Criticism of Salah Has Gone Predictably Overboard

Criticism of Salah Has Gone Predictably Overboard

There was a moment during Liverpool’s ugly, nerve-wracking 2-1 win over Fulham on Sunday that epitomised Mo Salah.

As Scott Parker’s Championship-heading side launched a dangerous counter-attack in the second half, with players flooding forward, one individual bust a gut more than anyone: Salah.

Liverpool’s No.11 raced back to help out his team, playing his part in them eventually clearing the danger and preventing what looked like a potential goal at one point.

It was one gigantic middle finger to the naysayers currently laying into Salah too harshly, accusing him of playing for himself and pretending he is offering nothing in this fascinating Premier League title race.

Of course, it would be wrong to absolve Salah of any criticism for his recent showings, as he continues to suffer from comfortably his longest goal drought as a Liverpool player.

It is now seven matches and counting and there are clear concerns that such a goal-hungry footballer is starting to show signs of desperation.

Salah’s limp late finish at Craven Cottage, which would have killed the game off, was one of a player suffering from a crisis of confidence in front of goal.

This desperation should not be confused with greediness, however, as some have in recent times, most noticeably the usually excellent Jamie Carragher.

He is a team player through and through, as his lung-busting run back into defence at Craven Cottage showed.

There is no doubting that the 26-year-old’s performances have been frustratingly inconsistent in 2019 – the displays away to Everton and Man United were particularly disappointing – but he still offering so much.

Many are going with the narrative that Salah is in the middle of a constant run of poor performances, when in fact he has been superb in two of his last five appearances.

The Egyptian was bordering on unstoppable at times in the home wins against Watford and Burnley, playing with all the arrogance, pace and unpredictability of last season.

He made a strong case for being Man of the Match on both occasions, but he didn’t score, nor did he register an assist, which instantly worked against him.

That led to the lazy among us simply assuming he hadn’t offered much – even more so if you hadn’t watched the game – much in the way some will only ever judge a team’s performance by the result.

It is possible to play well and lose, and play badly and win, just as it is for a striker to shine and not to score, or have a stinker and bag a hat-trick.

In another of that aforementioned quintet of recent games, away to Bayern Munich, Salah was again worth his weight in gold despite never hitting top gear.

His pace and movement terrified a creaking Bayern defence all night and his magical outside-of-the-foot cross allowed man-0f-the-moment Sadio Mane to head home late on.

Perhaps we just expect too much from Salah now, following one of the greatest individual seasons ever produced by a Liverpool player.

Having almost reached Lionel Messi-esque levels in 2017/18, his drop-off is being treated as some kind of disaster, when in fact his numbers suggest something entirely different.

This ‘poor’ season that Salah is encountering sees him second only to Sergio Aguero in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot award, and level with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Harry Kane and Mane.

He has chipped in with a total of 20 goals in all competitions, and eight assists and he has more opening goals (9) this season than any top-flight player, outlining his ability to contribute at key times.

Without his input, Liverpool’s title challenge would have fizzled out a long time ago and he has managed to shine both as a centre forward and a wide man this season.

Sure, the form he has produced in recent months has not always been good enough – how costly could his two glaring misses at Goodison Park be, come May? – but he is still a major influence.

Let’s not forget that Salah will be picked out as Liverpool’s main threat by opposition managers on a weekly basis, with two at least players often surrounding him during matches.

That has allowed others the space to shine, most notably the fabulous Mane, which is something conveniently going unmentioned in some sections of the media.

You have to wonder why Kane is not being targeted, considering Tottenham have got just one point from four league games since his return from injury.

It couldn’t surely be because he is the England captain, could it?

Salah is an intense character who will be fully aware about his recent lack of goals and the negativity coming his way, but his immense strength of character means it will only spur him on.

He is going to have a huge amount to say in the title race in Liverpool’s remaining seven matches and he just needs that one goal to notch 50 in the Premier League for the Reds and get that monkey off his back.

Once that happens, he will start finding the net with freakish regularity again, as well as continuing to do all of the other good things on show of late.

This current malaise is no crisis at all – it’s nothing more than hyperbole, during a period when Salah has occasionally fallen short of the required standard.