Talking Tactics: Diaz arrival gives Salah plenty Mo firepower
While Mohamed Salah has been away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool have been busy in the transfer market — swooping for highly-rated winger Luis Diaz.
The 25-year-old joined the Reds from Porto in a deal worth £37.5million, but his arrival raises a few questions about Salah's role in Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Ahead of Egypt’s semi-final clash with hosts Cameroon tonight, we take a look at how the Merseysiders’ No11 could adapt his game to accommodate Anfield’s latest addition.
A quality signing
Klopp has spoken of his delight at landing Diaz, who impressed with his performances against Liverpool in this season’s Champions League group stage.
Reflecting on the signing last week, the German coach said: "He is an outstanding player and someone we’ve been tracking for a very long time.
"We believe he has everything needed to fit into our way and adapt to the Premier League, both physically and mentally. He’s a skilful team player who always has the goal in mind.
"Luis is a player we believe will make us better now and in the future."
The current state of play
If Egypt reach Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final, Klopp may opt to ease Salah back into life at Anfield by not starting him in the Reds' next league game at home to Leicester four days later.
Ordinarily though, there is clearly no dislodging the Premier League’s leading scorer. He has played all bar 16 minutes of the 20 matches for which he has been available this season, finding the net in 13 of them.
But in terms of position, Diaz would not be looking to directly replace Salah in his current guise.
The Colombia international operates from the left, theoretically meaning he would be competing with Sadio Mane for a spot in the Liverpool team.
A shared love of scoring
Like Salah, Diaz has been in prolific form this season. He scored 14 league goals in 18 games — none of them penalties — at a rate of 0.84 per 90 before making the switch to Anfield.
In that respect, he compares favourably to his new team-mate, who has racked up his 16 goals — two of which came from the spot — at a fractionally lower 0.81 per 90.
With Diogo Jota sitting second in the Golden Boot race with 10 goals this term, Salah is hardly carrying a burden to find the net — but few managers would object to having another free-scoring forward in their starting XI.
Using all the tools of the trade
Unsurprisingly, 13 of Salah’s 16 goals have been left-footed strikes — and the other three hit with his right foot.
In contrast, Diaz has struck eight times with his stronger right foot and three with his left — as well as registering three headed goals.
That might suggest there will be flexibility to deploy Diaz on the right, in situations when Salah is used centrally — as he sometimes has been when Liverpool have tweaked their usual 4-3-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1 set-up.
Diaz’s arrival could be significant in an off-the-pitch sense too as it may put Liverpool in a more favourable position when it comes to negotiating a new deal with Salah.
It has been reported that the 29-year-old’s agent is demanding a salary that would force owners Fenway Sports Group to break with their strict wage structure.
The Reds might have had to bite the bullet, but with Diaz onboard, are they in a position to play hardball?
It goes without saying that the club will not want to lose Salah — who is still under contract until June 2023 — but they do now have a potential successor in the building.