Liverpool 2-1 West Ham United
- Goals: Mohamed Salah (£12.4m), Diogo Jota (£6.3m) | Pablo Fornals (£6.4m)
- Assists: Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.4m)
- Bonus: Fornals x3, Jota x2, Salah x1
Liverpool laboured to a win over West Ham that raised yet more questions about a defence with just one league clean sheet to its name all season.
Key injuries have hugely reduced coach Jurgen Klopp’s options at the back, with the latest player coming in at centre-half, Nathaniel Phillips (£4.0m), handed his league debut.
Nat’s The Way To Do It
It’s fair to say the 23-year-old let nobody down, earning himself plenty of post-match praise from Klopp.
He kept it really simple tonight, which was incredibly important for us. The boys supported him well and he supported the boys; he was vocal and he spoke on the pitch. In the challenges he was there, really aggressive but no fouls really, maybe one. It was a really good game.
Whether he keeps his league place is another matter, however.
Klopp has been non-committal about Joel Matip‘s (£5.4m) return from the knock he picked up in Gameweek 5, but with the games coming thick and fast – Champions League in midweek and a trip to Manchester City on Sunday – Phillips looks likely to be in the frame for at least one of those fixtures.
But however tempting a bargain basement Reds defender might be, Phillips is still a long way off holding down a regular spot in the team.
The Defence Rests
Not that Liverpool defenders, at any price, have been overly attractive this campaign.
Only Andy Robertson (£7.1m) has come close to justifying the lofty price tag that comes with being a member of the Reds’ backline, and that’s been thanks to the goal and two assists he’s produced to boost the one and only clean sheet.
Those attacking returns have saved him from sales…until now. After five weeks of ownership increases, the left-back now finds himself in the top 15 for Gameweek 8 transfers out.
His fellow full-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.4m), knows all about that feeling – he’s lost managers every week since Gameweek 1’s 4-3 win over Leeds United.
Neither were at fault for Saturday’s goal, scored by Pablo Fornals (£6.4m). The midfielder reacted smartly after Joe Gomez‘s (£5.4m) weak clearing header came straight to him, guiding the ball past Alisson (£5.9m) and in off the post.
Alexander-Arnold’s previously nailed-on supply of attacking returns has dried up to just one assist from seven starts and the full-backs managed only one chance created between them – take a bow, Trent – and one shot each against West Ham.
All of that, and Man City and Leicester to come next, suggests more backline sales for the foreseeable future.
The ownership levels of big hitters Mohamed Salah (£12.4m) and Sadio Mane (£12.0m) have remained rather more stable, although a net -8,171 missed out on an eight-point haul for the former when he earned, and then scored, a penalty to level the score on Saturday.
The spot-kick award was generous, with referee Kevin Friend probably right to deem the contact from Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m) sufficient to be deemed a foul, if not enough to warrant Salah’s dramatic reaction to it.
Friend then went on to deny Mane owners an assist when substitute Diogo Jota (£6.3m) scored from what seemed to be a rebound caused by the Senegal international’s challenge on Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m).
VAR invited the referee to take another look at the incident and he rightly chalked off the goal for Mane’s sliding tackle on the goalkeeper as it had little to do with the ball.
Minutes later, Jota scored again – from fellow sub Xherdan Shaqiri‘s (£6.4m) canny pass, and that effort stood.
The signing from Wolves now has three goals from his last three matches in all competitions, and three from five in the league, prompting some love from Klopp.
Diogo is in a good moment. He is a good player and we are really happy that we could make that signing, so it is a proper win-win situation. I think we can help him and he can help us a lot.
Jota certainly helps add some flexibility to Liverpool’s system as he started (and scored) in a 4-2-3-1 formation in Gameweek 6.
Klopp, however, reverted to his tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 against the Hammers and while the demands of this season will require frequent squad rotation, it’s hard to see Jota consistently breaking up the German’s preferred front three of Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino (£9.3m) on anything but an occasional basis.
That’s not stopping managers buying into him – Jota is currently in the top 10 for Gameweek 8 purchases.
But there are nine midfielders around his price with more than the 26 points Jota currently has in Fantasy Premier League (FPL). All have played at least twice as many minutes, so while his output has been impressive – he’s scored three goals from 10 attempts – Jota will do well to sustain that kind of form unless his pitch-time improves.
It’s been a long time coming, but West Ham’s schedule is now finally easing, with their fixture list looking generally attractive all the way through to the end of January.
David Moyes’ men have acquitted themselves excellently through a brutal start to the season and their key attackers, such as Fornals and Jarrod Bowen (£6.3m), could well attract plenty of investment from now onwards.
The pair are in the top ten for attempts among midfielders, with 12 apiece, with Fornals the team-leader for chances created (six).
How the Hammers manage without striker Michail Antonio (£6.2m), who missed the match with a hamstring injury, could be key, although Moyes has been upbeat about the issue:
We’ve already got him on the bike and he’s moving, which for the type of injury we’re really pleased with. He had another scan and an ultrasound yesterday (Oct 29) as well. He’s in a good place.
All three midfielders should benefit from an improved schedule, with Fornals leading the way both in terms of points (39 to Bowen’s 33 and Soucek’s 18) and attempts on Saturday – only Salah could match him for the three shots he had.
Fornals looks the most rounded option, with two goals and three assists thus far, while Bowen has three goals to his name.
But despite facing Fulham next, neither are in the top 30 for transfers-in.
In fact, only one Hammer is and it’s defender Aaron Cresswell (£5.0m), presumably because of the three assists he’s produced this season.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, N Phillips, Alexander-Arnold; C Jones (Shaqiri 70), Wijnaldum, J Henderson; Mané, Firmino (Jota 70), Salah (Milner 90).
West Ham United XI (3-4-2-1): Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena; Masuaku (Lanzini 88), Soucek, Rice, Coufal; Fornals, Bowen (Benrahma 89); Haller (Yarmolenko 74).
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FPL GAMEWEEK 7
- Wolves 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City
- Burnley 0-3 Chelsea
- Liverpool 2-1 West Ham United
- Aston Villa 3-4 Southampton
- Newcastle United 2-1 Everton
- Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Fulham 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Leeds United 1-4 Leicester City
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