The pair’s recent underperformance was exacerbated by a three-game winless run, leaving the Reds worried about the pursuit pack in the title race.
Liverpool’s run of matches heading into Christmas season was encouraging, especially as it came in the wake of their 7-0 annihilation from Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
This result in south London seemed significant as all of the forwards used by Jurgen Klopp contributed in one way or another against the Eagles.
Sadio Mane finally ended a nine-game drought in all competitions and created another, Roberto Firmino scored two in a league game for the first time since December 2019 and Mohamed Salah came off the bench to score two times and help 30 minutes after its replacement. the star of Senegal.
Even Takumi Minamino stepped into the act with his first Premier League strike for the club, while return Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain contributed to Salah’s second on this formidable afternoon.
The results against West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United and Southampton, however, put the defending champions in a position where they could drop to third place if Manchester City and Manchester United win their matches in hand.
In truth, perhaps Liverpool could consider themselves unlucky to come away with two out of nine points in the last three after beating The Albion for the first 45 minutes, missing a plethora of chances against Newcastle and arguably earning a point. Monday night on the scale. of game.
Mane opened the scoring against West Bromwich but hasn’t scored since, Salah was the main culprit in this scoreless St James’ Park encounter and both were to blame after missing Liverpool’s best openings in the 1- defeat 0 on the south coast.
Lonely, Klopp’s side weren’t terrible in the aforementioned winless race and deserved perhaps six points at least after dominating all three opponents in those games. The Premier League table, however, reflects a different reality.
Liverpool’s last two league campaigns have been largely characterized by outperformance at both ends of the pitch, but it was certainly very pronounced in the third striker. This was, overall, due to the contribution of Salah and Mane, whose consistency in front of goal was vital for the Reds to surpass their expected goals in 2018/19 and last season by 15.4 and 13.5. respectively.
The pair’s fleeting effectiveness in open play this season has seen a significant drop, with Liverpool’s xG of 33.1 not far from their total of 37. Liverpool’s expected goal difference for 90 of 0.77 is also lower to that of two years ago (1.15) and the campaign that won the title (0.83).
While the drop at the back can be attributed to the long-term absences of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, as well as the intermittent layoffs of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and Fabinho, the reduction in offensive production could be mainly due to the team’s general inability to score goals from scratch or reduce the chances of low percentage.
Mane’s failed 33rd-minute effort against his former team on Monday after receiving a first assist from Thiago Alcantara is a case in point. The striker was curiously allowed to play on his stronger foot, but the Senegalese returned the attempt far from the target.
While it wasn’t the worst chance to miss – and it certainly wasn’t West Africa’s most presentable opportunity last night – the effort was slightly similar to the opening it did. clinically dispatched in the corresponding match last season, a game Liverpool won 2- 1 after creating less obvious chances.
Such thin margins have contributed to Liverpool’s struggles this quarter, with Mane’s downfall symbolizing the Reds’ frustration with the attack.
The African Footballer of the Year has scored six times on xG of 7.6, currently the worst underperformance for Klopp players and in the league’s last 11, a group that includes Chelsea’s Timo Werner (ranked fourth in bottom), which has been heavily criticized for its scruffy finish. this season.
It’s certainly an anomaly for Mane, who scored 22 goals on the expected 16.1 goals when Liverpool narrowly missed the title and found the back of the net 18 times despite his xG of 13.8 when the winners of Champions League 2019 won the title after confinement.
Indeed, Klopp’s exponential shift in the highest ranking of Klopp players in the two seasons – while surpassing the entire division in 18/19 and being the seventh most effective finisher in the last quarter – in the rankings in the lower ranks. is shocking, to say the least.
Without a doubt, he’s the biggest worry for the club’s German boss, due to Salah’s outperformance this quarter placing him second in the entire league and ninth-most clinical finisher when penalties are ruled out.
Mane’s continued struggles mean Diogo Jota’s return cannot come soon enough, given the impact the Portugal international has had in front of goal since signing Wolverhampton Wanderers, although caution should be exercised in not rushing not the return of the 24-year-old.
However, Liverpool have to fend for themselves in the meantime, with hopes that their Senegalese star gets in shape and Salah’s influence increases with his title defense hitting a roadblock in the last few matches.
The Reds’ current scoreless run in the league is their longest scoreless streak since Klopp took the helm and the Senegalese star must return to previous levels of excellence to prevent the Merseyside club from relinquishing the title.