Liverpool’s title credentials took on a whole new dynamic altogether prior to the New Year as they dismantled Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield ahead of their potentially defining clash with Manchester City on Thursday evening.
Liverpool’s famed front-three, compromising of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firimino and Mo Salah, were the butchers hosting the slaughter at Anfield last weekend. Firmino returned to form with a hat-trick and his partners in crime bagged a goal apiece to complete the rout, leaving Liverpool fans in awe of the flair at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal.
It was a performance which had been brewing for some time as Liverpool begin to move into top gear after flying high without exhausting the resources available in the tank for the majority of the season so far.
The impression that Liverpool haven’t quite clicked just yet has been one mirrored by the individual performances of Mo Salah, even if his incredible record this season would have been otherwise lauded barring an untouchable debut campaign for the club .
Every year Liverpool supporters tend to throw up at least one song which defines their season and the birth of the Mo Salah chant in the 2017/18 campaign was one which fell into that bracket. Within the song heard rippling across football grounds across Europe, Liverpool supporters hailed the Egyptian superstar for his pursuit down the wing, but Jurgen Klopp’s decision to tinker with his system has forced him away from the wide position in which he shocked the footballing world last season.
Perhaps Salah’s move into a more central position has taken some time to adjust to and given the impression that his influence has decreased, but there are plenty of statistics available that debunk that myth. Indeed, Sky Sports analyst Adam Bate has dived into the stats to assess Salah’s performance this season and cited his importance in recovering possession as a fundamental factor behind Liverpool’s success.
‘Firmino is famed for his work rate and his pressing from the front. And yet, there is no player in the Premier League who has won possession of the ball in the final third of the pitch as many times as Salah this season. It is he who is the king of the counter-press.’
Salah’s record in front of goal and ability to make something out of nothing have formed the pillars of his success in England so far, but Bate’s revelation proves there are other strings to his bow which make him a complete player.
Liverpool’s ruthless tendency to carve open opponents in a matter of seconds owes a great debt to the forward players who narrow space high up the pitch and force mistakes from the opposition, and Salah’s role in that endeavour is clear as day from the stats.
That the Egyptian has recovered possession in the final-third more times than any other player is a testament to his exemplary attitude and willingness to supplement the glamorous side of attacking football with the often thankless task of harrying defenders.
And, if Salah continues to maintain the same level of intensity for the remainder of the season, Liverpool will have a glorious opportunity to upset the odds and clinch the Premier League title ahead of the widely fancied Manchester City.
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