FPL managers were treated to a scare on Tuesday evening when both Mohamed Salah (MID, £12.3M) and Diogo Jota (Mid, £7M) started (and in the case of the former, finished) Liverpool’s dead rubber Champions League tie with FC Midtjylland.
On the face of it, Jurgen Klopp’s decision to play his top scorer for no less than 99 minutes in a meaningless game makes little sense – not least when you look ahead to Liverpool’s bumper upcoming schedule which involves 3 games in the space of 7 days.
Equally perplexing is the fact that Jota played alongside Salah for 87 minutes. One of the two will have to start alongside Sadio Mane (MID, £12M) and Robert Firmino (FWD, £9.2M) for Sunday’s clash with Fulham, so why risk both?
Method in Klopp’s madness?
But when you look a little deeper, Klopp’s decision actually makes a lot of sense. The truth is that since contracting Coronavirus in November, Salah simply hasn’t played a great deal of football. Indeed, since the Manchester City game on November 8th, the Egyptian has only played 90 minutes three times, and just one of those 90′ run-outs came in the Premier League, last week against Wolves.
It’s plausible, if not likely, that Klopp is simply trying to build up Salah’s fitness ahead of the marathon Christmas period. And if that’s true, owners should have nothing to worry about.
Sure, there’s a chance Salah will be rested in Premier League at some point over the next month – particularly now that they have a viable rotation option in Jota. But based on Salah’s numbers in 2019, we can say with some certainty that he will at least feature in more or less every Liverpool game between now and the end of the calendar year.
Salah: consensus captaincy choice?
Prior to Tuesday’s runout, Salah was the consensus captaincy choice for Gameweek 12. Among midfielders, Salah is second only to the hugely in-form Heung-Min Son (MID, £9.6M) for goal involvements, and is top in expected goal involvements (xGI).
Salah has also had 9 Big Chances so far this season – the same number as Harry Kane (FWD, £10.9M) – scoring 7 of them. He’s also first among midfielders for penalty area touches and goal attempts.
The Egyptian, in short, is ahead of his peers in almost every statistical category.
Meanwhile, Salah’s Gameweek 12 opponent is a Fulham team that ranks third for Big Chances Conceded, second for Goals Conceded, and second for shots on target conceded. I could go on…
And with the news that Jota took a knock in Tuesday’s game, the likelihood of Salah starting against Fulham has only risen.
But this, it should be said, is all guesswork. Now Liverpool have four legitimate options upfront, we’re no longer just playing Pep Roulette…Klopp has very much entered the casino.
So, yes, Salah is by the far the best captaincy option for this week, but proceed with caution.
How am I lining up for GW12?
Following the injury to Hakim Ziyech (MID, £8.2M), I’ve been forced to restructure slightly ahead of the Christmas period. Neto, who I wrote about last week, comes in for the Chelsea midfielder, alongside Salah who replaces the underwhelming Marcus Rashford (MID, £9.4M).
This gives me one more week to think about what to do with Tottenham duo, Son and Kane. One of them will be moving on, and at the moment I’m leaning towards abandoning Kane for a cheaper forward like Patrick Bamford (FWD, £6.2M) who will allow me to upgrade Jota in midfield. But we’ll worry about that next week…
Good luck out there!