FPL Roundup: City's Struggles in the Back
FPL Roundup: City's Struggles in the Back

This article is part of our FPL Roundup series.

Gameweek 15 of the Premier League couldn't have fared any more different for teams that played Saturday versus those that featured Sunday. Whereas a whopping 29 goals were scored across Saturday's six matches, each of Sunday's first three encounters finished with a result of 1-0.

On a surface level, the opening game of the round produced a surprising result, but Everton's horrid form over just about the last three months – a span in which they've won once in 11 matches across all competitions – made their loss to Watford something fantasy owners probably should've foreseen. Although the Hornets' three goals were uncharacteristic of them, Everton's steep, and admittedly unexpected, downward spiral since their five-match unbeaten start has seen plenty of Toffees take fantasy tumbles.

With just one clean sheet since Gameweek 4, the Toffees' defensive options have consistently left more to be desired, and the club's upcoming fixture list of Arsenal (H), Liverpool (H), Leicester (A), Hull (A), Southampton (H) and Man City (H) appears unlikely to turn that tide. While goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg may get plenty of save opportunities over that stretch, his 14th-ranked save percentage (63.5 percent) hasn't done his fantasy standing many favors. Similarly, Everton's lack of clean sheets has left just one defender (Seamus Coleman, 20th) placed inside the top 40 fantasy scorers at the position.

Coleman's two goals have helped salvage his stock, but considering no Everton midfielder boasts more than a couple scores, that seems to be another area for fantasy owners to avoid. After totaling one goal and four assists through his first 10 league appearances for Everton, Yannick Bolasie looked like a bright spot, but his long-term knee injury suffered last weekend has unfortunately now eliminated him from consideration. That leaves the baffling Ross Barkley as arguably the Toffees midfielder with the most upside, but that's only if manager Ronald Koeman brings him back into the starting XI after two straight games as a substitute.

Even though things have gone well at Goodison Park lately, star striker Romelu Lukaku has at least continued to be a fantasy force. In fact, after his brace at Watford on Saturday, only Chelsea's Diego Costa has tallied more than Lukaku's 85 points. The big Belgian has notched nine of Everton's 19 goals, of which he's assisted three as well. Lukaku also started last season in shining form, scoring 12 and assisting four at this time last year, but he went on to record just six goals and two assists after Dec. 12, so his second-half returns should be subject of cautiously optimistic expectations from fantasy owners.


While Lukaku was a first-half fantasy standout whose star faded as the season progressed last term, to a lesser extent, so too was Arsenal's Mesut Ozil.

The German playmaker outrageously offered two goals and 13 assists by Dec. 13 of last year, but he managed just four goals and six helpers thereafter. Ozil has gotten off to another hot start this season, but a fundamental change to the Gunners' attacking setup could ward against a similar potential slide, because instead of being mostly reliant on setting others up, Ozil's stock is now rooted in his own goal scoring.

Whereas Olivier Giroud embodied a static, predictable presence as the preferred option atop Arsenal's attack last term, leaving a roadblock in front of Ozil's possible paths into goal-scoring positions, the ever-energetic Alexis Sanchez's instinct to explore has opened opportunities for Ozil this time around. Compared to the rigid 4-2-3-1 of years past, the Gunners' arrangement now more closely resembles a 4-4-1-1, with the positioning of attackers like Ozil made interchangeable to account for Alexis' excursions.

While Theo Walcott has benefitted from outside-in runs when Alexis vacates the top spot, Ozil has pushed into the penalty area more than ever for the same reason. In fact, through 20 appearances, Ozil has already scored nine times, giving him a new season-high since arriving in England.

His goal Saturday against Stoke provides the latest example of this newfound dynamic. As you'll see, when Alexis moves from his central position – in this instance away from goal to try and help build play – Ozil darts into the opened area, resulting in a clear chance for him to cap off.

With five months remaining, Ozil has plenty of time to add to his assist total, and considering only Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (26) and Barcelona's Lionel Messi (24) have more than his 23 since debuting in the Champions League, there's no reason to suggest he won't pick up the pace. Plus, if his goal-scoring continues in Arsenal's adjusted attack, his already-supreme fantasy standing could climb another class.


Widely regarded as a top-class manager, Pep Guardiola is quickly discovering the demands of managing a top-four Premier League side. After winning 10 straight games to start his Manchester City career, the Spaniard has led the Citizens to just four victories in 15 total outings since.

To no surprise, Guardiola's outfit has proved perfectly capable of scoring goals, as City's fourth-ranked attack evidences, but as Saturday's 4-2 humiliation at Leicester City showed, Guardiola still hasn't built a reliable defense.

Sure, just seven Premiership teams have conceded fewer goals than City, but Guardiola's side has been more generous to opponents than that record suggests. This was apparent not only this weekend, but in last weekend's 3-1 home loss to Chelsea. All told, Man City have posted merely two clean sheets through 15 league appearances, paling in comparison to last season's seven over the same span. Furthermore, the Citizens' eight defensive errors are the second-most league-wide, trailing only a Crystal Palace unit that's allowed the fourth-most goals overall.

While such errors at least seem easily correctable, summer signing John Stones, who is supposed to be the future leader of City's defense, has made silly mistakes all too frequently over the past season and a half. The 22-year-old's latest gaffe gifted Jamie Vardy his third and final goal of Saturday's loss at Leicester, which marked a low point for Guardiola since his arrival.

Although Stones' £5.0m price on the Premier League's official fantasy game made him seem like a sure-fire fantasy steal at the onset of this season, he's proven liable for some of City's defensive demise. Not only has his price tag dropped, so too have those of Aleksandar Kolarov, Nicolas Otamendi, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta. The same applies for goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who has looked shaky, at best, since joining from Barcelona. To that point, Bravo's 63.4 save percentage tops only four first-choice keepers in the Premiership.

All in all, Man City's defensive shortcomings have become so increasingly obvious that fantasy owners should sell any remaining stock they're clinging onto, and until improvements are shown, prospective owners shouldn't think of this as a buy-low situation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Pitner
Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.
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