Spurs repeated a way to neutralise Mohamed Salah against Liverpool on Sunday. The Reds have to find a fix before long.
Liverpool put in a decent performance against Tottenham Hotspur, all things considered. They did it under difficult circumstances, after all, having lost both Thiago and Jordan Henderson on the day of the game.
The duo joined Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho as first-XI absentees, forcing Jurgen Klopp into a makeshift team. We saw Tyler Morton, James Milner and Naby Keita in midfield. Ibrahima Konate then had to do a passable Van Dijk impression at the back.
The fact Liverpool controlled the game to a relative extent deserves praise – at least, that’s how Pep Lijnders feels. The Reds created several chances against Spurs and kept the ball well, particularly in the first half.
They’d eventually score twice and could have had more – certainly a penalty – and looked decent going forward. Liverpool did that despite the rarest of rares, too: a quiet Mohamed Salah performance.
Spurs did a wonderful job shutting him own and Salah never got going. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a worrying trend – and one Liverpool need to fix.
Spurs shut down Mohamed Salah vs Liverpool
Salah averages just over 48 touches per 90 in the Premier League this season. He’s heavily involved as a forward and Liverpool look to him frequently.
Against Spurs, though, he only had 37 touches as they forced Liverpool to look elsewhere. Antonio Conte’s 5-3-2 formation did the trick, allowing his side to double-up on Salah whenever he had the ball.
You can see it in his other stats. Salah didn’t successfully dribble past anyone, only 55% of passes found him (avg. 65%), and his passing was just 70% (avg. 77%). Also tellingly, Spurs’ left-back, Ryan Sessegnon, won 11 tackles and interceptions in the game.
No other player on the pitch claimed more than eight. Their system did a wonderful job of putting Sessengon where he needed to be.
Now, interestingly, we saw something similar against Wolves. They also played with a back five and doubled Salah at every opportunity – Salah was dispossessed 10 times in that one. Again, Liverpool struggled and only snatched a win at the death.
That came from Salah magic, of course, as he’s nearly impossible to keep quiet for long. The problem was that Wolves made that game difficult for him, while Spurs did the same with a similar system.
Liverpool need to fix this. They can’t have teams finding this as a weakness and a way to shut down the world’s best player. It’s worked twice already – teams will follow suit.