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Who Loses Out When KDB Comes In?


  • Move heaven and earth to acquire Mahrez.

  • Try your best to bring in Sterling and Jesus too.

  • Trade out Gundogan.

  • And possibly move Torres and Cancelo on if the price is right.

A Deep(ish) Dive Into the Impact of KDB

Michael Jordan in ’95. The Undertaker in 2000. Tiger Woods in 2017. In GW6 we should be able to add Kevin De Bruyne to the list of great sporting returns when Manchester City take on Chelsea. Okay, so KDB’s time away isn’t quite the same as those legendary names, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it given some of the Twitter talk (including our very own Genie who recently ranked KDB at #10!*). Nevertheless, 5 games in a 38-game season (35 for most fantasy managers) is not an insignificant amount of time to lose, so what should we expect when the great man returns?

*When you’ve been as successful as Genie has in draft fantasy, you deservedly get a long leash for calls like this.

Well, ‘points’ is the obvious answer. It couldn’t be any tougher of a return for KDB than Chelsea away, but no doubt he’ll still reach double-digits. And by the end of the season, his stat line will still read something like 550+ points, 20+ PP90, and 18+ FP/G. No, the question I’m really asking, is what should we expect from the rest of Manchester City now that the midfield maestro is back centre-stage?

So far this season, Joao Cancelo, Jack Grealish, and Gabriel Jesus have been receiving the fantasy plaudits for Pep’s men, with Ferran Torres and Bernardo Silva also rewarding any managers that showed faith in drafting them. On the other hand, many owners of Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling have already become frustrated that their probable 2nd-3rd round draft picks have yet to produce the goods that warrant such a high selection. Indeed, a few days ago Draft Answers posted a poll asking which side is better between Mahrez and Aubameyang, and then a week earlier there was one asking the same question about Raheem Sterling and John McGinn. How the mighty have fallen.

But all of this is without the big dog on the pitch. Numero uno when it comes to everything Manchester City. Will Jack and Jesus continue to flourish? Are Mahrez and Sterling going to stay as peers to Auba and McGinn? Let’s do my favourite thing and take a look at some numbers.

The Analysis

The undisputed number 1 player in the game had a few injuries last season which meant he only ended up starting 23 of Manchester City’s 38 league games. Bad news for owners (of which I was one!), but great news for this data set. It means that we have a decent sample size (at least when it comes to this sort of real-world analysis) in order to compare the effect of playing with KDB and playing without KDB on fantasy performance. The below data is based on the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. I have analysed all positions except for centre-backs (which includes Fernandinho), although Benjamin Mendy is not included because he has started an insufficient number of games. Sergio Aguero is not included because Fantrax unfortunately (and annoyingly) remove player data once they have left the Premier League. Likewise Leroy Sane and David Silva for the 2019-20 only.

KDB's Impact on Points per Start (PPS)

The graph above shows the impact of KDB on fantasy performance. That is, the difference in points per start for each Manchester City player when KDB starts compared to when KDB doesn’t start. As we can see, Ferran Torres is the biggest casualty of the Ginger Pele’s place on Pep’s teamsheet, though it should be noted that his data is based on just the 2020-21 season. This presents a bit of a predicament for owners. Cash in now while Torres' value is potentially at its peak? Or wait and hope that the small sample size (and also, it should be noted, change of position) are skewing the data? I guess it ultimately depends on the value of the trade offers you can get for him. Ilkay Gundogan, perhaps not surprisingly, suffers the next biggest drop, losing out on almost 4 points per start – a substantial amount that takes him from Jack Grealish levels to Leandro Trossard levels*. Rodri and Cancelo also take hits to their fantasy value, and whilst these are small, they are not insignificant – for me it takes Rodri from being potentially valuable to free agent material.

*Based on 2021-22 data

At the other end, Mahrez owners rejoice: KDB’s return should have a huge impact on how the Algerian winger performs. An 8-point swing is incredible, and whilst Mahrez’s scoring is notoriously volatile, this volatility is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to wins and losses in fantasy . Similarly, Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker see sizeable increases, though Walker is never a worthwhile fantasy asset, so let’s just ignore that one. Jesus’ numbers, though, should be eye-opening given the bright start he’s had to the season. Finally Zinchenko and Sterling receive nice boosts, making the former a genuine option under the right circumstances, and making the latter a big contender for “trade-in” target.

KDB's Impact on Game Time

For those wanting to dig a little deeper into the numbers, I’ve presented them in the table below. What’s interesting here is the final column – “% starts with KDB”. KDB is the first name on the City team sheet (until they reach the semi-finals of the Champions League and have had their Premier League destiny determined), therefore these numbers may reflect Pep’s preferred line-up. It is noticeable that the two currently underperforming fantasy assets – Mahrez and Sterling – have the highest percentage amongst the attacking players, suggesting that their recent time in the City wilderness could be a tactical one related to KDB: when KDB plays, so do they. For me, it was a surprise to see that Gundogan’s start % is also high. It seems that he does play alongside KDB, but it’s just that he takes on a different – more defensive – role.

The biggest losers in terms of game time, according to this data, are Cancelo, Foden, and Silva (we’re still ignoring Torres because of sample size). With regards to Cancelo, it may be that the preference for playing Walker alongside KDB means that he takes up more of a timeshare with Zinchenko (and in the past, Mendy) over on the left side, however, given that he’s been arguably City’s best player for the last 12 months, this may disappear soon. In a similar manner, Foden’s phenomenal talent would mean I’m not too worried about his numbers here either. He’s going to get starts and he’s going to perform. Bernardo Silva, on the other hand, would concern me. Yes, his PPS doesn’t change, but his game time does. It would seem hard to find space for him in the starting 11 when you have the likes of Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus, Rodri, and Gundogan all preferred alongside KDB. And that’s without even considering the boy Jack.

One final thing on Mahrez and Sterling before we wrap things up. The frustration with their production so far is understandable but the drop in value that both have seemingly experienced over the last couple of weeks (at least on Twitter) is not. This is not unprecedented for them. Mahrez has gone four games without starting. A similar thing happened last year between December and January. Likewise the season before between October and November. In both instances he bounced back to have a very good season. Raheem Sterling has started just two of five and performed poorly in both. Again, you don't have to go back too far to see that this has happened before (between gameweeks 26 and 34 last season he started just four games and scored 5, 2.5, 3.5, and 0.5 in them). Want something to worry about? I'd be more concerned that Harry Kane hasn't had three consecutive starts where he's scored 6 points or fewer since October 2018.

The Full-Time Whistle

So there we have it. A deep(ish) dive into the impact that Fantrax’s number one player has on his teammates fantasy value. Whilst not a large sample size, the numbers here are based on a fair amount of data dating back two seasons. There are, like with all analyses, caveats that need to be applied (such as the lack of control for injuries amongst the other players explored), but hopefully this still sheds some light on what we can expect from here on out now that the King is back. Or at least until he gets injured again.

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