Mohamed Salah misfires again as Liverpool and Chelsea contest miserable draw at Anfield

Egyptian striker has struggled to produce his best since signing a new contract last summer

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Liverpool and Chelsea occupied ninth and tenth in the Premier League at the start of Saturday, and after a goalless meeting, it was apparent why given the standard of football on show at a bitterly cold Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp spoke too soon when he said last week that Liverpool’s defeat at Brighton was the worst performance of his Reds tenure. This dourest of draws that belied the individual quality on the pitch and money spent on both teams was equally as putrid.

It was no way for Klopp to mark his 1000th game in management.

A combined outlay of £1 billion should have resulted in better entertainment, but these two crisis clubs are where they are for a reason.

Nobody can be quite sure what has happened to Liverpool this season. There were not many who had the Reds down as anything other than the biggest threat to Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the title again, given they strengthened a squad in the summer that went within a hair’s breadth of the quadruple last term.

So many stars who were near imperious last season have fallen off a cliff this time around. Fabinho, for so long the calming influence to keep the Liverpool juggernaut on its path to success, was dropped in favour of 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic, given his first Premier League start, while Jordan Henderson was also usurped in the starting lineup.

The biggest disappointment after yet another anonymous display was Mohamed Salah. Ever since smashing their previously strict pay structure and handing over the keys to the city to persuade the Egyptian to stay at Anfield in the summer, the player who has made the difference for so long has looked a shadow of his former self.

The worrying thing for the club which bet so much on Salah is not only is he short of form, but the fire inside that burned when at his unrelenting best appears to be cooling.

Last season, Salah averaged four and a half shots per game in the league, creating more than two chances on every match for teammates. His only offering on Saturday was one wayward effort from a promising position in the opening period, while he did not provide any key passes in the entire match.

Salah was not alone in his substandard performance.

On the back of successive league defeats for the second time this season following their humbling at Brighton, Liverpool looked to be up against it once more from the off as Kai Havertz fired home from close range, but after a lengthy VAR review, the German was ruled to be offside.

Otherwise, both sides struggled to make inroads. The hosts especially were unable to create many clearcut openings of note in the first half, with new signing Cody Gakpo blazing two presentable opportunities over the top.

Chelsea should have gone into the break in front but another January arrival, defender Benoit Badiashile, headed too close to Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson from close range.

The second half brought little improvement. Chelsea introduced new signing Mykhailo Mudryk from the bench, but while he looked likely, with one mazy run resulting in the Ukrainian finding the side-netting, he was unable to inspire his side to a second successive league win.

Another big-money arrival, Darwin Nunez had Liverpool’s best chance of the second half, but his miserable start to life in England continue as he fired straight at the otherwise untroubled Kepa Arrizabalaga.

A winner for either side would not have been a true reflection of where these two teams are at. The road back to the top will be a long and troubling one indeed for both of these fallen giants.

Updated: January 21, 2023, 3:28 PM
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