When Mohamed Salah slotted past Thibaut Courtois on Saturday evening, the Egyptian became the 20th former Chelsea player to score against the Blues since the Premier League’s inception.
It was the Liverpool winger’s 15th goal in all competitions for the Reds, and his 10th Premier League goal of the season – a remarkable return to the top flight of English football for the player Chelsea deemed only worthy of six starts after signing him from FC Basel.
Salah is now well and truly part of a three-horse race for the Premier League Player Of The Season, with the Egypt international going toe-to-toe with the creativity and goalscoring abilities of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Chelsea could've had a midfield 3 of
Salah De Bruyne Hazard
— . (@Kxuyate) November 26, 2017
Salah’s start with Jurgen Klopp’s side is even more remarkable when you find out that the then-AS Roma winger was Liverpool’s fourth choice option this summer.
Klopp had pinpointed one of Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt or Paris Saint-Germain’s Julian Draxler as a priority over Salah’s signature.
But unlike when you end up with your fourth choice at the end of night out at 3am, Liverpool are thankful that through a combination of transfer fees, clubs unwilling to sell and players not up for a move to Anfield, they’ve ended up with their Egyptian Prince.
There’s certainly an argument to be made that any half decent lightweight, fast and creative attacking player will thrive in Klopp’s Liverpool set-up; a mixture of Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino makes for a fluid, attacking triumvirate – but to be *the* main man of such a talented forward line takes some doing.
Julian Draxler comparisons are unfair, though, given that the German international has been the fall guy of Paris Saint-Germain’s summer spending – knowing you’re, at best, your manager’s fourth choice option, is mentally-damaging, and 33% of Draxler’s time in Ligue 1, this season, has come from coming off of the bench (something Salah has had to do just once).
That being said, Draxler, despite the significantly less playing time, tops the assist charts for the four players. Therefore, it wouldn’t be completely absurd to suggest that Draxler at Liverpool would be rivalling Manchester City’s David Silva’s eight assists so far.
The Champions League is where all players dream of plying their trade, and although the group stages of the club football competition have declined in terms of quality, Salah has again shone – although a group of Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor is hardly elite football.
Christian Pulisic, on the other hand, has had to compete with a group that includes Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
Despite leading the way in goals, again, Salah’s pass completion rate is significantly low compared to Liverpool’s preferred transfer targets.
And that’s a big issue for a side that is so defensively fragile and weak, like Klopp’s Reds; regularly conceding possession, in a team that is vulnerable to counter-attacks, due to the attacking nature of the line-up, only adds to the pressure on Dejan Lovren et al.
But as always in football, fans let goals paper over any deficiencies in a players game – and that’s why defenders and goalkeepers are also liable to criticism first.