John Brewin: Mo Salah’s haul of 41 goals is beginning to weigh heavily

Mo Salah battered all in front of him last season, but his form has been a little worrying for Liverpool supporters at the start of this campaign…


Marco Negri scored 23 goals in his first ten games for Rangers in the 1997-98 SPL season, which he ended as top scorer with 33 strikes.

Clive Allen, playing ahead of a five-man midfield that featured Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles, scored 49 goals in the 1986-7 season.

Dwight Yorke was parachuted into Manchester United’s forward line in August 1998 and scored 29 times on the way to a glorious Treble.

None of them would ever have it so good again. That, perhaps, is the fate that awaits Mohamed Salah.

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Already, last season’s haul of 41 goals is beginning to weigh heavy.

Salah is not playing especially badly; he still makes decent runs and contributes to his team’s overall play, but the player who could not stop scoring last season, rattling in all manner of different goals, is yet to reappear.

In front of goal, his confidence has visibly sagged.

Like so many players, the summer’s World Cup has had an impact, and few players travelled to Russia with such a burden to carry.

Having had Sergio Ramos break his butterfly on a wheel by dislocating his shoulder in the Champions League final, a clearly unfit Salah was a shadow of himself as his country exited wanly from the group stage.

He may still top the expected goals table, where stattos remain on his side, but three league strikes in eight matches is still disappointing, particularly when considering he has fired in 32 shots.

Against Manchester City on Sunday, even amid a match that was short on attacking quality, Salah looked bereft of the fire that once made him so incendiary.

When hitting such Olympian heights, Salah brimmed with one of the best qualities a forward can possess, a lack of fear of missing the target deriving from the confidence that a goal will eventually come.

That same enthusiasm, while not extinguished, is draining and Salah has become symbolic of Liverpool’s recent slide in form.

Having won their first seven matches, Jurgen Klopp’s team have now gone four games without a win, losing to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and then lucky to escape defeat against the same opposition before Daniel Sturridge’s smasher of an equaliser, by which time Salah had been subbed off.

Is Salah a cause of Liverpool’s malaise or instead a symptom?

His slump has certainly removed a get out of jail free card, when so often his goals last season shifted the momentum of matches, but he is not alone in not replicating his best form.

Each of Liverpool’s much vaunted trident of forwards is scratching for form. Salah has actually created seven more chances – 17 – than he had at this point of last season, but his colleagues are struggling to find the net, too.

Sadio Mane has not scored since September 1, while Roberto Firmino has drawn a blank since September 18. And none of the trio is matching the same energy output as last season.

Against City on Sunday, Firmino, usually the first line of defence for Liverpool, was not pressing the opposition with the zeal that has come to be expected.

And that is a pattern that is shared across the team, perhaps indicative of Klopp having a slight rethink of his approach. Instead of going hell for leather, is Liverpool’s manager attempting to preserve his squad for the extended test of challenging for a title?

The selection of Joe Gomez instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold against City was an uncharacteristic touch of conservatism.

That was matched by Guardiola in his own restraining of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy in a game where the managers’ machinations cancelled the other out. In such matches, either a mistake or a moment of genius can provide the distance.

While Virgil van Dijk’s error and Riyad Mahrez’s penalty covered off the mistakes, the likes of Salah were not able to offer the required genius.

He was not alone in that, of course, with Mahrez, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling joining Liverpool’s forwards in not finding a way through.

It was almost a year ago to the day, October 17, when two goals against Maribor began a run of ten goals in ten matches that the Salah phenomena really began. After eight matches he had scored just four league goals as compared to three, and supplied the same amount of assists – just one.

From there, he snowballed, his finishing when coming off from the flanks bringing comparisons with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

That form, and Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final before that fateful clash with Ramos, were the stuff of magical realism.

It was never likely to last and instead Salah, no longer the unknown quantity with novelty value, must commit himself to Liverpool’s amended, more measured approach.

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