Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Goals: Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) | Son Heung-min (£9.6m)
- Assists: Andy Robertson (£7.2m) | Giovani Lo Celso (£6.9m)
- Bonus: Firmino x3 Son x1 Hugo Lloris (£5.6m) x1
A late Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) header finally broke Tottenham resistance and handed Liverpool victory in an excellent top-of-the-table clash.
The Brazil international scored his first goal in four Gameweeks, and only his third all season, with the Reds’ 11th shot on target. The visitors had just two.
But that told only some of the night’s tale, with Jose Mourinho’s side spurning three golden second-half opportunities – two for Steven Bergwijn (£7.0m) and Harry Kane (£10.9m) with the other – to execute a classic counter-attacking game plan.
(Big) Chance Should Be A Fine Thing
Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris (£5.6m) emerged with three save points and bonus after making nine stops on the night, including three from Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), who had to rely on a wickedly-deflected effort to open the scoring.
But despite 76% possession and a 17-8 shot count, the home side failed to carve out a single big chance all night.
Spurs, by contrast, had four of them. Three, as mentioned, were missed, while Son Heung-min (£9.6m) converted the other when he ran through from Giovani Lo Celso’s (£6.9m) incisive pass and beat Alisson (£5.9m) at the near post with authority.
That made it a third straight Gameweek with an attacking return for the South Korean, who went into the Liverpool clash as Fantasy Premier League’s (FPL) most popular player, with 60.4% ownership.
Eleven goals and four assists explains nearly all of that allure, and his record against the ‘big’ teams accounts for the rest.
Son seems fixture-proof, with his nine-point haul at Anfield sitting alongside his 18-point bonanza against Manchester United, 13 from the north London derby and 10 at home to Manchester City.
Against sides that, like Spurs, sit deeper and set up more defensively, his output is remarkably different, with two double-digit returns offset by five blanks.
Spurs’ festive schedule – LEI wol FUL LEE – suggests the team might struggle to break down three of those four sides, with Leeds (as ever) the notable exception.
Son’s ownership is still rising anyway – he’s currently in the top three for Gameweek 14 purchases – but there is a strong case for bringing in Tottenham defenders, too.
No team has kept more clean sheets than Spurs’ five, and they kept the league’s highest goalscorers at arms length for much of the Anfield match, which mirrored their defensive strategy for the season as a whole.
Investment in that back line is understandably muted when their highest-scoring defender, Eric Dier (£5.0m and 43 points), is being out-performed by 18 other players.
A lack of attacking returns doesn’t help – five goals have involved Tottenham defenders this campaign, a tally shared between three players. FPL’s most popular defender, Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell (£6.2m), can match that output all by himself.
But the potential of Spurs’ short-term schedule to produce defensive points can’t be ignored.
Liverpool’s backline has been considerably less watertight, not helped by injuries to key personnel, this season.
The latest centre-half to miss out was Joel Matip (£5.4m), whose back injury did not clear up enough for coach Jurgen Klopp to risk him against Spurs.
In came Rhys Williams (£4.0m) for his league debut, and it was a fine one according to Klopp:
Rhys couldn’t defend them alone, but he had a big part in it, so he did a really good job. It’s really nice for him. It was obviously a late decision because we didn’t know exactly what will happen with Joel and stuff like this. He did really well and that’s massively important for us.
Such a cheap way into the Liverpool defence looks enticing ahead of a fine four-match run involving West Brom at home and trips to Crystal Palace, Newcastle and (admittedly in-form) Southampton.
But unless Matip’s back issues deepen, Williams is unlikely to be more than a bit-part player for now.
The same can’t be said of full-backs Andrew Robertson (£7.2m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m).
The latter has had an injury-hit start to the season, but Robertson continues to out-perform him going forward.
The left-back produced a fourth assist of the campaign against Spurs – Alexander-Arnold has just the one – and he led the way for chances created (four) and crosses (11) in a performance that saw him just miss out on bonus points.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, Fabinho, R Williams, Alexander-Arnold; C Jones, Wijnaldum, J Henderson; Mané, Firmino, Salah.
Spurs XI (4-3-2-1): Lloris; B Davies, Dier, Alderweireld, Aurier; Højbjerg, Sissoko, Lo Celso (Moura 58); Bergwijn (Reguilon 76), Son (Alli 87); Kane.
Arsenal 1-1 Southampton
- Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) | Theo Walcott (£5.8m)
- Assists: Eddie Nketiah (£5.5m) | Che Adams (£6.0m)
- Bonus: Aubameyang x3 Walcott x2 Nketiah x1
Arsenal managed to avoid a fifth straight home loss, but yet another red card meant they had to do it the hard way against Southampton.
It also meant an equally hard night for many FPL managers as the Gunners’ most popular player, Gabriel (£5.1m and 11.2% owned), was the man to be dismissed.
Bad Discipline, Decent Spirit
The nature of Gabriel’s sending-off, involving two yellow cards handed out in just four minutes, speaks volumes for the indiscipline currently haunting manager Mikel Arteta’s troops.
It was the second straight red card shown to an Arsenal player in the league and the seventh since the Spaniard took over late last year.
Until the Gunners can show the same consistency results-wise – they’ve now won more cup games than league fixtures (14 v 13) under Arteta – fantasy managers are going to steer clear, especially with Everton and Chelsea up next.
At least the 8.4% of bosses staying loyal to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.4m) were treated to a first double-digit haul of the season as the Gabon international broke a five-match goalless streak in the league with the equaliser against the Saints.
And the side are clearly getting used to playing with ten men as Rob Holding (£4.4m) almost pinched a winner when his header hit the bar in time added on.
Based on the first half, and Gabriel’s foolishness after the break, Southampton will see the match as one that got away.
Theo Walcott (£5.8m) opened the scoring against his old club with a fine finish from Che Adams‘ (£6.0m) through-ball and other good chances came and went over the 90 minutes, with substitute Nathan Redmond (£6.4m) spooning one particularly excellent opportunity onto the bar.
Not that Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl seemed overly disappointed post-match:
This is a team that is normally above us in the table. It was good to see we can still be competitive. Teams have respect for what we are doing and how we are playing. I am OK with a point.
But the side’s schedule looks tricky in the short term, with visits from Man City, West Ham and Liverpool and a trip to the improving Fulham, before a Gameweek 18 blank further dampens their key assets’ appeal.
Of the well-owned players on display at The Emirates, the lack of a clean sheet hit Jannik Vestergaard‘s (£4.9m and 15.2%) output and James Ward-Prowse (£6,3m and 18.5%) and Danny Ings (£8.4m and 8.3%) offered little in the way of goal threat and failed to create a single chance between them.
The team’s most popular player, the 22.3%-owned keeper Alex McCarthy (£4.6m), kept his tally ticking over with a save point and he remains the cheapest of FPL’s top-five stoppers.
Walcott had the most chances (two) and penalty area touches (four) for the visitors, but like the team as a whole, he faded as the game wore on.
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Leno; Tierney, Gabriel, Holding; Saka, Elneny, Ceballos (Willock 67), Maitland-Niles; Aubameyang, Nketiah (Luiz 65), Pépé (Soares 85).
Southampton XI (4-4-2): McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Walker-Peters; Walcott (Djenepo 63), Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong (Redmond 63); Adams, Ings.
Lessons learned from FPL Gameweek 13
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