Article by Sam McGuire @
Mohamed Salah’s performance against Watford was described as magical. Some even went as far as saying it was the showing of the season. The Wizard in the Blizzard was involved in all five goals on the day, with the 25-year-old scoring four and laying on the other for Roberto Firmino.
The scariest part of it is the fact it’s been coming for quite some time.
There have been countless matches throughout the season which have finished with fans suggesting Salah could have hit three or four goals. However, instead of it being viewed as a positive, his profligacy in front of goal was a concern. The belief was that one of these days it was going to come back to haunt Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The former Roma man isn’t clinical by any stretch of the imagination. He relies on volume. For many players this would be a problem but Salah’s increased the number of shots he’s having this season and it’s why his goal tally continues to climb.
When in the Italian capital last season he was averaging 2.88 shots per 90 minutes. Since his move to Merseyside that number has swelled to 4.34. His conversion rate when in Serie A was 18 per cent meaning roughly he’d was scoring one goal every five shots – a goal every other game based on his average of shots taken per game.
His conversion rate in red is 24 percent, or one goal every four shots. This is important because he’s having over that amount per 90 and that’s why he’s averaging roughly a goal per game. He’s featured in 2424 minutes of Premier League action which equates to just shy of 27 full 90 minute matches. It explains why Salah’s form has been sustainable.
What is often overlooked is how good he is at getting into high quality goalscoring positions. It’s often ignored and taken for granted. But the Liverpool No.11 is an elite chance-getter. It’s not by chance that Salah finds himself with a tap in for his fourth on Saturday. It’s not luck that he was following in Roberto Firmino’s lofted effort against Watford on matchday one to tap home an easy chance.
Being in the right place at the right time is a craft that very few have been able to master.
He’s regularly finding himself in high value goalscoring areas of the pitch. The green circles in the picture above, taken from understat.com, are the goals he’s scored this season. You can see a majority of his efforts have come from inside the penalty area. The bigger the circle is the higher the chance of scoring.
When looking at the graphic it’s easy to understand why his xG90 (expected goals per 90) for the season is 0.78 – the fifth-highest in the Premier League. However, what’s special about Salah, and perhaps what separates him from others, is the fact he’s also scoring low quality chances. It’s a dangerous combination. After the four goals on Saturday his goals per game ratio now stands at 1.03, 0.25 above his xG. Not bad for a player often criticised for his wastefulness when in the penalty area.
However, it’s all about perception. Salah makes the goals he scores look easy. He makes the chances he misses look easy, too. It’s why it’s infuriating as a fan to watch him miss what is considered to be a sitter but when looking at the bigger picture, it’s only a sitter because of Salah’s movement. Very few other players get into the positions he finds himself in.
Back to the match against Javi Gracia’s men. He finished the game with an xG score of 1.1 – just the 2.9 shy of what he actually managed in the game. For those unfamiliar with the stat it basically gives a number to all of the chances a player has had during the match meaning against Watford, Salah’s chances were worth, on average, 1.1 goals. He outperformed his xG and has done for the majority of the season.
It was his fifth-highest of the campaign behind matches against Watford and Huddersfield Town (in both games he finished with an xG of 1.16), Arsenal during the 4-0 win (1.61) and in the 2-1 win over Leicester City (2.08). For a player who regularly outperforms their xG, the four goal haul has been coming.
For even more evidence to back up the theory that Salah is one of the best chance-getters in world football, the £39million summer signing accounts for 34 per cent of a rampant Liverpool’s xG in the Premier League. Lionel Messi accounts for 26 per cent of Barcelona’s and Cristiano Ronaldo is responsible for 44 per cent of Real Madrid’s xG in La Liga. The world’s best aren’t ruthless in the penalty area but they don’t have to be because it’s all about the frequency of chances.
Need more evidence to believe he’s one of the best in the world? Salah is the most reliable attacker in the Premier League. He’s scored in 20 matches in the English top flight. Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero have both notched in 14 matches. Furthermore, in three of the matches Salah didn’t manage to find the back of the net he did grab an assist meaning he’s been involved in a goal in 85 per cent of the league matches he’s appeared in.
The last person to be this dominant for the Reds was Luis Suarez. The controversial Uruguayan bagged 31 goals in 37 appearances during the 2013/14 season with Brendan Rodgers’ men pushing Manchester City all the way in the club’s only real title push since the inception of the Premier League. He was involved in a goal in 25 of his 33 Premier League appearances.
This was Suarez’s final season with the club playing in an attack built around him. Salah should still be finding his feet. There’s no reason he shouldn’t even be better next season, especially with Naby Keita playing behind him. The Egyptian forward is one of the best in world football right now and all the underlying numbers point to him improving. The goal glut against Watford is destined to be the first of many in red.
Article by Sam McGuire @
For more Redmen TV content including podcasts, subscriber exclusives and three new shows every week subscribe now and get your first month for FREE bit.ly/RMTVjoin