Mohamed Salah, Liverpool Stay Undefeated in Premier League with Win vs. Watford

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2018

Liverpool's English defender Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on November 24, 2018. (Photo by OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool maintained an unbeaten start to the Premier League season thanks to a 3-0 win over Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday. 

Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino were on the scoresheet to help the Reds keep pace with leaders Manchester City in the title race. 

The Reds won despite seeing Jordan Henderson sent off for a second bookable offence with eight minutes to go.


Liverpool Not Good Enough to Win the Title Despite Another Clean Sheet

Liverpool may be in the thick of the title race, but the result proves the Reds aren't good enough to ultimately capture the title this season. It's a case of one step forward and two steps back for Jurgen Klopp's side.

Klopp's team is winning, but there are reasons to doubt the Reds' title credentials.
Klopp's team is winning, but there are reasons to doubt the Reds' title credentials.OLLY GREENWOOD/Getty Images

The step forward is obvious in a defence that's gone from one of the more suspect in England's top flight to one of the toughest. A stingy unit buoyed by the big-money signings of centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker earlier this year has surrendered just five goals, the joint-fewest in the division with City.

Klopp must rue his luck when he thinks of how the attack has gone off the boil just as things at the back have settled. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino are still an effective front three, but they are nowhere close to the prolific heights they reached last season.

A profligacy in front of goal has cost Liverpool more than once this season. It allowed the Hornets to stay in the game during the first half:

Liverpool FC @LFC

41' Another chance for the Reds!! Shaqiri with a superb pass, Mane's volley is saved! From the corner, Foster pulls off a stunning save to stop Salah's header!! [0-0] #WATLIV https://t.co/Ha6QsKL5c6

As good as Ben Foster was in the Watford goal, it's fair to say many of the chances the Reds created would have gone in last season.

While Salah eventually got his goal six minutes after the hour mark, it only came after several instances of the front three struggling to combine with the same ease and fluidity as last season:

Ian Doyle @IanDoyleSport

Liverpool mess up a great break after Mane passes to Salah after the Egyptian had run offside.

It was a far cry from when Salah hit four when Liverpool last played Watford back in March. It was also no surprise it took a special free-kick from a defender, right-back Alexander-Arnold, to double the Reds' tally and make this result safe.

In fairness to Salah and Co., their efforts are hardly being helped by a midfield lacking the necessary craft. A workmanlike group led by Henderson lacks the vision and flair to supply enough chances for the match-winners in front of them.

It means the creative burden is equal to the scoring responsibility facing Salah, Mane and Firmino.

A midfield lacking ideas and a forward line not quite as potent as it used to be will ultimately keep the title out of Liverpool's reach.


Daniel Sturridge Deserves Chance to Replace Roberto Firmino

One tweak the Reds could count on to make a difference would be to let Daniel Sturridge replace Firmino up top. The latter usually operates through the middle but has never been a natural No. 9.

Firmino's 89th-minute finish was just his third league goal of the campaign.
Firmino's 89th-minute finish was just his third league goal of the campaign.Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Firmino's range of passing remains impressive, particularly the ball to release Mane to tee up Salah for the opening goal. What is less impressive is the Brazil international's meagre goal haul in the league.

He's found the net a mere three times during 12 starts, while Sturridge has managed just one fewer from only one start and six appearances off the substitutes bench.

An example of Firmino's natural inclination to create rather than take chances on came during the first half, along with another instance of his wayward finishing:

Neil Jones @neiljonesgoal

Firmino tries the spectacular from Alexander-Arnold's cross but gets it wrong, with Salah beaten to the ball as it drops. #LFC having all of the ball still, but no way through yet.

There's more cutting edge when Sturridge starts because he has the selfishness in the box all goalscorers need. Aside from being more instinctive and decisive from close range, Sturridge also has a flair for the spectacular, evidenced by his stunning long-range effort to earn a point at Chelsea back in September.

It's time for Klopp to give the 29-year-old true centre-forward his chance to prove he can add the spark up front Liverpool have been missing at times this season.


What's Next

Liverpool travel to face Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, while Watford are at Leicester City in the Premier League next Saturday.