The last time Liverpool faced Tottenham back in December, Mohamed Salah came into the game with 15 Premier League goals to his name, 22 goals in all competitions and having scored in each of his previous three appearances. A runaway leader for the Premier League Golden Boot as a result, he had failed to score in only six of his 23 appearances.
Boasting 46 appearances of the season prior to Saturday night’s clash with Spurs, his second half of the season has gone rather differently. The Egyptian still leads both the Reds and the Premier League scoring charts, but he ‘only’ had 30 goals for the campaign with 22 coming in the English top-flight.
Tottenham were the seventh side to deny the forward on December 19 at a time when it looked near-impossible to stop Salah in front of goal. But the uncertainty regarding his future, fatigue, international heartache and the simple fact it would have been impossible to keep up his Autumn standards all year made an inevitable decline.
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Missing a penalty in Liverpool’s subsequent clash against Leicester City, which at this current time will, on paper, be costly in the Premier League title race, before facing Tottenham at Anfield he had now failed to score in 23 of his appearances this season. That equaled to half of his game-time.
A brace against Manchester United last month might have temporarily eased concerns about his goalscoring returns, especially as his form has improved in recent weeks, but they remain his only goals from open play since the middle of February – a run spanning 16 matches.
Previously a clear favorite for the Ballon d’Or for most of the season, he now faces missing out to Karim Benzema unless he can get the better of the Frenchman and Real Madrid in the Champions League final as the Reds continue to chase a quadruple. Meanwhile, once a certainty for the Golden Boot, such form opened the door to Son Heung-min, with the South Korean only three goals behind the Egyptian before facing off at Anfield.
And as Salah was once again frustrated against Spurs on Saturday night, as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw to see their title hopes dealt a blow, the Egyptian also saw his attacking rival close the gap further with his 20th goal of the season to open the scoring.
Son would have just two shots against the Reds, scoring a simple tap-in and having another effort blocked. In contrast, Liverpool’s Egyptian King would see all three of his strikes blocked by Spurs’ deep back five as he continued to hesitate on the ball and see chances go begging.
The draw with Spurs could ultimately end the Reds’ chances of winning the title, with them now needing Man City to lose a game to stand a chance. But the Anfield stalemate could also play its part in the Golden Boot being wrestled from Salah’s grasp with three games of the league season remaining.
Tottenham are next in action at home to Arsenal in the North London derby on Thursday in a game which could help decide who finishes fourth and qualifies for the Champions League. After that, they host relegation-threatened Burnley before traveling to already-relegated Norwich City on the last day.
With Son already scoring against both the Gunners and the Canaries this season, and boasting 11 goals from his last 11 Premier League appearances, he’ll be confident of overtaking Salah before the end of the campaign.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian has trips to Aston Villa and Southampton to look forward to before a final day home clash with Wolves. Yet he has scored just one penalty against the trio this season, and, with FA Cup final and Champions League final matches also to contend with, could find himself rotated.
Liverpool need Salah back at his scoring best to stand the best chance of winning the quadruple. But it’s not just club silverware that remains up for grabs as we enter the final weeks of the season.