Last season will be considered a disappointment for Manchester City as they finished second in the table and eight points off leaders Chelsea. At times they blew teams off the park, but then they were also blunted at crucial times as well. And that is something they will hope to change this year.
They have attempted to address that by adding Raheem Sterling from Liverpool as a forward-going option. The other addition is Fabian Delph, but that signing stinks of a team who are trying to add English players as opposed to there being a functional role regularly for Delph. On the departures side they have seen three strikers leave with Dzeko, Jovetic and Negredo all leaving suggesting there may be another striker being added at some point. The other main loss is James Milner but the addition of Sterling will more than make up for that. The losses of Rekik, Nastasic, Boyata and Richards in defence are actually a plus for fantasy as it clears up a muddy defensive picture from last year. The loss of Lampard has more real relevance than it does fantasy relevance.
Early Fixtures Outlook: @ West Brom, vs Chelsea, @ Everton, vs Watford, @ Crystal Palace, vs West Ham
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This is a fantastic first six weeks for Man City with just one top end team and then a collection of mid to low table teams from last season. Add in the promoted Watford at home, and this start has real potential to be a flier at both ends of the field that could see Man City rack up goals and clean sheets. The one spanner in the works is when they come against Chelsea in week two, where I expect they may struggle to score many or keep a clean sheet.
Goalkeeper Outlook: Joe Hart (£5.5m)
Following a down year in 2013/14 Hart had somewhat of a bounce back last year. Having played every minute of the three seasons stretching from 2010 to the end of 2013, Hart has now missed time two years running. The clean sheets are the crucial thing for Hart if he wants to get back to the previous 165-ish point average of that three year high when he kept an average of 17.66 clean sheets per season. Playing for this City team means he will struggle to top 100 saves as he did a few seasons ago, which depresses his value slightly. At £5.5m he is one of the more expensive options making him hard to play the match ups with unless you really trust one of the £4.5m keepers.
Stud: Pablo Zabaleta (£6.0m)
The pacy right back had a relatively down year last year but still managed to be the most successful fantasy option for City with 106 points. He is going to miss the first couple of games this season but then he should be back and able to attack down that right wing and become a threat crossing the ball. Man City need to get their offence rolling early this season and Zabaleta and his bombing runs are going to be a key to that. He’s a very expensive option that I would struggle to pick initially given the time he is likely to miss. But once he is back and settled then he should be a sure fire option.
Sleeper: Aleksander Kolarov (£5.5m)
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Kolorov and Clichy ended up in the extremely undesirable situation of splitting time last year, with Clichy actually on the better end of the time share. However, even though he managed just less than 1,500 minutes on the pitch, Kolarov proved to be a useful fantasy option scoring 91 points with two goals and three assists. A big part of City’s issue last year was that they struggled to break teams down at times and if that happens again then you could see the more aggressive Kolorov get the nod over the more defensive Clichy. At £5.5m, Kolorov is too expensive to pick right now with the attitude of playing him looking for the auto-sub to take him off if he doesn’t play but he is definitely one to watch to see who starts the year on the better end of the timeshare.
Last season Pellegrini could not decide which combination to go with across the back and it led to a disjointed and messy group who weren’t always organised, either in attack or defence. That led to a lot of stress for fantasy owners as it turned a normally solid team into one you couldn’t rely on. Hopefully this year Pellegrini will have a preferred back four to make things simpler. The other left back in contention this season is Gael Clichy who scored a similar number of points to Kolarov in an increased amount of playing time. Clichy is the more defensive option and the less desirable one for fantasy owners. In the centre the ideal pairing would be Eliaquim Mangala and Vincent Kompany and if Pellegrini can settle with those two then the Man City defence has the chance to be very effective. However, if he flip flops between two and Martin Demichellis then it could render all three of them useless in salary cap leagues given they are reasonably expensive at £5.5m (£6.0m for Komapny!). Sagna is the other right back option and he has the chance to start the season but once Zabaleta returns he find himself back on the bench. Initially he could be a cheap way in to what could be a decent defence in week one.
Stud: David Silva (£10.0m)
Silva is the epitome of elite midfielder, having posted five seasons of more than 140 fantasy points and playing over 2500 minutes in four of those. Silva will benefit from an entire season of healthy Aguero but he is more than capable of assisting anyone, shown by his 12 assists in each of the last three seasons and his 17 the year before. He could get shifted out wide if City choose to use the two striker approach, but even then he is capable of finding the spaces and causing mayhem to give Kolarov or Clichy room to get outside him. Silva is a lock for a top eight pick and should be picked in the top five of every draft. Whether you use him in the salary cap format when you can get the equally exciting Sterling at £9.0m is a question that only you and your budgeting can decide.
Sleeper: Jesus Navas (£6.5m)
Navas is a points per game (PPG) god but unfortunately City just don’t use him regularly enough for him to really thrill fantasy owners. If it was just as simple as he either starts or doesn’t play then he would be an easy decision because then he could just be auto-subbed out if he doesn’t play. However, Pellegrini likes to use him as a substitute meaning you can get those frustrating one point weeks whilst a goalscorer or assister sits on your bench. When he does play, he normally produces as shown by his nine assists last season on the way to his second 100 point season. So, Navas could prove to be a cheap way into one of the most exciting midfields in the Premier League. Equally, he could spend all season on the bench watching Sterling and Silva tearing it up and supplying goal after goal to the two strikers.
Yaya Toure came back to earth with something of a bump last year after his 20 goal season the year before. Those goals did appear to be somewhat of an outlier after only scoring 18 in the previous three seasons combined, and so it proved with a 10-goal season being seen as a big disappointment given his price tag last year. This year, however, he is priced intriguingly at £8.5m, which still feels like a slight over price if he returns his average return of 140 points, but could be a massive bargain if he can get back to the 200 point range. Which is more likely? Well, definitely the 140 point season and at just £0.5 less than Sterling it’s hard to go that way.
Sterling, on the other hand, could end up being the bargain of the season having improved in each of his last four seasons. Priced at £9.0m, he’s is talented enough to take players on and score goals in a Hazard or Sanchez-esque fashion. If he settles well then Sterling could fire City to the Premier League title this year, but equally, if he struggles, he could find himself on the bench and feeling what Scott Sinclair and Adam Johnson have felt before (However, I think he is better than both of those and think this doesn’t happen).
As for the other options we have the forgotten man in Samir Nasri who may be about to regret leaving Arsenal as he is going to struggle to find his way past a number of options if he wants to start regularly in the Premier League making him impossible to trust until we see Pellegrini’s plans. The Fernandinho, Fernando, Delph mess is something I want no part of because I think Delph can be the best player but he is too injury prone and Pellegrini seems un able to decide between the other two.
Stud: Sergio Aguero (£13.0m)
Last season, Aguero played the most minutes in the Premier League that he has in the past three seasons, with his only better season being 2011/12. Accordingly, this was also the second time he has broken the 20 goal and 200 fantasy point mark in the standard game. What this tells you is that when Aguero is healthy he is the biggest must-have in the game and there is little doubting that even with this mammoth price tag. The issue with Aguero entering the season is that he is likely to miss the first couple of weeks due to his participation in the Copa America cup final. But hopefully from week 3 or 4 onwards he can stay healthy and be a fixture in most teams. Trying to rearrange your salary to get him in when he does return could lead to some interesting conundrums and will make identifying those cheap midfield and striker options a key early in this season.
Sleeper: Wilfried Bony (£8.5m)
Bony will get the opportunity to state his case in the first couple of weeks, and how he performs whilst Aguero is returning from his holidays may shape his season and the way decide to line-up going forward. Bony is the prototypical big centre forward and Man City can use that to let their exciting midfielders and Aguero run off him. However, fitting Bony in the team may be tough but hopefully they use him as the centre forward with Aguero in the number 10 role just behind and David Silva wide. If Bony can play every week he has the potential to be a top 5 fantasy option at a relatively cheap price and can also be got in the later rounds of drafts.
With Jovetic and Dzeko gone the only person left is the youth option of Jose Pozo but there isn’t a lot of value there unless a few injuries happen. It is hard to see City signing anyone as they may just choose to go with Sterling upfront if they get desperate so these look like your main options to enter the year.
Predicted Opening day line-up:
GK: Joe Hart
RB: Bacary Sagna (This will be Zabaleta when he returns after the first couple of weeks)
DC: Eliaquim Mangala
DC: Vincent Kompany
LB: Aleksander Kolarov
CM: Yaya Toure
RW: Jesus Navas
LW: Raheem Sterling
CAM: David Silva
STR: Wilfried Bony (Aguero will reclaim this but he is missing the first week at least)