Throughout the Premier League season, we will be reviewing Premier League matches to provide an assessment from both a Fantasy Premier League and footballing perspective. This article looks at Liverpool’s emphatic 4-1 victory over Norwich.
Liverpool: Alisson (Adrian 39), Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino (Milner 86), Origi (Mane 74)
Norwich: Krul, Aarons, Hanley, Godfrey, Lewis, McLean, Trybull (Hernandez 70), Buendia, Stiepermann (Leitner 58), Cantwell, Pukki (Drmic 83)
Key Talking Points
• Salah hits the ground running
• Alisson goes off injured
• Defenders back amongst the goals
• No-fear Norwich
• Liverpool look shaky defensively
The old adage of result being more important than performance was certainly the case for Liverpool in their 4-1 victory over Norwich.
Mo Salah hit the ground running straight away with a goal inside 20 minutes, scoring on the opening weekend for the third season in a row. As always, he was a goal threat throughout, managing more penalty box touches (11) than any other player on the pitch. Two goal attempts and three chances created resulted in a goal and assist – providing the double digit return that FPL managers crave in fixtures like these.
That was following an unfortunate own goal from Grant Hanley, who deputised at centre-back and as captain in place of the injured Christoph Zimmermann. Whilst not known for resolute defensive performances in the Championship last season, Zimmermann’s absence was evident as chaos reigned in their penalty box during the first half.
Centre-back pairing Grant Hanley and Ben Godfrey did not start a single Championship game together in 2018/19 and their lack of understanding in a competitive game situation showed. Once Zimmermann returns to the fold, goals of the nature that saw Virgil Van Dijk head home unchallenged for 3-0 as well as the aforementioned own goal should be eradicated.
It also has to be remembered that Norwich will not play team’s of Liverpool’s quality every week. Clean sheets may be few and far between, but the standard of their defending will be better than what was on show today.
At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool faced similar issues as Norwich’s seven first half shots was the most by an away team at Anfield in the last two seasons. Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki went unrewarded for their efforts in a first half that saw almost everything go Liverpool’s way.
Divock Origi’s contributions were a perfect example of that as he saw his cross diverted in by Hanley in the seventh minute before heading past Krul in an aerial mismatch with right-back Max Aarons.
Despite defending poorly, Liverpool’s defenders continued their incredible rate of direct goal involvements at the other end as both Van Dijk (goal) and Alexander-Arnold (assist) opened their accounts for the new season. This will continue to be a trend throughout 2019/20.
What is worrying is the way they defended not just tonight, but during the course of pre-season. The consistent stream of clean sheets we have come to expect may be in danger if they do not tighten up, especially with matches against all of the top six by mid-November.
A further blow has been dealt in this regard as Alisson went off injured after taking a goal kick towards the end of the first-half – the only downer in an otherwise straightforward evening. The Brazilian’s was key to Liverpool keeping 21 clean sheets in 2018/19, as his save percentage (79.2%) was the best of any goalkeeper to start over 1000 minutes.
Replacement Adrian is a good goalkeeper, but nowhere near Alisson’s standard. He arguably should have done better for Teemu Pukki’s goal, leaning slightly to his left before the Finn calmly slotted the ball into the space vacated in the opposite corner.
It was no less than Norwich’s efforts deserved, with Emi Buendia and Pukki combining for the kind of goal that was so frequent in the Championship. Norwich’s expansive style of play will see them score goals for fun and the duo above are certainly worth monitoring after the Canaries come through this baptism of fire on the fixture front. Gameweek 6 looks like the ideal time to consider Buendia, Pukki or potentially another Norwich asset in FPL on the first wildcard.
As for Liverpool, the only reason to worry about owning Salah is if Sadio Mane matches him for less money. The Senegalese was full of energy and endeavour in his cameo off the bench, managing to gather possession inside the penalty area on three occasions as a tiring Norwich defence could not deal with his pace.
There is no need to consider swapping from Salah to Mane at the moment, but this will be an interesting situation to monitor over the next few weeks before wildcarding.
But if Liverpool continue to defend as they did, it may soon be worth opting out of the defensive double-up. Attacking returns will of course continue to come for Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk and for Robertson soon, but at a premium price tag, clean sheets and defensive solidity in fixtures like these should be a given. But this is of course just one game and there is no need to read too much into 90 minutes of football.
Nonetheless, it was certainly a positive display for both Liverpool and Norwich going forward, but defensive improvements must be made in their quests for the league title and safety from relegation respectively.
(Stats from Fantasy Football Scout)