5.5 midfield maestros

The 5.5 million fourth/fifth midfielder in your FPL team. I’ve described them kindly in the title as the ‘midfield maestro’, but perhaps a more common description is the unwanted offspring, or the ugly duckling that sits at the foot of your team filling out that final slot, thus enabling you to fit in those premium assets. However, inside that category you can occasionally find a hidden gem that delivers the points.

Last year, for instance, we had Wilfried Zaha and the surprisingly Norwegian Josh King starting off in this category. Zaha finished the season with 149 points and King finished the season on absolute fire, with a staggering 16 goals and 178 points! This was higher than many of the premium assets. The year before that, Riyad Mahrez also started the season a 5.5 midfielder. With 240 points, he was the top performing player in the game and also was PFA Player of the Year.

That seems worthy of investigation when we step back and think about it.

So, in this article, we’ll be reviewing 10 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.

I’ll first look at some of those who were in the game last season, and then look at three new boys, with their stats being simulated using our prospecting the prospects methodology.

Those in the game last season

Ryan Fraser (5.5) – Bournemouth

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

A favourite of Tom’s, the Bournemouth winger looked very dangerous at points in his maiden campaign in the Premier League, finishing the FPL season with 3 goals and 9 assists. A ppg of 3.6 and a more respectable 5.1 pp90, Fraser definitely looks like an option for a fourth midfielder this season. As mentioned on our article about fellow 5.5 (but irrelevance) Izzy Brown, Fraser’s flair was very problematic for opposition defenders, with his being the dubious honour of (or near) “winning” the most Premier League penalties last season, offering him a further potential points stream. With Bournemouth fans hoping for more link up play with Josh King and also new signing Jermain Defoe, 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.

Leroy Fer (5.5) – Swansea

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

Often shunned from the limelight due to the exploits of his more talented (soon to be former?) colleague Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Dutch international caught our eye at various moments during the season, scoring 6 goals and  2 assists. His ppg was 2.8 and pp90 was 3.56. However, 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 if the aforementioned Icelander does in fact leave the club. 

James Ward-Prowse (5.5) – Southampton

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

As Ward-Prowse enters his 6th Premier League campaign, it is shocking to find out he is still only 22. Last season was the busiest yet for the U21 international, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists.  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. Much depends on Southampton’s formation under their new position, but if JWP is afforded to the space to go forward with backing from the likes of Romeu, Clasie and Hojbjerg In the centre of the park then he could further improve this season and be a shout for our teams as a cut-price fourth midfielder.

Alex Iwobi (5.5) – Arsenal

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

Due to injuries, Iwobi started the season playing for Arsenal. However, he often flattered to deceive, failing to translate his promise into end product to the frustration of many Arsenal fans. Scoring 3 goals and 5 assists last season, despite receiving plenty of game time, he finished the season with a pp90 of 5.5 (also bolstered by substitution appearances) and a ppg of 3.4. If Sanchez leaves it may be that the 21-year-old Nigerian international is afforded more chances and can have his breakthrough season.

Demarai Gray (5.5) – Leicester

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

For Leicester there was another option for our selection with Marc Albrighton waving his credentials with his 2 goals and 6 assists last season. However, if we are looking at young players with a lot of potential then there is only one choice. Not afforded as much game time last year, the 21-yea- old former Birmingham winger Gray only scored 1 goal and got 4 assists last season. This resulted in a ppg of 1.9 and pp90 of 4.98 (following from many substitution appearances). With whispers in the media about him wanting to leave due to lack of game time, 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.

Robbie Brady (5.5) – Burnley

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

There are many 5.5 midfielders at Burnley (with other options at the club Steven Defour, Jeff Hendrick and the veteran Jon Walters). However our selection is Robbie Brady. Having signed for Burnley in January of this year from Norwich (where he also managed 4 goals and 1 assist), the creative former Norwich schemer Brady managed a goal and three assists in half a season and had a ppg of 2.8 and a pp90 of 4.9. There is a risk of Brady being OOP but in reverse, as he could play at left back. The signing of promising left back Charlie Taylor (our article on him is here) from Leeds, however, could nullify that threat. 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.

The cheap choice

Jason Puncheon (5.0) – Crystal Palace

16/17 points: 92 | PPG: 2.6 | PP90: 2.7

Breaking the 5.5 theme slightly here but, as another one of Tom’s favourites, we couldn’t exclude the now veteran journeyman of the Premier League. At 31, he is the oldest entry on this list, but having been named club captain by new manager Frank De Boer it looks like Puncheon may be playing a key role as an attacking midfielder for Palace next season. With a tasty opening fixture against Huddersfield in game week 1, Puncheon definitely looks like an option in the fourth midfielder slot at his very cheap price. However, with no goals scored last season and six assists his points per game was only 2.6 and pp90 of 2.7. At his age, I personally do not think he will prove value for money this season, and prefer to fork out the extra 2.0 for Wilfried Zaha as my Palace midfielder of choice. There may be an outside chance of him entering Tom’s side as an enabler for a Kun, Kaku, Kane frontline, though, apparently.

The new boys

Jonjo Shelvey (5.5) – Newcastle

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

Let’s do a quick bit of research on Shelvey using our “prospecting the prospects” method to translate his performances last year into FPL points. The former Liverpool and Swansea midfielder played 41 games for Newcastle last season,35 as full games, 3 as a sub on and 3 as a sub off (2 of these over 60 minutes). For this he got 79 points. He also scored 5 goals, which was another 25 points to his name and got 8 assists which gives him an additional 24 points.  Discipline again was also an issue for him with 9 yellows and 1 red card, that is a -12 points. However 16 clean sheets meant another 16 points. For bonus points we have afforded him 20 for his contributions – giving him a total of 155 points. This gives him a ppg of 3.8, but we need to alter this to factor in only 38 matches in the Premier League, which gives him a final total of 144 points, with a pp90 of 4.1. 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.

Aaron Mooy (5.5) – Huddersfield

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

Like with Shelvey, we do not have any FPL data on Mooy so we have had to start from scratch. The Australian midfielder was bought by Huddersfield for £10 million (including add ons) after impressing on loan from Manchester City the previous season in the Championship. He was virtually ever present for the club, appearing in 43 of the 44 league games (3 as sub on and 1 as a sub off after 55 minutes). This calculated at 82 points. For his 4 goals he receives another 20 points and for his 7 assists that is another 21 points. His discipline is better than Shelvey’s but he still got 6 yellows which is a -6. However, he receives an extra 10 points for clean sheets. For bonus points, we have given him 15 points bringing his total for the season 142 points. This returns him a ppg of 3.3. Normalising this to 38 games gives us 125 points (3.3×38) Excluding the play off games, he played for 3817 minutes making his pp90 also 3.3. When comparing Shelvey and Mooy directly it is worth commenting that his chances created is stat is higher, 98 compared to Shelvey’s 86.

Pascal Gross (5.5) – Brighton

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

We looked at Gross previously as part of our prospecting the prospects series and calculated that he would have scored 106 points over the season FPL season, at a rate of 3.21ppg which over the course of the season would have scored him 122 points. He played 2731 minutes which means his pp90 score was 3.49. Gross will be competing with Glenn Murray for penalty kicks and his chance creation stats for former club Ingolstadt last season was pretty impressive at 99. 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.

*full article where we simulate his FPL points playing for Ingolstadt last season can be read here.


To conclude…

This year’s selection for 5.5 assets doesn’t look the best crop. But let’s stop and remember: last season, Josh King started the season on 98 points from the previous season, around the same level as many of the guys we’ve run the rule over above. Zaha got 85. It could well be that one of these guys does become the new king enabler. Both went on to score over 140 points. That’s pretty good value from a 5.5, and means we can’t rule out this category entirely – one of their number could emerge as a prime enabler whilst also a constant source of points.

I’m sure Tom thinks this could be Ryan Fraser, with him featuring in a lot of the teams I’ve been shown recently!

If you are looking for someone in game week one my selection, however, would be JWP. With opening fixtures against Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, Watford and Crystal Palace, JWP may be on for some returns from the outset for the season. As for later in the season, if Iwobi can hold down a place in Arsenal’s midfield then he will be another one that we will definitely have to watch and keep an eye out on.

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