Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City
- Goals: Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m) | Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m) x2, Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) x3, Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m)
- Assists: Trezeguet (£5.2m) | Aguero, Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne (£10.6m) x2, David Silva (£7.4m), Mahrez
- Bonus: Aguero x3, Mahrez x2, Silva x1
With many Fantasy managers trying to redistribute funds in order to crowbar three premium Liverpool assets into their squads, Manchester City’s similarly priced players might be among the makeweights.
Sunday’s demolition of Aston Villa was a reminder of what Pep Guardiola’s side are capable of when on-song, however.
Even the Reds, unbeaten all season and 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League, don’t come close to matching City’s attacking stats.
While they have admittedly played a game more, City have scored 12 more goals than the runaway leaders and attempted over 100 more shots.
Efforts on target, shots in the box, big chances: you name it, Guardiola’s troops boss it.
They were rampant at Villa Park on Sunday, with Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) at his devastating best and registering his highest single Gameweek score since August 2018 – becoming the record overseas goalscorer in the Premier League in the process.
Asked about the Argentinean striker after full-time, Guardiola said:
He was a legend already and that legendary status became bigger tonight. I think he is one of the most incredible players I have seen in this league.
The most important thing is that he is an incredible person – you cannot score this many goals or break so many records if you are not somebody is happy to be with his team-mates.
He has to always be fit to be at his best and he sometimes needs a bit of time after he has been injured or in pre-season, but he loves to play football and he is a guy who when he is in the final third always has a goal in his mind.
Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m) and Gabriel Jesus (£9.5m) also emerged with double-digit hauls, while Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) banked two assists to became the first player to hit the 150-point mark in Fantasy Premier League in 2019/20.
Two quickfire goals from Mahrez set City on their way, with the Algerian squeezing a shot past Orjan Nyland (£4.3m) at his near post and then capitalising on debutant Danny Drinkwater‘s (£4.4m) error to double the visitors’ lead.
De Bruyne then assisted goals for Aguero and Jesus – the first a superb strike by the Argentina international and the second owing much to De Bruyne’s excellent run and cross – as City went into half-time 4-0 up.
Aguero completed his hat-trick after the interval, peeling off the Villa defence to fire low past Nyland and then being the beneficiary of another individual error from Kortney Hause (£4.4m) to fire in his third with ten minutes to go.
There could have been other goals, too.
Jesus was particularly wasteful, firing over when well-positioned in the first half, seeing a shot cleared off the line by Tyrone Mings (£4.5m) after the break and then spurning two efforts on 77 minutes, the first saved by Nyland and the second crashed wide from eight yards.
Aguero fired over the bar and David Silva (£7.4m) sent a free-kick narrowly off-target in the first half, too, as Villa were torn apart.
Owners of De Bruyne may even have felt a little miffed at emerging with ‘only’ nine points, with the Belgian brought off by Guardiola for a well-earned breather with the game well and truly won by the 60-minute mark.
Those who still own the benched and unused Raheem Sterling (£11.8m) had it worse, though: the only two league matches that the England international has not played a part in this season were the ones in which City have scored the most goals (the other being the 8-0 thrashing of Watford).
Therein lies one of the problems with City assets: the unpredictability of starts.
As anyone who checks in with our line-up predictions every week knows, second-guessing Guardiola is a nigh-on impossible task.
Sterling previously hadn’t been benched in two successive league matches in 2019/20 or 2018/19, while Jesus and Aguero hadn’t been paired in tandem in the Premier League in 16 months.
Efforts to crack the Pep code earlier this season had mixed results at best, while the City manager’s recent experiments with a striker-less system in the EFL Cup and a 3-4-3 over Christmas makes anticipating team selections all the harder.
Who knows who Guardiola will send out in Gameweek 23?
De Bruyne is, at least, a relatively safe bet: this was his 14th consecutive Premier League start and he has only been benched once (he also missed the home defeat to Wolves through injury) all season.
Mahrez, meanwhile, has quietly racked up five starts in a row. Perhaps at his reduced price, we can stomach the odd benching, but the £11.8m we have to fork out for Aguero and especially Sterling is a lot considering the week-to-week uncertainty.
Chasing the fixtures and regularly switching the FPL big hitters (in the process being able to target matches in which starts appear most likely) is another strategy, of course, and one that served Pro Pundit Lateriser12 well this week when he drafted in Aguero especially with Villa in mind.
Which brings us to our next caveat: City won’t play Dean Smith’s side every week.
Aston Villa are either bottom or second-bottom for goals, shots in the box, big chances and attempts on goal conceded this season and this was one of City’s easiest tests of 2019/20.
Guardiola’s side now sit bottom of our Season Ticker over the next ten Gameweeks, with Liverpool right at the top.
Next up for the Sky Blues is a Crystal Palace side that hasn’t conceded more than one goal in a game since November, followed by a trip to Bramall Lane, where Sheffield United have kept five clean sheets in 11 matches.
If there’s one team that can crack a tightly knit defence, though, it’s City.
Guardiola’s troops have already put a combined four goals past those two teams in the reverse fixtures and have scored at least two goals in 19 of their 22 Premier League games this season.
It should also be noted that Villa, although generally porous for much of the season, had restricted a full-strength Leicester City to a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium just last week, so had shown slight improvement at the back.
Reflecting on City’s overall display, Guardiola said:
It was good. From the beginning we were always in control. We made a lot of transitions and short passes and it was a great result and good performance.
We played well against United but they played better in the second half – today it was for the full 90 minutes.
I think we have always been there this season, even when we have lost games like at Norwich, we created lots of chances – but sometimes maybe we lost our incredible focus occasionally and after back to back titles, it is difficult with the reality of everything.
This was a punishing defeat for Villa and a reminder of their defensive limitations from a Fantasy perspective.
All four of their clean sheets in 2019/20 have come in home games against bottom-half teams and they only have one such fixture (against a resurgent Watford) remaining between now and May.
Their attacking assets, in particular Jack Grealish (£6.5m), are more enticing options, although the striker-less Villans had little joy against the Citizens on Sunday.
Grealish’s frustration boiled over on a few occasions and it was no surprise that he was booked for dissent late on, with his owners’ miserable afternoon completed when Anwar El Ghazi (£5.5m), rather than the Villa talisman, stepped up to take the hosts’ 90th-minute penalty after a foul on Trezeguet (£5.2m).
With Wesley (£5.6m) out for the season, it may well be El Ghazi on duty from the spot between now and Gameweek 38.
After the game, Smith was right to point out that many of the same players (and a similar shape) were used against Burnley and Leicester to better effect:
We were certainly contributors to our own downfall today. We made mistakes for goals and I think the third goal summed up our performance.
They made 20 passes without any physical contact and Sergio Aguero puts it in the top corner from 20 yards out with no one within three of four yards of him.
As good a team as Manchester City are, if you’re making any physical contact on them then you’re going to get punished.
We know that we’ve contributed to the scoreline today, which doesn’t help. A lot of those players are the same players who did so well against Burnley and Leicester City.
We’ll learn from it and move forward. We were very poor against Watford, got beat 3-0, we learned from it and went and put in a really good performance against Burnley.
The loan signing of Pepe Reina should bolster their goalkeeping options, at least, and is expected to be confirmed on Monday.
Aston Villa XI (5-3-1-1): Nyland; Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Hause, Taylor; Hourihane (Trezeguet 71′), Drinkwater (Lansbury 79′), Douglas Luiz (Nakamba 65′); Grealish; El Ghazi.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Fernandinho (Otamendi 63′), Mendy; De Bruyne (Foden 63′), Rodri (Gundogan 71′), D Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Jesus.
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