When Sadio Mané walked down the tunnel at Molineux, Liverpool lost arguably their player of the year. They lacked a spark in the final third and there were fears that they could fight without their No.10 within the coming weeks.
Had the match finished 1-1, few would have argued that it was an undeserved outcome.
With Liverpool in a struggle for all 3 points from Nuno Espírito Santo’s guys, every touch was being micro analysed. Mohamed Salah just happened to be at his bothersome worst on the evening. He had six shots during the 84 minutes he was on the pitch, that equated to 46 percent of the visitors’ attempts, but reach the target with two of those. His anticipated goal participation was 0.45, with only 0.04 coming from anticipated assists.
He had chances to play team-mates but opted to go alone. Many fans at the time described him as greedy and overly selfish. It’s an accusation that was levelled at him on numerous occasions this term.
His performance, combined with Liverpool’s lack of cohesion in assault, was a major talking point heading into the match with West Ham United. The Reds dropped points in the London Stadium last season and though their lead was much greater this time around, there was a great deal of football to be played.
And he did not disappoint.
The Egyptian looked a different player from the one fans had seen away to Wolves six days before. But his screen was much sharper. He had been the creator-in-chief for the Reds, playing with two important moves and getting help with an inch-perfect threaded ball into Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s path.
The prior Roma guy had a hand in everything great Liverpool did in the last third. When the Reds wanted somebody to step up and shoulder a little more of the attacking weight, Salah came to the fore.
He is now just three supporting Jamie Vardy from the race for the Golden Boot. He failed to bring an assist but provided three important moves since the leaders romped to a 4-0 win at Anfield.
In his last two games, the curly-haired assassin has scored three goals, aided once and played with five important passes. Granted, the sample size is not the biggest, but Salah’s inherent numbers have shot up in Mané’s absence.
His season average before the West Ham match was 0.77 anticipated goal involvements per 90. His average for the past two games is 1.12. However, it is not only in the goals section that Salah has improved.
He is averaging slightly fewer moves (a 90) but more in the last third. His pass precision is up, also, as is the proportion of passes he performs. The Liverpool No.11 is demonstrating why less is sometimes more. He is averaging a similar number of moves (46) but he is a lot more incisive and innovative when in possession.
Salah is also trying more dribbles and finishing a greater percentage. He has been the Reds’ creative hub. He is scoring more, making more and is more effective in everything he does. So much so, Mané has not been missed whatsoever.
Again. In this kind of form, you would not bet against him claiming a third consecutive Golden Boot.