Caislin Boyle discusses the concern surrounding Mohamed Salah’s form after an indifferent start to the 2018/19 Premier League season in the face of disputes with the Egyptian FA.
Whisper it quietly, but there have been some murmurings as to the form of Mohamed Salah. Despite Liverpool’s 100% start to the season, there is a sense that there is much more to come – particularly from Salah.
Of Liverpool’s imperious front three, only Sadio Mané could legitimately claim to have started the season with a flourish. However, there is a definite narrative surrounding Salah’s potential downturn in form. I want to look at whether concerns are founded, and if so, what can be done to help the Egyptian King.
Salah had an incredible breakout season last year, scoring 32 goals in the Premier League (with 11 assists). He notched that same number of goals (11) in the Champions League. His rise was meteoric; his unmoved humility admirable. Those achievements deserved a better end to the season.
Yet Salah was cynically injured in the Champions League final and was consequently clearly unfit at the World Cup. The hopes of both Liverpool and Egypt were sizeably impacted by events, and one does wonder the mental impact this has had on a man upon whom so many hopes depend.
It is important to state that Salah’s return is almost identical to that of last season (at this same stage). After four Premier League games this season, Salah has scored two goals. After four Premier League games last season, Salah had scored two goals. The difference lies in the fact that Liverpool are 5 points better off at this same juncture this season. So if there is an issue, it is not affecting the team.
The injury (and how it was sustained) has been well documented. The assailant, the impact on the outcome and the utter lack of contrition has been talked to death.
Was it a good decision to fly Salah to Monaco to watch Sergio Ramos win an award? Absolutely not; nor was a good decision to seat Salah within touching reach of the Spaniard. Yet this ongoing resentment will not rear its head at every corner; this dispute pertains to a game that is now firmly in the past.
The more concerning aspect (to my mind), is the evident stand-off between Salah and the Egyptian FA. Salah wants to continue playing for his country, wishing to avenge the disastrous Egyptian World Cup campaign. Yet there is a clear discord. Unless resolved, this will rear its head consistently (every time an international break rolls around). This is a dispute that does have the potential to influence Salah’s Liverpool form.
There was a succession of alleged offences during the World Cup campaign that caused lawyer Ramy Abass to issue demands designed to safeguard Salah. These demands were only met as of Wednesday. Relations remain frosty, and with Salah so clearly patriotic, this must be on his mind.
The concern lies in the fact that any lingering issues may impact upon Liverpool’s success this season. They haven’t (yet), but that’s hugely influenced by a rejuvenated defence. Nobody wants Salah’s star to extinguish (even slightly). Nobody wants Salah to stop playing for Egypt. Every fan simply wants the Egyptian to be unburdened.
At the end of August, Jürgen Klopp stated that Salah was unperturbed, emphasising that he wasn’t ‘worried about him’. While this is positive, it is slightly concerning that Klopp has to make such a statement. Liverpool Football Club shouldn’t have to assume the burden of unrelated external issues. Klopp did urge resolution, simply asking ‘when was the last time Egypt had a player like him?’
Wednesday’s developments are a step in the right direction, and the next international break may come at a time of complete ceasefire. However, I still have fears that Salah will be affected by what is going on.
In the face of legitimate concerns, there is only one thing to do to help the Egyptian King – give him all the support he needs. He is part of the Liverpool fabric and deserves as much.
Whatever the story behind the scenes, Salah’s form has only dipped marginally.
His scoring stats are identical, with any downturn in form attributable to the return of his well-known profligacy from last season. He is slightly more peripheral in games. Yet while we keep winning, it doesn’t matter in terms of points. What does matter is ensuring Salah is in the right mental state to perform with joy.
After an eventful summer, something of a lull is inevitable. Salah deserves to be helped through that by the teammates that he elevated so commendably last season. Such is the unity at the club that he will get that.