Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City
- Goals: Raheem Sterling (£11.6m)
- Assists: Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m)
- Bonus: Fernandinho (£5.4m), Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) x2, Mahrez, Ruben Dias (£6.1m) x1
A fixture between two of the division’s meanest defences ended in a predictably low-scoring game.
Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) settled the contest after little more than a minute, nodding home Riyad Mahrez‘s (£8.1m) teasing cross from close range.
Pep Guardiola’s side secured their 15th clean sheet of the season, and their 11th shut-out in 13 matches that featured both Ruben Dias (£6.1m) and John Stones (£5.2m) at centre-back.
TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Ilkay Gundogan (£6.1m) made a swift return from a groin injury in Sunday’s match in north London, while Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) was handed his first start in a month after his own recent lay-off.
Neither player could deliver an attacking return, although the pair almost combined for a City second when Gundogan made a hash of his teammate’s pinpoint through-ball.
Part of a fluid three in Pep Guardiola’s strikerless set-up, the pair took their turns along with Bernardo Silva (£7.4m) in operating as the spearhead of the City attack.
Many of us will already own Gundogan: his ownership stands at over 85% in the top 10k (a better gauge of active managers than the overall figure) and may increase further heading into Double Gameweek 26.
But De Bruyne sits in less than 1% of these squads and is something of a differential among active managers.
He looked the part at times on Sunday, supplying two superb key passes to Sterling and Gundogan before almost finding the back of the net with an audacious chip in the second half.
Both Gundogan and De Bruyne have found themselves in more advanced positions than usual this season and the former has adapted better: the German has converted 28.9% of his shots in 2020/21, with De Bruyne’s rate down at a poor 4.8%.
The Belgian can’t even begin to compete when it comes to value for money and it is more of a question over whether he can form a double-up with Gundogan in FPL squads going into the Double Gameweeks.
Still a tad rusty and rested by his manager after an hour at the Emirates, his final audition will come on Wednesday against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
He’ll have that game not only to prove his match-sharpness but to suggest he is a preferable premium option to the quietly consistent Sterling, who now has 13 attacking returns in his last 14 Premier League starts.
“He’s due a haul” sums up Joao Cancelo‘s (£6.1m) season as a Fantasy asset.
One duly arrived in Gameweek 20 against West Bromwich Albion but the fact remains that this was one of just two Premier League matches this season in which the defender-turned-midfielder has delivered attacking returns.
The likes of Joel Matip (£5.4m) and Darnell Furlong (£4.5m) have exactly the same record as Cancelo in terms of goals (one) and assists (two), although the 12 clean sheets that the Portuguese full-back has banked are a bit of a sweetener.
There was yet another “nearly” moment at the Emirates, with the premium City defender tiptoeing his way into the Arsenal penalty box and ruining a superb feint on Pablo Mari (£4.4m) by prodding wide from 10 yards.
Another haul does seem inevitable at some point – but then so does the odd benching given City’s upcoming schedule, and that is the trade-off owners have to swallow.
It was a third successive Premier League game as a non-playing substitute for Sergio Aguero (£10.3m), whose campaign has been hampered by a knee problem, a hamstring injury and even a positive coronavirus test.
The Argentine has little more than two hours of game-time to his name in the top flight this season; the fact that we are approaching successive Double Gameweeks for City without even considering him as a viable FPL option shows how much of a non-event his 2020/21 has been.
His playing return could be imminent, however, at least according to his manager:
I am looking forward to putting him in. We cannot forget he was a long time injured and you get rhythm when you play minutes.
But he deserves to play and I want it. I want to say keep working hard and your time is coming.
It’s about his physical condition – he was one year injured; he only played a few minutes. I want to be sure for him – for us as well – but for him.
ART LIES ELSEWHERE
European club competition returned last week and much of what we wrote about Tottenham Hotspur in another Gameweek 25 Scout Notes may also apply to their north London neighbours.
The Gunners are 11 points away from a top-four spot and their best bet for securing qualification to next year’s Champions League may be to win this year’s Europa League.
The deeper the Gunners go into that competition, and the longer they remain mid-table fodder, then the risks of rotation around Thursday nights on the continent will increase.
We saw the first glimpses of that at the weekend, with Mikel Arteta making five changes to the team that lined up both in Gameweek 25 and in midweek against Benfica – semi-popular budget midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (£4.3m) finally losing his spot after 10 successive league starts.
Kieran Tierney (£5.2m) was a welcome returnee on his comeback from injury and would be among the names to consider for the Gunners’ fixture swing in Gameweek 31, with he and left-sided partner-in-crime Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) again catching the eye going forward on Sunday.
But should Arteta’s troops still be involved in the Europa League when the tournament reaches the quarter-final stage, then the Gunners’ Premier League line-ups could be tricky to second-guess.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding (Luiz 82), Mari, Tierney; Elneny (Ceballos 86), Xhaka; Pepe (Smith-Rowe 73), Odegaard (Lacazette 73), Saka; Aubameyang.
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Silva, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne (Jesus 63′), Sterling.
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