Fantasy Premier League managers need not be too concerned about Manchester City’s lack of goals in Gameweek 29.
Bournemouth’s ultra-defensive tactics look to have been the reason why the Citizens’ key assets blanked at the Vitality Stadium.
We have gone over the game in some detail ahead of Manchester City’s Gameweek 30 meeting with Watford…
Bournemouth 0-1 Manchester City
Goals: Riyad Mahrez (£8.2m)
Assists: David Silva (£8.5m)
Despite heavy backing for Gameweek 29, both Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) blanked in Manchester City’s narrow win at Bournemouth. The former was the most-captained option of the Gameweek, with 1,273,416 managers handing him the armband, while Sterling was signed by 110,000+ in the build-up to Gameweek 29.
Aguero fought off competition from a now-fit Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m) to play 89 minutes and was admittedly unlucky not to come away with attacking returns after he struck the crossbar in the second half. Meanwhile, how the match played out didn’t really suit Sterling. The way Bournemouth set themselves up meant that he was only really a threat on the rare occasions that they ventured out and left space for him to exploit with his pace. In the end, the popular options were outshone by differential Riyad Mahrez (£8.2m).
Owned by just 1.8% of Fantasy managers, the Algerian was top for shots in the box at the Vitality Stadium despite only entering the fray at half-time. No player recorded more shots on target than Mahrez at Bournemouth either. Aguero and Sterling both had the same number of accurate efforts as him, but the former Leicester man was still more threatening in the 18-yard-box.
“It’s so important for (Mahrez), the first one for the team. He has to know he has to compete with Bernardo [Silva] and [Raheem] Sterling, he has to be ready. If he is positive and thinks ‘okay my time is going to come’ then his time is going to come because there are a lot of games. I have no doubts about his quality, his mentality is aggressive but he has to understand where he is: a team that got 100 points and every single game fights and runs and plays, and the people in front are one of the most important players of last season in Leroy, the best player in the league in Bernardo and an incredible player in Raheem.” – Pep Guardiola
Crucially, no Manchester City player left Dorset with an expected goals (xG) score higher than 0.26 on Saturday afternoon. Despite their total of 23 shots, Guardiola’s outfit managed a team xG score of just 1.19. Those statistics were a testament to some heroic defending from Bournemouth as they stuck virtually every player behind the ball.
“We were pleased, overall, with how we defended. We had to answer a few questions from Wednesday against Arsenal. We pride ourselves on being organised and giving everything to every match without allowing our standards to drop. We gave everything today and our young back three did really well considering their ages and lack of experience. They produced some good performances individually and collectively that kept us in the game.” – Eddie Howe
We should perhaps not be too surprised that the Cherries kept things tight in Gameweek 29. There was naturally plenty of interest in Manchester City attacking options after seeing Arsenal beat Eddie Howe’s side 5-1 at the Emirates Stadium last week. That meant Bournemouth had lost nine away matches in a row by an aggregate score of 28-4. However, their record at home has been in stark contrast to that for some time.
In fact, in the four home matches prior to Saturday afternoon, the Cherries were one of the better teams in the league defensively. Only four sides conceded fewer penalty box shots than them in that sample and just three allowed fewer big chances. Bournemouth
After the visit of the defending champions, no club had more representatives among the top 10 defenders for Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions (CBI) in Gameweek 29. The most impressive in this area was Jack Simpson (£3.8m), who was making his first appearance of the season in the absence of the injured Steve Cook (£4.4m). Despite playing just 83 minutes, his CBI score was the highest in the match, with Chris Mepham (£4.5m) and Nathan Aké (£5.0m) both scoring 12.
For all of the above reasons, Fantasy managers should be aware of what the Bournemouth defence is capable of at home. The next three sides to travel to the Vitality Stadium are Newcastle, Burnley and Fulham so there could even be a case for signing one of their defensive options. Artur Boruc (£4.0m) has now started the last seven matches in a row and could prove a useful goalkeeper to rotate with, considering his price. If Simpson keeps his place with Cook out injured, a starting £3.8m defender could also prove an excellent budget enabler.
More relevant perhaps is the fact that Newcastle players are being considered for Blank Gameweek 31, but based on Bournemouth’s performance on Saturday, the Magpies will have to work very hard to score at the Vitality Stadium. That said, a meeting between the Cherries and Newcastle might see Howe take a more attacking approach than he did against Manchester City, and therefore allow more space for their opponents.
In Gameweek 29, Bournemouth did not register a single effort on goal for the first time in their short Premier League history. That was a natural cause of such a deep deployment of their assets. According to the club’s official Twitter account, Howe set out a 4-5-1 formation, with Aké in central midfield, but in reality, he was the third centre-back alongside Mepham and Simpson. Against lesser opposition, we might see more from their attacking assets, as David Brooks (£5.0m) made his first appearance Gameweek 24, while Callum Wilson (£6.3m) is reportedly closer to a return.
“Their technical level is so high. We were waiting for mistakes, for them to force passes and get frustrated and they didn’t. They kept doing the right, simple things, which meant that our chances to attack in the game were limited. It’s that control that made it very difficult for us to get a foothold on the game in any way. Even when we tried to change things in the last 20 minutes and apply pressure it never really happened.” – Eddie Howe
Obviously, Bournemouth’s tactics played a large part in Manchester City’s latest clean sheet, but after a barren spell earlier this season, the defending champions have now kept six in their last eight. The shutout recorded at the Vitality Stadium was the fourth in a row, restoring some faith in Ederson (£5.6m) as a set-and-forget goalkeeper. The Blank in Gameweek 31 is something of a spanner in the works, but the upcoming schedule could still see him offer value. Watford (home), Fulham (away) and Cardiff (home) are three of the next four opponents, who look to have great clean sheet potential for Manchester City.
Whether that can be covered with defensive options remains hard to say. Aymeric Laporte (£5.9m) missed a second match in a row at Bournemouth and is not expected back until the end of the month. Meanwhile, John Stones (£5.2m) overcame his fitness doubts to start in Dorset but was withdrawn amid further concerns over his groin. Vincent Kompany (£5.2m) was his replacement but Guardiola admitted that at kick-off, Stones felt better than him, so the Belgian’s place in the side is not assured either. Oleksandar Zinchenko (£4.7m) made his third start in a row, but Benjamin Mendy (£6.1m) is reportedly close to a return. Nicolas Otamendi (£6.0m) has now started four of the last five though, and Kyle Walker (£6.4m) seven of the last eight.
“Stones felt better than Vinny, that’s why I played John. His groin felt a little bit tight and we didn’t take a risk. Now we have one long week and hopefully, it can recover.” – Pep Guardiola
Meanwhile, Fantasy managers may be able to take advantage of another injury to Kevin de Bruyne (£9.7m). Guardiola said the Belgian would be “out for a while” which may see Bernardo Silva (£7.5m), recently enjoying time on the flanks of attacking midfield, drop back into the central midfield trio, as he did at the start of the season. That would obviously reduce competition for places in the front three, good news for Leroy Sané (£9.4m), who was an unused substitute at Bournemouth. Sterling may still have to fight off Mahrez for his place in the side but Bernardo coming out of the equation in his position may be good for the England international too.
“Kevin will be out for a while with a muscular problem – hamstring. It’s normal. We played 25 games in 93 days I think. It means every three days and a little bit more we play one game so it’s a physiological issue. We demand these guys play that way every three days when the body is not always recovered. Sometimes, the muscles say ‘hello, it’s enough’. Everybody is committed and we wait for Kevin to come back.” – Pep Guardiola
Bournemouth XI (5-4-1): Boruc; Daniels, Aké, Simpson (Ibe 83′), Mepham, Clyne (D Rico 83′); Fraser, Surman, Brooks (Mousset 75′), A Smith; King.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Zinchenko, Otamendi, Stones (Kompany 48′), Walker; D Silva, Gündogan, De Bruyne (Mahrez 45+2′); Sterling, Aguero (Jesus 90′), B Silva.