Liverpool is running out of evasion space and Salah’s struggles don’t help | Liverpool

FOrm something very fragile. Last fall, Mo Salah was playing perhaps as he had ever been. His goal at Chelsea on 2 January was his 23rd goal in the Premier League and Champions League together. Since he only scored 10 goals, only seven of them are from open play. It is true that on Saturday He almost won the Merseyside derby laten, his shot came back off the near post for Jordan Pickford, but for him it was another disappointing afternoon. In isolation, you probably won’t draw attention, but the pattern is clear.

Not just Salah. Liverpool as a whole was below par. None of Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were anywhere near their best. Van Dijk in particular, a player who for a while seemed almost indomitable, impossible to dodge in the past, never seemed to recover from the stalking Aleksandar Mitrovic gave him on the opening Saturday of the season, and He could have been fired easily against Everton for his violation of Amadou Onana.

Context, as always, is required. This might be the worst start to Liverpool’s Premier League career under Jurgen Klopp, but they have only lost once, and they have won the Community Shield. They are the second top scorer in the division (although you wouldn’t collect 60% of those goals in a single game against Bournemouth). They’ve only lost three times this year – one in the second leg when they were still in the lead, and the other in the Champions League final. If this is a crisis, it is the kind of crisis that most clubs dream about.

But recent history suggests that title winners score in the mid-1990s. How many points can you afford to drop? 15th? 18? 20? Liverpool have already lost nine – having played only one of the Big Six. Manchester City’s abandonment of their desire for order may be opening things up, and there may be a greater element of randomness in these busiest seasons, but Liverpool are running out of wedge space.

But Liverpool have had their best xG in five of their six games so far. They are just two goals from the start, for example, Tottenham had a feeling they weren’t at their best but were collecting points anyway. Modern football is too complex, and too interconnected, to say that this is the fault of the offensive line, but it is a problem that Salah might immediately mitigate.

So what went wrong? Liverpool as a whole may have a May hangover. With a week left until last season’s kickoff, they were, after all, still with the chance of an unprecedented four-way win. The ceremonial parade after the defeat in the Champions League final seemed a conscious attempt to overcome the sense of disappointment, to remind everyone how exceptional last season, even if it resulted in only two domestic cups, but perhaps that was not enough. . It may be that exhaustion – emotional as much as physical or mental, although after seven years in Klopp, there may also be some of it – has just thinned the edges.

But Salah was further disappointed at the start of the year, losing on penalties to Senegal in both the Nations Cup final and the World Cup play-off. The game against Chelsea was his last before the five-week Nations Cup break and he hasn’t been the same since (which, of course, Premier League managers hate the upcoming tournament in the middle of the season; it’s not just that they lost the player during the tournament month, that’s the potential impact yet that).

And Mohamed Salah suffered a double disappointment with Egypt in 2022, as he lost the final of the African Nations Cup and failed to qualify for the World Cup.
And Mohamed Salah suffered a double disappointment with Egypt in 2022, as he lost the final of the African Nations Cup and failed to qualify for the World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

Under Carlos Queiroz, Egypt played a style of football that could not be more different from that of Liverpool. They sat deep, pampered, and looked for results. Salah, whose famous stature puts him under almost unimaginable pressure when playing for his country, is often limited to chasing missing causes, isolated on the right in an attempt to pinch a throw-in or a free kick, which is perhaps not his best use. of his gifts. He scored just two goals in seven games for Cameroon, eventually pulling off a frenzy of frustration that has hardly hid ever since.

When he returned to Liverpool, Luis Diaz had arrived. The Colombian settled in remarkably quickly, but his inclusion led to Sadio Mane’s move to the middle. Mane thrived, but his natural game wasn’t as deep as Roberto Firmino or Diogo Jota do, meaning space wasn’t created for Salah to attack from wide. Signing Darwin Nunez won’t change that – something Salah pointed out last week. He’s had to adjust his technique and almost certainly won’t get into as many scoring positions as he does with Firmino or Jota; His shots per game have fallen to 2.83 this season, down from 3.90 before he went to the Nations Cup last season.

This is not to say the new forward-looking streak cannot work, just that adjustment takes time and, combined with problems elsewhere in the squad, is dragging Liverpool below the exceptional levels that became normal under Klopp. Salah, at the moment, is not last year’s player, and Liverpool is not last year’s team.

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