Gameweek 30 proved to be another unfortunate round of action for Mohamed Salah (£13.4m).
Captained by more managers than any other player this weekend, he came away from Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Burnley with just an assist.
As Liverpool options are going to be hugely important for Blank Gameweeks 31 and 33, we’ve assessed their key players after their latest win.
Liverpool 4-2 Burnley
Goals: Sadio Mané x2 (£9.8m), Roberto Firmino x2 (£9.2m) | Ashley Westwood (£4.6m), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.5m)
Assists: Mohamed Salah (£13.4m), Daniel Sturridge (£5.6m) | Matej Vydra (£5.6m)
Salah was very close to a hat-trick of assists on Sunday afternoon but managed to secure just one against Burnley. After seeing his squared ball to Roberto Firmino (£9.2m) reach its intended destination, despite touches from Tom Heaton (£4.8m) and James Tarkowski (£4.7m), the Egyptian’s later opportunities for assists resulted in him being dispossessed.
For both Sadio Mané‘s (£9.8m) first goal and Firmino’s second, Charlie Taylor (£4.4m) tackled Salah just as he was either about to pass or shoot. Because he was unable to do either of those actions in both cases, there was no assist for each one.
From a statistical perspective, Salah’s performance was, again, close to what his owners would be looking for. No player had more goal attempts at Anfield than the Egyptian, and he was joint-top for chances created too. As he is still finding himself in dangerous positions, Salah will still be considered as a big part of Blank Gameweek 31 when Liverpool travel to Fulham, both for transfers in and for the captaincy.
“Today, for me Mo Salah was the best player on the pitch and he did not score. I’m not sure that you will see that in a lot of ratings, because he’s a striker and didn’t score so then you make of it what you want. But we have no problem with confidence.” – Jurgen Klopp
Either way, Salah was still outperformed in yet another home match by Sadio Mané (£9.8m). Not only did the Senegalese international score nine more points than his colleague, scoring twice, his underlying statistics were also better. While Mané and Salah had the same number of goal attempts at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, the former registered double the number of efforts in the penalty box. Mané also had two shots on target to Salah’s one too.
That was not a huge surprise as it continued the trend of Mané proving the better option Anfield-based Premier League encounters. In the four home matches prior to Gameweek 30, he had the same number of shots as Salah but registered, more in the box and more on target too. You have to go back to Gameweek 19 for the last time Mané failed to score at home, and since then he has found the net eight times in six matches in front of the Kop.
Whether Mané can replicate that sort of form away from home will be the key to his success in the Blank Gameweeks. Liverpool are set for trips to Fulham and Southampton, neither of which have earned much faith in their defences admittedly, but the Reds have fared much better at Anfield as they have on their travels of late. Mané himself has scored just once in the last six away matches, in stark contrast to his home form.
Scoring a brace against Burnley, Firmino has thrown his name into the hat at the eleventh hour for Blank Gameweek 31 consideration. The first of his two goals was the first time he had found the net since Gameweek 23, although the Brazilian has only started once in the last four Gameweeks because of injury. Even though he is almost certain to feature from the beginning at Fulham, Firmino may have his work cut out in convincing managers he is a better option than Salah or Mané. In the last six Gameweeks, his minutes per chance is inferior to both of his attacking colleagues.
The fact that Liverpool conceded two at home to Burnley could suggest that doubling-up on their attack is more advisable than their defence for the Blank Gameweeks. There was certainly an element of fortune about the Clarets’ first goal of the afternoon though. It found its way into the net direct from Ashley Westwood‘s (£4.6m) corner, while Tarkowski was clearly fouling goalkeeper Alisson Becker (£6.0m), unbeknownst to the officials. It was the first goal the Brazilian had conceded in 518 minutes of football. Burnley’s second goal was snuck across the line by Johann Berg Gudmundsson (£5.5m) in the closing stages after a rare foray forward for the visitors.
“One of them was the early goal we conceded; usually it would have been disallowed if Andre [Marriner] has a better view of it, I don’t know exactly. I saw in the first moment it was a foul and now I have seen pictures you cannot treat the goalie like this, it should not happen, but they scored.” – Jurgen Klopp
While there are plenty of reasons to double-up on Liverpool’s defence, days like this one remind Fantasy managers of the potential shortfalls of doing so. Of some encouragement though is the fact that Burnley’s expected goals (xG) score for the afternoon was 0.48, with them having just one shot inside Liverpool’s box. If the Reds come away from Craven Cottage having faced similar statistics then there will most likely be a strong chance of keeping a clean sheet there.
Klopp continued to make changes among his central midfield trio, this time handing Adam Lallana (£6.9m) a start at the expense of Jordan Henderson (£5.3m). It was the former Southampton man’s first time in the first XI since Gameweek 25, and he added plenty of energy and creativity to Liverpool’s midfield.
“If you have five sessions a week, everybody can show up and Adam was exceptional during the week. So, in a situation where you think a little bit how you can adjust one or two things, it’s smart. He trained well for a while already but this week was especially well – that’s the reason why he starts.” – Jurgen Klopp
Meanwhile, James Milner (£5.6m) was unable to overcome his muscle injury to be involved. It appears that this was the reason why Dejan Lovren (£4.9m) was included on the bench having not appeared since Gameweek 21. Klopp did not sound too confident that the Croatian was fully fit to be involved, implying that he was only among the substitutes for numerical reasons.
“We have again little injuries, (Milner) was not able to be involved today, Dejan (Lovren) was not planned to be involved today but he was on the bench after training only twice but we had nobody else – well, the kids, but they played for the U23s.” – Jurgen Klopp
Burnley offered much less attacking threat than usual in their trip to Anfield. It probably shouldn’t put us off their options as they also embark on two Blank Gameweek involvements. As already mentioned, they had just one shot in the Reds’ penalty box but in the last six Gameweeks, the Clarets have averaged 8.8 per game.
The in-form Ashley Barnes (£5.7m), with goals in five of his last six, had a quiet afternoon at Anfield. He did not register a single effort on goal and touched the ball in Liverpool’s box just twice all afternoon. However, in the last six Gameweeks, just three players have registered more penalty box shots as Barnes, only four recording more accurate efforts too.
Youngster Dwight McNeil (£4.4m) continues to keep the likes of Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady (£5.4m) out of the team. It was his 11th consecutive start in Gameweek 30, which means his chances of acting as a cost-effective fifth midfielder in Blank Gameweek 31 remain high.
“Dwight McNeil was outstanding so, strangely, there were a lot of good things, which sounds mad when you lose 4-2.” – Sean Dyche
After going eight matches unbeateen between Gameweeks 20 and 27, it is now three defeats on the spin for Burnley. In those matches they have conceded a total of an average of three goals per game, which could encourage those with Leicester assets for Blank Gameweek 31. Despite organising themselves as we have come to expect under Sean Dyche, the Clarets have made several errors in recent outings which could prove costly against the Foxes next weekend.
“You can’t give away mistakes like we did today, definitely three out of the four (goals) and you could argue all four. You can’t give away errors anyway in the Premier League, but certainly not at places like this. That’s my only gripe because a lot of the performance was very good, and the mentality was spot-on.” – Sean Dyche
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold (Sturridge 86′); Fabinho, Lallana (Keita 77′), Wijnaldum (Henderson 68′); Mané, Firmino, Salah.
Burnley XI (4-4-2): Heaton; Taylor, Tarkowski, Mee, Bardsley; McNeil, Cork, Westwood, Hendrick (Gudmundsson 79′); Wood (Crouch 79′), Barnes (Vydra 86′).