FEATURE: How Liverpool’s new signings effect Salah
Despite their impressive revival season in 2017-18 in which they reached the Champions League final, Liverpool were not content with where they were and they spent the summer with a fruitful transfer window that saw Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and Alisson Becker join the club. In this piece, we will be looking at how these signings will effect Liverpool’s Egyptian star Mohamed Salah over the course of the season.
Out of all of Liverpool’s summer signings, the standout outfield player is Guinea international Naby Keita who arrived at the club having agreed a deal to move from RB Leipzig last summer. Keita’s role on the pitch is an attack minded box to box midfielder who generally plays on the left hand side of a midfield three, similar to the role that Iniesta has made his own in the last ten years.
Naturally, Keita’s profile will add a lot of creativity to Liverpool’s midfield which had previously been comprised of generally more industrious, hardworking players such as Henderson, Can and Wijnaldum. Keita is one of, if not the best playmaker that Africa has to offer and his inclusion in Liverpool’s lineup will only mean that more chances will fall Salah’s way. A big source of Salah’s goals last season were from crosses from the left wing by Robertson or Mane, and in the early games this season Keita has shown great chemistry to play both of these players in which will also indirectly help Salah receive more chances.
In the 2016-17 season, AS Monaco shocked the footballing world to beat Paris Saint Germain to the Ligue 1 title and reach the Champions League semi finals, knocking out Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the process. While the headlines were dominated by star names such as Kylian Mbappe, Radamel Falcao, Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva, a crucial part of that team was in the centre of midfield which was spearheaded by Fabinho. Several fans and pundits in recent years have agreed that Liverpool have been crying out for a defensive midfielder and Fabinho seems to be the answer to those wishes.
While he has not started a game yet this season, Fabinho is expected to play at the base of a midfield three between Milner and Keita. As he is far more defensive minded than Liverpool’s other midfielders, this should allow for Milner and Keita to get forward more and support the attack, offering more creativity for Salah to work with. Fabinho may also slot in between the centre backs in possession which will give the full backs, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, freedom to bomb forward and put their signature crosses into the box for the Egyptian.
The Swiss winger has had an interesting career despite his relatively young age, picking up experience across Europe with the likes of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Basel before his move to England at the comparatively lower profile setting of Stoke City. Despite his Albanian/Kosovar roots, Shaqiri is also a familiar face to anyone who has watched recent international touranments having performed well for Switzerland at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups as well as the 2016 European Championships.
While Shaqiri has not been brought in to be a starter and, as they are the same position, is unlikely to play much alongside Salah, he will still have a direct effect on the Egyptian. Shaqiri’s inclusion means that for the first time in a long time Liverpool have depth in that area, and will now be more able to give Salah a rest every now and then when necessary especially as he has shown some signs of fatigue recently. As Shaqiri is also a quality player in his own right, his presence may also push Salah to work harder to maintain his place in the starting lineup and stop him from getting complacent.
Since Pepe Reina’s decline at the turn of the decade, one of Liverpool’s consistently weakest positions has been goalkeeper. This became particularly evident during the recent Champions League final against Real Madrid in which Loris Karius produced two howlers in a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid, in what was an otherwise very evenly contested match. Over the summer, Liverpool addressed this by making Roma and Brazil’s Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper of all time (a record since broken by Chelsea signing Kepa) after his phenomenal 2017-18 season.
While he is also a great shot stopper, Alisson is particularly well known for being incredibly competent with his feet – something which can not be said for Karius and Mignolet. This should allow Liverpool to maintain better control of possession, as they will now effectively have 11 outfield players in possession of the ball rather than losing the ball tmost times it goes to the goalkeeper’s feet, and This will benefit Salah as it should mean that Liverpool’s moves will be more calculated and methodical, rather than having to feed off scraps and loose balls. Furthermore, Alisson was Salah’s teammate at Roma during the 2016-17 season and so having a familiar face around Liverpool will only help both players to feel more settled and comfortable at the club.
Out of all of Liverpool’s summer signings, so far it has been Naby Keita who has made the most clear and visual impact on Salah in the early parts of this season however all four of them will make a difference in their own individual and potentially indirect way.
One thing is for certain, and that is that Liverpool’s squad looks stronger as a whole as a result of these players joining.
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