Mohamed Salah’s change could give Takumi Minamino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain their chance at Liverpool


The well-known saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is often applied in football.Changing something that has worked so well on the pitch hardly makes sense for most teams, but maybe not for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.

A total of 196 points over the past two seasons is an extraordinary Premier League record and maintaining those levels will be a tough task in September.

Klopp was the first to point out how monumental his players’ effort has been to record so many points since August 2018.

But being able to stay at the top of the pile often requires transfers or tactical evolution.

While the former would be the most attractive proposition, it’s likely that Klopp will need to change his squad’s tactical makeup slightly in order to defend his Premier League crown.

Much has been said about the eventual arrival of Naby Keita in Liverpool midfielder to diversify the attacking threat with a more dynamic and forward-thinking style in midfield.

Considering how well the Guinea international has played after the lockout, it just might be, but a subtle change in the top three could be an intriguing decision.

Moving away from the top three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane has rarely been necessary in recent seasons. The trio have grown into one of the best offensive lines in world football and Liverpool’s success is due to their collective brilliance.

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Firmino’s unique role dictates that they are far from a traditional threesome, but there have already been signs that Klopp will be looking to change strategy next season.

A 4-2-3-1 formation has been used frequently as a side plan for the Reds over the past year or so, and Salah’s role as a center forward is perhaps the most profound change.

The Egyptian’s early days at Liverpool saw him thrive as a powerful counterattack threat with his electrifying speed. But their subsequent evolution into one of the best teams in Europe forces them to face teams happy to defend and prevent those breakaways.

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Using a 4-2-3-1 formation over the past two seasons has allowed Salah to play in more central roles where he is likely to score goals.

His prolific goalscoring record shows just how effective he can be in front of goal and it makes sense for him to play at center against teams that reduce the threat of his pace.

Playing this role more consistently might be seen as a pretty logical decision for Klopp, considering that Salah tends to have a large number of hits inside the penalty area as well as high shooting output. .

Since the start of the 2018/19 season, the 28-year-old has scored 41 league goals. His 261 shots and 453 hits in the opponent’s zone rank among the highest of any player and are starting to show how influential he is in key attacking areas.

In the graph below, we see how Salah’s open-play shooting output comes from areas closer to the goal than one would expect for a player who is sometimes referred to as a winger.

Mohamed Salah’s open play shots card during the 2019/20 season, championship only

What this tells us about his role under Klopp is that he is already playing in a manner similar to that expected in a 4-2-3-1 system.

Firmino’s tendency to pull defenders out of position often leaves room for Salah and Mane to attack from behind and the Egyptian influence in the penalty area is undeniable.

Transition to a central role may not be required on a permanent basis given the success of the 4-3-3 form. But it stands to reason that having a player as powerful as Salah capable of fulfilling this role is extremely valuable.

Any change to a center-forward position would leave a space to fill on the right, which may explain why Salah didn’t move inside more evenly.

However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s continued improvement after the lockdown suggests he could be the player who joins Liverpool’s powerful attacking line more regularly. Takumi Minamino’s versatility can also come in handy.

If Klopp is open to experimentation, Salah as a center forward could be a very effective move.

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