During the October international break, with Gameweek 9 on the horizon, we picked out Pedro Neto (£5.8m) as perhaps the best Fantasy Premier League (FPL) midfielder under £6.0m.
But he pulled up with an untimely hamstring injury against Newcastle United in Gameweek 10.
“He felt his hamstring and he’s moving around a little bit in there. As we all know, there are different levels of hamstring [injury] and we won’t know the severity of it until the next few days. We’re all hopeful that we don’t miss him for very long.” – Gary O’Neil’s post-match comments
Neto himself has updated fans on his status via Instagram.
Even just a couple of weeks out will be a big blow to his 983,000 FPL owners. They’ve seen him produce an attacking return in eight successive matches, stretching back to Gameweek 3.
And up next for Wolverhampton Wanderers is an enticing trip to last-placed Sheffield United.
Many Fantasy managers may be forced to replace the talented Neto – and here are some leading candidates for the job.
HWANG HEE-CHAN (£5.5m)
Of course, managers could have money in the back to upgrade Neto or have two free transfers. Although nobody at a higher price holds particular appeal until £6.5m.
So, looking under £6.0m, a sideways move to Wolves team-mate Hwang Hee-chan could replace Neto. Some scintillating form has him on five goals from seven matches and six strikes overall but only 2.5% own him, due to a slight feeling that such returns are unsustainable.
Above: Players with 4+ goals, ranked by fewest attempts
Of those with at least four goals, nobody has done it with fewer efforts (16) or shots on target (six) than Hwang. Just four big chances have arrived and he’s exceeding expected goals (xG) by more than anyone else (+3.87).
Alternatively, his game time is more secure at this point than during the previous article. The South Korean hadn’t reached 60 minutes until the most recent four outings but he’s now earnt the majority of them.
And, although Wolves were last season’s lowest scorers, they sit mid-table for them so far and face Sheffield United (a), Fulham (a), Burnley (h) and Nottingham Forest (h) throughout the next half-dozen.
ANTHONY GORDON (£5.7m)
Meanwhile, Newcastle is the joint-best team for goals (26), also being number one for big chances (41) and runner-up for xG (22.07).
Upcoming occasions are about to get tricky for a tired-looking, injury-stricken Magpies but being a Champions League side arguably makes their assets fixture-proof.
Above: Midfielders priced up to £6.0m, sorted by penalty area touches
Anthony Gordon’s minutes feel more secure now that Harvey Barnes (£6.2m), Jacob Murphy (£4.8m), Sandro Tonali (£5.3m) and Elliot Anderson (£4.4m) are out for the foreseeable.
He also sits joint with Neto as the best sub-£6.0m midfielder for big chances created (five) and is second to him for penalty area touches (41).
DOUGLAS LUIZ (£5.6m)
Only mentioned in passing last time, Douglas Luiz is now the most-owned sub-£6.0m midfielder thanks to some imperious form that’s becoming hard to ignore.
A 15-point haul in Gameweek 9 was followed by setting up John McGinn (£5.5m) on Sunday, meaning his last six appearances have yielded four goals and one assist.
He’s not solely about the penalties, as two other strikes have been from outside the box.
The Brazilian is a handy cheap alternative to team-mate Moussa Diaby (£6.7m) for Aston Villa’s strong fixture run. Some may believe a triple-up with Ollie Watkins (£8.4m) and Matty Cash (£5.2m) is excessive but Luiz ranks second amongst sub-£6m midfielders for shots (19).
One huge word of warning, though: he’s on four cautions, so is one booking away from a ban.
SIMON ADINGRA (£5.0m)
It was around this time last year when Brighton and Hove Albion’s Kaoru Mitoma (£6.5m) was beginning to announce himself to the Premier League. If Simon Adingra can go on to have a similar impact, he’ll be a bargain enabler at just £5.0m.
The Seagulls’ attack has the second-most big chances (34) and shots on target (63), so being on top of our Season Ticker for the next six Gameweeks will catch the attention of many FPL managers.
Exciting prospect Adingra has started five of Brighton’s latest six league games, with competition now reduced by the serious Solly March (£6.2m) injury. Then again, head coach Roberto De Zerbi will always bring worries regarding squad rotation. The 21-year-old comes with risk but at such a cheap price.
COLE PALMER (£5.0m)
Finally, another name that was discussed last time. Gameweek 10 was Cole Palmer’s first blank in four but at least he continues to start for the Blues. This run has brought two goals – albeit none in open play – and two assists.
The drawbacks are Chelsea’s tough run until Gameweek 16 and the Mauricio Pochettino quote that suggests a penalty lottery similar to what happens at Arsenal.
“Look, there are few players that can take a penalty, it is about their feelings. I think Cole, at the moment was great in the two penalties he has taken and of course after a conversation with Raheem [Sterling] or Nicolas Jackson or who was on the pitch to discuss who is more confident to take the penalty. I am happy with the decision. Normally, I suppose it is going to be [Palmer] if he is on the pitch and if not, I am happy with Raheem, Nico, with all of the players.” – Mauricio Pochettino
Furthermore, summer signing Christopher Nkunku (£7.3m) is “really close” to returning from injury. It will add attacking competition for youngster Palmer during the very same festive spell where fixtures swing positively.
Looking on the upside, though, no sub-£6.0m midfielder has registered more shots (11), big chances (four) or big chances created (three) since he first started in Gameweek 7.
He’s also joint-third among his budget peers for chances created (eight) in that time.
So, he still stands up well even when taking those penalties out of the equation.
Above: Midfielders priced up to £6.0m, sorted by non-penalty xGI over the last four Gameweeks