Mohamed Salah lucky to equal remarkable Premier League record for Liverpool
While Liverpool’s injury crisis undoubtedly hit their core defense most severely last season, its impact has been felt most strongly up front.
The Reds may have conceded nine more league goals in 2020/21 than in their winning campaign the year before, but the total they scored has dropped from 17 to 68, their smallest number in a season. complete under Jurgen Klopp.
Much of the problem was that they had periods of not grabbing their best opportunities when they presented themselves.
Liverpool missed 68 clear chances set by Opta, their worst total in any of the past five seasons and the fourth greatest of any Premier League side in that span.
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There are worse problems to be had. There have been 51 instances of top-flight teams having less than 68 in total over the past half-decade, not to mention having enough to be able to miss that many.
But a failure to convert high-quality chances has always proved costly to the Reds’ ambitions for the campaign and never more evident than in their two clashes with their next opponents, Newcastle United.
Liverpool had three clear chances at St James’ Park and missed them all in a goalless draw shortly after Christmas. The worst was coming to Anfield in April.
After taking the lead thanks to Mohamed Salah, the Reds missed four clear chances before Newcastle equalized in the 95e minute. It’s the most they failed to convert in a game they didn’t win throughout 2020/21.
Despite his goal in the home game, Liverpool’s worst offender against the Magpies was Salah. Again, this is partly a byproduct of the simple fact that he has sharper odds than almost any other player you care to mention.
Nonetheless, the Egyptian was guilty of two big misses at home and away against Newcastle, leaving just five more matches in all competitions in which he wasted at least two clear chances last season.
Salah has been in searing form with golden opportunities in 2021/22, pulling out 64% of them (when penalties are ruled out). That’s comfortably ahead of Sadio Mane (53%) and Diogo Jota (43%), the other two Reds with decent sized samples.
Even so, while Salah’s form is generally good – in all respects, to be honest – Liverpool have again been lavish with their clear chances recently.
They missed three in their wins against Everton and Aston Villa, and two in wins against Wolverhampton Wanderers and AC Milan.
As all four games have been won, you may be wondering where is the harm? But there will be times when the wasting of high-value opportunities turns out to be costly, as has sometimes been the case in 2020/21.
The good news, at least in the short term, is that Liverpool will likely have several clear chances when they host Newcastle at Anfield on Thursday night.
The Magpies have conceded 43 so far this season, the most of any Premier League side, and that has understandably been more of a problem on the road than in front of their own fans.
There have been 10 instances where a home side have had at least five clear chances in a Premier League game this season, and Newcastle are the only side to have been received three times (to Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Arsenal) .
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You can bet Salah can’t wait for the kick-off, as he has scored in his four league games against the Magpies at Anfield.
If he continues that trend on Thursday (or provides an assist), Salah will have scored a goal in 15 consecutive Premier League appearances, tying the competition record currently held by Jamie Vardy.
But for him to do so, Liverpool need to stop wasting their net chances, both in general and against Newcastle United.