The week in Fantasy Premier League: Man City bandwagons and the rise of the defenders

High-profile injuries and squad rotation have plagued FPL managers this season.

The bad news is that with Champions League ties around the corner, that’s hardly going to change this week.

There has rarely been a more critical time to keep an eye on Ben Dinnery’s famous Twitter feed - although even he will have a hard time deciphering some of the mixed messages we’ve seen from some players in the last fortnight.

Morata tweeted that he was hoping to play Palace before being swiftly deleted, now even Aguero has sprung from his brush with death saying he’s primed and ready to rock!

At least Jamie Vardy (LEI, 8.6) and his missus were more consistent. The Leicester livewire seems raring to go once more, thanks to the restorative powers of beer and boat trips in Dubai.

❤️ ☀️ @vardy7 thanks @xclusiveyachts #dubai

A post shared by Becky Vardy (@beckyvardy) on

There are even reports that Paul Pogba (MUN, 8.0) could be back as early as GW10. He could be a handy route back into the Man United midfield for anyone considering swapping out Mkhitaryan this week.

But when it comes to must-have players, all eyes are on the blue side of Manchester right now.

 

Why you need a Man City player right now

What is it about a team scoring five goals or more for three games in a row that make us think "you know, I really ought to think about buying one of their players”?

Now that a tricky Chelsea tie has been safely navigated, investment in City’s attack has become essential, especially given their upcoming opponents.

It’s going to be a long afternoon for Stoke when they travel to The Etihad on Saturday. The Potters have conceded nine goals in four games without their injured captain Ryan Shawcross this season and although the chances of Sergio Aguero (MCI, 11.5) facing them are slim, it’s not like he’ll be needed anyway.

Only must-have Harry Kane (TOT, 12.7) has enjoyed more transfers in than Gabriel Jesus (MCI, 10.5) this week - but what seemed like an obvious replacement for the likes of Morata only days ago has now lost some of its lustre.

Aguero’s upbeat injury prognosis could see the Gabby’s stint in the centre cut short - especially given very real danger of rotation after his high-altitude international duties and the prospect of facing Napoli on Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne (MCI, 10.0) has been punishing those who dumped him in GW4, but his price remains frustratingly prohibitive.

With injuries stretching many FPL squads to their limit, perhaps it’s the reassurance of consistent starts and a steady stream of assists that has seen David Silva (MCI, 8.5) become the most popular City midfielder in the FPL marketplace this week.

An assist machine, he remains City's top-scoring midfielder in FPL and has rewarded his owners with a steady stream of points.

For those looking for a more explosive option however, it’s becoming harder to ignore the appeal of Raheem Sterling (MCI, 7.9).

The 22-year-old comes in at £0.6m cheaper than his Spanish teammate, and has enjoyed more penalty box touches than any midfielder in the league this season - 14 of them ending up as shots on goal.

He’s had a chance to score every 20.4 minutes on average so far this season - more than either Pogba and Salah. He certainly shares their frustrating inability to convert them, but should his shooting improve even slightly, the goals will come in abundance.

He has a reputation as a rotation risk but, he has started every game since GW3 onwards (suspension aside), with Pep opting instead to rest him in Europe.

Another false narrative around Sterling has been that a return for Aguero would limit both his starts and output - but that hasn’t been the case so far this season.

If Jesus is indeed rested once again on Saturday, it could open the door for Sterling to play as a makeshift centre-forward, which will have his 6.7% ownership positively salivating.

But while we once again set off to navigate the choppy waters of big-name attackers, it’s worth looking at what has become a reassuring source of consistent points this season.

 

The case for the defence

For so long almost an afterthought in our FPL machinations, defenders are suddenly all the rage - so much so that some managers are now openly contemplating previously unthinkable five-at-the-back formations.

Attacking returns from the likes of Davies, Alonso and Lascelles have hogged the limelight, but it’s really the unusually high number of clean sheets that have seen defenders become such a reliable source of points.

Helpfully, we’re now just about deep enough into the season that we can start to see patterns emerge.

Teams like Man United, City and Spurs have shown us that they can be trusted to produce shutouts more often than not. We’re also seeing which teams are struggling to score, making the tricky task of rotating defenders based on their opposition that much easier.

Armed with this information, now may well be an opportune time to avoid the more obvious names and look for value instead.

For instance, with Danny Rose on his way back from injury and Spurs facing Liverpool, United and Arsenal in their next five, FPL managers who missed out on Ben Davies’ (TOT, 5.9) bumper 16-point haul against Huddersfield may be better off looking elsewhere for now.

Kante’s injury has dented the appeal of Chelsea’s backline, and for all their defensive solidity, Man United could struggle to keep Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea at bay in their next four fixtures.

So while everyone became distracted by the hype around wing-backs, Ireland’s own Stephen Ward (BUR, 4.6) has come from nowhere to become the joint-third highest scoring defender in the game.

Nick Pope has proven an able deputy for injured FPL favourite Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal, and once you’re happy to rest them for the GW9 trip to Man City, goal-shy teams like West Ham, Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea await.

The Saints themselves have three home ties in the next four - Cédric Soares (SOU, 5.0) is the value pick there.

Defensively-minded Brighton also enjoy a great run of fixtures - Shane Duffy (BRI, 4.5) and Lewis Dunk (BRI, 4.4) could happily sit in your defence right up until GW13.

Finally, an injury to Mutafi has offered a cut-price route into Arsenal's surprisingly solid rearguard in the form of  Rob Holding (ARS, 4.7).

QUICK TIP

Some people have already used the new Free Hit chip to weather this current spell of injuries, despite some quiet confusion around exactly how to use it. Thankfully, FPL Towers have cleared things up.

 

BUY

Finally, his prodigious shot statistics have graduated into goals, and although doubts remain about Tottenham’s ‘Wembley Curse’, anyone without Harry Kane (TOT, 12.7) at this stage needs to get on board or risk falling further behind.

 

TRY

For someone who has scored five goals in seven matches, Jamie Vardy (LEI, 8.6) has flown well under the radar this season. If he happened to have scored that penalty against Liverpool he’d be up there among the top scorers in the game and the sight of his pricetag alongside those £10m+ players would have attracted much more attention.

He’s looked lively all season apart from GW7 when he was carrying that hip injury, and his next run of fixtures looks very promising indeed.

 

GOODBYE

Already smarting from three blanks in a row, dropping to the bench against Newcastle was the final straw for many Firmino (LIV, 8.5) owners.

The recent news of Mane’s injury, a long-haul flight and the prospect of facing the league’s best defence tomorrow has hardly improved matters for a player whose form has fallen off a cliff.

 

Top of the League

A very respectable 76 points in GW7 saw Damir TeNay and his Lallana Land stay top of the Official Irish Examiner League (join code: 158003-520394). A defence that included De Gea, Davies, Jones and Kolasinac did the business, as well as the inevitable Kane captaincy. He’s also number 35 overall in the world - impressive stuff!


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