I said I would look at some budget options as well as mid-price midfield replacements for Dimitri Payet and here is a trio who have attracted buyers this week. First up is Jesse Lingard in what feels something of a repeat of the Anthony Martial situation in that it seems too soon to be considering him.
Until Thursday, when Bamidele Alli overtook him, Lingard had been the second most popular midfield transfer in from the sub-5.5m bracket (Lanzini, who I looked at last week, had been number one). The English winger has played less than two games worth of Premier League football this season in a spread taking in the last four gameweeks, with the last gameweek being the first in which he has played 90 minutes.
Lingard set the pulses of Manchester United’s legion of fans racing with a goal in that first full game and nearly 14,000 Fantasy Premier League managers have brought him into their team during the international break. Lingard is cheap at just 4.5m, but for me the biggest priority for the fifth midfielder is that he starts nearly every game as he is mostly there as cover in case one of the bigger hitters fails to start. Unfortunately we can’t be sure Lingard will start every game.
It’s really far too early to be drawing any sort of conclusions from his data, but I feel confident in predicting he won’t maintain a 100 per cent shots on target conversion rate for long. Lingard’s 90 minute display landed him in the England squad for the friendly against France this week, but it was Alli, another cheap English midfielder, who played from the start and grabbed the headlines.
After breaking into the first 11 at Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 5, Alli has started every match and he is displaying some statistics which may not be out of this world, but are a little more balanced than some I have looked at over the past week.
Despite returning to his starting price of 5.0m on November 20, Alli could be a reasonable prospect for a fifth midfielder or cut-price fourth midfielder – though he would start to move into an awkward price range for a fifth midfielder if his price goes up much further.
I’m also not sure his game time is quite as stable as some of his 20,000 new owners may believe. Since Alli’s first start on September 13, seven potential challengers for his spot in the team have been injured or suspended at one time or another – Ryan Mason, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Nabil Bentaleb, Nacer Chadli, Heung-Min Son and Mousa Dembélé.
Dembélé (5.3m) has been flagged as carrying a calf injury this week. He is worth looking at though because, after starting alongside Alli in the double pivot on his return to the starting line-up in Gameweek 8, he played the last three gameweeks in the number 10 role behind Harry Kane.
While Dembélé stats showed he scored in two of those games behind Kane, he did so from two shots on target, three shots in the box and five shots in total in those games. Overall Dembélé’s shots on target conversion rate for the season looks reasonable, but it’s not a good sign for sustained returns when a player has fewer shots in the box than shots on target.
Once again, I’ve charted the actions per 90 minutes of these midfielders against Dimitri Payet as a consistent comparative and none of them offers anything like the creativity of the West Ham United midfielder. There is a closer match when it comes to shooting, though it’s far too early to be reading much into Lingard’s metrics when he has such a small amount of pitch time. Alli probably looks the best of these three, but I would be nervous about his pitch time with players due back from injury and suspension in the next couple of weeks.