The two matches that bookended Saturday’s Premier League action are the focus of our latest Scout Notes article.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool and Newcastle United v Brentford are the fixtures in question.
NO TAA, ROBERTSON SCORES
Andrew Robertson (£6.5m) popped up to score Liverpool’s decisive second goal at Molineux on Saturday, finding the net for the first time in the league since 2021/22.
It was no coincidence that it came in a match that Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.9m) missed.
Alexander-Arnold’s ‘inverting’ from right-back has restricted Robertson’s ability to get forward since Jurgen Klopp first introduced the system in Gameweek 30 of last season.
His goal against Wolves, indeed, came from his first shot in 13 matches.
Klopp had tried using Joe Gomez (£4.5m) in Alexander-Arnold’s custom role in the first half on Saturday lunchtime, with predictably poor results.
But with the Liverpool boss switching to a 4-4-2 with forward-thinking full-backs after the interval, Robertson was unleashed as an attacking weapon. His tally of three penalty-box touches was more than he had managed in the whole of 2023/24 before that.
The Scot’s goal threat may be boosted so long as Alexander-Arnold remains out, then – but the England international could be back as soon as Gameweek 6,
“A good example for the second half, the change between first and second half, was obviously Robbo would never have been in the position where he scored the goal in the first half. There was no chance. So we became more flexible and that’s very important in football.” – Jurgen Klopp
SALAH EXTENDS BLANKLESS RUN
The blankless run now extends to 11 for Mohamed Salah (£12.5m), who continues to hunt down the top-scoring FPL midfielders like some relentless Terminator. He overhauled the Arsenal boys to finish on top in 2022/23; he’s now just two points behind Bryan Mbeumo (£6.8m) in pole position.
And, just like the T-1000, he’s done some shape-shifting. The goal threat has been more modest this season, with his only strike that didn’t stem from a penalty-kick situation coming in Gameweek 4.
Four assists have kept the points ticking over, the latest two arriving on Saturday as Cody Gakpo (£7.3m) and Robertson were teed up. There was a brief moment at Molineux when we thought the assist hat-trick had arrived, only for Harvey Elliott’s (£4.8m) effort to be chalked up as an own-goal.
|Salah’s non-pen expected goals (xG)||Salah’s expected assists (xA)|
Liverpool were disjointed for the first half on Saturday but, much like in Gameweek 3 when reduced to 10 men, didn’t capitulate as they had done on a number of occasions in 2022/23.
There was plenty of mitigation for the sluggishness: three-quarters of the first-choice defence were missing, Alexis Mac Allister (£5.9m) was visibly pooped from midweek, and Darwin Nunez (£7.4m) and Luis Diaz (£7.7m) weren’t risked from the start after their late returns from South America. Both of those players made an impact upon their introduction.
Credit to Wolves for their early showing.
Jeanricner Bellegarde (£5.0m) had an excellent debut in central midfield, occasionally getting forward to join the attack, but the FPL headline was a fourth assist of the campaign for Pedro Neto (£5.5m).
It’s no fluke: he’s top among midfielders for chances created (CC) this season:
NEWCASTLE BACK ON TRACK?
A Callum Wilson (£7.8m) goal and a home clean sheet suggested it was back to business for Newcastle United but the nerves were palpable at St James’ Park, following their recent three-game losing run.
Brentford were arguably the better team in the first half and the Magpies’ goal came out of nothing, a moment of rashness from visiting goalkeeper Mark Flekken (£4.5m) – not the only one of the match nor the first of the season – gifting Wilson a (contentious) spot-kick.
Wilson has that Vardy-esque quality of being on the periphery of a match for long periods before popping up where it matters between the posts. Before his spot-kick, he had been in the right place at the right time to bundle the ball home, only to see the VAR intervene for a slight infringement on the flapping Flekken.
Other than a close-range Bruno Guimaraes (£5.8m) header, a jittery Newcastle posed little other threat – as underscored by their open-play xG total of 0.28.
And there were first-half nerves at the back with Brentford more of a menace than their own very modest expected goals total of 0.50 suggested. Yoane Wissa (£6.1m), who had a game-high five shots, wasted the best of the first-half openings when failing to make contact with a deflected cross.
At least there is a bit more of a feel-good factor for Newcastle going into an excellent run of games, a sequence we’d written about extensively over the international fortnight – so we won’t repeat a lot of that stuff again.
The further good news is that Sven Botman (£4.5m) returned from injury in this fixture to restore order at the back.
Rotation looks like it will continue to wreak havoc further forward (there were five changes from Gameweek 4 and the UEFA Champions League starts this week) but the midfield pool has is down by two after Joelinton (£5.9m) joined Joe Willock (£5.4m) on the sidelines for a “few weeks”. Budget FPL pick Elliot Anderson (£4.4m) should get plenty of minutes over the coming month, even if he’s not assured of starts.
Anthony Gordon (£5.5m) made it three attacking returns in five appearances when winning Newcastle’s penalty but he’s now on four bookings for the season, one away from a one-game ban.
HENRY INJURY LATEST
Brentford’s loss may have come at a further cost as the 6.6%-owned Rico Henry (£4.6m) limped off with a knee injury.
The left-back has caught the eye this season, creating five chances, but there’ll be concern about his condition, given that he looked set to depart on a stretcher before attempting to hobble away on his own two legs.
“We know it’s a knee injury but we don’t know what the situation exactly is. We will assess him on Monday. Let’s see on Monday before we make too many conclusions.” – Thomas Frank on Rico Henry
Ben Mee (£4.9m) also needed treatment before leaving the field, so he too could be a worry going into Gameweek 6.