Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Midfielders

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It’s time to preview the midfielders in Fantasy Premier League. This will basically be the area where your leagues are won and lost, as most of the big hitters are here and your captain choices will often come from this group. The big change this season of course is the absence of a certain Portuguese winger. No, not Boa Morte or Nani (though the former is injured till Christmas) but Cristiano Ronaldo who has been the backbone of the majority of teams over the last three seasons. His goalscoring feats were a bit ridiculous, not least in 2007/08 when you had the fear every week if you were foolish enough not to pick him as captain. He’d usually make you pay with twelve to sixteen points which were then doubled as captain. Good times.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

Someone else will have to be captain now.

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On a side note the Football Guy and I were debating recently about whether Thierry Henry would have got more points fantasy wise when at his peak for Arsenal. I think we reached the conclusion that C-Ron would have beaten him just due to his goals being worth more as a midfielder. Ronaldo got 283 points in 07/08 if I recall – 31 goals, a bunch of assists and somewhere in the region of 40 bonus. In his best overall season in 2002/03 (he scored more the following year but assisted less) Henry scored 24 goals (=96pts), assisted 23 (69pts), played 37 (74pts) and probably would have a bonus figure in the thirties. This would leave him at around 270. Pretty impressive all told but we can only speculate at FPL didn’t exist then. Anyway, I digress somewhat, we’re trying to find the new Ronaldo after all.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

A booking for taking his shirt off. That's minus one point.

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Expensive (£9m-£12.5m)

The three most expensive midfielders this season are Gerrard, Lampard (both £12.5m) and Arshavin (£11m). I would advise to get at least two of those three in your team. They’re all dead certs for more than 200 points and will be the main creative outlets at their respective clubs. It looks like Lampard will play in an advanced role behind the front two at Chelsea so I reckon he could push to 15 league goals as well as his usual ten assists. Gerrard is Gerrard, double figures in goals and thirty five bonus points every year. He only played 30 games last season so with a fill campaign could possibly reach around 240 points.

I’m put off Fabregas a little bit after his truncated season last year but at £10.5m he should bounce back nicely. It will be interesting to see how the assists are shared between him and Arshavin but I expect Cesc to still get around 180 points if not more. If nothing else, the man is a bonus point machine. Arsenal’s start is quite tough so perhaps look elsewhere initially and bring one of those two in after a few weeks.

A big season coming up.

A big season coming up.

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I do wonder if Dirk Kuyt can repeat his career year of 08/09 this time round. Only Carragher played more outfield minutes for Liverpool last season and the Dutchman weighed in with twelve goals and lots of clean sheet points in his new classification of midfielder. He will play a big part in Liverpool’s title bid but the signing of Glen Johnson is designed to provide width going forward which may impact on his assist total.

I don’t understand why Joe Cole is at £9m. Yes he’s good when he plays but that’s the problem, he never does. He does seem to bounce back in alternate years so he’s due a good season but he also has competition from Zhirkov and Malouda. Steer clear I’d say. Stephen Ireland at £9m is another debatable choice. Man City’s best player last season with nine goals, ten assists and 16 bonus, he faces a tougher time this season with all the players they have bought. By that I mean that whilst City will be better, they won’t be relying on him as much hence the goals and assists are likely to be more spread out with Barry, Tevez and Adebayor all after a share of the spoils.

If only they gave points for being injured...

If only they gave points for being injured...

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Mid-range (£6m-£8.5m)

One or two of these guys to supplement the big hitters, and you’re looking at a very nice midfield. The choice is very wide here with lots of players who have the potential to hit 180+ is they have a good year. First and foremost I’d be looking at Ashley Young at £8.5m. It’s weird to think I was disappointed with his 153 points last year but expectations were high after a stellar 07/08. He is the hub of all creativity at Villa and arguably the best crosser in the Premier League. I expect closer to the 17 assists he two seasons ago and perhaps finally double figures in goals too. Next up you’ve got the two Everton guys, Cahill and Arteta. You have a choice here between goals or assists but both will score well and represent good value at £8.5m.

The main man at Villa.

The main man at Villa.

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I don’t expect too much from Valencia (£8.5m) but then none of United’s midfielders look particularly appealing this season. There’s a bunch of players at £7.5-8m whose price is based on reputation and they aren’t worth getting. In this I include Ballack, Deco (both past it), Kalou, Walcott, Wright Phillips, Elano (not consistent/guaranteed starters), Nasri and Downing (both injured). Barry will be good at Man City and may well take the occasional penalty while I think Modric may have a big season at Spurs. Certainly a better one than Lennon.

Essien is the only defensive midfielder worth having in my opinion due to his bonus point skills but it takes a rich man to spend £7.5m on him. Of the £7m men I think Rosicky could be an interesting gamble if he stays fit (big if) while Fellaini seemed to cut the yellows towards the end of the season whilst scoring an excellent eight goals. Matt Taylor at Bolton loves to score and will assist plenty too and I shall be keeping an eye on Kranjcar as he’s now the one good player at Pompey. Bentley, Riera, Babel, Nani? Meh. Milner is becoming a big player for Villa and is a good secondary option to Young while Petrov will create, but sadly just won’t play much in the new look City side.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

Faces a lone battle to keep Hull up.

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At £6.5m I’d go for Murphy or Dempsey, both consistent Fulham midfielders who will assist and score respectively. Gamst Pederson has been getting worse each year but I don’t see where else Blackburn’s creativity will come from. Oh wait Fat Sam is in charge so it doesn’t apply. Geovanni is the only player of interest to me at £6m. Oh and maybe Richardson or Malbranque at Sunderland.

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Cheap (£4.5m-£5.5m)

This is an area where you forget about players you know and start working out who got most assists for the likes of Wolves and Burnley last year. Stoke midfielders are still pretty cheap. Delap and his power throw can still be had for £5.5m. A few West Ham players at that price too but I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t know who to pick. N’Zogbia should get forward for Wigan while Kightly was Wolves’ provider last year in the Championship and could make the step up. Belhadj is now a midfielder at £5m – he did well for Pompey last season.

Likes assists. Apparently.

Likes assists. Apparently.

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Seb Larsson was a bit of a legend two seasons ago and is still just as cheap at £5m. Moving down to £4.5m you want to find someone who plays every week first and foremost. McSheffrey, Gudjonsson, Muamba, Etuhu and McCann aren’t going to get you much each week, but as they’re relevant only a few times a season it shouldn’t matter.

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T.

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