Mohamed Salah does not like to be replaced. In fact, all great footballers hate being played. Firstly, because they love football and, secondly, because they know that they can always give something more to their team.
But that doesn’t apply so much to the Egyptian right now. And his substitution in Wednesday night’s 4-1 defeat by Napoli even seemed overdue. Salah is in a hole, as are Liverpool, and here comes the chicken-or-the-egg question of which came first and caused the second.
The “reds” lack the hunger for victories, they even lack the style of play. This also affects the play of their big star, whose decline in form actually started earlier, but we’ll get to that.
With just two goals in seven games since the start of the season, not including the Community Shield, this has been Salah’s weakest start to a campaign since arriving at Anfield in 2017. In the previous two seasons, Salah had already scored six goals.
With three Premier League Golden Boots in the last five seasons, expectations are always high for him. But his two goals in the top flight so far pale severely against Manchester City’s new star Erling Haaland, who averages every 49 minutes and already has 10 goals in six games. Meanwhile, the Egyptian is signed every 270 minutes on average.
Of course, he is far from the only reason for Liverpool’s poor form this season. The Reds have already registered three draws and two losses in their opening seven games. After the loss in Naples, Jurgen Klopp himself admitted that his players need to reinvent themselves in order for the team to go up again.
Injuries also took their toll. With the return of General Thiago to the midfield, the relationship between defense and attack will undoubtedly improve. So far, however, the partnership between Salah and Darwin Nunes is not working. The pair started with two goals and two assists between them in the FA Super Cup and the Premier League first round, but the Uruguayan’s stats have been zero in both since.
Sadio Mane’s absence is palpable. In the summer, Liverpool decided to bet on Salah and convinced him to sign a new contract, but were not ready to give the Senegalese what he wanted. So he went looking for him in Bayern Munich. Roberto Firmino is also not the player of previous years and, as we have already noted – the “nine” Darwin is covering himself.
Salah’s dip in form was felt at the start of the year – after losing the Africa Cup of Nations final to Senegal and Mane on penalties. The Egyptian scored just four goals in the second half of the Premiership season and that trend continues in the current campaign.
Two goals in the opening six rounds of the Championship is not a terrible statistic for a player who is not a centre-forward. But for Salah, who with 159 goals is eighth in Liverpool’s all-time goalscoring list and just 27 behind fifth-placed Steven Gerrard, it is disappointing.
Reds fans are hoping that this is all temporary and with the return of Diogo Jota and Nunes and the presence of Thiago the heavy metal machine for total football will work again, and with it, Pharaoh will return to his best goalscoring form.
And “Anfield” will once again chant his name more fervently than ever.