Red Roulette

Where will it land this week?

For much of last season – especially in the first half – we had Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane all on our radar as high scoring Liverpool assets week by week (as well as the wider cast of characters like Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum occasionally having their time in the sun).  As we’ve talked about many times on the pod, and also in detail in our review on Liverpool, this game of “red roulette” was an ongoing trope for much of the season, with many constantly asking the question we opened with.

This year, we have a new guy thrown into the fold in Egyptian speed demon Mo Salah, signed for big bucks from Serie A outfit Roma. Firmino has also been reclassified as a forward, but maybe represents the best value at only 8.5. Lallana, who weighed in with a solid contribution last year and priced just 7.5, has been ruled out of the opening months of the season with injury, narrowing the focus on which midfielder (or Firmino, perhaps) to get from the Reds.

So in the game of red roulette… where will we be placing our chips?

In this short article, we’ve boiled down our (extensive!) research into key pros and cons of each of the potential picks to come to a suggestion on who might be your man.

The infographic (featuring the midfielders only)

The men in question

Mohamed Salah

Sa-lah-di-dah

Pros:

  • A consistent source of attacking threat last season for Roma, with 15 goals and 11 assists; replicating of this kind of form would make him a fantastic FPL asset – we guesstimated 198 points for him in our prospecting the prospects article, simulating how many points he would have gotten in FPL with last season’s exploits
  • Superior league goals, assists and, intriguingly, key passes compared to both Mane and Coutinho (Firmino also registered 11 assists); the key passes in particular is striking as it shows his creative game along with the direct attacking play that he’s associated with
  • Some semblance of knowledge of the league, having previously been at Chelsea
  • Initial signs of an on-field bromance with Coutinho helped Salah top score on Liverpool’s preseason tour, with the little Brazillian assisting him on a couple of occasions.

Cons:

  • He achieved his output in Serie A at Roma, and it’s not always a smooth transition from doing well in that division to doing well in the Premier League, as cautionary tales like Stevan Jovetic’s (13g 5a for Fiorentina in 12/13; barely played for City after signing) attest to
  • Being new to the club he may take a while to adjust, but, as mentioned, does have prior Premier League experience, albeit a negative one having been discarded by Mourinho not too long after signing
  • Had a good relationship with Edin Dzeko at Roma; will he form the same sort of linkup with Firmino in front of him?

Philippe Coutinho

Big Phil!

Pros:

  • Improving every season, he has become a real tour de force at the club, elevating those around him – Roberto Firmino scored 6 in the opening 13 Gameweeks last year, also nabbing assists, with Coutinho in the side, but in the 10 games after Phil’s injury in the infamous (for FPL managers) 2-0 win over Sunderland only managed a solitary goal.
  • Could easily challenge for the PFA Player of the Year if he avoids injury!  Started out strong last season with a brace in game week 1, and had the highest number of shots per game (3.4) of any of the main threats
  • He would’ve been my pick this year had it not been for…

Cons:

  • A “back injury” ruling him out of their most recent friendly, and ongoing flirtations with Barcelona now Neymar is gone, has meant that any bandwagon that existed has come to a stuttering halt
  • He’s reportedly said today that he wants to go to Barca, but won’t force the issue: will he now actually play game week 1 and, if he does, will his mind be in the right place?
  • He also looks to have, in the 3-0 win over Hertha last week at least, withdrawn slightly deeper to orchestrate from the middle of the park – could that impact his goal output

Sadio Mane

The main Mane?

Pros:

  • Offers a potent goal threat, matching other premium midfielders like Alli and Hazard at a rate of 0.48 a game.
  • Now ingrained within the Liverpool squad following on from his first season and is an important and key member for the starting 11.
  • Season ended early due to injury, but in 27 games he amassed 156 points: a PPG of 5.8 which works out as a level of output similar to Christian Eriksen over 38 games (5.8×38 = 220, Eriksen got 218) and therefore in the top 5 for midfielders
  • No ACON this year – nor ever again in the winter!

Cons:

  • The most expensive of the top tier Liverpool options
  • Feeling his way back from injury – with the opening fixtures for Liverpool being congested by UCL qualifiers, he may see his minutes managed
  • Less of a provider with far fewer chances created and assists compared to the other options around the premium price bracket:
  • This is, of course, means Mane’s bonus points output is diminished, with just 14bp last year (akin to Alli’s 17bps, whose more direct style is clear in this table in terms of the similarity to his stats to Mane despite playing more games) displaying how his game depends on goals more than anything else
  • Will Salah cannibalise his output?

Roberto Firmino

Bobby!

Pros:

  • Classified as a forward and a 0.5 less than Salah and Coutinho, and a full 1.0 less than Mane, at 8.5. This allows greater flexibility for your side
  • 11 goals and 11 assists last season shows he’s involved in both making and taking chances
  • Looks to be on penalties, with him taking one in preseason recently with previous kicker James Milner seemingly giving his blessing
  • Undisputed no. 9, with Origi looking shaky, Sturridge being made of glass and new man Solanke surely a backup for now

Cons:

  • More than ever, his role will be about creating space for speedsters like Mane and Salah to exploit the space by running the defenders; the arrival of Salah could mean Firmino’s output is diminished as the points are shared around a bit
  • New position means he will probably see a downturn in points scored overall. In the same way that we referenced Milner scoring the same as Coutinho if he had been a defender last year, Bobby would have lost 22 points if he had been a forward last season. This would have meant despite playing 800 more minutes compared to Mane, he would have only scored 2 more points!
  • New position uses up a valuable forward spot, and at 8.5 is quite an expensive 3rd striker pick, causing sacrifices elsewhere (e.g. 2×4.5 midfielders) in how the value is distributed throughout the side
  • If he is playing in the number 9 position week in week out, he could be subject to rotation with Sturridge, Origi and Solanke who will also be looking for game time, especially with this being a World Cup year
  • If Coutinho does leave he could be shuttled back into a role behind the striker, but do you really want a “reverse” OOP forward?

Is there an answer?

Salah… Coutinho… Mane… Firmino… BLAHHH

This year’s prices suggest that more than one Liverpool attacking asset isn’t a viable option, with the hike of at least 1.0 (Coutinho, unfathomably, started last season at just 8.0) across the board for their players meaning we wouldn’t recommend doubling up.

Liverpool’s opening fixtures are OK, but not incredible (first 5: wat CPL ARS mci BUR), and are also interspersed with their Big Cup qualifying fixtures against Bundesliga side Hoffenheim. That makes them the kind of side where – especially given last season’s “heavy metal” start – we want a representative from their attack, but almost definitely nothing more than that.

You have to pick one and one only (if at all – remember that last season’s overall winner, devout Evertonian Ben Crabtree, somehow did it with no Liverpool player ever being in his team).

At the moment, as you can see from our infographic, our recommendation and the chips are mostly on Mo Salah.

He is older and more experienced since his last Premier League stint and offers real attacking threat.

However, with roulette you can never truly accurately predict where the ball is going to land.

It may be that Firmino starts the season with a hat trick, people will charge to fit him in and then Mane will may start scoring, or maybe it will be a staying Coutinho assisting Salah. With the recent injury to Adam Lallana, it looks as though it’s one of the 4 – or, we think, the midfield 3- that’s your best bet.

But it is a bet.

We can analyse the underlying stats, we can watch all the games, try and read into the player’s body language, listen to the comments from the manager or even look at heat maps of players but sometimes in football and FPL there is just that element of luck.

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