HomeFeatured ArticlesAnalysing The Liverpool Attack Without Mohamed Salah

Analysing The Liverpool Attack Without Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah’s Absence and Liverpool’s Attacking Options

Salah’s Injury and Uncertain Future in the African Cup of Nations

Mohamed Salah was always going to be unavailable for a period due to the African Cup of Nations. Although the length of time could now be longer due to an injury he has picked up at the tournament. His future involvement for Egypt is doubtful with fears he wouldn’t even be fit for the final if the Pharaohs did get there. BBC Sport reports that he has returned to Liverpool for treatment, but the national team hope he will rejoin the squad later in the tournament.

Photo: IMAGO

Liverpool’s Performance without Salah in the Premier League

The Premier League victory over Bournemouth showed Liverpool without their talisman in attack. Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz started for the Reds, while Cody Gakpo was introduced as a substitute in the second half. All four have been signed in recent seasons and they have each shown flashes of their quality at Anfield. However, none of them have managed to secure a permanent starting role alongside Salah in attack. Jurgen Klopp rotates the quartet, while Salah is nailed in the right wing position.

Emerging Stars from Salah’s Shadow

The next few weeks are an opportunity for one or two of the attackers to emerge from Salah’s shadows and show why they deserve to be regular starters. The weekend went well for Jota and Nunez, as the pair both bagged braces on the South Coast.

Analyzing Minutes Played and Attacking Output

Based on minutes played, it would seem that Nunez (1209) and Diaz (1225) are preferred to Jota (761) and Gakpo (839). However, this has been linked to injuries limiting the minutes of the latter two.

Goal Involvement and Efficiency

When you look at their output in front of goal, Jota does excel here, as he has contributed seven goals and two assists at a rate of a goal involvement every 84.6 minutes. The Portuguese international is deadly when he is on the pitch and it is understandable why he was in the starting eleven on Sunday.

Nunez’s Mixed Season

Nunez has had a mixed season in the final third. He has missed plenty of chances, but he continues to get into positions and never lets his head drop. The South American has contributed seven goals and six assists, showing his dual threat in the final third. His goal involvement is one every 93 minutes. It is less impressive than Jota’s, but the greater sample size does show Nunez’s consistency.

Diaz and Gakpo’s Contributions

Diaz and Gakpo have been less productive in the final third. The former averages a goal involvement every 306.25 minutes, while the latter averages one every 167.8 minutes. Taking these numbers on face value, it would be difficult to push forward a case for Diaz, but he does add balance to the left flank.

Deep Dive into Performance Metrics

Taking a deeper look into the performances of these four players shows a similar trend.

Expected goals (xG) Expected assisted goals (xAG)
Nunez 0.7 0.33
Jota 0.39 0.25
Gakpo 0.47 0.07
Diaz 0.29 0.12
Salah 0.74 0.44

The above shows the underlying metrics of the five attackers. Salah remains the standard bearer, as he is still performing as one of the best attackers in the world. Darwin Nunez is the only other Liverpool player who comes close, which underlines why Klopp is determined to stick with the Uruguayan, despite inconsistent finishing.

Jota’s Potential and Tactical Flexibility

Diogo Jota has never been a regular starter at Anfield, but he comes in as the next best in the expected data. Previously, he, Gakpo and Nunez have been seen as centre forwards, but the latter was used as a left winger on Sunday. This does create an opportunity for Klopp to field the pair alongside Mo Salah later in the season. Based on pure output, that could be the best front three for the Reds.

Conclusion: Assessing Liverpool’s Attacking Depth

At the weekend, it was Jota and Nunez who put their hands up in the absence of Salah. However, Diaz was key in the FA Cup win against Arsenal and he has had his moments.

In Liverpool’s last title-winning team, Klopp has a certified first-choice front three in Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. He no longer has that, but he arguably has more tactical options and strength in depth. Salah remains the most devastating attacker by some margin, but Jota and Nunez have the data to back up their increasing roles in the squad.

Stats taken from fbref (powered by Opta)

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