Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool
- Goals: Trezeguet (£5.2m) | Andrew Robertson (£6.9m), Sadio Mane (£11.9m)
- Assists: John McGinn (£5.8m) | Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m)
- Bonus: Mane x3, Alexander-Arnold x2, Robertson x1
Late goals from Andrew Robertson (£6.9m) and Sadio Mane (£11.9m) earned Liverpool a dramatic win against a tenacious Aston Villa.
The strikes also marked significant Fantasy milestones for both scorers.
Robertson’s powerful close-range header, from a Mane cross, levelled the match with three minutes of regular time remaining.
It was the Scot’s first league goal of the season which, with a bonus point added, gave him a nine-point haul that took him above fellow full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m) in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) defender standings.
As for Mane, his winner in the fourth minute of time added on helped him to a 12-point tally, including maximum bonus, that confirmed him as FPL’s highest-scoring asset of 2019/20 so far.
The Senegal international is now 12 points clear of team-mate Mohamed Salah (£12.3m), a gulf that only looks likely to widen on present form.
The Egyptian has been playing with a niggling ankle injury in recent weeks, but his output had begun to slow even before that.
Salah has managed just one goal and an assist from his last five starts. Mane, by contrast, has two goals and three assists over the same timeframe and his superior attacking threat was painfully clear at Villa Park – as we discuss in the Members Analysis section below.
Manager Jurgen Klopp was certainly positive about his decision to replace Salah with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.2m), and swap Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.4m) out for Divock Origi (£5.3m), after 65 minutes.
Then we could change twice, fresh legs and shooting from distance – Ox helps massively with situations like that. We brought Sadio to the right side, Ox left in the half-space, opening the space for Robbo then going inside. That was really good.
Fantasy managers have been offloading the Egyptian for some time now: he’s lost nearly 900,000 owners since Gameweek 8 and is currently the second-most-sold player heading into Gameweek 12.
Mane, meanwhile, grows ever more popular. He’s third for Gameweek 12 transfers in and is now owned by 31.6% of FPL managers, compared to the 28.3% on Salah.
Alexander-Arnold’s corner produced the assist for Mane’s winner and the young right-back earned two bonus points after yet another eye-catching attacking performance.
If the battle between Mane and Salah seems to be only going in one direction, the relative merits of the two Liverpool full-backs is far less clear-cut.
What is becoming rather more evident is that the Reds’ lack of clean sheets – just two in 11 matches now – means the 42.8% of managers who have made Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) the most owned defender in FPL have saved themselves a bit of money at the expense of an ever-increasing amount of points.
Van Dijk has 38 points, with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold on 52 and 50 respectively.
Further up the pitch, Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) remains a popular choice, with 12% ownership.
But his recent output is even worse than Salah’s, with five straight blanks, although he was unfortunate not to end the drought against Villa when he steered a Mane cross into the net, only for VAR to adjudge him offside by what essentially amounted to a single armpit hair.
The Brazilian’s backers have been pretty patient through his barren spell, perhaps holding out for a change in fortunes as Liverpool’s fixtures ease following next week’s huge home match with Manchester City.
It will need to be a significant change, however, as there are a number of strikers providing a lot more bang for similar, and frequently fewer, bucks.
Mane and Adam Lallana (£5.8m) both missed excellent chances before Liverpool’s late show as the Reds fired in a total of 25 attempts to the home side’s five. A chunky 18 of those came in the penalty area as Villa sat deep to absorb pressure.
That tactic has served Dean Smith’s side well this season, but the idea that it is sustainable seems questionable. No team has allowed more shots than Villa’s 213, although six sides have conceded more than their 51 attempts on target.
Should their opponents become more clinical, their goals conceded total – already a fourth-worst 18 – could get considerably more ugly.
At least the 0.8% of managers enjoying the budget charms of full-back Frederic Guilbert (£4.4m) got lucky at the weekend when their man limped off with a knock after 68 minutes, thus securing the first clean sheet points any Villa player has managed since Gameweek 5.
They have been rather more effective at the other end of the pitch.
Trezeguet (£5.2m) opened the scoring against Liverpool, forcing the ball home from a John McGinn (£5.8m) free-kick for his first Premier League goal.
That made it a healthy 16 goals this season for Villa but the problem for Fantasy managers is the lack of a consistent scorer in their ranks.
Eight of their players have now been on the scoresheet, but top scorer Wesley’s (£6.0m) total of four has come from just three of his 11 starts to date and he fluffed his one and only chance on Saturday.
Their attacking threat was diminished by the absence of talismanic skipper Jack Grealish (£5.9m) with a calf problem, although an assist from their most popular player, the 10.9%-owned McGinn, at least ended his three-match run without a haul.
But their generosity at the back and such a wide spread of scorers further up the pitch makes pinpointing the right Villa investment a tricky call, which is a shame as their schedule, barring a Gameweek 14/15 double header away at Manchester United and Chelsea, is set fair all the way into the New Year.
If Smith provided no update on Guilbert’s injury post-match, he was decidedly emphatic about the imminent return of Grealish.
He will be fine for next week. He had a little run on the pitch pre-game. But I told him I wanted him to be 100% because you have to be against teams like this. He wasn’t, so he made the call and I certainly supported him on that.
Grealish, with two goals and an assist from his last three starts, could be the Villa man to bring in for what promises to be a thunderous derby with Wolves.
And with just 4.4% ownership, he has the added benefit of being a differential to boot.
Aston Villa XI (4-2-3-1): Heaton; Guilbert (El Mohamady 69′), Engels, Mings, Targett; Luiz (Hourihane 73′), Nakamba; El Ghazi, McGinn, Trezeguet; Wesley (Kodjia 87′).
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Lallana (Keita 84mins), Wijnaldum (Origi 65′); Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain 65′), Firmino, Mane.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 11
- Bournemouth 1-0 Manchester United
- Arsenal 1-1 Wolves
- Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool
- Brighton 2-0 Norwich
- Manchester City 2-1 Southampton
- Sheffield United 3-0 Burnley
- West Ham United 2-3 Newcastle United
- Watford 1-2 Chelsea
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Leicester City
- Everton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
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