In Focus: Goal drought leaves Reds thirsty for Mo from Salah
Mohamed Salah’s lack of form is a concerning trend for all involved at Liverpool.
The Egyptian international has been a prolific scorer since joining the Reds from Roma in 2017 but has only found the net seven times in the Premier League this season.
Having topped the goalscoring charts alongside Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son last term, he signed a new three-year contract over the summer worth a reported £350,000 per week.
Ahead of Liverpool’s tough FA Cup fourth-round tie at Brighton on Sunday, we take a look at the reasons behind Salah’s dry spell.
Salah scored 23 Premier League goals in 35 games in the 2021-22 campaign, earning his third Golden Boot in five seasons at Liverpool. He also topped the assist charts with 13.
The forward’s numbers were far superior in the first half of the campaign. In his opening 20 matches, before representing Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, he scored 16 league goals and recorded 10 assists.
After suffering the disappointment of losing the AFCON final on penalties to Senegal, Salah was not nearly so prolific, netting seven times in his remaining 15 Premier League games.
A combination of both mental and physical fatigue seemed a reasonable enough explanation. Much was therefore expected of the 30-year-old this season, having had a summer of rest and then another period to rejuvenate during the World Cup.
Instead, Salah’s poor form has continued, with Liverpool now off the pace in the Premier League and facing a daunting Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid next month.
One of the reasons for the Merseysiders' struggles has been their injury problems in attack.
Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino are all sidelined. Summer signing Darwin Nunez has yet to convince, or even secure a regular role, while Cody Gakpo has only just arrived from PSV Eindhoven.
The likes of Harvey Elliott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have had to be drafted into the frontline meaning Salah is playing with different players in attack on a game-to-game basis.
That might not be such an issue if the rest of the team were performing. Instead, the midfield needs major surgery and the defence looks a shadow of what it once was with Virgil van Dijk currently out with a hamstring problem.
Some of Jurgen Klopp's selection issues will be resolved as players become fit but there is also a clear need to bring in new midfielders, which does not look likely to happen until the summer.
Numerous absent forward options has compounded the expected drop-off from the departure of Sadio Mane.
The Senegalese attacker's summer move to Bayern Munich is often cited as a reason for Salah’s decline. While it has not helped, it does not explain why the winger’s numbers were down in the second half of last season.
A combination of factors may have contributed. Fatigue, the departure of Mane, a constantly revolving roster of attacking partners and Liverpool’s general malaise, could all be part of the mix.
There is the possibility of age being a factor for the Reds No11's slump but it does not seem likely considering how well he was playing just a year ago.
It is not just Salah’s standards that have slipped. Liverpool have only won eight of their 19 Premier League matches this season, leaving them ninth in the table.
Context is key
The reduction in Salah’s goalscoring numbers is more understandable when you look at them in context.
He is Liverpool’s penalty taker but they have not been awarded a Premier League spot-kick since April. Salah scored five penalties in the top flight last term and six the season before.
Though his top-flight tally has been disappointing, in all competitions he has 17 goals in 29 games. This includes seven in the Champions League, where he is the joint-top scorer alongside Kylian Mbappe.
The return of familiar faces in attack will likely help the frontman increase his output but overall it does not seem likely to be a memorable campaign for him.
Liverpool are in a period of transition and it is hard to see an easy fix that will solve their problems before next season. If Salah’s form has still not returned by then, that could be the time to really worry about him.