Mohamed Salah scored twice in Liverpool’s 4-1 thrashing of West Ham on Saturday. Nick Wright was at the London Stadium to see the Egyptian continue his brilliant start to the season.
There were 21 minutes on the clock when Manuel Lanzini lined up a corner in front of Liverpool’s travelling fans at the London Stadium. West Ham had started reasonably well, restricting the visitors to a solitary half-chance and almost taking the lead themselves when Andre Ayew struck the outside of the post. But 13 seconds later they were behind.
It was the kind of West Ham defending Jamie Carragher described as “shambolic” after their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last weekend, but it was also another example of just how dangerous this Liverpool side can be on the counter-attack. According to Opta, they have now scored twice as many fast-break goals as any other Premier League side this season.
It was fitting, too, that the move started and finished with Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian has been outstanding since his £39m arrival from Roma in the summer and his opener – coolly slotted beyond Joe Hart after a lung-busting sprint from his own half – set the tone for another impressive display on Saturday evening.
With his precise finish for Liverpool’s fourth goal late in the second half, he took his tally for the season to 12 in 16 appearances in all competitions. Harry Kane is the only Premier League player to have scored more. It is only November and Salah is just two goals short of matching top scorer Philippe Coutinho’s tally for the whole of last season.
Salah has mostly been used on the right flank this season but on a chilly evening at the London Stadium, he lined up alongside Roberto Firmino up front as Jurgen Klopp switched to what he described as a fluid 4-4-2 formation. It was in keeping with his flying start to life at Liverpool that he adapted so easily.
“It’s really nice to have him in the team,” said Klopp in his post-match press conference. “He is a real goal threat. He is an offensive midfield player who is more of a striker, that’s true. He needed to adapt to the different style from Roma, where he often played as a second striker with Edin Dzeko, but today he had that position and obviously he liked it.”
His movement across the front line made life difficult for West Ham from the start, and when he wasn’t running at them himself, he was finding team-mates with clever flicks and angled passes. He even showed impressive strength, at one point holding off Aaron Cresswell in West Ham’s box before releasing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with a cute reverse pass.
Salah’s best moments, though, came in tandem with Sadio Mane. Klopp was largely reliant on the Senegalese international for pace and penetration last season, but Salah has eased that particular concern and made Liverpool even more threatening on the break. The pair have already struck up an impressive understanding, too, as they showed with their combination play for both of Salah’s goals.
Salah’s devastating form is a far cry from his previous stint in the Premier League with Chelsea, and it is little wonder he is already being talked up as the signing of the season. Liverpool acted swiftly to bring in Salah during the summer, clinching the deal in June, and the 25-year-old has clearly benefitted from a full pre-season to acclimatise.
Liverpool have scored four fast-break goals this season
“We watched him so often,” said Klopp. “The scouting department was really behind him and wanted to take him early so no one else could jump in. It was a decision of all of us. When you find a situation when everybody doing the job agrees about the player, then you can be sure it will work.”
Salah is already a firm favourite among the Liverpool fans who sang his name at the London Stadium, and the statistics underline the extent of his impact. As well as his seven Premier League goals and two assists, Salah ranks in the top three for shots, dribbles and touches in the opposition box.
It has all fallen into place quickly for the £39m man and Liverpool are feeling the benefits. With so much of the season still to play, the exciting thing for supporters is that he is only just getting started.