Six weeks in to the Premier League and Manchester City keep chugging along nicely. After the disappointing loss to Lyon in the Champions League, City responded in fine style against Cardiff and Oxford with eight goals scored in total and none conceded.
What’s perhaps been the most impressive element of City’s start to the season is that it comes without Kevin De Bruyne running the entire midfield. Last year, De Bruyne had the highest usage rate (the percentage of a team’s possessions in which a given player has the final action) of any City player by a wide margin, and he also rated as Twelve’s top attacker.
One of the key questions when he went down through injury was who would take on the offensive burden he carried last season. In order to measure that, below is a table showing each player’s usage rate so far this season compared with their record last season (for players with a minimum of 270 minutes in both campaigns):
|Player||17-18 Usage Rate||18-19 Usage Rate||Change in Usage|
Perhaps unsurprisingly since he is De Bruyne’s most common direct replacement in the team, Bernardo Silva has increased his usage more than anyone else. We also see his midfield partner David Silva doing more as well in a throwback to the days when he indisputably ran the show.
Further down, Mendy’s increased usage highlights how much he has been an excellent wide alternative when the team gets bogged down centrally. Aguero’s presence reflects the fact that City have been able to generate more shots per possession this season, at least somewhat aided by a relatively easy schedule.
That last trend is set to continue when they host Brighton. Brighton’s summer recruitment drive gained them admirers, but of their big acquisitions only Yves Bissouma has played substantial minutes and he hasn’t quite settled yet. Moreover, they are without last season’s star attacker Pascal Gross and midfielder Dale Stephens due to injury, joining longer-term absentee Jose Izquierdo on the sidelines.
Brighton will still be compact in a likely 4-4-1-1 formation, with center-back partnership Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy proving strong last season. Of the available regulars, Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert are the danger men, the former as an old-school center-forward and the latter as an inverted winger on the right flank with three assists already this season.
As a result of the injuries, Hughton may throw the dice on some of his new signings. Florin Andone is back to fitness and could feature for the first time up front and Alireza Jahanbakhsh could get his first start. Jahanbakhsh in particular could be a nuisance on the counter-attack, which is the most likely avenue for Brighton given how deep they defend.
Expect this to play out in a similar manner to the games against Newcastle and Cardiff, who are the only teams averaging less possession than Brighton. Assuming he’s fit, which seems an open question at the moment, Mendy would seem suited to this game to provide an avenue out wide.
A fully fit Brighton side with their new signings integrated into the team could definitely give City problems. As it stands though, I think it will be difficult for them to test City much in this match. I’m going to select Bernardo, Aguero, and David Silva for the Twelve app since they’re likely to be most responsible for breaking down this Brighton side.