The decision over Fantasy Premier League (FPL) midfield spots has been a source of fierce debate over the course of the 2021/22 season so far. Do we go for zero, one, two or three of the mid-priced (and ‘out of position’) midfielders from the ‘big six’? If you are selecting at least one of them, then which is the right option?
The arrival of Romelu Lukaku (£11.6m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.7m) to the Premier League has somewhat shifted the goalposts in terms of the other midfield spots and so it is harder to budget for more than two, if any at all.
I’ve assessed all three of Mason Greenwood, Ferran Torres and Diogo Jota in this article below, using numbers and graphics from the Fantasy Football Scout Premium Members Area.
The case for Diogo Jota
Diogo Jota (£7.7m) is the pick that many Fantasy managers were hoping would unlock their FPL problems, especially when Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) was ruled out through injury. The idea of being able to invest in the potent Liverpool attack for so little was music to our ears but is he the gift we were all hoping for, especially now Firmino has returned to training?
Jota was top of expected goals (xG) underachievers in Gameweek 5 with a delta of -0.94. He was also part of the Liverpool attack who were top for shots in Gameweek 5 with 25, ten of which were on target. Jota has managed two goals so far this season, one behind Sadio Mane (£11.9m) and two behind Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) – both of whom require a lot more cash for their services.
Jota has had 15 attempts on goal so far in the 347 minutes that he has played. This is fifth-best total across FPL midfielders with all those above him, bar Raphinha (£6.5m), costing significantly more. He has also recorded those opportunities when playing for at least 80 minutes less than those above him.
He is also tied third for big chances so far with four and averages an attempt every 23.1 minutes. Liverpool’s fixtures – bar Gameweek 7’s tie against Manchester City – also bode well for Jota, even if he comes off the bench. Last season, he averaged a goal every 29 minutes when coming on as a substitute and indeed was the subbed-on player to score most often in 2020/21.
It should also be noted that the Reds have registered the most goal attempts so far this season with 125, which is encouraging for those doubling up on the Liverpool attack and owning Jota.
The case for Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood (£7.7m) started the season with a bang, returning in each of the opening four Gameweeks. Greenwood has managed ten successful take-ons so far; in the Manchester United team, only Paul Pogba (£7.8m) has more. The 19-year-old has made the same number of goal attempts as Ronaldo with 13 each, although it must be noted that Greenwood has played 427 minutes in comparison to Ronaldo’s 180.
Greenwood has also been involved in set plays for Manchester United this season, taking 10 corners, although only one of them has been successful. On top of this, he has registered three attempts from set pieces, second across the Manchester United team to Harry Maguire (£5.4m).
The arrival of Ronaldo has seen Greenwoods position on the pitch change in the last two weeks. The result of him being out wide is fewer attempts on goal.
Greenwood’s goal attempts in Gameweeks 1-3 (Pre-Ronaldo)
Greenwood’s goal attempts in Gameweeks 4-5 (with Ronaldo)
The case for Ferran Torres
Picking Ferran Torres (£7.1m) means buying a ticket to the Pep rotation lottery and hoping to come home as a winner. So far Torres’ owners have mostly escaped the roulette with Torres starting four of the five opening fixtures. However he did miss out in Gameweek 5, likely as a result of the amount of minutes amassed for Manchester City in the Premier League and Champions League, plus those from international duty with Spain.
Like Jota, Torres has registered two goals in his four matches, meaning he is Manchester City’s leading goal scorer so far and also has an assist to his name. Furthermore, Torres leads his Manchester City team-mates for xG, goal attempts (13, tied with Ilkay Gundogan (£7.3m)) and big chances (three, tied with Raheem Sterling (£10.8m)), also ranking second across the team for penalty area touches with 27.
Manchester City sit second for goal attempts so far with 100, which sits 25 behind Liverpool and in the next two Gameweeks they play Chelsea and Liverpool. Both have only conceded one goal so far, which could limit Torres’ potential, but owning an out-of-position City midfielder beyond Gameweek 7 could be a great option depending on how Pep Guardiola changes the system to accomodate the returning Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) and Phil Foden (£7.9m).
The beta version of the new Premium Members Area is excellent for comparing these three players to assess which makes the most sense for FPL managers to invest in.
Greenwood is the stand-out option when we look at points scored so far this season. He has registered 33, in comparison to Torres’ 26 and Jota’s 23. Although it should be noted that only seven of those 33 points have been registered with Ronaldo in the Manchester United team.
It is Jota who leads the way for goal attempts with 15 – ahead of the 13 from Greenwood and Torres – with Greenwood converting three of them in comparison to the others’ two goals.
Greenwood also leads the way for BPS (Bonus Points System) baseline with 38, versus the 28 of Jota and 21 of Torres.
Torres has the best goal involvement stats of the three with 37.5%, compared to Greenwood’s 36.4% and Jota’s 28.6%.
Jota has created two big chances, more than the one of Greenwood. Torres is yet to register a single one.
How many is too many?
I currently own both Jota and Greenwood and whilst long-term I’m not sure that I will hold either of them, especially as a result of the form of some of the cheaper midfield options and the premium Chelsea/City picks in defence, we may still be able to eke out some points in Gameweeks 6 and 7 and the double-up seems manageable. I am expecting that Firmino will be eased back into the Liverpool team and therefore Jota gets the start against Brentford in Gameweek 6, at the least.
Investing in just one of them longer term makes more sense and, if he continues to play as an out-of-position forward, then from Gameweek 8 onwards it might actually be that Torres proves to be a better investment – so long as FPL owners have a) a strong playing bench and b) don’t have too many other risky picks in their starting XI.
With a number of £6.5m midfielders bringing good returns for their owners after Gameweek 8, there is justification for going without any of these three, especially if it enables managers to triple up on Salah, Ronaldo and Lukaku or swapping their current £6.0m-£8.0m midfielder for one of the Chelsea options ahead of their nice upcoming run of fixtures. Although that too, of course, carries its own rotation risks…