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The numbers typifying Salah’s Premier League drought

08:44 GMT 19/04/2022
Mohamed Salah
Liverpool’s star forward has not found the back of the net in three league games, with his last strike from open play coming two months back

Liverpool do battle with Manchester United on Tuesday night knowing full well a victory sends them top of the Premier League, for 24 hours at least, until Manchester City’s encounter with giant-killing Brighton & Hove Albion.

Jurgen Klopp’s troops are favourites to extend their 19-point lead over the visitors from Manchester with the chasm in the league table tipped to show at Anfield.

The antecedent in this fixture favours the Reds who have claimed three victories and played out a goalless encounter in the last four meetings between the clubs, with the Merseyside outfit outscoring the Red Devils 11-2.

Mohamed Salah has netted five of the Anfield outfit's goals, accounting for 45 percent of Liverpool’s goals against United. This includes a stunning Old Trafford hat-trick in the reverse fixture in which Klopp’s men annihilated the hosts 5-0.

That treble saw the Egypt superstar become the first visiting player since Ronaldo (with Real Madrid in 2003) to hit three goals at the Theatre of Dreams and only the second player in Liverpool’s history to achieve the feat.

In normal circumstances, the league’s top scorer ought to be looking forward to Tuesday’s game against Ralph Rangnick’s Jekyll and Hyde side who have conceded 10 times in their last five. However, a goalscoring drop-off has left many observers wondering what has happened to the walking talking scoring statistic from the first half of the campaign.

The 29-year-old has not scored from open play in exactly two months since Alisson Becker’s brilliant assist saw the Egyptian edge his side ahead of Norwich City, a game Liverpool won 3-1.

While the league’s top scorer has netted three times since that strike in February, all have been from the spot as the ex-Chelsea man's struggles concern fans and observers.

In recent scoreless encounters against Arsenal, Watford and City, Salah has failed to hit any of his shots on target despite seven attempts per Fbref. Interestingly, a closer look at those efforts show these have not been high-quality chances, with respective Expected Goals of 0.2, 0.1 and 0 against the aforementioned opponents.

Contrast this with the previous three games against Leeds United, West Ham United and Brighton where the frontman’s non-penalty xG was 0.8, 0.8 and 0.6 respectively.

This highlights a decrease in clear-cut openings for the forward whose low-percentage efforts have understandably not produced the desired results in the final third.

The fact Salah has been involved in four shot-creating actions altogether in this ongoing spell indicates a broader lack of involvement for a player who totalled 15 SCAs in the three games hitherto.

Unsurprisingly, observers have put this down to perhaps mental fatigue from twice losing out to Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final and the World Cup playoffs, the wide attacker is not alien to these sorts of droughts.

Salah’s one goal in nine run in 2018/19 included a six-match run without finding the back of the net, there was a three-game and four-game spell without scoring the following season, while last term saw the Liverpool forward endure two extended spells without finding the back of the net — a six-game run from late December to late January and a five-match spell from mid-February to mid-March.

The aforementioned dearth of goals did not prevent the Egypt international from scoring bucketloads of goals, so this current run, while drawing loads of attention, pales in comparison to droughts in preceding campaigns.

Indeed, Liverpool’s array of match winners means Klopp is unlikely to be burned by his top forward’s ongoing run. Having said that, the Reds need him back on the scoring trail sooner rather than later as the season’s denouement approaches and they compete on multiple fronts at home and in Europe.