The transfer window moves quickly. As we watch the rumors come and go and even see the occasional signing confirmed, it is hard to know what to make of each of them. One way we can get a sense of the potential of any new signing (or a player returning from injury) is to see where they might fit into that club’s fantasy production from last season.
Before you get too concerned that this isn’t a perfect method, I’m fully aware of that fact. Fantasy fortunes at the team level certainly change from year-to-year and we have to allow for an event or series of events (multiple departures, multiple arrivals, new manager, etc) that could make a massive impact in fantasy potential. That said, starting the discussion with last season’s performance is as good a basis we have for getting the conversation going. From there we can add on extenuating circumstances that might cause us to adjust our thinking.
To start this exercise, I have brought together total points scored for each returning Premier League team as well as breaking down points scored by each position group and ranked them on each of those dimensions as well. From there we can look at things like how many players came together to score those points or how position changes from the PL.com team might impact performance.
I started off thinking that this would be one column with a bunch of quick-hitting items on each team. Once I got started with the analysis of Liverpool, I realized that, at least up the table, there was more to say so I'm splitting it out into individual posts for the biggest sides and will start consolidating as the numbers dictate. For now, we're on to last season's champions of the real Premier League and runners up in total fantasy points scored, Manchester City.
Points For: 2230 (2nd); Points For Forwards: 280 (6th); Points For Midfielders: 1109 (1st); Points For F+M: 1389 (1st); Point For D: 672 (2nd); Points For GK: 169 (2nd)
The reigning champions finished an entire four points behind Liverpool for the overall fantasy points scored race last season. While the Reds were far better from the back, City enjoyed a similar advantage from the attacking positions with 142 more points scored between forwards and midfielders than second place Liverpool. Just for perspective, that’s the equivalent of the season total of the 9th highest scoring forward last season (Joshua King) separating first and second place.
The problem? Point distribution. Outside of Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling who both started regularly and are priced for salary cap/ranked for draft based on that fact, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where the points will come from. Last season, Kevin De Bruyne only managed 59 points between injuries and exhaustion from overuse, Riyad Mahrez was largely a reserve and managed 102 points, and Phil Foden was something of an afterthought until late in the season and totaled only 25 points. Heading into this season, City have all of last season’s big point producers – Sterling (234), Sane (156), Bernardo Silva (154), and David Silva (143) – back with De Bruyne, Mahrez, and Foden all in line for more opportunity. Throw in Gabriel Jesus who will presumably want to leave if he doesn’t get some run and you have four new mouths to feed. If you start with the premise that City were historically good at scoring last season it is hard to expect a rise in total points from forwards + midfielders for the upcoming season. That means we’re looking at the same 1389 points distributed differently. Do Aguero and Sterling lose playing time and points? Do those two stay constant with everyone else seeing their time/points distributed even more?
In my draft previews last season I marveled at how early City midfielders were going based on this same logic. It isn’t that there won’t be lots of points and some outstanding fantasy performances. The question is “where will they come from?”. I’ve had people react to the article on PL.com about my provisional line-up for Week 1 of the fantasy season upset that I haven’t included any City attackers. Given the production of the squad overall, I get the critique. Once you get to the specifics though, who do you go with? I don’t have the money for Aguero or Sterling. I could get one of the “others” but that would require figuring out who is going to play. Do you pay (in salary cap or draft slot) for Bernardo Silva who seems as likely as anyone to be a regular starter based on what we saw last season. He costs 8.0 in salary cap and is probably a 2nd/3rd round pick in 8-team draft leagues. For that same 8.0 (or draft position) you can have Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored 20% more points last season and doesn’t have any threat against his playing time. You could have Ryan Fraser plus 0.5 with a similar point differential. You could have Filipe Anderson plus 1.0 and some upside (he came on in the second half of last season) over the fantasy output that was already the equal of Silva. You could have Ayoze Pérez or Youri Tielemans plus 1.5 and the potential upside of the very intriguing Leicester City attack.
Really, the question you have to ask yourself is whether you can stand the notion of watching City put up 3, 4, or 5 goals in a week and recognize that, Aguero and Sterling aside, you don’t know if the guy you pay a premium price for is going to participate in all of that goodness. Are you the one who pays 9.5 for Sane only to find out it was Mahrez who started that week? The issue with City’s players isn’t that they aren’t great. The issue isn’t that City isn’t going to score a ton, they are. The issue is that all of the good attacking players are priced like they’re going to be regular starters and they’re not. I like to get a discount on price when I take a risk and that’s not how things are going right now. Until injuries hit or a clear pecking order for playing time is established expect me to be light on City attackers.
I'll return with a look at Chelsea later today or early tomorrow depending on where you happen to live.