Premium midfielders have probably been the most-discussed group of players since Fantasy Premier League relaunched in the summer.
The reclassification of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12.0m) and Marcus Rashford (£9.5m) has added to the wealth of options that Fantasy managers already have – and that’s before we even entertain the idea of Lionel Messi becoming a Premier League player.
In this piece, we’ll assess the merits of all 18 FPL midfielders who are currently listed between £7.5m and £12.0m inclusive.
Our rundown of the stand-out Fantasy forwards will follow soon.
With the two Manchester clubs not in action in Gameweek 1, there’ll be plenty of interest in Liverpool’s premium duo for their opening-weekend clash against newly promoted Leeds United.
On paper, the decision has been made a little easier by Fantasy Premier League pricing up both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah at £12.0m.
Salah has, after all, outscored Mane for FPL points in each of the last three seasons, averaged more points per match in 2019/20 (6.9 v 6.3) and has the added bonus of being on penalties whenever James Milner (£5.5m) is not on the field.
Look a little closer though and the pair are more evenly matched than first appears with Salah only edging his teammate by one attacking return (29 v 28) in 2019/20.
If we remove substitute appearances and Mane’s infamous, injury-affected cameo in Double Gameweek 24, the gap is also much narrower when it comes to points per start (7.0 v 6.9 in Salah’s favour).
Their tallies for double-digit hauls, blanks and bonus points were also nearly identical last season.
The key difference is their shot count, with the Egyptian racking up over 50 more attempts on goal than his fellow premium midfielder.
Mane is therefore heavily reliant on maintaining a vastly superior goal conversion rate (as he has done in the last two seasons) in order to keep pace.
You can read much more on Liverpool’s two big hitters in a special comparison piece we published earlier this month.
Aubameyang’s recategorisation as an Fantasy midfielder was perhaps the headline story upon the relaunch of FPL in August.
The Gabon international would have finished third in the FPL standings on 230 points had the positional reclassification come a year earlier and it would have raised Aubameyang’s points-per-match average from 5.7 to 6.4.
If we take that average and compare it to the other premium midfielders in FPL, the Arsenal talisman is around about mid-table along with Rashford:
|Player||2019/20 Points Per Match|
|Aubameyang (as a midfielder)||6.4|
|Rashford (as a midfielder)||6.4|
It could be argued that there is better value in the premium bracket, then, with Rashford (who admittedly seems to have lost penalty-taking duties) averaging the same number of points per match as Aubameyang last season but significantly cheaper.
While it would be hard to justify keeping the Gabon international for an entire season, he is a name to perhaps target for the “easier” fixtures – of which Arsenal have two to start the season with.
Almost 75% his attacking returns, 16 of his goals and all six of his double-digit hauls came against teams in the bottom ten last season.
Again, we’ll point you in the direction of our stand-alone piece on Aubameyang, which delved into his numbers in much greater detail.
Willian (£8.0m) and Nicolas Pepe (£8.0m) offer a substantial saving on Aubameyang but there are obvious reasons for that.
While Aubameyang is almost ‘nailed’ to start under Mikel Arteta, Pepe hasn’t been so far: in the 20 matches that his new manager oversaw, the winger was benched in seven of them.
Given that he could again be competing with Willian, Reiss Nelson (£5.5m), Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) and possibly Aubameyang down the right flank this season, even a starting price drop of £1.5m might not be enough of a carrot for FPL managers.
Pepe was heavily involved at set-piece situations last season but Willian looks set to challenge him at free-kicks and corners, which would further dent his appeal.
No midfielder now priced at £8.0m or less averaged more points per match (4.7) or scored more goals (nine) than Willian in 2019/20.
Creatively, only three current FPL midfielders supplied more big chances.
Again, though, we will have to see just how secure a starter the 32-year-old Brazilian is before taking the plunge – and whether he can somehow wrestle penalty-taking duties away from Aubameyang, as four of the ex-Chelsea winger’s nine goals last season came from the spot.
It’s difficult to split Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.5m), despite the Belgian scoring almost 50 more FPL points than his teammate last season.
Essentially, De Bruyne massively overachieved based on the expected goal involvement (xGI) data and Sterling hugely underachieved.
That’s not to say De Bruyne’s returns are unsustainable, as his accuracy from range often makes a mockery of Opta’s predictions and the best players tend to exceed expectations year after year.
But rather, we’d expect Sterling to improve on what he did last season.
He was the only one of the current crop of £10.0m+ Fantasy assets whose xGI delta was in the negative and it was in the assist count that he really suffered, with just six of them arriving in 2019/20; he had averaged 15.3 per year over the previous seasons.
Our Premium Members article compares the two in finer detail but the crux of it is that Sterling poses the greater goal threat, with De Bruyne by some distance the more creative – and the Belgian is now seemingly first in line for penalties for the Citizens.
There’ll be few takers of Bernardo Silva (£7.5m), who has never hit double figures for goals or assists in his three seasons as the Etihad, but Riyad Mahrez’s (£8.5m) name is often thrown around in pre-season by those considering a cut-price route in the Manchester City attack.
The Algerian’s rate of attacking returns per 90 minutes (1.09) was better than Salah’s (0.88) and almost as good as De Bruyne’s (1.11) but full-game run-outs were few and far between for the Algerian, who started just 21 Premier League fixtures and completed only nine of them.
If we could be sure of starts for Mahrez then he would be a no-brainer at that price, but as it stands, he’s a high-risk, high-reward type of player who is equally capable of a blank in a 20-minute cameo as he is a 16-point haul.
His average of 5.3 points per match in 2019/20 was better than any other midfielder who now costs less than £9.0m, which underscores his potential.
City blank in Gameweek 1 and in truth their fixtures don’t get good until late-November, with six of last season’s top-half clubs to come before that point.
We are spoilt for choice in the Manchester United midfield next season, with both Rashford and Mason Greenwood (£7.5m) reclassified ahead of 2019/20.
Those two players and Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) racked up 25 attacking returns between them in Manchester United’s nine post-restart fixtures, with the Red Devils galvanised by the Portugal international’s arrival in the final third of the season.
Fernandes’ points-per-match average of 8.4 looks unsustainable over the course of a full campaign but he could still do plenty of damage, especially as he seems to have wrestled control of penalties away from Rashford.
Even if we were to strip away spot-kicks completely (which arrived at a fierce rate for the Red Devils last season), Fernandes would still have averaged around 6.2 FPL points per match following his arrival – a very competitive figure.
There is also plenty to like about Rashford despite the winger losing the monopoly on penalties, with his expected goal involvement figure almost identical to Fernandes – who had the advantage of two extra spot-kicks – from Gameweek 30+ onwards.
This could be Salah v Mane part II: two midfield assets from the same club who are posting similar numbers in many departments, only one has penalty-taking duties on their side (we assume).
The difference in this case is that they are separated by one million in price.
Reliability of starts is something we can likely depend on with this duo, with Rashford and Fernandes lining up in every single Premier League match that they were available for.
Greenwood was the breakthrough act of last season but he did massively overachieve in the run-in, with the Opta eggheads suggesting he should have scored one goal – and not five – after lockdown ended.
The youngster will be heavily reliant on his deadeye finishing skills to keep pace with his more senior teammates if the underlying stats continue in the same manner but his main selling point is his price.
All of these appealing £9.0m+ heavy-hitters we’ve discussed in this article; we can’t afford them all.
That’s where the likes of Greenwood and Phil Foden (£6.5m) may come into play at their respective clubs, with both players unlikely to match their pricier colleagues for returns but getting plenty of game-time and acting as enablers for moves elsewhere.
United blank in Gameweek 1 but their fixtures thereafter look appealing, so contingency plans may be needed for their assets.
Our Premium Members article has a lot more on the United midfielders but you won’t find much on Paul Pogba (£8.0m), whose deep-lying playmaker status and loss of spot-kick duties have killed any interest in him from a Fantasy perspective.
The Frenchman indeed registered just one solitary shot in the box after the mid-June restart.
We already have two Chelsea assets at the bottom-end of the premium market and, if media rumours are to be believed, then Kai Havertz might be added to that pool.
The duo we already have to choose from are Hakim Ziyech (£8.0m) and Christian Pulisic (£8.5m), the latter of whom was in excellent form towards the end of the campaign.
The American averaged 0.85 goal involvements per 90 minutes in an injury-affected season, which was almost as good as the figures that Salah and Mane posted.
His ability to ghost into dangerous positions caught the eye and Pulisic was third among players in this article for shots in the box per 90 minutes.
The problem for a large chunk of the season was pitch-time, with first form and then fitness an issue.
Returning from the treatment table after lockdown, Pulisic racked up nine attacking returns in as many games and he has been attractively priced for 2020/21.
Ziyech, with his dead-ball expertise, trigger-happy shooting and creativity from open play, is an exciting prospect, but we have had many of those from the Eredivisie and there is always the doubt over whether new signings from overseas will immediately settle in the English top tier.
Nevertheless, the momentum behind free-spending Chelsea is growing by the day and many FPL managers will be happy to take a punt on the new arrivals from the off.
Tottenham Hotspur have one of the more favourable fixture schedules in the opening eight Gameweeks and how best to tap into it is a question many of us are asking.
Three of the Lilywhites’ midfielders fall into the £7.5m+ bracket this season, namely Son Heung-min (£9.0m), Dele Alli (£8.0m) and Steven Bergwijn (£7.5m).
Right off the bat, we’ll rule Bergwin out: the winger looks poised to share pitch-time with Lucas Moura (£7.0m) down the Spurs right and he only stared three of his side’s nine post-lockdown fixtures, with the Brazilian the more favoured option down that flank.
Alli had originally been a secure starter under Jose Mourinho, making the Spurs head coach’s line-up in 16 of the first 17 Premier League matches he oversaw.
Suspension and injury limited his involvement after lockdown, however, and Giovani Lo Celso (£7.0m) ended the season in Alli’s usual number ten position.
It’s worth keeping an eye on Spurs’ line-ups in pre-season to see if Lo Celso is moved back into a deeper role to accommodate Alli’s return, as the former MK Dons prospect is now available at his cheapest FPL price since 2015/16.
When he was a regular under Mourinho from Gameweks 13-29, Alli registered more ‘big chances’ than any other Premier League midfielder.
Son is where the main interest lies and he is the most-owned Spurs asset in FPL at the time of writing.
Despite his 2019/20 tally of 24 attacking returns being his best since moving to the Premier League, his starting price has dropped half a million from what it was a year ago.
The Korean would have gone close to his 2017/18 total of 178 points had he not missed a penalty and been dismissed twice and he also sat out eight Spurs games through injury or suspension.
Under the Special One, the South Korea international’s points-per-match average rose from to 5.1 to 5.9.
While there are more explosive players out there, Son was remarkably consistent throughout 2019/20: on only one occasion did he make more than two consecutive appearances without registering a goal or assist.
Spurs’ Europa League involvement (they are in continental cup action either side of Gameweeks 1-4) is an obvious caveat, with Harry Kane (£10.5m) the safest route into Mourinho’s attack amid the possible rotation.
The England striker also came out well in our Kane v Son comparison piece, although it’s always worth paying attention to Mourinho’s tactics as Son’s two most-recent double-digit hauls have arrived when playing centrally rather than out on the left.