Though Mo Salah dominates the best premium midfielders bracket in terms of current player ownership, the head honchos at FantasyBet have determined that there’s still enough competition to be worthy of an article.
Do you know what? I think they might be right. Salah’s popularity gives some once-template picks a fringe status. Though the likes of Sterling and Eriksen used to be mainstream, now they live in communes and refuse to pay council tax. For the FPL manager looking for a hipster premium choice, that’s rather exciting.
Luckily for me and my current workload, there are only 7 midfielders priced at £9.0m and above ahead of the 2019/20 season. Let’s take a look at all of them.
Who are the best premium midfielders for FPL 2019/20?
Christian Eriksen (£9.0m)
I feel a bit sorry for Christian Eriksen. After announcing he was ready for a “new challenge” with all the bombast of a player who clearly expected to be inundated with offers, Eriksen has received a total of zero. Now he must return to Tottenham’s pre-season training, tail nutmegging him whilst he’s at it.
If players’ futures competed, Eriksen’s would surely win the limbo contest. It’s ambiguous to say the least. But with murmurs of a move to Manchester United, let’s imagine he stays in the Premier League. What can he add to your FPL side?
Well, in the past 5 seasons, Eriksen has never scored less than 160 FPL points. So there’s that. The fact his 8 goals and 12 assists last season were a relatively modest tally should speak volumes about the potential of the Dane.
Eriksen actually overperformed his xG (5.66) and xA (7.88) by quite some margin last campaign too. A reflection of his quality? Or the foreshadowing of a drop in form? The jury is still out.
What we do know is that the Spurs playmaker is currently selected by less than 5% of FPL managers. If he stays there, he could be a fantastic differential at a reasonable price. That said, regardless of where he finds himself in August, he probably won’t be in my Gameweek 1 side.
Leroy Sane (£9.5m)
Much like Christian, there’s plenty of speculation about Leroy Sane’s future. The youngster endured a season fraught with rotation last campaign – a fact that FPL managers are all too aware of.
Whilst his potential is obvious, it’s hard to recommend Leroy for your FPL team. If we’re spending £9.5m on a midfielder, we need assurances that he will feature regularly. With Sane playing just 1857 minutes last season, we don’t have those assurances here.
But – there’s always a “but” – imagine, for a second, that he does nail down a spot. Let’s not forget that, despite his limited minutes, the winger still managed 10 goals and 12 assists last season. That kind of efficiency could see him reach stratospheric levels of FPL value if he can get more game time.
It’s a big caveat, and one that is insurmountable for me, at least for the time being. But if Sane stays at Man City and starts in Gameweek 1, watch his FPL ownership soar from the 3% it’s at now. If he gets more time on the pitch, he won’t be a differential for long.
Heung-min Son (£9.5m)
Son is suspended until 25th August. Do you remember that red card at the end of last season? It was the crescendo to a drop-off in form that saw him score just 1 goal in his last 11 appearances.
The Korean’s suspension, combined with a poor end to last season, will once again make him a differential. Just like last season and the season before that, FPL managers will forget about him until he starts scoring a brace every other match.
Speaking of the last few seasons, Son has racked up 12 goals and 8 assists in both. The season prior to those he managed 14 goals and 9 assists. That’s the consistency I look for in a premium midfielder.
Son is ridiculously fit, rarely injured and always involved. There is a growing consensus amongst Spurs fans that he needs to be treated more like a key player, regardless of his supposed impact on Harry Kane’s output. Keep an eye out for him when he returns from suspension.
Kevin De Bruyne (£9.5m)
In our mid-priced player’s special of the Fantasy Weekly podcast, Mark described Kevin De Bruyne as the most likely player to make a mockery of his price tag. It’s a bold statement. But when we consider why he’s so cheap, it might just be a correct statement too.
Kevin De Bruyne managed 209 points in the 17/18 season and 199 in the season before that. An injury-plagued 18/19 campaign yielded just 59 points from 968 minutes for the premium midfielder.
What’s important when looking at him as an FPL option for the 19/20 season is not the number of minutes he played last season, but how he used them. The Belgian tallied an xGA/90 of 0.62; the 4th highest in the league. The players in 1st, 2nd and 3rd played just 3, 18 and 56 minutes respectively, which speaks volumes about De Bruyne’s imperious consistency.
A lack of faith in the City midfielder has punished FPL managers for far too long. It’s about time that changed.
Sadio Mane (£11.5m)
Despite Mane’s 22 goals last season, it’s likely the Senegalese will be ignored by the majority of FPL managers this season. He is the younger brother; always excelling in his own right but still overshadowed by his older, slightly-more-impressive sibling.
The difference in price between Mane and Salah is just £1.0m this season; £2.5m less than last year’s gap. Add to that Senegal’s run in the African Cup of Nations and suddenly the extra expenditure for Mo Salah feels entirely justified.
But those that gamble on the diminutive premium midfielder are hardly taking a huge risk. Mane’s 236 points last season may look like an outlier at first glance, but he also played nearly 600 more minutes than he’s ever played in the Premier League. Indeed, with additional minutes factored in, his 18/19 total was about right.
It was his assist tally (3) that ultimately let him down. If he can step up his goal involvement, there’s no reason why Mane can’t compete with – or even eclipse – his Egyptian team mate.
Raheem Sterling (£12.0m)
Raheem Sterling is another lamb that may well face the sacrificial slab this season. A ridiculous 17 goals and 15 assists last campaign should be enough to secure him a starting berth in the vast majority of FPL squads, but alas, the entirely justified £12.0m price tag still feels a little too much for most.
Which, of course, it shouldn’t be. Sterling and Mane have a key attribute in common: the value of both is measured by a Salah-shaped ruler.
But in Sterling we have an improving premium midfielder nailed onto the best attack the Premier League has ever seen. If we can ignore the Salah comparisons, even for a second, we might just be looking at the future of FPL’s premium midfielders.
An additional advantage for Sterling is that he presents a great captaincy option – more so, perhaps, than the others we’ve discussed so far. His propensity for a haul is nearly unrivalled: indeed, the winger returned 5 double-digit hauls in his first 9 starts last season.
One thing is certain: FPL managers going without Sterling will be punished. Whether their alternatives can lessen the severity of that punishment remains to be seen.
Mohamed Salah (£12.5m)
The main man. The big kahuna. The Egyptian King, to his friends. And, lest we forget, the twice-consecutive highest FPL points scorer.
Somehow, despite being far from his best-before date, Salah has found himself in the reduced section this season. £12.5m feels like a bargain and, by all accounts, it is.
It feels almost folly to delve into Salah’s underlying stats when his actual-stats are so impressive, but for the sake of parity with the other premium midfielders I’ve mentioned, let’s do exactly that.
Salah is not FPL’s most expensive player by accident. His xG of 21.79 last season fell just 0.21 short of his actual goals total. It was the second highest in the league; just behind Aubamayang.
Remarkably, Salah also boasts last season’s 4th highest xA (10.47). These tallies earned him the highest combined xG+xA last campaign. Perhaps he’s not a 1-season wonder after all.
Salah’s greatest asset might be his guaranteed minutes. With 3274 accrued last season, he eclipses every other premium midfielder and forward for time spent on the pitch. The fact he’s on penalties too makes him hard to resist for the FPL manager who wants to keep pace at the start of the season.