We turn our attention to budget midfielders as we continue to trawl through the Fantasy Premier League price list and pick out the names to consider – and avoid.
Having already looked at budget goalkeepers, mid-price/premium goalkeepers, budget defenders and mid-price/premium defenders, we switch our focus to options further up the pitch in the £4.5m-£5.0m bracket.
There is the usual mix of defensive midfielders, deep-lying playmakers, reserves, academy products, assets from the newly promoted clubs and the odd attack-minded player to consider in this tier.
We will cover £5.5m options in our look at mid-price midfielders, given that 84 assets fall within the £4.5m-£5.0m price range alone.
The £4.5m Bench Fodder Options
The primary function of a £4.5m midfielder is to be an emergency option on our benches, to be ready to come in for a two-point (or better) return when rotation, injury and/or suspension bites hard.
The first requirement of such a player is that he is a semi-reliable starter.
That immediately rules out a large number of Fantasy assets, although pre-season is yet to start in earnest and we may well see a surprise name emerge from this bargain bin of players: Todd Cantwell was a fine example of this in 2019/20.
Security of starts is not something we associate with Brighton and Hove Albion assets under the ever-tinkering Graham Potter but Yves Bissouma (£4.5m) does leap out at first glance, having played a prominent role and looked in excellent form in the Seagulls’ run-in.
Bissouma started 10 of Albion’s final 12 fixtures, coming off the bench in the other two matches, and was one of just two FPL midfielders who are now priced up at £4.5m who scored a Premier League goal last season.
Bissouma loves a pop from distance but just two shots in the box all season highlights his limitations and the same applies to teammate Dale Stephens (£4.5m), who has scored one goal in three years.
Stephens started 28 Premier League games in 2019/20 (the most of the current crop of £4.5m midfielders) although only 12 came from Gameweeks 17-38 as he became a bit of a rotation risk himself.
The pre-season friendlies will be worth keeping an eye on, to see how Stephens, Bissouma and the fit-again utility man Steven Alzate (£4.5m) are faring for minutes under their unpredictable head coach.
Staying on the south coast, the departure of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£5.0m) may well open up a first-team slot for one of Oriel Romeu, Will Smallbone or Harrison Reed (all £4.5m) alongside James Ward-Prowse (£6.0m) at the base of the Southampton midfield.
Romeu was more heavily involved in the run-in, starting seven of Saints’ nine matches after lockdown and encouragingly creating three big chances, although has racked up over ten times as many bookings as attacking returns over the last five seasons.
Reed is one to watch if he makes a permanent move back to Fulham, where he spent last season on loan, although again, no shots in the box in 2019/20 encapsulates his lack of goal threat.
It’s slim pickings elsewhere, with Marvelous Nakamba (£4.5m) and James McCarthy (£4.5m) the only other midfielders in this price rung who hit double figures for Premier League starts in 2019/20.
Neither player is considered anywhere near ‘nailed’ at the time of writing though (Nakamba started just once after lockdown, McCarthy on four occasions) and the pair didn’t manage a goal or assist between them last season.
The six assets from the newly promoted clubs were either back-ups or sent out on loan in 2019/20, although Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (£4.5m) was a big-money signing when Fulham were last in the top flight and it remains to be seen if Parker has any plans to reinstall him as a ball-carrier in midfield after a decent year with Villarreal in Spain.
Of the remaining players we haven’t discussed, only Anthony Gordon (£4.5m) and Jairo Riedewald (£4.5m) racked up more than 200 minutes of Premier League football in the campaign just gone.
Gordon is one to monitor given that he’s possibly the most attack-minded of all the assets at this price point, with the teenage winger appearing in every one of Everton’s nine post-lockdown fixtures and starting four of them.
The young midfielder provided an assist in the 2-1 win over Leicester City, creating a modest six chances in his 11 appearances last season.
NEWLY PROMOTED £5.0m OPTIONS
Moving up a tier, we begin our examination of £5.0m midfielders with a rundown of the options from Premier League new boys West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United and Fulham.
While Kyle Edwards (£5.0m) and Sam Field (£5.0m) may struggle for game-time, Romaine Sawyers (£5.0m) and Jake Livermore (£5.0m) ought to be names to count upon for minutes in 2020/21, providing Albion don’t dip into the transfer market.
Both were regulars at the base of the Baggies’ midfield in their promotion-winning campaign, with Livermore the more likely to grab a goal – although neither player is a real attacking menace.
Not one of the six Fulham midfielders priced up at £5.0m started more than 20 of the Cottagers’ 46 Championship games, with big-money signing Jean Michael Seri (£5.0m) spending the year on loan at Galatasaray and thought to be keen on a permanent switch to Turkey.
Two to watch in pre-season are free-kick specialist Neeskens Kebano (£5.0m) and Josh Onomah (£5.0m), who ended 2019/20 in favour with their manager after stop-start campaigns.
The pair were deployed out wide and in the number ten role respectively towards the end of the regulation season and both players started all three play-off matches, although it remains to be seen if they will retain their starting berths when Fulham make the step-up in class.
You can read much more on both players and the Cottagers’ midfield in our stand-alone piece here.
Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips (£5.0m) is a name worth mentioning at this price point.
A defensive midfielder by trade, an accumulator of yellow cards and posing very little goal threat from open play (he registered only one shot in the box all season), his big draw is his set-piece expertise.
No Leeds player took more corners or directs free-kicks in 2019/20 and while he only registered two assists, he created 68 chances in the Whites’ title-winning campaign.
A regular when fit, Phillips is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from a knee injury and could be fit for Gameweek 1.
With Jamie Shackleton (£5.0m) mostly a back-up, Jay-Roy Grot (£5.0m) likely surplus to requirements and the injury-prone Adam Forshaw (£5.0m) still working his back to fitness after a long-term lay-off, Tyler Roberts (£5.0m) is the best of the rest at Elland Road.
Often used in an attacking midfield role to spare the ageing Pablo Hernandez‘s (£6.0m) legs, Roberts could even get the odd ‘out of position’ run-out up front – although a lack of guaranteed pitch-time is the obvious drawback.
BIG SIX BACK-UPS AND POTENTIAL STARTERS
You often get what you pay for in FPL, especially when it comes to players from the ‘big six’ clubs.
There isn’t really a stand-out name at £5.0m from these teams, with the penalty-taking Jorginho having seemingly fallen down the pecking order at Chelsea.
The Italian’s teammate, N’Golo Kante (£5.0m), ought to be a reliable starter when fit, at least, and will pop up with the odd goal or two whenever he’s not on the treatment table.
Gabriel Martinelli (£5.0m) is a long-term absentee and Matteo Guendouzi (£5.0m) and Lucas Torreira (£5.0m) are thought to be surplus to requirements at Arsenal, while Joe Willock (£5.0m) was mostly an impact substitute last season and will likely be relying on inactivity from the Gunners in the transfer market to build on his eight league starts in 2019/20.
Across north London, new signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£5.0m) is expected to be the chief ball-winner in the Spurs midfield next season.
A total of 46 shots without success in his final year at Southampton does suggest his four-goal tally in 2018/19 was a one-off, however.
Gedson Fernandes (£5.0m) has been used at right-back in pre-season, so it remains to be seen if he is a mere placeholder for Serge Aurier (£5.5m) or a new arrival if the Ivorian departs.
At Manchester United, Nemanja Matic (£5.0m) and Scott McTominay (£5.0m) may be locked in a two-way tussle for a central midfield spot, with the Scotsman more of a goal threat than his teammate, especially from set plays – although that isn’t saying much.
Defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi (£5.0m) is a reliable starter in the Leicester side when fit but, although he registered more headed attempts from set plays than anyone else in this article in 2019/20, can’t be relied upon for more than a couple of goals a season.
Jack Cork (£5.0m) – who didn’t register a single attacking return in the campaign just gone – guarantees minutes and little else when available for Burnley and may even miss the start of the campaign, with Josh Brownhill (£5.0m) the likely beneficiary if Sean Dyche doesn’t dip into the transfer market.
Jorginho aside, we do have a handful of penalty-taking assets available at this price point.
Oliver Norwood (£5.0m) is one of them, although he was only given one opportunity from the spot in 2019/20.
The Sheffield United midfielder created more chances than any of his teammates last season, with his share of corner-taking duties boosting his key pass count.
The other (presumed) regular for the Bladesmen at this price is Sander Berge (£5.0m), who started all but one of his side’s ten post-lockdown matches.
The club-record signing managed only four shots and two chances created in that time, however, so doesn’t immediately leap off the page.
Finally, one of last season’s budget gems, Leander Dendoncker (£5.0m), has been handed a price rise of half a million ahead of 2020/21.
Five benchings in the last 14 matches suggests a degree of rotation risk but he nevertheless featured in every single league fixture for Wolves last season and his goal count (four) wasn’t bettered by any current FPL midfielder in the sub-£5.5m bracket.
The Best – and Worst – of the Rest
Arguably the most appealing £5.0m midfielders can be found in east London, which is sod’s law as West Ham United have arguably the toughest run of fixtures from Gameweeks 1-8.
Declan Rice (£5.0m), if he stays with the Hammers, didn’t miss a single minute of league football in 2019/20 and, somewhat surprisingly given his role as defensive midfielder, registered more assists last season than anyone else in this article.
Mark Noble (£5.0m) is on penalties and ended last season in a more advanced midfield role, remarkably creating more chances than any other Premier League player bar Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) in the final four Gameweeks.
Proving to be more popular than them both and indeed any other £5.0m-rated midfielder, however, is Tomas Soucek (£5.0m).
The Czech international scored on three occasions after lockdown, which no other midfielder now available at this price could better.
He also couldn’t be bested for goal attempts, shots in the box, efforts on target, big chances and headed chances among players in this piece from Gameweeks 30+ to 38+ and he looked a real threat from set plays after his arrival.
Like Noble, Matt Ritchie (£5.0m) is also presumed to still be on penalties.
The Newcastle United winger was reclassified as a Fantasy midfielder upon the FPL relaunch but still looks appealing at his price point, given that he also takes plenty of free-kicks and corners.
The Scotland international had hit double figures for attacking returns in each of the three seasons before 2019/20, a campaign that was ravaged by injury.
Two goals and an assist after lockdown hinted at his potential and it’ll be worth monitoring the incomings and pre-season friendlies on Tyneside this summer to see if Rtichie is still a regular come Gameweek 1, as he offers more than defensive midfielder Isaac Hayden (£5.0m) at the same price.
Brighton’s three £5.0m midfielders are potentially too risky at this stage given the wealth of options Potter has in the middle of the park, especially as Bissouma is available for half a million cheaper.
Even Aaron Mooy and Davy Propper (both £5.0m), hitherto regulars, warmed the bench on a combined seven occasions after lockdown.
Few will be interested in Crystal Palace and Everton’s central midfielders at £5.0m, either, with game-time not even assured for the likes of Fabian Delph and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Douglas Luiz (£5.0m) was one of Villa’s form players in the run-in, starting every single match from Gameweek 25 onwards.
The defensive shield loves a shot from distance and chipped in with five attacking returns in 2019/20 but, like so many other options in this piece, he’s someone who would have been a well-owned fifth midfielder at £4.5m but will no doubt be mostly overlooked because of that extra half a million.