What Would You Do? The Salah Debate
Liverpool is currently blessed with squad depth that fans have not seen on Merseyside for some time. Our team boasts some of the best in the world at their respective positions. But this season we have finally seen little to no change in the quality of our game when other members of the squad take the field.
Andy Robertson has taken a deserved rest from his exhausting sprints down the left flank each game by Klopp allowing Kostas Tsimikas to get a runout. Kostas has in return offered his own dynamic runs matched with plenty of assists and chances created. This is just one example of good cover while in recent games, chances at rest and recovery have been given to Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, and Mane, amongst others.
Virgil Van Dijk remains a mainstay in the starting 11 offering stability and power to the backline. While Virgil is offered little rest, he appears to barely need it. Calm as you like, Virgil appears to only require maximum effort in recovery sprints. And due to his superior positioning, support around him, and responsibilities of the center back position, it seems as though he generally doesn’t appear tired after even the most intense of games.
The Salah Discussion
Salah is still widely regarded as one of the best players in the world in his current form. He remains the squad’s most prolific goal scorer and will go down as one of the most immense players in Liverpool history. There is no small feat to sharing the title of King with Kenny Dalglish.
Salah has shown time and time again that he will come up with goals and big moments in any game. That leads me to believe that he should be starting every game when fit and available. He has to as he is my captain on my Fantasy Premier League team and it is too difficult to pick someone else when Salah isn’t available (ok, so that is more about me and 60% of fantasy players).
Arguments can be made that Salah requires a deserved rest as other players have seen. And for the first time, it can be afforded as the squad boasts new attacking options that provide very little difference to what was once just our famed front three. In Jota and Diaz we have created an atmosphere of fierce competition between five players that all could realistically be starting. But while the left-wing and central forward have seen all four other star forwards slot in, the right-wing seems to be made for Salah and not tampered with by any means necessary.
Are Results Suffering Because of This?
Salah has not been reaping the rewards of his play for a bit. The Egyptian hasn’t scored from open play since Liverpool played Norwich City on February 19th. Since then, Salah has played well. He’s scored three penalties and has been involved in much of the build-up down the right of Liverpool’s attack. However, Liverpool fans are so enamored by Salah’s near-faultless performances. So when his touch appears slightly off or he spurs chances that would be deemed clockwork in Salah’s past, it makes fans raise eyebrows.
Along with this tough patch, Salah also had to weather the storm of having the weight of his country on his shoulders. Egypt’s all-important World Cup qualifiers came to a bitter end against Mane and Senegal. While the brightest lights came from the laser pointers in the crowd, Salah still provided much of the creative spark for the Egyptian National Team. He ended up missing out on the World Cup finals to take place in Qatar later this year. That would take a toll on anyone emotionally let alone all the extra minutes on those legs. While the rest of the national team doesn’t maintain the heights of football’s greatest honors, Salah expects nothing less. And to fall short of qualification just after the defeat in the AFCON final, Salah appears tired physically and affected emotionally.
This is nothing to feel shame over. In the past, defeat has offered solace and time to recuperate in order to come back stronger. The ability to take a step back and refresh the body and mind is something to be cherished by all professionals. While Salah lives a focused and clean life off the football field, he requires less time than most but he is still human regardless of how we, supporters view him.
And of Course the Contract…
Also, factor in the extremely sensitive topic of a new contract for the legendary winger, and any player may feel the pressure reach a boiling point. Salah’s agent is making it any better… To play devil’s advocate, Salah is a one-of-a-kind player. That sort of player deserves a one-of-a-kind contact. But financially, it may be impossible for that to be the case when any future contracts from our star lineup can use this contract as a reference point. It is a bumpy road to maneuver for FSG.
Do Liverpool and Salah have the time though? April appears to be a make-or-break month in what can turn out to be an unprecedented season. Liverpool still has their hopes on a quadruple that would put this team in the conversation as the greatest to grace the field. On all fronts, Liverpool has important games, none more important than this Sunday’s mammoth fixture against Manchester City at the Etihad.
Salah could use a break. Any player would in the extreme nature of games Liverpool plays. Liverpool’s schedule makes it hard to point out where that break could realistically come. He is so important to every success Liverpool has had in recent years. And while we are fighting for glory across each competition, it appears as though he will continue to be a mainstay in the starting eleven. But does he need it? Well, we will see what Klopp thinks about that.