Strikers may be the glory boys in real life, but what about in fantasy? Well, midfielders Alexis Sanchez and Dele Alli were the top two scorers in Official FPL last season, and Eden Hazard tied striker Harry Kane for third. In fact, seven midfielders made it into the top 10 overall (including Roberto Firmino, who was classified as a middie). Yet which position accounts for seven of the most expensive 10 prices this season? You guessed it - striker! So if you’re looking for value, look no further than the center of the pitch.
You’ll Have to Pony up, But You Get What You Pay for (£8.5 & Up)
Alexis Sanchez (£12.0) is an absolute stud, averaging 213 points in his three seasons at Arsenal. The same can be said for Eden Hazard (£10.5), who has only had one season with less than 190 points in his five campaigns at Chelsea (you surely recall the the wretched 2015/16 campaign). However, Sanchez does not seem to want to be out of Champions League in North London, while Hazard begins the season on the bench injured. On top of that, saving a little moolah by not splurging at the top allows you to spread it around more. Let’s look elsewhere among our premium-priced picks, shall we?
You’re going to want at least one, probably two in the rest of the field: Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0), Dele Alli (£9.5), Christian Eriksen (£9.5), Sadio Mane (£9.5), Mesut Ozil (£9.5), Philippe Coutinho (£9.0), Mohamed Salah (£9.0), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£8.5), Riyad Mahrez (£8.5) and Leroy Sane (£8.5).
Whittling Things Down
I’m going to rule out some of them: Mane (has never played 2,600 minutes in any of his three seasons at Liverpool and Southampton), Ozil (has only scored 170+ points once in his four Arsenal seasons), Coutinho (transfer out worry, plus has only scored 140+ points once in his four-plus seasons with the Reds), Salah (it’s always risky to bet on an incoming transfer), Mahrez (saw his points plummet by 50% last year!!!) and Siggy (transfer out worry, also has only scored 160+ points once in his five-plus seasons with Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea).
That leaves KDB, Alli, Eriksen and Sane as my premium picks. Honestly, you can choose any of them and feel good about it. There’s a bit of a leap of faith with Sane, but that’s a major reason why he is cheaper. His prorated numbers are excellent, as he would have scored about 175 points in a full season of 3,000 minutes; the more expensive KDB notched 199 points in just under 2,900 minutes.
Staggering Spurs Stats
A note on Alli, Eriksen and Son Heung-Min (£8.0). The Tottenham trio of midfielders — midfielders! — combined for 40 goals and 40 assists last season. That was more goals than four entire teams (Burnley, Hull City, Sunderland and Middlesbrough). If you include Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Harry Winks and Eric Lamela, who together chipped in with nine more scores, the tally of 49 goals from the Spurs midfield was more than 11 teams’ totals (add Leicester City, West Ham, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, Southampton and Watford FC on top of the aforementioned quartet). The Spurs midfield outscored over half the league’s teams! Who needs strikers (or defenders)? So if you don’t invest at all in Tottenham middies, you may be entering a world of pain.
Finding Joy in the Mid-Priced Morass (£6.0 - £8.0)
There are 45 midfielders in this mid-range price. I’m going to focus on a few of them that look like attractive options.
More Prorating Fun, This Time for Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United
Sane isn’t the only player with eye-catching extrapolated stats. Take Pedro (£8.0), who notched an eye-popping 162 points in 2140 minutes, coming off the bench nine times. Similarly, the aforementioned Son scored a whopping 174 points in only 2,063 minutes for Spurs. with 11 substitute appearances. If either or both can get 2,500 - 3,000 minutes this season as starting line-up fixtures, look out.
There’s also Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.0), who scored 73 points in only 1,348 minutes, which implies 162 points in a season of 3,000 minutes. Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba (£8.0) should be expected to improve this time around after their disappointing inaugural season with Manchester United. Both will expect more freedom to push forward thanks to the defensive anchoring of stalwart ex-Blue Nemanja Matic. Ross Barkley notched five goals and 11 assists, while Kevin Mirallas in limited minutes nabbed four and eight, respectively, working with Romelu Lukaku at Everton. The Red Devil midfielders undoubtedly will be salivating for a chance to wreak havoc with the big Belgian.
Choosing from a Crowded Midfield in West Ham
Things were looking up for West Ham United in 2015-16 thanks largely to the exploits of immediate fantasy favorite Dimitri Payet. But Payet made his exit and everything turned south quickly, with the Hammers’ goal production plummeting from a high-flying 65 to an anemic 47. This season things should look better on the defensive end thanks to the addition of keeper Joe Hart, but the offense should see an even bigger boost with the addition of Bundesliga striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and former Stoke midfielder Marko Arnautovic (£7.0).
Arnie joins Michail Antonio (£7.5), Andre Ayew (£7.0), Manuel Lanzini (£7.0) and Robert Snodgrass (£6.0), making for a quintet of talented, offensive-minded middies. Not all of them can start (while Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang will also be in the mix at defensive midfield), so there is serious selection/rotation worry.
Of the bunch, I like Ayew the most. He notched 171 points in 2015/16 for Swansea, and after being injured the first part of last season finished strong with 89 points in about half as many minutes.
A Similarly Priced Option in Crystal Palace
When you think of the Crystal Palace midfield, you think of Yohan Cabaye. Or at least you used to. Now it’s Wilfried Zaha (£7.0) at the center of things after scoring 149 points thanks to a breakout campaign featuring seven scores and 11 helpers. You can’t ask for much more at his price.
To be honest, unfortunately I’m not seeing anything that jumps out at me at 6.0 or 6.5, so let’s skip down a little in price.
Rummaging Through the Bargain Basement (£5.5 & Lower)
This is where you’re going to grab your fourth and/or fifth midfielder.
Playing it Safe with Burnley
Burnley’s Robbie Brady (£5.5) should be a regular starter, and you can peg him for 100-125 points if he stays healthy. Jonathan Walters (also £5.5) is another good choice from the Clarets given that he should get more playing time than he did at Stoke City. After all, if there’s one team even more desperate for offense than Stoke, it’s Burnley. The Clarets won’t score much, but when they do you can expect Brady and Walters to be involved.
Taking a Chance and Looking to Other Mid- to Lower-Tier Teams
Ryan Fraser (£5.5) is an interesting pick after scoring 100 points in 1,764 minutes last season for Bournemouth. If you extrapolate to a full season, you’re looking at about 170 points, which would be an absolutely smashing return for the price. Like Pedro and Son, Fraser’s problem is that he mixed 19 starts with nine appearances from the bench, so you’d like to see him become a regular starter. If he remains only a spot starter, you may be crying in your beer when you really need him.
Luka Milivojevic (£5.0) could also pay off nicely. There’s a good chance he will be Crystal Palace’s primary penalty taker, and you’re not going to find many of those at that price. With Arnautovic gone, Stoke’s Charlie Adam may do likewise, but he hasn’t played more than 1,800 minutes since 2011/12, and Bojan Krkic will compete for PK duties anyway.
Returning to Shop in Selhurst Park at the Bargain Bin
Is it possible to be cheap and sexy at the same time? (Ask Lindsay Lohan, right? Zing!) Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£4.5) is on loan from Chelsea to Crystal Palace, so if you want to save some money it looks like he’s the cheeky pick du jour in that department. He’s done next to nothing for the stacked Blues, but he has notched 13 goals in 30 tilts for the England U19 and U21 teams.
Loftus-Cheek should be more boom and bust than teammate James McArthur who is the safer, more boring bargain basement pick. McArthur has scored between 71 and 93 points each of the past five seasons. Likely a more trusted regular starter than RLC, steady veteran McArthur’s going to give you two or three points almost every game whereas the young newcomer will be all over the place from absolutely nothing to something more substantial.
You’ve got loads of options in midfield, so which of the above players are you grabbing? Who are you looking to outside of those? Don’t be shy now, let us know in the comments!