Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City
- Goals: Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) | Ilkay Gundogan (£5.9m) x2, Raheem Sterling (£11.6m), Phil Foden (£6.1m)
- Assists: None | Foden x2, Bernardo Silva (£7.4m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m)
- Bonus: Gundogan, Foden x3, Sterling x1
Manchester City warmed up for Double Gameweek 24 with a comprehensive thrashing of Liverpool on Sunday.
A second-half capitulation from the Reds and their goalkeeper Alisson (£5.9m) may have added a little gloss to the scoreline but the win was utterly deserved, with City even gifting Liverpool a penalty and missing one of their own to briefly make things interesting.
The man responsible for that penalty miss was Ilkay Gundogan (£5.9m), who skied a 36th-minute spot-kick to temporarily preserve parity.
But the German still departed Anfield with a 13-point haul to his name, scoring twice from close range after half-time to take his tally to nine goals in his last 11 Premier League matches.
Owned by fewer than 20,000 Fantasy Premier League managers before this purple patch began in December, Gundogan is top for transfers in ahead of Double Gameweek 24 and is now the fifth most-owned midfielder in the game.
So long a peripheral squad player, or used in the double pivot when he was granted pitch-time, his redeployment as an attack-minded number eight has revealed a long-dormant eye for goal.
Even when moved back into a more disciplined central midfield role when City switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half of Sunday’s game, he showed a natural, Kevin Nolan-esque knack for popping up in the right place when scoring twice from inside the six-yard box: the first after Phil Foden’s (£6.1m) close-range effort had been saved, the second after the young Englishman had teed him up beautifully.
Pep Guardiola said after full-time:
Now he is playing close to the box. But more importantly, in the second half, we played with a 4-4-2 and he was far away from the goal and he [still] arrived to score a goal. He has an incredible sense to arrive in the right moment.
ED OF THE QUEUE?
Having penalty-taking duties in your locker has certainly been an advantage this season, although the spot-kicks have dried up a little of late, with just six awarded in the top flight over the last four Gameweeks.
Kevin De Bruyne‘s (£11.8m) enforced absence has seen Gundogan assume control from 12 yards, with the Germany international scoring from the spot in Gameweek 19 and given the nod to take Sunday’s penalty.
Gundogan became the third City player to miss from the spot this season when he ballooned yesterday’s effort over the bar and the ongoing spot-kick woes prompted Guardiola to again suggest that Ederson (£6.1m) wouldn’t be far away from being considered, even if the comments were slightly tongue in cheek:
When I commented [on the prospect of Ederson taking penalties] six months ago, it was a joke. Now, it’s a half-joke. We don’t really have a specialist in this area.
I still think that Kevin is a fantastic taker and Gundo is a fantastic taker. What I want is the guy who takes to have personality: ‘I’m going to take the penalty, I’m going to score a goal’.
PHIL YOUR BOOTS
Shortly after Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) had capitalised on a second Alisson error to nod in Bernardo Silva‘s (£7.4m) cross, Foden rounded off the scoring with a superb strike of his own.
Preferred over Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m) as the central striker in Guardiola’s set-up on Merseyside, Foden was moved to the right flank upon the Brazilian’s introduction – and it was from a wide area that he scored City’ fourth.
Keen not to give his whizz-kid a big head in the aftermath of Sunday’s 16-point haul, Guardiola offered a little constructive criticism of Foden and confirmed what we pretty much knew already – that the City boss doesn’t quite trust the 20-year-old in central areas just yet:
When he is playing in the middle, sometimes he has some difficulty to understand what he has to do and the places he has to move. Right now he is moving perfectly in the sides as a winger. Of course, the second and fourth goals were outstanding.
The big question from a Fantasy perspective is: can he be trusted to start both of City’s Double Gameweek 24 fixtures?
It’s certainly a more realistic prospect than it was earlier in the campaign.
Foden has made the starting XI in six of City’s last eight Premier League fixtures and nine of his team’s last 11 in all competitions.
Whereas Gundogan looks pivotal to Guardiola’s set-up at present, however, there’ll always be the risk that the likes of Riyad Mahrez (£8.1m), Ferran Torres (£6.9m) and Jesus can oust Foden from a fluid and interchangeable front three.
A benching in the FA Cup fifth round in midweek would be warmly received by those FPL managers who do take a punt on the youngster.
City’s clean sheet was spoiled when the hitherto dependable Ruben Dias (£6.1m) brought down Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) for a second-half penalty, duly converted by the Egyptian.
Guardiola’s previous comments about players keeping their places so long as they avoid mistakes may cause a tummy-flip or two among Dias’ owners, although the otherwise excellent centre-half surely has enough credit in the bank to allow for one rick such as this.
Dias’ error was completely overshadowed by Alisson’s remarkably calamitous display, with the last three City goals – including Foden’s emphatic strike – owing a debt to the Brazilian.
Klopp said of his goalkeeper after full-time:
The only thing you can do is learn off it. That is what he will do and it will never happen to him again, I am pretty sure. But tonight it was decisive, I would say.
Alisson’s horror show made the headlines but he isn’t to blame for all of Liverpool’s current woes.
Two wins in nine league games, three home defeats on the bounce and goalless in five of their last eight Premier League outings: the malaise has truly set in on Merseyside.
A dozen different centre-back pairings in 2020/21 is a key reason why the Reds’ clean sheet tally stands at a very average six (only half a dozen sides have fewer).
And the knock-on effect of using Jordan Henderson (£5.4m) and Fabinho (£5.4m) at centre-half has left the centre of midfield looking limp.
Ederson was barely troubled aside from Salah’s spot-kick, with the return from injury of Sadio Mane (£11.9m) having little effect.
With seven blanks in nine for Salah and Andrew Robertson (£7.3m) on his longest-ever run without an attacking return as a Liverpool player, Fantasy managers can be forgiven for looking elsewhere.
One glimmer of hope is the capture of centre-half duo Ozan Kabak (£5.0m) and Ben Davies (£5.0m). That could serve to redress some balance to the side, allowing Henderson and/or Fabinho to return to their more natural positions, but it’s asking a lot of two Premier League rookies to have the kind of galvanizing effect that Virgil van Dijk (£6.3m) did upon his arrival.
Liverpool XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Robertson (Tsimikas 85), Wijnaldum, Jones (Milner 68), Thiago (Shaqiri 68), Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Manchester City XI: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Zinchenko, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Silva, Mahrez (Jesus 72), Foden, Sterling.
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