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Player Analysis

FPL Price Guide: First Impressions, Part II

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: August 20, 2020, 9:32 pm ET

Welcome to Part II of my initial reaction to the salary list in the upcoming FPL season. Earlier in the week, I broke down my thoughts on goalkeepers and defenders, so check that out first if you have not done so already. Now to wrap things up, or, more accurately, unwrap things up, I am ready to react to the salary list for midfielders and forwards, the two positions that get the overwhelming amount of attention among fantasy managers.

There was so much to discuss, the reality hit me that this feature needed to be broken up into two parts. So, if I had much more to say than I initially thought about keepers and defenders, I can only imagine the same will be true here. That being the case, let’s keep this intro short and sweet. We will look at the highest-salaried players at these positions first and work our way down to the cheapest options. Let’s get cracking...

 

Midfielders

This is the bread and butter of FPL, in my view - the midfield position. I have more to say about the value of each position when we get to forwards, but it seems every season, there is always a bit of a shift in which positions are offering up good value and exceeding expectations. When I started this game over a decade ago, forwards seemed to attract the most attention. Three precious slots to fill and it was a fight to see how one could fit Didier Drogba, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in the same squad.

Times have changed. Defenders are getting more and more attention as the years have gone by and midfielders have positively eclipsed forwards as the position with the players you simply must roster. The five most expensive players in the game are all midfielders now. I cannot confirm this, it would take a ton of research to verify, but I would bet the farm that this is an FPL first - having the five most expensive players all in midfield. So let’s talk about them now...

12m is the high bar this season, and we have three players at that salary. Two names we would expect to see and feel no surprise about are Mo Salah and Sadio Mané. One could make the argument that Mane could go for .5m less, he did finish twelve points behind his teammate, but I think all is fair here. Like last season, these two will take turns putting up big scores, salaries will fluctuate and the key is to own the right one at the right time. Owning both doesn’t seem realistic at the moment. The big news here is the position change for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Over 20% of managers already have him rostered I see, but I am not feeling it here. Yes, he will get an extra point per goal with the position switch, but it seems his rise in salary cancels out any potential extra value. If you add 22 points to his total last season (he scored 22 goals) that would have seen him finish on 227 points - six more than Mane and six less than Salah, so I can understand why FPL considers Aubameyang on equal ground. Personally, I’d rather invest in the established consistent production from Liverpool’s wingers if paying top dollar and look for a cheaper Gunner as cover in Arsenal’s attack.

At 11.5m, we see a pair of City boys, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne. Yes, de Bruyne’s starting salary takes a big jump from last years crazy value of 10m flat, but I am happy to see last year’s highest scoring player listed for a salary below the most expensive. He will go straight into my team. Yes, I have heard rumor that KdB will play a little deeper this season. For one, I am not buying that theory and two, he’s the best playmaker in the league, that isn’t going to change. Will he match the assist total from last season? Perhaps not. But I still think he is an essential cornerstone of one’s squad. Sterling, meanwhile, has the potential to be the top-scoring mid this season. Youth is still on his side and maybe he is in for a career year. I think his salary is fair. I don’t see it possible to have a balanced side with Salah and Mane in it, but it might just work if you can afford to roster both KdB and Sterling. One gives you the consistency, the other gives you the explosive game once in a while that can see your rank climb quick.

There’s a 3m gap from 11.5m to 8.5m that features only three options - Bruno Fernandes at 10.5m, teammate Marcus Rashford at 9.5m and then Heung-Min Son given a 9m salary tag. Son’s salary seems right on the money. He pretty much met his value last season and, at this point in time, I see him continuing to be just as involved for Spurs. Bruno Fernandes is going to be an interesting one. I feel like I need to have him, and, according to the roster % data at the moment, he is the third-most selected player. There was concern about a dip in his production at the end of last season but I feel like he is the most trustworthy option among United’s attacking assets. Rashford, meanwhile, switches places with Anthony Martial, the former now classified as a midfielder, the latter, a forward. I don’t think either of the two will be a “set it and forget it” option, rather, they will likely take turns being the in-form player. Of course, if Jadon Sancho arrives on the scene, that could dip into the production of both Rashford and Martial and could render Mason Greenwood (currently 7.5m) useless. I think Martial is the better strategical choice. I am seeing a lack of attractive options at forward, so why not fill a slot wth Martial if you cannot decide between the two, because there are many, many good options in midfield.

As we get to 8.5m and below, this is where I get excited, because inevitably, there are going to be players who, by the end of the season, we will be left wondering why they went for so cheap. Two players at 8.5m are Christian Pulisic and Riyad Mahrez. I think Mahrez’s salary makes sense but I also think it is possible this season he sees less rotation and makes him a more attractive option. I like the idea of a de Bruyne/Mahrez double up. Not a bad combo to have for 20% of your team budget (20m combined). Pulisic’s salary goes up a full million from the start of last season and with him now establishing himself with Chelsea, should see plenty of investors. However, I am not thrilled about him when I see another Blues option that is going for cheaper and I think can match, if not outscore, Pulisic. Let’s get to that now…

 

The 8m bracket has new Chelsea playmaker Hakim Ziyech, who I think is a bargain. Yes, it is difficult to say with certainty how well any player new to the PL will fare, but if Ziyech indeed settles right in, he could make that 8m salary look foolish. I think he will be taking a spot in my midfield for sure. Former Blues attacker Willian is also 8m, now playing for Arsenal, joining teammate Nicolas Pepe at the same salary. No contest for me here. Willian, though getting up in years, pretty much never falls below expectations. I would much rather take him over Aubameyang and spend the other 4m elsewhere. Pepe, well, he should be half a million less than Willian to be honest. Not fond of him. Paul Pogba is 8m as well, and that is a hard “PASS” for me. Talk about “meeting expectations”, Pogba has yet to meet his value since joining United and, even though his opening salary dips a bit more each year, I am not getting on that train. It will have to pass me by or run me over, but I am not getting on. Then there is Dele Alli. He is overpriced. This is not to say that the potential isn’t there to meet or exceed his salary tag with his production, we have seen the talent, but he has had back-to-back underperforming seasons. As a fan, I hope he can recapture the magic from his first two full seasons, but until it is established, seems way too risky at that salary.

The 7.5m bracket has three names and I am not a fan of any of them. As mentioned before, Mason Greenwood goes from a 4.5m forward to a 7.5m midfielder. If he makes 30+ starts this season, I can see potential value, but I don’t believe he will. I think he’s going to give owners headaches. Steven Bergwijn of Spurs begins his first full season with the club. At 22 and with some seasoning behind him, he could take the next step up. However, Lucas Moura (at 7m) is still around and I think these two are going to be splitting minutes on the right side opposite Heung-Min Son. Not a fan of this option, though, like Alli, I hope to be proven wrong. Then, there is Bernardo Silva. In reality, a very talented player. In fantasy, he just cannot seem to step up to the next level or nail down a consistent role to warrant investment. I will be monitoring him though.

Once we get to 7m, the list of names grows large and, for the sake of a readable column, I cannot touch on all of them, but let me point out the exciting ones and the ones I can easily say “PASS” on: James Maddison seems the most attractive option here on inital reaction. He’s got the full package, he’s entering his prime, he plays for a good side that can score goals in Leicester. I think if he were listed at 7.5m or even 8m, people would not gasp, so for 7m, he looks a bargain. When the fixtures are kind for Aston Villa, Jack Grealish will certainly be in my thinking. He gets a bump up in salary but it’s a fair bump. Giovani Lo Celso is the man to monitor in Tottenham’s preseason games. If he is looking sharp, he will definitely come into thinking and has the potential to provide considerable value. We have to wait and see. Players I am “meh” on include Harvey Barnes (teammate Maddison is the same salary, I see no contest that Maddison is the better choice), Mason Mount (pitch time and dropoff in production last season are concerns), Wilfried Zaha (Palace are not very good at scoring goals) and Mesut Ozil (is he still here?). Ferran Torres is going to likely have to wait a while before he comes into Pep’s reckoning. Gylfi Sigurdsson, once an FPL darling, is either going to find his old glory or continue on the road to obscurity. Until I start seeing the former, I can only expect the latter, so that is a “No” for me.

I see tons of potential bargains at 6.5m. Tons. Diogo Jota is now classified there and will be on the watchlist along with teammate Adama Traoré. Phil Foden could be in line for a breakout season. If he can get enough starts, he could be a major value. I am most excited about Adam Lallana. I don’t know if I will start the season with him. I mean, he hasn’t had a chance to play regularly for years now. Does he have that playmaking ability still in him? Well, if he can be the big fish in a small pond like he was for Southampton back in the day, then he could be a must-own for Brighton this season. Several options at this salary among West Ham’s assets. None I am bullish on, but Pablo Fornals is the one I will monitor the most. And that’s pretty much it for what excites me. Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Pérez, Daniel James, Nathan Redmond do not appeal to me at the moment and the Liverpool trio of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Takumi Minamino are going to ride the bench more often than not unless there is a long-term injury somewhere

Most seasons, I can never seem to find a good player going for 6m. That was the case this season too, until a late addition in recent days has got me excited, and that is West Brom’s Matheus Pereira. The Baggies have notoriously been a club to avoid for attacking options in past top-flight stints, but Pereira has got some real tekkers. I was expecting him to go for 6.5m and would have considered him at that salary. For 6m, he is looking a strong candidate to be my MID5. He is the only player at that salary I feel excited about starting the season with, but there are a few that I want to monitor, because I see potential for value. Those names include Leandro Trossard, Dwight McNeil and James Ward-Prowse. I will pass on the three Villa players in this bracket, along with the three from Chelsea and Everton. Palace has a pair of players here but, again, they need to score some goals. No interest in Andros Townsend or Luka Milivojevic. United have a pair of players you don’t want. I mean, to roster Jesse Lingard, FPL should be paying ME 6m. I cannot believe Tanguy Ndombele is the same salary as last season. What a personal disappointment he was for me. Erik Lamela won’t get enough minutes unless there are long-term injuries elsewhere. How is this for a smooth transition - I don’t understand why anyone would invest in Miguel Almirón for 6m…

...when you can have Allan Saint-Maximin for 5.5m (see what I did there?). Yes, the Frenchman looks a fantastic buy as your MID5 at 5.5m. I mean, the same salary as teammate Christian Atsu? You gotta be kidding me. Of course, we have to mention the “Lord”, John Lundstram, now in midfield and now 1.5m more than last season’s starting salary. He isn’t even a guaranteed starter since Sander Berge showed up. Once the talk of the FPL community, Lundstram stands to see his FPL impact diminish considerably. If you want to know how wacky this salary bracket is, what is Harry Winks doing here? He should be 5m at most. What are you paying for here? The zero goals he had last season, the zero assists he had last season, or the nine yellow cards? It makes no sense. Wolves have four options in this bracket, all interesting in their own way. We know what to expect from central mids Joao Moutinho and Rúben Neves, but keep an eye on Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence. Five Liverpool players here but none are going to help you much, though if one does emerge, I would bet on Naby Keita. Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka are worth monitoring if they can establish themselves as regular starters. I like that John McGinn is available at this salary. Had he had a full season uninterrupted by injury, he would have certainly been given a higher salary tag this time. It’s kinda the way de Bruyne was valued the year after his injury, only several levels of talent and production down. I think I’d rather have McGinn plus the extra 1.5m instead of Grealish. Simply too many other names in this salary bracket to mention, but I do need to study up on Leeds, one of those attacking mids will emerge as the most productive and could be an FPL asset.

At 5m, generally there is not much to excite. I mean, you are probably looking to find a MID5 that will sit on your bench most weeks, so why not just get a 4.5m option instead and free up some cash? If I had to pick the best of the lot though, I’d likely take Tomas Soucek.

Finally, the 4.5m options. Players you intend to bench but hope to find a diamond in the rough. Brighton’s Dale Stephens is the overwhelming preferred option at the moment. His 14% selection percentage among managers is about as much as all other 4.5m players combined. He will start and give you two points in an emergency. The rest of the dozens of names here are a plethora of unknowns. Usually, a young player no one is talking about now will burst on the scene. Hopefully, we will have enough of a preseason to spot one or two of these potential surprises.

 

Forwards

I don’t know how to put this gently, folks...this is the weakest group of forwards I can ever remember to choose from in all my seasons of FPL. You have players who have been reclassified as midfielders weakening the pool, you have former elite options like Sergio Agüero and Harry Kane coming off of disappointing seasons by their standards. This seems like it will be the season Aguero passes the torch to Gabriel Jesus, and the splitting of their minutes could be the source of many a headache. I am avoiding that situation until I am forced to reconsider. Kane still has it in him to be a 20+ goal scorer, but I will wait again for his form to make him a must-have.  Jamie Vardy, at 10m, seems much more safe and sound as a FWD1 pick should you want a premium option.

I’m not sure I want a premium option though. This is where I reveal to you, I have to think I will be playing a 3-5-2 this season most of the time and using my third FWD slot as a 4.5m benchwarmer.

Three players come in at 9.5m. Roberto Firmino, which we kind of know what to expect. He is “serviceable”, but not essential and unlikely to exceed the value his 9.5m tag demands. I already touched on Jesus so that leaves the big name among forwards everyone is excited about: Timo Werner. I think in previous seasons, if we had more elite forwards, Wener would be coming in straight away at 10m, but, because the pool is so weak, FPL cuts us a break and made him available for 9.5m. The community’s response to a lack of options and a fair, if not, very kind salary sees Werner as the most selected forward by far in the early days. I want to have him, but I have my heart set on Ziyech, who is cheaper and is offering more of a differential.

Anthony Martial is the lone man at 9m and I think it is a fair salary, though 8.5m would have sold me completely. Once again though, I am looking at United coverage from my midfield, so it is becoming clear that my forwards are going to be cheap.

Three names at 8.5m - let me toss one away immediately in Alexandre Lacazette. Too many question marks there. You then have Danny Ings. I understand based on the numbers he put up last season, he needs a salary rise like this. But, I think the odds are he doesn’t match last season’s totals and the best he could do is meet value. I want players with the ability to exceed it - the Danny Ings of THIS season. Then there is a consistent, dependable weapon in Raúl Jiménez. Aren’t Wolves fun? They are a good club with fantasy relevance at every position and they are always cheaper than players from the “big six”. I am being frugal at this positon, I think Jimenez would be the most expensive foward I would entertain starting the season with.

A few players make up the 8m-7m range. First, Richarlison at 8m. That’s a “PASS” for me. He gave me enough headaches in midfield for the same starting salary last season. If taking a point away per goal, he should see a drop in salary and go for 7.5m in my opinion. Speaking of 7.5m, there’s one option - Tammy Abraham. 1.5m more than his starting salary last season and this time around, we KNOW he is behind the pecking order and it is Timo Werner’s gig, so that’s an irrelevant pick. Then, at 7m, you have Olivier Giroud (same problem as Abraham) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I don’t think I will be considering Calvert-Lewin to start the season, but I definitely think he provides better value than teammate, Richarlison and will be on the watchlist.

The 6.5m choices, while limited, is where I get excited. Michail Antonio is already in my side folks, I cannot keep that hidden. Seems a great value, fills up one one of those forward slots on the cheap and I can start him every week feeling like he has a goal in him. Chris Wood - I have always been a fan of this guy. Every year, I target him in draft leagues. Just a presence in the box, a big man who can finish well with foot and head. After a pair of 10 goal seasons, he jumped up to 14 in the previous campaign. I think he has the ability to get around 18 goals, 14 being the floor. The thing is, with forwards who don’t score every week, you get impatient and want to move them out. But we are lacking forwards who will score every week. I think the best strategy is to pick a strong midfield that you believe in and stick with in weeks they blank and concentrate your free transfers on riding the hot hand of budget forwards like Wood. Neal Maupay could also take a big step up this season as there is a buzz around Brighton’s attack with the addition of Lallana. I like him at 6.5m. Sébastien Haller, who I picked as the bust of the season in last year’s preseason predictions column I put together - I feel pretty vindicated when he is second-choice to Antonio, at least, for now. It will take injury to make Odion Ighalo relevant.

Down to the 6m range, we see Aleksandar Mitrovic return to the top flight. Is he consistent from start to finish, just get him now and you are set for the season? Likely not. But again, if you go with a strategy of moving budget strikers in and out, playing form, options like Mitrovic will give you value if you buy and sell at the right times. Well, at least more often than not, the right times. In case you missed it, Che Adams had a strong finish to what was an otherwise invisible first season for Southampton. Not sure I have the guts to start the year with him, but he is another to keep in mind as his experience grows. My guess is that he will eat into Ings’ value. Three Sheffield United players are listed at 6m and I am waiting on one to emerge. I think Lys Mousset has that potential. His fitness levels were an issue last season. If he can improve in that department, I think he could be the cream of that crop and worthy of a shot in an FPL team. No thanks on Dwight Gayle or Joelinton when I can have Saint-Maximin for .5m less. Jordan Ayew should be a half million less, no thanks. Pass on Ashley Barnes and Jay Rodríguez, I think the extra .5m for Wood is well worth it. Players who don’t look to be starters when the season begins but could emerge for one reason or another and become fantasy gold are Kelechi Iheanacho and, dare I say it, Moise Kean. I think we can all agree that, when given the minutes, Iheanacho is quite effective. Kean, meanwhile was a giant bust in his first season and Everton may look to ship him away. But, and I acknowledge it’s a “big but”, if the stars align, I know this kid has talent. Nothing near a Week 1 candidate for anyone’s squad, but don’t write him off as a bust just yet.

Getting into 5.5m territory, you start to scrape the barrel. I mean, with budget strikers, you aren’t expecting returns every week, but you hope to average one every other week. Under the 6m range, it’s hard to find an option that fits that demand. Some are young enough to develop into that kind of producer, like Aaron Connolly. If I am to assume Charlie Austin is a regular, then that appears the safest play out of this bunch. He once racked up goals in the top flight for QPR. If you can do that, you can do it with a more talented West Brom side (though admittedly, he is no spring chicken anymore). Christian Benteke…I used to have a real man-crush on this guy during his days with Aston Villa. Looks like another year of irrelevance is coming for him once again.

The 5m options are pretty much on “Ignore” status until further notice. Guys who are down their respective depth charts and, even if given starts, haven’t proven to do much. Like in midfield, if you are going this cheap, you may as well go for a 4.5m option.

So, among those at the very bottom at 4.5m, only three names. It’s almost as if FPL doesn’t want us to enjoy another Mason Greenwood. Two of the three play for Villa - Keinan Davis and Indiana Vassilev, along with Palace’s Connor Wickham. I think I would opt for Wickham as a bench-filler. Davis is currently rostered by 20% of managers, he is the preferred bench-filler of the bunch - which is exactly why I would not select him. The higher the ownership, the better the chance of a salary drop once this season kicks off, things establish, early wildcard players will rearrange their sides and drop Davis, and he will be at 4.4m by the end of the first international break. With Wickham, I think owners, potentially myself, understand the situation better and, who knows, Palace need someone to step up and score goals. I could see Wickham getting a run in the side if Ayew and/or Benteke falter.

 

Hit me up on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles and let me know your thoughts on these salarys and who stands out to you. Happy tinkering!

Steve Rothgeb

Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for NBC Sports Edge and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.