In anticipation of the 2019/2020 Premier League season’s kick-off between Liverpool and new boys Norwich, at 20h00 on August 9th at Anfield, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the 20 squads that’ll be competing this year. In this sixth instalment, we’re continuing the series with reigning back-to-back champions Manchester City and their hard-to-define at the moment arch-rivals Manchester United.
Manchester City – The team
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City did not just win back-to-back Premier League titles. The Cityzens finished the 2017/18 season with 100 points, an all-time Premier League record, and last season with 98 points, a point above Champions League winners Liverpool. On top of their record-breaking exploits in the English highest division, City have also brought home two League Cups and an FA Cup over the past two seasons. At the end of the previous season, they became the only team in Premier League history to win the domestic treble (Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup). We could write a book-sized analysis about Guardiola’s achievements at City (we might one day, who knows?), but for now we’ll be taking a look at how City will likely line up in the coming season and which players are going to bring home the FPL bacon.
As most FPL managers know by now, guessing Pep’s starting line-up is very much like trying to guess on which number the roulette wheel is going to stop. Hence, the term Pep-roulette. In terms of formation and especially intent, the Spanish manager is at least a bit more predictable, fortunately. He advocates and implements a quick-passing, highly dynamic and attacking playing style, usually through a 4-3-3 formation which is basically based on overloading the opponent’s defensive structures to the point of collapse. You will, for example, seldom see matches in which City do not have more than 60% of ball possession, of which most on the opponent’s half. After all, an opponent can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
The attacking tactics are very flexible and more based on principles than they are on player names. Broadly speaking, City are faced with one of two (or both) scenarios in their games: a deep-lying defensive opponent looking to hurt the Sky Blues on the counter or an opponent who decides to press early and aggressively with the hopes of messing up City’s attacking ploys before they reach full speed. Against the first type of rival, City will spend most of the game in and around the opposing final third, moving the ball quickly and trying to unlock the defensive block facing them with quick movement, passing and runs into the box from all sides. The image of Man City laying siege to an opposing defence a whole game long in order to force that one important goal and open up the match has become a familiar sight by now. In these scenarios, City’s defenders play very high up the pitch, either as central defenders carrying the ball deep into the opposition’s half or as wing-backs creating havoc in the box with their crosses.
Against the second type of opponent, the type that to a greater or lesser extent wants to give City a taste of its own medicine, they are forced to adapt their attacking play. The current squad has been carefully built up of agile, dynamic and extremely technical players whose abilities especially shine against such opponents. Players like Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling will play their way through the opposing press with a combination of technique and quick short passes, instead of playing long balls to avoid the press altogether. As soon as the press is evaded, the play is moved directly and with great precision to either the final third or the opposite wing, where opposition defenders will usually be absent or in disarray positionally due to their team’s earlier intent to press City.
Guardiola’s intent is to appear in the final third with at least five players, where the wing-backs stretch the pitch and the three forwards move vertically, either making deep runs or coming to collect the ball from one of the players in he midfield. If the opponent does not have the tactical quality, discipline or fitness to track all movements, gaps in the backline will eventually appear and goal-scoring attempts will be conceded. Opponents who take the risk of pressing early against City run the risk of being outnumbered in their own penalty area. Last season, a record 72 goals were scored from open play by Guardiola’s men, which is one of the big explanations behind the FPL popularity of attacking City assets all around.
All this is not to say that City are invincible. On the contrary, despite their tactical and technical superiority, their attacking approach brings risks with it, especially against teams who can transition quickly after recovering the ball. At that moment, City will have a lot of players committed forwards and the backline will be positioned highly. Pep wants his men to recuperate the ball as quickly as possible and if they can’t, they are often forced to make tactical fouls in order to interrupt the counter movement. When the ball can not be recovered quickly, but the opposition fails to threaten at the same time, City will revert to their 4-3-3 formation with the midfielders dropping deeper to assist the backline. The defensive midfielder is crucial in many of these situations, as he closes gaps and allows the backline to retain their defensive shape. This is one of the reasons why Fernandinho is so important to Guardiola’s City and why his absence was felt so badly at times in the past seasons.
This is also one of the reasons why the club brought in Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri for a club record fee of £62.8 million. Not only is he expected to rotate with Fernandinho on a regular basis coming season, but also to be the 34-year old Brazilian’s heir in the longer term. This was one of the spots in which Guardiola’s could use some strengthening, so City’s rivals will surely see the young Spaniard’s transfer as a sign of things to come. The only other incoming transfer with a realistic chance of playing minutes this season is PSV’s left-back Angeliño, who was bought back from the Eindhoven club for €12 million. In terms of outgoing transfers, the Cityzens lost utility man Fabian Delph to Everton as well as Vincent Kompany, a City legend and respected voice in the dressing room, though his advancing age and frequent injuries prevented him from being a major influence on the pitch itself over the past year or so. City might be moving to bring in a centre back still, but it’s also very possible that there won’t be any major transfer activity any more this season. We’ll just have to wait and see. What you don’t need to wait around for though is www.bestusabettingsites.com which is active now and can show you the best options.
Manchester City – Potential FPL targets
Together with Liverpool, the City squad probably boasts the most FPL potential all over the pitch, with the difference being City’s deeper squad and the fact that Guardiola rotates a lot more than Klopp. This is a big deal in the FPL world, which is why the likelihood of consistent starts of Premier League plays a big role in our selection of potential FPL targets.
In that regard, Raheem Sterling (£12.0m) is our first pick. The young English forward is a true FPL star: in his last two seasons, he recorded 229 and 234 points respectively. He has improved massively under Pep Guardiola and there is no reason to believe that he won’t end up with a similar score coming season. Last season, Sterling scored 17 goals and provided 15 assists, while also taking points for his team’s 17 clean sheets. Rotation will remain an issue, but the tricky dribbler is one of the most nailed-on players in Pep’s system, which is illustrated by the 2770 minutes of Premier League football he he played over the 2018/19 campaign. To finish, the official FPL Scout came up with an interesting statistical comparison: seeing as City only face one of last season’s top six in the first eleven gameweeks, they checked how many points Sterling brought home last season in the corresponding 2018/19 fixtures. This turned out to be an excellent 98 points from 11 games, including five hauls of 10 points or more. It’s hard to define “essential” picks at the very start of the season, but if we had to choose one, it would probably be Raheem Sterling.
Sterling is closely followed by Sergio Aguero (£12.0m) when it comes to the potential to haul. The Argentinian striker was the only other City asset to cross the 200-point threshold in 2018/19 (201 points), while he was also the most transferred-in player over the course of the season, with him being brought in 5.6 million times in total. He scored 21 goals and provided 11 assists in 2457 Premier League minutes last season, which saw him miss out on the (shared) Golden Boot by just one goal. What makes signing Aguero extra attractive is the fact that he still seems to be Pep’s preferred option up front, despite the presence of Brazilian youngster Gabriel Jesus. The Argentinian will surely be rotated at times, especially considering the fact that he turned 31 this summer, and at times Sterling might be preferred in the number nine position as well, but overall, we rate Sergio Aguero a pretty reliable premium FPL asset to include in your squads.
We could and would recommend more budget-friendly picks like Bernardo Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sané on the payroll as well, but for the sake of a bit of balance, our last City pick is a defender, namely Kyle Walker (£6.0m). In many articles and threads, his team mate Aymeric Laporte is being recommended as the stand-out pick in City’s defence, and with good reason (the French centre-back recorded 177 points last season, courtesy of 18 clean sheets, 3 goals and 3 assists), but he is also £0.5m more expensive than Walker. The English wing-back, who is also employed as a central defender in a backline of five at times, played 2776 minutes of Premier League football last season in which he scored a total of 150 points (18 clean sheets, 1 goal, 1 assist). His place seems to be pretty much assured as Danilo is a clear back-up option and the hope is that he can get a bit more involved in the final third of the pitch as well coming season. Laporte might be a tad more nailed-on for Pep, but Walker is an outstanding option and saving £0.5m in the build-up to gameweek 1 can go a long way.
Manchester United – The team
When Manchester United finish 32 points behind the league winners and miss out on Champions League football, something obviously did not go to plan. For the Red Devils, last season definitely did not go to plan. The team played low-quality unattractive football under José Mourinho before he was sacked in December 2018 and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian club legend definitely managed a turn-around at the club in relatively little time in terms of the games approach, the style of football and the harmony in the dressing room, but a serious dip in results at the tail end of last season as soon as OGS was formally appointed long-term saw United finish in a disappointing sixth place. The start of the 2019/20 season will be the first under OGS and the hope amongst United fans around the world is that he can mould a team that can compete for the top spots in the attacking, hard-working fashion they came to expect from their team over the past decades.
The club’s transfer activity so far underlines this intent, as United have so far spent €72 million on young English talent in the shape of last season’s revelation at right-back from Crystal Palace Aaron Wan-Bissaka (€55 million) and coveted lightning-quick left-winger Daniel James from Swansea (€17 million). The former is expected to slot right into the starting eleven as Antonio Valencia joined LDU Quito on a free transfer, while the latter has shown several glimpses of brilliance during the pre-season and will be competing with the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata for a starting spot. He might get more minutes than many expect, though it remains to be seen in these final days of the English transfer window how OGS will line up his men for the last friendlies. For the rest, United have been linked to a number of incoming and outgoing transfers over the summer, including the signings of Juventus star Paulo Dybala and Barcelona ace Ivan Rakitic and the sale of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, but so far, no further transfer activity has been definitely confirmed on the club’s end.
Manager Solskjaer won 14 out of his first 19 matches in charge at Manchester United, but the questionable performances towards the end of last season show that he has his work cut out this season. The Norwegian ex-striker has been a breath of fresh air for red Mancunians though, as he has a much more attacking approach to games than his predecessor Mourinho and he’s not afraid to give academy players and other young talents decent chances at the highest level. He knows the club inside and out, and he knows what kind of football United stand for, so we expect a more “United” United than we have seen in many years.
OGS has shown to be flexible in terms of his starting formations as he values playing principles and mentalities more than a fixed formation. He likes to use the wings in attack and this width will likely be provided by the full-backs this season, Luke Shaw on the left and the previously mentioned Wan-Bissaka on the right. The current squad does not boast a whole lot of world-class out and out wingers, which might lead to Shaw and AWB being mainly responsible for providing width coming season. At the same time, the wingers will often cut inside and join the central attacking players in order to create a quick game of short passes in the dangerous central areas. With the likes of Rashford, Lingard and Greenwood at his disposal, just to name a few, Solskjaer has a bunch of fast and skilful players at his disposal that could execute this type of attacking tactics perfectly. A lack of creativity was one of United’s big problems last season, which is probably why the manager has been experimenting with a 4-2-3-1 formation a lot during the pre-season, with a classic playmaker in the number 10 role to orchestrate United’s attacking efforts.
There was a lot to improve upon in defensive sense as well, after a defensively insecure 2018/19 campaign. The Red Devils conceded a problematic 54 goals in 38 Premier League games, meaning that no less than ten teams boasted a better defensive record. The signing of ball-winner and tackle specialist Wan-Bissaka is a step in the right direction towards more defensive solidity, but in a formation with four defenders and just Matic as defensive lock on the door, United might still be conceding this season. Victor Lindelof seems to be assured of a starting spot in the centre of the backline and he will be paired with either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling, seeing as Erik Bailly is currently injured and not expected to be fit for the opening match against Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 11th. It’s not surprising that the Red Devils have been actively linked to Leicester’s Harry Maguire (as they were this time last year), as it’s not sure whether a central duo of Lindelof and Jones/Smalling are good enough to compete for the titles on different fronts. To give you an idea of Solskjaer’s defensive tactics: instead of a high press, he lets his team lie deeper and limit space down the middle as much as possible. This will give opponents more time and space out wide, which might explain why he is going with the physically strong central defenders at his disposal for now. We should also not forget that, despite a disappointing 2018/19 campaign, United have one of the game’s best goalkeepers in David de Gea, the kind of shot stopper who wins a team points.
For us though, the United defence remains a bit of a wildcard and it will be interesting to see how they line up for the first games of the season, and whether they can provide some FPL value at the back. With their history and budget, Manchester United are basically obliged to fight for the title coming season, but we think that competing for a top four finish is a more realistic aim. And if you’re after some competition online with a rand online casino site then aim to find the best site.
Manchester United – Potential FPL targets
With Lukaku on the way out and the opening fixtures looking relatively good for United, a good start from Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) could be on the cards. He has recently extended his contract as a Red Devil and he looks to be one of the players around which OGS is going to build his team the coming years. He will be starting either as a striker or a left-winger, and his direct style of play could provide a lot of FPL value. Last season, the still only 21-year old Englishman scored 10 goals and provided 7 assists for a total of 128 FPL points. Four of those goals and five of those assists came under José Mourinho (in 1245 minutes), while he scored 6 goals and provided 2 assists under Solskjaer (in 1086 minutes). He was one of the players who blossomed most after the change of manager and he might be up for a very good season as a crucial cog in Solskjaer’s United.
Speaking of blossoming under Solskjaer, Paul Pogba (£8.5m) was probably the player who improved most in comparison to the Mourinho era. The French midfielder has been linked to big-money moves to European powerhouses like Real Madrid and Juventus this summer, but so far, he’s still a Red Devil. More than that, he is United’s star and the man who should make the team’s heart beat. In 20 Premier League games under the Portuguese manager, Pogba scored 5 goals and provided 4 assists, while he managed 8 goals and 6 assists in the remainder of the season when the Norwegian was in charge. The release from Mourinho’s shackles was clearly visible as Pogba went on a scoring/assist spree as soon as OGS took over. If he remains at Old Trafford and if United can hit the ground running, he could be on for a big season as the team’s most influential and most important player, in which case his price tag would represent a bargain.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (AWB) (£5.5m) is our final pick and he’s already one of the most popular picks in approximately 35% of managers’ FPL teams. He was the bargain find of last season and we expect him to be a nailed on starter at right-back for Man Utd after his transfer from Palace. Quick, strong, athletic and possessing a good pass he should attract bonus points – it’s just a question of how solid Man United will be as a defensive unit to collect those clean sheets.
Don’t forget to keep up to date with all the latest news on FISO’s FPL forum.