Liverpool must cope without Mohamed Salah over the next month as he plays for Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations. Here's how the Reds could line up in his absence.
Mohamed Salah has arguably been Liverpool's best player over the first half of the 2023/24 campaign. They'll need to find ways to cope without him over the next month, however, as he goes to play at AFCON.
Salah will feature for Egypt, of course, in an attempt to go one better than last time. Egypt lost on penalties to Senegal in the final back in 2022.
2022 was a particularly difficult one for Liverpool to contend with as they also lost Sadio Mané that year. Salah will be the only Red at AFCON this time, though.
Jurgen Klopp will retain plenty of quality forwards to build an attack with, then. The only 'problem' is that Salah is the only natural right-sided forward in the squad. There'll have to be some sort of tinkering to make things work, potentially until after February 11th, the date of the final.
So here are four ways Klopp and Liverpool could handle the absence of Mohamed Salah.
Diaz - Nunez - Jota
This is the most obvious solution. Diogo Jota has covered on the right before, even if Salah's ridiculous availability means we haven't seen it often.
But a change of personnel will mean Klopp won't want to change the system all that much - it's a lot of change all at once, if he does. So sticking with the system and backing Jota to replace Salah's goals is the simplest way to do things.
It should also be said that Cody Gakpo could play in either Diaz or Nunez's role here. Klopp rotates the three of them so much that we couldn't possibly account for every combination here.
Diaz - Nunez - Gakpo - Jota
Of course, Klopp could change the system. One way to cover the lack of Salah is to lean into Liverpool's strength in depth up top. No one player can replace him, so why not two?
This one feels a little more likely than usual if only because Liverpool are down two midfielders. Wataru Endo is off to the Asian Cup, while Dominik Szoboszlai is potentially out with a hamstring problem. Reverting to a midfield two and boosting the numbers up top could be a fix of sorts.
Diaz - Nunez - Elliott
Harvey Elliott is actually the only other natural right-sided forward in the squad. It's just maybe a push to call him a 'forward' - Elliott is far more of a midfielder than an aggressive, pacey winger.
But he does know the role and as one of the few left-footers in the squad, could allow Liverpool to keep their shape. Wanting to play Elliott there would also explain why we've inexplicably seen so little of him this season.
A similar idea to this one is putting Szoboszlai out on the right. He did play there semi-regularly for RB Leipzig and can do it - but his potential injury could rule the idea out.
Diaz - Nunez - Jota
So here's another change of system, though not quite as radical as the 4-2-4 suggested above. It sees the most natural front-three but then one of the midfielders pushed into a more traditional no.10 role.
It's a way of replacing Salah's playmaking as much as his goals. Liverpool will create fewer chances without him and sacrificing a bit of midfield solidity to play with an advanced midfielder could fix that somewhat.
Elliott and Szoboszlai are the best-suited to the role, or maybe even Gakpo. It's something we could see over the next month, even just as an in-game switch.