Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 3-0 on Saturday evening with Mohamed Salah stealing the show.
Liverpool’s magical front three are all phenomenal footballers in their own right and the beauty of that for Liverpool is they can afford for one or even two of them to be perhaps off-colour and there’s always a chance that one of them will just explode and carry the side to glory. Rationing out the genius is what allowed Liverpool to amass the mammoth total of 97 points last season.
Well, so far this season we’ve seen Sadio Mané emerge as the hero in the UEFA Super Cup with two goals. Although he was ably assisted that day by Roberto Firmino who came off the bench to turn the tide of the match and create both of Mané’s goals. Then last week against Southampton it was Mané again who was the star of the show, scoring and then setting up Firmino.
So that’s two of Liverpool’s forwards that had shone, Mané moreso. Salah meanwhile had cut a dangerous but frustrated figure. The Egyptian was full of pace and movement but his finishing had looked off. He bagged a goal against Norwich, but that’s Norwich. He ran and ran, then ran some more; but he couldn’t impact the scoresheet even against the wide-open Chelsea defence.
But today against Arsenal he looked bright from the off, fizzing into 1v1’s and making those kind of darting runs that exhaust opponents trying to mark him. One second you think you’ve got a handle on him and then you turn around and he’s 10 yards away from you bearing down on goal and it takes a desperate lunge from a team-mate to stop him scoring.
Sticking primarily to the right-flank, Salah targeted the space in and around Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard is a solid defender but lacks the mobility he used to have and thus – with Arsenal’s diamond shape offering oodles of space out wide for any attacker who fancied it – Salah had almost free reign to dominate the Spaniard.
20-year-old Joe Willock was the midfielder on that side and he could do little to help. For some reason Unai Emery opted to keep Lucas Torreira on the bench and as a result there was no one to protect Monreal. Perhaps Emery gambled on being able to dominate the ball with that diamond, and at least sit on Roberto Firmino to prevent him from orchestrating things as he often does.
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The thing is, Liverpool can bypass the oppositions midfield entirely using their full-backs to both switch play, ripping the diamond apart at the seams as well as powering the ball down the line. This kind of passing unleashes forwards like Salah and the Egyptian really did make the difference.
It all started with a penalty where Salah ran in behind and David Luiz, in a vain attempt to stop his progress, just tugged at his shirt to try and pull him back. The referee pointed to the spot and up stepped Salah.
Penalties may seem easy but as Manchester United have shown they can be quite tricky. You have to step up and be decisive and Salah, after watching Mané and Firmino play the hero, took that penalty like his life depended on it. Strolling up to it and absolutely leathering the ball into the top corner. Arsenal could have had two goalkeepers and that would have still gone in.
Salah could have left it there, but remember he’s playing catchup with Mané and Firmino. So what does he do? Oh goodness what did he do? Receiving the pass just inside the Arsenal half facing the touchline Salah nudged the ball around David Luiz and sped away from the Brazilian looking like Road Runner leaving Wile E. Coyote in the dust. No one at Arsenal could cope with Salah’s speed as he drove into the box and calmly slid the ball into the far corner of the net. An absolute stonking great golazo.
That goal all but sealed the win, so that Lucas Torreira’s scruffy late effort was mere consolation. Salah had a few more half-chances for a hat-trick but he was already the hero and everyone knew it. Two goals, one an unreal finish and the other a superhuman piece of skill. When the final whistle blew, Liverpool had now won 12 Premier League games in a row.
This sets a new club record and has everyone at the club looking forward to Old Trafford on 19th October when, if Liverpool keep on winning they would pick up their 18th win in a row, equalling the record set by Manchester City. And would you bet against them right now? Sure their defence is not as strong and every team is creating remarkably good chances against them even with minimal possession, but that attack? With Magical Mohamed Salah playing like this? You would be a fool to bet against Liverpool rocking up to Old Trafford ready to equal Manchester City yet again.