An insatiable Luis Suarez lights up Anfield and ties Sunderland in knots. Leighton Baines’ left foot finally comes good and in some style. Rafa Benitez blames fatigue, deflecting attention from his much-changed lineup as Chelsea slump to a shock home defeat. Here’s the post-match reaction to last night’s events, courtesy of the Scout Notes…
The hugely impressive Luis Suarez moved to 15 goals for the season having scored back-to-back braces against QPR and Sunderland. He’s looked almost unplayable in both matches and, in his current form, would seem an obvious Fantasy acquisition.
The fixture list provides the only real caveat, with Liverpool now facing three of the next four away from home at United, Arsenal and City. Suarez will need to prove his “fixture proof” qualities to deliver on investment, then, and it’s perhaps fair to say that we should expect a downturn in returns across those three matches. The meeting with Norwich at Anfield in Gameweek 23 certainly looks profitable, however.
Not surprisingly, Brendan Rodgers was waxing lyrical about the performance of Suarez, revealing some interesting insights into his views on the Uruguayan’s pitch time. From his statement, any thought that the arrival of Daniel Sturridge could see Suarez rested look to be dispelled…
“At the beginning of the season when I was giving him a wee breather, he didn’t want it. For me, he’s a player that has to play two or three times a week to be at the top of his game – one game a week is no good for him. He needs to be playing and you see the response you get from him. His work has never dropped, he’s a real team player, he trains every day, he’s never in the treatment room and then he goes out and performs…I think with the fluidity of the team, as the ball moves he gets the chance to find the spaces. If he’s playing in a style that’s direct, he doesn’t get the chance to move. But in a structure where the ball is moving, his cleverness and intelligence finds the space.”
Rodgers Backs Sturridge to Shine
The acquisition of Sturridge is nonetheless an interesting new variable when considering Liverpool assets. Available at just 7.3 in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game there is no doubt that he deserves our attention. We will bring you a full “Moving Target” report on Sturridge and his prospects later today but for now, it was interesting to read Rodgers’ views on the signing…
“He’s a goalscorer and the only spell he’s really had that was at Bolton, but when he’s played games, he’s got goals. He gives us power, presence and mobility at the top of the field – and I think the biggest thing is hunger… He’s got qualities, but if he wants to stay at the big level then this is probably his last chance. I’ve got every faith over his time here he’ll prove a real hit and he gives us another attacking threat at the top end of the field.”
Gerrard Leads The Supporting Cast
While Suarez again stole the headlines, the Liverpool skipper put in another supreme performance, capped by a pair of assists – the last of which came about as a result of a simply stunning raking pass to Suarez. As we’ve outlined in recent Stock Checks, Gerrard’s consistentcy is incredibly strong: he’s now either scored or assisted in the last six league matches, returning three goals and six assists in that spell. In terms of FPL form, only Theo Walcott, courtesy of his incredible haul in the win over Newcastle, can better Gerrard. No doubt hindered by the considerable appeal of Suarez up front, we are gradually seeing interest in Gerrard grow, although he still sits on a vaiue of 9.4, less than his season starting price. Like Suarez, the fixture list presents a potential obstacle to investment in the short-term.
Liverpool Find the Perfect Balance
The signs are very good at Anfield right now, not least due to the goal power of Suarez and the prompting of Gerrard but also due to a defence that has now kept clean sheets in three of the last four. With Jose Enrique absent with a hamstring problem, Andre Wisdom, a 4.3 FPL defender, was handed a recall. While this will likely be a short-term measure while Enrique recovers, the established assests in the Liverpool defence – Dan Agger, Martin Skrtel and, in particular, Glen Johnson, all show real promise as heavy-hitter acquistions. Again, though, the fixture list is a concern. It seems unlikely that Liverpool’s run of clean sheets will continue given the three away trips they face in the next four.
Baines Delivers At Last
Everton are now without a clean sheet in 16 league matches, leaving owners of Leighton Baines reliant on attacking returns to find a reward for their hefty investment. Having provided just two assists in 13 matches, last night’s blasted free-kick from 30-yards provided a timely tonic heading into a favourable run of three home games in four. His manager, David Moyes, also showed his relief that Baines had, at last, delivered on his promise.
“He takes plenty and you have to come up with your share. He was a bit disappointed he didn’t score three; there was another free kick and he wriggled into the box for a chance as well.”
With Swansea, West Brom and Villa all visiting Goodison and a trip to Southampton amongst that trio of matches, Baines, along with Marouane Felliani, look to be hot property for the month ahead. Fellaini returned an assist for Baines’ strike last night but it’s the left-back who has been long overdue returns, with Everton denied countless penalty appeals in particular. Baines looks to be a prime January Wildcard target in the short-term – we may even see a belated clean sheet from the Toffees amongst the next four Gameweeks.
Cisse In The Spotlight
Demba Ba’s pending departure to Chelsea appears to have put Papiss Cisse back in focus at Newcastle. Having scored his second goal in three matches against Everton last night, Alan Pardew has indicated that he will now shift Cisse to a central attacking role, having used him wide on the flank with Ba leading the attack. When asked if Cisse was relishing the shift, Pardew seemed optimistic…
“I think so, and we are hoping he has the second half of the year he had last year, where he was absolutely terrific for us and scoring goals for fun. That’s where we need to get him.”
While Fantasy managers ponder the merits of Demba Ba at Chelsea, perhaps it’s worth considering Cisse as an option given his incredible output on his arrival at the club in January last year. Cisse has just four goals to his name this season, having struck 13 goals in the top flight from his debut on February 5 last term. A price tag of 8.8 is likely to provide a major obstacle for investors, unless Cisse can begin to suggest he can match his incredible strike rate of the previous campaign.
Rotating Rafa Claims Fatigue Played Its Part
Having rested both Eden Hazard and Juan Mata to the bench, along with Ramires, Rafa Benitez was defiant following the shock defeat to QPR. It’s clear from his post-match comments that he is set to stand by his policy of resting players and limiting their pitch time, regardless of their importance to the side…
“We can’t carry on with the same players every game. If you are playing against a team that is bottom of the table at home then you have to trust your players and I trust them….I thought they were doing well and I thought that would be fine, but maybe in odd areas we were tired. You could see we didn’t have the intensity and the pace on the pass and the movement that we were expecting.”
The decision to rest Mata interrupted a run of returns which had seen the Spaniard provide either a goal or an assist in his last five league starts. Investment has flowed his way as a result but last night’s teamsheet offers a stark reminder than owning Mata, or indeed any established Chelsea asset, comes with a health warning: it seems Benitez will not allow players to string five or six consecutive starts together and, with his squad set to be boosted in the transfer window, his options may well increase.
Torres Rest Is Overdue
Fernando Torres is next in the sights for a spell of rest. Last night’s blank was his third consecutive match without a goal or assist and Benitez was quick to acknowledge that his striker is in need of a break…
“Torres is one of two or three players who have been playing too many games in the last weeks or months. We were trying to manage the squad every game with two or three players changing and it was going well, but against QPR it was not working.”
The seemingly imminent arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle will of course make the task of preserving Torres that bit easier. Benitez refusted to be drawn on the arrival of Ba at Stamford Bridge but did acknowledge that, by adding another striker to his squad, he’ll have greater options to rotate…
“I don’t want to talk about names but if you have another striker then if you need to play with two strikers then you can do that, or if you want to rest a striker you can do it. We are a little bit short.”
Turnbull Set for Stoke Outing
As expected, Chelsea started last night’s encounter with Ross Turnbull between the sticks as Petr Cech missed out with a groin injury. Post-match, Benitez revealed that his number one keeper would miss up to three more weeks of action, whilst also indicating that John Terry was still not quite ready for a return…
“They (the medical team) said two or three weeks. In this case we are quite optimistic. I don’t know how long, but two or three weeks could be the time….John can do the warm up in training with the team soon and then we will see how he progresses, but I can’t give any date. He has a bone oedema, some bruising, so you can’t say how long it will take… all we can do is keep treating the player and wait.
Cech’s injury will see Turnbull start at Stoke in Gameweek 22 and maybe even against Arsenal at the Bridge following that. Despite his price tag, there may well be resistance to gambling on Turnbull as a short-term option given those two fixtures.