West Bromwich Albion 0-5 Manchester City
- Goals: Ilkay Gündogan (£5.7m) x2 | Joao Cancelo (£5.9m) | Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m) Raheem Sterling (£11.5m)
- Assists: Mahrez | Sterling | Cancelo | Bernardo Silva (£7.4m)
- Bonus: Gündogan x3 | Cancelo x2 | Mahrez x1
Fantasy Premier League (FPL) owners who kept faith with Joao Cancelo (£5.9m) were finally rewarded with attacking points as the Portuguese full-back scored and assisted, bringing in a monster 17-point haul.
Managers looking for a replacement for Kevin De Bruyne (£11.9m) need not look far, with Ilkay Gündogan (£5.7m) bagging a brace and maximum bonus points.
As good as Manchester City were going forward, all FPL players will now be looking at targeting teams playing West Brom, who have shipped 17 goals in five games.
Cancelo has delivered consistently impressive attacking numbers all season, without the points to show for it.
Before the West Brom game, Cancelo only had one assist against West Ham to his name.
But it finally clicked on Tuesday, with Cancelo scoring and laying on the first goal with a terrific through ball for Gündogan.
As he has done throughout most of the season, Cancelo started at right-back but spent most of the game as an auxilliary centre midfielder.
This leaves Cancelo in the prime position to lay on assists or have shots on goal, with him creating the most chances of any player in the match.
Gündogan credited the defender for setting up his first goal and his passing range.
“When we have the ball, he plays a bit of a different role, he plays in the middle a bit more, gets more touches and he has the quality to put in these balls and I knew it.
“He is doing well. Everyone is doing well, him especially in the last few weeks, and we need this rhythm to maintain our level.”
Cancelo’s stats throughout the season suggest his 17-point haul was far from a fluke, and there could be many more to come this season.
With good fixtures and in a City defence which has conceded one goal in five games, Cancelo looks more than capable of building on this score.
The only negative for Cancelo is the potential of rotation, with Kyle Walker (£6.1m) returning to the bench for City.
WHO NEEDS KDB?
With De Bruyne missing the next few games through injury, more than 500,000 managers gambled on Gündogan to replace him, despite the huge difference in price.
And their gamble paid off in style, with Gündogan scoring twice and picking up maximum bonus points.
A feature of City’s game in the last few weeks has been Gündogan pushing further forward from his deep-lying role in midfield to join attacks.
For City’s first goal, the German midfielder ran in behind West Brom’s defence to latch onto Cancelo’s through ball, before stroking the ball past Sam Johnstone (£4.5m).
And for his second, Gündogan won the ball high up the pitch before dribbling into the box to score.
As his heatmap shows in City’s last six games, the midfielder is now picking up the ball far more in the opposition half, rarely coming deep to receive passes.
His double against the Baggies makes it six goals in seven games for Gündogan, who has now established himself as one of the biggest goal threats in midfield in the league.
Manager Pep Guardiola praised his first signing for Man City and his “sense of goal”.
“He’s a guy that has an incredible sense of goal. When he plays near to the box he has the timing to arrive at the right time, at the right second. When he arrives he has the calmness to slow down and make the right decision. I am happy for him. He deserves the best.”
With Sheffield United (home) and Burnley (away) up next for the Cityzens, Gündogan looks essential if he can avoid Pep’s rotation.
His withdrawal from the game at 52 minutes hints that Pep wants him fresh for upcoming fixtures.
A STERLING PERFORMANCE
Another player looking to step out from the shadow of KDB will be Raheem Sterling (£11.5m).
Despite being City’s top scoring midfielder and scoring more than 200 points in his last three seasons, Sterling has gone under the radar being owned by less than 10% of players.
Previously immune to Pep’s rotation, Sterling has found himself benched three times so far.
But the England international re-established himself as an FPL asset with a strong all-round performance against West Brom.
Playing in a fluid front three without a recognised striker, Sterling was a constant goal and assist threat throughout the game.
With Gabriel Jesus (£9.1m) failing to convince and Sergio Aguero (£10.2m) struggling with fitness, now seems the perfect time for Sterling to step up.
John Stones (£5.1m) owners would have been worried to see Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) warming up around the 51st minute.
Fortunately for Stones and Ruben Dias (£5.9m), Gündogan was withdrawn and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£5.5m) moved into a midfield role, with Laporte filling in at left-back.
After starting the FA Cup match, it appears Laporte is nearing full fitness, something to cause concern for Stones and Dias owners.
Pep has also been talking up Laporte since his return from injury, describing him as their “best left centre-back”.
Following the match, he said:
“From the beginning of the season apart from the game against Leicester we concede so few.
Now our defenders concentrate for 90 minutes. Ruben and John, Aymeric, they are so focused.
The midfielders and the strikers know we are there and covered and in the right moment we will score.
It is impossible to be at the latter stages of any competition without being solid at the back.”
With the form of Stones and Dias, and the City defence in general, few managers would think of switching personnel.
But with three games in nine days, rotation is bound to come in to play putting the place of John Stones, in particular, at risk.
After appointing Sam Allardyce as manager, many people expected the veteran manager to tighten up the Baggies’ defence.
Before the introduction of Big Sam, West Brom had conceded the most goals in the league, and had the worst Expected Goals Conceded (xGC) rating.
To make matters worse for the Baggies, they also conceded the most shots on target, shots in the box, and headed attempts.
Looking at the figures under Allardyce, you could even argue that their defence has got worse since his arrival.
In the 13 games before Big Sam’s appointment, West Brom conceded 26 goals and had an xGC of 25.24.
In the seven games with Allardyce at the helm, his team has still conceded the most goals, with 22, and has the worst xGC in the league.
Their overall defending appears to have got even worse, with the Baggies now conceding the most shots inside the box, outside the box, on target, headed attempts and losing the most tackles.
Following the game, Allardyce did not appear for the post-match press conference for an hour, locking his players in the dressing room and telling them some home truths.
“A few home truths needed to be said. I think it had to be done now because there is a short period of time before the next game then a short period of time for the game after that.
“And these two games really do stand high on what we need to do and how we need to try and perform. I needed to get my disappointment and feelings out of the way immediately after the game – that’s why it took so long.
“They (the players) needed to air some of their views – that’s fine because we are all in it together. But I was disappointed with that performance, to say the least. To get it out the way means it’s done and dusted.
“Hopefully, we will learn from it and we won’t see it again between now and the end of the season. I can accept defeat but not like that.”
With no light at the end of the tunnel and defensive performances that are getting worse, targeting teams playing West Brom seems like a sound strategy.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Gibbs; Snodgrass (Phillips 59), Livermore, Sawyers, Grant (Robson-Kanu 64; Pereira; Robinson (Bartley 46)
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; Gündogan (Laporte 52), Rodri, Bernardo Silva (Jesus 61); Foden (Torres 52), Mahrez, Sterling
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