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06 Jun 2019 by Colm Hayes

FPL Recap – Press Conferences A-W: Assessing the usefulness of managers’ pressers for FPL players [Part Three]

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With team news often playing a pivotal part in FPL decisions, we have put together an assessment of how open or closed each Premier League manager was when facing the media over the course of the 2018-19 season. Part Three looks at Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle.

LIVERPOOL

Jurgen Klopp’s most rotated area of the pitch is central midfield, which bodes well for FPL bosses. While Jordan Henderson’s advanced role in the latter part of this season caught the eye, the Reds’ engine room is the least attractive from a fantasy perspective.

The German gaffer can be coy when it suits him, however. There was no mention of Roberto Firmino’s groin injury ahead of Gameweek 36, while Klopp failed to rule the striker out for GW37. Asked about the striker’s availability, the manager responded: “We will see.” As it turned out, Firmino was a way off returning as the Reds chief did confirm the Brazilian’s GW38 absence.

Overall, though, Klopp retained a core of players that offered huge FPL returns over the season. Joe Gomez’s return could cloud the defensive picture, though the hope is that the England defender will be favoured ahead of Joel Matip at centre-half and be priced kindly. The latter’s recent performances will make him difficult to displace, however.

MAN CITY

While ‘Pep Roulette’ is a popular side-game in FPL, I will risk the community’s wrath by suggesting that Guardiola is not as bad as he seems when it comes to rotation. Ederson (naturally) and Aymeric Laporte were basic ever-presents in the league, Raheem Sterling further cemented his key-man status and Sergio Aguero shrugged off the challenge of Gabriel Jesus for the No 9 spot.

Outside of those key figures is where we really start spinning the wheel on Pep Roulette.

The standout moment of that this season was Leroy Sane’s DGW25 disaster. Having started seven of the previous eight matches, the German paid the price for a poor GW24 showing by being demoted to the bench for the first of City’s double gameweek fixtures. Sane managed 58 minutes in City’s midweek tie, totalling one point for a legion of captainers and triple captainers.

The winger totalled just four more league starts from GW28 as Bernardo Silva made the right-wing position in Pep’s 4-3-3 his own. Sane, meanwhile, looks set for a summer of uncertainty with Bayern Munich keen to bring him home.

Along with the left-wing spot, left-back was also an issue for FPL bosses this season. Benjamin Mendy started the season like a train, notching five assists in the opening four gameweeks. Unfortunately, injury dominated the Frenchman’s season. Having not played since GW12, Mendy eventually returned in GW34 before failing to reappear for the rest of the season. Before DGW35, Guardiola gave the type of comment that drives FPL bosses spare. He said: “We will see today how people recover and how they are physically and mentally. I’ll decide tonight/tomorrow morning in terms of selection.”

Of course, Guardiola is the same as every other Premier League boss in that he is not going to give away his starting XI before a game. He can certainly be coy when he likes but on the flip side, he signalled Bernardo’s importance to City well before the Portugal star took Sane’s place in the team. Ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, the Spaniard said: “Everybody knows the wingers want to compete. Right now, it is Bernardo and ten others.” And before the Citizens’ second DGW25 outing, Pep repeated his rare team news offering by stating: “To drop Bernardo right now is impossible, it's him and ten more players. Every single game he's been perfect. We take a decision on the movement, the way he leads the game, involved in all. The other guys have to compete. That doesn't mean I'm not confident in the others, they show me every game who deserves to play. It's a competition for them as well.”

The likely reason that Pep Roulette is so discussed and despised within the community is the impact the odd benching can have. City assets take up big chunks of our budgets and we expect them to score well in most games, so Sterling missing out feels a lot worse than a Bournemouth asset mysteriously not making the matchday squad. The England forward was rotated twice in the opening nine gameweeks – missing 6-1 and 5-0 victories – but when you can be reasonably certain an attacker of his calibre will start most games, you just have to grin and bear it. Picking City assets is a bit like going to the dentist – at certain points of the season you’ll be seated while feeling like all of your teeth have been pulled out, but in the end you’ll rise from the chair with a smile on your face.

MAN UTD

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved a tricky character towards the end of the season, with his press conference offerings perhaps mirroring Man Utd’s form.

Ahead of Gameweek 37, rumours began to surface that Romelu Lukaku might miss out. At his presser, Solskjaer said: “We’ve got a few niggles and injuries. We’ve still got two days, today and tomorrow to see who gets on the pitch.”

The Belgian missed out for the trip to Huddersfield that weekend and Solskjaer again failed to provide even an update on the striker before Cardiff’s visit in GW38. Before that tie, the United boss said on his team selection: “You never know in football. It might be your last game, it might be the start of some careers as well. We’ve had some young players knocking on the door all season, we will be starting with some of the kids as well.”

The best information from the club on Lukaku was that he remained a doubt. The forward was sidelined again in Gameweek 38, while Solskjaer perhaps gave FPL managers a taste of what to expect next season.

NEWCASTLE

Fantasy bosses can cross their fingers that Rafa Benitez sticks around at St James’ Park. The Spaniard gave definitive injury updates throughout the season.

Benitez also tended to be fairly set in his team selection too but did drop DeAndre Yedlin in GW34 as Javier Manquillo took over at right wing-back for the remainder of the campaign.

It is currently unclear whether or not Benitez will be in the Newcastle hotseat when the new season kicks off on August 10. With the Magpies' late-season form providing plenty of fantasy interest for 2019-20, and their manager generally offering useful information at his pressers, FPL bosses will be hoping the ex-Liverpool chief remains in charge of the Geordie outfit.

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