If the price prediction websites are to be believed, then Leon Bailey (£5.0m) is set for an imminent price drop.
After his benching in Gameweek 2, some of the Aston Villa winger’s owners in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) have seen enough.
The Jamaica international has been transferred out by over 280,000 FPL managers at the time of writing, making him the fifth most-sold player of the week.
The questions over what to do with this troublesome budget midfield slot have been dominating our comments section over the last few days, so we’ll run through the options open to FPL managers and who the best players are to replace him.
LEON BAILEY: KEEP?
One option, of course, is to sit tight.
FPL managers may have other fires to fight for Gameweek 3 and Bailey is perhaps at a price where you can let him rot on your bench, at least while we get a bigger picture of Steven Gerrard’s team selection.
If you’ve already got bench fodder options Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) and Neco Williams (£4.0m) in your squad, for example, at least one of these budget assets is playable over Bailey, in okay-ish fixtures, in five of the six remaining Gameweeks before the September international break:
There’s even the small possibility that Gerrard could reinstate Bailey for the trip to Crystal Palace, too. The Villa manager explained after Saturday’s win over Everton that the decision to go with two strikers and no wingers was partly made to put more pressure on a three-man backline, and the Villans aren’t likely to face many of those types of defences in the next three Gameweeks. Palace, funnily enough, did use such a system at Anfield on Monday but have typically lined up in a 4-3-3.
“We knew we were going to play against three central defenders today, we wanted to be aggressive and brave.
“We felt last week that Danny was a little bit isolated at times and when we putting crosses and quality into the box, he was getting suffocated and outnumbered. Having another body in there gave the back three something to think about.” – Steven Gerrard on Saturday
It was only last Friday that Gerrard was praising Bailey after a successful pre-season, so there hasn’t been a fallout. Minutes look likely of some variety even if starts aren’t guaranteed.
The downside to the ‘wait and see’ approach is the likely value loss on Bailey, whose haemorrage of owners will almost certainly come at the cost of a price drop before Saturday’s deadline.
He also goes from being part of a first XI to potential bench fodder, although the fixtures are about to stiffen anyway.
LEON BAILEY: DOWNGRADE TO DASILVA/£4.5M MIDFIELDER?
In our on-site poll of Bailey owners, just under 40% have so far said that they would be jettisoning Bailey for a £4.5m midfielder or Josh Dasilva (£4.6m).
This strategy not only gets a player falling in price off the books but frees up as much as half a million to be spent elsewhere, perhaps to upgrade a goalkeeper or defender.
The issue is that Dasilva has already risen in price this Gameweek, meaning that you’ll only get a maximum of £0.4m from this move if you’ve got your sights set on the Brentford midfielder – and you’ll not be able to do much with those funds in isolation.
There’s precious little else at this price rung bar Dasilva: only nine £4.5m midfielders have featured in both of their sides’ matches so far this season, just four of whom have started both fixtures:
Of these, Romeo Lavia (£4.5m) and Harrison Reed (£4.5m) are defensive midfielders with the best chances of sustained game-time, while Ben Pearson (£4.5m) is another spoiler who is far from guaranteed starts in the medium term.
Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) is the standout option if you don’t already own him, with an advanced number 10 role and set-piece responsibilities in his favour. Boss Marco Silva thinks the injury he picked up in Gameweek 2 isn’t serious, so he could be back for this weekend.
As for Dasilva, be warned that he has scored twice this season from an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.07.
While he’s very likely done enough to retain a start in Gameweek 3, it’s too early to say whether he is a ‘nailed’ starter in the medium term, with competition healthy in the engine room – especially after Mikkel Damsgaard‘s (£5.5m) arrival.
His minutes are also being managed after a long lay-off.
He does have some previous for goalscoring, netting on 10 occasions in the 2019/20 Championship season, and his bargain price is less to do about a lack of goal threat as it is his injury-affected 2021/22 campaign in which he barely featured.
LEON BAILEY: SELL FOR ANOTHER £5.0m+ MIDFIELDER?
Around one in three of Bailey’s owners in our polls are thinking of making the straight swap to another £5.0m midfielder of upgrading him to a more expensive alternative.
The latter approach requires money in the bank and/or a downgrade elsewhere, which may be easier said than done.
And the £6.0m-and-under bracket isn’t exactly stocked with attractive alternatives, especially towards the lower end of this budget price rung.
So who are the leading candidates? Let’s take a look at the runners and riders…
LEON BAILEY: THE BEST FPL REPLACEMENTS?
NO MONEY IN THE BANK
Now, don’t laugh…
Forget what you know about the Granit Xhaka (£5.0m) of old – apart from his love of a booking or worse.
The arrival of ‘inverted full-back’ Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.0m) has helped Xhaka push forward a bit more a left-sided number eight, something that became apparent in pre-season. It wasn’t too obvious in a tight game against Crystal Palace on the opening day but in matches where the Gunners attack more, as they did against Leicester and surely will against Fulham and Bournemouth, it’s noticeable.
He was deep in the penalty box for not just his goal and assist in Gameweek 2 but also an earlier headed effort that struck the woodwork.
Four penalty box touches, two shots (both ‘big chances’) and two key passes were registered by Xhaka in Gameweek 2.
“I’ve got more freedom to go up and down. I know I can do that. I have a lot of freedom from the coach, from my teammates. At the moment I’m happy with how everything is going” – Granit Xhaka
“Granit is arriving in the box and he should have scored last week and he could have scored two today because he had another header, and that’s what we need.
“He’s there to play the role that we want and Granit has certain characteristics, but we can develop other characteristics because he has the ability to do it, and when Fabio Vieira plays in that position he will have a different role because his qualities are different, and it’s the same with Martin, so the team has to adapt, but the players as well have to play with an eye on the goal and the feeling that they want to score.” – Mikel Arteta on Granit Xhaka
The nagging concern is over rotation, something we don’t want from our budget midfielders. The Gunners were linked with a host of ‘number eights’ over the summer but Arteta’s post-match comments on Saturday seemed to suggest that Fabio Vieira (£6.0m) will provide competition for Xhaka. Given that Vieira has yet to make a single matchday squad because of injury, it seems to be Xhaka’s spot for now.