Mohamed Salah back to best at right time for Liverpool
Background image: Rept0n1x, CC BY-SA 3.0
It’s fair to say that Liverpool has been the biggest surprise package in the Premier League this season. Yes, after last term’s success in Europe and fourth-place league finish, much was expected of Jurgen Klopp’s men this time around. Yet, not many would have thought the Reds would be having their best season ever in the league at this stage. They remain unbeaten after 16 games, topping the table with 42 points. Although achieving this has been more a result of team performance than anything, one man's contribution stands out above the rest - Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian was by far Liverpool’s and the league’s best player last term. Accolades such as the PFA Player of the Year award and nominations for the European and FIFA Best Player as well as Ballon d’Or awards followed. All eyes were now on him to see if he could replicate the feat yet again. He has not disappointed.
Finding the back of the net in his very first league game of the campaign made his intentions known from the onset. Although things have sometimes been slow as the season has progressed, they have recently picked up the pace as he has refused to wear the tag of a one-season wonder. The 26-year-old couldn’t have chosen a better time to put his best foot forward as Liverpool ran riot against Bournemouth last Saturday.
On a day when Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City failed to rise up to the occasion against Chelsea as the reigning champions succumbed to a first league defeat of the season, Liverpool put four past Eddie Howe’s side without response. Salah grabbed his first hat-trick of the campaign to the delight of his manager.
The win put the Merseysiders in commanding position as the best side in the league. On an individual level, Salah’s goals also put him joint top with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the goalscoring charts. Each now has 10 strikes to his name for the season.
After netting just twice in five Champions League matches as Liverpool struggled to qualify from a tough group, he was on hand to deliver the goods on Tuesday. The Anfield side needed just a 1-0 win to make it into the round of 16 in the competition. As has become the case all too often, the Egyptian stood up to be counted as he scored the only goal of the match to secure progress.
The goal brings his total for the campaign to 13. He has now scored 35 in his last 38 appearances at Anfield with 34 in all competitions in 2018 alone. That puts him in a position to break Robbie Fowler’s club record of 37 in a calendar year set in 1996.
At a time when title rivals Man City are struggling with injury problems as London rivals Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal lag behind with six and eight points respectively, Salah couldn’t have picked a better time to perform.
Before the loss to Chelsea, City looked infallible. But that defeat has suddenly exposed the side’s weaknesses and infused other teams with confidence to take the fight to Guardiola’s men. It remains to be seen how they will react moving forward. But what is undeniable is the fact that the advantage is now Liverpool’s. And Mo Salah is the key man to ensure the Reds take full advantage of the situation to bring the first title of the Premier League era to Anfield.