We study both Manchester clubs, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Sheffield United as we continue our series of articles that looks at which Fantasy Premier League assets stand the best chance of frequent starts when the season resumes.
Looking back at which players have clocked up the most appearances and minutes so far in 2019/20 may be beneficial, then, for those targeting ‘nailed’ assets.
We now turn our attention to the next five top-flight teams as we work down the list alphabetically.
Given that we’ve had a three-month break, there is always the danger that the head coaches in question will have performed U-turns on a number of players or reconsidered tactics.
Questions of motivation may also be valid for a number of teams, should there be nothing riding on their results over the coming month, so we may have to be braced for some managers using these end-of-season matches to experiment with personnel and shape.
All that being said, the below analysis should hopefully give us a rough guide as to which Fantasy assets are likeliest to rack up pitch-time in Gameweeks 30+ to 38+.
The million-dollar question: which Manchester City assets are the safest picks?
The top two players in the table above are probably the answer, although only the slippery City boss truly knows for sure.
Ederson‘s (£6.0m) only absences have been enforced by injury or illness, while groin and shoulder problems have accounted for two of Kevin De Bruyne‘s (£10.6m) three omissions from Pep Guardiola’s starting XI.
The Belgian’s only benching came in the Gameweek 5 defeat at Norwich City and De Bruyne started every match in the busy December period.
His minutes have more been managed during games, with ten of his 25 starts ending in substitutions, although more often than not his withdrawals have come when City are cruising and the premium midfielder has already plundered FPL points.
Raheem Sterling (£11.7m) had started all but one of his side’s opening 20 league games but tactical benchings at the start of 2020 and an injury in Gameweeks 26 and 27 have spoiled his record somewhat, with Leroy Sane‘s (£9.3m) imminent return only adding to the uncertainty out wide.
Aymeric Laporte (£6.3m) was the bedrock of the City defence last season, starting 34 of City’s 38 league games, but injuries have severely disrupted his involvement in 2019/20.
Guardiola was careful with the player upon his return earlier this calendar year, substituting him near the hour-mark in Gameweeks 26 and 27, and it remains to be seen just how match-ready he is ahead of Double Gameweek 30+. A fully fit Laporte would appear to be the likeliest starter at the back based on last season’s evidence but getting confirmation of his fitness status from the taciturn Guardiola is easier said than done.
Sergio Aguero (£11.8m) has been benched in seven of the 24 league games that he has been available for, meanwhile, although has started five of City’s last six games.
In truth, Gameweeks 30+ to 38+ look like even more of a lottery with City assets.
Firstly, the frequency of games sets alarm bells ringing, with ten league matches plus two possible cup ties to negotiate in the space of 40 days.
Then, there is the question of motivation.
City are comfortably second in the league, too far behind Liverpool to catch the champions-elect and too far ahead of the chasing pack to be concerned about losing a top-four place (should that count for anything, given City’s European ban).
Guardiola’s primary incentive will perhaps be to make sure his most trusted players are match-fit ahead of the FA Cup and Champions League restarts, with the latter coming at the beginning of August.
How he goes about that, though, is the big unknown.
Expect plenty of substitutions, more cameos off the bench and fewer zero-pointers in the run-in, as well as rotation between games.
The potential rewards on offer in the early Double Gameweek especially will be enough of a carrot for many of us to invest in City players but it would be a surprise if many of their outfielders were handed 180 minutes against Arsenal and Burnley.
David de Gea (£5.3m) and Harry Maguire (£5.3m) haven’t missed a minute of Premier League football this season, while Marcus Rashford (£8.8m) has also been an ever-present when injury hasn’t enforced his unavailability and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) has tasted bench duty just once.
Anthony Martial‘s (£8.0m) only absences from the starting XI have also been fitness-related (his one benching came off the back of a thigh injury) and he has started 19 of United’s last 20 league games, albeit having been substituted in over half of them.
It’s a remarkably settled picture at Old Trafford, with the improving Fred having started 22 games in a row in midfield and Victor Lindelof (£5.3m) having been preferred alongside Maguire for much of the season – although the return of Eric Bailly (£4.9m) from a long-term lay-off could jeopardise his place eventually.
Bruno Fernandes (£8.6m), of course, looks a shoo-in in the centre of the park.
Left-back and the right flank appear to be the most at-risk areas.
Brandon Williams (£4.2m) has proved to be an able deputy for Luke Shaw (£5.4m) when called upon, with the two players occasionially making the same team when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has switched to a wing-back system.
The versatile Daniel James (£5.8m) has been a regular starter on either flank this season but the rookie Welshman has arguably played more football than intended thanks to injuries elsewhere.
He appears to head the likes of Andreas Pereira (£4.8m) and Mason Greenwood (£4.3m) for a place on the right but Paul Pogba‘s (£8.3m) return could be interesting regarding United’s shape, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Solskjaer occasionally use a diamond formation – perhaps sacrificing James – in order to accommodate his excess of central midfielders.
A change in formation from 5-4-1 to 4-2-3-1 in Gameweek 28 has altered the picture at St James Park somewhat, although the fit-again Martin Dubravka (£5.1m) is nailed between the posts regardless.
Club captain Jamaal Lascelles (£4.3m) has been an ever-present when available, meanwhile, and Federico Fernandez (£4.6m) has started every league match from Gameweek 10 onwards.
Bruce does have four other fit centre-halves now at his disposal, which may be a slight worry, but Fernandez and Lascelles were in charge of the positions before coronavirus halted play.
Danny Rose (£5.3m) has started four matches in a row since his move from Spurs, while Javier Manquillo (£4.3m) has latterly been preferred at right-back when fit – although there is plenty of competition in that position.
Jonjo Shelvey (£4.9m) and Isaac Hayden (£4.5m) dropped into the double-pivot upon that recent move to the back four and are Steve Bruce’s most-used central midfielders this season (the former has spent time out injured), although the Longstaff brothers and Nabil Bentaleb (£4.9m) may see some game-time with the games coming thick and fast.
Be slightly wary of Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m), too, with Bruce perhaps likely to handle the Magpies’ most-talented player carefully given the frequency of games to come; the Frenchman’s hamstring snapped in Gameweek 16 after a run of starts in the side and Bruce acknowledged retrospectively that the winger had played too much football over a busy December.
Miguel Almiron (£5.8m) has started every game when fit but there is perhaps less certainty elsewhere, with Valentino Lazaro (£5.4m) and Matt Ritchie (£5.3m) both having good claims to the right-wing role.
Joelinton (£5.5m) has started more matches than not up top, meanwhile, but his goal shortage led to Dwight Gayle (£5.0m) being handed a rare run-out in Gameweek 29.
Andy Carroll (£5.4m) is now fit, too.
Teemu Pukki’s (£6.5m) talismanic status should ensure the Finn starts all of Norwich’s remaining games, at least while the Canaries still have a mathematical chance of survival.
Pukki hasn’t missed a single match when he has been fit and available for selection, which is also true of Tim Krul (£4.6m) and Max Aarons (£4.3m).
Sam Byram (£4.3m) held the upper hand at left-back until injury forced him off against Liverpool in Gameweek 26 and it’ll be interesting to see who Daniel Farke plumps for now that he has both Byram and Jamal Lewis (£4.4m) to choose from in that position.
There is uncertainty at centre-half, too, with Farke having a full complement of stoppers to select from for the first time this season.
Grant Hanley (£4.1m) had been in fine form before the mid-March suspension and would be harshly done by if dropped, although had seemingly been fourth in line behind Christoph Zimmermann (£4.4m), Ben Godfrey (£4.4m) and Timm Klose (£4.3m) when Norwich came up from the Championship.
All those players are now reportedly free of injury, with Klose – arguably Norwich’s best centre-half and their only natural left-sided option – available for the first time in 2019/20.
Alex Tettey (£4.5m) and Kenny McLean (£4.8m) had been the partnership in the midfield pivot in Gameweeks 23-29, with new signing Ondrej Duda (£4.7m) an ever-present in ‘the hole’ since his January move.
Todd Cantwell (£4.7m) has actually started every Norwich match this calendar year but is one of the most substituted out players in the Premier League this season and faced a spot of rotation in December when the games last piled up.
Cantwell and Emiliano Buendia (£6.0m) may well have to share pitch-time with Onel Hernandez (£5.3m) and Lukas Rupp (£4.5m), then, even if the first two appear favourites to start at present.
The situation at Sheffield United is one of the most straight-forward in the division.
Eight of Chris Wilder’s regular starting XI have started every match when available for selection, with five of them boasting ever-present records.
The players in question are Dean Henderson (£5.3m), the three centre-halves, the two wing-backs, John Fleck (£5.0m) and Oliver Norwood (£4.9m) – which leaves three spots up for grabs.
John Lundstram (£4.9m) has held the right-sided central midfield position for much of 2019/20, starting in 22 of the first 23 Gameweeks; only an injury spoiled his ever-present record up until that point.
New signing Sander Berge (£4.8m) ousted the out-of-position FPL defender in Gameweek 24 but Lundstram returned to the starting XI just before coronavirus stopped play, producing a double-digit haul on his comeback.
Rotation has been commonplace up top, meanwhile, and it was particularly rife when Sheffield United last encountered a period of serious fixture congestion in December.
Not one of the Bladesmen’s strikers has more than 16 starts to their name this season, although Oli McBurnie (£5.7m) and Billy Sharp (£5.6m) had been the preferred pairing before the suspension of play, having racked up seven and five consecutive starts respectively.
Injury-enforced substitutions aside, Fleck, John Egan (£4.6m), Jack O’Connell (£4.7m) and the two wing-backs haven’t been replaced once in 2019/20 – so arguably look the likeliest candidates to last the full 90 minutes.
Wilder now having five substitutions up his sleeve, of course, could change all that.
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