Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Bonus points: Alisson (£5.9m) x3| Luke Shaw (£4.8m) x2| Harry Maguire (£5.4m) x1
Premium assets Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) and Bruno Fernandes (£10.9m) frustrated owners by blanking again in a tight game at Anfield.
With more than 1,200,000 Fantasy Premier League players captaining Salah, the sight of him delivering no attacking returns for the fourth game in a row will have caused them great concern.
And the 80,000 players using their Triple Captain chip on Bruno Fernandes in Double Gameweek 19 will now be wondering if they’ve wasted it.
Mo Salah, Mo Problems
The “Egyptian King” cut a frustrated figure after his fourth blank in a row at Anfield on Sunday night.
With around 150,000 FPL managers choosing to play Triple Captain chips on Salah, the wide man was barely involved in the game, seeing a shot in the box deflected wide.
With Salah occupying a position in nearly 40% of all FPL teams, eyes will now turn to Liverpool’s second fixture of the Gameweek, at home against Burnley.
Should Salah fail to deliver for the fifth time in a row, then many managers will consider it time to move him on, which would have been unthinkable after the first few Gameweeks.
Delving into the stats, Salah is simply not having as many attempts on goal as he was earlier in the season.
He still leads the way for attempts in the box this season, one above teammate Mane, which shows how he got off to a fast start.
Even Liverpool legend Graeme Souness was underwhelmed by Salah’s performance.
“Trying to be a neutral, the Liverpool trio didn’t get me on the edge of my seat and nine times out of 10, they do. There was an incident in the second half where Salah could’ve gone one-on-one with Shaw, but he chose to come in and take the easy option. I think that says a lot about his performance today.”
It remains to be seen if this is just a blip for Salah, who holds the record for most FPL points scored in a single season, or if these numbers are more indicative of a permanent downward slide.
Should Salah blank again against Burnley, then attention is likely to shift towards the likes of KDB and Spurs assets in the next few weeks.
Salah is not the only Liverpool player having problems in front of goal.
Sunday’s 0-0 draw was the third game in a row where Liverpool failed to find the back of the net.
Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) missed Liverpool’s best chance of the game, firing wide from close range, while Sadio Mane (£11.9m) toiled without much success.
When asked about his side’s problems in front of goal, Klopp insisted Manchester United’s tactics proved difficult for Liverpool to break down.
“We tried to play football, tried to do it, force them back into their own box. The worst thing you can face in the world, in football, is you play against a side with world-class players and they all defend with all they have, deep in the box and only counter-attack. It’s really difficult, that’s the biggest challenge.”
While Klopp’s comments do have some merit, a look at Liverpool’s expected goals (xG) tells a different story.
The Reds have only scored on goal in four games in open play, but according to the xG table, they should have put at least four away.
This will be an encouraging sight to FPL players planning to stick with Salah and Mane going forward.
“We have nothing to worry about but obviously we work on it. It’s not that we ignore the fact and just hope that it will be good again. The only possibility you have to score goals is to create situations – to be ready to fail and then do it again. That’s a massive different between when you are flying when you score with pretty much each chance you have. You deal with the missed chance better then.”
However, while Liverpool should have scored more than one goal in four games, they are not delivering the impressive attacking numbers they were at the start of the season.
Ever confident, Klopp predicted Liverpool would be back scoring goals again very soon.
“I saw my team playing tonight and I saw a really good football team with a clear idea, with super passes, great counter-press, great desire to score – but we didn’t score. We will create chances and we will score.”
Another Triple Captain pick to blank was Fernandes, although his game went differently to Salah’s.
The Man United number 10 saw a free-kick flash wide of the bost, then forced Alisson into an excellent save from close range.
Bruno currently sits at second for underachieving players in Double Gameweek 19, below Jamie Vardy (£10.1m), so Triple Captainers of Bruno will still be feeling confident ahead of United’s trip to Fulham on Wednesday.
That being said, there will still be lingering doubts about Bruno’s attacking points potential with Paul Pogba (£7.7m) in the team.
With Pogba starting the last four games, Fernandes has blanked twice and delivered single returns in the other two matches.
Bruno owners will also be worried by Solskjaer’s post-match comments, indicating Fernandes could be due a rest soon.
It was a tactical decision. Bruno has obviously been running his socks off for us. He’s been here and been running more or less every game. So towards the end we felt Paul’s physical presence in there might be a chance for us. And Mason, when gets a chance, can score in the blink of a second. So it was a bit of a throw of the dice to get Mason on even though he had to defend against Robertson.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Fernandes has played more than 85 minutes in Man United’s last five games, who face a quick turnaround to play Fulham on Wednesday.
One more yellow card will also result in Bruno facing a one-match suspension.
All of the above points to Fernandes potentially missing one of United’s upcoming games.
Shaw-ing Things Up
Once the figure of mockery, Manchester United’s defence is beginning to put in some stellar performances.
Fans had pointed to the return of Eric Bailly (£4.9m) injecting some pace into their backline as the main reason for their upturn in performances.
But Victor Lindelof (£4.8m) returning to the team appeared to have no adverse effect, with the Red Devils producing another stellar defensive display.
Lindelof’s centre-back partner Harry Maguire had an impressive game, recording the highest number of Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions (CBI) so far in the Gameweek, and picking up a Bonus Point.
Special praise was reserved for Luke Shaw, who did an impressive job in preventing Salah from having an impact on the game.
The left-back also came away with the two Bonus Points for the second time in a row.
Solskjaer, who previously described Shaw as the best left-back in the country, was delighted with his performance.
“Luke has improved immensely. I thought today he showed his strength, quality and composure on the ball. Delighted with his performance, definitely.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
The arrival of Alex Telles (£5.5m) in the summer appears to have lit a fire under Shaw, who has made the left-back slot his own after a string of impressive performances.
With upcoming games against Fulham (away) and Sheffield United (home), Shaw looks a cracking differential option with clean sheet and Bonus Point potential.
While the majority of FPL managers focus on bringing in Manchester City defenders, Shaw has flown under the rader with only a 1.7% ownership.
A New Out-Of-Position Forward?
Solskjaer surprised pundits and FPL managers by playing Marcus Rashford (£9.6m) through the middle against Liverpool.
It appeared from his pre-game selection that Rashford would once again be playing on the right-side of the attack, flanked by Pogba, with Anthony Martial (£8.8m)through the middle.
But Solskjaer changed the script, playing Rashford through the middle and Martial on the left.
Solskjaer confirmed in his post match comments that his plan was to use the pace of Rashford against Liverpool’s makeshift central defence pairing.
But whatever his plan was, it didn’t work.
Rashford only managed to touch the ball eight times in the first half, and spent the majority of the match drifting over to his favoured left-hand side.
Ole abandoned the experiment an hour in, introducing Edinson Cavani (£7.8m), with Rashford moving to a more familiar wide position.
Judging by the results, it is unlikely Rashford will be deployed as a lone centre forward again in the near future.
After an unconvincing performance on the right, it appears Rashford carries the most attacking point potential playing on the left-side of attack.
Time for Diallo?
Solskjaer yet again changed Man United’s right side attacker, this time opting for Paul Pogba.
Although the Frenchman did deliver some good moments, and should arguably have scored when he fired his shot straight at Alisson (£5.9m), he did not fully convince when playing on the right.
This is just the latest change in United’s right attacking position.
Rashford, Juan Mata (£5.8m) and Dan James (£6.2m) have all been trialled there with limited success, and Mason Greenwood (£7.0m) has failed to repeat the form he showed last season.
But has the answer to the troubled position now arrived at the club?
As highlighted in a Fantasy Football Scout piece, Amad Diallo has now arrived at the club from Atalanta.
Playing predominantly off the left-hand side, Diallo’s game is built on taking on using his pace to take on the full-back and cut inside on his left foot.
With his attributes, Diallo looks to be perfectly built to play on the right of Man United’s 4-2-3-1 system.
After exhausting most of his options, Ole may now be forced to turn to the 18 year-old, who could give them a huge boost as they battle for the Premier League title.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Robertson; Shaqiri (Jones 76), Thiago, Wijnaldum (Milner 89); Salah, Firmino (Origi 85), Mane
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Pogba, Fernandes (Greenwood 89), Martial (Cavani 61); Rashford
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