Pep's tinkering set to frustrate ahead of Man City's fine run
A quick look at the fixture list and you won’t find many teams with a better run-in than Man City.
Following the Manchester derby, a trip to Middlesbrough proceeds three consecutive home clashes against Crystal Palace, Leicester and West Brom, with a final day trip to Watford also looking favourable. All five clashes against sides with little to play for.
The Leicester and West Brom games form part of Double Gameweek 37, which screams investment in a City squad bursting with talent and fighting tooth and nail for Champions League qualification.
But things are rarely that simple in fantasy football.
City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, is arguably the most unpredictable in the Premier League.
The man is a fantasy football manager’s nightmare who makes multiple changes to his first XI on a weekly basis. The only certainty is uncertainty.
Let’s rinse through their squad to see what’s on offer.
Case closed for defence?
It’s difficult to pinpoint options in defence – no-one is nailed on and even the goalkeepers rotate.
Ahead of the Man United game, Claudio Bravo has started the last two league outings, ending a run of eight consecutive league starts for Willy Caballero.
Bravo’s circus act in goal makes him droppable at any moment, so investing between the sticks is about as safe as a chocolate teapot.
In normal circumstances, Vincent Kompany would arguably be a shoo-in for fantasy managers over this run. But his terrible injury record makes him a very risky pick, and even if he does avoid injury, Pep will surely look to manage his minutes in order to avoid another setback.
Elsewhere, John Stones (currently nursing a knock) and Nicolás Otamendi are competing for a slot alongside Kompany.
Otamendi has started four of the previous nine in the league, while Stones has started ten of the last fourteen when fit.
Add in a splash of Kolarov at centre-back and investment in City centre backs comes with a health warning.
Expect four out of five starts from one of them at best. I just wouldn’t go there.
Interestingly, there is a chink of light at left back, with Gaël Clichy starting the previous seven league matches.
Priced at 5.2, Clichy, dare I say it, is someone we should consider.
He’s hardly a risk free purchase, with Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna (when fit) waiting in the wings. However, with Guardiola seemingly hell bent on going gung ho, Clichy’s attacking potential could reward the risk.
If you’re looking for a differential to close down mini league rivals, you could do far worse than snap up the former Arsenal youngster.
Sadly, the right-back role is off the menu – incredibly, Jesus Navas seems to have made the role his own, starting the last four league matches.
Listed as a 6.1 midfielder in Fantasy Premier League (FPL), Navas is nothing more than a nuisance to us (and perhaps his teammates?).
Sane the new Mane?
We have a few more options in midfield, with Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane vying for our attention.
Pep’s recent liking for a 4-2-3-1 system has dented Sterling’s prospects. The former Liverpool winger has been ousted from the first XI in two of the last four league outings, and now looks like an unnecessary risk.
David Silva, with a paltry two goals all season, is arguably overpriced at 8.6. Often the assister of the assister, the Spanish playmaker is a wonderful creative talent who sadly lacks a killer finish to become a genuine heavy hitter in FPL.
Kevin De Bruyne is closer to that bracket, but his 10.4 price tag is an obstacle.
He’ll always be competing with Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez for a place in our squads, and despite De Bruyne’s staggering 16 assists, a meagre four goals hands the initiative to Hazard and Sanchez, who are both into double figures for goals this season.
Leroy Sane is my pick of the bunch.
Having started the last 11 league matches, the frizzy haired German looks primed for returns over City’s favourable run-in.
He’s an exciting and potentially explosive prospect, who has an ability to constantly run in behind opposition defences and carve out chances.
We still can’t classify Sane as nailed on, particularly if Guardiola looks to accommodate the returning Gabriel Jesus in one of the three attacking midfield slots.
But Sane is nevertheless a very good option who could make a mockery of his 7.6 price tag.
Jesus to crucify Aguero option?
With Jesus set to return to the fray in Thursday’s Manchester derby, the Brazilian looks set to resume battle with Aguero for the lone striker role.
Jesus was the first choice striker before injury struck, with Aguero inexplicably making cameos from the bench.
It remains to be seen whether Aguero has done enough in Jesus’s absence to change Pep’s mind.
Having scored in five consecutive league matches, Aguero couldn’t have done any more.
Also, perhaps more crucially, the Argentine has shown an increased willingness to work harder and close down opponents – something which Guardiola reportedly favoured Jesus for in the first place.
Both players have potential to be outstanding options, particularly for Double Gameweek 37 (LEI WBA), with many pinpointing them for the armband.
But it all depends on Pep.
My fear is that both will share minutes, but we can only wait and see whether one (or both) of these gifted strikers can emerge as a standout option.