Mohamed Salah Reality
Given the form that he is in – selling Mohamed Salah this summer should be nowhere near the agenda for Liverpool. If anything, a contract extension may be in due order – Salah takes care of his body and he’s the kind of athlete who can stay at the top of his game for many years to come – well in to his thirties.
But that doesn’t mean Liverpool shouldn’t think about the future. Salah won’t be around forever. Nothing can ever beat the ravages of time. Sooner or later – it will catch up with him.
This summer is an opportunity for Liverpool to be proactive. The club should be looking at an heir who can slowly transition into Salah’s throne on the right-wing. Someone young and hungry.
The Perfect Candidate
In the last few years, Salah’s role has changed at Liverpool. During his first few years, he was more of a pure finisher – whose role was to get inside the box as much as possible. But over the last couple of seasons, his role has become more fluid. And he’s turned into more of a creator as well.
To demonstrate, this season he is averaging 0.49 non-penalty xG – which is the lowest out of his first three seasons at the club. However, he is also averaging 0.44 xA per 90 – which is by far the highest he has averaged in a season – the previous best was 0.26.
In the Premier League, Salah has so far created the most big chances (17) by a significant margin – Trent Alexander-Arnold ranks second with five less (12). He also has the joint most assists (8).
By a lot of metrics Salah’s become more of a creator than a goal-scorer. And that is only natural when he is now playing with the likes of Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, and Cody Gakpo – who are very adept at arriving inside the box and getting on the end of chances.
With that in mind, unlike a few years ago when the ideal Salah candidate would have had to have been a pure goal-scorer – if Liverpool want to replace the Egyptian in his current form – creativity now could be a far more important factor.
Who Fits the Profile?
In terms of the names that keep propping up for Liverpool – Michael Olise is probably the most promising one. He’s been on the club’s radar from his Reading days, and he’s got proven Premier League experience. Reportedly, he is available for just £60m – with a release clause in his contract – which is a bargain considering what other Premier League proven attackers of his age have gone for in recent years.
On top of that, Olise has the creative profile which could make him a worthy successor to Salah’s throne.
The 22-year-old is a creative force in the Crystal Palace team. So far this season he has created the most chances (20) in the Premier League for Roy Hodgson’s side – despite only starting seven games due to injury. Last season, he registered 11 assists in the Premier League – only Salah (12), Leandro Trossard (13) and Kevin de Bruyne (18) finished the campaign with more.
He only has one assist this season in the Premier League. However, his underlying numbers suggest he should have more. As per FBref, he ranks in the 94th percentile among his positional peers for xA averaging 0.36 per 90. That’s just 0.08 less than Mohamed Salah – and the fact that Olise is posting these numbers in a side who are not exactly a major force going forward is hugely impressive.
Olise’s Goal Threat
Comparing Olise’s goal-scoring numbers this season will come with many caveats. Salah’s output is naturally going to be a lot higher considering he plays for the team who have scored the second most goals (43) and created the second most big chances (66) in the league.
In comparison, only the two bottom teams in the division Burnley (21) and Sheffield United (15) have scored fewer goals (22) than Palace.
So the fact that Olise has been involved in 6 of those 22 goals, which is in nearly 30% of Palace’s total output despite playing only 37.5% of the available minutes, is hugely impressive.
On top of that, despite Palace’s lack of goal-scoring prowess, Olise’s 0.66 goals per 90 this season in the league is only 0.06 away from Salah’s 0.72. It does come with the caveat that Olise’s sample size this season is very small, but it’s still an impressive return. And hint of the potential numbers he could produce if he was playing in a more offensive team like Liverpool.
There’s also another facet to Olise’s goal threat that Liverpool will find appealing. Like Salah, he is left-footed and his trademark is to cut in from the right onto his stronger foot and take shots in and around the opposition’s penalty area- in typical Salah fashion.
If we take a look at his shot-map from Wyscout, you can see most of his shots come from the same sort of area you expect Salah to be taking shots from at Liverpool. He’s clearly used to getting into these positions, which could make his transition to Liverpool a lot smoother.
Why Signing Him Now Makes Sense
Unlike some of the other players being linked to succeed Salah at Liverpool – Olise has the advantage of being versatile. Most of the other targets, like Johan Bakayoko have only predominantly played on the wing.
But Olise has plenty of experience playing in midfield and in central areas as well. This makes him an ideal candidate because it means that while Salah is still at the club, he won’t be forced to sit on the bench and stagnate his development.
His profile is not just suited for Liverpool’s right flank, but Olise could also play part of the midfield three – as he has done for Reading and Palace in the past. He has the creative numbers, the vision and the defensive work-rate to be more than capable of playing that role.
That’s why he is the perfect Mohamed Salah replacement for Liverpool this summer.