The Midfield Watchlist – Gameweek 3 International Break

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the watchlist

Continuing the new format @liambednarski reviews those who returned points in GW3 in the hope of uncovering an early bandwagon.

The Watchlist – Star Midfielders –

Alexis Sanchez (11) there is much debate surrounding the selection of Sanchez or Ozil after the two week departure of Sergio Aguero.

Why not have both?

With enticing fixtures ahead investment in one of the two is likely to be extremely beneficial over the coming weeks. The benefit to Aguero suspension is that funds can be used elsewhere in new and unique ways without the risk of Aguero bagging a hat trick.

Think about how you can maximise your team in the absence of Aguero but also how you can make a two trade jump back to the Argentine.

Eden Hazard (10.2) is becoming a one man wreaking ball with a superb goal in GW3. Has returned to his brilliant best with sharp movement and inspired finishing. Is extreme value in his current form with penalties to win over any doubters. Buy.

Riyad Mahrez (9.5) from this weeks wildcard piece:

‘I’ve had a review of Riyad Mahrez and his statistics are down on last season which is understandable. He had a truly amazing season and is unlikely to match those heights.

If he is removed from penalty duties I seriously doubt his ability to match the asking price of 9.5 that said he is still a fine, fine player.

We are looking for the best value in FPL not the best performers of last season. Don’t overvalue last season over the current form of the player.

With all that said the transfer window threw his international team mate and proflic goalscorer Slimani (8.5) Leicester’s way. How he fits in for the Foxes will prove interesting. His effect on Mahrez is at this stage is unknown.’

The WatchlistBreakout Midfielders

Raheem Sterling (8.2) having had time to look deeper into Manchester City’s attack the results look encouraging for all involved. Whether Sterling continues to be the leading light is questionable. He is the best value asset and is enjoying a return to form so enjoy the bandwagon people. Buy.

The Watchlist – Breakouts Uncertain

Southampton has largely complicated matters with Tadic (7.4), Rodriguez (6.4), Redmond (6.1) and Sofiane Boufal (7.0) all tempting us as budget options. Whilst Oriol Romeu (4.5) and Hojbjerg (4.5) prop up the budget bracket.

Steer clear of Southampton until the waters begin to clear on their team selection. Such potential yet so little known about positions in the team in the short, medium and long term.

Everton are also creating headaches with Barkley (7.7), Mirallas (6.6). Bolasie (6.0) and Deulofeu (6.4) all having the potential to break out.

With favourable fixtures investment is suggested although bypassing the midfield entirely could be the best option (Baines (5.5), Lukaku (9.0) instead)

Mirallas (6.6) is the recommendation here after digging into the highlights his goal threat looks enticing. He is an impressive player when fit and boy he looks sharp at the moment. Strong Monitor.

The Watchlist – Past Performers –

Nacer Chadli (6.4) has made the move to West Bromwich Albion the wide man has been freed from the Tottenham bench only to enter the evil clutches of Tony Pulis. The results main a mystery. Strong Monitor.

Jack Wilshere (5.9) nothing to see here with an ankle made of glass and numerous other knocks his chances of staying fit are extremely low. Add to that his less then impressive attacking returns over his career and you have a very irrelevant FPL pick. Avoid yet be willing to change your opinion if he stays fit for a moderate period of time.

Yohan Cabaye (5.9) is entering a strange part of fantasy land with the arrival of Benteke and Remy potentially changing his role in the side. Keep an eye on him, only one though not two. Light Monitor.

The Watchlist – Budget Midfielders

Etienne Capoue (4.7) excited by his positioning in a 3-5-2 he is likely to be the standout option in this bracket this season, early call I know. Buy.

Shaun Maloney (4.5) I thought I was hearing things as Hull City opened the cheque book late in the window. Apparently the major decision maker at the club had been quite ill for sometime hence the disorganization at the club.

Alas the impact on Mr Maloney means he now faces competition for places at the KCOM Stadium. Monitor.


Henrikh Mkhitaryan (9.2) the invisible man should be his new name having picked up a knock on international duty. He is likely to miss the Manchester Derby.

An extremely slow start for the attacking midfield it will be a test of his character to see him battle his way into the United lineup and FPL contention.

As always discussion is encouraged below and please leave a question if anyone you are interested in has not been covered. ‘The Watchlist’ on strikers will be up tomorrow.

15 comments on “The Midfield Watchlist – Gameweek 3 International Break

  1. nalhcal99

    chuck a strong monitor on Antonio? last couple games as previously said on RW. scored in both, worth 7m surely?

    • Liam Post Author

      Yes your spot on.

      With his role uncertain I had been avoiding writing about him.

      With the signing of Arbeloa he will most likely play right midfielder from now on and is a great prospect to consider.

      Strong Monitor it is.

      • nalhcal99

        Do you reckon against Watford as well, Antonio is too much of a risk to bring in (Wildcard active) or is there someone a similar price.

        the other option i was thinking would be
        Benteke -> Stuani/Diomande
        Antonio -> 10m Mid (Hazard and Ozil already got)
        Then Capoue off the bench and put the 3rd striker on bench

        • Liam Post Author

          With the return of Feghouli I am unsure on his security as a 90 minute performer in the right midfield role.

          He is a good player but they bought a number of talents to boost the squad in wide areas.

          His in good form so yes you should consider him but on a wildcard I would take my risks elsewhere. Thats my opinion though.

          Given the poor form of West Ham recently too. They need time to settle with the new signings / players returning from injury I am not expecting an easy victory this weekend from the Hammers.

          I advice to give Benteke a go over those strikers.

          Not sure who else is in the 10m+ midfield category. Their are other options at 9.5.

          From what I can tell your current wildcard team looks more appropriate moving ahead.

  2. The Swan and Paedo

    I’m really starting to lean towards Payet over Ozil. Looking at the stats from last year it seems Ozil benefited a lot from Cazorla being out and also didn’t do as well when Sanchez was in the team. Overall I think the 3 of them will kind of cancel each other out a bit, meaning that none of them will be value for money. And of course add Perez, Giroud and Walcott into the mix and there is a lot of serious players sharing points. Payet meanwhile is clearly the main man for West Ham.

    I did some analysis of Payet last season and Ozil in the season before (when Cazorla was playing each week) and the stats lean toward Payet being a better pick. More set pieces, more goals, more assists. This was based on average per appearance.

    There is also the factor of CL rotation which only affects Ozil with West Ham now out of the dreaded Europa league. In terms of injury risk and fixtures, both players seem about even.

    • Liam Post Author

      Thanks for conducting a depth of research and bringing it to the site greatly appreciated.

      Its extremely difficult to analyse the differences between certain players when there were multiple different changes to a side (not just the players in question).

      Also different opponents and well it all becomes a serious of small sample sizes.

      I too have read some research on how the effectiveness towards FPL changes with different players in the side at Arsenal.

      It is all a bit grey with Arsenal having so many options.

      From the data that is currently available Arsenal consistently underachieve on expected goals (ExG) although this metric doesn’t effectively weight shot ‘pressure’ just location and likelihood of scoring based on previous data.

      Arsenal get a lot of good opportunities on paper in the way it is currently evaluated and were massively underachievers last season.

      Ozil still got a monstrous amount of assists. Imagine if they had of converted at the expected rate?

      The big question is the ExG an accurate measure? If so I would side with Ozil investment in a more accurate Arsenal team.

      With all the upgrades to the side surely they can improve on their goal conversion this season.

      Ozil is firmly in my thinking given the large amount of upgrades to the side I see his position as being the least in doubt as the central hub of the attack. I just wish he was a better shot…

      Payet was excellent yet West Ham have made a lot of signings and I am unsure about the balance of the side and if Zaza is going to combine well with him. Add to that his current fitness levels and his a little risky of an investment right now.

      He is a superb player but it remains to be seen if his effectiveness from free kicks can be maintained. His dead ball skills were truely remarkable last season and greatly boosted his goal and assist numbers.

      These may not be as repeatable as assists from open play (Ozil).

      That last point is extremely debatable my intuition is leaning towards this as an appropriate answer because conversions from corners especially are fairly random, free kicks less so.

      It almost boils down to the point of how much of an outlier is Payet? Is he one of the best free kick takers going around? Or did he just have a superb run like Yaya Toure or Snodgrass a few years ago.

      Some thoughts to ponder there.

      It is a tough decision, I hope some of this information helps you are at least gives you a different angle to ponder moving forward.

      • EmGee

        This is great discussion as always lads. Another factor to consider with Payet is that several of his early goals in particular last year came via a “fortunate” tap in from within 6 yards or so. I recall a brace he scored early on when he didn’t have much impact on the game but took his two straightforward opportunities and buried them. Then did it again a few weeks later despite his shooting stats being relatively subdued.

        It certainly holds true you have to be in the right place to score them so it might be a bit of a long bow to draw but I feel like all things considered, his output will go close to last year (but perhaps not more) which makes him a little less value than Ozil who should, on paper anyway, have a better attacking unit around him this year.

        I don’t think you can go wrong with either over the course of the season but at the current time, with the fitness doubts over Payet factored in, it seems Ozil would be the safer option currently. I feel like it won’t take Payet long to challenge this statement though especially with the West Ham upcoming run of fixtures

        • Liam Post Author

          Good points EmGee thanks for joining in with the discussion.

          Payet’s goal output was slightly higher then his Marseille season I believe but he accumulated more assists in the final year in France.

          He basically ended up being everything I hoped he would be plus more, he had a career best season last year but for that ankle injury he would have been right up there for season best honours.

          Its a new season and I agree with you EmGee, Ozil is slightly ahead. Only slightly.

          • The Swan and Paedo

            Cheers guys, great discussion. I have no idea, might just drop both and get Mane…!

            Liam, would be very grateful if you covered Bony, Defoe and Rondon in your forwards article.

  3. George

    I’m slightly against using my wildcard this gameweek as the season is so young, meaning there is not a large enough spectrum of data to go by for players this season. However, if i was to use it whilst trading out Aguero what are you thoughts on this team?:

    Foster (Jakupovic)
    Shaw, Baines, Walker (Koscielny, Amat)
    Hazard, Sterling, Antonio, Cazorla (Capoue)
    Ibra, Lukaku, Negredo

    My trades would be:
    Aguero –> Lukaku
    Firmino –> Sterling
    Redmond –> Cazorla
    Feghouli –> Antonio
    Ramirez –> Capoue
    Stones –> Walker
    Friend –> Koscielny

    If i am to sell Aguero the best option available in my eyes is Lukaku. This then gives me money to ‘upgrade’ other players.

    I like to have good defensive rotation, so rotating Shaw, Baines, Walker and Koscielny would work well, especially with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham having some good fixtures coming up and Arsenal and Tottenham always loving a clean sheet. Not keen on having a West Brom defender in the team as Foster is my keeper and i’m always hesitant to have more than one player from the same team in the defensive half of my squad.

    Then as you can probably tell, i’m hesistant to use the wildcard purely on the fact that Firmino can go bang and be a better option than Sterling in the blink of an eye. Especially in a few gameweeks time when Liverpools fixtures open up.

    Redmond is still playing striker and his gaffer loves him there, so I am still expecting the goals to come. But Cazorla is on pens, takes free kicks and corners and loves roaming around providing assists with Ozil so he could be a great ‘cheaper’ option from Arsenal if i get rid of Redmond.

    Feghouli is yet to debut for West Ham in the EPL due to his slight hamstring injury picked up in Europa League qualifications as the season begun. He scored a few goals in the pre-season and is a great attacking player. He is expected to be back this gameweek and may even start which means he could still deliver me the goods. So it is still uncertain whether the more expensive Antonio will be a better choice with the great fixtures they have coming.

    So there you go. Your opinion on my ideas would be great.
    Otherwise, i’m leaning towards not using my wildcard and just selling Aguero to Lukaku this gameweek as i’m ranked pretty well overall. Then in maybe 3-5 gameweeks time depending on how well Redmond, Firmino, Feghouli, Ramirez etc go i might then need to pull the trigger and use my wildcard. I’m not too fussed about the potential price increases and decreases as it has never affected me before because when I strategically tinker with my team I always manage to get the overall team I want with my wildcard.


    • Liam Post Author

      Deadline Day was a real killer blow to the use of an Early Wildcard for me personally with so much movement.

      Especially with Gray not being suspended yet. I probably could have got away with holding onto it.

      Oh well I will make the best of the situation and have been doing so.

      With a good ranking and a steady plan to trade out Aguero I am on your side here probably best not to wildcard.

      I am not a massive subscriber to the four at the back idea outlined in the wildcard.

      Aguero –> Lukaku – Good move, you plan to do it anyway which is ideal (Benteke or Bony?)
      Firmino –> Sterling – Firmino should play striker so too Sterling, valid to hold or trade (gut call)
      Redmond –> Cazorla – Keep Redmond, Boufal is injured currently should still play striker
      Feghouli –> Antonio – Feghouli should debut this weekend as you suggested
      Ramirez –> Capoue – Ramirez well Boro are blunt in attack, is a good move to free up funds
      Stones –> Walker – Again valid to hold or trade (gut call)
      Friend –> Koscielny – Friend should be back, fine to hold they look good defensively.

      I like your overall strategy my only advice would be to not consider data too strongly as football analytics is in the early stages and can not always be trusted.

      A mix of data and what you see with your eyes is important to remember.

      Additionally ownership bias is something to be wary of you don’t want to hold players too long that are not performing even though the data says otherwise (unless you plan on holding them long term).

      Players can experience variance, it can be extremely frustrating to own someone like Mane last season who I knew would finish with a good overall score but was in my team for about 10 consecutive blanks.

      I knew his explosive ability but I also wanted his overall points tally.

      There is a delicate balancing act between it all, some of it can be read, most of it is random and there is no defined patterns. Although we like to convince ourselves there is patterns.

      Football is random and can be highly unpredictable at an individual level, there is quite a bit of luck involved in FPL more so then football itself which is quite crazy.

      I have never been able to establish a sound reasoning for ‘hot streaks’ of form although I have invested in players because I honestly believed they were ‘on fire’ the statistical world I am involved in label this as variance.

      I still think players can just click and go on good or bad runs of form when everything lines up.

      Sometimes this is three matches, sometimes six matches if everything goes right it can be a whole season.

      I always like to bring up the golden boot winner from the 1999-2000 season. Kevin Phillips never again reached the supreme level of that season.

      What factors lead to such a superb run would be great to know. The Leicester story gave us some insight last season but it largely remains unknown and unpredictable moving forward.

      • george021

        Thanks mate! I agree with everything you’ve said and will take it all into consideration. I appreciate your insight and way of playing fpl. I think i will hold onto my wildcard for a little bit longer and see where it takes me haha.

        • EmGee

          George here’s my two cents worth mate. Just one bloke’s opinion but I am actually in a similar boat and have resisted the wildcard opportunity this week and here’s why.

          Firstly, amongst other reasons I just feel like if you / we were going to play it this week well that ship’s kind of sailed now in terms of team value because most price rises have already taken place. I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to these things. Sure the attraction is that you could still grab all the guys you want and rejig the line up which is mighty tempting especially when everyone else’s teams are getting a revamp. My argument against now though is that it’s likely costing you 0.2-0.3 extra to get a very similar lineup that most wildcarders already have. Also we’re at week 3 of 18 weeks in the lead up to the second wildcard so holding might not be the worst decision. There’s plenty of football to come.

          Here’s the other part I factor in and that’s possibly playing the wildcard when Aguero returns. This will give you more of an advantage on the pack than right now as most coaches will be scrambling to get him in against Swansea (and likely taking a points hit too) unless they have made an allowance to bring him back in and everything between now and then goes perfectly to plan (or they opt to proceed without him until the new year). So I see it as a nice differential.

          The fantasy landscape can change considerably in a fortnight and if Payet for example comes out and is at his dominating best then there will be another mass shift in the market and you’ll be in the prime position. It’s always a risk to do something different but if it pays off the rankings movement will be substantial. Keep in mind the reverse also applies though.

          My final point relates to Feghouli. You picked him for a reason and if you have held him for this long I reckon you might as well hold him and see what he offers this weekend before you look to offload him. If he does well, and given the fixtures, he may be a nice POD. You’ll be kicking yourself if you’re thinking about getting him back in in another three or four weeks.

          Just some extra things to consider as well. Not saying the right call is to hold the wildcard but hopefully some food for thought

          • george021

            Thanks for your thoughts mate. I see where you are coming from and I have been thinking along the same lines now. I will definitely hold off on the wildcard. I’ll back in my selections and if need be once Aguero comes back I can activate the wildcard and make the necessary changes.

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