Mohamed Salah offers Liverpool reminder he can play as a striker

Mohamed Salah has begun the 2020/21 season in breathtaking form and has handed Liverpool a positive dilemma for the games ahead.

While most likely Salah will be moved back to the right-wing when the manager chooses to utilise his favoured 4-3-3 system, it has been refreshing to see Liverpool experiment with other options.

Over the past three seasons, Salah has consistently been the club’s top goalscorer and it is clear that the Egyptian international is Liverpool’s most prolific attacker.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 27: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scores his team’s second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League Group D stage match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield on October 27, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Klopp clearly had this in mind when he decided to utilise Salah as Liverpool’s preliminary central striker against Sheffield United last weekend.

Salah, 28, was deployed in an attacking quartet alongside Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota.

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While it took time for the team to find their rhythm, Liverpool did finally show glimpses of quality during the 2-1 victory at Anfield with all four players directly contributing to goals.

Salah especially was slow off the mark, but once he found his groove, the former Chelsea forward was unplayable.

In total, he had four shots, made two key passes, two dribbles and enjoyed 63 touches on the ball. He also had a sensational goal chalked off in the second-half after being dubbed marginally offside.

While there is no major conundrum over his best position, it was clear cut that given the attacking formation Klopp chose to use that Salah had been identified as Liverpool’s best route to finding the net.

Time to think again?

Salah unleashed as a striker is something we haven’t really come to expect over a sustained period since the early parts of the 2018/19 season.

It even saw his best goalscoring run in the team that particular season with Salah clocking up 11 goals in 12 starts as a striker from November 2018 to January 2019.

Looking back in retrospect, it is fair to see more clearly that Salah’s limited time upfront in recent months was not just down to him.

When playing with a front-three, utilising Salah centrally would see Roberto Firmino out wide, which as well all know doesn’t get the best out of the Brazilian who has become integral to Liverpool’s attacking play over the years.

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) speaks with Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) and Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) as they prepare to come on as substitutes during the UEFA Champions league Group D football match between Liverpool and Midtjylland at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 27, 2020. (Photo by PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

However, Liverpool are now a different proposition currently. The number of injury setbacks Klopp has had to deal with in recent weeks has made the team vulnerable at the back, hence the recent transition to a more attacking system.

The injury to Fabinho complicates matters even further as Joe Gomez currently represents Liverpool’s only experienced central defensive figure in the team.

Add this to the growing injury list that already features Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kostas Tsimikas and you begin to understand why Klopp feels it necessary to experiment with numerous tactical tweaks.

This has meant Liverpool have chosen to show off their depth from an attacking sense with the manager deploying a 4-2-3-1 system in both of the Reds’ previous two matches.

The likelihood is that Klopp will do something similar when Liverpool face West Ham on Saturday at Anfield.

Give Salah a run up-front with Firmino, Salah and Jota tucked behind him and he is likely to score a hatful.

He already has seven goals in 10 appearances across all competitions this season. It has been a statement of intent so far this campaign from Salah.

The best thing about Salah is that Klopp has the option to use him up-front and also revert him back to the right when playing 4-3-3 as opposed to a 4-2-3-1.

This is a good sign of things to come. If Firmino is struggling for goals then Klopp immediately has another option to get the best out of the team from an attacking sense.

Salah maybe 28, but his durability over the years has proven that he certainly has a few more seasons at the top. Saturday was a reminder that this is in multiple positions, not just one.

 

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