Are Mo Salah's numbers masking some poor all-round form for Liverpool?

Once again, there was Mohamed Salah to save the day... to an extent.

Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Manchester United was a bitterly disappointing result that could feel costly come May, as their wastefulness once again proved frustrating at Old Trafford.

At least they didn't lose, which would have been the most bitter pill to swallow imaginable.

It was Salah's nerveless late penalty that earned Liverpool a point against their biggest foes, with the 31-year-old taking his tally for the season to 23.

The truth of the matter, though, as much as some supporters simply don't want to hear it, is that the Reds' legendary No.11 has been well short of his best since returning from injury.

For those who predominantly judge footballers by their numbers, Salah is doing little wrong at the moment, scoring and creating at a solid rate, but there is so much more to judging him than looking at his attacking output.

Since coming back into the team early last month, the Egyptian superstar has scored four goals and registered three assists in seven appearances.

A perfectly reasonable return that most attacking players would feel content with.

All of those assists came in one routine game at home to Sparta Prague, however, in which Liverpool ran out 6-1 winners, and Salah's only Premier League goal from open play in that time was against Brighton last weekend.

In that game, he had a total of 12 shots, leaving his shooting boots at home, and while he clearly deserves credit for scoring a well-taken and crucial winning goal at Anfield, it was a messy all-round performance.

And that's the point with Salah at the moment โ€” he just isn't doing enough overall, especially considering his rightful status as one of Liverpool's greatest players ever, and one of the leading attacking players of his generation.

There are periods of matches where he feels on the periphery of the action, partly due to a lack of service, in fairness, and some of his decision-making is leaving a lot to be desired.

In front of goal, he isn't in killer mode, with two glorious chances wasted against United, not to mention a penchant for holding onto the ball for too long, leading to a dangerous counter-attack for the hosts on one occasion.

Salah's reputation as a 'greedy' player has always been overblown - any great footballer with incredible goalscoring numbers will be naturally greedy, often in a healthy way - but he is guilty of shooting when better options are available at the moment.

When he's in top gear, that feels excusable, but when the majority of those shots are missing the target or landing comfortably into the goalkeeper's arms, it starts to become a problem.

Salah's passing is the most underrated aspect of his game - he could have had an inch-perfect assist at United, had Dominik Szoboszlai not spurned the opportunity - but again, his creative radar isn't consistently on currently.

Some will say that we expect too much from him, and that this criticism is unwarranted, but when you reach the levels he has down the years, it is only natural to expect more.

It could be that he is still finding his feet after a lengthy injury absence, which is a valid excuse, and there is also the talk around fasting during Ramadan, although that is an awkward conversation to have.

Whether it is affecting Salah's energy levels is up for debate, and only he knows how much it is hindering him. And most importantly, his religious views are to be fully respected, rather than be lazily assessed.

As mentioned, Salah is treated differently to others because of the standards he has set and because we all expect world-class brilliance from him on a weekly basis.

His performances are still superior to some mere mortals, and he is contributing positively, but there is also no denying the fact that he has played far, far better in a Liverpool shirt.

At 31, there are arguments to say that Salah is just drifting past his absolute peak just a little. That electric pace that he once had has dwindled slightly, even though he remains fast, but you have to be wary of an overreaction.

No player in Liverpool's squad possesses a stronger mentality than Salah, and he will have complete faith in firing the Reds to Premier League glory in these last seven matches.

For that to happen, though, Jurgen Klopp will need his majestic attacking star to go up a gear.

Brentford v Liverpool Premier League 17/02/2024. Mohamed Salah of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Brentford and Liverpool at Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford, England on 17 February 2024. Brentford Gtech Community Stadium Greater London England Editorial use only DataCo restrictions apply See www.football-dataco.com , Copyright: xPaulxPhelanx PSI-19061-0050

Scoring is never an issue, and rarely will be, but more is required in terms of his decision-making and link-up play on the ball, and his general involvements in matches. His finishing also needs to return to its best, especially with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez not exactly lethal in their chance-taking.

The returning Trent Alexander-Arnold could help Salah greatly, with the pair linking so brilliantly down the right-hand side, and it could just be that a few more matches are needed for the Egypt legend to be fully up to speed again.

Any negativity towards Salah will always irk some, and they will always be ready to show you statistics to 'prove' he is actually playing well, but while analytics a hugely important aspect of modern football, the eye test alone is enough to see his shortcomings since returning to the team.

If his current performances don't improve between now and the end of the season, it will be a problem when it comes to the Reds' title aspirations.

The positives are still outweighing the negatives with Salah, it must be stressed, but the disappointing United draw was the latest example of him being below-par.

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