One goal in seven games: Why Salah's slump is concerning for Klopp, Liverpool and Man City

10:04 EAT 09/04/2022
Mo Salah form Graphic
The Egyptian is struggling going into Sunday's massive Premier League showdown at the Etihad but the best players never stay quiet for long

It’s hard to say who will be most concerned by Mohamed Salah’s recent dip in form.

Liverpool, who head into the biggest game of their season with a star man who has managed only one goal – a penalty – in his last seven matches?

Manchester City, who must surely fear a backlash from a player who has made them suffer plenty of times in the past?

Or perhaps Salah himself, who has chosen perhaps the worst possible time to show that he is, in fact, human after all?

When your standards are as high as the Egyptian’s are, anything that falls short can feel like a big thing. A run of 660 minutes without a goal from open play, then, qualifies almost as a full-blown crisis.

Jurgen Klopp says he has no worries, but Salah’s frustration has been there for all to see in recent weeks.  

It was certainly there on Tuesday night, when he was substituted after just 61 minutes of Liverpool’s Champions League win over Benfica. 

Klopp’s decision may have been made with one eye on Sunday’s Premier League blockbuster at the Etihad (he insisted afterwards that it hadn’t) but Salah’s performance in Lisbon made it an easier call than usual in any case.

An eyebrow or two was raised in Klopp’s post-match press conference when he suggested that Salah’s form may have been affected by “all the stories” surrounding the 29-year-old.

“It’s clear that Mo wants to score,” Klopp added, “especially in this moment.”

What could he have meant? And what did Salah mean when he told Sky Sports that "there are many things that people don't know" about his contractual situation?

Are there serious issues there? And if so, can they be resolved?

Sources insist there have been no developments on that front despite reports last week suggesting Salah was ready to drop his wage demands and pen a four-year deal. 

There remains, on both sides, a belief that a compromise will eventually be found, but for now we can expect the speculation to continue.

It is unlikely, to say the least, that Salah will be dropped for Liverpool’s visit to Manchester City, but even the fact that one national newspaper ran a piece on its website this week debating the idea is telling. 

Salah has not completed 90 minutes in the Premier League since February 23, and his last 16 games for club and country have yielded only five goals – three of which came from the penalty spot.

A foot injury, picked up during the win at Brighton last month, hasn’t helped matters, and there was also the disappointment of Egypt’s elimination at the hands of Senegal in the World Cup play-off. 

Salah, who missed a penalty in the decisive shootout in Dakar, is said to have taken the defeat personally, though in typical fashion, he was back at Liverpool’s training ground less than 12 hours later, ready to get back to work for his club.

That determination and professionalism is, in Klopp’s eyes at least, Salah’s greatest asset, and it is that which will ensure that this mini-slump remains exactly that and nothing more.

“It’s a tough period,” the Reds boss said in Lisbon, “but everything will be fine.”

Sunday may well be the ideal fixture in which to show that.

Victory at the Etihad would send Liverpool top of the Premier League and, with seven weeks of the campaign remaining, would fuel belief that an unprecedented ‘quadruple’ really might be possible for Klopp and his side.

Salah’s record against City is excellent: he has scored seven times against Pep Guardiola’s side, including four in his last five appearances.

Who could forget that mesmeric, slaloming effort when the sides drew 2-2 at Anfield back in October?

The goalscoring form of Diogo Jota, and the way that Luis Diaz has settled in seamlessly since his January move from Porto, means Klopp has greater attacking options than ever before.

However, it would be a shock if Liverpool’s starting line-up did not include both Salah and Sadio Mane, and plenty would opt for Roberto Firmino as the third forward too, although the Brazilian was noticeably absent from the training pictures released by the club on Friday.

Salah was there, of course, complete with a beaming smile. If the pressure is getting to him, he’s hiding it well enough.

He’d love a goal and a big performance this weekend, mind, and if he wants a little inspiration he need look back only three years, to April 2019, when an eight-game scoreless run was ended with a memorable strike away at Southampton.

A repeat on Sunday? You wouldn’t bet against it. The best never stay quiet for too long, after all.

Liverpool need Salah at his loudest at the Etihad. If he is, the title is theirs for the taking.