Skip to content

Mohamed Salah injury: Liverpool could miss his creativity as much as his goals

Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez won plaudits for their finishing against Bournemouth but Liverpool lose more than goals without Mohamed Salah; injured 31-year-old set to miss Premier League games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Burnley and potentially others

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Watch Liverpool's Mohamed Salah's assists in the Premier League this season

Liverpool's 4-0 win over Bournemouth, three days after Mohamed Salah had torn his hamstring at the Africa Cup of Nations, eased concerns over how his absence might impact Jurgen Klopp's team. 

Even without their talisman, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez showed Liverpool boast formidable firepower, two goals each taking them to seven apiece in the Premier League this season.

The Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Fulham, three days after that, saw another forward get on the scoresheet as Luiz Diaz's early strike helped Liverpool clinch a place in the final.

Their contributions were timely. Even more so given Salah's injury has proved worse than first feared. But the Egyptian's absence still looms large. The underlying numbers show why.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

The Football Show panel look at the Liverpool games Mohamed Salah could miss following his hamstring injury and explain why losing his creativity could be a problem for Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool's total of 1.57 expected goals at the Vitality Stadium actually fell well below their season average of 2.21. For context, they created far better chances in last month's goalless draw with Manchester United at Anfield (2.38 xG).

There was of course less pressure to create against Fulham after Diaz's strike gave them the comfort of a two-goal aggregate lead. But it is still worth noting they totalled only 0.78 expected goals.

None of it mattered in the end, of course, thanks to Jota and Nunez's ruthless finishing against Bournemouth and the Diaz shot that squirmed past Bernd Leno at Craven Cottage.

Also See:

But with Premier League games against Chelsea and Arsenal to come, Liverpool's overperformance related to expected goals demands caution when assessing their prospects without Salah.

The Egyptian is the Premier League's joint-top scorer with 14 goals this season but, just as significantly, he also ranks top for assists, with eight. It is that ability to create chances, rather than finish them off, which Liverpool could miss most.


Salah has been a major force in that sense throughout his time at Liverpool, reaching double figures for assists in four out of six full seasons in the Premier League since his arrival from Roma in 2017.

But he has taken his creative output to new levels this season. His total of 46 open-play chances created is in fact the highest in the division. He also ranks top for big chances created.

Salah has created, on average, 2.38 open-play chances per 90 minutes this season, a far higher rate of productivity than in his previous six campaigns, when he averaged 1.72 per 90 minutes.

The difference is even more stark in terms of big chances created, with Salah creating 0.88 per 90 minutes this season, twice his rate of 0.43 per 90 minutes in previous years.

The fact that Salah comes out on top for expected assists from open play, in addition to big chances created, highlights the quality, as well as the quantity, of opportunities he is creating.

The numbers show Salah's capacity to continue improving his game. At 31, he is arguably in the form of his career. But his improvement also makes his absence more of a headache for Klopp.

Liverpool can take encouragement from their recent record without him. They have won nine of the last 10 Premier League fixtures Salah hasn't started over the last three seasons.

But the game against Bournemouth was the first he has missed in the current campaign and therefore the first he has missed since the dramatic increase in his creativity.

Mohamed Salah graphic

It will be a challenge to mitigate the loss of it.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's return from injury will help - his unrivalled threat from corners and free-kicks is of course a major weapon - and so too will that of Andrew Robertson, whose overlapping runs on the opposite flank can be so fruitful.

But neither of those players has demonstrated a capacity to match Salah's recent numbers from open play.

Salah's open-play chance creation rate is nearly 50 per cent higher than Alexander-Arnold's this season. Robertson's average of 1.25 open-play chances created per 90 minutes is only fractionally higher than that of their deputising left-back Joe Gomez.

One possibility is that a dip in creativity can be mitigated by more clinical finishing, as transpired in the game against Bournemouth, after which Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher described Diogo Jota as the best Liverpool finisher in Premier League history.

But is that sustainable? In Jota's case it might be. The Portugal international is a player with a record of outperforming his expected goals, scoring 38 times in the Premier League from an expected total of 32.49 over the course of his time at Liverpool.

But Nunez is yet to deliver with anything like the same level of consistency. In fact, his total of only 16 Premier League goals from an expected total of 21.42 makes him statistically one of the Premier League's wasteful finishers over the last two seasons.

The Uruguayan scored twice from only three shots against Bournemouth. Typically, though, he is a player who needs a lot of chances to find the net. Indeed, having attempted 145 shots in total in the Premier League, his success rate is roughly one in nine.

This becomes more problematic when considering the role Salah usually plays in providing his ammunition. In the Premier League this season, the Egyptian has teed up 20 of Nunez's 61 shots, so roughly a third. Making up that shortfall will not be straightforward.

One positive is that Klopp and his coaching staff have had time to plan for Salah's absence. Egypt qualified for AFCON last June. Salah's involvement at the tournament was never in doubt.

But in the intervening months, as he has ramped up his creativity, Liverpool's reliance on him has inevitably grown. It did not matter against Bournemouth. It did not matter against Fulham either.

But Salah's absence may yet take a toll.

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Correctly predict six scorelines to win £250,000 for free with Super 6. Entries by 3pm Saturday.

Around Sky