Manchester City maintained the five-point gap between themselves and Liverpool with a 3-1 win over Everton.
We round up the main Fantasy talking points from the Saturday evening kick-off at Goodison Park in our Scout Notes below.
Everton 1-3 Manchester City
- Goals: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8m) | Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m), Raheem Sterling (£12.1m)
- Assists: Seamus Coleman (£5.4m) | Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m) x2, Sergio Aguero (£12.2m)
- Bonus: Mahrez x3, Coleman x2, De Bruyne x1
The notion that Sergio Aguero (£12.2m) is the ‘safest’ route into Pep Guardiola’s ever-changing attack was weakened somewhat on Saturday as the Argentinian striker dropped to the bench for the first time in the league since Gameweek 1.
Last season, Aguero was about as nailed an option as possible during the autumn months.
With the premium forward only starting two of City’s six UEFA Champions League group games and sitting out his side’s first two EFL Cup ties, Aguero was a reliable option for Fantasy managers, starting every single league match from Gameweeks 1 to 13 – only a groin injury halting that run in December.
His benching on the opening weekend of 2019/20 wasn’t a great shock given his late return from the Copa America but this latest demotion from the starting XI was more of a surprise, especially considering that Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) was given a 90-minute run-out at Deepdale on Tuesday.
Jesus was handed only his second league start of the season on Merseyside, however, with Aguero’s owners having to make do with a 25-minute substitute’s appearance and an assist for Raheem Sterling‘s (£12.1m) game-clinching strike.
David Silva (£7.6m) and Bernardo Silva (£7.9m), both of whom had started City’s last two competitive matches, also dropped to the bench for this encounter.
Guardiola explained his decisions in a broadcast interview after full-time and sounded some ominous comments about changing his team “every single game” going forward.
The City boss said:
I want to make everyone involved. Of course, Sergio can play and David can play but the last game in the Champions League, they didn’t play; I want to let them play in the Champions League, we play on Tuesday. So, I want them to play everybody.
For me, it’s tough. Some players don’t play regularly. I’m going to move the team every single game to be part of that. I know everybody wants to play, I understand completely, but it’s the only way to maintain the level for 11 months.
There was one final twist to the Aguero benching, however.
In quotes released from the embargoed section of Guardiola’s press conference on Sunday
In Champions League, the first game, David and Sergio didn’t play and I will let them play the second game.
Yesterday, Sergio felt something a little bit in the leg. I said, ‘OK, to start the game I prefer Gabriel’. In the last minutes, sharp, go Sergio. He came in and makes two actions to shoot. The third goal came from him.
The reality is, we Fantasy managers are going to have to endure the occasional spot of rotation in order to tap into City’s blistering attack.
Sterling, Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) have seven benchings between them this season but all four players sit in the top ten FPL points-scorers of 2019/20 as of Sunday, so the risk is evidently worth the reward.
When Guardiola has in-form players like Mahrez at his disposal, of course, rotation is easier to implement from his point of view.
The Algerian winger was one of the game’s stand-out players, registering more efforts on goal and key passes than any of his teammates.
The former Leicester wide-man scored his side’s decisive second goal, curling in a free-kick after De Bruyne had been chopped down – although Jordan Pickford (£5.5m) should have done better with the effort.
There ought to have been other attacking returns for the Algeria international, with Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) and Sterling wasting glorious opportunities that he carved out.
Mahrez is one of the names that Sterling’s Fantasy owners have to be worried about and, in contrast to his teammate on the opposite flank, the England international had something of a stinker.
The premium midfielder was particularly out of sorts after the break, first wasting that aforementioned Mahrez assist when firing wide, totally unmarked, from 12 yards.
Sterling then failed to control a Kyle Walker (£6.0m) cross with the goal at his mercy and wasted possession on another couple of occasions when City were breaking at speed and in numbers.
The great thing is from an owners’ perspective is that, even on an off-day, Sterling can still deliver points.
The former Liverpool winger broke a three-game duck by following up Aguero’s saved effort in the 83rd minute to round off the scoring and the fact that he was getting into dangerous central positions was very much a positive to take from this second-half display, particularly after the concerns over his touchline-hugging role at Norwich and indeed in the opening exchanges at Goodison Park.
De Bruyne has delivered an attacking return in every league game he has started this season and he registered his eighth and ninth assists of the campaign here, first producing a sensational cross for Jesus to nod in and then being fouled for the free-kick that Mahrez despatched.
While he was not the completely dominant force he had been against Watford, there were still moments of genius from the Belgian playmaker and his pair of assists means that he is now the leading FPL points-scorer in 2019/20.
De Bruyne averages exactly nine points per match at present.
The Belgium international was withdrawn in the 79th minute on Merseyside and there were rumours of a possible injury to the in-form midfielder, although little else substantive has followed in the ensuing 24 hours.
The Athletic’s Sam Lee reported the following on Saturday evening:
Reflecting on the game overall, Guardiola said:
Absolutely outstanding. At Goodison Park it’s always difficult, this stadium. We started incredibly well, as usual, we created chances and scored a goal.
After that we had a lot of problems to control our left side with Sugirdsson because in that area they had one more player there. We had a lot of problems.
In the second half, except set-pieces, conceding free-kicks and some long balls we played again good. I had the feeling we had clear chances but not many for the last control, we arrive in positions with Sterling or Riyad and the control could be better.
Ederson made two incredible saves at 2-1.
As Guardiola alluded to there, it wasn’t all plain sailing for City.
The defensive insecurity that was punished by Norwich in Gameweek 5 was again in evidence at Goodison Park, with makeshift stopper Fernandinho (£5.2m) at fault for the hosts’ strike.
That wasn’t an isolated moment of weakness at the back, with Ederson called on to make smart stops from Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.8m) and Yerry Mina (£5.5m) late in the game.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.6m) also found himself clean through on goal but couldn’t control a lofted pass.
Guardiola said of Fernandinho and his defence:
We don’t have any other options, he’s going to play in that position, except if injured. The best defenders in the world make
these kindof actions. With the ball, Fernandinho was outstanding today.
That is what it is, we have to go with these two guys and after, young players. We’ll see what happens next Tuesday if they are fit and recovered for the Champions League game and
hopefullyJohn [Stones] will come back from the international break, can be fit to help us, to have more players in that position.
It’s worth saying that no side has kept more Premier League clean sheets than City this season and they will continue to record shut-outs even with a centre-half pairing of Otamendi and Fernandinho, as they did against Watford and Shakhtar.
Their aggressive pressing from the front and the fact that they hog the ball for long periods of the game are defensive assets in themselves, although any team willing to have a go at the reigning champions may find more joy than they would have with Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) in the side, based on the evidence of the last few weeks.
Everton certainly gave a positive account of themselves and were more convincing from an attacking perspective than they had been in Gameweek 6 – although breaking down the ‘smaller’, more defensive-minded clubs (Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Sheffield United) has been their problem this season.
Reflecting on the game, Marco Silva said:
werebetter than us until the first goal but we showed a reaction and the desire to challenge them to try to get a different result.
The reaction was really good, we equalised and the game was more balanced. Our players showed that desire to react and challenge them.
Then the second half was better. We spoke at half-time about being more aggressive in our organisation and in the challenge.
The reaction after City scored the free-kick was very good again and we had two big chances.
We have to keep the attitude and desire we showed in the second half. In this way, we will score and get results in the next games. From good
resultsconfidence will come and everything will be different.
A first goal of 2019/20 for Mina surely can’t be too far away, with the Colombia international a constant threat from set plays.
Having Mina and Michael Keane (£5.5m) to aim at is good news for Lucas Digne (£6.1m) and, although his delivery was below-par at times, the left-back still could have emerged from this game with an assist when Mina forced Ederson into a fine save from his corner.
The impressive Seamus Coleman (£5.4m) did get an attacking return, with his goalbound effort being turned in on the goalline by Calvert-Lewin.
While there were glimmers of hope from an attacking perspective, Everton have conceded at least two goals per game in each of their last five league matches – only Watford have shipped more in that time.
Digne remains the same attacking threat as he always did but the Toffees do look less than solid at the back, with Idrissa Gueye‘s departure and an injury to Jean-Philippe Gbamin (£4.9m) perhaps leaving them more exposed than they were at the back-end of 2018/19.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Delph, Schneiderlin (Davies 81′); Walcott (Iwobi 7′, Kean 74′), Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin.
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Bernardo 80′), Gundogan, Rodrigo; Mahrez, Jesus (Aguero 65′), Sterling (D Silva 86′).
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