Skip to main content

FPL tips: Faith in Salah shows midfield is the safest bet for top managers

Norwich City v Liverpool – Premier League – Carrow Road
(Image credit: Joe Giddens)

After an opening Premier League weekend where plenty of big-hitters bagged the top points, the message from fantasy football’s top managers appears to be clear – keep it simple and spend big in midfield.

We’ve been tracking the squads of 1,000 managers who each have four top 10,000 finishes in previous FPL seasons, and after their summer of tinkering, we can now reveal the big decisions these maestros made.

You do make friends with Salah

Along with Mo Salah, FPL managers appear to be pretty sure about Luke Shaw too (PA Graphics)

Along with Mo Salah, FPL managers appear to be pretty sure about Luke Shaw too (PA Graphics)

It can be all too easy to try to be clever when picking your FPL team, but for the top managers, the key decisions are simple – and invariably Egyptian.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (£12.5 million) was selected by a whopping 98.2% of the top crop for their first outing, and he repaid their faith with a goal and two assists for a 17-point haul.

It comes as no surprise as Salah has averaged 250 points per season since he signed for the Reds in 2017.

He was outperformed in gameweek one only by Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (£12.1 million) – who bagged 20 points by scoring a hat-trick.

He was the second-most selected midfielder amongst top managers too, with 88.2% ownership, which comes as no surprise either given the 244 points the Portuguese notched last season.

Perhaps this is an easy game after all?

Sure about Shaw

Manchester United v Everton – Pre-Season Friendly – Old Trafford

Luke Shaw was the most-picked defender by top managers (Anthony Devlin/PA)

In defence, over 90% of top managers selected United’s Luke Shaw – perhaps attracted by his relatively low price tag and barnstorming performances during Euro 2020 for England.

With just one point after the Red Devils’ 5-1 win over Leeds, Shaw was outperformed in gameweek one by the second-most selected Trent Alexander Arnold (£7.5 million) who, fresh after missing the Euros due to injury, bagged a clean sheet and six points against Norwich.

Fellow Liverpool star Kostas Tsimikas (£4.1 million) is in a third of the FPL veterans’ squads too, with the Greek’s tempting price tag a powerful lure as he deputises for the injured Andy Robertson (£7.0 million).

Perhaps a more interesting pick is Arsenal’s Ben White, who made 63% of the top manager’s teams despite bagging no goals and no assists when playing for Brighton last season.

This suggests the fantasy experts think the £50million summer signing’s exceedingly economical price tag may yet prove to be worthwhile in terms of clean sheets in the Gunners’ defence.

Top dollar not needed up top

West Ham United v Atalanta – Pre-Season Friendly – London Stadium

Michail Antonio leads the line for most of the FPL’s top veterans (Aaron Chown/PA)

Despite being in just 27% of squads for the general populace, Michail Antonio (£7.5 million) was sat in 87% of the top managers’ teams for the first round of fixtures.

The West Ham man went on to bag 13 points against Newcastle, suggesting these fantasy football eggheads might know a thing or two and there is no need to spend big up top.

Aston Villa’s Danny Ings (£8 million) and Brentford’s Ivan Toney (£6.5 million) also landed a spot in the majority of their teams.

Ings bagged a penalty, while Toney had a quiet week, but the message is clear – the smart money is in midfield, not up top.

Waste not want not

Norwich City v Liverpool – Premier League – Carrow Road

Top managers appear to have used the game’s cheapest players, like Norwich’s Billy Gilmour, to make way for expensive signings (Joe Giddens/PA)

Casting your eyes across the rest of midfield it seems top managers are not so united after the big-hitters.

Harvey Barnes of Leicester is in around half of the squads but the next most-selected, Leeds’ Raphinha and United’s Mason Greenwood, make just less than a third of the teams.

However, where they do appear to agree is that you should not waste money on a fifth option in the middle of the park, with 69.3% selecting a midfielder worth £4.5 million.

Amongst those budget players were Norwich’s Billy Gilmour, Burnley’s Josh Brownhill and Brighton’s Yves Bissouma (all £4.5 million).

With the big players starting the season strongly, it appears budget cuts need to be made wherever possible.