This is our fix up look sharp series, which will look to profile a selection of Premier League teams for their FPL potential. We’ll give some key info on the players, talk about their first five fixtures and pick out five key individuals from that side, then offer a verdict on them at the end.
In this article, Ed (prokoptas) runs the rule over Man City’s FPL chances for next season.
It’s been another busy summer for the blue half of Manchester. After shelling out over £170 million last summer on the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, and erm…John Stones, Pep Guardiola and his backroom staff have outdone themselves with a £220 million spending spree this year. Squad reinforcements were clearly a priority heading into this campaign – last season’s hot start (six wins from six in the league) quickly faded, and City finished fifteen points adrift of Chelsea by the time the season had run its course. Certainly, their fans will be expecting a more sustained run of success this time around.
Here’s our rundown on the team’s FPL prospects heading into 2017/18:
Based on a number of conversations I have had during the offseason, it would seem that history will remember City’s 2016/17 squad as an unbalanced, and ultimately fatally flawed, side – with a firestorm attack capable of raining down goals just as quickly as their defence was capable of conceding them. This characterisation of City’s defensive efforts, however, seems to ignore one simple fact: their backline posted impressive defensive metrics last season! Looking at the underlying numbers, we can see how their side compared to other top-ranking defensive units last time out:
|Fewest total shots conceded, 2016/17 season|
|Fewest shots in box conceded, 2016/17 season|
What ultimately led to City’s downfall would be the chance conversion rates of sides facing them (a metric I refer to as vsCC). City allowed 12.8% of all shots they faced to be converted into goals, placing them 18th among PL sides in that measure (only Liverpool and Swansea ranked worse). Much of this blame has been apportioned to the antics of (presumably part-time) goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who achieved notoriety during January for his potent aversion to shotstopping (during one particularly infamous run, City and Bravo conceded six goals from as many shots on target, as part of a wider trend of conceding 14 goals from just 22 shots). The arrival of Brazilian keeper Ederson for an eyecatching £35 million should help to shore things up between the posts this time around. The imposing stopper recorded 17 clean sheets for Benfica last season and could make a similarly good impression in the PL – though a 5.5 price tag may dampen any FPL interest for the time being.
Shakeups are also expected across the defensive line. During an experimental first season, Guardiola frequently toyed with the inverted fullback system popularised at Bayern. The theory, at least, was sound – during his time in Munich, sliding David Alaba and Phillip Lahm into the centre of the park allowed Bayern to control space and push midfielders forward to support the frontline. However, it was quickly demonstrated that a rotating cast of Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, and Pablo Zabaleta were not quite able to match up with Alaba and Lahm (who knew?), while Pep’s Plan B of starting Jesus Navas and Fernandinho as temporary fullbacks proved equally ineffective.
How things could change
What abou this season, though? Guardiola and City have invested the big bucks (a combined £123 million, in fact) on three top-level fullbacks capable of filling these spaces in the squad. Interestingly, neither Kyle Walker nor Benjamin Mendy project as being inverted full-backs in the Bavarian sense (though Danilo could certainly play this role), but rather as traditional wide defenders. This has led to speculation that City may even line up on occasion in a 3-4-3 setting akin to last season’s Chelsea, with Mendy & Walker deployed as wing-backs on either side of the midfield. While I have my doubts on this (City possess enough midfield talent to fill two Premier League rosters already), both project to push forward frequently and support the attack. Frequent attacking returns could certainly be in store for either player in 2017/18.
On the other side of the ball, Manchester City possess an embarrassment of attacking riches unrivalled within the Premier League. Their list of gamechanging playmakers is exhausting to cover: with a seven-deep rotation starring Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero, City look unlikely to ever be short on goals. Pep presumably needs to wedge in some defensive players somewhere, too, with the remaining Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, new man Danilo capable of defensive mid duties plus certain starter (once he returns from injury) İlkay Gündoğan competing there.
The bigger question then, at least within the context of FPL, is going to be their security of starts – with such strength in depth, heavy rotation is expected in order to compete across both national and international fronts. As we will analyse later, the greatest reliability should probably be found in the three-man axis of de Bruyne, Agüero and Jesus – but certainty is thin on the ground heading into the new season.
The first five fixtures
City’s tempting opening slate includes home games against each half of Merseyside, sandwiches by road trips to lower-ranking opposition. Using the Premier League’s own “head-to-head meter”, here is their track record against these sides, and our thoughts on their imminent matchups:
Brighton (A): never played in PL.
Expect City to hit the ground running in their season opener. Playing in front of their home fans, Brighton seem likely to face an early reality check on the difficulty of life in the Premier League.
Everton (H): 40 games played in PL, 14w City, 8d, 18w Everton
Last season: MCI 1-1 eve / EVE 4-0 mci
Everton ran City off the park during their last matchup in January, racking up four unanswered goals. Expect a tougher game for the Toffees this time around though, with City motivated to exact revenge and possibly inflict a drubbing of their own.
Bournemouth (A): 4 games played in PL, 4w City, 0d, 0w Bournemouth.
Last season: BOU 0-2 mci / MCI 4-0 bou
In four top-tier meetings with the Cherries, Man City have tallied fifteen goals, conceded just one, and come away with maximum points on every occasion. We’re betting on history repeating itself at the Vitality.
Liverpool (H): 40 games played in PL, 7w City, 15d, 18w Liverpool
Last season: MCI 1-1 liv / LIV 1-0 mci
Just a couple of years ago, Klopp vs. Guardiola would have augured a clash of the two titans of German football (apologies to my hometown Leipzig). The settings may have changed, but let us hope that the quality of football on offer has not. This should be a corker, and we would expect goals from both sides.
Watford (A): 6 games played in PL, 4w City, 2d, 0w Watford.
Last season: WAT 0-5 mci / MCI 2-0 wat
City’s visited Vicarage Road on the last day of the season in 2016/17, and came out easy winners in a 5-0 thrashing that, somehow, wasn’t even as close as the scoreline made it seem. A new boss for the Hornets does nothing to raise our hopes of them putting up a better fight this time around.
The key players
The top targets
Kevin de Bruyne: the model of consistency, de Bruyne excelled for City once again last season. The Belgian led the side in chance creation rate, producing an average of 2.9 shots per game for his teammates. This impressive number led to a league-high 21 assists for KdB last year, along with 6 goals. Carrying a price tag of 10.0 to open the season (a 0.5 decrease, despite accruing 199 points), the primary appeal of de Bruyne may well end up being his security of starts. De Bruyne led all City players in minutes last season, a fact which should appeal to many prospective owners looking to minimise the risk of rotation among City assets.
Sergio Agüero: long-heralded as FPL royalty, this season marks an interesting fork in the road for Agüero’s career. Even after 20 league goals last campaign, many are expecting his role to come under threat from Brazilian wonderkid Gabriel Jesus. Yet Agüero’s case for continued inclusion is strong – he averaged almost twice as many shots per game (4.5 vs 2.4) than Jesus last season, while also outperforming him in terms of penalty area touches per game. Available at a cut-rate price of just 11.5 (a full 1.5 lower than last season), Agüero could soon be dishing out humble pie to the many doubters he has recently acquired.
Gabriel Jesus: the young pretender Jesus exploded onto the scene in 2017 with 7 goals and 4 assists in just 650 minutes of PL action. A natural-born finisher, his unbelievable chance conversion rate of 29% demonstrates his clinicality – and shows that there are more than just Romans who want to see Jesus on the end of a cross. Though this rate of chance conversion will surely come down to Earth next year, Jesus showed his potential to be a fantasy superstar. This fact has not been lost on this year’s crop of players, and Jesus (at the time of writing) currently leads Agüero in FPL ownership by 12.5% to 9%. Picking between this pair of players seems an impossible task, but Jesus’ lower price (10.5) and seeming popularity with Pep makes him our top tip for now.
Bernardo Silva: with all the action that has taken place in the Premier League’s transfer market of late, this deal seems like it had been completed aeons ago. Only 22 years old, Silva excelled during his time at Monaco, producing 24 goals and 15 assists across his 101 games for the club. He also possesses great versatility, being capable of lining up either centrally or upon either flank.
Our biggest reservation, as we have mentioned before with City assets, is simply rotation. Until we have the opportunity to observe Guardiola’s plans for his side (in terms of formation, starting lineup, and frequency of changes), it is difficult to recommend any City assets outside of their attacking core. Yet Silva undoubtedly has the pedigree to perform on the biggest of stages. He’s certainly one to watch moving forward.
Leroy Sané: heavy investment in de Bruyne, Jesus, and Agüero has left Sané as something of an odd man out within the lineup of City’s fantasy offerings. The German, however, proved a valuable fantasy asset last campaign – producing 7 assists while scoring 5 goals of his own. Having secured regular starts by the end of the campaign, it remains to be seen how the arrival of Silva will affect Sané’s minutes moving forward – but if the German can continue to make a starting berth his own, he could prove to be an underpriced route (at just 8.5) into a potentially potent City attack.
Yaya Toure: there was a time, once, when any successful side was built around the Ivorian. His 20 goal, 9 assist campaign in 2013/14 propelled him to fantasy fame (and many of us to glory), but those days seem firmly in the rear view mirror. Don’t buy into the name – there are better fantasy options in this City attack.
Following a decade of monumental financial investment, Manchester City have finally assembled (in my opinion) the most dangerous-looking side the Premier League has seen since the free-flowing United squads of the early 2000s. Virtually every position within this squad runs two-deep with world class talent – consequently, it is hard to look past City as title favourites heading into 2017/18. But what of their fantasy options?
We are optimistic for a defensive revival in Manchester, with City poised to improve upon last year’s 12 clean sheets and jump towards the upper echelon of 15-20. However, high price tags dissuade us from recommending early investment in the defensive unit off the bat. Instead, it is the offence that carries the most FPL value. In de Bruyne, Jesus and Agüero, City possess a trio of players who could each feasibly lead their positions in fantasy points next season. Coupled with a kind opening schedule, we would expect to see at least one City asset in most sides heading into GW1. The key, as ever, will be backing the correct option at the correct time, and fading the risks of Pep’s rotation policy to maximise our chances of returns.
Currently, all three of us are backing Man City attacking assets heading into week 1. Both Nick & Tom – at time of writing at least – have selected de Bruyne in their FPL midfields, whilst I am backing Jesus to lead the line alongside fellow premiums Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku. With a week to go until the GW1 deadline, however, we can expect see these lineups change a couple more times at least – yet investment in City assets is likely to remain a constant across each of our respective FPL sides.