Our latest Scout Notes article from the midweek round of Premier League fixtures focuses on events in Lancashire, where Jurgen Klopp wielded the axe and changed all bar four of his starting XI from the side that defeated Everton on Sunday.
There was precious little to cheer for owners of the Reds’ most popular Fantasy assets but Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino at least came off the bench to register consolation attacking returns as Klopp’s much-altered side made heavy work of defeating Burnley on Wednesday evening.
An ankle injury picked up by Joe Gomez will have soured the mood in the Liverpool camp but, at the risk of sounding callous and of course wishing the England defender a speedy recovery, we will discuss the possible silver lining for Fantasy managers in the piece below.
We’ll also cover the goals, assists, manager quotes and Fantasy talking points in our round-up of events from Turf Moor.
Burnley 1-3 Liverpool
- Goals: Jack Cork (£4.6m) | James Milner (£5.6m), Roberto Firmino (£9.2m), Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.0m)
- Assists: Ashley Barnes (£5.6m) | Divock Origi (£5.0m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.1m), Mohamed Salah (£13.0m)
While a degree of tinkering was expected from Jurgen Klopp ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Burnley, the scale of his rotation came as quite the shock to the legions of Fantasy managers who were keenly anticipating the Reds’ encounter with one of the division’s worst defences.
Sadio Mane (£9.8m) and Andrew Robertson‘s (£6.5m) no-shows were anticipated after the pair picked up injuries in the Merseyside derby but the demotion of Mohamed Salah (£13.0m), Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.3m) to the Liverpool bench for this fixture came as more of an unwelcome surprise.
Klopp made seven changes in all, with only Xherdan Shaqiri (£7.0m), Joe Gomez (£5.1m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.1m) and Alisson (£5.7m) retaining their starts from the win over Everton, and the mass-rotation looked to have been a huge miscalculation after an hour of Wednesday night’s clash in Lancashire.
Liverpool were disjointed in a goalless first half, with Joe Hart (£4.5m) only called into action to make two comfortable saves before the interval.
Worse was to follow on 54 minutes when Jack Cork (£4.6m) followed up parried efforts from James Tarkowski (£4.7m) and Ashley Barnes (£5.6m) to give the Clarets an unexpected lead, a goal that soon prompted the summoning of Salah and Firmino from the visitors’ bench.
James Milner (£5.6m) had drawn Liverpool level by the time the premium pair were introduced and in truth, the balance of the game had already shifted as Salah and Firmino took to the pitch, with Hart saving well from Daniel Sturridge (£5.8m) and Naby Keita (£7.2m) before Milner’s equaliser.
Salah and Firmino had only 25 minutes with which to influence the game but the consolation for their Fantasy owners was that the pair emerged from this hard-fought win with attacking returns – Firmino tapping home a cushioned pass from van Dijk with his first touch of the match and Salah setting up Shaqiri on the counter-attack in the dying moments to add gloss to the scoreline.
Salah might have had a goal himself after some beautiful combination play between the Egyptian and Keita, with both players being denied by the impressive Hart and Phil Bardsley (£4.2m) in the same move.
Rotation aside, the biggest storyline to come out of this fixture was the ankle injury picked up by Gomez midway through the first half.
The sight of the England defender being stretchered off looked ominous and Klopp suggested after full-time that the problem could be a serious one:
It was his ankle. Joe is injured and probably not only a little bit. We have to see, we don’t know in the moment. We sent him home.
The repercussions of a medium-to-long-term injury to Gomez could be significant, given that the England international has been used variously as a right-back and centre-half this season.
Gomez’s absence would leave only Nathaniel Clyne (£4.6m) – yet to play a minute of league football this season – as competition for Alexander-Arnold, while van Dijk’s status as the most “nailed” Liverpool defender would surely only be solidified further with his semi-regular central defensive partner sidelined.
Alexander-Arnold indeed appeared as if he would bank the most fortunate of clean sheets after replacing Gomez on 23 minutes, only for Cork’s opening goal to dash any hopes of a shut-out for his owners.
After almost two years without an attacking FPL return, it’s now two assists in as many matches for van Dijk, with the Dutch stopper providing the telling pass that led to Firmino’s strike.
The former Celtic and Southampton defender was a menace throughout at set plays, registering three headed attempts on goal from dead-ball situations.
Perhaps the pick of Klopp’s “second string” was Keita, who racked up more shots on goal and penalty box touches than any other player on show.
His manager said after the match:
Always when Naby had the ball, at least something changed a little bit. We all know Shaq can play much better – turn in situations, get the ball and be a bit more decisive. The only ones who really tried to do something was Millie with runs in behind and Naby with the ball. Hendo shouldn’t be involved in that – he had to protect all the runners.
So Naby made all the difference in a lot of moments. I think his blocked shot was the biggest chance we had in the first half, I’m not 100 per cent sure but at least it looked like a proper chance; Burnley blocked it. In the second half, the one-two with Mo [Salah] was a good finish and a bit lucky in that moment for Burnley. In the beginning it was really good and at the end. In the middle, we didn’t use him – I was shouting, ‘We have to use Naby!’ because he was not involved, we played long ball and big switches. Naby was constantly played over. When he was involved, he was really good.
The positive news for owners of Messrs Salah, Mane, Firmino and Robertson was that their understudies didn’t particularly impress, with Sturridge, Divock Origi (£5.0m) and Alberto Moreno (£4.2m) very much looking like second-rate versions of the players they replaced without doing too much wrong.
The hope for those hanging onto Liverpool assets over the festive period would be that Klopp has learned his lesson from making too many changes at once, though with seven matches to contest over the next 28 days there will inevitably be further disappointment in the form of a surprise benching in the coming month – as will no doubt be the case with Fantasy assets from other clubs.
Aside from a stoppage-time header from Ben Mee (£4.7m) that Alisson superbly clawed out, Burnley only really drew regulation saves from the Brazilian goalkeeper but Sean Dyche could at least take some pride from the manner of the defeat, given that the Clarets were still in the game past the 90-minute mark.
An ebullient Dyche said:
The mentality and framework and the energy and belief in made five changes and I felt that was necessary.
People sometimes question that, but before we worry too much about tactical shapes, we had to get the right bodies on the pitch tonight.
There were players who deserved a chance and I’m pretty loyal to the players here, but there comes a time when I have to shake the pack.
I thought that worked tonight, but of course it can’t just be about tonight. Those players have delivered and now it’s about taking it forward into the next game.
What we are doing flooded back into the group tonight.We were knocking those performances out week after week last season and getting our rewards. We’ve come away from that this season, for many reasons. Now it’s about reminding ourselves that that’s what we do and as a performance marker it was important.
Those five changes Dyche alluded to saw Barnes, Tarkowski, Bardsley, Ashley Westwood (£4.5m) and Robbie Brady (£5.4m) come into the side in an admirably positive 4-4-2, with Steven Defour (£5.4m) missing through injury.
The heartening performance from the Clarets and Dyche’s upbeat words afterwards perhaps suggests the starting XI for the visit of Brighton on Saturday will closely resemble Wednesday night’s line-up, with Matthew Lowton (£4.7m), Aaron Lennon (£5.0m), Jeff Hendrick (£5.3m) and Kevin Long (£4.2m) seemingly unlikely to reclaim their positions after Dyche had previously talked of being “too loyal” to underperforming members of his squad.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Hart; Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Cork, Brady (Lennon 71′); Barnes (Vydra 83′), Wood (Vokes 71′)
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Gomez (Alexander-Arnold 23′), Van Dijk, Matip, Moreno (Salah 65′); Henderson, Milner, Keita; Shaqiri, Sturridge, Origi (Firmino 65′).
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