5.5 midfield maestros – revisited

This is the first in a series of posts where we revisit key themes of the summer, look back at the predictions made and look at what has changed.

Waaaay back in the summer (remember that?!), we did some pre-season analysis to make our predictions for who would be the 5.5 million stars for the season. This category of midfielder has brought some surprise stars along the way, particularly Wilfried Zaha and Josh King last year and Riyad Mahrez in Leicester’s title winning season.

So who were our punts and what has actually happened?

Last year by numbers

This year by numbers

Pascal Gross (5.5) (5.9) – Brighton 

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 68 | PPG: 5.7 | PP90: 6.1

16/17 Points: 106* in the Bundesliga | PPG: 3.21 | PP90: 3.49

The first thing of note is there is a new pretender at the top of the list! Pascal Gross has been one of the breakout stars in the Premier League this season. The man from Ingolstadt is truly the bright spark in Brighton and has managed an incredibly impressive 3 goals and 5 assists in his first 11 Premier League appearances for the club. Now priced at 5.9, he is 0.2 more expensive than our Brighton punt at the beginning of the season (Anthony Knockaert) and is really proving himself as one of the best chance creators in the Premier League: only Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have more assists so far this season.

What we said: “Should Knockaert be ruled out from the off, he may assume greater prominence in the side, and may well be the man supplying the chances throughout the team, given the creativity we marvelled at in our article. If the Brighton forwards are able to begin converting his chances, he may be one to watch.”

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (5.5) (5.7)- Stoke

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points:  | PPG: 4.5 | PP90: 4.82

Choupo-Moting was a late arrival from Schalke and therefore missed the cut when we analysed the 5.5 midfielders in the pre-season. What a guy to miss as well! Following on from his brace against Manchester United, where he was only selected by 7,609 managers, Choupo-Moting has proved himself as an important focal point for Stoke, with another 3 assists to his name and a goal against Brighton at the weekend. Now priced at 5.7 and with still only a 6.0% ownership, the out of position Choupo-Moting is another Bundesliga alumni who is rapidly making a name for himself as a cut-price asset.

Aaron Mooy (5.5)  – Huddersfield

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 43 | PPG:  3.6 | PP90: 3.85

16/17 Points: 125 in the Championship | PPG: 3.3 | PP90: 3.3 

Third in the charts for top 5 midfielders is another new entry. The Australian has been one of Huddersfield’s most impressive and consistent players so far in their maiden campaign in the top flight. He has played an extremely important role in keeping them out of the relegation spots so far. If he can maintain this consistency, Huddersfield may manage to survive. Despite not returning above appearance for a while, could he also keep himself in our thoughts as a decent option for a fourth midfielder if he starts to get in the points again?

What we said: “When comparing Shelvey and Mooy directly it is worth commenting that his chances created is stat is higher, 98 compared to Shelvey’s 86.”

Robbie Brady (5.5) – Burnley

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 41 | PPG: 3.4  | PP90: 3.45

16/17 points: 39 | PPG: 2.8 | PP90: 4.9

One of the more creative outlets in the Burnley team, just the two assists to his name has meant that the Irishman hasn’t really caught the eye of FPL managers despite some early season interest. It has been the Burnley defence instead that managers have been attracted due to their solidity and clean sheet output.

What we said: “Being on set-pieces and corners, we believe there are the increased chance of returns for Brady as he will take on the creative burden for them.”

Alex Iwobi (5.5) (5.1) – Arsenal

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 18  | PPG: 3.0  | PP90: 4.86

16/17 Points: 89 | PPG: 3.4 | PP90: 5.5

It has been another stop-start campaign for Alex Iwobi, who has only registered one goal and no assists. Now down to 5.1 in price, he represents tremendous value were he to unlock his full potential. He remains a favourite of the manager – much to the annoyance of Arsenal fans when he was preferred to start against Manchester City over Lacazette! However, he needs a run of starts and to demonstrate consistent attacking potency before he starts to be noticed by FPL managers.

What we said: “He often flattered to deceive, failing to translate his promise into end product to the frustration of many Arsenal fans…it may be that the 21-year-old Nigerian international is afforded more chances and can have his breakthrough season.”

 

Demarai Gray (5.5) (5.3) – Leicester

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points:  27 | PPG: 2.5 | PP90: 5.02

16/17 Points: 58 | PPG: 1.9 | PP90: 4.98

It has been another tough campaign for the young Englishman, with Gray not finding many opportunities to showcase his talent under the tenure of Craig Shakespeare. Now that Shakespeare has been summarily dispatched, he has started the last two games under new manager Claude Puel and has taken his chances too with his first goal of the campaign. Now at the very reasonable price of 5.3, he could be a cheap pick up for managers looking for a punt – especially with Leicester’s schedule looking favourable over Xmas.

What we said: “Many clubs will be watching the status of the pacy attacking midfielder with interest as he expects to have more fruitful campaign this season with time given to impress in the first XI.”

Leroy Fer (5.5) (5.4) – Swansea

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 22 | PPG: 2.0 | PP90: 2.33

16/17 Points: 95 | PPG: 2.80 | PP90: 3.56

Fer, like the Swansea team in general, has been largely poor this season. A single assist to his name not been good enough, meaning he’s not even on the map in terms of being an FPL asset. We instead called out Tom Carroll as the Swansea midfielder to own in the pre-season due to his price point and, whilst he hasn’t been a revelation in terms of returns, his cheaper price has meant that he can act as a fifth midfielder ready to spring from the bench if necessary – though an absence in the last gameweek has also now questioned this.

What we said: “With Swansea looking like they may be gutted again of their top assets, the team will be reliant on Fer to be one of their main attacking sources this season. For the coming season, the best cut-price Swansea asset on the market  however looks like Tom Carroll at 4.5 who may also be on set-pieces  “

Jonjo Shelvey (5.5) (5.3)  – Newcastle

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: | PPG:  1.8 | PP90: 2.3

16/17 points: 156 points in the Championship | PPG: 3.8 | PP90: 4.1

We highlighted discipline as an issue for him in our article in the summer, and this proved accurate as Shelvey recklessly got himself sent off for a crazy stamp on Dele Alli on the opening fixture of the season. It took a while for Shelvey to regain his place in the Newcastle team after that incident but, having managed to do so, he has regained some set piece duties from Matt Ritchie. If he can maintain his composure, and find his shooting boots, he may represent an option as a fourth midfielder…. but there are certainly better options out there!

What we said: “Playing with the Premier League will not be a new experience in the Premier League but it is unlikely he will be afforded the same amount of space for his shooting boots and deliveries into the box.”

James Ward-Prowse (5.5) (5.1) – Southampton

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: 15 | PPG: 1.7 | PP90: 4.89

16/17 points: 92 | PPG: 3.1 | PP90: 4.4

We had such high hopes for this guy, on the back of a fantastic campaign last season and his set piece potency. Unfortunately under the watchful gaze of new manager Pellegrino, JWP hasn’t cut the mustard and has been starved of game time, though he has managed an assist against Brighton. His points per 90 score has been artificially inflated by 5 minute cameos and we can only hope that he will get more game time as the season continues.

What we said: “A young player with a lot of potential and a bright future ahead of him, he has already scored in pre-season and, with Southampton’s decent opening fixtures, he may definitely be one to punt on at the beginning of the season.”

 

Ryan Fraser (5.5) (5.1) – Bournemouth

After 12 game weeks 17/18 Points: | PPG: 1.6  | PP90: 2.66

16/17 points: 100 | PPG: 3.6 | PP90: 5.1

With a PPG so low that it hasn’t made the graphic, Tom’s game week 1 punt spectacularly imploded on him! Fraser plummeted a long way from the top of last year’s infographic. It’s fair to say Fraser hasn’t shown the form we expected him to display after a promising season for the Cherries last time round. He started the season as part of Eddie Howe’s set up, but has recently been consigned to the bench and hasn’t been seen since Gameweek 7. Without a goal or assist to his name, it has been a season blighted by injury and rotation – one to forget so far for the man the manager has high hopes for.

What we said: “He appears to have broken into Bournemouth’s first team and, if he is afforded another improved and successful campaign, it won’t be long before the big clubs coming knocking or FPL managers come transferring.”

To conclude…

The trend this season seems to be that new boys in the Premier League have offered better value for money in the 5.5 million midfield category than those already established within the division. This is illustrated by the eye-catching potential shown by Pascal Gross, Mooy and Choupo-Moting.

Choupo-Moting and Gross both came from Bundesliga clubs and it seems like they flew under the radar to a certain extent. Could it be that experience from the Bundesliga – maybe a more similar league to the Premier League than Serie A or La Liga – is proving the difference in how new players to FPL are faring? It may be that due to their unknown quantity, their value was underestimated, both in FPL terms and also by opponent clubs.

In comparison, the familiar crowd including the likes of Alex Iwobi, Ryan Fraser and James Ward-Prowse – who looked like potential fourth midfielders at the beginning of the season – have not stepped up their game this season to prove themselves at FPL assets. Instead, they are struggling to even get game time at their clubs. Only time will tell how the FPL season will progress: we may see the likes of Gray and Iwobi buck this trend and, at their even cheaper price now, unlock some of that potential that we have seen fleeting glimpses of at times.

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