EPL Fantasy Midfielders Analysis – Part I

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We analyse the EPL Fantasy Midfielders you should be targeting for this coming Premier League season!

Don’t forget to check out the various EPL Fantasy Competitions available to you to compete for this coming season! Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got it covered.

Also, check out the EPL Fantasy DefendersPart I of our Forwards AnalysisPart II of our Forwards AnalysisEPL Fantasy Goalkeepers and Bargain EPL Fantasy Midfielders we think you should be looking at for this upcoming season!

In years gone by, your ideal midfield in the Official Premier League Fantasy competition selected itself. Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard not only controlled the Premier League on the field, but dominated it statistically.

With Fabregas and Ronaldo departing for La Liga and Gerrard and Lampard’s production being stunted by age, 2013/2014 is the perfect year to differentiate yourself from the pack and select players who lack the pedigree but promise the results.

Whilst the bonus point system being introduced this season is predicted to assist defenders more so than their midfield counter-parts, this position is paramount to fantasy success given its variety and propensity for high scores. You get more points for a goal, a nice bonus for a clean sheet, and with adequate research, you can select players who are essentially strikers.

Even considering that however, there is little doubt that the options available in 2013/2014 aren’t quite as obvious, nor are they quite as reliable as in years past. Arsenal’s uncertainty in the transfer market undermines Santi Carzola’s worth, whilst new managers at Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea (typically prolific fantasy teams) mean that we’re unsure as to which stars we should pursue.

Our general theory when selecting EPL Fantasy midfielders is to pursue potential and position over anything else. Whilst wingers and attacking midfielders were the most substituted players in the Premier League last season, you can fall into a trap when selecting 38-game, 90-minute players who find themselves in a holding midfield role. At the end of the day, spending £5.5 million on Chelsea’s Michael Essien may seem an absurd discount, but for £500,000 less you can target Hull’s attacking-midfielder and captain Robert Koren.

Before the season gets underway on August 17, we’ll examine options across all positions, from all teams and within two key price brackets; Elite and Value. Avoiding players destined to perform poorly is just as significant selecting the best players available, so we will also highlight the players we believe to be either over-priced or destined for a fall in production over the coming season.

The following advice if made with the Official Premier League Fantasy game in mind. Whilst it can be used to a certain extent within other competitions, feel free to ask us in the comment section below or in our forums whether particular players have increased or decreased value when selected in one of the other fantasy competitions we’ve analysed for the upcoming season!

 

EPL Fantasy – ‘Elite’ Midfielders (£12 million – £7 million)                         

Must Have’

Consider

Avoid

Kevin Mirallas Philippe Coutinho Miguel Michu
Eden Hazard Shinji Kagawa Yaya Toure
Paulinho Mikel Arteta Frank Lampard
Juan Mata Kevin Nolan Adam Johnson
Theo Walcott Aaron Lennon Jesus Navas

 

Kevin Mirallas (EVE – £7.5 million)

There comes at time when you feel a tip is so good, that you just want to keep it for yourself; this is that tip. On his 2012/2013 statistics alone, Mirallas is a wise investment with 6 goals and 5 assists coming in just 1827 minutes of play (points per minute equal to Leighton Baines). What makes him an astoundingly good pick-up though, is that with Martinez poised to introduce his 3-4-3 formation, Mirallas looks to have a slot on the wing with his name on it. Impressive showings in pre-season mean that we’re expecting the Belgian to slot at least 10 goals and provide 8 assist this campaign. We’d be willing to pay £9 million for his services so £7.5 million is a steal.

Eden Hazard (CHE – £9.5 million), Miguel Michu (CHE – £9 million), Adam Johnson (SUN – £7 million)

Another Belgian superstar and a player set to benefit from Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge. Under Di Matteo at the start of last season, Hazard was the Blues best player, before Juan Mata’s sheer class shone through in the latter half of the campaign under Benitez. Likely to play a wide attacking-midfield role, some fantasy competitions (Metro) have classified him as a striker for this coming season. Whilst he’ll set you back a significant sum, his under-performing first season in the EPL presents better value than someone like Michu who had a career-year last time out.

Not only are Swansea unlikely to replicate their efforts from last season, the signing of Wilfried Bony means that Michu’s 18-goal performance is unlikely to be replicated. He’ll still score prolifically by virtue of his ‘Number 10’ role in behind a lone striker, but he’s unlikely to reach the heights of last year, rendering Hazard and nearly every other option around the £9 million mark, better value. The Swans also face Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United in the opening 6 weeks of the season.

Another player we’re predicting to fall from grace is Adam Johnson. Equated to Stewart Downing during his Middlesborough days, an unfruitful spell at Manchester City indicated that he could be on the same declining career-path as his former team-mate. Finding form at Sunderland however, Johnson has put his name forward as a legitimate fantasy option. Costing £7 million, it isn’t so much that we think Johnson won’t live up to his price tag, we just believe the money to be better invested elsewhere. Sunderland are being tipped by many to be a surprise package this season, but we can’t see that coming to fruition.

Juan Mata (MUT – £10.5 million)

In the probably absence of Gareth Bale and the possible absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mata is the premium midfielder in the competition this season. Not only is the Spaniard coming off two prolific seasons in the EPL, his durability in playing 118 matches in the last two years is an under-valued trait. Mourinho may be his 4th EPL coach over those 118 games, but Mata has proven that he can perform under the watch of anyone, and Mourinho should provide no exception.

Despite uncertainty regarding who will play striker for Chelsea this coming season, Mata’s double-digit assist tally in 4 of his last 5 seasons bodes well for their fantasy production as well.

Paulinho (TOT – £7 million), Mikel Arteta (ARS – £7 million), Shinji Kagawa (MUT – £8 million)

Three players from elite clubs, three players who are priced at the lower end of the ‘elite’ bracket and three players who have significant uncertainty surrounding them this season.

Paulinho looks likely to play a central, box-to-box role in AVB’s 4-3-3 at Tottenham. Whilst he won’t register too many goals, the dynamic Spurs attack means that assists will provide the Brazilian with Modric-esque fantasy potential. Alongside Arteta, the playmaking potential of this duo bodes incredibly well for the introduction of the bonus points system. Arteta’s near monopoly on set-pieces and penalties adds extra value to his fantasy stock. The lone concern we have for the former-Everton maestro is Arsenal’s current inactivity in the transfer market. Should Suarez secure his move to the Emirates, Arteta’s stock should rise marginally.

Shinji Kagawa’s production this season relies incredibly heavily on David Moyes and his transfer activity. Alex Ferguson didn’t utilize the Japanese international last season to his full capacity and whilst that probably means an increase in minutes, Kagawa’s fantasy potential is heavily reliant on Wayne Rooney’s future. With Moyes likely to instigate a Fellaini-type role in behind Robin van Persie, Rooney’s departure from Old Trafford would could see Kagawa handed a golden opportunity to become a fantasy sensation. With 6 goals and 4 assists in just 1314 minutes last season, his potential is undoubted.

A further alternative to this trio would be Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli, the man touted to replace Gareth Bale on the Spurs’ flanks should the Welsh international leave for Real Madrid. With a similar frame, propensity to strike from distance and set-pieces likely to be part of his repertoire, we’ve got another Spurs debutant on our radar. At £500,000 more expensive than Paulinho however, it is a toss-up as to which one you pursue with Chadli (owned by just 0.5% of coaches) a more substantial risk.

Yaya Toure (MCI – £8.5 million)

Manuel Pellegrini’s activity in the transfer window has largely oriented on the attacking third of the field. Combined with Pellegrini’s intent to abandon Mancini’s defensive mindset and impose his own attacking mantras this season, production of all City midfielders and forwards should increase, right? Wrong.

The absurd number of strikers and wingers in City’s squad mean that someone needs to offset what could be a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-3-2 formation. As the biggest, strongest body in City’s midfield, expect Toure to plug the gap in front of what will be a make-shift back line should Nastasic be unavailable at the start of the season. He may have scored 6 goals in each of the last 3 seasons and provide between 6 and 9 assists each campaign, but expect that production to drop to approximately 3 goals and 5 assists. If you’re looking for a Manchester City player to capitalise on the Citizens’ favorable draw to start the season, look elsewhere. Forwards and defenders appear to be the best value given the glut of talent available to the new manager in midfield

Frank Lampard (CHE – £8 million)

Amid the controversial appointment of Rafa Benitez, an early Champions League exit and premature elimination from the Premier League race, what was dubbed Frank Lampard’s last season at Chelsea ensured that games still had an incredible atmosphere. Having secured a one-year deal upon the return of Jose Mourinho, you could be forgiven for thinking the ‘Special One’s’ favorite Chelsea son could produce a fantasy relevant season. Priced at £8 million, Lampard is likely to fall behind Mata, Hazard and Oscar in the pecking order of Mourinho’s 4-1-2-3 or 4-2-3-1. It would be surprising to see all 3 of those young attacking playmakers fielded together too regularly, but with Lampard quite clearly outside the best 11 players in the side and with Mourinho always heavily focussed on the Champions League, expect Lampard’s minutes to drop for the 4th time in the last 5 seasons.

Rooney’s possible move to Stamford Bridge would further undermine Lampard’s fantasy value. At the same time though, it would send Rooney’s through the roof.

Jesus Navas (MCI – £9 million)

Jesus Navas, Manchester City’s headline signing of the summer and the owner of arguably the scariest eyes in the entire world has undoubtedly been plugged as biggest fantasy import of the transfer window. For those who have watched him play, there is no doubt he’s a class act, however he isn’t the marksman that you look for in such an expensive fantasy player. Registering not a single goal last La Liga season and producing just 6 assists, many have expectations that exceed what Navas will produce. Yes, Pellegrini is looking to impose a more attacking mentality but with so much competition for goals, will it benefit Navas more than Silva? Yes, he has an established relationship with Negredo, but just 1 of the latter’s 25 league goals in 2012/2013 were supplied by Navas.

City’s favorable draw to open the season paints any of their players as viable options, however with Dzeko, Aguero, Negredo, Nastasic and even Joe Hart presenting equal or better value, we strongly advise looking elsewhere.

Theo Walcott (MCI – £9.5 million)

Once considered the brightest English prospect in the game, Theo Walcott has done little to justify his hype. A natural winger who is disgruntled when he doesn’t play as a lone striker, Walcott’s general goal poaching attitude would be fine if he could actually finish. At £9.5 million though, Walcott presents terrific value for someone guaranteed a start alongside Podolski, Arteta, Carzola, Ramsey and possibly Suarez. An incredibly favorable draw to open the season boosts his value. The only question is which Arsenal midfielder you choose. Arteta is the better value for money from our perspective, however when compared to Michu, Silva and Rooney up forward, Walcott represents a steal given his 14 goal, 13 assist 2012/2013.

Kevin Nolan (WHU -£7 million)

West Ham have arguably the best draw to open the season. Their most difficult fixture comes against Everton whilst matches against Cardiff, Stoke and Hull definitely give the Hammers a good chance at a top-half table position after the opening 6 weeks. With Andy Carroll under an injury cloud, the goal-conscious Nolan could be the focal point of an entire attack to open the 2013/2014 campaign. With double-digit goals in the last 2 seasons, Nolan may struggle to replicate his sharp-shooting in the long-term, but that doesn’t detract from his early-season appeal. Don’t expect many assists from the former Bolton man, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he made a greater contribution than the 2.2 he’s averaged over the past 5 seasons.

Aaron Lennon (TOT – £7.5 million)

With the sale of Clint Dempsey and probably departure of Gareth Bale, Tottenham’s glut of attacking options appears to be somewhat sorting itself into a probably starting XI. Aaron Lennon appears to be the most likely beneficiary with AVB’s likely shift to a 4-3-3 requiring two out-and-out wingers to support a central striker. Lennon wasn’t starved of opportunities last season, playing in a career-high 2823 minutes, however his production was stunted by a Bale-centric attack. Remove the focal point and the points should distribute more evenly throughout the Tottenham midfield. Expect 6 goals and between 8 and 11 assists, both potential career-highs.

Should Bale not depart, Lennon may lose appearances to new signing Chadli, however should the Welshman depart, both represent good value.

Philippe Coutinho (LIV – £9 million)

For a 21-year old, we’ve been following this player for what seems an eternity. After failing to reach his potential at Inter Milan however, the young Brazilian found his feet at Anfield last season. Regardless of whether Suarez stays at the Reds or whether Rodgers has to dabble in the transfer market, Aspas and Coutinho look set to flank on a 4-2-3-1 formation. Gerrard’s presence in a central midfield role and his monopoly on set pieces will render him a viable fantasy option once more, however Coutinho provides a more unique and goal-oriented option. Our only concern is his price which is identical to that of the proven Gerrard. With 3 goals and 7 assists in just 923 minutes last campaign and a relatively favorable draw to begin this season, Philippe is a terrific option for someone looking to secure a unique, attacking Liverpool player but can’t spare a spot in their forward line to invest in Aspas.

Don’t forget to check out Part II of our EPL Fantasy Midfielders analysis for the 2013/2014 season!

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On twitter @rombarbera. Australian sports by day, international sports by night. Co-founder of Blindside Sport. Fantasy sport addict.

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