Mohamed Salah: Why Liverpool forward is misfiring in front of goal this season – Sky Sports

  • September 23, 2022


Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has scored just twice in the Premier League this season; Egyptian finally agreed a new lucrative contract at Anfield in July after months of negotiations; Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to Napoli on Matchday One of the Champions League on Wednesday night
Football journalist –
Wednesday 7 September 2022 13:14, UK
Having got his wish to be recognised as one of world football’s best-paid players, Mohamed Salah was expected to hit the ground running for Liverpool this season – but like the team itself, something has just not clicked so far for the Egyptian.
Salah’s long-running contract standoff with Liverpool owners the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) finally came to an end in July when the forward agreed a new three-year deal to stay at Anfield.
However, despite enjoying a rare summer off and looking razor sharp in preseason – especially when scoring and assisting as Liverpool beat rivals Man City to win the Community Shield – Salah has failed to reach those same heights in the early weeks of the campaign.
In fact, the 30-year-old has only scored twice in the league this campaign, struggling to influence games as he has done in the past as the club, who came close to winning an unprecedented Quadruple last time around, have made their worst-ever start to a top-flight season under Jurgen Klopp.
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Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness even questioned Salah’s commitment on the weekend when pondering: “I hope this is not him getting semi into his armchair because he has signed a big contract,” but is he really struggling in front of goal and if so, why?
Prior to Salah signing his contract extension this summer, the forward had claimed his wage demands were not exorbitant.
“I want to stay, but it’s not in my hands. It’s in their hands,” he told GQ magazine in January.
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“They know what I want. I’m not asking for crazy stuff.”
FSG relented, though, and crazy or not agreed to break the club’s previously strict wage structure to make Salah the Reds’ highest-paid player on £350,000-plus a week.
Former Liverpool manager Souness, however, fears that having now been given his bumper new deal, the player could have just dropped his levels ever so slightly at the start of the campaign.
“I’m looking at Salah for Liverpool against Man Utd and in the first five minutes [Lisandro] Martinez goes right through him,” Souness told Sky Sports. “The rest of the game, Mo Salah looked for Martinez and looked for where he was. I’ve not seen the same Mo Salah since.
“I just hope – and he’s signed the big contract he wanted – but at this level if you knock off half a per cent or one per cent then you are not the same player.
“I hope this is not him getting semi into his armchair because he has signed a big contract.
“I’m saying that as a Liverpool supporter – hopefully to make him angry and prove me wrong.”
There could be the danger as well that having finally ended his contract impasse with the club, Salah may just be trying too hard to prove his value, while the start Erling Haaland has made at Man City may also be putting extra pressure on the shoulders of a player used to seeing himself at the top of the Premier League scoring charts.
With Liverpool having made their worst-ever start to a league campaign under Klopp, expectations for the season are perhaps now being revised to one of a rebuilding job as the German looks to construct the second team of his Anfield reign.
Part of the reason for that downgrading of targets are the new partnerships in both midfield and attack that need developing, many involving Salah himself.
The Egypt international is not only trying to build an understanding with midfielder Harvey Elliott on the righthand side of Liverpool’s attack, but also with big-money summer signing Darwin Nunez in the Reds’ new three-man frontline.
Meanwhile, Salah no longer has Sadio Mane to play alongside up front as they did with such success during their five years together on Merseyside, a factor that cannot be underestimated in the former’s current malaise.
And that has led some to question whether Salah is now spending more time on the right flank, rather than closer to goal, a suggestion Klopp has denied though.
“It’s not more than in any other season,” he said when quizzed on the matter after Saturday’s goalless draw at Everton. “I’m not sure if it’s true what you see there.
“We want to have Mo there in this position, but we want to have Mo, and we always had him, more often in central positions as well.
“Today especially we wanted to use the boys a bit more centrally, but we didn’t have a lot of time to train obviously. Actually we only recovered, we spoke a lot about it, I’m not sure I was clear enough in the first half what we wanted.
Salah was seventh-most transferred out player in FPL before last weekend (328k users)
“In the moments when we played, when Mo dropped or when Lucho [Luis Diaz] dropped after two or three passes they were completely free in between the lines because Darwin kept the last line back with his pure presence and they like to drop pretty early.
“But we didn’t do that often enough, you are right. I don’t think in the season he is too often wide, maybe today in a few moments yes. But he could have scored again in the last minute pretty much.”
The raw numbers do suggest Salah is currently in a slump, although some would say this is simply a carryover from his struggles in front of goal in the second half of last season.
Salah’s shots, shots on targets, goals and expected goals metrics so far this campaign are all down on previous seasons, albeit after just a small sample size of six league matches, and he has also missed gilt-edged chances against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Everton.
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And on Saturday, Salah was within minutes of enduring the first Premier League game of his career in which he had played a full 90 minutes without recording a single shot, while left-backs Tyrell Malacia, Matt Targett and Vitaliy Mykolenko have all easily contained the normally elusive dribbler in head-to-head battles this season.
All of which could not be in greater contrast to the start of last season when Salah was virtually unplayable on the right of Liverpool’s forward line, scoring virtually similar goal-of-the season contenders at City and Watford with mesmeric solo dribbles.
“The big question is Salah’s form, seven goals since the Afcons, not really looking like he can beat a player or how we have seen him in the past,” former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock told Sky Sports News.
“Will Klopp have a big decision to make and maybe change round that front line in a couple of games just to give him a bit of a spell out of the game after signing that big contract?”

And this after the forward was pictured relaxing in Mykonos this summer, before enjoying an electric preseason which appeared to put to bed worries over his drop-off after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations last February when he managed just seven league goals in 15 games.
While Salah is definitely off colour at present, he has still contributed three goals and three assists in his seven matches in all competitions this campaign, while he also created a personal-best tally of eight chances in Liverpool’s draw with Crystal Palace last month.
In fact, the forward is creating more openings on average this season than in any previous campaign, with the 24 chances he has made in open play being 10 more than any other player so far this campaign – hardly attacking numbers to suggest he is in permanent decline and all having registered career-high assist figures last season.
Meanwhile, he is also making more passes into the opposition box than at any other time in his Reds career, which is perhaps reflected in him being just eighth on the list for most number of shots, a category he normally heads by some distance.
So in essence, Salah has been laying on more chances for team-mates this season, but at the expense of not trying his luck at goal so often.
Klopp, however, is unconcerned, and sees this simply as the player now maturing and developing his game into something more rounded.
“He always develops,” Klopp told Sky Sports in an exclusive interview in August. “It’s really crazy.
“A few years back he arrived and usually when a player comes from outside inside and they use the inside of the foot to spin the ball and all of a sudden he had the full throttle – the Chelsea goal is pretty remarkable one.
“This year he arrived with crosses with his right foot – I think he found a right foot on holiday! He’s obviously a top professional and he really tries to add on things into his game.
“He is a top, top, top striker and with the numbers he had, not only scoring wise, but assisting wise as well is big.”
Of course, it could be just that Salah is currently experiencing what the team is going through as a whole at present, a general hangover after the emotional roller coaster at the end of the previous campaign…
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