Man City 2-0 Fulham
- Goals: Raheem Sterling (£11.4m), Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m)
- Assists: De Bruyne, Sterling
- Bonus points: De Bruyne x3, Sterling x2, Stones x1
Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m) continues to ask serious questions of his non-owners with a second successive double-digit haul, this time in a 2-0 win over Fulham.
Despite his form and fixtures, the Belgian is still only owned by 23.1% of Fantasy Premier League managers at the time of writing. That arguably makes the man something of a differential option still, especially as only 24.6% of the top 10,000 FPL bosses captained him for a massive 28 points.
Thanks to a first-half penalty and a more advanced number 10 role, it was a goal and assist for De Bruyne against Fulham but, as has often been the case recently, it could have been even more in a game that tortured his non-owners.
In the 12th minute, De Bruyne was slid through on the overlap by Riyad Mahrez (£8.4m). His deflected shot was inches from creeping in at Alphonse Areola‘s (£4.5m) front post, the goalkeeper making an impressive reflex save to deny him.
De Bruyne then hit the crossbar from close range in the second half and went through one-on-one with Areola on the counter-attack in the 56th minute, only to see his shot well-smothered by a goalkeeper whose heroics were the main reason Manchester City only scored twice.
The Belgian’s explosive potential is well-known following his performances across 2019/20 but it appears as if that form is back. He has now registered six attacking returns in the last four matches and does not look like getting rotated in the Premier League any time soon.
Manchester City’s upcoming fixtures could be the deciding factor for Fantasy managers mulling over De Bruyne’s signature.
After a Gameweek 12 trip to Manchester United, they host West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle in Gameweeks 13 and 15, the latter perhaps having missed two weeks of training by that point. Meanwhile, Gameweek 14 takes Pep Guardiola’s men to Southampton, who have given up eight goals in two home matches against the so-called ‘big six’ this season.
Only Diogo Jota (£6.9m) earned more transfers-in than Mahrez ahead of Gameweek 11. But his 530,000+ new owners were treated to a three-point score and his sixth blank in seven Premier League starts.
However, with those appealing fixtures in mind, the Algerian still looks a promising set-piece-taking Fantasy asset that his backers are sure to hold.
Often ahead of De Bruyne for set pieces, Mahrez was very unlucky to blank on Saturday, playing Raheem Sterling (£11.4m) through in the early exchanges, only to see Areola make a decent save. And, of course, it was Mahrez who would have got the assist had De Bruyne netted at the near post early on.
For the first time in what feels like a long time, Guardiola’s rotation policy was relatively painless, backers of the 12.2%-owned Kyle Walker (£6.2m) the only ones to suffer significant frustration.
Many expected De Bruyne and Mahrez to feature from the beginning against Fulham but Sterling’s starting credentials had been brought into serious question following a benching against Burnley and 90-minute outing midweek.
In a week where Fantasy managers read as much as possible into Guardiola’s quotes, it is possible that a rotation policy we became used to last season is back on his mind.
When faced with three fixtures in one week, we have often seen Guardiola opt to bench some personnel for the first of those and then afford them starts in both of the subsequent two, even if there is only a three-day gap.
That seems to be what we got with Sterling, who impressed on the left-hand side of the front-three. By winning a first-half penalty, he has now secured 20 in the Premier League, more than any other player in the competition’s history – certainly relevant for his and De Bruyne’s Fantasy credentials.
“Every game is an opportunity for everyone, not just Sterling. Since I came here we are together he was always excellent. Not just scoring goals and assists, but his fight and his consistency, no injuries. The ability to always be ready.” – Pep Guardiola
Owners of João Cancelo (£5.5m) have certainly enjoyed Guardiola’s team selection on Saturday, their faith in the full-back rewarded with six points.
Much like Sterling, he started for the second match in a row in all competitions, having missed the most recent Premier League match, his versatility helping him start at right-back even while Benjamin Mendy (£5.9m) featured on the left).
Cancelo came close to an eagerly anticipated attacking return in the first half too, as it was his pass into Sterling which led to the penalty. Had Joachim Andersen (£4.5m) not fouled the player, he would have enjoyed a clear shot on goal.
Elsewhere in the defence, John Stones (£4.8m) has now started two Premier League matches in a row while Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) has missed out in each of the last four in all competitions.
“John (Stones) played really good last two games, he deserved to continue to play. It always depends on performance. The skills and qualities are there or you couldn’t play for Man City. So it’s how you perform every training session every day.” – Pep Guardiola
PARKER THE BUS
It is a testament to Fulham’s improving defence that they only conceded twice to a dominant Manchester City team.
While Guardiola’s men were by far the better team, it was noticeable that the Cottagers staged a more effective deep block than Burnley could a week hence.
Even after they conceded the first goal in the fifth minute, Fulham stuck to their game-plan with an organisation that would have looked very out of place at the start of the campaign but has become a feature of recent performances.
There were more adjustments than usual, of course, considering the quality of opponents. Scott Parker officially played a 3-4-1-2 formation but when out of possession his side was lined-up in 5-2-3.
That saw winger Bobby De Cordova-Reid (£5.3m) drop in as a right wing-back, leaving Ivan Cavaleiro (£5.3m) and Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) either side of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.9m) in a false-nine role, although the onus was more on pressurising Manchester City’s defensive midfielders.
As a result, Fulham offered very little going forward but we can probably let them off for that given that it was Manchester City and because Lookman especially impressed at Leicester.
More importantly, it means Fulham are becoming less and less the whipping boys we have come to know them as.
Between Gameweeks 1 and 6, Parker’s men conceded 2.3 goals per game but in the four matches between then and the defeat at Manchester City, they gave up just 1.3 per game.
During that latter period, Fulham conceded just five big chances, the sixth-best in the Premier League, particularly relevant for anyone ready to pile in on Liverpool assets for Gameweek 12.
Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): Ederson; B Mendy, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Gündogan, Rodri; Sterling, De Bruyne, Mahrez; Jesus.
Fulham XI (3-4-1-2): Areola; Adarabioyo, Andersen, Aina; A Robinson, Reed (Lemina 68′), Zambo Anguissa, De Cordova-Reid (Kamara 72′); Loftus-Cheek (Cairney 83′); Cavaleiro, Lookman.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 11
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