Former Egypt international Ahmed Hossam “Mido” believes Mohamed Salah is destined for another dream year with Liverpool, following his record-breaking campaign with the Reds last season.
After netting an unprecedented 32 Premier League goals on his debut season at Anfield, Salah picked up where he left off in the first game of the new campaign, opening the scoring for Liverpool in their 4-0 drubbing of West Ham on Sunday.
‘The Egyptian King’ scooped a host of awards last season and took the football world by storm. Ex-Spurs and Roma striker, Mido, is confident Salah will keep his form up this year.
“What a great job he’s done, he’s been unbelievable. He’s been determined, he’s been focused. And people question if he’s going to do the same season again, I think he will,” Mido said in an appearance on Sky Sports.
“Because he’s so focused. He’s got only one interest in his life and that’s football. He works hard every day, you can see that the way he played last game that he’s still determined and still hungry to score goals.”
Salah’s previous Premier League experience was an indifferent brief stint with Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in 2014 before he was loaned out to Fiorentina then Roma. He says he was determined to make a return to England’s top flight and show what he was really made of. Mido sees Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as the perfect man to work with Salah.
“He’s [Salah’s] scary. If I played against him I would be scared,” admits Mido.
“He’s just so quick, sharp, can score goals with different ways, different types of goals. And to be honest Jurgen Klopp was the best man for him because he could change the way he’s playing. Salah at Roma and at Chelsea and at Basel, he was a winger, he was a proper winger, playing on the flanks, getting balls one-to-one, quick, a line player.
“But Klopp has been very clever, he tucked him in a little bit, he put him a little bit into the pockets as a second striker from the right and he’s always got someone behind him who defends well for him. So Salah he doesn’t need to do a lot of work defensively. Okay he defends well, the counter-press, the press when they lose the ball, but he doesn’t have to track back as he used to do at Chelsea, and as he used to do at Roma, which makes him more fresh when he gets the ball. He’s just scary.”
A rumoured move to Real Madrid has been making the rounds since last season, leaving Liverpool fans terrified they might lose their star. But Mido sees Salah staying at the Merseyside club for several more years, and feels a move wouldn’t make much sense.
“People love him at Liverpool, he’s working with the manager he wants to work with, a manager that gives him confidence, he trusts him, he plays him the right way and I don’t see him leaving,” said the 35-year-old Mido, who has managed Egyptian sides Zamalek and Wadi Degla since he hung up his cleats, and is also a football commentator.
“If he didn’t leave this transfer window, he’s not going anywhere. I think he wants to stay at Liverpool. I’ve spoken to people around him, he’s very happy. He wants to stay at Liverpool as long as he can. Why would he want to leave?
“Okay Real Madrid is massive, Barcelona is massive, but Liverpool isn’t a small club, it’s a big, big club. To be there, to feel loved from the Liverpool people, I think that’s what every player is dreaming of. Why would you take the risk?
“I think it’s big risk. To go to a different country, a different experience, a lot of pressure, you never know if you’re going to do well or not. But at Liverpool he already established himself, established himself in England, so I really think that Salah wants to stay at Liverpool for another at least three or four years.”
The Gunners were outplayed in a 2-0 defeat at home to the champions will want a better result from the first London derby of the season.
Here are a couple of key tactics for Arsenal to look out for.
THREE MAN CENTRAL MIDFIELD
Unai Emery demands his team play out from the back but that landed them in hot water against Manchester City’s high-press. Chelsea are likely to exert similar pressure on their defence and that could see them struggle again.
A switch to a three-man central midfield could enable the Gunners to cope better with Lucas Torreira – who made an impact off the bench against City – coming into the fold. Matteo Guendouzi showed bravery in his attempts to receive possession in tight areas during his mixed debut but regularly lost the ball as well.
With an extra body in midfield to show for the ball in the build-up, the 19-year-old could get the support he needs. This system also allows Aaron Ramsey the freedom to join the attack from deep where his late runs forward can be far more effective.
PLAYING IT SAFE
Beginning his Arsenal reign with back-to-back defeats against top-six rivals won’t sit well with Emery. As a result, he may be tempted to play it safe and stick to a 4-2-3-1 system which features a double pivot in midfield.
Granit Xhaka was disappointing last week and Guendouzi could well be partnered by Torreira instead but their problems when playing out from the back may persist. However, the formation does offer them a more stable defensive structure, and away from home, that may be the priority.
It could also see Ramsey retain his number 10 role from where he can attempt to mark Jorginho out of the game off the ball while Mesut Ozil operates from the right side.
Maurizio Sarri’s side are fresh from their away victory over Huddersfield but Arsenal promises to be a greater test.
Here are a couple of key Chelsea tactics to look out for.
Eden Hazard came off the bench against Huddersfield and made an instant impact, driving at defenders and setting up the third goal. The Belgian is set to start against Arsenal and spells danger for the visitors.
Sarri instructs his wide forwards to cut inside and attack the half spaces, a ploy that’s right up Hazard’s alley. Alvaro Morata will prove less of a threat than Sergio Aguero so Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis may be comfortable with containing the Spaniard. However, it’s Hazard they will have to worry about.
Marcos Alonso can provide sufficient width on the left, encouraging Hazard to drift inside where he will have Ruben Loftus-Cheek to link up with and Morata to occupy the centre-backs.
KANTE’S ADVANCED ROLE
Fantasy Premier League managers flocked towards N’Golo Kante after his goal against Huddersfield but his strike was one of a player out of his element and for good reason.
The Frenchman doesn’t boast the instincts, finishing or timing of his runs to be a reputed goal-scoring midfielder – although he’s bound to improve in that regard. Instead, his advanced role has more to do with his ball-winning ability rather than his capacity to contribute to the goals for column.
Sarri employs a high-press and the World Cup winner is key to winning possession in the attacking third. Arsenal have shown a determination to play out from the back but have also faltered in doing so. Kante could make them pay for that extra fraction of a second spent dwelling on the ball.