FPL transfer guide: Midfield minefield from budget to premium options assessed
Packed with expensive options this season, picking the right midfielders could be key to the success of your Fantasy Premier League team
As the anticipation ramps up ahead of the new Premier League options, we assess the best options to choose from in midfield.
Cheap (£4.5m - £5.5m)
Depending on how you set your team up, a cheap fifth midfielder may be necessary to free up funds for more expensive assets. Former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher (£4.5m) is the most popular of these options, currently featuring in 14.8% of teams (though there is a lot of squad tinkering yet to be done). Other options at this price include Fletcher's teamate Jonathan Leko, who excited in substitute appearances last season and is expected to battle James McClean for a left-wing berth, as well as Watford's Etienne Capoue who has netted twice for Walter Mazzarri's men in pre-season.
Should McClean edge out Leko for a spot in Tony Pulis' team, he is available for an extra £0.5m, with the likes of Leicester City's Demerai Gray and Swansea's Leroy Fer, who netted six times for QPR in the 2014/15 PL season, also availabe in this bracket.
Gray's clubmate Danny Drinkwater is one of the more popular picks (9.7%) of the £5.5m-priced midfielders off the back of three goals and eight assists last season. For those not opting for Dmitri Payet, Sofiane Feghouli could also be a good option at this price. With several injuries impacting the Hammers' squad, the Algerian looks set to be part of Slaven Bilic's XI from the off. Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, Bournemouth's Max Gradel and Middlesborough new-boy Viktor Fischer are further attack-minded options that could outshine their low £5.5m price tag.
Mid-price (£6.0m - £7.5m)
Typically, any midfielder at £6.0m or above is likely to start most games in a fantasy team, so getting bang for your buck at the lower end of the pricing scale is essential. More of Alan Pardew's players, in the form of Yannick Bolasie and Yohan Cabaye, are decent options at this price with the London outfit facing West Brom, Bournemouth and Boro in their opening four fixtures. With penalties in his locker, Cabaye has the potential to tick over while Bolasie is an explosive yet inconsistent fantasy performer.
Bojan (also £6.0m) has been reclassified as midfielder this term but his pitch time is guaranteed. The same goes for Nathan Redmond, who produced six goals and four assists for Norwich City in 24 starts last season but can't yet be considered nailed-on under new Southampton boss Claude Puel. Arsenal pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi are also players to consider for this outlay.
Moving up to £6.5m, Palace players are again under consideration. Andros Townsend, who managed four goals and two assists in just 12 starts for Newcastle United after signing for the club in January, could represent excellent value if he expectedly cements his place in Pardew's team. Everton's Gerard Deulofeu, who has netted three times in pre-season, also comes under consideration here though he has mainly been playing as a false nine under Ronald Koeman - something unlikely to continue when the real football begins.
At £7.0m, Tottenham Hotspur's Erik Lamela could rival his pricer teammates Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli (both £8.5m). 28 starts reaped five strikes and nine assists for the Argentine, who seemingly found his feet in the Premier League last season. At 10.3%, Lamela is the most selected midfielder at this price just ahead of Michail Antonio (10.0%). However, the Hammers man is very likely to be plying his trade at right-back this season which seriously dents his appeal.
At the upper tier of the mid-priced bracket (£7.5m), two Swansea assets (one current, one former) come the fore. Andre Ayew, who scored four of his 12 league goals in the final three fixtures of the season, has form on his side but has joined West Ham for a £20m fee which suggests he will make Slaven Bilic's XI immediately, particularly considering that Dmitri Payet is not yet 90-minute ready. Gylfi Sigurdsson, who scored 158 points last season to Ayew's 171, should also be a target considering the Swans's opening two fixtures [Burnley (A) and Hull (H)] before the schedule becomes markedly tougher.
Chelsea duo Willian and Cesc Fabregas, Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic, Everton's Ross Barkley, Southampton's Dusan Tadic are all further options at £7.5m. Juan Mata, should he somehow nail down a starting role under Jose Mourinho, would also represent value at this price.
Expensive (£8.0m - £11.0m)
It's at the premium prices where things get serious for fantasy football managers. Even fitting in three of these players can severely limit your squad, so choosing the right players in this bracket could make or break the opening gameweeks.
The lower-end of this tier (£8.0m) includes Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho, who took part in Brazil's Copa America campaign this summer, as well as Aaron Ramsey who comes into the season in good form after an excellent Euro 2016 campaign.
As already mentioned, Spurs attacking midfielders Eriksen and Alli, who were separated by just 12 points (178 v 166) last season, come in at £8.5m. With Alli having featured heavily at Euro 2016, the Dane may be the safer bet starting off. Coutinho's counterpart Roberto Firmino, who had the summer off (which has resulted in a man-bun appearing), was extremely close to hitting double figures for both goals and assists in his debut season as he fired 10 strikes and laid on eight goals.
Pickings are slim in the £9.0m bracket, with Jurgen Klopp signing Sadio Mane pricier than his new teammates. Manchester City attackers David Silva and Nolito also feature here, though with Pep Guardiola snapping up Leroy Sane (yet to be priced), even Silva is under threat of rotation with the plethora of attacking midfield options available to the new Citizens boss.
In contrast, the £9.5m options look to be juicy. Payet tops the bill here, finding himself in 31% of squads already, ahead of Riyad Mahrez (26%) and Mesut Ozil (23%) (both of who outscored the Frenchman last season). The Algerian's possible departure from the King Power stadium and the German's Euro 2016 exertions are likely factors at play here. United pair Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan also come in at this price point, with Mourinho's new signing much preferred to the French forward (18% v 8%). Martial's Premier League experience coupled with his potential differential status could make him a wise choice.
Three players are priced at £10.0m and above. Eden Hazard (£10.0m) is being touted for a much-improved campaign following Chelsea's disastrous title defence last season. The Belgian attacker has scored twice in pre-season, after netting once for Belgium while providing five assists at Euro 2016. His international teammate Kevin De Bruyne starts this season at £10.5m, which could provide value for fantasy managers if he nails down the number 10 role under Guardiola. Finally, Alexis Sanchez tops the midfield bill at £11.0m. Having played a starring role in Chile's Copa American success, which left him with a giant ankle, a wait-and-see policy might be advisable for FPL bosses considering the huge outlay on Arsenal's South American star.
*Player percentages correct as of August 3