Mohamed Salah has quickly established himself as an all-time fan favorite at Anfield, carrying the baton passed on by players like Kenny Dalglish, Robbie Fowler, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez. Orthodox wingers aren’t usually associated with being goalscoring machines, but Salah has proved to be anything but orthodox – the Egyptian simply can’t stop scoring.
After 44 games in all competition this season, Salah had scored 40 goals and produced 11 assists. And given his performance against Premier League leaders Manchester City in their Champions League quarter-final – where Salah scored a decisive goal in each leg – the scoring streak looks set to continue until the end of the season.
In his first season at Liverpool, Salah has looked right at home, fitting into the club’s philosophy perfectly right from the very beginning and breaking several records along the way. Already he has scored the most goals by a Liverpool player in a debut season, beating Fernando Torres’s record of 33 goals during the 2007/08 season.
He has also scored the most goals in a season by a Liverpool player in the Premier League era, breaking the record set by Robbie Fowler who scored 36 goals in all competitions in the 1995/96 season.
Salah’s 40 goals in just 44 games sees him scoring at a rate of 0.9 goals per game, compared to Fowler’s 36 in 53 games at 0.68 goals per game. He could still break Ian Rush’s all-time record for most goals in a single season, which saw him hit the back of the net 47 times in 65 games in 1983/84.
Salah is not only prolific, he is also an unselfish creator. Working perfectly in Jürgen Klopp’s free flowing attacking trio, Salah links well with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, creating nine league assists and two more in other competitions. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry created a record in 2002/03 when he scored 24 goals and registered 20 assists, his 44 combined still the highest total in the Premier League era. Salah’s 30 league goals and nine assists at the time of writing meant he needed just five more goals and assists combined in Liverpool’s final four matches to beat Henry’s record.
In hindsight, Salah’s £36.9 million transfer fee from Roma was an absolute bargain. His summer transfer didn’t create too much fuss at the time with the deal concluded quietly and swiftly in the early stages of the transfer window. At the time, Roma needed to get the deal done in order to meet UEFA’s requirements on Financial Fair Play rules. Almost nobody envisaged Salah’ s debut season at Merseyside would be such a phenomenon, especially given his previous experience in England when he featured only 19 times for Chelsea and was deemed a failure.
Now Salah is spoken of as “a special player” by coach Klopp, while Gary Lineker called him a “clever little bugger” after the two ties against Man City. Club legend Steven Gerrard described his achievements as “exceptional.”
So just how has Klopp turned a winger who scored 19 times for Roma last season into a European Golden Boot candidate?
Football philosophy and team tactics have proven to be the key factor. Liverpool’s “gegenpressing”, or “counterpressing”, sits well with Salah’s game. The Egyptian is quick on the ball with natural goal-scoring instincts and prefers to cut-in to create shooting opportunities. Even though nobody likes to be compared with other players, comparisons this season with Lionel Messi are a tremendous compliment for the 25 year-old.
He also has great vision and incredible technique. In the first leg against Manchester City in the Champions League, his brilliant chip to Mane after waltzing into a very tight space in the box for the third goal was a perfect example of his attributes.
Surrounded by players like Firmino and Mane, Salah is never short of a goal-scoring opportunity. The attacking trio works exceptionally well in the system, while Salah’s little touch of magic makes him one of the more special players in the club’s great history.