By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106
“For him to prove again another 41 goal season – everybody would struggle. If you score 10 goals in the first five games of course everybody will say it’s going to happen again, but if you get 39 goals then people will say but it wasn’t 41. We all have to learn to deal with that and he does as well, that’s how it is.”
Jurgen Klopp’s made it clear that the expectations on Mo Salah aren’t to hit the same heights as last year.
The Egyptians hat-trick against Bournemouth were a timely reminder of the 26-year-old’s match-winning talents. Klopp knows that as Liverpool’s style is evolves, it’s a squad game more than ever.
Rewind to last season and it wasn’t solely a one-man show that reds were watching. Whilst Salah did register an incredible 44 goals and 16 assists, his two partners in-crime proved as important.
Roberto Firmino (27 goals and 17 assists) and Sadio Mané (20 goals and nine assists) ensured that Liverpool’s front three proved more than a handful than any side they met. Manchester City documentary’s aside, any team that came up against Liverpool had to come up with a plan to thwart our ‘front three’. Stop them and the game was essentially yours.
Tellingly, Coutinho finished fourth top scorer with 12 despite completing only half the campaign at Anfield. Of the other players available to Klopp during the season, Emre Can contributed six goals, whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in fifth place with five. That’s despite a slow introduction and missing part of the campaign though a serious injury.
Klopp knew that to ask the ‘front three’ to repeat the feats of last campaign would be a heck of an ask and unlikely if his side was to evolve. For all the correct focus on an improved defence, the spread of goal scorers has proved as important.
This campaign and quite predictably, Salah does top the charts with twelve already, whilst Mané sits second on seven and Firmino third on six. Importantly though is what comes after that. James Milner already has five to his name, Daniel Sturridge four and Xherdan Shaqiri three.
A dramatic defensive improvement may well mean that less goals are needed, but it’s important that an outright reliance on three players doesn’t materialise like it did last campaign. The fact Origi, Wijnaldum and Alexander-Arnold have come up with big goals at crucial times will have been as pleasing.
The expectation can’t be for the ‘front three’ to hit the same numbers, but it will be for them to lead the way. Teams that win trophies have goals throughout their side and the Reds will be looking for others who’ve been mentioned to move towards double figures and further.
All the talk around the evolution of Klopp’s side has been about defensive solidity and building on that. Squad goals is a key piece in the puzzle too.