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25 goals, 14 assists…and 12 months left – What awaits Mohamed Salah?

Mo Salah‘s season became increasingly disappointing with injury after the Africa Cup of Nations, but does that mean the Liverpool legend is now expendable?

When the 2023/24 campaign got underway, much was made of the attacking riches at Jurgen Klopp‘s disposal, but Salah was still the gem in the final third.

But, as the 31-year-old embarked on his seventh year as a Liverpool player, what unfolded was his most underwhelming season yet at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah, 2023/24

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 14, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 34 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 10
Unused sub: 0
Goals: 25
Assists: 14
Overall Season Rating: 7.50

 

Strong numbers but patchy performances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 21, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 243rd Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For the first time in his Liverpool career, Salah failed to score on the opening day of the Premier League season, drawing a blank away to Chelsea.

There was an inch-perfect assist for Luis Diaz, however, outlining his underrated passing ability and relentless end product.

But we rarely saw Salah at his absolute vintage best throughout 2023/24, even if we do sometimes expect too much of him.

There were big moments, not least a derby double at home to Everton and a brilliantly taken strike against Arsenal at Anfield, but they were sporadic.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 30, 2023: Liverpool's captain Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the third goal from a penalty kick during the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 5 game between Liverpool FC and LASK at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was hard to shake the idea that away from the goals and assists – clearly a vital aspect of the game – Salah was below-par.

His all-round performances felt more patchy and forgettable than before. With loose touches and inconsistent decision-making, his decreased mobility made him a fading force.

Salah completed just 0.96 dribbles per 90 in the league, down from a high of 2.45 in his maiden season at Liverpool, which is telling.

There are potential excuses for his struggles, however, with Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s tweaked role often leaving Liverpool’s No. 11 too isolated on the right-hand side.

A new batch of midfielders to build on-pitch relationships with wasn’t easy, and the unpredictable nature of fellow attackers Diaz and Darwin Nunez makes them harder to link with.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 24, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected as Everton score their side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 244th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the end, Salah scored 25 goals and produced 14 assists in all competitions, with Nunez (31) the nearest to his combined tally of 38 – which is more than three of his previous six seasons.

That speaks volumes about the levels we expect from him, so any over-criticism of his performances does feel harsh.

By the time his 250th appearance in the league arrived at Wolves, Salah had racked up 155 goals in the competition – only Thierry Henry (175) has more under one manager.

He also broke into the top 10 of all time Premier League goalscorers, leapfrogging Michael Owen, Les Ferdinand, Teddy Sheringham and Robin van Persie, and closing in on Jermain Defoe and Robbie Fowler.

When you look at the numbers, this was a season that many attackers would be delighted with, but by Salah’s standards, you were left wanting more.

 

Never the same post-AFCON

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Monday, May 13, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks dejected as Aston Villa score a third goal during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Two years ago, as Liverpool battled for an unprecedented quadruple, it was noticeable the manner in which Salah dropped off after AFCON duty.

There were clear comparisons to draw again this time around, although it was mainly injury problems that got in the way.

A famously robust footballer who misses few matches, Liverpool largely had to make do without Salah for two months due to a hamstring tear – the worst injury of his career.

One lively cameo at Brentford aside – a goal and assist off the bench, naturally – he didn’t play between the start of January and the beginning of March, and was not the same upon his return.

His ability to beat a man out wide deserted him, his confidence waned, and most alarmingly, the goals dried up.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 27, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp and substitute Mohamed Salah exchange words during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Frustrations got the better of him, too, with his touchline spat with Klopp an unsavoury moment.

Salah’s only goal from open play in his final 11 appearances of the season came at home to Tottenham, and matches generally passed him by too often.

With Salah’s contract expiring in 2025, and some concerned about his recent form, Liverpool’s legendary Egyptian finds himself in the rare position of being doubted.

 

How will Slot use Salah?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For the past seven seasons, Salah’s standing as an indispensable figure for Liverpool has been undeniable, with few attackers in world football on his level.

There are question marks over his long-term role, though, not helped by his end-of-season form.

Salah keeps himself in incredible physical condition, but time waits for no footballer and it is hard to ignore that he turns 32 this summer and will be 33 when his current deal runs out.

He is now a different player to the one that used to run defences ragged, and one of Arne Slot‘s biggest challenges will be how to use him.

Though he is still quick, that electrifying pace has left him and there may have to be conversations about playing him centrally, turning him into more of a poacher.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-2. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

Liverpool can’t afford to be in a position where they are shifting Salah to the extent that it affects the system, though.

He has proved the doubters wrong in the past, and could simply need a rest before returning fresh in August, but that isn’t a given.

It appears as if Salah intends to stay, judging by his recent social media activity, but could Michael Edwards‘ head be turned by a monster offer from Saudi Arabia?

While this is the most expendable that Salah has felt, keeping him remains preferable, with few others capable of scoring and assisting at such a rate.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If he stays, a contract extension should be agreed soon – as losing him on a free transfer next summer would be negligent.

It does feel like we are nearing the post-peak Salah years, but that’s not to say he can’t continue to be a great asset and break further records.


Best moment: The ruthlessly taken goal at home to Arsenal.

Worst moment: The argument with Klopp at West Ham.

Role next season: Key starter.