Will Salah & Mane offer more in Liverpool’s Manchester United re-run?
Alarm bells already ringing got even louder after Thursday’s loss vs Burnley, leaving the Reds somewhat desperate before playing the Red Devils again
Who does Jurgen Klopp turn to now after new unwanted records tumbled following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Burnley at Anfield on Thursday night?
A goalless stalemate against Manchester United on Merseyside on Sunday will have been accepted had they found a way to beat the Clarets at their fortress a few days later. Instead, what happened shook the entire league and surprised observers who believed the Reds will finally end their winless run against the relegation-threatened side.
Sean Dyche masterminded Burnley’s first win in Liverpool since 1974, as Klopp’s team lost their first game at Anfield in 1369 days. The last side that walked away with three points in the Premier League were Crystal Palace in April 2017, and no side had managed to get the better of the German’s Mentality Monsters in 68 games.
Since Sadio Mane’s opener against West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool have failed to hit the back of the net. Four games on the trot mean this side have equalled an unwelcome record set by Gerard Houllier’s team in May 2000. Nobody will have seen this happening…not this season, at least.
As Mane yet again toiled for 90 minutes and Mohamed Salah fail to inspire the home side off the bench, their own personal droughts continued. The Senegal star was the last Liverpool player to score in the league having opened the scoring in that home draw against The Albion in late December and has been frustrated since.
The sight of Africa’s best player blazing his 64th-minute attempt high, wide and not so handsome after Salah’s pass underlined his recent struggles.
The Egypt star, surprisingly left out from the XI by Klopp, had failed to tuck away his own chance four minutes earlier following a brilliant lung-busting Georginio Wijnaldum run—expertly thwarted by the impressive Nick Pope in the visitors’ goal.
According to StatsBomb data, the Reds have accumulated expected goals of 7.7 without winning in their last five, scoring only once in that time.
In their four fixtures without any luck in front of goal, their xG of 6.1 suggests they’ve created chances but are being let down by poor finishing.
Salah was culpable against Newcastle United, while Mane bore the brunt of the criticism after missing the defending champions’ best chances against old side Southampton.
Neither really played well enough to sniff chances against a resolute Manchester United team on Sunday but missed presentable opportunities on Thursday night—the sort they’d have tucked away last season or two years ago.
Egypt’s talisman has now had xG of 1.6 since scoring that brace in Liverpool’s 7-0 annihilation of Palace, greater than Mane’s whose expected goals of 0.5 in the last four matches pales in comparison.
Their struggles in front of goal have been analysed recently, where it was established that the former Saints star’s alarming drop off was disturbing and unexpected.
Tried to analyse Mane and Salah’s effectiveness in front of goal so far this season.
While the latter is faring reasonably well, the Senegal star’s shocking underperformance sums up Liverpool’s struggles in attack. Piece on @GoalAfrica.https://t.co/pwhYg4oYlP
— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) January 8, 2021
Feast has definitely turned to famine for the club’s principal frontmen and Klopp badly needs them to rediscover their shooting boots.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss’s selection seemed to have an eye on their FA Cup encounter vs the Red Devils at Old Trafford this weekend, the second meeting between both clubs in a week.
Despite the non-stop run of games in a testing season, the manager’s starters prompted some raised eyebrows as the more pressing need for three points to keep pace with the unrelenting sides from Manchester, far outweighed a cup competition Klopp hasn’t particularly taken seriously in his time as Reds boss since 2015 anyway.
It was Divock Origi’s first league start of the season and the striker’s rustiness probably told when he somehow contrived to hit the bar after a Ben Mee error put him eyeball to eyeball with Pope for what resembled an eternity. To be honest, that chance should have been tucked away, rustiness or otherwise, which only magnifies the need to secure a result at the Theatre of Dreams.
It remains to be seen if the Liverpool trainer picks misfiring Mane and Salah from the off against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, especially after unwittingly heaping added pressure on this game due to his poor judgement against the Clarets, which ultimately ended in defeat.
Both players didn’t exactly pull up trees at Anfield less than a week ago, with the Senegalese expertly silenced by the impassable Aaron Wan-Bissaka, while Salah huffed and puffed with little success. Interestingly, players from the two sides felt they deserved the win on the day, but United looked to fashion out the more memorable ones, with Alisson Becker stopping Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba after half-time.
The Liverpool pair can find encouragement in the fact United have somehow found it challenging to beat supposedly top sides in any competition this season despite their unforeseen ascent into title contention. Still, you get the feeling they’ll smell blood going into the meeting vs an unrecognisable Reds side that can’t buy a goal at the moment.
Who does Klopp turn to now? Unless Mane and Salah retrieve their shooting boots in Manchester, the mounting pressure will get even more intense. It’s about time they came up trumps, too, with the Reds in need of someone to desperately bell the cat.