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Talking Tactics

Why AFC Bournemouth must fear resurgent Salah

Adrian Clarke 7 Mar 2023

Adrian Clarke analyses how the Liverpool star is returning to his best form

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who could be decisive in Matchweek 27.

Mohamed Salah (LIV)

Remarkably, in Liverpool’s incredible 9-0 victory against AFC Bournemouth earlier this season, Salah failed to claim a goal or assist, despite featuring for the full 90 minutes.

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Ahead of the return encounter this Saturday, he will feel very confident of putting that right.

Salah became Liverpool’s record Premier League goalscorer with his brace in their astonishing 7-0 rout of Manchester United last Sunday.

And across the last five top-flight matches, no one in the division has made more direct goal contributions than the Egyptian.

He is the league’s most in-form player, which could be bad news for a Cherries side who are bound to approach this rematch with a degree of trepidation.

Salah's form since 10 Feb
  Total PL rank
Goals/assists 7 1st
Goals 4 =1st
Assists 3 1st
Shots inside box (inc. blocks) 12 =3rd
Touches in opp. box 32 =3rd
Chance created-ending carries 5 3rd

Salah’s season tally of 11 goals is down on the rate of his previous campaigns, but his performance levels in recent matches have been excellent.

He scored in the Merseyside derby, produced a sublime assist pass for Cody Gakpo in a 2-0 win at Newcastle United, and scored at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers too.

Last time out against Man Utd, Salah was borderline unplayable, scoring twice and producing as many assists.

Erik ten Hag’s side also fouled him six times in that match, a sign of the hold he had over the visiting defenders.

Salah vs Man Utd
Salah v Man Utd: Green pentagons show the fouls Salah won; yellow squares show his key passes/assists; red/blue circles show his shots

AFC Bournemouth may feel they were unlucky to have lost 3-2 in the last minute against Arsenal last time out, but defensively, they were never comfortable.

The Gunners enjoyed 80.1 per cent of possession, producing wave after wave of attacks on Neto's goal.

By the final whistle, Arsenal had racked up a total of 31 shots, a record for them in all competitions under Mikel Arteta.

Left wing-back Jordan Zemura and left-sided defender Marco Senesi were given a particularly tough examination.

As shown in the graphic below, most of Arsenal's shots came from areas to the right of the penalty spot.

Arsenal's shots v AFC Bournemouth
Shots faced by AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal

This is just the kind of territory that Salah thrives in best, so AFC Bournemouth must work hard to close down his space when Liverpool get within shooting range.

With Darwin Nunez, Gakpo, Roberto Firmino and Salah all among the goals against Man Utd, Gary O’Neil’s side are sure to be tested right across their defensive third in this encounter.

Salah, who missed out the last time he faced them, is the one they are likely to fear most.

If he maintains his current form, it will be hard for the Cherries to contain him second time around.

Also in this series

Part 1: Can Lokonga withstand pressure from Man City midfield?
Part 3: Can Guimaraes get the edge over Neves?
Part 4: Why Solomon is Fulham's biggest threat to Arsenal

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