Liverpool won their 19th league title after an emotional 30-year wait. However, as remarkable as they were last season, their drop off in the Premier League has been unarguably worrisome. Among the many questions that need to be answered in the summer, Mohamed Salah‘s future is a pressing one.
Commonly referred to as the Egyptian King, Salah has led the Reds from the front by consistently scoring and assisting in key moments. Consequently, a bi-product of the Egyptian’s fame is getting linked away from Anfield. Moreover, FSG’s transfer committee is shrewd from a strictly financial point of view and are well equipped to deal with a change of the highest gravity.
In this tactical analysis, we look at 5 players that can become the next Salah. We aim to identify the output of players that have the potential of breaking out as the Egyptian did in 2017/18. We provide a statistical analysis of players that are similar to him and outline how they would fit into Liverpool’s tactics.
1. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Pulisic has been reportedly linked to Liverpool lately and has been in the past as well. A potential move to Merseyside would make sense for both clubs. Chelsea has had a surplus of attacking players and will look to balance their finances by being open to selling.
A recurring theme in this piece will be that Salah significantly outperforms his potential successor in Goals per 90. However, we aim to find similarities elsewhere in order to predict that the goals are bound to come through Liverpool’s coaching and tactics. Pulisic is 22, averages 1.8 dribbles per 90 and 1.43 key passes per 90. In addition, his defensive work rate is noteworthy and a trait that Liverpool’s recruitment team value.
2. Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
The 21-year-old Portuguese youngster has been one of Wolves’ most creative and positive players this season, recording 5 goals and 5 assists. This switch can be interesting for several reasons. As visualised below, Neto’s statistics are similar to that of Sadio Mane when he was in his last season at Southampton. A similar statistical outline was the driving reason behind Diogo Jota’s move to Anfield.
Despite looking like 2 sides of a coin, it is noteworthy that Neto plays as a left-midfielder and often a second striker for Wolves. In a Klopp system, he’d play further forward as an inverted winger. If he increases his Shot per 90, then his transition into Liverpool might be more rewarding than expected. Furthermore, Neto is currently valued at £35 million, making the switch financial desirable.
3. Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus)
The 20-year-old Swedish sensation has made quite the impact for Juventus this season. Kulusevski’s potential is touted to be one of the highest of his generation. Currently valued at £45 million, his technical and tactical attributes could be taken to the next level at Liverpool.
Kulusevski has recorded an impressive 0.26 Expected Assists (xA) per 90 and 4.43 Shot Creating Actions per 90. As introduced above, these provide a solid foundation for moving into Salah’s role.
The radar charts of both players stem from a similar foundation. Though Salah is more direct and outperforms the Swede in the more tangible metrics, Kulusevski’s through passes and progressive runs per 90 could equip Liverpool with a new weapon at their disposal in order to break down structurally rigid teams.
4. Harvey Barnes (Leicester City)
This one is a bit of a wild card but shows uncanny similarities between the 2 players. Harvey Barnes has been in Liverpool’s database for a while due to his discipline and impeccable dribbling ability. He has since been utilised from a wide midfielder to a striker by Brendan Rodgers. Barnes is 23 and has recorded 13 goals and 4 assists for his team across all competitions.
As highlighted in the above comparison, recording higher dribbling statistics per 90 than Salah is no feat to scoff at. Furthermore, the inherent shape of Barnes’ radar is similar to Salah’s in terms of possession chain values, goals and assists. Barnes is currently valued at £35 million and could potentially be a steal for that amount.
5. Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
Ismaila Sarr is reportedly the chosen successor to Salah as per FSG’s transfer committee. His benchmark performance against Liverpool last season is a worthy point-of-reference to what the Senegalese can do. Sarr is menacingly quick, unpredictable and has improved his shooting in front of goal.
The above comparison highlights the degree of statistical similarity shared by Sarr and Salah. In particular, they share an almost similar xG/Shot and Touches in box per 90. In addition, Sarr records higher a higher dribbling output than Salah.
Currently valued at a reduced £20 million, the Senegalese ticks all the boxes – financial and statistical – to replace Liverpool’s beloved Egyptian King.