Let’s just get this out of the way now, Jurgen. Mohamed Salah scored forty-four goals in his debut season in a Liverpool shirt and it’s unlikely he’ll match that this season. Sorry to be the party pooper but, personally, I just don’t think it’ll happen. It was a freakish amount of goals, an amount he hadn’t even come close to in a single season prior to 2017/18 (his previous seasons best was 19 in all competitions). To expect him to it again this season is not only unrealistic but unfair, too.
The fact Salah doesn’t look like he will notch forty-four goals again this season is not worrying to me at all. What is worrying for me is that he doesn’t even look like he will score half as many this season. So far he has looked sluggish, out of sorts, almost like there is something playing on his mind. Of course, his ongoing dispute with the Egyptian F.A regarding the use of his image without his permission has caused something of a ruckus back home. Whether that should affect his form or not is debatable, but, ultimately, is neither here nor there – if it’s playing on his mind then it’s playing on his mind, lad.
So what now then, Kloppo? We have one of the most frightening players in world football over the past twelve months seemingly out of form but with bags of ability. How do we get Mo Salah back to his best? I think I may have a couple of solutions, mate.
The first and most drastic measure you could take would be to drop him. Yes, yes, I hear your howls of derision and cries of “this lad hasn’t got a clue”. Hear me out though, boss. Salah has played non-stop, practically without a rest, for the past thirteen months. Even when he was injured after the Champions League final all of his energy went into recovering in time for the World Cup. He deserves a rest, if not physically then mentally. The team is not in the situation it was when he joined, we don’t need him for every game. Xherdan Shaqiri is chomping at the bit to get some game time, Jurgen. Give it to him. He was unbelievable against Southampton, he deserves his chance. Let Mo Salah sit on the bench for a few weeks and watch what Shaqiri does that is different to him. Let him analyse the game from a different perspective from what he is used to. Take the weight off his shoulders and let others, namely the in-form Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, carry it for a change.
OK, so that one may not be the most popular. However, unlike Brendan Rodgers, I do have a plan B. We carry on playing him and hope he has a big performance. This one I am not a huge fan of myself but I have some reasoning behind it which makes sense in my head. So Salah scored on Saturday against Southampton, which is great and I’m dead pleased for him. I don’t think one goal scruffy goal is enough though, even if the relieved look on his face afterwards told that story. I think he needs a big performance, not a big goal. It isn’t the case that he is doing everything right but score. Just look at his dire second-half display against PSG on Wednesday night. This sort of backs up my plan A. That being said, I do think if any player can pull a mercurial performance out of the bag without even trying then it’s Mo Salah. There is an air of banging one’s head against a brick wall with this one though boss, so I might be inclined to make it a plan C. Especially considering the original plan C is my personal favourite.
I imagine all these plans are cabbaging your head by now Jurgen, so I’m going to relate back to the original point I made at the beginning of our conversation. Mo Salah is not going to score forty-four goals again this season. We could lament that fact or we could embrace it. Salah is a man of many talents. To pigeon-hole him as a goalscorer does not do him justice. He was the outlet last season and teams have started to realise this. So what do they do? They target him. This is where Salah is going to become one of your favourite men ever because, in plan C, Salah is going to sacrifice himself. Now we are going to see a Mo Salah who takes the kicks and lets others win the games. He will draw defenders onto him, using their own fear of him to create space for his team-mates. This is similar to what Roberto Firmino did last season by dropping in the hole except defenders are terrified of Salah. Imagine the goals Firmino and Mane will get between them, not to mention the added threat from deep of Naby Keita or a fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Plan C is frightening in its possibilities, Jurgen. In a way, I think this is what you are already trying to do. Let me drum this into you one more time – Mohamed Salah will not score forty-four goals this season. He will, however, always score goals. So, too, will Sadio Mane. So, too, will Roberto Firmino. We may not see the same lethal Mo Salah in the box this season but we might just see a different, more intelligent, more rounded Mo Salah all over the pitch. You can thank me later, boss.