Alternative options to Liverpool’s key attackers are starting to emerge as pre-season continues to progress.
Jurgen Klopp remains without any member of his headline offensive trio this summer, potentially opening the door for cheaper options to come to the fore.
We assessed their performances in a recent draw with Sporting, while Manchester United, Spurs and Norwich were also in action.
Sporting 2-2 Liverpool
Goals: Divock Origi (£5.5m), Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m)
Assists: Jordan Henderson (£5.5m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.5m)
Divock Origi‘s (£5.5m) chances of helping Fantasy managers enjoy a cheap route into Liverpool’s attack increased again after their latest friendly.
For the fifth time in pre-season, the Belgian led the Reds’ attack and against Sporting came away with his third goal of the summer.
Origi is now the top-scorer in pre-season for Liverpool, which puts him in a strong position for starts in the Community Shield and Gameweek 1 visit of Norwich City to Anfield.
Following appearances in their respective international tournament finals, Sadio Mané (£11.5m) and Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) are very much touch and go for involvement at the start of the campaign.
The former has already been declared unavailable for the Community Shield and seems the least likely to be involved in Gameweek 1.
As things stand, no Liverpool centre-forward has played more pre-season minutes than Origi’s 272 so his chances of involvement are very high.
Mané’s potential absence and the late return of Firmino and Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) does potentially open the door for some other cheaper options at Liverpool, if Klopp requires their services.
“Now we get back, hopefully, six players when we get home: Naby Keita should be ready to train hopefully, Shaqiri should be ready to train and then hopefully to play. Mo [Salah], Bobby [Firmino] and Ali [Alisson], and then a week later Sadio Mane as well. They are important players for us. So far, so good, but we have things to improve and we have to make sure we are ready for the start and then continue. That’s it.” – Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp has largely played youngsters on the flanks of his attacking front-three so far in pre-season, but against Sporting it was Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.5m) who were deployed there.
The former had some experience playing in more advanced positions in the Champions League last season and showed in this latest friendly that he does have what it takes to provide attacking threat if called upon.
At times, Wijnaldum was the furthest forward for Liverpool and exhibited plenty of penalty box presence. That led to him scoring the second goal at the end of the first-half after a good run from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Englishman did not drift into central areas quite as much as his Dutch colleague, but found himself space on the right flank and asked questions with his delivery.
Whether he gets a chance to start there in the Premier League is another question, of course, with Salah very much an untouchable in Liverpool’s team.
Furthermore, Oxlade-Chamberlain also came out of this latest pre-season friendly with a fitness problem so that is worth monitoring.
Either way, it is worth noting the options Klopp has to replace his key attackers, especially with the fixtures on the horizon and cheaper prices on offer.
“Two [starts] in a row with 60 minutes in both for Ox. That’s very important, very important. Today he was a bit unlucky. Ox has a bit of a calf problem, it’s not a tear or whatever, it’s just he has it from time to time when the intensity gets maybe a bit too high for him. But he had to go through the first 15 or 20 minutes. Ox was really involved in the game, he was really good and then he felt that and he could not really be part of the game anymore. Apart from that, [it’s been] really important. So far, he could make pretty much all sessions, which is unbelievably important. Very positive things.” – Jurgen Klopp
Also of note in the central midfield area was the performance of Jordan Henderson (£5.5m).
The England international moved into a more advanced role towards the back-end of 2018/19 and showed signs of that continuing against Sporting.
It was his penalty box presence that led to Origi’s goal. Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) operating from the comfort zone of the box’s left-hand edge, popped a ball in which Henderson headed at goal, the rebound falling to Origi, who tucked it away.
Such an action would have earned Henderson a Fantasy assist had the game been a Premier League one, and it was an involvement reminiscent of his new style of play in the latter Gameweeks of last season.
For that reason, it is worth keeping an eye on him in the remaining friendlies to see if he can offer a budget route into Liverpool’s attack.
Fantasy managers remain interested in the centre-back position at Liverpool, with three £5.5m options vying to play alongside Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) there this season.
Against Sporting it was Joel Matip (£5.5m) who was given the nod, while Joe Gomez (£5.5m) came on as a substitute for Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.0m) at right-back and Dejan Lovren (£5.5m) got 13 minutes.
That leaves Matip top of the pile for pre-season minutes among the three (239) but Gomez is not far behind on 223.
That said, the latter has spent some time at right-back over the summer, although the bulk of his involvement for Liverpool in the friendlies has been at centre-back.
It means we will still have to wait for further confirmation about Klopp’s preferred second centre-back and whether Gomez will rotate with Alexander-Arnold.
Thankfully, we still have the games against Napoli and Lyon to come as well as the Community Shield final.
Liverpool fans and Fantasy managers alike may be hoping that Alisson (£6.0m) returns to the Liverpool goal as soon as possible after the latest friendly.
Despite producing a handful of impressive saves, Simon Mignolet (£4.5m) also suffered an embarrassing howler to allow Sporting to open the scoring.
Bruno Fernandes took a shot from range, which the goalkeeper shaped to collect comfortably, only for it to bounce off his cupped hands and into the net.
While Mignolet might present a budget way into the Liverpool defence in the unlikely event that Alisson is not ready for Gameweek 1 or gets injured, he probably remains a risk to the club’s clean sheet potential.
Finally, Jurgen Klopp also provided an update on the injured Nathaniel Clyne.
“It’s really a shame that it happened. It was a normal situation; we watched it back and Clyney himself thought it was a knock, nothing else. That’s how it felt in the first place. Of all the injuries you can get, an ACL is always the one you don’t want to have, but if you get an ACL then he has the best one, to be honest. It’s isolated, it’s only ACL, it’s not 100 per cent ruptured but still needs surgery. That will all take time. But half a year is another half a year to show up again, so I don’t think it will have a big influence on Clyney’s career. But of course it’s not a very good moment for a player and for us it’s not a good moment as well. You can prepare as much as you want, there are always problems you cannot prepare for and this is one of them.” – Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Robertson (Kent 62′), van Dijk (Lovren 77′), Matip (van den Berg 89′), Alexander-Arnold (Gomez 62′); Milner, Fabinho, Henderson (Brewster 77′); Wijnaldum (Lallana 76′), Origi (C Jones 77′), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Wilson 62′).
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United
Goals: Lucas Moura (£7.5m) | Anthony Martial (£7.5m), Angel Gomes (£5.0m)
Assists: Son Heung-min (£9.5m) | Andreas Pereira (£5.0m), Juan Mata (£6.5m)
Anthony Martial (£7.5m) was given a second consecutive opportunity to lead Manchester United’s attack as they played Spurs on Thursday.
The Frenchman spearheaded a 4-2-3-1 formation for the third time this season, having two previous 45-minute spells there.
After contributing little on the first occasion and scoring a penalty on the second, this time Martial looked in good shape, making dangerous runs behind Spurs’ defenders, hitting the post and notching his first open play goal of pre-season.
Receiving a perfectly weighted through-ball from Andreas Pereira (£5.0m), he bore down on goal from a slightly wide angle but still managed to squeeze it under Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.5m).
The Frenchman does face serious competition for the centre-forward berth though with Marcus Rashford (£8.5m) registering the same number of pre-season minutes as him so far (197).
Mason Greenwood (£4.5m), who has also been in the conversation, was deployed on the right-wing against Spurs demonstrating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is open to the possibility of using him in multiple positions. That may be of some encouragement Fantasy managers who are looking to own Greenwood for his budget price.
Daniel James (£6.0m) continues to cause the opposition problems on his left flank of attacking midfield. Spurs’ midfielders were particularly keen on targetting the former Swansea man and he was one of the most fouled players in the game.
James is still in the clutch of players tied top of pre-season minutes with 197. As he continues to be involved for United throughout the summer, his potential as a punt in Gameweek 1 could pay off.
Meanwhile, it was something of an anonymous performance from Paul Pogba (£8.5m) who went largely unnoticed during his 45-minute spell.
He got everyone off their seats later in the second half with a powerful shot from range which went wide, but apart from that, he did not feature too heavily in Manchester United attacks.
In spit of how quiet Pogba was, the Red Devils were arguably the better team, especially going forward. That’s not to take anything away from Spurs but Solskjaer’s side did spend plenty of time on the front foot.
However, United did look a little exposed on the counter-attack at times. David de Gea (£5.5m) was called into action in the first half when Spurs outnumbered the defence and Dele Alli (£8.5m) found space to shoot.
There was also poor defending for Spurs’ goal as Lucas Moura (£7.5m) stayed one step ahead of Manchester United.
The ball was on its way out of the box and the Red Devils’ defenders were in poor shape as they moved away from their goal, allowing Moura to pounce early and wrong-foot the goalkeeper.
The Brazilian was one of Spurs’ most exciting players after he came on at half-time. He made some good run in behind defenders and now has two goals in as many pre-season matches.
With Son Heung-min (£9.5m) suspended until Gameweek 3, Moura will fancy his chances of starting the first two matches, and if he is deployed as a centre-forward alongside Harry Kane (£11.0m) in Mauricio Pochettino’s system, he could be a great cheaper alternative.
In just his second appearance for Spurs, new signing Tanguy Ndombele (£6.0m) demonstrated again what he can bring to the club this season. On more than one occasion he made exciting driving runs into the box, his pace and physicality asking a lot of questions.
Finally, there was a bad injury for Manchester United as Eric Bailly (£5.0m) was taken off with a knee problem during the match.
He was then pictured in a knee-brace and a wheelchair when the Red Devils’ returned from their pre-season tour.
“We’ve got to do some scans and checks on him. It doesn’t look great.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-3-1-2): Gazzaniga; Georgiou (White 62′), Vertonghen (Alderweireld 46′), Tanganga (Marsh 70′), Walker-Peters (Foyth 46′); Ndombele (Moura 46′), Winks (Skipp 46′), Sissoko (Eriksen 62′); Alli (Roles 62′); Kane (Son 46′), Parrott (Lamela 46′).
Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea (Romero 46′); Young (Shaw 46′), Rojo (Lindelöf 46′), Smalling (Bailly 46′ | Tuanzebe 56′), Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 46′); McTominay (Matic 46′), Pogba (Fred 46′); D James (A Gomes 46′), A Pereira (Mata 46′); Greenwood (Lingard 46′); Martial (Rashford 46′).
Norwich City 1-3 Brentford
Goals: Emiliano Buendía (£6.0m)
Assists: Onel Hernandez (£5.5m)
Fantasy managers were handed another clue about Norwich’s clean sheet potential as they lost 3-1 to Brentford this week.
With Teemu Pukki (£6.5m) absent, the Canaries admittedly started the game brightly but looked a little uncertain on the counter.
Left-winger Onel Hernandez (£5.5m) continued to look sharp with a busy first-half as he set up Emiliano Buendía (£6.0m) for a goal from range, and had a couple of chances himself.
The midfielder’s best opportunity saw him run down the right flank, get around Brentford’s goalkeeper and shoot, pulling the ball just outside the post from a wide angle.
However, the second-half was dominated by Brentford, who took the lead after a mistake from Ben Godfrey (£4.5m).
A sloppy take-down allowed Brentford to win the ball in a dangerous area, and it was all too easy for Ollie Watkins to convert from close-range.
There was then poor marking from a subsequent set-piece to allow Brentford a third.
Admittedly, this was the first pre-season appearance for Timm Klose (£4.5m) at centre-back, who may not be up to scratch just yet.
Furthermore, there were rests for players who got extensive minutes on tour including Grant Hanley (£4.0m), Jamal Lewis (£4.5m) and Max Aarons (£4.5m).
“He looked good. It’s great to have Timm back. It was also good to have Josip [Drmic] back after he missed a week. It was also good for Sam Byram to get more minutes. Several lads who had lots of minutes in Germany were rested like Grant Hanley, Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons.” – Daniel Farke
Furthermore, Daniel Farke made an interesting comment about Brentford’s current status. Their competitive season starts a week before the Premier League, which is possibly why they looked the better side, especially in the second half.
“We knew Brentford are a good Championship side and for that, it was clear even before the game they were desperate to come here and they were pretty close to the start [of their season].” – Daniel Farke
“In the second half, we played more or less in their half but sadly one time we missed the ball and they were there with a counter and scored the [second] goal. We then conceded from a free-kick in the wide area and we missed a few chances.” – Daniel Farke
Norwich City XI (4-2-3-1): Fahrmann (Krul 46′); Heise (Lewis 75′), Klose (Hanley 66′), Godfrey, Byram (Aarons 75′); Leitner (Roberts 75′), McLean (Trybull 75′); Hernandez (Cantwell 75′), Srbeny, Beundía (Idah 75′); Drmic (Stiepermann 46′)
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