Manchester City are on course to defend their Premier League title after a nail-biting 1-0 win over in-form Leicester City on Monday evening.
The reigning champions will secure back-to-back titles so long as they match or better Liverpool’s result in Gameweek 38.
Once more it was the Citizens’ defenders who rewarded their Fantasy owners, with Pep Guardiola’s side recording their third narrow 1-0 win in as many Gameweeks.
Points hauls eluded their attacking assets again, however, as we discuss in our final Scout Notes article of Gameweek 37 below.
Manchester City 1-0 Leicester City
- Goal: Vincent Kompany (£5.2m)
- Assist: Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m)
- Bonus: Aymeric Laporte – 3, Vincent Kompany – 2, Kyle Walker (£6.4m) – 1
These have been a nervy few weeks for Manchester City fans and a relatively low-scoring fortnight for those who own the reigning champions’ attacking assets.
One-nil wins over Spurs and Burnley plus a 2-0 success in the Manchester derby were followed by Monday night’s narrow victory over Leicester.
There were tense, goalless first halves in the wins over Burnley and United before second-half pressure finally told and a similar story unfolded at Eastlands last night.
As was the case at Turf Moor and at Old Trafford in the preceding two Gameweeks, a twitchy City support watched on nervously in the opening 45 minutes as Leicester frustrated their hosts and presented Pep Guardiola’s side with few clear-cut opportunities.
Phil Foden (£4.5m) and David Silva (£8.5m) both couldn’t convert volleyed half-chances, while Sergio Aguero (£11.9m) saw a header strike the woodwork and then clawed off the line by Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) in the 31st minute.
What made the evening all the more nerve-racking was that Leicester offered more of an attacking threat than City’s previous three opponents had done in Gameweeks 35 and 36.
Exuding confidence in possession, dangerous on the break and fairly comfortable at the back, Leicester demonstrated all the hallmarks of a team that had won five of their previous seven league games.
Three Leicester shots were blocked in the Manchester City box in quick succession before Youri Tielemans (£6.0m) fired straight at Ederson (£5.7m), with the Foxes going into half-time having restricted Guardiola’s side to only two efforts from inside their area.
Leicester’s early bright start gave way to a more backs-to-the-wall display as the game wore on but it was a mark of how much the Citizens had been frustrated in front of goal that Vincent Kompany‘s (£5.2m) match-winner came somewhat out of the blue – the veteran centre-half collecting an Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) pass and firing a 30-yard thunderbolt past Schmeichel into the top corner.
Kompany, Laporte and right-back Kyle Walker (£6.4m) completed a defensive clean sweep of the bonus points on a night when City’s attacking assets once again underwhelmed.
Aguero and Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) have only one goal and two assists between them in City’s last four matches and this was another match in which a deep-lying defence, coupled with a lack of free-flowing football in a high-stakes game, served to frustrate their owners.
Having hit the bar in the first half, Aguero drew an excellent save out of Schmeichel on 68 minutes with a shot from eight yards: the fine margins that were on his side in Gameweek 36 now going against him on Monday evening.
This was another mediocre performance from Sterling from a Fantasy perspective, with his goal threat largely restricted to a two-minute spell – the England winger looping a header over from close range just after half-time then dragging a shot wide shortly afterwards.
Thirteen penalty box touches for Sterling – the second-highest number of any FPL midfielder in Gameweek 37 – shouldn’t disguise the fact that neither he nor Aguero got much change out of the Leicester defence en route to their blanks.
Laporte is now averaging more points per match (6.79) than Sterling (6.69) and Aguero (6.49) in 2019.
Bernardo Silva (£7.7m), initially deployed on the right wing before Leroy Sane‘s (£9.3m) introduction for Foden saw the Portugal international move back into central midfield, was perhaps the pick of City’s attack-minded assets, with his jinks into the Leicester box causing rare moments of mild panic.
Bernardo registered more shots than anyone on show but, it has to be said, didn’t particularly look like scoring from any of them.
The final-day match against Brighton is, arguably, City’s easiest fixture since Double Gameweek 32 and could potentially represent a more lucrative afternoon for owners of Messrs Sterling, Aguero and co.
The Seagulls have rarely been thrashed by the “big six” this season, however, and given the inevitable pressure that will weigh on the shoulders of City’s starting XI at the Amex, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see a similarly close-run game unfold.
Guardiola was asked if three 1-0 wins in a fortnight had proved mentally draining for his side and replied:
It was an incredible performance. Incredible. I am so sorry but it was so good.
The problem is the way we played. We won 1-0 in Burnley but we didn’t concede one corner, we didn’t concede one shot on target. We controlled the games. We are a much better team than the opponents.
What we have to do when you play a game is try to be better than the opponents, we were better than the opponents the last two or three months. Win or lose, we will see.
Sometimes you need a goal from Vinnie like today. Sometimes in [off] the post. Sometimes the penalties not given again. Two times in a row, no penalty given, so 2-0 for the opponents.
It was outstanding the way we played in the second half, especially the character and the personality. Knowing how difficult it is to handle the emotions to play. Knowing if you don’t win you cannot be champions.
This was Kompany’s third straight league start and, given his recent performances, his goal on Monday and the comments made by Guardiola about his centre-half preferences against teams who play a lot of high balls, the long-serving club captain – who represents a cut-price route into a defence that has kept 12 clean sheets in 16 league matches – could very well get the nod again on the south coast.
Asked about Kompany’s goal and qualities, Guardiola said:
I said ‘no shoot, Vinny, no shoot’. He was smart to not follow my thoughts. Incredible goal.
Sometimes he’s injured but when he is fit, he is an incredible central defender. He is a real defender, he’s a personality and a leader many times. I’m happy for him, for the club and everybody.
Owners of Leicester assets will, of course, be disappointed with the blanks that were returned but there was encouragement to take into the Gameweek 38 clash against a Chelsea side without an away league clean sheet in 2019.
On top of Leicester’s early flurry of blocked shots, James Maddison (£6.6m) curled an effort narrowly wide of Ederson‘s (£5.7m) post on 62 minutes before unmarked substitute Kelechi Iheanacho (£5.7m) wasted a golden opportunity to equalise close to full-time when screwing badly off-target from the edge of the Sky Blues’ box.
Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) barely got a sniff (no shots, one penalty box touch) but an easier test awaits next Sunday and his mere presence at the Etihad was perhaps one of the reasons why Manchester City looked so tentative in possession for much of the match, concerned as they were about the prospect of being hit on the counter by the Foxes and their in-form striker.
Brendan Rodgers said of his side’s display:
I was very pleased with a lot of aspects of the game. I felt we deserved more from the game. It was an incredible strike to win it.
I’m very proud of the team and it bodes well for the future in terms of the personality we played with, particularly in the first half. How we built the game, finding positions to play forward, it was very good.
Start of the second half, that’s the area we need to be better in. Because we didn’t build the game up so well and you get a bit of relief for a second and then it comes back at you.
So that’s the bit that we’ll analyse. Those are the things that we’re working on in these early stages.
But I think we showed we’ve got that personality to come and play how we want to play and against a brilliant team, arguably the best team in Europe for me, to come and show and play with that quality.
As well as showing glimpses of their attacking threat (only Liverpool have scored more goals than the Foxes since Rodgers’ arrival), Leicester were again solid at the back, with Harry Maguire (£5.4m) and Jonny Evans (£4.8m) impressing and defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi (£4.9m) providing an effective shield in front of them.
Sterling’s close-range header was the only Manchester City opportunity that Opta deemed a “big chance”.
Those Fantasy managers who are considering holding on to Eden Hazard (£10.9m) for Gameweek 38 might be slightly deterred by the fact that Liverpool and Manchester City are the only two clubs to have allowed fewer of these big chances than Leicester since Rodgers first took charge.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; Silva (Stones 90′), Gundogan, Foden (Sane 56′); Bernardo Silva, Aguero (Jesus 86′), Sterling.
Leicester City XI (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi; Albrighton (Gray 85′), Tielemans (Barnes 75′), Choudhury, Maddison (Iheanacho 80′); Vardy.