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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

What's up with Mohamed Salah this season? Not a lot if you look at the Liverpool star's stats

The Egyptian is now overcoming suggestions he could be a one-season wonder

The problem with sportsmen setting astronomically high standards is that the moment they slip below that level, they become better known for their apparent failure rather than their prior achievements.

Take Liverpool's Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah. It's a big ask for him to repeat his 43-goal feat of last season, but the critics have jumped on his minor spell of goal-less activity in the opening months of the new campaign. The 26-year-old has gone from record breaker to one-season wonder.

But has Salah's start to this season been that bad? Or do we expect his previous scoring streaks to be the norm going forwards in an era when Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have shown the way for goalscoring longevity.

Certainly, Salah failed to cover himself in glory during Liverpool's first half a dozen fixtures this season. A closer look at the statistics however reveal that his numbers are now very close to where he was at this time last year.

In the past week, he has scored the winning goal against Huddersfield in the Premier League, two goals in the Champions League against Red Star and another in the league in the 4-1 demolition of Cardiff City on Saturday.

These came on the back of a four-match goal-less streak - the longest of his Liverpool career - though he has reached his half-century quicker than any other player in Liverpool history after just 65 appearances for the Reds, and now has 22 in his last 19 matches at Anfield.

Fourteen matches into the season, Salah has seven goals to his name - five in the Premier League and two in the Champions League.

At this point last season, he had nine in total - five in the Premier League and four in the Champions League, so the league golden boot winner shouldn't be written off just yet.

Ramon Penas / The National
Ramon Penas / The National

Meanwhile, suggestions that his radar is malfunctioning also appear wide of the mark. Yes, he has missed some chances in recent weeks which a player of his high standards would expect to score. However, his shooting accuracy in the league is at 43 per cent compared to 47 per cent across the 2017/18 season. A marginal drop.

Another statistic worth looking at is what the Premier League classes as "big missed chances". Salah had 23 of these in 36 appearances last season - that's 0.64 per game. This time around he is averaging 0.6 per game having missed six from 10 matches.

Furthermore, Salah is averaging more passes per match - 28.70 compared to 26.28 last season, and his average of "big chances created" is at 0.4 per match compared to 0.33 last season, plus he's contributed three assists in the opening 10 league fixtures compared to 10 in the league across last season. So, it's not like he's gone missing on the pitch.

Part of Salah's perceived loss of form could be attributed to his demeanour. The smile has often been replaced by a sullen expression, while goals have been welcomed without wild celebration.

But put into context, there has been no crisis. He has scored as many goals as Ronaldo has for Juventus this season, and the same number as Tottenham's ever-prolific Harry Kane.

Having played for Egypt at the World Cup in the summer, Salah isn't alone in taking some time to find his best form. Kane has also had questions asked about his sharpness, though like Salah, he is still finding the net.

The mighty haven't fallen just yet. The one-season wonder tag can be put to bed, for now.

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Read more:

Possession is nine tenths Liverpool's as Mohamed Salah plays role of scorer and creator in Cardiff destruction

Mo Salah wins Fifa Puskas Award for best goal - but was it really better than Ronaldo and Bale's overhead kicks?

Will Mohamed Salah be a one-season wonder?