A season ago Manchester City marched to the title, scoring a record number of goals en route to setting records for both wins and points. It was no surprise that at season’s end they boasted the top four (4!) players in assists – KDB, Sterling, Sane and Silva – and the top three players in fantasy assists (Silva’s 11 assists in real life was also his total in FPL, dropping him behind four others). Midfield, it seemed, was not where City needed to strengthen. But then they went and signed Riyad Mahrez for a lot of chedder, or squids; really the foodstuff of your choice. In bulk.
When you’re compiling your pre-season ranks for FPL, and particularly for draft or auction draft ranks, a primary concern is expectation of playing time. For the OFPL and DFS slates the issue revolves around starts. DFS provides the flexibility to make last minute changes, while OFPL hems you in with a deadline well in advance of kick-off. So now we need to see minutes played, but also starts/substitute appearances.
Last season City smashed that expectation by fielding a fluid XI that seemed to not lose a beat regardless of the names on the team sheet. Only Kevin De Bruyne earned more than 3000′ while Sterling (2584′), Silva (2431′) and Sane (2415′) all logged 65% of a season. Despite the limited minutes, each was outstanding in the Official FPL and all FPL Draft formats. It’s no wonder they are still topping average draft position charts this summer. KDB doesn’t need much discussion and no one arriving in Manchester could impact his time. Nothing shy of divine intervention could limit his FPL potential.
Kevin De Bryune: OFPL £10.0 28.1% Selected | FPL Draft Guide Overall Rank: (1) | DFS:
If you’re not the sort who makes their own Top 150 EPL player cheatsheet ahead of a draft, you should probably pick one up. The FPL Draft Guide has 41 pages of printer-friendly insight, analysis, key stats and, yes, the Top 150 pre-season ranks as well as 170 EPL players ranked by position.
Back to Mahrez and last season’s assist leaders. Upon acquiring him, City added one of the handful of players who recorded double-figure assists last term. In fact, after signing him more of those players now play for Manchester City than the rest of the Premier League combined. Unlike “established” City midfielders Leroy Sane (22) and Raheem Sterling (23), Mahrez (27) is arguably in his prime and the finished article. With a Player of the Year gong already secured – as well as his League Winner’s medal from his own record-breaking season with Leicester City – and no World Cup this past summer, Mahrez is capable and primed to become the next high-octane piston in this exceptional engine. He’s coming off of a double-double season (that’s 10+ g / 10 a) and has two of those in his last three EPL campaigns. That’s bonkers. Also crazy? He’s essentially a differential play to start the season, owned in just 5.1% of sides. City’s opening five are: ars, HUD, wolves, NEW, FUL. Don’t fade Mahrez in any of those.
Riyad Mahrez: OFPL £9.0 5.1% Selected | FPL Draft Guide Overall Rank: (20) | DFS:
So where is the right move to ensure everyone gets minutes and scores goals? Can Pep Guardiola seamlessly integrate another superstar into a team which was spoilt for choice a year ago? Most FPL managers seem to believe he can, and with good reason. To start, most of this midfield is capable of slotting into multiple positions. KDB has shown the most versatility, playing anywhere from a deep-lying playmaker to a false No. 9. Sane and Sterling flip wings and either can play the No. 10 on a day that Sergio Aguero (1960′ last term) and Gabriel Jesus (1660′) are not available. David Silva is a box-to-box midfielder with precise delivery who may lineup at a number of positions, but always drifts back to his natural role. Couple this with Pep’s need to pursue trophies on four fronts and this City side will have minutes to spare.
Keep in mind, David Silva is still dealing with family issues as his prematurely born son rightly occupied much of his time and attention last year. He will turn 33 in January and is likely going to be used in the Champions League campaign. The most minutes he’s ever logged for City was 2801′ back in 2011-12. With both Cups, UCL and a Premier League title defense, it is hard to see him earning more minutes than his four season average of 2407′. That leaves 1013′ unaccounted; Mahrez is going to get his 2750′ no problem. Silva made 29 appearances last season, with just one substitute appearance. That makes him idea for DFS/draft as you know that if he’s going to play a part it is right from the start.
David Silva: OFPL £8.5 6.2% Selected | FPL Draft Guide Overall Rank: (31) | DFS:
Leroy Sane’s 2415′ was a nice bump from the 1781′ in his debut term, and the German international rewarded his boss with 10 goals and 15 fantasy assists. As with the rest of this side, he showed that he could get it done without *every week* starter status. Pep may move him into heavier rotation, but he and new arrival Mahrez are expected to shoulder heavy workloads early – the German was dropped from his side ahead of the cup while Mahrez and Algeria missed the World Cup entirely. That heavy early load should see Sane miss a few more matches in the busy part of the year. For more on the impact of World Cup absentees there’s a full breakdown of the Top 20 best FPL options who missed WC 2018 iN tHe dRAfT gUiDe. Hint: Mahrez and Sane are both in it. Another hint: least season Sane got 27 starts with 5 substitute appearances. He averages a g/a every 90′. If he’s starting, you’re starting him.
Leroy Sane: OFPL £9.5 19.1% Selected | FPL Draft Guide Overall Rank: Sane (25) | DFS:
Raheem Sterling is a stud. Likely ranked a forward in your draft league, his auction price is a bit under-market with the backpages and unfounded criticism of his finishing ability clouding people’s perception. Kid had 18 goals with 17 assists last season. He did that in 2584′. That’s a 20/20 pace season. That’s Brandon Phillips in his prime. Sterling can line up alongside either Aguero or Jesus in a 5-3-2, play on either attacking wing in a 3-2-2-3-1, and can drop back to play the traditional No. 7 or No. 8 in a 4-4-2. His points will suffer slightly if he is rated a forward, and if you can get him as a midfielder definitely bump him up a few spots in the overall ranks. Yeah, bump him *up* from No. 11 overall. #SpoilerAlert
Raheem Sterling: OFPL £11.0 2.7% Selected | FPL Draft Guide Overall Rank: Sterling (11) | DFS:
Is Sterling maybe over priced in the Offiical game? Sure. But the ability to get a player with a combined 35 goals/assists last season as a differential is absurd. He’s infrequently going to be a late-on sub that sticks you with a 1pt outing and is more likely to deliver 75′ of top-class action.
The final piece in the puzzle is the Fernandinho / Ilkay Gundogan role. KDB has shown an ability to play there, and David Silva can also drop deep provided the City defense can cover against less skilled attacking sides. A year ago an injury to Benjamin Mendy forced Pep to make a tactical shift – moving from a two-forward set to the hybrid attacking five he used last season. Even if he were to revert to two up top, Sterling, Sane and Mahrez are all capable of playing the false 9. Really, Pep may choose to time-share this role as he did Kun/Jesus last season; keep in mind De Bruyne and Mahrez are both able to operate as a deep-lying play maker and City own enough possession that a ball-winning midfielder isn’t a necessity against 50% of their EPL opponents. As a result, both of the DM see draft values significantly under the rank a full 3240′ would warrant.
A year ago Ilkay made 50% of his 30 appearances off the bench. Fernandinho had 33 starts, 1 sub. Look for those numbers to draw much closer, unfortunately nerfing both of their OFPL and draft value. In DFS both retain sleeper status and are worth fourths in a City stack against bottom third opposition. In the FPL Draft Guide Gundogan barely makes the cut (143) while Fernandinho misses out entirely.
There you have it, the definitive Manchester City midfield guide. If you don’t believe the ranks, run a mock draft or mock auction draft and see where other managers in your league are valuing these players. It can be hard to stomach taking the fifth City midfielder off the board in the third round, but remember this side scored 106 goals last season. That is 22 more than Mo Salah and Liverpool and no one is batting an eye at three Reds coming off the board in the first 12 picks. There are points to be had here and the midfield, particularly the attacking cohort in the midfield, are the most stabile point-producers on the planet.
You’ll also see that Bernardo didn’t make the cut. His 1514′ is gone – going to be absorbed by the other players. While he will remain a decent streaming option and will pick up value in the event of a catastrophic injury, his main role will be as the senior presence in League Cup matches and getting 25′ off the bench when this side are up 4-0 against Huddersfield at the half.
One last note – if you play in a format that doesn’t allow you to make substitutions after real-life XIs are announced, you need to discount all of these players (except KDB) by a handful of picks. The City quintet are massive producers when they start, but you only want to start them in your fantasy XI when they’re in Pep’s side. Can they produce as super subs? Certainly. But the odds are best when they get 60’+.