Mohamed Salah AFCON absence will test Liverpool title credentials

Liverpool sit on top of the Premier League table heading into the New Year, but they might suffer in the absence of Mohamed Salah.

Liverpool have made an impressive start to the Premier League campaign, with Mohamed Salah leading the way. But very few would have expected them to compete with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City for the league title this season.

Despite an impressive first half of the season, Liverpool will have to get rid of their weaknesses in order to sustain their form and go all the way in the Premier League this season. The Merseyside outfit must look to plug the gaps in their squad during the January transfer window and bring in quality players to paper over the cracks.

A major weakness for Liverpool this season has been their over-reliance on Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian international has been outstanding since joining the Merseyside club, and he has carried Liverpool’s attack all by himself once again this season.

The 31-year-old has 12 goals and seven assists to his name across 19 Premier League matches this season. The Egyptian has found the back of the net consistently, and he has created ample goalscoring opportunities for his teammates as well.

However, the same cannot be said about Liverpool’s expensively assembled attacking unit featuring Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo. All three players have been quite underwhelming this season, and they will need to get their act together if Liverpool are to go all the way in the Premier League.

Salah will be away on international duty for the Africa Cup of Nations between January and February. The competition begins on January 13 and will end on February 11. He can miss four Premier League games during that period. The absence of the 31-year-old could prove to be a devastating blow for Liverpool, especially if the other forwards continue to misfire in front of goal.

To put it into context, Gakpo has found the back of the net just three times in his last ten appearances across all competitions and Nunez has scored just once in that time. Meanwhile, Luis Diaz has scored just once in his last ten Liverpool appearances. In comparison, Salah has six goals and three assists to his name in that time.

Liverpool’s title rivals Arsenal and Manchester City have quality attacking options at their disposal who have contributed significantly. Arsenal are not overly dependent on Gabriel Jesus to score goals and the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have chipped in with goals consistently. At Manchester City, Julian Alvarez has stepped up in the absence of Erling Haaland.

Similarly, Liverpool will need their other attackers to step up and deliver in the absence of the Egyptian international.

The Reds are likely to be without Salah for the crucial League Cup semifinals against Fulham, the FA Cup clash against Arsenal and the Premier League match-ups with Chelsea at home and the Gunners away from home. All five matches will be crucial must-win clashes for the Reds as they look to win major trophies this season.

It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can bring in the necessary attacking reinforcements in January. Alternatively, Jurgen Klopp could try to get the best out of his current players as well. There is no doubt that Diaz, Gakpo, and Nunez can score goals consistently, and they have shown that at other clubs.

The return of Diogo Jota could not have been better timed either. The Portuguese international has a knack of finding the back of the net on a consistent basis, and he did that against Burnley on his return from injury. In fact, Jota has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of all Liverpool attackers this season.

Liverpool have the bones of a very good squad, and they are certainly capable of winning the Premier League title this season. But Salah’s absence during the AFCON will be a litmus test for Klopp’s men, and it remains to be seen whether they can pass that with flying colours.

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