6.5 midfielders: a crowded house

The 6.5 midfielder category is extremely crowded this year, causing a veritable headache for many FPL managers. Certainly, there could be more twists to come in terms of transfers, but at this point we already have a plethora of options to weigh up.

There are three contributing factors to the options being so abundant:

  • Players being downgraded from higher price brackets. This is most apparent in the case of Pedro, who ended last season at 7.7 – a drop of 1.2m!
  • Players being upgraded following decent seasons last term. For example, Everton’s new signing Richarlison‘s 129 points were enough to see him elevated 1.0m to 6.5m as a starting price this season despite a very poor second half of the season, as Tom Campbell (@UtterlyTC) noted on Twitter:

  • New players to the league. Surprisingly, Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham and Wolves’ Diogo Jota entered the game in the 6.5 category. Last season, 6.0 was the limit for the promoted midfielders, with Tom Ince, Anthony Knockaert and Matt Ritchie getting the price tag. FPL surprised us by charging more for these unproven assets.

As a result of these factors, there are many 6.5s to consider. They occupy an important place in your squad in terms of likely being the 3rd or 4th midfielder in your squad to accompany two or three premium midfielders: think including the aforementioned Richarlison alongside Mo Salah (13.0m) and Leroy Sane (9.5).

We’ve combined our prospecting the prospects data with a stats-driven analysis of the 6.5s to examine some key candidates in the category.

We looked at some of these individuals in terms of points per game (PPG) last season, then we looked at each in detail.

N.b. we haven’t assessed every 6.5 mid for this – it’s a selected group based on both ownership at the time of writing and also what we think might be players of interest at the start of the season to FPL managers.

Here’s their PPG rendered into a lovely infog by designer Matt.

Selected popular 6.5 options

Diogo Jota, Wolves / estimated 221 points in Championship (see article here) / 17 goals, 5 assists, 23 bonus / 5.3 points per game

Jota

The Portuguese attacker can be fielded in the no. 10 role, the false 9 and cutting in from the left flank. Jota was Wolves’ top scorer last season and, as we noted in our Prospecting the Prospects article on the player, he took more than enough shots proportionate to his 17 goals. He took 2.7 shots per game and boasted a 55% shot accuracy, He shares a profile with the likes of Richarlison and Sadio Mane in terms of the kind of player he is. Many are tipping the maturing talent to deliver in the Premier League (and subsequently FPL) this campaign.

Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham / estimated 223 points in Championship (see article here) / 15 goals, 6 assists, 26 bonus / 4.95 points per game

The young Englishman’s stats were notable for the predatory instinct he possesses. He takes shots when he thinks he can score, rather than relying on potshots. In comparison to other wingers (e.g. Brighton’s new signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh (7.0), 2.3 shots out of box v 1.9 shots in box per game), an astonishing 91% of his shots were in the box. This is a winger who cuts inside and has a go, and does it with a honed level of accuracy as well – he recorded an average 62% shot accuracy. That’s 1% more than Mo Salah.

Pedro, Chelsea / 81 points / 4 goals, 2 assists, 2 bonus / 4.76 points per game

La Masia graduate Pedro is seemingly locked in an eternal tussle with Willian (7.5) for the flank opposite Eden Hazard (10.5). Last season, Pedro managed an attempt every 27 minutes, and created a chance nearly every hour on the field  (59 mins). If he’s able to establish himself in new manager Maurizio Sarri’s thoughts, the 1.2m reduction from last season’s finishing price of 7.7m could be proven an overly harsh decision by FPL Towers. With Huddersfield first up and only Arsenal of last season’s top six in their first six Gameweeks, if Pedro is nailed the Spaniard could well win our vote.

The same could be true about his compatriot, arch-assister Cesc Fabregas, who didn’t quite make it into the infographic. The Catalan lockpicker was again in the top 4 for chances created last season but much depends how the new Chelsea manager sets up.

Theo Walcott, Everton / 81 points / 3 goals, 3 assists, 3 bonus / 4.76 points per game

(this one’s for you, HM)

Theo is strongly divisive as a pick in some people’s eyes, yet it should be noted he’s registered an average of 5.4 ppg over the last 3 seasons. New team-mate Richarlison averaged ~6.0 ppg early under Marco Silva, so the hope is the Englishman can be the breakout star in this price category. Walcott, lest we forget, in 2016/17 was doing so well that the FPL Show advised us to sell Sanchez for Hazard because of the cover he was giving. Could prove good value for 6.5 with the Toffees having a kind early schedule.

James Maddison, Leicester / 205 points in Championship (see article here) / 14 goals, 8 assists, 34 bonus / 4.65 points per game

Pic: James Maddison official twitter page

Maddison had the set-piece monopoly at Norwich and, in light of Riyad Mahrez (9.0) departing to champions Manchester City, could assume this role at Leicester. The English prospect created 2.86 chances per game last season, underlining how the Foxes must hope that he hits the ground running as their tricky Algerian’s replacement. Maddison also took 2.64 shots per game last season with varying accuracy, winding up with a 43% shot accuracy. He’s perhaps one to watch and wait to see how he beds in, but a run of fixtures between Gameweeks 5-15 wherein Leicester only play one top six team (Arsenal) may well see him come into our thinking.

Juan Mata, Manchester United / 100 points / 3 goals, 5 assists, 6 bonus / 4.34 points per game

Much like his compatriot Pedro, “Johnny Death” sees a price downgrade – but it’s only by 0.5. Despite a low ownership currently, we’ve included Mata as Jose Mourinho said in preseason that he, Anthony Martial (7.5) and Alexis Sanchez (10.5) would start the season in his front three. Subsequent apparent fallout with Martial has meant Mata is the cheapest way in to the United attack potentially for Gameweeks 1 and 2 (Leicester and Brighton). Last season, the Spaniard created a chance every 38 minutes, and boasted more penalty box touches than Kevin de Bruyne – reflecting a more advanced role for the former Chelsea man. An early punt on him, moving swiftly off to another option here if it doesn’t work, seems a sound strategy.

Luka Milivojevic, Crystal Palace / 144 points / 10 goals, 2 assists, 21 bonus / 4.11 points per game

The Serb’s 10 goals last season made a mockery of his 5.0 initial price tag. This saw him finish 15th for midfielders last season, which is the highest finish of any 4.5 in history based on data I could find. That’s monumental. 70% of his goals came from penalties; without these extra 35 points, he wouldn’t have finished anywhere near as high. It comes down to if you believe “Milly” can do it again this season – I think the 2.0m price hike to 6.5 for a player you’re hoping takes pens isn’t value for money. But if you do get in on him and continue to get lucky, then fair play.

Richarlison, Everton / 129 points / 5 goals, 8 assists, 4 bonus / 3.91 points per game

Photo: BBC

Everton’s new boss Marco Silva spent £50m to bring in Richarlison from Watford, having initially signed the winger for the Hornets from Brazilian outfit Fluminese. Between Gameweeks 3-8 last season, he took a shot every 30 minutes, a level of threat we hope to witness again now he’s reunited with “father figure” Silva. However, he still has a lot to learn and, much like Sadio Mane, is a noted “bonus-phobe”. Just 4 bonus accrued last season is testament to that, as is the unsurprising (for those who owned) stat I mentioned on our most recent pod that he had the most shots off target of any midfielder last season. One who is certainly nailed and could play well – he earnt ~6.0 ppg under Marco Silva early last season – but may also frustrate given his allergy to attaining bonus.

Honourable mentions (other than Fabregas)

Erik Lamela may assume a berth in Spurs’ attack in the absence (after Gameweek 2) of Son Heung Min. The Argentinian scored 123 points (5 goals 9 assists) in his best season of 2015/16.

Mohamed Elyounoussi arrives at Southampton with a decent record in the Swiss League with Basel. The Norwegian scored 11 goals and laid on 15 assists in the Super League last season and has drawn comparisons to the play style of Sadio Mane.

Conclusion

It’s certainly a tough bracket. You have some (kind of) proven assets like Pedro and Walcott versus punts such as Sess and Jota.

In this case, I’d be tempted to “play it safe” early on with this category. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying Milivojevic because 12% own him, however. It does mean, though, keeping an eye on midfielders who are “trending” and may be where we all settle early doors.

At this level, you want a steady points stream from an asset you’ve invested a middling tier in to return you points. Starting “with the pack” might not be too terrible an option here, with the beauty of the abundant options in the category meaning you can readily switch from one to the other is a spark of form is shown (as long as you’re quick).

Personally, I’ll be watching Pedro closely in pre season, with his 6.5 valuation potentially being great value for money if he comes into favour under Sarri: the Community Shield should show us more here. If not, the likes of Jota and Richarlison certainly draw the eye.

The trick is getting a relatively highly owned option and hoping they perform from the outset safe in the knowledge that, because the category is a crowded house, there’s always another option if your choice fails to deliver.

All images © the Premier League unless stated otherwise.