With Philippe Coutinho back in the fold and Sadio Mane coming back from his suspension, the Liverpool attacker mess has only got messier. In this article, I will analyze which Liverpool attacker has the best Fantasy Premier League prospects.
Liverpool have started this season in a mixed manner, with brutal effectiveness in one game followed by lethargic awkwardness in the next. However, one thing that has not been in doubt so far is the capability of their attacking unit. When they have played, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have proved to be reliable point scorers. The quadrifecta are yet to play together in the Premier League though, due to some reason or the other. There is the lingering feeling, that the best is still to come from them. Hence, at least one Liverpool asset seems to be a good idea.
Average Positions from Last 2 Games
Mane started off the season with 3 goals in 3 games, but his stats have cooled down. Out of the four, he only ranks best in goals per 90 (very marginally) and shot accuracy, tied with Salah. His shooting stats rank middle of the tree, inferior to Salah’s in every regard. His xG is also substantially lesser than his actual goals, pointing towards regressing returns. He has taken every single shot of his in the box, but he still pales in Salah in that regard. Even his creation stats don’t quite match up to the rest. The Senegalese forwards figures in at last place in actual assists, expected assists (xA), chances created and key passes.
As the cherry on the cake, he’s not very good with the bonus points either. The ex-Southampton man is yet to pick up a bonus point this season, and has notably been a bonus repellant in past seasons too. Being the most expensive player of the lot, Mane needed to outweigh the other contenders by a fair margin. He simply doesn’t. Good pick, but not worth it.
Salah has played the most number of minutes so far, so with the largest sample size, it’s perhaps fair to give him some more leeway. His shooting stats are off the charts, still. Most xG, shots on target, in the box and in the 6 yard box, and second most shots (only to long shot expert Coutinho). Although there have been question marks upon Salah’s finishing, arising the point whether he’ll actually match the xG or not, the difference between his xG and actual goals has become minuscule lately. He has still had his finishing problems, but he’s getting such a sheer amount of chances that he is making it not matter. Just imagine if he bettered the shooting aspect.
Being a selfish player is always a benefit in Fantasy Football, and Salah embodies that adage. Always hungry for chances to score himself, he deprives others of point scoring opportunities and keeps them to himself. That being said, his creation stats aren’t very poor either – better than Mane and almost on par with Firmino. Although his goal involvement % is the lowest, that could perhaps be put down to the larger sample size. He does have Mane’s problems with the bonus points too, perhaps where his poor finishing and ball losing really hurts him. At 34.1% ownership, he’s the most owned midfielder in the game. Having led Egypt to a first World Cup since 1900 single handedly, he’ll be high on confidence too.
Although the sample size is the smallest for Coutinho, his stats are also extremely positive. The eye catching stat is 9.15 points per 90, though I wouldn’t read too much into that one. He does also have a remarkable 6.22 shots per 90 so far. Perhaps the subsequent shooting stats will make you reconsider that, but it isn’t that much of a worry. He has just over a sixth of them on target, and in the box. This does point to a lot of hopeful long punts from distance. But for Coutinho, they go in more often than they do for others. It is a trend for him.Even last season, he finished with 0.52 goals and 6.6 points per 90, despite a majority of his shots being off target and outside the box. He’s just that good at the long shots, as he’s shown by scoring 2 of them in his 3 starts in the league.
His creation stats are where he starts to take the cake. Barring assists and xA (where he loses to Firmino marginally), he beats the rest of the pack in every aspect by a large distance. The average position maps do show he’s the deepest of the lot this season, but that may just be a role that brings the best out of him, not the winger role he donned last season. The touches stat perhaps just goes to show how he’s the one pulling the strings, and the most influential player of the lot. That is also backed by how he has had a hand in 60% of the 5 goals Liverpool have scored with him on the pitch. Unlike the other two midfielders, he doesn’t seem to have problems with bonus points either. As the lowest owned player, he’s the differential from the lot.
Firmino started the season with 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games, but has since tempered down. It is telling, that for the forward amongst the 4 attackers, he has the worst shooting stats. He already has a mountain to climb against the other three, with one fewer point per goal and no clean sheet point. This only makes matters worse for him. His creation stats are better, pointing towards what some already knew – Firmino’s job as a false 9 in the Liverpool system is to create chances for the wingers, than the other way round. Yet, they fail to even notch a scratch on to Coutinho’s stats for the same.
Perhaps the only two things going for him are the penalties, when James Milner isn’t on the pitch, and the cheapest price tag. Even still, he doesn’t seem to justify it. He has now failed to produce 5 Gameweeks in a row, and has notably long dry spells. Last season too, he went on as many as 7 spells of 3 or more consecutive blanks, with the largest dry spell being 6 games.
Security of Starts
Jurgen Klopp’s rotation merry-go-round has proved to be of great trouble for us all. With Liverpool’s Champions League commitments this season, it has become harder and harder to predict who will start which week.
So far, Mane has started every single game he was available for. But the sample size is made considerably smaller because of his 3-game suspension. Perhaps he might have been rested was he available for Premier League. He was not involved in a European competition last season, his run in Southampton’s 15/16 Europa League campaign was restricted to 2 games during the Premier League season. That season, he was indeed benched in the League game after the first leg of the tie and benched in the second leg. Mane has also been constantly hooked off early recently, and has failed to finish a game since GW2, including Champions League games.
Salah started off as the biggest rotation risk, being benched against Crystal Palace in GW2 and being hauled off at half time against Man City in GW4. Since then though, he has only missed 7 minutes in all competitions, playing 80+ minutes in every game. But perhaps that may be due to necessity than by choice. Mane was serving a suspension in the league, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a tough start to life at Liverpool. Last season, for Roma, he started less than half the Europa League games, with Roma preferring to focus on the league instead. Liverpool seem to be splitting their focus, so it’s anyone’s call on what happens next.
Coutinho has started all the games he has made himself available for, but has only finished one league game thus far – being substituted right before the 80th minute mark in the preceding games. In 2015/16, during the Reds’ run to the Europa League final, he was constantly rested in the league, with Klopp putting his eggs in the Europa basket.
Firmino perhaps started off as the most nailed on player, but with fading form that has faded too. He has also failed to finish a league game since GW2, and hasn’t made it past the 80th minute mark in any either. He was also benched in the last game against Newcastle, as a final straw to many of his owners. The key to Firmino’s off performances/competition for the forward spot seems to be Daniel Sturridge. When Sturridge starts, he has either been benched or put out on the wing. His output on the wing, frankly, isn’t much better than that on the bench. Last season, in all competitions, he produced 7 goals and 9 assists in 21 apps in the middle. On the wing, it reduced to only 5 goals and 2 assists in 19 apps. Crucially, Sturridge has started only the easier games – CRY (H), BUR (H) and NEW (A). Since those are the games you’d expect Firmino to produce in, it doesn’t bode very well for him.
I wouldn’t consider the starts issue between Mane, Salah and Coutinho, considering it looks similar for all 3. But it perhaps is the nail in the coffin for Firmino.
It’s very tough to pick between Salah and Coutinho. Perhaps it boils down to the ownerships – at 34.1%, Salah’s the man if you want a safe pick, while at 8.7%, Coutinho’s the play if you want a differential. Ownership notwithstanding, I’d go with Coutinho, but only just. He is seeming to provide threat in both the assist and goal department and crucially, is not a bonus point repellant like Salah.
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