Fantasy Premier League tips from @FPLLens who holds a USSF B Coaching License and writes FPL Matchups and Scouting Reports. His coaching lens is employed in his writing for the Hub to shed light on the on-field reasons behind the underlying stats.
Hi, and welcome to my first article for Fantasy Football Hub. For those that do not know me, my name is Gabe and I have coached the game for 25 years and I hold a USSF B coaching license. I will share with you the way I see the game and the players, but the application to FPL is your own.
The FPL Scouting Report is my player analysis using screen grabs from game footage. This week I will be examining the emergence of Sadio Mane as a differential option in Liverpool’s attack, and Mason Greenwood with a similar surge to FPL relevance, ahead of the big rivalry match between Liverpool and Manchester United.
Sadio Mane (£11.7m)
Mane’s struggles this season have been apparent to us all, but returns in 3 of his last 4 starts, and some tasty upcoming matchups to finish the season, have turned the heads of some managers looking for an under-the-radar pick who has historically had FPL upside.
There are several things going on w/ Mane this season. Let us begin with the stats from the Hub’s comparison tool:
Mane’s stats from GWs 28-32, where he registered 1 goal and 2 assists in those 3 matches, eclipse those of GWs 25-26. No surprise here as per the Hub’s comparison tool:
This is where things get weird. Comparing Mane’s most recent blank with the 3 matches in which he returned shows no production with better stats. While confusing, there is something unsurprising about it all. Those that have seen Mane, and Liverpool as a whole tbf, would not be surprised to learn that they have struggled while posting decent stats. Maybe it’s xG Delta Karma from last season.
Let’s get to the eye-test to figure this out.
The matches I chose below in which he returned each show something different, while the match in which he blanked shows something endemic of the season.
GW28: WOL – 1 Assist, 6 pts
GW30: ARS – 1 Assist, 6 pts
GW32: LEE – 1 Goal, 8 pts
GW33: NEW – Blank
Gameweek 28 at Wolves
Our first image depicts something that is very difficult to show with stills. La pausa is a concept which finds its origins in Argentina. It is the pausing of a play to draw defenders in and entice them into committing a defensive action. Once the defender acts, then the player continues with the original idea. What’s important about this moment is the awareness to make this pause, and the perfect technical execution of it. Mane’s actions are timed perfectly, seemingly automatic.
Mane has created his own space here which he now exploits. This play does not result in a goal so will not show in the stats, but it is indicative of a player who is playing instinctively. Instincts lead to good form.
The next slide shows us Mane’s ability to recognise a play early. He is aided by his teammates who hold the defenders away from the penalty spot. Mane starts his run as soon as Salah passes the ball to Alexander-Arnold.
Mane’s diving header races narrowly wide.
The final slide for this match shows Mane’s versatility and intelligence. In the one play that led to the only goal in the match, Mane served as creator linking play from side to side and back to front all in the same play.
Gameweek 30 at Arsenal
For his assist to Jota against ARS, Mane sees Jota’s run despite Jota being quite deep. Mane turns quickly and plays the ball to Jota who scores. Another example of excellent awareness indicating good form.
Gameweek 32 at Leeds
The Leeds match is the final example showing Mane, and Liverpool in general, playing fluidly. Jota collects the ball near midfield and knows exactly where to find Salah. Jota beats 5 defenders and 3 lines of pressure with that pass.
Mane begins his run early and gets the jump on Llorente. We have seen Salah overcomplicate situations like these many times this season, but when the team is humming like this simplicity reigns.
Gameweek 33 v Newcastle
Gameweek 33 was a good representation of Liverpool’s season. We begin with what is normally a strength for Liverpool. A quick transition and Salah and Mane both running into space behind a high defensive line.
At the moment of truth, however, Salah does not repeat the unselfish play he showed against Leeds the week before. He instead shoots right at Dubravka.
A few minutes later Salah redeems himself by splitting the defence with a nice, albeit obvious pass to Mane. It helps that the defender is making love to the ground.
Mane’s first touch sits the ball between his feet because he has not made a decision as to the best way to finish this chance. This decision should have been made the moment he saw the passing lane open to him from Salah.
Mane finally sees the open near post, but he overreacts in that direction and the ball gets away from him.
In the next play Mane collects a bad pass from Longstaff, but rather than turn into the space highlighted in green, his lack of confidence dominates and he plays the ball to Salah, who is not in an advantageous position due to the tight angle.
Salah’s first touch needs to bring him inside more creating a better angle for the Egyptian. The touch is unfortunately too soft, making the angle almost impossible.
He tries to recover by taking an extra touch, but much like Mane’s touch in the previous sequence, the second touch is too heavy, making Salah be off-balance when shooting.
The themes emerging for a player in form are awareness and lack of conscious cognition. Thought is a slow and messy process that oftentimes gets in the way of performance. More on this idea later. There is a sleeping giant in this Liverpool team, but I find it impossible to determine when that giant will awaken. For those managers looking for an explosive differential, including in this matchup against a Liverpool defence that ranks around mid-table in most categories, fixtures could be a precursor to form. Mane’s FPL production will depend on his mindset. I think there is both heartbreak and glory down this path. In a quantum sort of way.
Mason Greenwood (£7.1m)
Greenwood’s numbers are pretty straightforward. Unlike last season, his production is in line with his stats. His transformation began against Brighton in Gameweek 30, but I want to look at what made him ineffective prior to then before we look at his evolution.
The matches below show returns and blanks in an easier matchup and in a tougher matchup.
GW26: CHE – Blank
GW26: CRY – Blank
GW30: BHA – 1 Goal, 6 pts
GW33: TOT – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 11 pts
Chelsea is so compact, making life very difficult for Greenwood. If he continues his run here, things could open for United, but Greenwood seems lost when his options disappear.
With nobody an option centrally, the ball makes its way to the right side. Greenwood still hasn’t found useful space and is waiting for the ball in a line with Fred and James. He could give Wan-Bissaka an extra option with a little movement here.
In the match against Crystal Palace, Greenwood again left a lot to be desired in terms of his positioning. He is asking for an impossible pass from James from his current position rather than making a near post run indicated with the checkmark.
Since Gameweek 30 against Brighton, Greenwood has shown to be a player who is always looking for the ball and getting in the right spaces to receive it.
Greenwood spots the passing lane and adamantly demands the ball. Bruno stumbles a bit and has to take an extra touch so the lane closes.
Bruno instead sends a short cross over to Pogba who lines up the volley. Notice how Greenwood has already spotted the space and is on his way to the goal.
Pogba mishits the volley, but Greenwood can get on the end of it because of his recognition of space and anticipation. He no longer looks like the lost pup we saw in earlier matches.
Greenwood is growing in confidence as he begins to effortlessly find space between defenders. I love how he recognises the effect Bruno is having on the three defenders.
The moment the ball is played wide rather than to him, Greenwood knows it’s his responsibility to stretch the defence so he makes his run, taking Reguilon and Rodon with him.
Bruno can now receive the ball in some space thanks to Greenwood’s situational awareness.
Reguilon naturally steps to Bruno, leaving Mason in enough space to step to the ball and whip in a cross.
The cross is so impressive because it shows that Greenwood recognised that Dier was ball-watching while Cavani slides in behind him. Just a brilliant combination largely influenced by the youngster.
Greenwood also scored a brace against Burnley, but those goals were a result of a simple shot and a deflection so there was nothing to address regarding form or awareness.
Greenwood has been a completely different player the last 3 matches. It appears some coaching or realisation clicked with him and he has developed an instinct for space and opportunity.
Those of us that play the game, and perhaps this happens in other endeavours as well, have experienced those moments when we are flowing with the game and time seems to slow down. A complete understanding of our surroundings akin to seeing the matrix. Thought is the enemy of this experience. Mane and Liverpool are wrestling with too much thought this season, but the potential is still there. Dormant. Maybe waiting for some good fixtures.
Greenwood, on the other hand, seems to have discovered something about himself that has allowed him to bypass thought and play fluidly, with instinct. You can see it in the decision-making, spatial awareness, and quality of passes and finishing. He also has the easier matchup of the two this gameweek…. If he plays.
Thank you for the time you spent reading my thoughts. I hope they are helpful, or at the very least, entertaining. May you see green this gameweek. Stay connected with me on Twitter @FPLLens for more scouting reports, matchups, and a special off-season project.