7.0 midfield marauders

7.0s are an intriguing bunch. They’re often the sort of players who are a bit meh, a bit of an “I guess you’ll do”, a bit of a punt. This category hasn’t historically supplied the most compelling of characters, with 15/16 throwing up the likes of Jordan Henderson and Nacer Chadli (at Spurs), and last season throwing forward luminaries such as Erik Lamela and Adam Lallana (well, Lallana was decent at times). You don’t expect players in this category to pull up trees, but you might expect what I’ve termed these “midfield marauders” to get forward and return a steady flow of points for their value.

The importance of them this year in particular is that they are mid priced enablers. They are cheap alternatives to the bigger assets in the main teams, meaning they provide a “way in” to having those clubs represented in your squad. They’re also a cut above the 6.0 crowd, meaning for just 1.0m more you can have a nicer asset than a newly promoted pretender, and, as in many cases, this comes with the added allure of strong opening fixtures. In a pricing environment where the premium brackets are crowded, the important cost efficiency having one of these guys represents is a key piece of the jigsaw for many an FPL manager’s side.

With the current hubbub surrounding players at this price point, we thought it worthy of a look.

So, in this article, we’ll be reviewing assets in this price bracket by looking at their points per game (ppg) and points per 90 minutes (pp90, to create an equivalent of appearances based on the minutes they actually were on the field) from the previous season, whilst also discussing their potential for next season.

The contenders

Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace

16/17 points: 149 | PPG: 4.26 | PP90: 4.44

Absolutely nailed to start, normally plays the whole 90 minutes and with a highly respectable points per game ratio, the mercurial talent of Zaha both delighted and frustrated his owners at times last season. I chose him over Joshua King on my GW33 wildcard last season, and looked to have hit the jackpot as he recorded 11 points from a duo of assists that week (both acquired through falling over in the box and nudging it to a teammate). However, he did sweet Fanny Adams after that (including blanking his way through dgw34) and was swiftly removed for King by 35. His 7 goals and 11 assists last season did constitute his best ever season, though, and with a link-up with Benteke improving and a nice opening fixture against Huddersfield, the 23% ownership seems understandable with immediate rewards perhaps lurking.

Gini Wijnaldum – Liverpool

16/17 points: 149 | PPG: 4.14 | PP90: 4.51

A dreadlocked Football Manager favourite of mine when at PSV back in the day, Wijnaldum scored 6 goals and garnered 9 assists for Liverpool last season, embellished by a flurry of 3 assists and a goal in the final games (including a rare return away from home for noted homebird Wijnaldum).  He seems in many ways to be the archetypal midfielder in this category, with the potential to provide exceedingly good value relative to his price tag, given his 170 points via 11 goals and 6 assists for Newcastle in 15/16. He might be worth a look if you want to keep a Liverpool midfielder in, but I think Coutinho or the Chelsea legend Salah (whose prospects we assessed here) are better to stretch to. Indeed, with UCL qualifiers between GWs1-2 and GWs2-3 for Liverpool, going with more than one Liverpool asset at the beginning, given the fact Klopp will throw everything at getting into the elite competition, might not be the best idea.

Manuel Lanzini – West Ham

16/17 points: 123 | PPG 3.51 | PP90: 3.72

A favourite of some of the Twitterati, Lanzini’s points per game ratio is actually a bit removed from Zaha’s. His shots per game bettered Zaha’s (2.0spg v Zaha’s 1.4spg – source) but he only managed to better the Ivorian’s tally by 1 in his overall outcome of 8 goals and 3 assists. This was predominantly because of a woeful shot accuracy of just 39%, with the Argentine hitting the woodwork 7 times with some of those off target shanks according to Squawka.  West Ham performed better at home last year, and for me Michail Antonio (now sadly a 7.5) was always the man in 16/17. Three away fixtures for a team beginning to find home comforts in Stratford mean I’m not interested from the outset.

Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea

16/17 points: 121 | PPG 4.17 | PP90: 8.13

Woah, hold your horses! Yes the points per 90, at 8.13, is out of this world. But Fab only played more than 60 minutes in 13 games last season, often being used as an impact substitute (on 16 occasions) last season. He jumped off the bench to score or assist on 5 occasions, which really added to his points tally. I guess that, however you skin it, 5 goals and 12 assists in such meagre time on the pitch underlines his quality on the ball, and we know he’s got the second most assists (107… still some way to go before he reaches Giggsy’s 162, though) in Premier League history, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be considering him as our Chelsea man. With Bakayoko and Kante forming a tight perimeter behind him, he could be licensed to play with new team mate Morata in the same way he did in 2014/15 with Diego Costa, when he got 19 assists and 165 points overall. With one of the greatest suppliers of assists we’ve seen at only 7.0, the appeal is clear. With Burnley up first, having at least one Chelsea player seems a good bet.

Marko Arnautovic – West Ham

16/17 points: 117 | PPG: 3.66 | PP90: 3.88

6 goals and 7 assists in a stop start campaign for Stoke last year, which I was only dimly aware of through my ownership of the then-4.4 Erik Pieters (now ludicrously bumped up to 5.0) and also Joe Allen at times. Anyway, Arnie was another mercurial talent who had an annoying habit of popping up when owned by my ML rivals, but, alas, never for me. After agitating for a move for quite some time, he’s finally got it, moving to beautiful East London. Looking like the marquee signing at West Ham, he’s scored in preseason on his “mini debut” for his new club already. Presumably, he’ll be the main man there, so he’s one I’m keeping an eye on should he begin to flourish once they start playing at home again.

Willian – Chelsea

16/17 points: 114 | PPG: 3.35 | PP90: 6.69

Will. I. An has been in my team since day one. His PP90 has the same caveat as Fabregas’ (he came off the bench on 19 occasions) however, unlike the Spaniard, Willian was unable to flourish in limited gametime. I initially really liked his potential with the stricken Hazard out of the side. As Ed pointed out in our Chelsea profile, he scored 5 goals in 6 appearances without Hazard last year, whereas he scored the same number with Hazard in the team across 15 further appearances. There’s always a good chance he could deliver, with 8 goals and 3 assists registered in similarly limited time last season. A haul of 5 goals and 10 assists in 2015/16, when he was player of the season for them in a downbeat side, might be an indicator of what he could do in an upbeat Champions’ XI as a creative fulcrum.

Juan Mata – Man Utd

16/17 points: 102 | PPG: 4.08 | PP90: 5.69

Johnny Death is probably not a man, a couple of seasons ago, we’d have predicted down in the 7.0 doldrums. A majestic footballer capable of picking a pass and also taking chances himself in seasons gone by, his best season was his recording 212 points (11 goals 18 assists) for Chelsea back in 2012/13 under Rafa Benitez (surely a man not on current manager Jose Mourinho’s Christmas card list). He’s never been anywhere near effective, though, reverting to full “meh” status since he’s been at United. Last season, injury hampered his year as he ended up with just 6 goals and 3 assists. It remains to be seen how much he will play for the man who sold him to United in the first place, despite protestations of his importance last season by Mourinho. One to watch: he did start in the most recent preseason game, so could he come in as a savvy punt in the end?

Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal

16/17 points: 56| PPG: 2.43 | PP90: 4.08

Ramsey does seem to be playing in a more liberated role in the new formation, with the man himself saying that the formation seemed to be suiting both himself and Arsenal. With 1 goal and 4 assists last season in limited time as he felt his way back from serious injury, the Welshman has gained a cult following through continuing in the more advanced role in preseason set ups and, of course,scoring a goal versus luminaries Western Sydney Warriors. With the potential to be rampaging forward for us next Friday versus Leicester, with the 10 goal 9 assist 146 point season of 2013/14 front of mind, some have installed Ramsey as their Arsenal representative.

 

The infog

To conclude…  

I think the Hammers can, for now, be taken out of the equation. They may be decent punts, but, with three away matches in a row to begin with and players from teams more likely of early victories in that period available, their appeal is diminished.

Nick likes Zaha as a 7.0 pick because he’s a got a solid 90 minutes on the horizon every game, and his ppg is encouraging. The opening fixture against a newly promoted side is also an added sweetener.

I can see that, but I think that the opportunity to “cover” one of the bigger clubs is of better value to me here, given the difference in formations Nick and I are running and his preference for the premium defenders from those clubs.

With Ramsey, I can see the appeal, but I require a bit of convincing here: his last two full seasons elicited an average of 118 points a season. It remains to be seen if Wenger retains the new formation, or whether Rambo can recapture the form that’s front of mind from seasons past. I’ll only be going with one Arsenal player if any at all, and new boy Sead Kolasinac at 6.0 is looking like a fun punt at the moment; he might offer better points per his value than Ramsey.

Ultimately, having done this analysis, Fabregas’ potential to have an impact (despite limited minutes) over Willian has swayed me away from the Brazilian somewhat. Cesc’s ability to have impact in both limited and long-term spans on the pitch could be the clincher: even if he’s benched, he could come on to earn me an assist. It’s just the question of who will be nailed on at the beginning, and it could be that, as the direct replacement for Hazard, it’s Willian who rises to prominence in that side. I’m still deciding on that one, and might be right up to the deadline. Later in the season, it might be that Mata puts in a sneaky claim, though, if he can claim one of the attacking midfield berths at United.

Credit for all images: The Premier League – https://www.premierleague.com/players/

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