAYERS FROM THE THREE PROMOTED CLUBS
Mark Duffy was the most advanced of Sheffield United’s central midfield three last season and he chipped in with 12 attacking returns in 2018/19.
The veteran midfielder only had two big chances last year, however, while a shot on goal every 66.2 minutes would be poor even by Premier League standards let alone the Championship.
Duffy also turns 34 in October and there have to be legitimate concerns over his ability to string together a series of starts in the top flight.
Luke Freeman has indeed been brought in by Chris Wilder this summer and maybe the possible heir to Duffy.
Freeman bagged eight goals and six assists at QPR in 2018/19 and only four players created more chances in the second tier.
Since making his Championship debut in 2015/16, Freeman has registered more key passes and assists than any player in the division.
Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez were heavily involved with Norwich’s promotion-winning campaign and chipped in with 15 and 17 attacking returns respectively.
Teemu Pukki (£6.5m) was the only Norwich player to register more shots or more efforts in the box than winger Hernandez in 2018/19.
Operating as a number ten in Daniel Farke’s 4-2-3-1 system, Stiepermann is arguably the more secure pick as he made more Championship starts than any of Norwich’s other midfielders last season.
Loanee Patrick Roberts – without a league goal in the last two years – joins them in the £5.5m bracket and pre-season will hopefully tell us if the Manchester City prospect is to be anything other than a backup option at Carrow Road in 2019/20.
Norwich sit bottom of our Season Ticker in Gameweeks 1 to 5 so those opening games may be a good way for us Fantasy managers to scope out Farke’s preferred personnel before the fixture swing in Gameweek 6.
Winger Anwar El Ghazi and central midfielder John McGinn are Aston Villa’s two options at £5.5m.
McGinn made more starts than any Villa player last season and delivered 16 attacking returns in the league.
The Scotland international was top among his Villa midfield peers for shots inside the box and efforts on target, while not one of his teammates created more big chances.
McGinn did pick up an off-putting 14 yellow cards, however.
The versatile El Ghazi registered six goals and as many assists last season and was a near-permanent fixture in the second half of the campaign, with most of his run-outs coming on the left flank.
It remains to be seen what else Villa do in the transfer window this summer but at present, he would appear to be Dean Smith’s first choice left-winger.
READ MORE: Our guide to Aston Villa’s attacking options
The usual caveat applies to all of these players who impressed in the Championship last season, as we have seen many a Fantasy asset promoted with impressive stats in the English second tier and then fail to kick on in the Premier League.
Jose Izquierdo, Jeffrey Schlupp and Steven Defour are all fighting their way back to fitness and in Izquierdo and Defour’s cases, their dismal track record with injury is reason enough to stay clear.
Schlupp, meanwhile, has lost his ‘out of position’ tag having been reclassified as an FPL midfielder and his appeal is dented as a result.
We’ll have to bide our time to see if Anthony Knockaert features in Graham Potter’s plans given the wealth of options the new Brighton manager has out wide, while Christian Atsu – very much second fiddle on Tyneside once Miguel Almiron (£6.0m) arrived – will be hoping for more opportunities under Newcastle’s new manager, especially as Ayoze Perez has now departed.
Robbie Brady was ousted from the Burnley team by Dwight McNeil (£6.0m) midway through last season and has made only one start this calendar year.
Jeff Hendrick was a regular fixture on the right flank in the second half of the season but offers little in the way of attacking threat and blanked in 29 of his 32 appearances.
Ashley Westwood is the obvious Burnley option at this price, having banked two goals and eight assists in 2018/19.
Westwood was prominent at corner-kicks but only after Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£6.0m) lost his place, so the central midfielder’s assist potential may well be largely dictated by whether the Icelandic winger can regain the right-wing role.
It remains to be seen if Max Meyer can build on a fairly underwhelming debut season of just 15 starts and four attacking returns but James McArthur was one of the quiet budget success stories of 2018/19, returning more FPL points than any midfielder available for less than £6.0m this season.
Ten attacking returns represented his best-ever FPL haul but it was also the security of starts that boosted his appeal, with McArthur lining up in 36 of Palace’s 38 league games.
Those regular starts perhaps mask his limited threat a little, with McArthur averaging less than one shot and one key pass per appearance in 2018/19.
Will Hughes‘ averages were better than McArthur’s but inferior to his two Watford teammates available at £6.0m, Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Six attacking returns for Hughes was indeed half of what Doucoure managed last season.
Finally, there are three midfielders available for £5.5m at Southampton.
Mohamed Elyounoussi is seemingly persona non grata under Ralph Hasenhuttl having made just two starts since the Austrian took charge, while Stuart Armstrong also only made the starting XI in nine of the 23 matches that the current Saints’ boss oversaw.
Moussa Djenepo is, perhaps, one of the more eye-catching names available at this price.
We urged caution about the pacy Mali international in our Scout Report given that we have been burned before by imports from the Low Countries and there is always the risk that the transfer could prove to be another misstep.
If Djenepo is to become a first-choice pick under Hasenhuttl, however, then a £5.5m winger with an eye for goal would be an alluring option – as Nathan Redmond (£6.5m) demonstrated at the back-end of 2018/19.
As we have stressed repeatedly this summer, pre-season could enhance the appeal of a name or two from this list who we may have dismissed – so we will be keeping a close eye on the teamsheets over the next four weeks of friendlies.
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