Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Notebook Preview: Liverpool

Looking back at last season
  • Finished 4th in clean sheets (14) despite notching just 2 in the first 9 gameweeks (Chelsea already had 7 at that point).
  • 8 clean sheets over the final 15 games suggest the team may be ready to become an elite defense once again under Dalglish
  • Better defensively at home (0.74 GPG) but still serviceable on the road (1.58 GPG) making defenders playable virtually every week.
  • Failed to score just 7 times all season and only twice under Dalglish (the final two games of the season with little to play for).
  • Scored 23 goals in 20 games under Hodgson then 36 in 18 with Dalglish at the helm. 
  • Boasted the 4th best home offense (1.95 GPG) but were only okay away (1.16 GPG).
  • Defensive unit ranked 5th in total points and 6th in P$. Part of this is based on the successful usage of some cheaper youngsters but it's an impressive record nonetheless.
  • The midfield did well in total points with 706 (4th) but this translated into poor value for money with a P$ of just 0.619 (17th). This was largely driven by the comparatively poor seasons from Gerrard and Cole.
  • The front line did well at Anfield with 6.6 PPG (2nd) and a P$ ranking of 7th but struggled a bit away from home ranking 16th in points and 17th in P$.
Predicted Lineup (4-4-2)
Reina (6.5m), Fabio Aurelio (5.5m), Carragher (6.0m), Agger (6.0m), Johnson (7.0m), Downing (8.5m), Gerrard (11.0m), Lucas (5.0), Adam (9.0m) / Kuyt (10.0), Suarez (9.5m), Carroll (10.0m)

Suddenly Liverpool boast one of the deepest squads in the league and predicting Dalglish's first team looks tricky. I'm sure some will take objection to the inclusion of Lucas here but he played every minute of every game after Dalglish took over last season and without him the team may lack balance. Adam could take on that defensive role against weaker sides and even Gerrard could play there, though it would be surprising to see him shackled, even if that is in the best interest of the team. Left back is also a major area of contention, which will hopefully be resolved if Jose Enrique or another permanent solution can be brought in.

Safest Picks
Jamie Carragher . . . safest pick on the back line to play every week . . . ability to slide to right back should buy him a couple of extra starts . . . xP of 124 shows he can still produce decent numbers . . . 8 clean sheets in the final 15 games suggests Dalglish could make the defensive points significantly higher  . . . unlikely to contribute any offensive points (0 goals and assists last season) . . . better options will probably appear in the year but out of the gate he's very safe

Stewart Downing . . . price tag and team need should lock in plenty of minutes in a crowded midfield . . .  xP of 163 in an average Villa side including xG of 7 and xA of 9 show his high ceiling . . . some rotation  threat from Maxi and possibly Henderson . . . few assists really came from out wide last year for Liverpool so a slight change in style will be necessary for Downing to excel . . . low floor and high ceiling make him look more attractive than other players in his price bracket like Arteta, Lennon or Adam Johnson.

Luis Suarez . . . a safe pick but also one that boasts a huge upside and belongs on the below list too . . . had a massive impact in a short time at Anfield with xG (12), xA (16) and xP (211) totals all looking very promising . . . would like to see a couple more goals to make him truly elite but he's shown in his career he is more than capable of amassing big goal totals . . . no real rotation threats and ability to slide wide in a 4-3-3 makes him safe to play even if Carroll is played up front alone . . . received a large portion of bonus points under the old system and could lose under the new system

Upside Plays
Glen Johnson . . . almost a lock to play every week with the ability play on the left and right . . . one of a handful of defenders to show the ability to deliver offensive points year-on-year . . . highly involved in Dalglish's offense, receiving plenty of touches in advanced positions . . . improved defensive record could give him a combo of elite-defense with offensive production which is very scarce throughout the league . . . 1.0m more than his teammates is tough to justify but with goals and assists along with guaranteed playing time, he might just be worth it when the fixtures are right

Lucas . . . not an exciting pick but he has 100 point potential which is hard to say about many other 5.0m mids . . . xP of 97 last season despite just 2 assists thanks to consistent minutes and a scattering of clean sheets and bonus points . . . could gain some favour under the new points system thanks to wins, tackles and completed passes . . . playing time is not guaranteed but you have to think Dalglish will deploy someone with defensive tendencies . . . worth a thought if money is really tight for your bench

Fabio Aurelio . . . whoever wins the left back spot in this team will be valuable . . . represents a discount on teammates at just 5.5m . . . has some offensive ability, above that of the likes of Carragher and Skrtel . . . playing time is a huge question mark, enough to make him too risky to own from day one . . . hasn't yet featured in the pre-season

No Thanks
Steven Gerrard . . . xP of 161, xG of 7 and xA of 9 show that Gerrard's name (and hence price tag) may now be bigger than his potential production . . . could be forced into a deeper lying role with so many talented flair players in the squad . . . failed to reach double digit goals for a couple of seasons now with assists also declining each year . . . already suffering with injuries in the pre-season . . . extra cost over Malouda, Nani or Silva looks impossible to justify until we see him play at a 08/09 level for a prolonged period

Jose Reina . . . goes against my favoured goalkeeper combo strategy . . . same price tag as de Gea looks particularly hard to swallow at this point

Andy Carroll . . . tremendous at Newcastle last year but struggled a bit after moving to Anfield, hampered by injury and probably pressed too much . . . amassed just 22 points in 7 appearances for Liverpool though did manage a brace against City . . . presence of wide men and Suarez should guarantee good service so 15 goals could be a realistic target . . . doesn't consistently provide assists and bonus points will be harder to come by in a talented Liverpool side compared to his Newcastle days . . . in a vacuum 10.0m is arguable but 0.5m more than Suarez and equal to Hernandez makes it a tough one to win

Charlie Adam
. . . elite status last season greatly boosted by bonus points (xB 50 led everyone aside from Fabregas) . . . deducting bonus points, his xP of 165 is still impressive but not sufficient to justify his price tag (Albrighton 181, Dempsey 160, Toure 151) . . . clean sheet points will increase in significantly better side and you could argue assists will stay level, but 12 goals would exceed every one of Gerrard's league totals aside from 08-09 . . . not guaranteed to even play every week such is the depth at Dalglish's disposal . . . if he secures guaranteed minutes and set piece duty then check back when the fixtures are good, but until then, no thanks

Fixtures
Sun, @Ars, Bol, @Sto, @Tot, Wol, @Eve, MnU

Defensively, this run of games should give us a nice chance to see where Liverpool's unit ranks. Three favourable fixtures at Anfield (Sun, Bol and Wol) give us a chance to see if they can lock out weaker sides while trips to Arsenal, Spurs and the visit of Man Utd will show how far they have developed under Dalglish. For a 6.0m+ investment I would want to start my defender pretty much every week and these fixtures might preclude that from being a sound strategy in the early going.

Offensively the fixtures look a bit better as those top teams aren't quite as strong at the back as up front but still, they justify consideration before going overboard with Liverpool players. Someone like Suarez is obviously playable against anyone but the likes Downing might need reconsidering given the tricky games.

Final Thoughts
There are a lot of fantasy points in this squad, the only question is whether they will be too dispersed to benefit fantasy owners. The midfield roster contains 6 players who topped 100 points last year, and that does not include Gerrard, the most expensive of them all. At least initially, Suarez looks to be the safest bet thanks to the reasonable price tag and sure-fire minutes but once that midfield is more settled it's sure to produce some stars of its own. Suarez is by far the most widely owned player in the early running so picking him is a defensive move or needed insurance policy depending on how you see it.

I like the defence over the course of the season though unless a cheap left back option (Jose Enrique?) comes on board I will probably stay away until around GW6 after which the majority of the games look favourable.

All the other team previews can be found here, along with general posts about goalkeeper strategy and the new bonus system. Please post any comments/questions below or tweet them over at @plfantasy.

1 comment:

soulonice said...

Hi Chris,

Any thoughts on Liverpool's defense going forward (based on what you've seen so far), and whether Enrique is still the bargain we all seemed to think he was?

I'm not sure whether to persist with him or downgrade to possibly one of Swansea's defenders (Taylor or Rangel) given they've been quite good defensively...