Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
Goals: Joel Matip (£5.4m), Mohamed Salah x2 (£12.5m) | Lucas Torreira (£4.9m)
Assists: Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.0m), Fabinho (£5.5m) | Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m)
Bonus Points: Salah x3, Fabinho x2, Matip x1
The familiar story of Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) punishing his doubters came to pass once again as Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-1 on Saturday.
The Egyptian was the most-sold asset ahead of Gameweek 3, losing 398,638 owners in the process, but emerged with a 15-point haul.
Meanwhile, Sadio Mané (£11.5m) who was turned to as a replacement for many who Wildcarded, looked lively against Arsenal but blanked for a three-point score.
Liverpool dominated most of the fixture, registering a total of 25 shots against the Gunners, who have historically struggled to defend well at Anfield.
Salah was at the heart of that, and looked every bit the goal threat at home as he did last season, proving that the blank at Southampton was probably a blip caused by a Super Cup hangover. His remaining 39% ownership had to wait for the fruits of his efforts, both goals coming in the second half, but they were certainly deserved.
His first goal was further evidence of an advantage he has over all other Liverpool attacking assets this season.
Salah was fouled in the box by David Luiz (£6.0m), who pulled his shirt
Salah’s second goal came from his brilliance as he skilfully turned past Luiz on the right flank and bore down on goal, placing his effort into the far corner.
The Egyptian now has six goals in five matches against Arsenal, more than against any other Premier League side.
With those Gameweek 2 doubts now allayed once again, Salah’s prospects look good in the coming Gameweeks with Burnley (away), Newcastle (home), Chelsea (away) and Sheffield United (away) his next four opponents.
As mentioned previously, Mané was probably unfortunate not to get any attacking returns in this one, considering how dominant Liverpool were going forward.
While he did not shoot as often as Salah, he took on the brunt of creativity in Liverpool’s team.
Meanwhile, Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) was also unfortunate not to come away with any attacking returns against Arsenal, a side he typically does well against.
He was inches away from getting on the end of an Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) cross in the opening minute which would have given Liverpool an early lead.
Later on, he went close again, this time setting himself up with skill, scooping the ball over Dani Ceballos (£5.6m) and firing a volley at goal – only for it to be blocked.
There was further frustration for most Fantasy managers in possession of Liverpool defensive assets as they went a third Premier League match in a row without a clean sheet this season.
Perhaps this was an encounter in which defensive returns were unlikely though, given the way that Arsenal’s attack had started the season.
Indeed, the Gunners asked more questions than most sides had at Anfield in recent times.
While Liverpool were the side largely in control of this encounter, whenever Arsenal broke on them they looked dangerous.
“To be honest I didn’t expect the system they played. I’m not sure they played it in pre-season, I didn’t see it. It meant we had a lot of space on the wings, switching sides, the only problem was a little bit the movements in the box to make it a bit more tricky for the defending side. They won a lot of these challenges in the air, but we won a lot of second balls for that, putting them constantly under pressure without having the outcome we wanted.” – Jurgen Klopp
Nicolas Pépé (£9.4m) was the main dangerman for Arsenal, also becoming the first man to successfully dribble past Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) in 50 Premier League games.
He did this six minutes into the match, holding off the Liverpool man and running beyond him towards the opposition penalty box. Were it not for Pépé tripping over the ball, he would have been able to find Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) in space.
11 minutes into the game, Pépé caused problems once more, chasing a ball played to him over the top of the defenders, forcing Adrian (£4.5m) to sally out of goal.
His clearance went straight to Aubameyang who, from outside the box attempted a lob but screwed it just wide.
In the 30th minute, Aubameyang set up Pépé on the edge of the box, who was afforded too much space by Robertson. His curled effort went just wide.
Arsenal’s best chance of the first half came after Jordan Henderson (£5.5m) gave the ball away in the breakdown of a Liverpool set piece.
That left Pépé with only Robertson to beat in order to get one-on-one with Adrian. Unfortunately for Arsenal, the former Lille man’s shot was tame, although Liverpool’s goalkeeper still struggled to keep hold of it.
In the end, Liverpool were beaten in the 85th minute, once it looked as if they had ridden the storm and banked the clean sheet, perhaps making it all the more frustrating.
Substitute Lucas Torreira (£4.9m) was the man to get the goal for Arsenal, firing in from 12 yards after nearly tripping over a square ball from Aubameyang.
“I would have loved to have (the clean sheet), to be honest, but when I see what the boys throw into a game like this, these things can happen. It’s a quality side Arsenal, they never give up, but I didn’t see that many chances. Today we were really in charge.” – Jurgen Klopp
That g ensured blanks for a selection of Liverpool defenders as the inquest into a double-up on this area of their team goes on.
With the in-form Ashley Barnes (£6.6m) the next striker to face the Reds’ back-line, concerns about the team’s clean sheet potential are sure to continue.
“We will have another week of training and then we go to a very difficult place, to Burnley. I couldn’t have more respect for what they are doing there. I will have the opportunity to watch them tomorrow but it will still be different because Burnley at home are another level, so it will be really tricky.” – Jurgen Klopp
However, we should point out that that least those on Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.0m) got something out of the game.
As expected, his crossing was excellent and his involvement in set-pieces was what led to his second assist of the season. The England international now has nine of them in his last 10 matches at Anfield.
It was not surprising that he was able to chalk another one up against Arsenal, as they had conceded more chances from set-pieces than any other side in the first two Gameweeks.
That’s why van Dijk owners can probably feel somewhat unfortunate to come away with another two-pointer. He was likely the intended target of Alexander-Arnold’s 41st-minute corner but he was fouled by at least two Arsenal players as he leapt to connect with it.
This was what allowed Joel Matip (£5.4m) to nod home the opening goal of the match.
“It was a very determined header as well; I don’t know how many people held on Virg in that moment, it looked like they built something around him, but Joel was there – big Joel – and made a fantastic goal. I think it was a deserved result for half-time.” – Jurgen Klopp
Meanwhile, Robertson was also unfortunate not to get something too. As already mentioned, Firmino came close to converting his early cross and it must be said that the Scottish international continues to shoot with greater regularity than he did last season.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Robertson, van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold; Wijnaldum (Milner 69′), Fabinho, J Henderson; Mané (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77′), Firmino (Lallana 86′), Salah.
Arsenal XI (4-3-1-2): Leno; Monreal, D Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Willock (Lacazette 81′), Xhaka, Guendouzi (Mkhitaryan 86′); Ceballos (Torreira 61′); Aubameyang, Pépé.