Gameweek 6 FPL Q&A – Man City defence and top tips for poor starts

After Man City’s shock loss to Norwich, the gameweek 5 headlines were dominated by the result. Who would of thought question marks would be asked about the value of Sterling? And with the likes of Son and Aubameyang getting on the score sheet, the options available to managers continue to grow, and so too the selection headaches. With the big clash between Chelsea and Liverpool the pick of the matches, gameweek 6 looks to be another entertaining week of football.

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In this GW6 FPL Guest Q&A article, we are joined by Ian FPL Strategic and LetsTalkSoccer who will be sharing their thoughts on the most popular questions ahead of gameweek 5. This week we will be discussing Man City defenders, top tips to a poor start, Pukki and captaincy picks.

“Should Man City defenders be avoided?”

Ian FPL Strategic:

If a MCI defender in your team is your weakest link, you are probably doing fine. However, for the rest of us, this is a complicated issue. I have Zinchenko (I had Laporte too, but he had to go last week), and I plan on keeping for now, but I will be keeping an eye on it moving forward (tentative WC in GW9). To help you decide, below is a debate with myself about the pros and cons of the MCI defense.

Last season, MCI had one of the best two defences, conceding 23 goals (in 18 games) and keeping 20 clean sheets (including in 6 of 10 games vs Big 6 teams). They have also kept 2 clean sheets in 5 this season. Their history is impressive and should provide some confidence.

The past is great, but it isn’t the future. The MCI backline has gone through some serious change. Kompany has left, Danilo is at Juventus, Laporte is out for months, and Stones is out a month, to name a few. Otamendi and Stones (once fit) playing together are the worst centre back pairing in terms of goals conceded, clean sheets, and win percentage. The defense is not what it used to be and doesn’t look like a top 2 defense.

So, let’s say that they aren’t one of the top defences in the league, their fixture run is: WAT (H), EVE (A), WOL (H), CRY (A), AVL (H), SOU (H). I would consider a defender from almost any team with a run like that. 

Maybe so, but when defenders cost £5.5-6.0m, “Good fixtures” should not be the only selling point. There are £4.5-5.0m defenders with similar fixtures. Also, two new signings (Cancelo and Angeliño) and a fit Mendy are all primed to get into the first team. Can we be certain anyone is starting?

Sure rotation is a risk, but that is not worth avoiding the team over. Stick with what we know until it proves wrong. As to prices, Walker and Mendy are in the £6.0m range, but offer assist potential. Zinchenko and Otamendi have a bit of attacking threat, but nothing to stand out, however, at £5.6m & £5.5m their price isn’t much different than the bulk of defensive options. They are a bit more expensive than some other defenders, but surely in the top half of defenders, so wortha bit more.

So MCI is a top half defense, with a (low?) premium price tag, great. However their attack is one of the best in the league, why waste a slot on a defender when we can load up on attack? 

Yes, that is an option, but their attackers fall into two categories: very expensive or unlikely to start regularly. Mahrez, D. Silva, and Jesus could be great options, but they seem to either start or play 10-20 minutes. This is not ideal as some of their games will be 1 point cameos. So you get KDB, Sterling, and Aguero? That is over a third of your budget gone. The corners you would need to cut to make that work may not be worth it. 

So what, there attack is expensive. Get the £4.0-5.0m defenders to free up money for the big hitters. They tend to score multiple goals every game but can only get at most one clean sheet.

—————-

I have talked it out with myself and I still don’t know what to do. There is a lot of uncertainty, and I hate uncertainty. The only thing I hate more than uncertainty is guessing and getting it wrong. I would put more faith in what we know than what we speculate. 

To answer the question, no they shouldn’t be avoided. A case can be made for dropping them, but it depends on your team and your strategy. Either way, keep an eye on them and act accordingly. 

 

LetsTalkSoccer:

Not necessarily. If we’re talking upper-mid priced and premium defender – from, say, £5.5m and up – the Man City defenders haven’t performed much worse than their similarly-priced peers, comparatively speaking. (The real value comes with defenders priced £5.5m and under, but that’s a different subject!)

Part of the decision is predicated on what a manager is looking for. If he/she is making decisions based largely on clean sheet potential, then maybe – possibly – a Man City defender isn’t the best option. Their two center backs, Stones and Otamendi, played particularly poor. But, as we’re learning, it’s not wise to count on clean sheets. They’ve become quite rare, especially for the premium defenders.

Another downside inherent to clean sheets is that it’s truly a team effort. Despite playing the game of his life, if one of his teammates makes just one mistake or the opposition fires off just one great shot, those clean sheet points can be erased in the blink of an eye.

For managers acquiring defenders for attacking returns, also a rare occurrence for the most part, the list of options narrows. Now, it’s the left and right backs that make up the large majority of the pool, simply because they tend to spend much more time up the wings and in the attacking thirds than their central counterparts do. In contrast to clean sheet points, attacking points are generated much more on an individual level. A great run. An excellent pass. A good shot. Any of them could result in a goal or assist. And then the bonus points could follow.

To complicate matters when considering a Man City defender, Stones is out for the next 4/5 weeks. This forces Pep to make some defensive changes. One of the new additions to the team, Cancelo or Angelino, could enter the Starting XI if things get shifted around. Or, it could possibly force Pep to accelerate the return of Mendy.

Or, as Pep has mentioned, Fernandinho could fill the spot. But, even if Fernandinho plays and City maintain a clean sheet, he won’t benefit much. He’s classified in FPL as a midfielder, so a clean sheet earns him just 1 point, whereas defenders receive 4 points.

After all this consideration, let’s look at the Man City options, specifically their fullbacks:

  • Walker: He has the highest FPL points among his fellow City defenders (16). He also has the highest BPS (97). He has 1 assist and 2 clean sheets. His shots per game average is 0.0 and 0.8 key passes/game.
  • Zinchenko: Zinc has the highest expected goals of his team’s defenders (xG 0.23) and also the highest expected assists (xA 0.44). He has no attacking returns and 2 clean sheets. And he averages 0.8 shots per game along with 1.6 key passes. In looking at heat maps from this season’s games, he spends much more time around opponents’ boxes than Walker does.

Of the two, Zinchenko seems like the better choice. Both obviously have the same chance at a clean sheet. But, Zinc is more likely to be directly involved in a goal (despite Walker’s assist).

City’s upcoming fixtures (below) are rather tempting, beginning in GW6 with Watford at home. Watford are one goal removed from having the lowest goals scored tally in the league. They’ve scored just 4 goals in their 5 games.

Man City fixtures

Remember, too, that there’s the chance of rotation within the City squad. With Mendy almost back and with Cancelo and Angelino waiting on the bench, we could see some of Pep’s (in)famous squad roulette.

Statistically speaking, the Man City defenders rank rather low, especially considering City won the PL title last season and also each of their FPL price tags. For the money, there are probably better options from other teams. If a manager already has two other premium defenders in the squad, perhaps it’s fine to forgo a City defensive asset. At least until they become more stable in the back. And, as we’ve seen, there’s a lot of value to be had from the mid-priced and budget defenders. Acquiring one of them instead would help enable upgrades to other parts of the squad.

 

FPLFootballAdvice:

Conceding 3 goals to newly promoted Norwich is a bad day at the office, let alone being the reigning champions. It was a day to forget for Man City and especially for those FPL managers with ownership. They have only kept 2 clean sheet this season, compounded with a long term injury to Laporte and now news of Stones ruled out for at least a month.

While Otamendi looks like a disaster waiting to happen, we still think there is potential value in the Man City defence. Prior to the Norwich match, managers were flocking to own Man City assets with their brilliant run of fixtures.

They play 4 of the next 6 league matches at home including Aston Villa, Watford and Southampton who are some of the lowest scoring sides in the league. Man City’s dominance with the ball and previous home record doesn’t make us worried about these matches.

It looks like Fernandinho will feature alongside Otamendi in the centre of defence, and we have seen in the past that the Brazilian can play this role. Of course, it isn’t ideal but we think they are capable to keep a number of clean sheets in these upcoming games.

If you currently own a Man City defender, then we would suggest holding – unless you own the likes of Stones or Laporte. Zinchenko and Walker have the potential to eventually be rotated with Mendy and Cancelo, but until that happens we think they are still holds and deal once that happens.

In regards to investing into the Man City defence, we think Otamendi is the best asset. Priced at £5.4m, he has looked dodgy but he is surely a mainstay in the defence with their injuries. It could be argued that he is also their best attacking option from set pieces, having previously scored 4 goals in the 2017/18 campaign.

“Top tip for those that have had a bad start”

Ian FPL Strategic:

This is just my top tip, regardless of the start you have had:

Don’t panic.

Five gameweeks is not enough to really know things. We have some inklings of players and teams to get/avoid, but we are dealing with a small sample size. Your season is not over, nor have you locked in a top 10k finish. 

To be a bit more practical, I will elaborate on “don’t panic”, because it doesn’t necessarily mean “play slow”:

A) Figure out your play style and stick with it (note play style can be different than a strategy, such as big at the back). We all have our own preferences so stick with yours. 

B) Identify the weak spots in your team and the players you want to get. Let this guide your transfers.

C) Remember that there will be good FPL options that won’t fit into your team. This could be due to price, position, or team. Don’t stress about it, just keep them in mind if your team dynamic changes. 

D) Make peace with your decisions. Sometimes you will get it right, sometimes you won’t, make decisions you can be content with regardless of the outcome.

 

LetsTalkSoccer:

Don’t dwell on it. There’s nothing any of us can do about these last 5 games now anyway. Second-guessing yourself or harkening back to the times when you “almost benched…” or “had the captain’s armband on ______ and then switched it to _____ right before the deadline” or any of the numerous other ways we torture ourselves won’t help things at all. It will only drive you mad!

And, just because the arrows you’ve seen are the wrong color, doesn’t mean you have to blow up your entire team and make massive amounts of transfers. If you’ve chosen your players smartly, then have faith in your decisions. It’s very likely that things will turn around for you.

It’s very easy to jump on bandwagons, while it’s hard to decipher if the transfer you’re considering is bandwagon or is a strategic, savvy move. But, check yourself. If it’s for bandwagon reason, be honest with yourself and take an objective look at the transaction.

Red arrows tend to force managers to consider taking hits. Here’s our take on it: We avoid hits unless absolutely necessary. Something like a player having a long-term injury or being relegated to the bench. Something significant.

There are two ways to look at taking a hit: 1) The move is purely to capitalize on the upcoming fixture. Or, 2) As a long-term investment over several games.

  • If it’s the first, you should consider the math. Your new player would need to generate at least 7 points to make it a worthwhile move. Assume the player you’ve removed would have earned 2 points. Then factor in the 4 points for the hit. That’s 6 points. Add 1 more point to get a positive return on the transaction, and you get 7 points needed.
  • Now, if this is a long-term move, the math factors much differently.

Part of the mindset too involves good old-fashioned common sense and experience. If players like Kane, Wan-Bissaka, Robertson or Maguire (all among the top 12 most-transferred out players this week) are in your squad and have frustrated you to the point to redesigning your team, take a moment to remember how much they’ve rewarded their managers in the past. It’s just a matter of time before they do it for their managers this season.

The net net: Don’t let a couple – or even a few – bad gameweeks compel you to blow up your team and start anew. A team comprised of know performers will reward managers over the course of the season.

 

FPLFootballAdvice:

Our top tip is to not knee-jerk after a poor gameweek. We have all been there when you have a number of bad weeks, look at your team and hate every player. However, on a lot of occasions it is the heat of the moment dictating your overview of the squad.

The best advice we can give is to take a step back after the initial result of that gameweek, and look over your team with a clear mind. A lot of times, managers forget the very reason why they brought a player in, whether it be due to great long term fixtures or underlying stats.

Try to make decisions based with reason, and then when things don’t go well, remember those reasons why you chose that player.

“Is it too late to invest in Pukki?”

Ian FPL Strategic:

No, but the important question is why you want to invest in him. 6 goals in 5 games including a goal against each of the best defenders from last season is nothing to scoff at. His xG of 2.69 indicates:

A) He is not likely to keep up his goal scoring pace, but

B) At 0.54 xG/90 he still could score 20 goals this season.

Again, this is early in the season so take everything with a grain of salt.

So, Pukki looks to be a budget friendly (£7.1m at time of writing) forward likely to start every game and has enough attacking threat to be a good option in that price bracket. So, if you are in the market for a forward in that price bracket, give Pukki a look, but also consider Abraham, Haller, Barnes, and any other forwards. For me, Pukki is a good player to have in your team, but not worth major team reconstructive surgery to fit in.

 

LetsTalkSoccer:

No. It’s too late to claim the points he’s already provided to his owners. But it’s not too late to get in on the points he’ll earn moving forward. He’s a bit pricier than he was at the onset of the season, but based on the consistency of his play, his price will continue to grow.

He plays in a system that’s perfect for a striker: One that sacrifices its defensive stronghold while focusing on the attack. In a system like this, the team knows it will concede goals. So its only option is to score goals. As the point man in a system like this, Pukki has been the benefactor of many chances created for him, many of which he’s converted.

If you want him, we think it’s fine to go get him!

 

FPLFootballAdvice:

Already scoring 6 league goals this season, Pukki has been arguably the FPL player of the season so far. Already risen £0.6m in value – the most of any player – he has impressively scored against Liverpool, Chelsea and now Man City. Scoring in 4 of his 5 league games is an achievement for any striker, and only Abraham and Aguero have scored more goals than him.

At his price range, he is currently offering all the attributes that you want from a forward. He is a gametime guarantee, the clubs talisman, penalty taker and playing in an attacking side. Whether Norwich will maintain their attacking intent is hard to predict, but what is clear is the influence Pukki has on Norwich’s attack. He has contributed to 8 of the clubs 9 league goals this season!

We don’t think that it is too late to invest in Pukki, at £7.1m he is still producing results that a manager would be happy for if a premium. The big debate is whether he is the best option at that price range, with a number of great options at similar prices.

If we had to pick, Pukki and Abraham would be the two mid-priced strikers at the top of our list.

“Top captaincy pick?”

Ian FPL Strategic:

In the circle of captaincy material, I see (in alphabetical order) Aguero, Aubameyang, de Bruyne, Mane, Salah, and Sterling. Honourable mentions to Kane and Son. Any of the six above would be good picks. 

Aubameyang is home to AVL and is yet to blank in a gameweek. Thursday ARS have a Europa League game, check the outcome of that before deciding.

Aguero, de Bruyne, and Sterling just won 3-0 in the Champions League. Aguero was on bench, de Bruyne an early sub (77’), and Sterling played 90’. Home to WAT should be a good match. Returns in the last 5: Aguero – 5, de Bruyne – 4, Sterling 3

Salah and Mane are away at CHE. CHE seems like a tough match, but they have conceded 4, 1, 2, 2, 2 in their first 5 games, so it may be tempting. Both played 90’ on Tuesday in the Champions League. Both with a single blank in the first 5 games (if you ignore Mane’s cameo in GW1). 

Ok, on to my advice. I would ignore rotation potential with MCI and if you think one of them is best, captain them, but make sure you VC is on a safe bet. 

I’m sure this is rooted in some internal bias, but I like the MCI players (whichever one you have). AVL haven’t been solid, but I’m not confident they will be a pushover and ARS is not the most consistent team. 

LIV vs CHE will likely have some goals in it, but the big six matchups make me nervous. I would guess a low return is quite likely with the outside chance of a blank or haul. 

MCI have one of the best attacks and have little trouble scoring several (many?) against little 14 opponents (not named NOR). All three MCI players have great potential and pick the one you like based on whatever metric you prefer/can back. When it comes to underlying stats (xG/xA), I would rank them Aguero, Sterling, then de Bruyne.

 

LetsTalkSoccer:

Like we’ve done the past few weeks, we’ve compiled quite a bit of data (below) on not only many of the most-popular captain options, but also several of the most sought-after attackers in the game.

GW6 captaincy options

Some key takeaways from the chart:

  • Pukki has the highest BPS (198), with Aguero close behind (197). As expected, they also have top the list in Form, along with Abraham.
  • Kane has the highest rate of attacking returns (goal involvement) per game (1.88) vs his GW6 opponent (Leicester City). Aguero is just behind (1.71 goal involvement vs Watford).
  • Kun also leads in expected goals per 90 minutes (xG90 of 1.02).
  • KDB leads in expected assists per 90 (xA90 = 0.76).

Based partially on this, Aguero is our pick for captain. Not only are his stats impressive and his performance against Watford hard to ignore (10 goals, 2 assists in 7 games), but we assume that City will be out for blood. They’re licking their wounds after the loss to Norwich.

They will try to punish upcoming opponents in order to gain all 3 points each and every game. Unfortunately for Watford, they’re the first to face City. And, of all place, as The Etihad. Watford are tied for 18th in most goals allowed (10). That’s a 2 goals per game average. This has a Kun brace or hat trick written all over it.

If not Kun, then Sterling looks to be a strong option. He’s blanked in his last 2 games. He feels due to kick up the goal involvement a notch. Like Aguero, he has a great record of goal involvement vs Watford (8 goals and 2 assists in 7 games).

Lastly, we can’t ignore Kane’s record against Leicester City. He’s been directly involved in 15 goals (13 goals, 2 assists) in just 8 games. Despite his lack of attacking production recently, like Sterling, he’s due for an explosion. He’s a bit of a risk, but for those that own him, that’s why you paid £11m to for him.

 

FPLFootballAdvice:

Speaking from experience so far this season, picking the right captain has been tricky for many managers. Sterling blanking over the past 2 matches affected a lot of owners, and can sometimes put managers off possibly getting burnt again.

On paper, Man City have arguably one of the best fixtures this weekend. While Man City had a poor performance last weekend, we don’t think it was enough to dismiss their assets as captaincy picks this weekend. In fact, we can safely say that Sterling will be getting the armband in our side.

While Sterling blanked, he still had the 2nd best expected goals (xG) of 0.81, only behind Aguero (0.96). Sterling had 6 shots and 4 key passes, highlighting although he didn’t contribute any attacking returns he certainly wasn’t quiet. These stats are exactly why he will be our captain this weekend, until these decline we see no reason to be afraid of captaining him.

Equally Aguero continued his great form with another goal, and should be in every owners mind about captaining. After being rested in the Champions League match, you would expect Aguero to start against Watford this weekend.

Outside of the Man City assets, our next best pick would be Salah. Yes, they do have Chelsea away but we don’t think that is necessarily a reason to be worried about captaining him. Chelsea have conceded the second most goals of any side in the league, conceding 2 or more goals in 4 of their 5 matches and yet to keep a clean sheet.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are scoring an average of 3 goals per league match, and have passed the eye test for us. Salah has directly contributed to over a 3rd of these goals and is still registering some of the best underlying stats. Understandably a risky option for some managers, but if you don’t own City assets he would be our next best pick.

 


 

Big thanks to Ian FPL Strategic and LetsTalkSoccer for contributing to this weeks Q&A article, be sure to give their accounts a follow for top tips throughout the season.

Don’t miss this weeks FPL top tip, discussing why mid-priced forwards should be owned by every managers:

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