Red Letter: Forget Harry Kane, Liverpool have Mo Salah

Date published: Friday 10th November 2017 9:31

It’s a Mo Salah special this week as Liverpool fan Dave Tindall reflects on a brilliant start to the Egyptian winger’s career at Anfield.

Harry Kane has scored goals galore this season. We’ve all lost count. What a player.

Sigh. If only Liverpool had a genuine out-and-out striker who could bang them in at the same rate as Kane.

These elite marksmen aren’t cheap though. And where do you find them?

Well, incredibly, the answer to that appears to be right under our noses.

Mo Salah was bought this summer as a winger with pace who, despite once failing in the Premier League at Chelsea, could probably bag us a few after netting 29 in 65 Serie A games for Roma over the last two campaigns.

But, wow, we didn’t expect this!

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BY THE NUMBERS

Here are the numbers: Kane has fired in 13 goals for Tottenham in all comps this season. Salah has netted 12. In the Premier League, it’s Kane eight v Salah seven.

Had Salah fired home his spot-kick at home to Huddersfield, he’d be level with Spurs and England’s golden boy.

And that’s the strange thing. Salah seems to miss more than his fair share too. While Kane gives the impression that everything he strikes turns to goals, it would be very easy to compile a blooper reel of Salah misses.

In which case, it must be incredible how many shots he’s taking.

The stats show that Kane leads the way by a distance in that table having pulled the trigger on 59 occasions although Salah is high up in fourth with 37.

But, get this. Salah has had more shots on target than any other player in the Premier League this season, his tally of 24 edging out Kane by one. He’s made opposition goalkeepers work harder than Romelu Lukaku (18 shots on target), Sergio Aguero (14), Garbriel Jesus (14) and Alvaro Morata (13) – the strikers we, as Liverpool fans, are supposed to crave and be jealous of.

Think about that for a minute. On these stats, Salah is a more efficient finisher than Kane having netted his seven Premier League goals from 37 shots (18.91%) compared to Kane’s eight from 59 (13.6%).

Just because he doesn’t have a No. 9 on his back or line up at the spearhead of the attack, we never primed ourselves for Salah doing this. To be honest, for all his impressive stats at Roma, we never thought he’d be quite this good.

But, forget good. Salah has been sensational.

Sometimes I watch him scuttling around, all left foot, lightning fast, crashing in goals and I have this strange thought about him being created in a secret laboratory set up to try and produce another Lionel Messi.

Mad scientists have attempted to clone the Argentine genius but haven’t got the DNA quite right and hence Salah has come out with some faults.

Nevertheless, a slightly wonky Messi is still a rather excellent thing to be. Oasis aren’t the Beatles but they’re still Oasis.

Messi and Ronaldo have become the two most prolific scorers on the planet in the modern era but, of course, neither have done it by being an orthodox No. 9. In that sense, there are two very obvious precedents for Salah banging them in despite his shirt number and starting position.

How is he doing it? The answer lies in taking a closer look at his goals this season.

Here’s a breakdown of his deadly dozen:

Watford (a): Left foot (inside 6-yard box) – Bundled in Firmino cross.
Seville (h): Left foot (7 yards) – Converted rebound after Wijnaldum struck post
Arsenal (h): Left foot (14 yards) – Sprinted clear from inside own-half, one-one-one, slotted home
Seville (a): Left foot (20 yards) – Won ball outside area, fired home deflected shot
Burnley (h): Left foot (16 yards) – Controlled high pass on edge of box, rifled home
Leicester (a): Header (inside 6-yard box) – Headed in Coutinho cross at back post
Maribor (a): Left foot (edge of 6-yard box) – Slotted over advancing goalkeeper
Maribor (a): Left foot (inside 6-yard box) – Converted Moreno cross from four yards out
Spurs (a): Right foot (12 yards) – Ran onto Henderson through ball, bobbled shot in off post
Maribor (h): Left foot (9 yards) – Flicked in cross from Trent Alexander Arnold
West Ham (a): Left foot (10 yards) – Ran from inside own half to slot home Mane pass
West Ham (a): Left foot (14 yards) – Low angled drive across goalkeeper and into corner

Summary

Goals (12)
Home (4), Away (8)
Left foot (10), Right foot (1), Headers (1)
Inside penalty area (11), Outside penalty area (1)
Inside 6-yard box (3)
From 12 yards or in (9)

The more you analyse the goals, the more it seems that Liverpool’s No. 11 is tricking us.

Look at the positions he’s taking up. These aren’t left-foot pot shots from distance. In fact, 75% of his goals have come from four to 12 yards out and often between the width of the posts. In other words, the positions a striker takes up.

On that evidence, Salah’s current output is sustainable. We’re not asking him to keep firing in ‘worldies’, we’re just asking him to keep doing what he’s doing.

This graphic is also revealing:

Jurgen Klopp played him in a more advanced position against West Ham and to devastating effect. Expect this to happen again.

The above image also shows that we shouldn’t be too harsh about Roberto Firmino’s goal output. He’s doing a job for the team – pressing, tracking back, laying on chances and keeping Liverpool’s energy high in the opposition half.

If we were simply told that Salah was the main striker and Firmino the man in behind to set them up and score a few, the call for a 25-goal season hitman would surely diminish. Under Klopp, we’re just doing it a different way round.

To give Salah’s feats context in terms of the great Liverpool strikers down the years, only Michael Owen (2001) had scored more goals to this point in the calendar year.

That means Salah is outscoring Suarez, Torres and Fowler.

Where does he go from here?

He needs just two more to match last season’s top scorer, Coutinho (14). And he requires another eight to join Suarez, Torres and Daniel Sturridge as the only Liverpool players in the last seven seasons to hit the 20-goal mark.

Liverpool fans are now asking if he can reach the 30. That’s probably incredibly optimistic but for it to even be a topic of conversation shows how remarkably well the Egyptian is performing.

Still think we need an out-and-out striker? Liverpool paid £35m for Andy Carroll. He scored 11 in 58 games.

Salah, a wide forward, has already beaten that tally in just 17.

Forget Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku… we’ve got Mo Salah!

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