IT all feels a bit doom and gloom at the moment, doesn’t it?
After the highs of battering Arsenal and securing Champions League qualification over Hoffenheim, Liverpool were given taste of The Gunners’ medicine by Manchester City before consecutive disappointing home draws against Sevilla and Burnley.
The disgruntled voices among supporters will look at the transfer window as one of the root causes of The Reds’ downturn in form, and there is some merit in that.
Jürgen Klopp went into the summer with a centre back as one of his number one targets but, when the transfer window slammed shut, there were no reinforcements to be seen in this area. The fact that Liverpool looked so frail at the back against Sevilla and at times against Burnley only added fuel to that particular fire.
Beyond all of that though, there is a signing that Reds have a right to be excited about — and it isn’t the one who we won’t get to see for another year.
Mohamed Salah’s goal at the weekend not only ensured that Liverpool didn’t leave Anfield in complete disgrace, it also capped what has been a blistering start to his time on Merseyside. In eight appearances the Egyptian forward has bagged five goals and two assists, slotting seamlessly into Liverpool’s forward three alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
13 – Mohamed Salah has fired in more shots on target than any other player in the Premier League this season. Settled.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 18 September 2017
Given how much the market inflated once Neymar secured a record-shattering move to Paris Saint-Germain, Salah is already looking incredible value at around £35million. While some supporters will rue the fact that The Reds’ failed to address one of their biggest areas of weakness from last season, the signing of Salah has gone some way towards covering their shortcomings.
When Liverpool’s title challenge went up in smoke in the New Year last season, it was the absence of Mane’s pace that seemed to hinder the side in an attacking sense, with no high-quality option to replace the speedy winger’s skillset. They looked like a team which was void of ideas going forward and it showed in results.
The fact that Klopp has now effectively recruited a left-footed version of Mane — and the versatile backup option of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for good measure — should ensure his side can maintain their attacking potency for a more sustained period. That is if they don’t decide the best way to win is to take on 30-plus pot shots from outside the area.
But pace isn’t the only thing Salah, who scored 34 goals and got 24 assists in 83 appearances for Roma, has brought to Liverpool.
Each member of The Reds’ front three has developed their own style. Mane likes to face up defenders and use his speed and power to manufacture a sight at goal coming in from the left-hand side. Firmino has moulded his own vision of the number nine position, dropping deeper to link up with his fellow forwards, interchanging and even taking up more natural striking positions. But, perhaps most impressively given the speed at which he has adapted, Salah has found his own individual way to hurt teams.
The Egyptian has shown a knack for getting in behind and using his pace to cause big problems for defenders daring enough to step out of the backline. This was shown to devastating effect in the 4-0 home win over Arsenal, when he got the better of Nacho Monreal time and time again.
But not only that, Salah has shown himself to be something of a poacher when the ball is moving up the opposite side of the pitch. The Reds’ record signing has consistently popped up in dangerous areas to get on the end of crosses or collect rebounds in and around the six-yard box.
While a lot of Liverpool’s goals under Klopp have come as a result of swashbuckling attacking moves, which Salah hasn’t looked shy of joining in on or getting on the end of, it’s good to have a player who can sweep up the way he does and it will hopefully lead to many more goals as the season develops.
While Saturday’s performance at Burnley has done little to appease the frustrated grumbles of fans who are worried that the same mistakes are being repeated, Salah was one of Liverpool’s leading lights on the day.
He plugged away for 90 minutes and didn’t shy away from getting into battles with his opposite number, which is something most wouldn’t have had him down for when he first arrived.
His performances until now show that Liverpool have a top player on their hands, and if he continues in this vein it should only be a matter of time before the results turn around.
Still, shame he can’t play centre back, innit?