We continue our Fantasy Premier League (FPL) Gameweek 8 write-ups with analysis of Watford v Liverpool.
WATFORD 0-5 LIVERPOOL
- Goals: Sadio Mane (£11.9m), Roberto Firmino (£8.8m), Mohamed Salah (£12.8m)
- Assists: Salah, James Milner (£4.9m), Firmino, Neco Williams (£3.9m)
- Bonus: Firmino x3, Salah x2, Milner x1
TIME TO SELL JOTA?
All of Liverpool’s front three were among the points in Saturday’s thrashing of Watford but unfortunately for Diogo Jota‘s (£7.5m) owners, he wasn’t part of that attacking trio.
His omission was all the more galling given that Roberto Firmino (£8.8m) scored a hat-trick of goals from point-blank range, central areas where Jota has been getting – and spurning – chances in recent weeks.
Jota averages only 4.0 points per Gameweek this season if we include his weekend no-show, and is joint-20th among FPL midfielders for points per appearance (4.6).
He’s also now the most-sold player in his position ahead of Gameweek 9, with close to 100,000 transfers out.
£7.5m still represents a phenomenal price for a Liverpool centre-forward and, stats-wise, the former Wolves man is right up there with Mohamed Salah (£12.7m) and Sadio Mane (£11.9m), virtually level with his two teammates for big chances per 90 minutes (see below):
But Firmino’s treble surely catapults him back into pole position for the central striker role and he would seem the likeliest to start against Manchester United on Sunday, given Jurgen Klopp’s love of the Brazilian in the so-called bigger games: he had started 36 consecutive ‘big six’ matches before that record was broken against Manchester City a fortnight ago.
With Liverpool playing twice a week until 2022, Jota will, of course, continue to get a lot of minutes. Perhaps he is one to revisit closer to December, a frenetic period when Klopp traditionally rotates more heavily and a time when even the likes of Salah and Mane can expect to occasionally warm the bench in the league, thus narrowing the guaranteed game-time gap between Jota and the more expensive Liverpool assets.
Jota is also a very desirable option come January, when his two African club teammates are away at the Cup of Nations.
For those of us who are already rolling the dice on a weekly basis with rotation risks like Phil Foden (£8.0m), Reece James (£5.5m) and Marcos Alonso (£5.9m), however, Jota might be one uncertainty too many at present.
A FIRST LOOK AT RANIERI’S WATFORD
Claudio Ranieri’s first match in charge of Watford ended in a thumping defeat for the Hornets at Vicarage Road.
Three of the hosts’ squad, Emmanuel Dennis (£5.2m), Ben Foster (£4.0m) and Ismaila Sarr (£6.3m), were well owned in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) heading into Gameweek 8 and all were included in Ranieri’s inaugural starting XI as the new Watford boss.
For owners of Foster, the teamsheet brought the welcome news that the veteran goalkeeper was still preferred to Daniel Bachmann (£4.4m) despite the change in the managerial hot-seat – although the scoreline, let alone the upcoming fixtures for the Hornets, further underscored the fact that Foster’s primary role in many Fantasy squads will be as emergency back-up.
How much the concession of five goals, not to mention possible internal disciplinary measures against the experienced shot-stopper, affects Ranieri’s thinking regarding goalkeeper selection remains to be seen.
It was a curious line-up from the well-travelled Italian, with Adam Masina (£4.3m) and Danny Rose (£4.3m) both fielded and having horror shows on the left, and Sarr deployed through the middle with Dennis on the right wing.
Above: Watford’s average position map against Liverpool
The prospect of Sarr being used as an ‘out of position’ forward was always possible following Ranieri’s appointment, given his love of a 4-4-2 (the winger scored three goals and assisted two others in nine appearances in a central role last season), but the sight of the Senegal international being used as a lone striker against Virgil van Dijk (£6.0m) and Joel Matip (£5.0m) was an odd one.
Despite being mostly nullified and looking borderline disinterested at times, he still managed to rack up three shots and six penalty area touches, seeing one effort tipped onto the post.
That provides a bit of encouragement for existing Sarr owners despite the heavy defeat, then, although the upcoming fixture run likely won’t encourage any more buyers.
SALAH CAPTAIN IN GAMEWEEK 9?
Salah is 27 points clear of any other FPL player after his fifth double-digit haul of the season; he managed just six of those 10+ returns in the whole of 2020/21.
The Egyptian is a remarkable 35 points ahead of where he was at this stage in his record-breaking 2017/18 campaign and is now averaging 10.4 points per match this season.
It’s hard to decide what was better between his outside-of-the-foot assist for Mane’s opener against Watford and the Egyptian’s superb solo goal on Saturday, a strike that carried an expected goals (xG) value of just 0.05, such was its level of difficulty.
To state the bleeding obvious, he’s in tip-top form.
Manchester United’s defensive horror show at Leicester City, coupled with four straight blanks for Romelu Lukaku (£11.9m), has suddenly made the Gameweek 9 captaincy debate not quite the clear-cut choice it looked a few weeks ago.
The Belgian is still the early front-runner in our captaincy poll (see below) but had Chelsea and Liverpool’s fixtures being the other way round this weekend, it’s fair to say that Salah would be winning by a landslide.
Double-digit hauls against Chelsea and Manchester City have already arrived this season for the Egypt international, who has two goals in his last three outings against United.
Watford XI (3-4-3): Foster; Cathcart, Troost-Ekong, Rose; Femenia (Ngakia 58), Kucka, Sissoko, Masina (Cleverley 46); Dennis (Pedro 69) Sarr, Hernandez.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold (Oxlade-Chamberlain 64), Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson (Tsimikas 64); Milner (Williams 83), Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.