Last year’s champions will be looking to assert dominance over the Premier League in the coming five to ten years in the way that Liverpool and Manchester United have in the past, and they head into the 2014/15 season with one of the best squads in the league. They’re an exciting team to watch and can often score at will, even against some of the stronger teams in the league. Add in their solid defensive group, and Manchester City are pretty much a fantasy gold mine.
City let go of their superb back up keeper in Costal Pantilimon during the summer but those people thinking that Joe Hart’s job got safer were soon silenced by the addition of Willy Caballero. Cabellero was with manager Manuel Pellegrini in Spain so he is a known quantity to the manager and that means Hart will have to be at his very best to keep the #1 GK spot. Hart should be a safe bet to start the season with in fantasy as he plays in a strong team and is one of the more consistent point – scorers in fantasy. People owning Hart will want to make sure they have a competent back up in case Pellegrini decides to switch his keepers around at some point in the season.
Defensively, Man City have been fairly strong but the second centre back position alongside Vincent Kompany was an issue during the 2013/14 season. Martin Demichellis had a superb world cup for Argentina and that should see him start in pole position for the number two center back role in front of Matija Nastasic (who has been linked with a move to Roma). Dedryck Boyata and Karim Rekik are two young guys who could lay claim to Demichellis’ spot if he shows any of the frailty he displayed last season.
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One player Man City have been linked with this offseason is Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala for a massive £32m and if they sign him then he’s a virtual lock to start alongside Kompany in defense and could see Nastasic on his way out of the door.
As for the full backs, there they have an embarrassment of riches having signed Bacary Sagna on a free transfer from Arsenal this summer to go alongside a very useful group of Richards, Zabaleta, Kolarov and Clichy. Zabaleta is a virtual lock to be the starting right back with Sagna his back up. Left back is more interesting where Clichy and Kolarov split time last season, and right now it is hard to predict whether that will continue or whether Pellegrini has now picked his favorite.
I mentioned Kompany briefly and that’s because he’s a lock to start. He’ll bag a few goals this season, meaning he should be a popular pick in all fantasy formats.
The midfield is probably Manchester City’s strongest position, where they have a number of moveable pieces who can work the ball around and can be a threat to score at any moment. Their best player in undoubtedly Yaya Touré but I will discuss him more below.
Fernandinho played the holding role for City last season and chipped in with a few goals and assists but also tended to be susceptible to the odd booking. He will be under threat for his position from new signing Fernando who again I will discuss more below.
Javi Garica and Jack Rodwell round out the defensive midfield options, but I don’t expect either to contribute enough to make them fantasy relevant.
Moving to the more attacking positions, we encounter a the star man from a couple of seasons back in David Silva who tends to be the creative guy on the team and will score five to ten goals minimum and provide a few assists as well. Samir Nasri was a big part of Pellegrini’s plans last year and he rewarded his manager’s faith with seven goals and seven assists which is a total I expect him to match this season.
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Moving on, Jesus Navas played a part in 30 EPL games for City last season and is perhaps even more effective off the bench than when he starts. I expect him to improve in his second year in the league and an increase on four goals and seven assists. James Milner will mainly play as a substitute for City this season I expect that while he might grab a goal or two as well as a few assists, he’s not a reliable option for fantasy owners. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for Scott Sinclair who will be desperate to stake a claim this year.
The forward options for City make most other Premier League teams look pathetic, with four genuine goal scorers who will all vie for time again this season.
Alvaro Negredo started 2013/14 as the man in possession of the centre forwards job but after a fast start he slowed down and that saw him lose his place to super sub Edin Džeko, meaning that he made 11 of his 32 performances off the bench and only scored 9 goals. Negredo has broke his foot in preseason training meaning he will miss at least the first few weeks of the season
Džeko, on the other hand, showed why Man City have put so much faith in him with 16 goals in 31 games (8 sub appearances) and is the man I expect to start in possession in 2014/15. However, you should be cautious with Džeko because Negredo will want to earn his place back which could see Džeko return to his place on the bench. The news of Negredo’s injury boosts Dzeko’s value massively and potentiall gives him top 5 striker upside.
Sergio Agüero is the other striking option for Manchester City, but he tends to play just behind the centre forward as a playmaking goal scorer (again, I’ll discuss him more in a minute).
The man who often got left out last year was the immensely talented Stevan Jovetic, who is a similar style of player to Agüero, but he didn’t get many opportunities last season (13, but only started twice). Therefore, he only contributed three goals and the bad news for him is I don’t think that pattern changes to start this season. However, I see him as a potentially under rated fantasy player for them this season and I will explain why below.
Yaya Touré: Touré had a season for the ages last year, scoring 20 goals, assisting 9 and leading all midfielders in fantasy points by over 30. He suffered an injury late last season and that may explain why he had a world cup where he was on the field but didn’t make much of an impact. Having crashed out in the group stages he will have had plenty of time to recover for this season and should be back to his absolute storming best in 2014/15. A repeat of his 20 goals may be a little optimistic but 10-15 is easily achievable and with five to ten assists being highly likely, he should be one of the top scorers in fantasy in 2014/15 and is my current leader for first overall pick this season.
Sergio Agüero: Agüero had an injury plagued season in 2013/14 and those issues continued into the world cup where he was present but ineffective much like Touré. He played 23 games last season and contributed 17 goals making him the most effective goal scorer on his team, and had it not been for the injury he could have easily scored 25-plus. He also had six assists due to him often playing just off of the striker. His injury problems from last year are a concern, but it is not a recurring issue over the years so expect him to return firing. I would expect a minimum of 15 goals and five assists, with a shot at 25/10 being possible if he remains injury free. He’s a sure fire top 10 pick.
Key New Signing
Fernando: After arriving from Porto for around £12m you’d expect to see Fernando start for most teams in the premier league, but for Man City that’s no certainty. With Fernandinho having a superb 2013/14 season for City he will start as the man in charge of protecting the defence. Fernando will likely spell him for periods but generally the jump from other European leagues to the Premier League is a big step up in physicality, and Fernando would not surprise anyone if he struggled to match up – at least in the early going. Last season he played 25 games and failed to score a goal whilst picking up nine yellows and one red card, making him an all-round risky selection.
Under Rated Players
Stevan Jovetic: Jovetic came to the premier league on the back of two double digit goal scoring seasons in Italy, with him taking an approximately four shots per game across nearly 60 games. Last year, however, he only managed a measly 1.8 shots per game in 13 games. The low shot total is partly due to high making in 11 of those 13 appearances off the bench whereas in his previous two season he did not make one of his appearances from the bench. If he gets the chance to start more games this year expect that shots per game ratio to sky rocket back up to closer to three and with that should come more goals. With Agüero’s injury woes from last year and Negredo and Dźeko’s ability to go missing in the last couple of years, Jovetic could see more opportunities to start this year.
Karim Rekik: The centre back spent last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, where he made 25 appearances and impressed greatly. He started last season at left back before moving into the middle, showing that he’s a versatile piece that Pellegrini may well want to have close to his squad in case of injury. If they sign Mangala he could find himself back out on loan, but he’s one to keep an eye on for the future.
Marcos Lopez: Lopez is a creative midfielder who played a part in both legs of City’s league cup semi-final win over West Ham United. He contributed two assists in the second of those games and played 90 minutes. He also played in the team’s 4-2 win over Watford in the FA cup. However, he was replaced by Jovetic when his team was trailing 2-0 after 55 minutes and was largely ineffective. He could see time in the first team this year, but it’s unlikely to be in the Premier League. One to place on your watch lists!
Emyr Huws: The young midfielder has already played for City having appeared in the FA cup game against Blackburn before being sent out on loan to Birmingham. He scored two goals and made two assists in 17 appearances for Birmingham. However, he made the majority of those appearances in defensive midfield. And, in general, the midfield is a congested place for the team, so seeing him this year is unlikely.