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FPL Asset Watch: Choosing the Right Man City Defender after GW1 Drama with Rico Lewis and Nathan Ake

FPL Asset Watch: Choosing the Right Man City Defender after GW1 Drama with Rico Lewis and Nathan Ake

Manchester City kicked off their 2023/24 Premier League title defence with a comfortable 3-0 win over Burnley and thus started Pep Guardiola’s mind games with Fantasy Premier League managers.

The Spanish gaffer annoyed a lot of fans with his starting line-up, keeping the likes of Jack Grealish and Phil Foden on the bench. Everyone’s favorite Erling Haaland did start his campaign with a brace (and 12 points), but there was a few interesting early pointers seen in the opening-day win for the Citizens as well.

Particularly, it appears that Pep could be embracing a few tweaks to his defensive pattern as well as how he utilizes the depth of his backline.

After signing another centre-back in the form of Josko Gvardiol (who came on as a substitute against Burnley), it seems like Pep is set to make some moves to ensure that his defenders don’t fall prey to the new injury-time system.

What did Guardiola do in Burnley match?

There was a total of 11 minutes added on as injury time in the first match of the 23/24 Premier League season as part of the new rules. That included five minutes at the end of the first half and six at the end of the second one. It acted as early proof of the fears of many fans and Premier League managers, that games will drag on well beyond the 100’ mark due to the rules.

It appears that the threat of seeing his players fall to fatigue due to the extended game-time has even forced Guardiola to make tweaks to how he utilizes his squad.

Not only did he take off Haaland (who was on a hat trick) in the second half, but the gaffer also decided to give some of his defenders an early shower by taking them off. Rico Lewis and Nathan Ake were both taken off after the hour-mark but ended up getting the clean sheet points anyways. Ake even got a bonus point for his impressive performance in which he kept the Burnley attackers quiet.

Normally, defenders hardly get substituted unless they are injured or seriously fatigued. But it appears that Pep is thinking ahead of the curve on that aspect and that could be potential music to the ears of the FPL managers.

City’s threat of conceding late goals

Now, the new injury time rules also threaten the chances of teams getting clean sheets. Even though when it comes to a stacked backline that the Cityzens possess, that threat is considerably lowered, but there is still a fear among FPL managers that City could still have their clean sheets cut down by conceding late goals.

Last season, the PL champions conceded nine goals in the last 10 minutes of all their league games – the joint-third highest for any side. That could be because of a lapse of concentration which sometimes comes from them having a big lead and then just not caring enough to keep their clean sheet.

Ederson struggled to keep up in the Golden Glove race due to these late goals and the prospect of City conceding late goals has spiked after the injury-time additions. That is why Pep’s latest substitutions could be an indicator on which of his players to take a gamble on.

Which Man City defender should you prioritize?

The Cityzens have one of the best depths when it comes to their defensive unit, possessing a number of world-class centre-backs and full-backs. They have more than one option in every single position, including the backline. The arrival of Gvardiol, who can even slot in as a left-back alongside his natural centre-back role, further improves the options for Guardiola.

Even though he started a back-four against Burnley, there is no real guarantee over Pep doing the same throughout the campaign. There is a strong chance he moves back to his three-man backline and messes up a lot of FPL managers’ plans.

Going by his ‘priorites’ from last season, it’s safe to assume that Manuel Akanji (5.0) is a solid defensive pick from City. He’s unlikely to bring you a lot of goal contributions, but seems to be a mainstay in the Guardiola line-up in the Premier League – having played 2,283 minutes in the PL last season – the most by any defender in their squad.

Even Nathan Ake, who got subbed against Burnley, seems to be a solid pick at 5.0. He can play as a left-back too and is presumably going to get way more minutes than Rico Lewis. Ake missed a lot of games due to injury last season, but started 22 of the 30 matches he was available for.

Ruben Dias, who missed the last game due to injury, is probably the third-best City defender to put your money on. The City captain is a commanding figure at the back and is likely to be extensively used once he gains full fitness due to his ability to neutralize talents.

While Gvardiol might’ve been signed for a huge fee by City, he is a major risk due to it being his first season. Guardiola has made it a habit of mostly benching his new signings in their first season before they are fully adapted to his system and then using them extensively from the second campaign.

Gvardiol might also fall prey to this and be benched for the majority of the games, which means spending 5.0 on him isn’t worth it. Pep is likely to infuriate FPL managers throughout the course of the 23/24 season with his tinkering, but the new system along with his apparent tendency to substitute defenders to keep them fresh means banking on someone like Akanji or Ake can bring you a lot of points at a consistent basis.