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Whilst Liverpool’s defensive problems remain and a Premier League title challenge looks beyond them for another season, Mohamed Salah’s performances since his arrival from Roma have been a true bright spot and his form shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Jurgen Klopp has overseen an evolution in the Reds’ attacking play since his arrival. Daniel Sturridge has been gradually phased out whilst Roberto Firmino has taken on the mantle of being a centre-forward admirably well.
Sadio Mane provided exceptional support from the left last season and was Liverpool’s best player by some distance. At the beginning of the summer transfer window it may have been surprising to some that Klopp was looking to recruit another forward, especially when his defensive line was still in such disarray.
However, in the form of the Egyptian star it made perfect sense, he was so similar in style to Mane, he was a quick, direct threat and he could finish like a centre-forward. His arrival was thought to double the threat the team posed in attack, especially with it expected that Philippe Coutinho would either leave the club or be dropped into a deeper midfield position.
After 20 games in all competitions for the Merseyside club, Mohamed Salah has scored 15 goals with no Liverpool player ever having as good an opening return. Their investment is paying off right away and you can see that the former Roma forward has improved as a result of the German’s coaching.
When Mohamed Salah arrived in Italy with Fiorentina, everyone was eager to see how he would fare. His move to Chelsea had been nothing short of a disaster, yet his career with Basel showed his eye for goal, especially in the Champions League where his record was fantastic.
In 16 Serie A matches with the Florence club he scored six goals, it wasn’t a phenomenal start but it was noted just how quickly he rediscovered his form and composure.
A lengthy legal battle followed with regards to his move to the Italian capital; however it is there where he made his mark.
In two full seasons with the Giallorossi he scored 14 and 15 league goals, he turned into one of Serie A’s most prolific forwards and was ready for the Premier League once again.
Klopp’s system at Liverpool relies on the ball getting played forward as efficiently as possible, now don’t confuse this with a long-ball system but there is a degree of directness to it. It was similar in Dortmund; it should come as no surprise that Salah has settled right in.
He thrives on service and that is exactly what he receives at Anfield, he is always attacking the last defender and teams find the combined threat of Mane and Salah difficult to handle.
Furthermore, there are now options in attack for Klopp, he doesn’t need to keep relying on Mane and thus overplaying the Senegalese forward. Last season it became clear that the Reds fared far worse when he wasn’t in the team.
Rome was the first place Mohamed Salah had gone to where he could place as a definitive forward, this is his best position and his physical attributes aid him tremendously. No defender likes facing a forward who has a low centre of gravity, they are incredibly difficult to dispossess and they carry the ability to change direction smoothly at any given time.
Defenders are scared of forwards who fit this description and the Egyptian does just that. Not only do defenders not want to tackle him, but the threat he carries in behind takes their attention away from one of his other partners.
The German coach is clearly building a team in stages, the forward line is now complete, you will not get a better one without having the budget of Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City. In midfield Liverpool are very strong but the situation regarding Emre Can’s contract renewal is a concerning one, Naby Keita’s summer arrival will though be a major boost.
What could be a concern is the continued defensive struggles, in addition to the goalkeeping situation, what will concern supporters even more though is Klopp’s generally calm attitude towards. Obviously you want to send a positive message to your players whilst a season is ongoing, yet you don’t want to appear blind to a problem.
Mohamed Salah, whilst not the purchase most would have made initially, has been a revelation at the club and has quickly improved by playing in a team that suits him. He is on par to score 20+ Premier League goals this season and can turn into a real Anfield hero if the team continues in the same direction.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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