In a £36.9m record transfer fee Mohamed Salah became the most expensive player in Liverpool’s history.
With Sadio Mané voted as the best player in Liverpool by both his teammates and fans, experts’ eyebrows were raised by the signing of Egyptian star Mohamed Salah, who occupies the same position on the football field.
In an interview with talkSPORT, Liverpool legend Dietmar Hamann said, "There are three or four positions that still need addressing and I would have rather seen them addressed before another winger came in." The former Mannschaft international continued, “As much as I'm excited to have him, I'm also a bit cautious. That position is also probably the strongest part of Liverpool's team.”
Last season, Liverpool offered some helter-skelter entertainment upfront with their deadly trio in attack, holding the best head-to-head record among the top six teams in the English Premier League.
Unlike the team’s front row, the holes in defense were never covered, with the backline repeatedly exposed in overwhelmingly poor performances. Fans were expecting a couple of new defensive signings to form a coherent team able to compete for the title next season and play the Champions League football the club has been yearning for.
Just as he finished the season, coach Jurgen Klopp started his summer vacation by paying Salah a call urging him to join the Reds, while assuring him a starting spot in Liverpool’s plan next season.
The call left Salah torn between staying in the Capital of Italy and leading the Romans after the club’s historic captain Francesco Totti and coach Luciano Spalletti left, or moving on to play under one of the best coaches in Europe: Jurgen Klopp.
Eventually, the 24 year-old chose to step out of the club where he shone the brightest. He moved to the Anfield stadium and left Roma, where he had become a fan favorite in the span of only two seasons, now joining a team with a fully oiled machine upfront.
After featuring only 13 times in his spell for Chelsea, Salah clearly has some unfinished business to deal with in England. The Egyptian Hero is keen to show that he’s got what it takes to play in the most watched football league worldwide.
On his newest signing, Klopp said, “He’s a fantastic player with speed. We said after last season that we would try to add things to an already really good squad. One of those things is speed. He brings that -as well as being able to provide and finish. He brings all that.”
Despite the fact that Salah will add another dimension to Liverpool with his blistering pace, the talismanic influence of the winger is to be found in his key passes. Salah has grown to become a selfless attacker with Roma, creating 134 chances for his teammates -more than any other Roma player in the past two seasons. But the question remains: how will Klopp deploy the Egyptian wing wizard in his formation?
With a wealth of attacking talent, it is widely expected that Klopp will have a twist in his formation this season, changing it from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, allowing his four jewels a starting spot.
Assumptions are growing that Mane will maintain his flank, converting Salah to a traditional left winger attempting crosses to players in the box. But the figures at whoscored.com do not endorse that option. With only 16 successful crosses in his last campaign in Italy, turning into a classic winger clearly won’t be Salah’s most lethal weapon.
Another scenario can be Salah playing as a second striker behind Firminio, with both Mane and Coutinho reigning in their flanks. This is a position Salah dazzled audiences with next to Edin Dzeko last season, forming a historic partnership of 44-goals in Serie A, with no duo achieving these numbers for Roma in the last 80 years.
Replacing Firminio as a false 9 won’t be Salah’s first experiment in that position. Playing as an unorthodox striker, switching positions with the flankers during the game is a strategy tested before by his former coach Spalletti.
There is always the chance of him playing in his favorite position as an inverted winger, showing his explosive acceleration, spotting gaps he can rush into in order to play himself and his team into space. Klopp might even decide to stick to his 4-3-3 formation after all; with all the fixtures in his schedule, he might need to use three of his four stars in each game accordingly, providing each of them get enough rest.
Liverpool’s last friendly game with Wigan Athletic showed Salah might start the season warming the bench, as he will need time to adapt to the style of play in England. Wherever he will be positioned, the Egyptian spectators are expecting another devastating season from their playmaker, nothing short from what he did in Italy. With his darting passes and his curling finishes, will the speedster become the name on just about everyone’s lips at Liverpool?