The shock result of 2019/20 so far came at Carrow Road on Saturday night as Manchester City suffered their first league loss since a defeat to Newcastle United in January.
Norwich City’s attacking assets have impressed us this season but their lengthy injury list and obvious shortcomings in defence led to many of us anticipating a cricket score when Pep Guardiola’s side visited Norfolk.
The Canaries pulled off a thrilling 3-2 victory in the end and left us with much to discuss from a Fantasy perspective.
Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City
- Goals: Kenny McLean (£4.9m), Todd Cantwell (£4.9m), Teemu Pukki (£7.1m)| Sergio Aguero (£12.1m), Rodri (£5.5m)
- Assists: Emi Buendia (£6.0m) x2, Teemu Pukki (£7.1m) | Bernardo Silva (£7.8m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m)
- Bonus: Pukki, Buendia x3, Rodri x1
Manchester City’s first match without the injured Aymeric Laporte (£6.4m) went about as bad as could be expected.
The Citizens’ use of zonal marking at set-piece situations is nothing new and their failure to stop Kenny McLean (£4.9m) from Emi Buendia‘s (£6.0m) 17th-minute corner was something that may have happened with or without their sidelined French stopper.
Everything that happened thereafter though was a worry.
Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side only allowed Norwich seven shots on goal (the joint-lowest in Gameweek 5) and on another day, this was a game the Citizens might have edged.
The ropey-looking partnership between Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones (both £5.4m) was worrisome, however, for those Fantasy managers who own a City defender or two.
Stones was rusty on his first start since Gameweek 1, while Otamendi’s lack of pace was ruthlessly exposed by the Canaries on the break.
Both centre-halves were culpable for Norwich’s vital third goal, with Otamendi dawdling on a pass from Stones but ultimately given no indication by his teammate that Buendia was lurking behind him and ready to pounce.
The Argentina international had earlier played Stones into danger near the halfway line but Teemu Pukki (£7.1m) for once failed to convert when racing clear of the visitors’ backline.
The Finn had left Stones and Otamendi for dead for Norwich’s second goal, springing a poorly executed offside trap and teeing up Todd Cantwell (£4.8m) for his second goal of the season.
Kyle Walker (£6.0m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.6m) were not much better, it has to be said, and owners of either player will be even more restless given that Joao Cancelo (£5.4m) and Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m) are about to enter into first-team contention.
Speaking after the match, Guardiola said:
[The defeat to] Newcastle was different. We scored one goal and completely forgot how to play. On Saturday, that didn’t happen – we were not precise upfront, we made individual mistakes and take responsibility for the game.
We will speak with the players. When we win, we speak also. If you expect me to complain about my players, that is not going to happen – never.
Maybe people forget they are human beings. In competitions, you can lose – there are mistakes, misses. Maybe it is wrong to talk about us as ‘unbeatable’ or ‘a perfect team’ or talk about what happened in the past.
Laporte made a mistake in the Champions League quarter-final last season and he’d never made a mistake before – he was the most solid, incredible defender.
It’s happened. Of course, we will have problems – similar problems than we’ve had before. Maybe players are tired; maybe one will need another one.
Asked about Otamendi in particular, Guardiola said:
Nico doesn’t realise the opening was coming because nobody talked and they scored a goal so it’s happened. It’s not good to happen but it happened today.
It’s perhaps best not to rush to judgement too quickly.
The last time this back four played together was in Gameweek 29 of last season, when City didn’t allow Bournemouth a single attempt on goal.
A Laporte-less defence is unquestionably a weaker one but given City’s ball retention and effective high press further up the field, clean sheets will continue to come – if perhaps not at the rate they were arriving last season.
There were also off-days for a number of City’s attacking assets further forward, with Raheem Sterling (£12.3m) registering his second successive blank.
An “off-day” for Sterling is generally still filled with opportunities, however, and no player had more of them at Carrow Road.
The England winger was only a post’s width from making the score 2-1 on 30 minutes and he also created two ‘big chances’ for Sergio Aguero (£12.1m), both of which were nodded off-target by the Argentinean striker.
An Otamendi header from a Sterling cross also forced a fine save from Tim Krul (£4.5m).
Aguero got onto the end of a Bernardo Silva (£7.8m) delivery to reduce the arrears just before half-time but Norwich’s patched-up defence marshalled the Argentina international relatively well on the deck and his owners had to be content with a six-pointer from a fixture that promised much more.
Aguero’s owners at least walked away from this encounter with a return but there was frustration for the large number of us who plumped for Kevin De Bruyne (£9.8m), with the Belgian benched for the first time this season and unable to deliver in a 33-minute cameo as a substitute.
Perhaps the result of this game was a small positive for De Bruyne’s owners in that it was a stark reminder to Guardiola how much his drive and creativity is missed in central midfield – certainly David Silva (£7.5m) and Ilkay Gundogan (£6.3m) had little joy on Saturday and both were hooked before the game had even reached 60 minutes.
All credit should go to Norwich though, whose manager Daniel Farke was deprived of so many players that he named two goalkeepers on the bench.
There were some heroic performances from, among others, makeshift centre-half Ibrahim Amadou (£4.5m) and reserve right-back Sam Byram (£4.4m), although there is a clear distinction between heralding the Canaries’ rearguard effort and actually coveting their defenders in FPL.
Possibly the one Norwich defender to interest Fantasy managers is Grant Hanley (£4.0m), purely because of his bargain-bin price and benchable status.
Hanley was only fit enough for the bench against the Citizens but with Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann (both £4.5m) out for several months (a full season in Klose’s case), the prospects of Fantasy bosses having a playing £4.0m defender initially appeared positive for the medium-term.
Amadou’s superb performance alongside Ben Godfrey (£4.5m), however, may have given Farke a welcome dilemma in the centre-half department.
The Norwich boss said after full-time:
Ibrahim can play really brilliant in this role and he showed this today. It’s good for the confidence, also good for our mood because we have many longer-term injuries of defensive players. For that, it’s good that he was able to deliver like this.
Norwich’s front-foot approach obviously had to be curbed slightly given that they struggled to get hold of the ball but that didn’t mean there was a lack of attacking ambition from the Canaries, whose front four again piled forward whenever the hosts broke away.
If there was ever any doubt about the FPL credentials of Norwich’s attacking assets then this match surely ended it.
The Canaries have scored six goals in meetings with three of last season’s top four and Pukki has been involved in five of them.
Cantwell, meanwhile, is now the best-value midfielder in FPL based on points per million spent.
A word of praise should go to set-piece specialist Buendia, whose awkward price has understandably made him a less popular option than Pukki and Cantwell.
The Argentinean winger was a man-of-the-match candidate for his contribution at both ends and he has quietly amassed four assists already this season: only De Bruyne has more in FPL.
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Krul; Byram, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis; Tettey, McLean; Buendia (Drmic 83′), Stiepermann (Srbeny 89′), Cantwell; Pukki
Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1) Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Gundogan (De Bruyne 57′), Rodri; Bernardo Silva (Mahrez 74′), Silva (Gabriel Jesus 57′), Sterling; Aguero
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