Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City
- Goals: Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m), David Silva (£7.6m)
- Assists: Bernardo Silva (£7.9m), Raheem Sterling (£12.1m)
- Bonus: David Silva, Joao Cancelo (£5.3m) x3, Jesus x1
For the third time this season and the second time in three Gameweeks, Sergio Aguero (£12.2m) was dropped to the bench for a league match by Pep Guardiola.
The Argentinean striker didn’t even make it onto the field as a substitute as Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) played the full 90 minutes and scored his side’s opening goal, taking his tally to three for the season.
The fact that the City boss is prone to rotation is hardly headline news but this was a particularly eyebrow-raising selection decision from Guardiola, given that Jesus had played 178 minutes for Brazil in Singapore over the last fortnight and that Aguero had been granted a breather over the international break.
The logic that the more rested Aguero would get the nod over his positional rival was turned on its head by the reigning champions’ head coach after full-time, with Guardiola saying:
We have two incredible strikers and Sergio is so important for this club. Gabriel came back from Brazil, Sergio was ten days without rhythm in training, that’s why I decided. But both are important.
When Sergio plays he plays a good level and when Gabriel plays he plays a good level. After that, I will take a decision. It depends on many, many things.
In fresh quotes released on Sunday evening, the City boss added:
Gabriel was always good from the beginning. Unfortunately, he had two tough injuries and after the World Cup, it was not easy for him.
He is a strong number nine of Brazil. The club bought an incredible young player for an incredible price – one of the best signings. When he arrived, he had an incredible impact and then after his injuries.
He’s good. He fights with Sergio Aguero; Sergio fights with him for one position. I’ve said many times: to compete with Sergio is the most difficult thing. Sergio is incredible – a legend; outrageously amazing. Sometimes, I need Sergio for many things; sometimes, I need Gabriel. That’s all.
The reason why (I picked Gabriel over Sergio at Crystal Palace) was because I thought Gabriel was in rhythm. When you play games with the national team, always you have the pace. Sergio was with Argentina for one week, came back and trained just three or four days. That’s the reason why.
He is young and he can improve. Like, in the last action he had, he had to pass to Kevin De Bruyne, but he is so young. There is more to come – from him and everyone.
I don’t know what will happen (who of Sergio or Gabriel will play) in the next game.
Aguero started every match from Gameweeks 1-13 last season, with that run only broken by injury.
Six of the seven Premier League matches that he failed to start in 2018/19 were either because of injury (Gameweeks 14-16 and 33) or came off the back of an injury (Gameweeks 17-18).
That security of starts is evidently a thing of the past, with Jesus playing much more of a prominent role domestically.
The Brazilian was a livewire throughout this match, too, producing some nimble footwork and highlighting his underrated strength in the air by registering six headed attempts on goal – one of which found the net for City’s opener.
Aguero’s owners may face a keep-or-sell dilemma, then, although they will be tempted to wait till Gameweek 12 before making a decision, with a double-header against Aston Villa and Southampton to come at the Etihad next.
The Argentina international is, after all, still the second-highest scoring Fantasy Premier League asset of 2019/20 despite three benchings.
Aguero is not alone in facing a rotation threat, of course.
At this stage last season, four City players were still ever-presents in the league; this time around, only Ederson (£6.1m) has made the starting XI in all nine of City’s league games.
Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) was another to drop to the bench at Selhurst Park, although his demotion was perhaps less of a surprise given that he started City’s three matches in league and cup before the international break and considering that this may well have been Guardiola’s last chance to call upon Bernardo Silva (£7.9m) on the domestic front for a little while, given that the outcome to his FA charge is expected this week.
The two most-owned City players didn’t particularly have a field day in their teammates’ absence.
Raheem Sterling (£12.1m) did collect an assist for his role in David Silva‘s (£7.6m) goal but both he and Kevin De Bruyne (£10.1m) ought to have emerged from this encounter with more points.
Sterling was occasionally found hugging the left-hand touchline in the first half of Saturday’s match (something many observers have pointed out over recent weeks) but he was more prominent after the break, having four presentable chances from central positions inside the Palace box – the first hitting the post before three shots were skewed badly wide.
The fitness of Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m) could be key to Sterling’s goal threat when he plays on the left, with the Frenchman offering the natural width that the other left-bank candidates sometimes struggle to match.
Guardiola highlighted Sterling’s profligacy when asked about the winger’s fine assist:
Yeah. it was an incredible assist. At the same time, his mates gave him assists and he could not score a goal. But next time he will do it.
We created a lot of chances and their keeper made a lot of saves. It’s okay, hopefully we can be more clinical in the future, but it was a good result.
De Bruyne didn’t have his best game on his return from injury, with his distribution for once not inch-perfect and his first touch occasionally lacking.
That said, he ought to have emerged from this game with at least one attacking return, being completely overlooked by Jesus with the goal at his mercy and then heading agonisingly off the post from an Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) cross.
It was David Silva who ended up top-scoring for the hosts, with the veteran midfielder registering his fourth double-digit haul of the campaign – more than De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero have managed.
To compound the misery for many Fantasy managers, City’s three most-owned defenders missed out on their fourth clean sheet of the campaign.
Kyle Walker (£6.0m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£5.6m) were sidelined through illness and injury respectively, while Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.4m) was overlooked in favour of Mendy.
Zinchenko has now failed to start three of the last four league matches.
Two midfielders, Rodri (£5.5m) and Fernandinho (£5.2m), deputised at centre-half and were everything that Otamendi hasn’t been of late: cool, composed and quick-thinking, able to sniff out danger before a footrace from the halfway line was required.
While City still have an obvious weakness at set-piece situations – Ederson having to pull off a world-class save to tip Christian Benteke‘s (£5.7m) header onto the bar – Palace weren’t much of a threat from open play and it’ll be interesting to see how Guardiola shapes his defence up in Gameweek 10 after this display, should all of his centre-half options be available.
The City boss said of Rodri and Fernandinho:
Thank you so much for the effort because it is not their position. But our build-up is faster and both were incredible. Rodri didn’t train one day in that position but he is intelligent and smart.
The season is long. Everyone will play. It’s another option but we knew it at the beginning.
Palace’s role in the Fantasy world over the next four Gameweeks may be that of party-poopers, with the Eagles next facing Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool.
They are an admirably well-organised and stubborn side and had kept City mostly at bay before the visitors’ quick-fire double effectively killed the game just before half-time.
Over half of City’s ‘big chances’ arrived in the final quarter of an hour, with Palace having little option but to throw bodies forward.
Palace had only conceded one home goal before Saturday’s match and we can expect them to be a space-constricting barrier for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.1m), Jamie Vardy (£9.0m), Tammy Abraham (£7.7m) and Mohamed Salah (£12.4m) in the weeks ahead, with defending very much Roy Hodgson’s side’s strong suit.
The Palace manager said after the game:
We were defending well, the defenders worked hard to follow the game plan. To make certain we seal off the space that their players need and want to use. But it’s hard to seal them off completely because of the quality of their players. We weren’t exactly conceding a goal chance every few minutes. But at 0-2, the ability and composure they have to keep the ball, it was going to be very tough.
We’d have needed an early goal [in response] to shake them, and the longer the game went on that didn’t happen. But we kept going, and kept trying, and made Ederson make two or three very good saves. We had the ball in their penalty area a lot more in that half, and I’m afraid that’s the best we could do in the game.
First-choice goalkeeper Vicente Guaita (£5.0m) and popular budget FPL defender Martin Kelly (£4.1m) missed this game through injury, with Hodgson saying later:
Vicente Guaita has been complaining about a slight groin problem for a period of time. We thought he possibly would recover but he didn’t. There was a thought we could have taken a risk with him. He was not far off from being fit.
Martin Kelly was in yesterday’s training session, he felt a slight twinge in his groin. As with Guaita, I’m not sure, I’m hoping it won’t be a long-term injury.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Hennessey; van Aanholt, Tomkins (Dann 83′), Cahill, Ward; Milivojevic (Benteke 76′), McArthur, Kouyate; Schlupp (Townsend 55′), Zaha, Ayew.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Rodri, Fernandinho, Mendy; D Silva (Stones 79′), Gundogan, De Bruyne (Foden 90′); B Silva, Jesus, Sterling.
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