Mo Salah

What Does Liverpool Do With Mo Salah at AFCON?

With Mohamed Salah at AFCON, Liverpool are without their top scorer and assister. They are essentially without their best-attacking asset. A sentence fans have been dreading.

However, this feeling has almost become second nature among supporters. In years gone by, the departure of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and, to a lesser extent, Naby Keita has always been a cause for concern among fans hoping to get their stars back to Merseyside as soon as possible.

Egypt’s star man and captain Salah leaves following a 5-star performance against Newcastle, hoping to return in early February with the winner’s medal that he so badly craves. The hopes of a nation firmly rest on his shoulders.

Liverpool’s reliance on Salah is unquestionable; the 31-year-old has delivered 14 goals and eight assists in 20 Premier League games for Liverpool, meaning he has either scored or assisted 51 percent of Liverpool’s 43 league goals this season. He is also the Premier League’s joint top scorer and will hope to surpass his total of 19 goals last season.

It’s hard to believe a national tournament hosted every second year is organised during one of the domestic game’s busiest periods. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s frustration at the tournament’s timing was evident during a press conference in 2021, where he labeled the AFCON a “little tournament.” He was quick to apologise and clear up his comment afterward.

Mo Salah running with the ball

Liverpool Fixtures With Salah at AFCON

Mohamed Salah will miss the following matches for Liverpool during AFCON 2024:

  • Jan 7: Arsenal (away), FA Cup 3rd round
  • Jan 10: Fulham (home), Carabao Cup semi-final 1st leg
  • Jan 21: Bournemouth (away), Premier League
  • Jan 24: Fulham (away), Carabao Cup semi-final 2nd leg
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And if Egypt does well in AFCON, here are the possible matches he will miss:

  • TBC, FA Cup 4th round
  • Jan 31: Chelsea (home), Premier League
  • Feb 4: Arsenal (away), Premier League
  • Feb 10: Burnley (home), Premier League

Coping without their talisman Mohamed Salah for a possible month, depending on how well Egypt performs, will undoubtedly be difficult in a season that is looking promising for Klopp’s side. However, even though Salah has been as influential as ever for the Reds, it feels as though the squad Klopp has assembled is better equipped to deal with the Egyptians’ departure than in past seasons.

Wataru Endo also leads tournament favourites Japan as they enter the Asian Cup in the same period. Endo has become increasingly more important to the Reds since his arrival in September following an unconvincing start. His confidence has continued to rise, as well as his performances, as he continues to excel in the central defensive midfield role that Fabinho so impressively held for the past few seasons. Endo is another player the Reds will need to replace temporarily over the next few weeks.

The possible eight matches that Salah may miss leave an opportunity for one of the many attackers in the squad to impress and possibly challenge the Egyptian for the spot on his return.

Mo Salah celebrating a goal

Options to Play at RW While Salah at AFCON

Here are the top options to replace Mohamed Salah during AFCON 2024:

Harvey Eliott

He is a player who has been welcomed into the team by the Anfield faithful and is never short of giving 100% when he gets his opportunity to impress. Eliott naturally plays as one of the midfield three but can move into a more advanced role that we see regularly when he lines out for England U21s. He’s also in a rich vein of scoring form for the national side, scoring five goals in his last five games, so no doubt an option in the right-wing position for Klopp moving forward.

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While more of a midfielder for Liverpool, he did begin his career on the right wing, and with Ben Doak injured, he is the only natural right-sided attacker available for Klopp.

Harvey Elliott option to replace Salah at Afcon

Dominik Szoboszlai

Since his arrival to the Premier League in the summer, like Eliott, game time for Szobozslai mainly consists of the middle of the park.

His keen eye for goal and long-range shots means the possibility of playing in a more advanced role is far from unrealistic; we have seen particularly in the latter stages against Sheffield United that Klopp likes to keep the Hungarian closer to goal and the opportunity to play right wing over the next few weeks is one that may be explored.

Hopefully, the hamstring injury that he picked up against Newcastle is not severe.

Szobo option to replace Salah at Afcon

Diogo Jota

His return to goalscoring form following his recent injury will undoubtedly be a welcome boost for Klopp going into a period without their most dangerous forward.

Jota is known to be flexible about where he lines up, and his ability to sniff a goalscoring opportunity in any of the forward positions means he is a vital member of the Reds squad and, barring any injuries seems to be the most likely candidate to fill in for Salah on the right wing while he is away.

In terms of being in front of the goal, the Portuguese is the most natural finisher, a trait the club may need with the lack of goals from Salah throughout this period.

Jota option to replace Salah at Afcon

Cody Gakpo

Quoted as a Roberto Firmino-type player, Klopp has tried Gakpo on the wing multiple times since his arrival in January 2023 with limited success. His close control and predator instincts close to the goal mean his best work is usually in central positions.

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Due to his lack of speed, it is hard to see Klopp trusting him in a wide position for a sustained period.

Undoubtedly, it will be tough for the Reds to replace Salah’s influence over the next month. Still, with players such as Luis Diaz, Darwin Nunez, and Diogo Jota, the Reds have the firepower to continue their good form.

Gakpo option to replace Salah at Afcon

Luis Diaz

This is a surprise pick, considering the Colombian has spent his career mainly on the opposite wing. However, in the second half against Arsenal, the first game without Salah, the No. 7 was shifted to the right.

It seemed to work wonders as Liverpool looked more dangerous, and the attacker found himself on the scoresheet to round out a 2-0 win. After the second-half switch in the FA Cup match against Arsenal, maybe they have found their best option.

Diaz option to replace Salah at Afcon

Typically, Salah finds himself hugging the touchline more often than not, and it is in these areas that Diaz thrives with his close-quarters dribbling.

Perhaps this position could see “Lucho” get himself into better goalscoring positions.

Salah Heatmap vs Newcastle jpg
Credit: Premier League

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