Liverpool 4-0 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m), Mohamed Salah (£12.7m), Fabinho (£5.4m), Sadio Mane (£12.5m)
- Assists: Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m), Fabinho, Andrew Robertson (£7.0m), Salah
- Bonus: Fabinho x3, Alexander-Arnold x2, Mane x1
Liverpool have won their first-ever Premier League title following Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Thursday.
The Reds had inched closer to that elusive crown on Wednesday evening with a crushing victory over an outclassed Crystal Palace.
Roy Hodgson’s side had won their previous four league matches, all involving clean sheets, so a tough night for the hosts was expected by many.
But if Palace arrived at Anfield in form, they left it infirm, with key attacker Wilfried Zaha (£6.7m) potentially sidelined with a calf injury and a re-jigged defensive unit pulled apart by an irresistible Reds front line.
A return to the swashbuckling form that characterised much of the first half of Liverpool’s season might be pleasing on the eye, but it creates Fantasy headaches.
The destination of the title has now been decided and, as a result, questions over motivation among the players and how strong the desire of Jurgen Klopp to give squad members pitch-time for their post-coronation celebration tour will now be at the forefront of Fantasy managers’ minds.
But with a Premier League points record up for grabs, no Champions League on the horizon and a team seemingly back to their exhilarating best, just how much will Klopp chop and change from here on in?
Rotation has certainly been a factor in the first two Ganeweeks back, with Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) and Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) returning to the fray last night.
That was welcome news for their Fantasy Premier League (FPL) owners, 36.9% and 18% respectively, and neither player disappointed.
Salah looked sharp throughout, scoring one goal and setting up another, while Robertson produced an assist and a 12th clean sheet to bring in a tidy nine-point haul.
Liverpool started briskly, with Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.4m) going close before Zaha went off injured after 14 minutes and the Reds took total control.
They opened the scoring when Jordan Ayew (£5.2m) eased Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) off the ball and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) curled home an exquisite free-kick.
That proved to be the Palace striker’s most meaningful input across 84 minutes of fruitless toil involving one chance created and zero attempts on goal – testament to both Liverpool’s dominance and the visitors’ limited ambitions.
The goal was Alexander-Arnold’s third of a campaign that has also included a mind-boggling 14 assists – only Kevin De Bruyne (£10.7m) has more – and an FPL points total of 187, with his sixth double-digit haul of the season bringing him level with teammate Sadio Mane (£12.5m).
Injuries to James Milner (£5.3m) and Joel Matip (£5.2m), which required Joe Gomez (£5.3m) to slot in alongside Van Dijk against Palace, should mean a bit less competition for Alexander-Arnold’s place in the side.
But Klopp spoke about rotation post-match, saying:
It was clear we had the first two games in pretty much three days which is difficult, and other teams had to do it as well. Then eight days off, nobody wants that.
After that it will be really, really tough with four games in nine days… and we will need them all, they will all play and they will all have game time, which is nice.
But Alexander-Arnold looks to be one of the key players likely to play much of the rest of this season, even if starlet Neco Williams (£4.0m) was given a 16-minute league debut last night.
Fantasy managers, thus far at least, agree as the right-back is currently the only Liverpool player in the top 30 for Gameweek 32+ transfers-in.
Last night’s lead was doubled when Fabinho (£5.4m) dinked a ball into the area for Salah to control with one touch and score with the next.
It was a simple goal beautifully executed, whereas Liverpool’s third was a classic screamer, Fabinho blasting home from 30 yards out following a pass from Robertson.
The scoring was rounded off with a fine, one-touch breakaway goal involving a superb through ball from Salah and a cool finish from Mane.
Such was Liverpool’s dominance – they harried and hassled the visitors all night – that further goals should have arrived, with Jordan Henderson (£5.3m) and Salah (twice) going close.
And the display was so impressive that it will be a brave coach who tinkers too much with a team in such fine fettle.
For context, however, Palace’s woefulness needs a mention.
Hodgson brought keeper Wayne Hennessey (£4.2m) and Mamadou Sakho (£5.0m) into the backline and neither impressed, while the team’s attacking intent can be summed up in one, incredibly damning, stat: Liverpool had 44 total touches in the opposition penalty area, Palace had none.
The Eagles have a mixed bag of fixtures to see out the season, but few are likely to be as chasteningly one-sided as this one, so it was no surprise that Hodgson heaped praise on Liverpool rather than blame his own team’s shortcomings.
The Palace boss went on to provide an update on Zaha:
It’s a calf muscle strain. There were some discussions as to whether he should attempt to play, but he was adamant it was something he could try to get away with. It became obvious he couldn’t and we don’t want him to be out for a long period.
We don’t have the squad numbers, the bodies when our players go down. We have four forwards competing for three places.
Hodgson’s Liverpool counterpart was considerably more tigerish, and rightly so:
You shouldn’t underestimate how much this team wants it. You should not. This team really wants it; they want to fulfil the wishes of the people at home. We all have a common dream, but we have to work for it and we have to work our way for it.
That desire should mean Liverpool’s key players need to feature in our Fantasy thoughts for a while longer, regardless of the league having finally been won.
Because if they can continue showing anything close to the form they displayed against Palace, it will be hard for Fantasy managers to ignore the points potential on offer from the likes of Salah, Mane and Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson (Elliott 84′), Alexander-Arnold (Williams 74′), Gomez, van Dijk; Fabinho, Henderson (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64′), Wijnaldum; Firmino (Minamino 74′), Mane (Keita 84′), Salah.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Hennessey; Ward, van Aanholt, Cahill, Sakho; Kouyate (Milivojevic 66′), McArthur (Riedewald 66′), McCarthy; Zaha (Meyer 15′), Townsend, Ayew (Keutcha 84′).
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 31+
- Leicester City 0-0 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Ham United
- Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield United
- Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa
- Norwich City 0-1 Everton
- Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
- Liverpool 4-0 Crystal Palace
- Burnley 1-0 Watford
- Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
- Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City
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