Manchester City 5-2 Southampton
- Goals: Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) x2, Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) x2, Ilkay Gundogan (£6.2m) | James Ward-Prowse (£5.9m), Che Adams (£5.8m)
- Assists: Phil Foden (£6.1m) x3, Mahrez | Jannik Vestergaard (£4.7m), Stuart Armstrong (£5.5m)
- Bonus: Mahrez x3, De Bruyne x2, Gundogan x1
There were attacking hauls aplenty in the final match of Double Gameweek 27 as Manchester City thrashed an adventurous Southampton side at the Etihad on Wednesday evening.
Another clean sheet loss for City and some untimely rotation from Pep Guardiola meant that not every Fantasy manager emerged from the seven-goal thriller with a share of the spoils, however.
THEY TRIED TO MAKE ME GO FOR RIYAD
Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) came out of this clash with an 18-point haul, continuing his fine form over the last month.
The Algerian has banked eight attacking returns in his last six appearances, more than double what he had registered in the rest of 2020/21.
Mahrez was indebted to a loose Che Adams (£5.8m) pass to score his first of the evening but the finishes for both of his goals, the second of which was teed up by Phil Foden (£6.1m), were indicative of a man in form and brimming with confidence.
The Algerian has also been (mostly) swerving the rotation that has plagued many of his teammates of late, starting eight of City’s last nine games – that’s more than any other midfielder or forward in Guardiola’s squad has managed.
Above: Manchester City players sorted by most starts from Gameweek 22 onwards
We’ve been here many times before with Mahrez, who has an incredible knack of attracting Fantasy interest once he’s already peaked.
There was the run of four successive starts and a 21-point haul in Gameweeks 9-12, for example, which led to huge investment – and promptly preceded four consecutive benchings.
His 60th-minute withdrawal against the Saints at least raises hopes of another start in Gameweek 28, when City visit Fulham.
Foden went on to complete a hat-trick of assists on his first league start since Double Gameweek 24, with Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) scoring on the other two occasions: the Belgian first pouncing from close range after Foden’s shot had been parried away, the second a low shot after a brief waltz through Saints’ defence.
BOX TO BOX
Ilkay Gundogan (£6.2m) continued his sensational form in the middle third of 2020/21, tapping home from six yards after a Mahrez shot has struck the upright.
That was the German’s 15th attacking return in his last 17 appearances and took him to ten points for Double Gameweek 27, a tidy haul for the one million+ FPL managers who made him the most-captained player of this round.
His goal masked a disconcertingly deep display, however, as he and Fernandinho (£5.4m) were tasked with playing the two holding roles in a striker-less 4-2-4 – or ‘4-4-2 with a midfield box’.
Above: City’s average positions against Southampton
Guardiola won’t play this system every match and, providing Gundogan is back in a ‘number eight’ role most weeks, there’ll be little to be concerned about.
And this isn’t the first time the German has popped up to score in the six-yard box when stationed deeper, something he did twice in the second half of the Liverpool victory earlier this year.
It’s something to keep an eye on, though, as we continue to reassess our City assets for the run-in.
Whisper it quietly but Manchester City’s defence is seemingly not the force it once was.
Only Arsenal (zero) have kept fewer clean sheets than Guardiola’s side (one) in their last six matches.
A clumsy Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) foul on Jannik Vestergaard (£4.7m) gave James Ward-Prowse (£5.9m) the opportunity to ruin millions of FPL clean sheets from the spot before Che Adams (£5.8m) pounced on Stuart Armstrong‘s (£5.5m) blocked effort to add a second for the visitors.
The disruption of the John Stones (£5.3m) and Ruben Dias (£6.1m) partnership perhaps goes some way to explaining the drought: the pair started nine of the ten matches together from Gameweeks 14-23, keeping clean sheets in all bar the away games at Chelsea and Liverpool.
Since then, they have started only three of the last seven. While Laporte can’t cop all of the blame for the recent concession of goals, Dias certainly doesn’t look as comfortable alongside him.
Some cynics would also point to the increased involvement of Kyle Walker (£6.1m) recently – City have conceded in each of the last four matches he has started.
MR ROTATOR HEAD
The regular rotation continued on Wednesday, with Guardiola making five changes to his starting XI.
Joao Cancelo (£6.2m), Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) and Stones were among those to miss out and all ended Double Gameweek 27 with underwhelming totals.
Speaking after the match, Guardiola said somewhat cryptically:
De Bruyne started his fourth league match in a row, at least, continuing a remarkable run in which his only benchings in 2020/21 have come off the back of an injury.
Dias also made it 26 starts out of a possible 27 at the back.
As for Saints, Ralph Hasenhuttl went one better, making six alterations with one eye likely on a more ‘winnable’ Gameweek 28 fixture and the other on protecting recent returnees like Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.7m) and Ibrahima Diallo (£4.5m).
There was a notable change between the posts, meanwhile, with Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) returning to the side after a two-game absence.
Despite the tweaks, Southampton produced a very creditable attacking display that later earned Guardiola’s praise, with Ward-Prowse banking his 12th attacking return of the season.
The defensive frailties remain, however: it’s now 30 goals conceded and just one clean sheet registered over their last 11 league games.
Man City (4-2-4): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko (Mendy 81); Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez (Torres 61), De Bruyne (Aguero 72), Silva, Foden.
Southampton (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Salisu; Stephens (Diallo 63), Ward-Prowse; Redmond, Armstrong (Watts 72), Djenepo (Tella 46); Adams.
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