With many Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers activating their first Wildcard during the international break, we’ve picked out some of the best midfield options on offer across a range of price points.
This is an update of the series we did for Gameweek 7 Wildcarders, with fresh data and a couple of new targets for those deploying their chip this week.
However, it will also be of interest for those using ‘free’ transfers ahead of Gameweek 8.
All stats taken from this article are from our Premium Members Area.
On current form, Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) is clearly the standout premium midfielder on offer.
Playing some of his best football since joining Liverpool, the Egyptian has already racked up six goals, four assists and 70 FPL points in just seven Premier League starts. His 28 goal attempts, 24 shots in the box and 4.89 expected goals (xG) are all league-leading totals, while his 10 points per match is more than any other player in the game.
The Reds’ attacking form is also worth touching on. Jurgen Klopp’s side have now scored 22 goals in their last seven matches in all competitions, averaging just under 20 shots per game, while they also lead their Premier League rivals for goals scored, big chances and xG.
Despite his premium price tag, Salah hands FPL managers a reliable captain option most weeks, and building your Gameweek 8 Wildcard squad around him is a wise move.
Despite a testing home fixture against Chelsea in Gameweek 8, Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m) remains one of the most exciting budget midfielders available in FPL.
With Ivan Toney (£6.3m) dropping a little deeper and linking play in Brentford’s 3-5-2 formation, Mbeumo has been tasked with running in behind, and as a result, trumps his team-mate for goal attempts, big chances and xG.
Bryan Mbeumo v Ivan Toney goal threat 2021/22
His -1.74 xG delta suggests that he perhaps needs to work on his finishing, but the fact he is getting into good goalscoring positions is of course encouraging.
JACK GREALISH / PHIL FODEN
In an attempt to capitalise on Manchester City’s Gameweek 8 to 10 fixtures, investing in one of their attacking options makes a lot of sense.
However, with uncertainty surrounding Ferran Torres (£6.9m) and Riyad Mahrez‘s (£8.7m) game-time, plus Kevin De Bruyne’s (£11.9m) problematic price tag, team-mate Jack Grealish (£7.9m) may well be the best midfielder on offer.
The England international has now started every Premier League match for City since his £100m move from Aston Villa, and though there will surely be rotation at some stage, right now, he does feel like one of the more secure starters in Pep Guardiola’s XI.
Grealish marked his home debut against Norwich City with a goal and provided an assist in the 5-0 win over Arsenal. He also scored an impressive solo strike on his Champions League bow against RB Leipzig, and despite a fourth successive Premier League blank at Liverpool in Gameweek 7, has contributed significantly.
It’s also worth noting that the former Villa man is top or joint-top among his teammates for chances created, shots in the box, efforts on target, big chances, penalty box touches and expected goal involvement (xGI).
Meanwhile, Phil Foden (£7.9m) is an intriguing alternative, having impressed since his return from injury in Gameweek 6. The England international opened his 2021/22 account with a goal at Anfield, where he slotted in on the left of City’s front three. However, if you do choose to go down this route, ensuring you have a strong first substitute is vital.
Raphinha (£6.6m) has turned in two of his best performances of the season in recent weeks, which included a goal – his third of the campaign – against West Ham United in Gameweek 6.
His -1.81 expected assists (xA) delta suggests that he has been unfortunate not to turn provider this term, and given that Leeds United have some appealing fixtures ahead, the Brazilian looks like an excellent Wildcard option.
However, his involvement with the Brazil national team should be monitored ahead of deadline, with his country due to take on Uruguay on Friday 15th October, just one day before the Whites visit Southampton in Gameweek 8.
Ismaila Sarr (£6.3m) has already netted four Premier League goals this season, and as a result, ranks seventh amongst all midfielders for FPL points (40).
However, there are legitimate concerns around Watford’s attack. Outside of their convincing 3-1 win at Norwich City, they have created just two big chances against Aston Villa (h), Brighton and Hove Albion (a), Tottenham Hotspur (a), Wolverhampton Wanderers (h), Newcastle United (h) and Leeds United (a) combined.
New manager Claudio Ranieri will hope to make an immediate impact, but with a nightmare schedule between now and mid-December, it does feel like Sarr’s appeal is waning.
BUKAYO SAKA / EMILE SMITH ROWE
With ten points from their last four matches and an appealing schedule ahead, Arsenal’s budget midfielders are suddenly on the FPL radar.
Bukayo Saka (£6.3m) and Emile Smith Rowe (£5.4m) claimed season-high hauls in Gameweek 6, which coincided with both players being used in arguably their best positions. Interestingly, that system continued against Brighton and Hove Albion in Gameweek 7, despite losing Granit Xhaka (£4.9m) to injury.
With Martin Ødegaard (£5.5m) installed as a no. 10 in Mikel Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Smith Rowe has featured on the left, but often drifts infield into more central areas where he can affect the game. On the opposite flank, Saka has generally stayed wider, but has racked up 10 penalty box touches since Gameweek 6.
Bukayo Saka (left) and Emile Smith Rowe’s (right) touch heat maps Gameweeks 6 and 7
With fixtures now easing for Arsenal, Saka and Smith Rowe could offer value in midfield.
Despite some worrying performances at Tottenham Hotspur in the opening weeks, Son Heung-min (£10.0m) has continued to produce, netting four goals and 42 FPL points in just six starts.
However, there are wider issues at Spurs. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have scored just six goals in seven Premier League matches, while the underlying numbers – they rank 18th for xG and 17th for goal attempts overall – are concerning.
That being said, they improved against Aston Villa last time out, and if you do feel like investing in one of the best finishers around, Newcastle United (a) does feel like a good fixture to attack.
In another energetic midfield display, Conor Gallagher (£5.7m) bagged an assist in Gameweek 6 after winning a first-half penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion.
The on-loan Chelsea man has now netted two goals and three assists since joining Crystal Palace, and ranks 12th amongst all midfielders for FPL points.
However, it is worth noting that the return of Luka Milivojevic (£5.4m) has meant that he is no longer on set-pieces. Considering that a large chunk of his xA total arrived from dead-ball situations, it is a blow, but he still warrants attention.
Gallagher has been the driving force in Patrick Vieira’s 4-3-3 formation so far this season, regularly breaking forward into the attacking third, which is captured on his 2021/22 touch heatmap:
Fixtures could be better, but with Newcastle United’s shaky defence up next at Selhurst Park, Gallagher remains a decent budget option.
If you are comfortable spending a little more, Wilfried Zaha (£7.0m) is an alternative. The 28-year-olds appeal has been given a boost having taken on penalty duties, though it is questionable whether he offers enough consistency to truly stake a claim.
If using a 3-4-3, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation on your Wildcard, it’s highly likely that you’ll be on the lookout for a budget midfielder. And while Yves Bissouma (£4.6m) and Allan (£4.6m) are two of the more popular options right now, Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz (£4.6m) has emerged as a viable alternative in recent matches.
Key to that has been a system change at Villa, which has seen Dean Smith line his troops up in a 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 shape. That has meant that the shackles are off central midfield pair Luiz and John McGinn (£5.8m), who no longer have as many defensive responsibilities with a back three stationed behind them.
Encouragingly, the Brazilian international’s creative numbers are on the up since Gameweek 4, as he ranks second amongst all midfielders for chances created and 10th for xA.
Having started 32 matches for Villa last term, his place in the starting XI is fairly secure and he should at least offer appearance points, with the potential for a few assists along the way. However, like Raphinha, his involvement with the Brazil national team should be monitored, as he may miss out in Gameweek 8.
In addition to the names detailed above, there are others who deserve a mention, too.
Mason Mount (£7.4m) is a nice mid-price option who has goal and assist potential, with the latter boosted by his share of set-pieces. You’d expect him to produce a steady stream of attacking returns in the coming weeks given Chelsea’s fixtures, and with his ownership down to just 8.7%, he could prove to be a clever addition.
Elsewhere, despite back-to-back blanks, Said Benrahma (£6.6m) remains a good option. However, the fixtures are turning for the worse for the Hammers, especially when paired with a demanding UEFA Europa League campaign, which is worth factoring in when considering their assets.
With Southampton’s fixtures easing, Stuart Armstrong (£5.8m) is an interesting differential. The 29-year-old chipped in with four goals and seven assists last term, and despite missing the first seven rounds, will probably feature for Scotland during the international break as he attempts to build-up his fitness.
Sadio Mane (£11.9m) has now provided either a goal or assist in five of his last six matches, and ranks second amongst all midfielders – only behind Salah – for goal attempts, shots in the box, big chances and xG.
Staying with Liverpool, the return of Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) from injury means that owners of Diogo Jota (£7.6m) will surely have to get used to rotation, but he has proven before that he can still deliver off of limited minutes. It does make him a tricky ‘buy’ though, especially as he also has a muscle problem, and if predicting Klopp’s XI isn’t your thing, Demarai Gray (£5.8m) – the ninth highest-scoring midfielder in FPL – might be worth a punt. Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.7m) and Andros Townsend (£5.6m) are alternative options at Everton, but it does perhaps feel like he is the Toffee with the most potential.
Demarai Gray v Andros Townsend v Abdoulaye Doucoure goal threat stats 2021/22
Before we finish up, there has been one glaring omission on this list: last season’s top scoring FPL asset, Bruno Fernandes (£11.8m). However, despite the fact that he could still be on penalties, he has registered just five shots in the box since Cristiano Ronaldo’s (£12.6m) arrival, and that makes it hard to justify the outlay. Manchester United’s fixtures also stiffen considerably over the next two months, leaving them bottom of our Season Ticker. Given that fixture swing, now may be a good time to hop off the likes of Mason Greenwood (£7.6m) and Paul Pogba (£7.7m), rather than bring them in on a Wildcard.