Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 17.
By his own lofty standards, Salah had a slow start to this season, but 12 goals and two assists across his last 14 appearances in all competitions suggest Liverpool’s talisman is back in form.
Liverpool resume Premier League action at Aston Villa on Boxing Day, hoping to respond after a 3-2 League Cup exit against Manchester City on Thursday.
Salah scored his 15th goal of the campaign in that match and will undoubtedly be the man Villa fear most.
Early on in 2022/23, Salah involuntarily played the role of Liverpool’s chief creator.
Operating a little wider than usual, either in Jurgen Klopp’s preferred 4-3-3 formation or on the wing in a 4-4-2, the Egyptian failed to join in as a second centre-forward often enough.
This led to him enjoying fewer clear-cut opportunities, but he still contributed by making a string of key passes.
Remarkably, Salah laid on 24 opportunities for team-mates within the opening six matches, averaging four per 90 minutes.
Across his next eight outings, he created just five chances in total, at 0.6 per match.
Reverting to a striker's role in Liverpool’s 4-4-2, or tucking in narrower in a 4-3-3, Salah has switched his focus to scoring.
He has only improved his conversion rate marginally (12.1 per cent in last eight appearances from 11.8 per cent in his first six), but in key moments, Salah has looked increasingly relaxed in his finishing.
Stroking home confident one touch efforts or remaining calm in 1v1s, Salah’s penalty-box prowess has returned.
Finding a way to stop Salah is not easy because he can turn matches with a moment of magic.
From open play, Kevin De Bruyne is the only individual to lay on more chances than Salah, who is better known for applying the finishing touch.
I would suggest Harry Kane is the only other top-class Premier League goal-getter that also serves up regular chances for others.
|Kevin De Bruyne||32||3|
A number of Salah’s recent strikes have stemmed from marauding runs down the centre.
His goal at Man City in midweek arose from a rapid counter-attack led by Darwin Nunez, with Salah outfoxing his marker to find space inside the area following a long sprint.
Salah also scored against City in the league from a long Alisson clearance, racing through in a 1v1 to beat Ederson.
A goal you'll enjoy watching on repeat 🤩— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 17, 2022
Here's every angle of Mo Salah's magnificent winner against Man City, presented by @Sonos 📹 pic.twitter.com/QerOQh8gwz
And from a central striker’s position, Salah also latched on to Eric Dier’s tame header to score in a 2-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur.
Villa cannot afford to let Salah sprint beyond the last man down the middle of the pitch.
To combat this, Villa’s defence will likely set up in a low block to deny space for Salah and Nunez’s runs, but whenever the hosts have possession, they will be vulnerable.
As soon as the ball is lost, Liverpool will seek to hurt Villa and Salah will be waiting to pounce.
Part 1: Why Kulusevski is key to Spurs' top four ambitions
Part 2: Gibbs-White can make the difference against Man Utd
Part 4: Rodri can bring calm to chaos at Leeds