EPL Fantasy Midfielders Analysis – Part II

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

Make sure you don’t miss Part I of our Midfield Analysis, Part I of our Forwards Analysis, Part II of our Forwards AnalysisEPL Fantasy Goalkeepers or our EPL Fantasy Defenders analysis to see the premium midfielders and defenders you should be scouting for this upcoming season.

In Part I, we examined the premium midfielders we believed to represent terrific value, or were destined for a fall in production over the coming season.

In Part II, we’ll look at the ‘value’ midfielders; those who won’t hit the bank quite as hard yet still provide you with reliable scoring options.

In 2013/2014, the quality of midfielders is marginally inferior to that of previous seasons. As a result, we’re looking towards a 4-3-3 formation in fantasy this season. Whilst this means our previous article on premium midfielders is incredibly important as there are only 3 starting spots available, it also means you’ll need a minimum of 2 bargains. Finding the right bargain with the right match-ups in the right weeks can be difficult, and with the Premier League more competitive between teams 1-6 and 7-15 than ever before, identifying positive fixtures is more vital than ever.

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 analyzed for the upcoming season!

 

EPL Fantasy – ‘Value’ Defenders (£6.5 million – £4.5 million)                                    

Must Have’

Consider

Avoid

Matthew Jarvis Robbie Brady Stewart Downing
Robert Koren Wilfried Zaha Victor Wanyama
Matthew Etherington Aleksander Tonev Wes Hoolahan
Gaston Ramierez Robert Snodgrass Wayne Routledge
Moussa Sissoko Mousa Dembele Craig Bellamy

 

Matthew Jarvis (WHU – £5.5 million) and Matthew Etherington (EVE – £5.5 million)

When Jarvis moved from Wolves to West Ham, many expected his fantasy production to increase. Instead, despite seeing approximately the same playing time, his production dropped dramatically from an average of 6 goals and 7 assists per season to just 2 and 2 respectively.

West Ham’s midfield has remained largely unchanged from last season and with Andy Carroll signed in the transfer window, the Hammers finally appear to be mid-attempt in trying to build something positive. Another season back in the top flight and an incredibly favorable draw to begin the season (Cardiff, Southampton, Stoke, Hull all in the opening 6 weeks) means that alongside Kevin Nolan, Jarvis represents another (and slightly cheaper) fantasy option. His draw correlates perfectly with that of Hull, so Jarvis makes an ideal selection alongside players like Robert Koren and Robbie Brady. We also put him ahead of fellow team-mates Mark Noble and Joe Cole given what we’ve seen in recent seasons, however both are viable options if you’re looking to differentiate yourself. With just 1.5% of managers selecting Jarvis thus far compared to the 12.6% selecting Kevin Nolan, you’re already on the path to being unique without taking a punt on Cole.

Fellow Matthew, Etherington (selected by just 0.1% of managers) also witnessed a significant decline in production last season. Between 2009/2010 and 2011/2012, the former West Ham sensation netted 13 times in the EPL and registered an astounding 24 assists. Last season, after failing to score a goal, provide an assist or stay healthy, Etherington lost his previously guaranteed monopoly on Stoke’s wing. At 31, we could use age as an excuse but it is more likely that he just endured a poor season. Definitely a player to target but potentially not from the start of the campaign due to opening month fixtures agains Liverpool, City and Arsenal.

Moussa Dembele (TOT – £5.5 million)

Just in case there weren’t enough brilliant Belgian footballers in the Premier League, here is another. Dembele’s transition from Fulham sensation to role-player in AVB’s Tottenham was smoother than Clint Dempsey’s, and as a result, he still finds himself in the EPL whilst the American plies his trade in the MLS.

With AVB increasingly likely to implement a 4-3-3, Dembele looks likely to hold a defensive role behind Paulinho in midfield. For all of his talents, this position isn’t overly conducive to fantasy production and as such, we’ll be looking elsewhere. The bonus point system will ensure Demblele is still relevant, however won’t be enough to account for the fact that he scored just once and provided only 2 assists last campaign. Shown in his selection by just 4.8% of managers thus far, very few are placing their faith in the former Cottager.

Aleksander Tonev (ASV – £5 million)

A new arrival at Villa Park, Tonev looks to have a supporting role behind the recently re-signed Christian Benteke all stitched up. Despite being a natural winger and more of a goal-threat from distance, combining with the talented duo of Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor could provide him with some fantasy success. With two matches on the opening weekend, he could be worth a punt, even if those matches are against Arsenal and Chelsea. An unfavorable draw for the remainder of the opening month places him in our ‘consider’ column as opposed to the ‘target’ alternative. We recommend spending the extra £500,000 and pursuing either Etherington or Jarvis.

Wayne Routledge (SWA – £5.5 million)

When squads that haven’t been built for European competition make the Europa League, you generally see it adversely impact on Premier League campaigns. The year Fulham made the Europa final, they endured a horrendous season in the league and we’re not expecting any different from Swansea. With new additions coming in to bolster the squad’s depth, Swansea will rest their star winger frequently throughout the season or risk burning out the 28-year old. Already, 9.5% of managers have jumped on the Swan with a further 17.5% backing Michu to have another stellar season. We disagree with both selections given the likelihood of Swansea having an inferior showing in 2013/2014 than they did last campaign. With 5 goals and 7 assists last season (his first with a meaningful number of appearances), we don’t doubt the talent, we just doubt the team and it’s production this season.

Victor Wanyama (SOU – £5 million) and Wilfried Zaha (MUT – £6.5 million)

Twenty-two year old Kenyan Victor Wanyama doesn’t just make for a good story, he makes for a terrific footballer. Whilst many react to the news of his high-profile signing from Celtic, make sure you understand that he’ll play a defensive role this coming season. Already owned by 7.3% of managers compared to Ramirez at under 2%, Wanyama will sit in a defensive-midfield role in what is expected to be a 4-2-3-1 formation. Whilst cheap, there is no need to react to what is a terrific story with fantasy selection.

Continuing in the spirit of new talent, Manchester United, under David Moyes, will surely look to address the lack of production provided from the flanks last season. United’s greatest flaw in Ferguson’s last season was their inability to utilise Young, Nani and Valencia, three incredibly talented players, to their full potential. Two goals and 15 assists last season simply isn’t good enough when looking at Nani’s 2010/2011 which produced 9 goals and 18 assists individually!

So, enter Zaha, the former Crystal Palace sensation. Now mentored by Ryan Giggs, unbelievably talented and desperate to fight for his place in United’s XI, the under-21 International can’t be ruled out as early as some have predicted. Ronaldo’s return to United would almost certainly end speculation that he can start the season alongside RVP, however so long as the prodigal son doesn’t return, we think Zaha has a 40% chance of securing regular appearances and surpassing his assigned value.

Wes Hoolahan (NOR – £5.5 million) and Robert Snodgrass (NOR – £6.5 million)

When the Canaries entered the top flight, fantasy previews highlighted Hoolahan as their dominant scoring midfielder and alongside Grant Holt, constituted Norwich’s greatest prospect. Two years on and whilst Wes hasn’t necessarily been a flop, Norwich have become less dependent on him and the development of Snodgrass has rendered him peripheral to a certain extent.

Playing as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 at the start of the season, Hoolahan’s lack of production forced a transition to a 4-4-2 in which he played as a secondary striker. Still unable to be the catalyst for Norwich’s success, Hoolahan is poised to see fewer minutes in the coming season as the Canaries look to the transfer market in an attempt to ward of relegation once more.

Another near-certainty, is that Robert Snodgrass (selected in 15.8% of teams) will not have a season like he did in 2012/2013. The departure of Grant Holt and subsequent signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel (a fantasy prospect on his own with the name to boot) will harm his prospects slightly given the former’s tendency to score from assists and the latter’s ability to create his own chances. Even then however, Norwich’s new striker can be relied on for no more than 17 goals this season, leaving what is generally a prolific midfield a fair bit of slack to pick up.

As one of the more expensive options not only in Norwich’s team, but in a recently promoted side, Snodgrass’s spot on the right flank and potential to score from distance will be outweighed by Koren, Jarvis and Etherington, three moderately superior options in the same price bracket.

Craig Bellamy (CAR – £5.5 million) and Moussa Sissoko (NEW – £6 million)

Another name that managers may select purely based on reputation, yes Craig Bellamy was a good player but is no longer a viable fantasy prospect. Cardiff have been long-renowned as an attacking force and despite Bellamy being likely to occupy a role in behind two strikers or on his preferred wing, the jump to the Premier League will probably prove too much for many of Cardiff’s ‘role players’ to be viable, especially the erratic and injury-prone ones. With just 4 of Cardiff’s 72 goals in 33 league appearances last season, the 34-year old just seems past it.

A more interesting prospect is that of Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko. A moderate 2012/2013 has his designated role in limbo, however if deployed behind a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, he could prove a fantasy revelation. Our attention is particularly strong because of Newcastle’s favorable draw to open the new campaign. Aside from Sissoko, Newcastle’s midfield appear too expensive to justify what is essentially a large number of moderately relevant players. Owned by just 1.8% of managers, he presents another unique option in midfield.

Stewart Downing (LIV – £6 million)

The epitome of poor. Despite playing a blinder in Liverpool’s opening game last season, Downing became the face of everything that went wrong at Anfield. Despite showing improvement following the Christmas break, the winger who was touted as one of the best in his position for what seems like forever was essentially smothered in the transfer window. Not only did Philippe Coutinho arrive, but the signing of Iago Aspas, predicted holding of Suarez, fitness of Steven Gerrard and Rodger’s understandable desire to remove himself from the failings of last season will render the former prodigy a bench-warmer this season. Finally, we don’t have to worry about Downing not producing, because he won’t have the chance to.

Gaston Ramirez (SOU – £6 million)

When a player fails to live up to expectations, you must evaluate whether it was a one-off or they just simply aren’t as good as everyone expected. Ramirez falls into the former category, with Southampton’s attacking-midfielder just too good to have a repeat of his 2012/2013 efforts. We prioritize the Uruguayan slightly ahead of team-mate Lallana but seeing as both will play advanced roles in a 4-2-3-1, neither is necessarily a poor option. We’d expect his return of 5 goals and 4 assists to nearly double this coming campaign with 9 goals and 7 assists far from the realm of possibility. A favorable schedule also boosts his value.

Robbie Brady (HUL – £5 million) and Robert Koren (HUL – £5 million)

Hull’s return to the Premier League provides us with several enticing fantasy options. Without a doubt, Robert Koren is the cream of the crop and should find himself in a vast majority of fantasy teams this season. For now, just 1% of managers have jumped on him, meaning that arguably the most fantasy relevant midfielder in a promoted team is still incredibly unique. With 9 goals and 5 assists last season, Koren will sit just behind the Tiger’s strikers and should add to his production with a monopoly on set pieces.

Robbie Brady is a slightly more left-field option and holds terrific potential in other fantasy competitions which have elevated Koren’s price-tag, but not that of his team-mates. Four goals and 13 assists last campaign from a player who is extremely young and still developing is an incredibly promising sign. With Hull scoring just 61 goals last season in the Championship, we’d expect them to score only 20 or so fewer (compared to Cardiff who scored 72 and Palace who scored 73 who should see a greater decline in numbers). The contributions of Brady (28% of Hull’s goals) surpasses Koren (23%) comfortably, and if this involvement is maintained, Brady can expect approximately 3 goals and 8 assists this coming season.

Fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City in the opening month are their only incredibly unfavorable matches so Hull’s draw correlates well with West Ham, Sunderland and Everton (all 3 have easy fixtures in weeks 1 and 3).

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.

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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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