Watford 3-0 Liverpool
- Goals: Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m) x2, Troy Deeney (£6.2m)
- Assists: Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m), Deeney, Sarr
- Bonus: Sarr x3, Deeney x2, Christian Kabasele (£4.3m), Adam Masina (£4.3m) x1
Liverpool’s 44-match unbeaten run in the league was ended dramatically and emphatically by a ruthless Watford at Vicarage Road.
Fans of Arsenal’s 2004 Invincibles, as well as the usual suspects at Old Trafford and Goodison Park, took great pleasure in the result, but few Fantasy managers were left so delighted.
Eight Liverpool players have higher ownership numbers than Watford’s most popular player, the 4.3%-owned goalkeeper Ben Foster (£4.9m).
And the leading lights in Watford’s win, Ismaila Sarr (£6.2m) and Troy Deeney (£6.2m), came into the fixture with a combined ownership of 1.7%, or just over two-thirds of a Divock Origi (£5.2m and 2.4%).
Throw in the fact that two of the Gameweek’s three most captained players, Mohamed Salah (£12.8m) and Sadio Mane (£12.4m), both blanked and Watford’s memorable win proved to be an entirely forgettable Fantasy experience for most.
Most, but not all.
Sarr’s ownership, now up to 0.6% and counting after an overnight boost, luxuriated in a 19-point display that was Watford’s performance in microcosm – too fast, direct and deadly for Liverpool.
He had already forced a save out of Alisson (£6.2m) in a first half otherwise light on good chances before opening the scoring after 54 minutes.
Dejan Lovren (£5.3m), in for the injured Joe Gomez (£5.3m), was so intent on grappling with Deeney that he neglected to stop the ball running to Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.6m), who promptly cut it back from the byline for his fellow midfielder to tap in.
And Sarr doubled the lead six minutes later, latching onto Deeney’s through-ball, outpacing the Reds defence and finishing coolly past Alisson (£6.2m).
He could have a hat-trick, only to miss narrowly from the edge of the area, but by then he’d capped an outstanding display by setting up Deeney for the Hornets’ third goal.
Andrew Robertson‘s (£7.0m) ball back to Alisson was intercepted by the Senegal international, who fed Deeney, with the Watford skipper passing the ball into the unguarded net.
A brief look at the statistics summed up the game neatly – for all Liverpool’s possession (70.9%), they managed just the one shot on target, when Robertson tested Foster at his near post, compared to Watford’s five.
The Hornets also had double their visitors’ overall attempts (14 to seven) and created chances twice as frequently (6.7 minutes per chance compared to 13.4).
All of this goodness, as mentioned, was enjoyed by so few, while one of Watford’s more popular FPL picks, Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m and 2.6%), ironically had a less pleasant time of it, lasting just 36 minutes before twisting his knee in a challenge with Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m).
The injury looked bad, although Watford manager Nigel Pearson was reluctant to speculate after the match:
It’s distressing for the players and obviously for Geri. I went into the medical room at half-time and he was clearly distressed and in quite a bit of pain. He’s been excellent for us, so we’ll just have to see how that one is.
Those Deulofeu owners will want to see their man back to enjoy what is a generally strong schedule over the next eight Gameweeks.
The Hornets do have to host Leicester and travel to Chelsea, but the other six fixtures are kinder, and five of them involve sides in the bottom half of the table – crucial clashes if they are to beat the drop.
Having endured a run of two draws and three losses from their last five matches, interest in Pearson’s troops – and Sarr, Deeney and Doucoure in particular – should increase as the season draws to a close, with the fact that Watford are guaranteed a Gameweek 31 fixture (away at Burnley) as an added bonus.
But as those low ownership figures show, few Fantasy managers have taken the plunge on Pearson-era Watford players, so they remain major differentials at present.
Sarr is the biggest one of them all, even though his attacking threat, when he’s fit, is exceptional.
The midfielder has managed five more attempts than striker Deeney this season despite playing nearly 300 fewer minutes.
As for Liverpool’s many well-owned stars, there is a growing feeling that the winter break has done them few favours, although Saturday’s defeat can be seen in two ways.
The fact that Jurgen Klopp’s side can’t now win the title, at the very earliest, until Gameweek 32’s trip to Manchester City – unless other results go their way as well – should keep squad rotation to a minimum.
But now that the prospects of an unbeaten league season are over, when the Reds do finally lift the crown, Klopp will have no need to keep fielding a full-strength side, especially if they are still in the Champions League.
The side’s fixtures remain attractive, however, and there is also the target of breaking the 100-point barrier to keep Liverpool’s stars interested, so now is not the time to be jumping the Anfield ship.
As for the Watford match, Klopp was happy to acknowledge the past before looking to the future:
What the boys did so far is exceptional, but it is not over. That is the only thing I am interested in, it’s not over. We will go again, I promise 100 per cent, and then we will see where it leads us to.
He also gave an update on Gomez:
No [not serious]. He felt a little bit and that’s enough – we have two more centre-halves in the squad and we have to use the quality we have.
Those Fantasy managers with double coverage of Liverpool’s defence will be hoping to see Gomez back immediately, as the back four looks rather more secure with him in it.
And rare off days for Salah, Mane et al will be quickly forgotten if they find some form at home to Bournemouth next time out.
Watford XI (4-2-3-1): Foster; Femenía, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Hughes, Capoue; Sarr (Pussetto 82′); Doucouré; Deulofeu (Pereyra 37′); Deeney.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain(Origi 65′), Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Minamino 79′), Mane.
BLANK GAMEWEEK 28 FPL MATCH REPORTS
- Norwich City 1-0 Leicester City
- Brighton and Hove Albion 0-1 Crystal Palace
- Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea
- Newcastle United 0-0 Burnley
- West Ham United 3-1 Southampton
- Watford 3-0 Liverpool
- Everton 1-1 Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
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