The Liverpool players looked quite elated after their 2-0 win over Arsenal at the FA Cup third round last Sunday. Mostly, it was because of the fact that they had beaten a top team like Arsenal away. And secondly, it was also because they had done that without Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, their two most influential players.
Salah’s absence will be difficult for Liverpool to deal with:
However, this is something that the Reds will have to keep doing for the next one month at least, with the Egyptian forward doing national duty for his country at the African Confederations Cup. He might not be available till the second week of February should Egypt be able to advance to the latter stages of the tournament.
Now, Salah is undoubtedly Liverpool’s most potent attacking weapon, who has 14 goals and eight assists this season already. He is the right winger in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 and also plays as a centre-forward occasionally if his team switches to a 4-4-2 during a match.
Jurgen Klopp started Harvey Elliott as the right winger in the match against the Gunners, but the young English midfielder looked out of depth in a more advanced position. Liverpool’s problem is that most of their forwards prefer playing on the left.
None of Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez, therefore, can be an automatic replacement for Salah, although Diaz scored a fine goal through the inside-right channel against Arsenal. However, he still did finish with his right foot and would be more comfortable doing that preferably through the inside-left channel.
In such a scenario, Klopp might have to depend on Jota to fill in for Salah for the time being. Another option for him is to shift to a 4-4-2, with Nunez and Jota upfront and Diaz and Dominic Szoboszlai playing as the left and right-sided midfielders, respectively.
Klopp could also try playing Szoboszlai as a right winger, as the young Hungarian midfielder has often looked comfortable venturing forward. Hence, it will be interesting to see the German manager’s approach in Liverpool’s next few matches.
In addition to that, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s recent injury will increase Klopp’s woes, as he is already dealing with left-back Andrew Robertson’s absence. Alexander-Arnold provides a new dimension to their attack with his brilliant right foot.
Liverpool will like to maintain the difference with Manchester City:
The Reds are at the top of the league table with 45 points from 20 matches, with Aston Villa three points adrift of them. However, Klopp should be more worried about Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who have 40 points from 19 matches.
The Cityzens, who welcomed back Kevin de Bruyne in their last match, will be strengthened by the Belgian maestro’s inclusion and will definitely want to catch up with Liverpool as soon as possible. Hence, Liverpool cannot afford to drop too many points in their four league matches in the next month or so.
Their upcoming opponents during the aforementioned period include Arsenal and Chelsea, neither of whom are experiencing the best of forms at the moment. Still, those two big clubs might spring in a surprise any moment and Liverpool could end up being on the receiving end. Hence, the Reds will have to guard against any such reversal in Salah’s absence.