Magic Mo has returned at least a goal or assist in every FPL game-week so far. On top of that, he has looked as sharp, deadly and effective as at any point in his career. The best midfield option for the next six game weeks? Mo Salah — full stop.
But most of us already have him, so who’s next? Let’s look at who could be a new midfield buy for GW-12 to GW-17. (For our companion article on the best defenders, see Paul’s piece here.)
Son Heung-min, £10.3M
Leeds’ tactics and intensity of play caught out many teams last season. This season, sides are better prepared for what Bielsa’s teams bring to the table, more aware of the physical and tactical approach. In addition, Leeds has been hit hard by injuries. Key defender Diego Llorente missed four of the opening six games. Regular 2020-21 left-back Ezgjan Alioski moved on, and new signing Junior Firpo has had a difficult adjustment to both the league and Bielsa’s style. After a run of starts weeks 4-7, he has now missed out the last four. That has seen Stuart Dallas move back to the left-back position, sapping the Leeds midfield. Jack Harrison, who started 37 times in 2020/21 scoring 8 and assisting 10, has declined in form. Jack has played the full 90 minutes just four times, and he remains goalless and without an assist this season. And summer signing Daniel James has been as lacking in end product as he was at Man United.
But perhaps the biggest blow is the injury to main center-forward Patrick Bamford. Twelve months ago many observers didn’t think too much of Bamford. Often needing multiple chances to score distracted from the reality that his all-around play is a key to the Bielsa attack. Without Bamford, Brazilian superstar in the making Raphinha has been carrying the side, and without Raphinha they could very well find themselves in the relegation zone. Leeds will improve in general, and will be helped when Bamford returns, but in the immediate fixture the defense will offer a struggling Spurs attack the space to create more chances.
Burnley away on a chilly and/or windy, rainy and generally uncomfortable Sunday November afternoon comes next. I think this will be the toughest fixture of the run, Sean Dyce’s troops starting to find their feet (unbeaten in 3). The pinched draw at Chelsea should raise Claret confidence, and this is one of those classic matchups where the opposition will test your will as well as your technical and tactical skills. Spurs have a lack of creativity in their side as a whole seeming not to have ever really replaced Christian Eriksen, an issue Conte looks to address. Still, Burnley has kept only one clean sheet this season, that against toothless Norwich City.
The third upcoming tie will see Spurs host a Brentford side possibly finding the early season top-flight excitement fading, the harsh reality of the toughest league in the world becoming clearer. The shocking home loss to Norwich was the 4th defeat on the bounce for a side that held Liverpool to a 3-3 draw, beat West Ham in London, and battered Chelsea at times in the 1-0 home defeat. Injuries to keeper David Raya and now further concerns on Zanka add to their worries. Perhaps the wonderful arena that is the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will inspire the Bees who also have a couple decent fixtures in the meantime to regain some form. However, they are settling into their position in the league, and Spurs by this point will have had a few more training sessions/games to absorb some of Conte’s ideas. Plus if Norwich can put two past Brentford, then our man Son must fancy his chances.
Norwich at home no matter the change of manager is perhaps the golden fixture of the 2021/22 calendar. Nobody has conceded more than Norwich’s 26, and only Burnley has conceded more shots per game (16.4).
Brighton away isn’t straightforward. Graham Potter is doing an impressive job with the Seagulls, so Spurs may have less of the ball in this game than the other five fixtures, but they also may find Brighton easier to break from when they do catch it. The Seagulls have kept just two clean sheets this season, and again one was against Norwich.
A visit to Leicester ends our six-game outlook. Only Newcastle (19) has allowed more shots on goal at home. Like last season, injuries continue to hit the side hard, so the Foxes struggle to put out a consistent defensive unit. Even when they can, their attacking higher line suits Son’s ability on the counter.
The eye test under Nuno saw a Spurs side playing uninspired football, and Son himself appeared to have less in his performances. Coming into this run, he has just two assist in eleven games, both coming in a GW-7 win over Aston Villa. Since then Son has no goals in three games. Still, his general statistics show he hasn’t dropped this season, in fact some are improving:
- 2021/22 - Average shots per game – 2.4
- 2020/21 - Average shots per game – 1.8
- 2019/20 - Average shots per game – 2.7
It’s surprising to see shots per game increase over what was a very successful 2020/21 season.
- 2021/22 – Key passes per game – 1.8
- 2020/21 – Key passes per game – 1.8
- 2019/20 – Key passes per game – 1.4
Matching last season and a continuation on a higher number than 2019/20
- 2021/22 – Crosses per game – 1.3
- 2020/21 – Crosses per game – 0.4
- 2019/20 – Crosses per game – 0.2
...A dramatic increase as Son has been handed some set piece responsibilities. He still won’t be firing in goals from direct free kicks for us, but his assist potential through indirect free kicks and corners is a constant possibility.
Overall it’s a little surprising to see Son’s fantasy returns drop off... until you actually watch Spurs under Nuno this season. Not only in very basic stats like those above, but in end product itself, Son has proven himself a very consistent fantasy football weapon. In 2020/21 he played 36 games, scoring 17 goals and providing 11 assists. In 2019/21 he played 28 games, scoring 11 goals and 13 FPL assists. This season’s 10 games with 3 goals plus 2 assists is below par. Even so Son’s 58 FPL points puts him 4th in overall midfielders behind Mane (59), Gallagher (62) and mighty Mo’s ridiculous (117). When you consider just how poor Spurs have been in attack, you realize just how much room for improvement Son has. At 29, he is at his peak so we should expect to see a transition in form under Conte. He has a great fixture run to do just that.
Conor Gallagher, £5.8M
Pound for pound, Gallgher is perhaps the best value pick out there. Chelsea loanee Gallagher is FPL’s second highest midfield earner with 62 points in 10 games after missing opening day against his parent club.
He has started 10 consecutive games scoring four goals and providing four assists along the way. Gallagher averages 2.3 shots and 1.7 key passes per game.
His next six matches are Burnley (a), Aston Villa (h), Leeds (a), Man United (a), Everton (h) and Southampton (h). That looks an unpredictable set. Burnley may have found form, Villa has new manager bounce to come, Leeds may get injured players back, Man United is a crap shoot in any given week, Everton is setup as a defensive side, and the Saints are also on the up. It’s not easy, but Gallagher does push up into excellent field positions and is part of a young progressive side under quietly impressive Patrick Viera.
Maxwell Cornet - £6.0M
Before discussing the player, I want to take this chance to strongly recommend listening/watching Dyche in The High Performance Podcast. It’s a great listen that will show you elements of just why his team has been so successful for such a long time:
Quite how this man hasn't been offered a bigger job than Burnley is beyond me.
Burnley may be in the bottom three currently, but season-in / season-out, Dyche’s side usually takes a few weeks to find its rhythm, and it looks to me that we may be at that turning point in 2021/22.
Now Cornet is a player I’ve liked and have been keeping an eye on for a few seasons. He turned many heads in his Champions League performance for Lyon against Pep’s Man City, and he was viewed as one of a very promising group of French players coming through (what a production line by the way). It was a huge surprise to see Burnley pick him up, which shows us the progressive changes the excellent Sean Dyce is still making to his side, 10 years in the job.
Cornet is still finding his feet, eased in as a substitute before starting the last five. Thanks to FPL classification, we also have here one of those wonderful out of position players — Cornet has largely played a striker role up front so far. He has returned four goals in 364 minutes, averaging 1.5 shots and 0.7 key passes per game.
His next six are Palace (h), Spurs (h), Wolves (a), Newcastle (a), West Ham (h) and Watford (h). Again not a perfect run, but that’s four in six at home with some open defenses to exploit.
Do any of the three picks tempt you? Is your squad setup with funds to bring in Son? Are you bold enough to give Gallagher or Cornet a chance?
Besides Mo Salah, who is the best middie to own for the next six weeks?
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Other (name in comments)