All four of the goals scored in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-offs, perhaps unsurprisingly, came courtesy of one side, as three teams began their 2018/19 campaigns with clean sheets.
Sadio Mane upstaged Mohamed Salah and co with a brace in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over West Ham United, who saw Marko Arnautovic slope off in the second half with a possible injury.
Southampton and Burnley played out a goalless draw on the south coast, meanwhile, though the early withdrawal of Cedric Soares saw the Portuguese defender miss out on the clean sheet points.
Our penultimate Scout Notes of the weekend focuses on the main Fantasy talking points at Anfield and St. Mary’s.
Liverpool 4-0 West Ham United
- Goals: Mohamed Salah (£13.0m), Sadio Mane (£9.5m) x2, Daniel Sturridge (£6.0m)
- Assists: Andrew Robertson (£6.0m), James Milner (£5.5m), Roberto Firmino (£9.5m)
Liverpool’s much-owned attacking trio all delivered returns as Jurgen Klopp’s side strolled to a 4-0 victory over an uninspired West Ham.
It took only 19 minutes of the match at Anfield for the seemingly inevitable to happen: Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) on hand to tap home a low cross from Andrew Robertson (£6.0m), the Scot’s fifth assist in his last nine appearances for the Reds. That strike was also Salah’s 20th league goal at Anfield in as many starts.
Salah could so easily have had a second goal in the first half, too, with Lukasz Fabianski (£4.5m) denying the Egyptian from point-blank range after he was played in by Roberto Firmino (£9.5m).
Sadio Mane (£9.5m) was to score on the first day of the season for the third year in a row, tapping home a James Milner (£5.5m) cut-back after the veteran midfielder had salvaged a deep Robertson cross.
Mane grabbed a second in controversial circumstances, finishing from an offside position after Firmino had poked the ball into his path.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge (£6.0m) capped off Liverpool’s victory with two minutes of normal time remaining, tapping home after Milner’s corner had been deflected into his path by Robert Snodgrass (£5.5m).
While Liverpool’s starting front three had a familiar look, Klopp’s second-half substitutions gave Fantasy managers a first proper glance at how the Reds could line up without one of their exalted trio.
Firmino was the first of the three to be hooked and his 68th-minute departure – Jordan Henderson (£5.5m) replacing him – saw Salah move to the centre, Mane switch to the right and Naby Keita (£7.5m) push up from the central midfield to the left flank.
Keita impressed in both positions, but Klopp stated after the match that he sees the summer signing from RB Leipzig featuring mostly in the centre, at least in the short term:
He can play different positions of course, but I think No.8 is his best in the moment, so that’s all cool.
Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.5m) replaced Mane on the right in the final ten minutes, with Sturridge sent on for Salah in the centre-forward role as the match entered its closing stages.
Klopp also provided an update on Dejan Lovren (£5.0m), who missed Sunday afternoon’s victory, after the match:
He is not fit. Let me say it like this, last year he already had a few problems with that but he could obviously play – and played really good.
Recovery days were always enough then it was not a problem and he was in the next session again. We did not train a lot in the end of the season, of course, because we were more or less constantly playing, but he played constantly.
Now in the World Cup, [playing] three times [for] 120 minutes it got a bit worse, but I am pretty sure it will settle in the next one, two or three weeks. In that time he can probably for sure train already, but not the full programme, so that will then take time.
In the end, it is serious but not that serious, so it’s not that we need to be afraid that it will take him until whenever. In the moment he is not available, that’s true.
Joel Matip (£5.0m) and Ragnar Klavan (£4.5m) both missed out on the match-day squad through injury.
West Ham’s dismal afternoon was worsened by the sight of Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) – owned by over 20% of FPL managers – gingerly making his way from the pitch with a quarter of the match remaining.
The Austrian, who reportedly passed a fitness test before the game, was replaced by Andriy Yarmolenko (£7.0m) on 68 minutes but – as was the case with Richarlison yesterday – there were no clues in his manager’s post-match press conference as to the extent of Arnautovic’s problem.
Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) meanwhile was also missing from the 18-man squad, but again, Manuel Pellegrini failed to elaborate on his left-back’s absence after the defeat.
The Hammers began the match in the same 4-3-3 formation rolled out in much of pre-season, but their first-half struggles led to a change in system at the break: Declan Rice (£4.5m) was sacrificed for Snodgrass, who played just off Arnautovic in a 4-2-3-1.
Among the headline set-piece news was Jack Wilshere (£5.0m) taking two of the Hammers’ four corner-kicks, with Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.0m) going close with a direct free-kick attempt for the hosts.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson: Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson: Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita: Salah (Sturridge 88′), Firmino (Henderson 69′), Mane (Shaqiri 81′)
West Ham United XI (4-3-3): Fabianski: Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Rice (Snodgrass 46′), Noble, Wilshere; Antonio, Anderson (Hernandez 62′), Arnautovic (Yarmolenko 67′)
Southampton 0-0 Burnley
Clean sheets all round at St. Mary’s – except for the 8.2% of FPL managers who own Cedric Soares (£4.5m), who was withdrawn on 55 minutes as part of a double substitution by Mark Hughes.
Cedric’s participation in the match had been in some doubt due to illness, but there was no suggestion that his substitution was anything other than tactical, with the Saints switching from a 3-4-2-1 to a flat-back four upon the Portuguese wing-back’s departure. Stuart Armstrong‘s (£5.5m) withdrawal in the same reshuffle was injury-related though, with the former Glasgow Celtic midfielder limping off after picking up a knock.
Danny Ings (£5.5m) was thrown on for his Saints debut in place of Armstrong and impressed, providing a fantastic opportunity for Jack Stephens (£4.5m) and going close himself with a rising drive.
Hughes spoke highly of the deadline day capture from Liverpool:
You saw Danny’s clever play today, linking and retaining possession. He allowed us to move further up the field and that augurs well. We’re looking forward to getting him up to speed.
Having played nearly all of pre-season with a three-man backline, Hughes faces a dilemma or two ahead of the trip to Everton next weekend.
The Saints looked far better after a switch to 4-4-2 in the second half, with Stephens moving across to right-back and substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi (£6.5m) and Nathan Redmond (£5.5m) providing width on the flanks for Ings and Charlie Austin (£6.0m)/Manolo Gabbiadini (£6.0m).
Mario Lemina (£5.0m), whose sum attacking returns in 2017/18 amounted to one goal and an assist, was notable for his involvement in the Burnley box and registered four attempts on goal.
Burnley were worthy of a point having been the better of the two teams in the first half and producing a solid defensive display in the second 45.
Ben Mee and James Tarkowski (£5.0m) were as excellent as ever at the heart of the defence, though the former was indebted to a goal-line clearance from Ashley Westwood (£4.5m) after almost putting through his own net.
Ashley Barnes (£6.0m) and Sam Vokes (£5.5m) started on the bench as Chris Wood (£6.5m) ploughed a lone furrow up front, though both strikers were introduced as substitutes late in the match. Jeff Hendrick (£5.5m) began the match as Wood’s main support from midfield, as Sean Dyche reverted to the 4-4-1-1 system he used at the start of 2017/18.
Joe Hart (£4.5m) intriguingly began the game for the Clarets between the sticks, with Tom Heaton (£5.0m) fit enough to take his place among the Burnley substitutes.
Speaking of the former Manchester City shot-stopper, Dyche said:
He’s a very experienced keeper and he’s been bought in for a reason to challenge Tom, firstly, because of the injury to Popey, and now Anders.
He has to keep his mentality, his focus, and he did, and when called upon, safe hands, and a mature performance. But he’s a top keeper, simple as that, and I’m very fortunate to have top keepers and top people.
That Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) finished the match with six saves and three bonus points said much about Burnley’s goal threat, with Hendrick and Aaron Lennon (£5.0m) being denied by the Saints goalkeeper and Jack Cork (£5.0m) unlucky to have an effort ruled out for offside.
Southampton XI (3-4-2-1): McCarthy; Hoedt, Vestergaard, Stephens; Soares (Elyounoussi 56′), Romeu, Lemina, Bertrand; Armstrong (Ings 56′), Redmond; Austin (Gabbiadini 72′)
Burnley XI (4-4-1-1): Hart; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward; Gudmundsson (Taylor 87′), Westwood, Cork, Lennon; Hendrick (Barnes 76′); Wood (Vokes 73′)
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