The midfield group contains an interesting mix of pure goal scorers, playmakers and workmen. Even though you’ll recognize a lot of the names of the workmen of the group, many of them are irrelevant from a fantasy point of view because they don’t supply the passes that unlock the defence or score the goals very often. The playmakers are where the fantasy goldmine is because they can provide goals and assists meaning you get more consistent performances from them. The pure goal scorers are handy fantasy options because they can give your team a real boost, but they’re also highly inconsistent from week to week so you don’t want to be stacking your midfield with goal scorers as it will leave you open to low scores from a crucial position on the field.
For the top six tiers I will explain my thinking for all the players, but beyond that I will just pick out the odd player I feel needs explaining why he’s ranked as high – or low – as he is.
Elite: Hazard (Chelsea), Sanchez (Arsenal), Yaya Touré (Man City)
Hazard was a constant threat last year and had Chelsea had a better group of finishers in the middle, he could easily have had another 10-plus assists and probably a couple more goals as well. With Costa in the middle and Fabregas around him I expect Hazard to have top 3 year.
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Toure had a year for the ages last season and I expect him to be top notch again. A 20 goal repeat might be a stretch, but 15-plus goals should be easily possible and a top five year feels like his floor if he’s healthy all year.
Sanchez is the new kid on the block and for many people that will worry them because not everyone transitions to the English game easily. Sanchez may start slow but I expect him to provide both goals and assists galore as the season goes on, and finish high in the rankings.
Near Elite: Ramsey (Arsenal), Sterling (Liverpool), Özil (Arsenal), Mata (Man United), Fabregas (Chelsea), Nasri (Man City), Silva (Man City), Gerrard (Liverpool)
The Arsenal pairing of Ramsey and Özil were two very exciting players for fantasy as long as they were on the field, but unfortunately injuries hampered them last season. For that reason they’re a tier below the other guys, but they don’t drop any further. Because, even with injuries they’ll be so good when they do play, that they can be replaced with backups if injured and will amass a good combined total with the replacement level players.
The Man City pair of Silva and Nasri fall into this tier because they’re overshadowed slightly by Touré. Whilst Toure is ever-present, these guys sometimes go unnoticed in games and are rotated out more than the elite guys.
The Liverpool pair cannot be explained in the same sentence. Gerrard has slipped slowly deeper in this Liverpool team but he can pick good enough passes that he should still provide assists. And the fact that he’s the free kick and penalty taker should provide him with a decent goal return as well. Sterling had a breakout season last year and should be given more trust by Brendan Rogers this year, allowing him the freedom to run at defenders-leading to assists and goals for the young winger.
Fabregas looks likely to be the man to start the season in the number 10 spot behind the loan striker and it’s a position he has had success in in the past. Surrounded by the talent Chelsea have he should be in a good position to put up plenty of assists to go along with the occasional goal as well. I expect him to be the main free kick taker after the departure of Lampard.
Mata had a mixed second half of the season last year, but when he did settle he was one of United’s better players. I expect him to be one of the midfield three this year in LVG’s system. He likely will be joined by more defensive minded players, which means he will be the roaming midfielder who should get plenty of assists and shots on goal.
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Potentially Elite: Barkley (Everton), Lallana (Liverpool), Mirallas (Everton), Oscar (Chelsea), Eriksen (Tottenham), Walcott (Arsenal)
Barkley flashed brilliance last year and will be looking to build on it this year, but may still be a year or two away from elite production.
Lallana will start the season injured and won’t be the main man like he was last year for Southampton, bringing his fantasy value down a notch.
Mirallas will prosper from having his countryman (Lukaku) upfront taking most of the defence’s attention away from him, allowing him the freedom to run at defenders.
Oscar is likely to be competing with Fabregas for the number 10 job, but in the event he doesn’t get it I think Mourinho will utilize him regardless. Perhaps similar to how Brazil used in the World Cup by putting him out on the right, or by putting him in the defensive position next to Matic. Wherever he plays, he’s sure to be a productive fantasy player.
Eriksen flashed brilliance last year and is the man Tottenham must build around this year. He’s quality player who could easily score double digit goals and assists.
Walcott is another man who will start the season injured but when he returns he could really benefit from having Sanchez on the opposite side, and the pace Arsenal will play at this year will suit his style.
Number Two Starters: Coutinho (Liverpool), Henderson (Liverpool), Schurrle (Chelsea), Cazorla (Arsenal), Johnson (Sunderland), Lamela (Tottenham)
Coutinho will get the chance to impress in Lallana’s absence early on and I expect him to be profitable all season for your fantasy teams. Henderson will play as more deep lying midfielder but should see plenty of assists.
Schurrle had a great World cup off the bench and that’s how I expect Mourinho to use him in a similar style to a similar success.
Cazorla feels like the forgotten man in the Arsenal midfield, but with them fighting on four fronts he should see plenty of opportunities.
Johnson had a quietly wonderful fantasy season this year and Poyet’s style of football suits him, so he should get plenty of assists and a few goals.
Lamela had an awful year but Pochettino has raved about him already this preseason and he came to England with a great reputation. He’s a slight gamble because of his history of injuries, but a healthy season from him could pay off for your team in a big way.
Number Three Starters: De Jong (Newcastle), Sigurdsson (Swansea), Willian (Chelsea), Nolan (West Ham), Arnautovic (Stoke), Puncheon (Crystal Palace), Cabella (Newcastle), Herrera (Man United)
De Jong will be the most forward going of the Newcastle midfielders and can also play upfront if necessary, meaning that he should provide plenty of fantasy scoring opportunities.
Cabella can play anywhere across the attacking midfield three and is a threat for double digit goals.
Sigurdsson is returning to the club he had so much success for a few years back, and should be given the freedom that will allow him to score 10-plus goals and provide a decent number of assists.
Willian can play anywhere in the Chelsea midfield and his ability to score a stunner means he will provide plenty of fantasy points, but they may be a little more inconsistent than the others in this tier.
Nolan is a great finisher and is also the penalty taker for the Hammers, meaning he can provide relatively cheap goals for your fantasy team. He can also provide the odd assist as well.
Arnautovic had good spells last year and I expect him to build on that this year in what is fast becoming a new look Stoke. He could be on for a big breakout.
Puncheon scored a few goals last year and Palace are going to need him to do it again if they are to survive season number two in the Premier League.
Herrera is a more defensive-minded player, but in LvG’s formation he can still provide the odd goal and should provide plenty of assists, making him the most fantasy relevant deep-lying midfielder.
Flex Options: Shelvey (Swansea), Sidwell (Stoke), Snodgrass (Hull), Salah (Chelsea), Tadic (Southampton), Gouffran (Newcastle), Livermore (Hull), Noble (West Ham), Navas (Man City), Drinkwater (Leicester), Ox-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Shelvey, Livermore, Drinkwater, Noble, Gouffran, Tadic and Sidwell will play the solid midfield role for their teams and will certainly provide some assists, but they also make late runs and take long-range shots, meaning a few goals should be expected as well.
Snodgrass flashed brilliance for Norwich last year and that’s why Hull chased him this summer. He takes a mean free kick but goes missing too often to be any higher in my tiers.
Salah, Navas and Ox-Chamberlain are all likely to see a lot of time on the subs bench this year, but when they come on their pace could make them real fantasy stars – either through goals or assists.
Potential Flex Options: Markovic (Liverpool), Sissoko (Newcastle), Pienaar (Everton), Huddlestone (Hull), McCarthy (Everton), Valencia (Man United), Osman (Everton), Ince (Hull), Townsend (Tottenham), Bacuna (Aston Villa), Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Elmohamady (Hull), Knockaert (Leicester), Colback (Newcastle), Tarrabt (QPR), Davis (Southampton), Larsson (Sunderland), Giaccherini (Sunderland), Jordi Gomez (Sunderland), Downing (West Ham), Can (Liverpool), ), Januzaj (Man United), Wilshere (Arsenal), Matic (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Man City), Paulinho (Tottenham)
I love the potential of Can and Markovic but I expect they’ll have to prove they belong in the first team before you will see massive fantasy returns.
Valencia could be the right sided player in LvG’s defensive five but that might hurt his ability to score many attacking points.
Ince is still young, but his talent means he could break into the starting XI and develop into a quality Premier League player as the season goes on.
Tarrabt, Jordi Gomez and Townsend have the skill to potentially be number three starters for you but injuries/character concerns hold them back. However, taking a risk on them here could reap big rewards.
Knockaert is one of my sleepers that I think will go missed by a lot of people, and if he fails to grasp the right sided midfielders job then he’ll be rightly undrafted. But if he gets the job, there could be fantastic upside to the young winger.
Paulinho, Fernandinho, Matic and Wilshere are the big names here but they play a more deep lying role for their teams, meaning they won’t put up big numbers. But they will play consistently and their teams will get a few clean sheets.
Solid but Unspectacular: Bolasie (Crystal Palace), Adam (Stoke), Diame (West Ham), Jarvis (West Ham), Lennon (Tottenham), Arteta (Arsenal), Delph (Aston Villa), Barry (Everton), Carrick (Man United), Schneiderlin (Southampton), Mulumbu (West Brom), Sessegnon (West Brom), Morrison (West Brom)
A move for Schneiderlin would move him up, but Southampton are such a wreck right now I don’t want any part in him
So there we have it for the midfield tiers, with number of options these players should make up the bulk of your roster if you have no limits because they are rewarded heavily for goals and pick up points for clean sheets. There is a good mix of boom or bust and consistent guys, and you should be able to mix these together to create a midfield that can score you solid points on a weekly basis.