FPL Value: The £8m Midfielder Question

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FPL Value: The £8m Midfielder Question

The midfield is often described as the engine room of a football team and for FPL managers, too, their selections of the players to fill those five slots is often the difference between a campaign that roars away from the start line and one that misfires and risks being left behind.

The highest scoring FPL assets are usually midfielders in recent seasons and in the introductory article to this season (https://jumpersforgoalposts.info/fpl-player-values-the-salah-standard/ ) we already covered the rivalry of the games two most currently prized assets, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min, and decided that, using only last season as the evidence base,  both of them would be worth the £13m price tag that has only been applied to the Liverpool winger.

In that introduction I set out how Salah in particular is the standard by which to measure the other players available in the game, and especially the midfielders who are competing with him for your pre-season budget. Here’s what the others are up against:

(“Jul 22 Price” refers to the starting price for the 22/23 season, NbGWs indicates the number of Gameweeks where a player registered an FPL score [Non-blank Gameweeks])

Both Son and Salah Hauled (10+) a double-figure Gameweek score about 10 times last season, a rate (H%) of just over 30% of Gameweeks played and and Returned (5+) a little more than 20 times at a rate (R%) around 70%. I decided to use Salah’s performance on 3 key statistics for last season and compare other midfielders against them to determine their FPL price for 2022/23. The three criteria were rate of Hauls (H%), rate of Returns (R%) and number of Gameweeks played (NbGWs). For each of the three criteria the formula is:

(Rate of midfielder’s performance / Salah’s benchmark performance) * 13.0

To reach the ‘True Price’ those three results are averaged and the result rounded to the nearest £0.5m. The list of players with a ‘True Price’ of £9.0m or higher is as follows:

The first indications appear here that the ‘True Price’ metric suggests that, in terms of statistical comparison to Mohamed Salah, many of FPLs leading midfielders are considerably underpriced.  Jarrod Bowen as an £11.0m asset initially seems startling, but statistically he outdid the elite pair in Gameweeks played, had one fewer double-digit haul than Salah and only lagged significantly on rate of Returns (5+ point Gameweeks). If 33 goal involvements is worth £12-13m then 29 of them is surely worth £11m? Even if Bowen’s numbers are a few percent less impressive this time around, £8.5m still looks a very good deal. Perhaps starting against a Manchester City team that just conceded three goals at Wembley isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.

The bigger problem with selecting Bowen might be the group of £0.5m cheaper options who are, on last season’s statistics at least, just as much of a bargain. The North London pair of Bukayo Saka and Dejan Kulusevski reach their True Prices of 10.5m in different ways. Saka’s performance is very similar to Bowen’s except for two fewer 10 pointers. Pro-rata, Kulusevski’s hauling potential is as good as his team-mate Son’s and his returning is only a shade behind, but his price is held back by the True Price metric because he only played half a season. That is clearly somewhat artificial as he only joined Tottenham in January, but it also reflects a discount for uncertainty. We don’t yet know if he can keep up that level or if he is truly established as a fixture in the side.

James Maddison is the same price as Saka in FPL, so the one step difference in True Price isn’t particularly significant, especially as he has just recommitted his future to Leicester. And then come to a group of players whose True Price is held back by having played in only 28 or 29 Gameweeks.Harvey Barnes could be as valuable as his Foxes team-mate if he received the same game time. 

Kevin De Bruyne would justify his asking price if he plays a whole season and Riyad Mahrez‘s value holds up surprisingly well largely thanks to his ability to hit a big score when he makes it off the bench. Mason Mount still looks to be a big part of Chelsea’s attacking plans despite the swirling situation all around him.

The next layer of True Prices also contains a lot of value along with a couple of players who need to prove their worth again in new circumstances. Raheem Sterling has now joined Mount at Chelsea while Bruno Fernandes is getting used to a new régime at Manchester United, but their FPL price of £10.0m reflects what we know they are capable of, even though they fell a fair way short of it last time out.

People keep saying the next season is the one where Phil Foden will arrive as a key Manchester CIty asset. It keeps not happening. I noted in a piece (https://jumpersforgoalposts.info/haul-marks-part-ii/) two years ago that Pep Guardiola appears to like most of his attackers outside one or two mainstays to receive about 2000 minutes per season with lots of interchanging. That’s the track that Foden still very much seems to be on. It’s hard to see why you’d spend £8.0m on him when you see what some of the players in the True Price bracket above are achieving.

Said Benrahma is Phil Foden with more appearances. Conor Gallagher could be somebody’s Phil Foden if he can get the game time. Leandro Trossard is apparently about to be an interesting experiment with Phil Foden as a wing back.

They’re not usually mentioned in the same breath, but statistically James Ward-Prowse and Bernardo Silva are essentially the same player for FPL purposes. JWP is £0.5m cheaper because he doesn’t play for the champions. Wilfried Zaha is a boom and bust version of Bernardo.

Luis Diaz is down here only because he played fewer than a thousand minutes. If he doubles his minutes that’s £9.5m value (think Mason Mount). If he trebles them he’s joining Jarrod Bowen at the top of the tier above. This does all assume the arrival of Darwin Nunez as a big chance magnet doesn’t turn the rest of the Anfield attack into the Mersey equivalent of Mahrez, Bernardo and Foden.

At the £7-7.5m True Price point the hauling level in particular drops off. Three 10+ pointers for the season is something which most attacking midfielders with a half-decent team around them can achieve more or less by accident. Jacob Ramsey managed four but also generated twenty-six blanks. His logical ceiling is Gallagher-ish, which isn’t bad, in fairness, for £5.5m. 

Glancing at the goal involvement situation in this table there’s a pretty clear centre of gravity around ten. Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Martinelli bagged 13 each, but missed a chunk of games. Many are going with Martinelli apparently because they believe it’s like having Saka only £2m cheaper. I beg to differ. Martinelli is yet to demonstrate he can consistently get more than two goal involvements in the same game and now he’s got Gabriel Jesus in his way and on a mission. Saka is already turning matches single-handedly and seems to enjoy having Jesus around. And (the currently injured) Emile Smith Rowe is the same price and finds the net more often.

All of the players on this final list have attracted a lot of FPL ownership or social media interest in recent days, typically because of reputation or pre-season exploits, but nothing about what they put on the board last season suggests that, apart from the quintet valued at £5.0m, you wouldn’t be better off buying somebody already mentioned for the same money.

However, one of the key attractions that brings so many managers back to FPL is the fun of trying to beat the spreadsheets and the established wisdom by taking a chance on someone who significantly outperforms their valuation, the type of asset who might be two or three tables up in this article next season.

I have to say I don’t think it will be Pedro Neto and I’m quite surprised so many people think that it will be. He didn’t play a whole game in the entire of last season and, although it’s great to see him firmly back on the first-team scene, he seems an unlikely candidate for big minutes. He also plays for Wolves who, though firmly established in the top flight, are going through a transition, have just lost their attacking spearhead for several weeks and are renowned more for their well managed odd-goal wins than heavy victories.

It’s not a bad rule of thumb to suggest that, if one of these players goes up a level, they might emulate a currently higher-achieving player at their club. Jack Grealish could easily do better than last season, but will he outperform Mahrez or Foden? Jadon Sancho has great talent, but will he galvanise his side in the way that Bruno Fernandes (True Price, £8.0m) often has. At £7.5m he needs to be compared with several £8.0m assets who are already producing the goods in established setups.

At £6.0m and below, Rodrigo could be interesting as a focal point at a still very attacking Leeds, Jesse Lingard will be given every chance to impress at Nottingham Forest, Leon Bailey might keep on nabbing a goal for Aston Villa and Antony Gordon or Dwight McNeil might just be the tonic that Everton need.

If you’re looking to take a chance on someboy with no Premier League form to speak of you could try exciting attacker Joe Ayodele-Aribo at Southampton who looked a real threat at Glasgow Rangers and scored a wonder goal at the weekend or the lively USA international Brenden Aaranson at Leeds who keeps popping up with pre-season assists of all shapes and sizes.

At £4.5m don’t overlook Romeo Lavia also at St Mary’s. The Saints didn’t pay Manchester CIty £10m for a defensive midfielder they don’t intend to be a first team squad member and he is already pushing hard for a place.

74550cookie-checkFPL Value: The £8m Midfielder Question
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