Don’t Take Salah’s Greatness for Granted
For the past couple of years, Liverpool have been blessed with a plethora of attacking talent. From Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez alongside Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling or the brazilian duo of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino supporting the man from Senegal, Sadio Mane, there’s been lots of great moments of individual and collective brilliance to remember. On the other side of the pitch, however, Liverpool fans had been treated with several years of terrible defending, with unconvincing figures drifting in and out of the club without ever convincing anyone that they would be sorely missed.
This season, however, Liverpool seems to have found a great balance, combining expansive, attractive, attacking football with great defensive nous, and players like Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson and Alisson Becker, who have an aura about them that just makes you feel assured. For the first time in years, Liverpool boast a world class defense and while that bodes well for, basically, everybody, there’s one man going quite under the radar despite being crucial to our success this season: Mohamed Salah.
While Virgil Van Dijk, Alisson, Gini Wijnaldum and others all have strong cases for being considered Liverpool’s player of the Season, it seems ridiculous that Mohamed Salah is not even on some lists that are spread around social media. Despite all our defensive accomplishments, the Egyptian King is still the main man in town.
Liverpool played 8 games in December, winning all 8 to remain top of the league and open a considerable gap above Manchester City. Mohamed Salah was involved in 12 goals this period, seven more than second-best Roberto Firmino, who was directly involved in 5. Since the start of the campaign, Salah is involved in 43.5% of our Premier League goals. Forty-three per cent!
% of @premierleague goals (directly) involved in:— SimonBrundish (@SimonBrundish) December 30, 2018
Salah leads Liverpool this season in goals, assists, chances created, touches in the box, expected goals, expected assists, big goals – goals to equalize or put your team ahead – and possession won in the final third. He scores a goal or creates a big chance every 82 minutes, only bettered by Sturridge, who can score or create a big chance every 76 minutes.
While it’s understandable that fans get carried away with our new-found defensive prowess, Mohamed Salah remains our best and most important player. It’s ok to think that an injury to Virgil Van Dijk can derail our season and the thought of having to go through an extended period with Simon Mignolet between the sticks can cause shivers down anyone’s spine, but while it’s great to have world class individuals in these positions, there’s a great amount of systemical changes that led to this defensive upturn. Gomez, Matip and Lovren might not be Van Dijk, but they’re great players and more than capable to perform at a good level. They wouldn’t be as brilliant and we could end up conceding more goals in the process, but it’s hard to imagine how this would lead to a catastrophe.
If we were to lose Mo Salah, however, could someone in the squad honestly replace him? Mane and Firmino are world class footballers, while Shaqiri and Sturridge are great impact subs, but could any of them match the absurd level of Mohamed Salah’s involvement in every aspect of our attack? None of them are reliable goalscorers, they can create chances and space – Firmino, especially – but probably not as consistently as our number 11 and that’s before we even start to talk about how Salah’s mere presence can scare the life out of a defence. No one else has that aura about him in attack, and other managers would certainly cope with this team a lot better knowing Mo is not a threat. We are far more predictable and easier to contain without our egyptian.
This has been a magical season so far and every player, squad member or staff who played a part in it must be celebrated, but when it comes to the headliner of the show, only one name should be on people’s lips and that’s Mohamed Salah. If we end up lifting the Premier League trophy in May, I can assure you right now he’s the man who lead us to glory.