Premier League

Does Mohamed Salah's talent get enough praise?

The Egyptian has been a victim of his own success at Liverpool, but deserves all the plaudits going

 
7:30am on Friday 18th September 2020
By
Nicholas Hughes

Mohamed Salah came to Liverpool in the summer of 2017 as a Premier League reject, a Jose Mourinho outcast but with a burgeoning reputation after two seasons at Roma.

It was a drawn-out transfer, and upon its completion the Egyptian vowed to “give everything for this club” and spoke of his desire to win something for the club and the fans. Fair to say he’s delivered on those fronts.

Jurgen Klopp said at the time that Salah had the qualities “that will enhance our team and squad” and expressed his excitement at the deal being completed, which for an estimated £36million now looks a bargain.

A 25-year-old at the time, Salah was initially expected to play back up to Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho in Liverpool’s front three.

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But when he bundled the ball in on the goal line on his debut at Vicarage Road against Watford, Salah’s love affair with the red shirt and the Liverpool supporters was born.

Since then, Salah has torn down the record books, scoring the most goals in a single Premier League season while becoming an English, European and World champion with the club.

Among FC’s top 50 forwards and top 50 wingers both left and right, only Lionel Messi and Ciro Immobile have more goals and assists (G+A) than Salah since his debut Liverpool campaign in 2017/18.

That leaves the 28-year-old above the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski over this period – some of the very best attackers in the world in recent history.

After his 32-goal, 10-assist opening season at Anfield, the expectation suddenly became that he would continue to replicate those figures. Despite a 10-goal drop, he won the Premier League Golden Boot for a second season running in 2018/19.

And last season was his worst at the Reds so far, with only 19 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League title-winning season for the Reds. Even in his worst season, those 29 goal contributions were 11th best amongst the best forwards and wingers in the world.

In terms of Premier League players, Salah is on top by some distance. His 101 goal contributions since 2017/18 are rivalled closest by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 82, who had also been at Dortmund during that time.

To put in perspective how ruthless the Egyptian has been, Harry Kane – England captain, and at his best one of the best centre-forwards in the world – is fifth over this period with 73 goal contributions. As for teammate Sadio Mane, he comes in sixth with 50 goals and 15 assists.

Added to that Roberto Firmino’s 57 G+A and Salah’s efforts become all the more impressive. Alongside two other world class forwards and in one of the best teams in the world, he shines year on year.

Fernando Torres was arguably the best striker Anfield has seen in the Premier League, but even he was well short of Salah’s numbers with 56 goals and 10 assists in his best three-year period. He was replaced by one Luis Suarez, whose three full seasons produced 84 goal contributions.

The Egyptian has been perennially fit – his 34 appearances in 2019/20 were the lowest since his transfer to the club. Pundits and fans alike wonder what would happen if the front three get injured, but Salah doesn’t.

Always available, a player for the big occasions with 25 decisive goals in the league at the Reds – as well as some huge performances in Europe – yet Salah continues to largely fly under the radar all things considered.

He is labelled inconsistent, selfish and often placed beneath his Liverpool teammates, but his drive and his ability are undeniable.

The Reds’ no.11 confirmed it again in a big way with a match-winning hat-trick and performance against Leeds United to open Liverpool’s title defence.

Mohamed Salah
W (R) - Liverpool - 28 yrs
MAN OF THE MATCH
90'
10
Sep 12, 2020
3Goals
9Total shots
35Final third passes
21Touches in box
7Dribbles
9Duels won
87Touches
80Successfull passes %

While the three goals may seem rather unimpressive given the two penalties, his overall display was one of his best in the red shirt, leading all players in a host of statistical categories.

The most impressive of those were 21 touches in the Leeds box, 35 out of 46 passes into the final third, nine shots, seven dribbles and 23 duels attempted with nine won. He also recorded seven recoveries, the most of any forward player. A complete performance.

Going into his fourth season with yet more doubters and more to prove, this performance was the perfect reminder. Gary Neville waxed lyrical of the Egyptian’s quality post-game, while Virgil van Dijk and Klopp echoed that sentiment, with the manager declaring his star a “very, very special” player.

If week one is anything to go by, Salah could be about to take his game to even greater heights this season, a scary proposition for rival fans. No footballer is perfect, but it seems Salah’s near perfection in his first season at Liverpool has done him more harm than good.

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