Why is extraordinary Salah so underappreciated?

Date published: Monday 1st February 2021 1:15 - Editor F365

Thank you. Keep the mails coming on Salah and more to theeditor@football365.com

 

Mo Salah, less problems
Can we all stop for a minute, take a pause and reflect. On what you ask? On how bloomin’ incredible Mo Salah is I say. The stat being bandied around last night was that Salah has now scored 20+ goals in 4 consecutive seasons for Liverpool. Who was the last player to do that? Owen? Torres? Fowler? Perhaps Emile Heskey? No, it was Ian Rush. That just shows what a remarkable achievement that is.

Since joining Liverpool, Salah has been Premier League top scorer twice and he’s top of the charts again this year. And yet, he just doesn’t seem to get the love that some players do. I genuinely don’t understand it. You’ll hear a lot of people say that Mane is actually our most important attacker. This is just not true. To say that Mane is better than or more important that Salah is just plain wrong. Equal I might give you, but better? No way. On this very website there have been mails in saying we should flog off Salah and reinvest the money. I would be very careful what you wish for.

The lack of love seems to come from an idea that Salah is selfish. I think it was Souness last night who asked if the pundits had ever seen a more selfish player. Is he selfish though?

What would you say makes a player selfish? Perhaps he takes a lot of shots. Well, that is true for Salah, but the thing is he also scores a lot of goals. It’s quite hard to score a lot if you’re not shooting. So is Salah shooting whenever he gets the ball? Is he taking wild shots at every opportunity? The stats would say no. His shot conversion rate is 29%. There are only five players in the 25 top scorers who have a better rate, and two of those are on 30%, just 1% point higher. So the truth is, Salah shoots a lot because he’s good at it and he scores a lot of goals. I seem to remember Ronaldo being labelled selfish too. Worked out all right for him.

Does he help his teammates though? Well last year he was tied for fifth in the assists table with Son, a player who is often described as being the antithesis of selfishness. But no love for this aspect of Mo’s game. He’s also created 30 chances this season, surpassed only by Fernandes, De Bruyne and Grealish.

I’m not sure why there is this lack of love for Salah. Don’t get me wrong, many Liverpool fans adore him, but there does seem to be a slight reticence to praise him among others. Mo is easily in my top three Liverpool players that I have seen play, and I’ll be gutted when he finally leaves. He’s a massive part of this team and it wouldn’t be the same without him.
Mike, LFC, London

 

On Man United, Martial, Ole and reasonable expectations
The first two mailboxes since the Ars v Man Utd game have already been published. So I am writing this email a bit too late. I hope it gets published. Here are some of my random thoughts on Saturday’s game:

1. Like mentioned in the 16 Conclusions, Ole was a master of getting a result in the games against top seven (yes I am including Leicester). This year he has been really poor. I think the reason being the fellow members have figured out that Utd don’t really have any style or pattern of play. Ole’s tactics in the big games are do not concede hit them on the break and hope someone from the front three and Bruno produces a stroke of genius. Unfortunately when you don’t start Greenwood, Rashy and Bruno are knackered and Martial is there on the pitch it’s not going to happen. We are not going to score in a million years as the teams just have to be relatively solid and their positioning and the job is done. And the worse thing is that Ole has no answers to this.

2. Which brings me to Mr Anthony Martial. The guy has been so bad for past six months and still he gets picked every time. Ole’s management style of covering over every poor performance by him is just not working. In the past Jose’s tough love also did not work. So basically this guys can not be coached. He will play well only when every aspect of his life is going smoothly. The moment something goes amiss he loses his confidence and stops giving his all. My problem with him is not that he isn’t scoring but that he isn’t arsed to do anything right now. And it is going on for a long time. Man Utd team bus driver if you are reading this please don’t let Martial in the bus next time. Just drive away fast cause Ole isn’t going to drop him

3. On Saturday night Scotty A MIDFIELDER got injured and Ole’s response was to bring on guess who? Martial. What must that make me feel for Donny VDB. Ole chose to change the tactics, brought on an out of form out of sort player but he never even thought of bringing VDB on. I mean what does this fella have to do to get games? If Ole has doubts over if he will last 90 mins, he needed to be on only for 60. If Ole thinks he does not offer enough in the team, Martial has offered nothing since a long time. I am sure he will do better than a lot of people on the current form if he is in the team.

3. Which brings me to Amad Diallo. Why not bring him in the first team straightaway?? Give him a cameo. Last 10 mins maybe? Ole did not even use a third substitution if I remember correctly. I mean surely he will bring some unpredictability to the side.

4. Man Utd’s wing play sucks. We have no width. It is really admirable to see Luke Shaw being the entire left wing of man utd. Reminds me of peak Evra or Valencia (for that 1 season he was awesome at rb and Jose said he is world’s best). Long may it continue.

5. We fans always knew that we were not going to be title contenders. Interrupted preparations and matches being cancelled/rescheduled every now and then due to covid meant we seemed a bit closer to the top that we actually deserve. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Man City are going to run away with the title this year. If Ole can get us to finish second ahead of Liverpool even that would be an overachievement. Anything less than third will be a failure.
Swapnil, Mumbai (Man Utd)

 

This is Jose
Spurs fans are understandably upset at their players after last night’s performance, you probably already realise this but it’s not the players it’s Jose.

He is completely and utterly toxic. Not just to players, fans or your club as a whole but to people. He brings out the worst in everyone he meets now. Do you know how you used to feel when you read a Jose quote as an opposition fan? It used to rage a long time ago, then anger then annoyance but now it’s just despair. No one can put up with such relentless negativity, pettiness, self preservation and deception for long, imagine being coached by it every day. It just drags you down. He is the anti-Klopp for the effect he has on people.

Please don’t rag on your players, they are suffering much more than you now. Valuable years of their career are being wasted under Mourinho. Some of them used to have one of the best coaches in world football, now it’s captain comedown, they deserve your support.
Dave LFC

 

…Does anyone else remember when Spurs were “in the title race”? No, me neither. It looks like the obsolescence that has done for several managers (like Wenger) has got to Mourinho too. He’ll probably win cups here and there but the idea of him putting it together for a league title campaign is fantasy.
Matthew, Belfast

 

Co-commentary talk
I enjoyed John Nicolson’s piece on co-commentary. I guess point not raised is the carousel of similar voices being amplified across all platforms. There has been something of an arm’s race in English TV coverage of football to cram as many ex-pros and now referees into broadcasts as possible. Not one new arrival on the scene has tried to do anything differently – they’ve all tried to out-Sky Sky.

This is particularly disappointing as regards Amazon, a company with a few quid behind it which could have sought to bring a new angle to football coverage. Instead, more of the same. I watched the 2014 Champions League final in a small town in Austria (remember when you could go on holiday?!) and was struck by the German coverage of the game. One presenter and Oliver Kahn as a pundit. Then one commentator. That was it. He interjected with stats on each player and remained quiet for long periods – more Richie Benaud than the cacophony we get today. It was great and facilitated watching and enjoying the game and, heaven forbid, thinking for yourself and forming your own opinion on the game. There was no noise to distract from the action.

So, the ire of the public should be directed towards the broadcasters who are encouraging all this noise. With blanket coverage there are few new opinions and insights to be offered. What we’re left with is people employed and actively encouraged to shout loudest in order to justify their employment for the day (“and he makes contact… THERE! For me, that’s a penalty”). The blame for that lies not with the individual, but with the broadcaster.
Miles Reucroft

 

…John’s article rages (and rightly so) against the often horrific abuse that many pundits receive.

To be clear, personal, racist or mysognistc abuse is never acceptable, however the fact that he says ‘there’s no way you even get near a live microphone unless you are extremely competent’ is just patently untrue and is a laughable statement for anyone that watches live sport of any variety.

(John was talking about commentary, not co-commentary – Ed)

I’ll give some context to my incredulity by asking John to watch some test cricket (India vs England set up to be a great watch, hopefully on terrestrial tv), or failing that maybe F1, tennis or almost any other sport.

Cricket coverage, like football relies heavily on the presence of past players as co-commentators and often includes international teammates to ensure there’s a degree of chemistry on the broadcasts. The difference being that there is a genuine level of technical analysis and insight on the game that we are watching.

Shane Warne is by anyone’s measure a bit or a prick, but he’s also the cricket equivalent of having Pele or Maradonna on commentary and he will talk through what one team is trying to do to ‘set-up’ a batsman and get them out i.e he explains to the layman the ‘tactics’ that the teams are using and offers his opinions on whether they will work or not. He’s so good at this that the lovely Isha Gupta often openly marvels at his foresight and acknowledges his reading of the game.

He’s sometimes negative, is openly pro-Aussie but is not held back by mafia-esque codes of ‘Omerta’ preventing him from being sharp with his criticism and offering solutions.

Roy Keane is a great counterpoint to this, unlike many, I find him to be utterly exhausting. He is such a bore, soooo negative and bangs on about the same three things irrespective of what’s happening in the match. There is almost never anything he comments on that we couldn’t see for ourselves and that is my personal issue with football co-commentators, the ‘bar’ is just so bloody low.

Football loves having names there, Micheal Owen,Macca etc are just boring to listen to, perhaps there are not enough players willing to take the gig, so that ones that do it have no competitive pressure to be good at their jobs.

There are a few notable exceptions, Glen Hoddle will talk about tactics, where teams are getting unstuck and is happy to give out praise where its due. He has been ridiculed & underappreciated throughout his various roles in the UK, so its not surprising that he doesn’t get the praise that he often deserves for his insight in commentary. I also enjoy Alex Gray, Fletcher and to an extent Neville & Carragher, though I also feel that after raising the level both Neville’s standards in particular have dropped markedly.

It’s not small-minded to want better than what we have currently or to be disappointed by the monotonous discussions around Ole etc on Sky.

So yea, not too much more to say other than whilst I agree that people need to chill out with criticism- The Criticism is absolutely deserved and for the amount of money we’re asked to pay for legal subscriptions, we are allowed to be critical of the ‘product’ without all being lumped in with the horrible misanthropes on social media.

I would love to see more football analysts involved in commentary gigs, give people who aren’t ex-footballers a chance if that’s what it takes to improve it. If you read sites like f365,Between the lines, These football times etc there are laypeople out there with fantastic understanding of the game that I would wager would do a much better job.

(Honestly in shock that f365 isn’t leading the charge against the standard of live commentary)
H 420

 

On VARiables
I’m not a footy rule boff, but I’ve heard it said on occasion that in judging offsides, when players are level, the benefit of the doubt, or advantage, should go to the attacking player. This may or may not be in the rule, I don’t know, but either way, in practice it is no longer the case in the new world of VAR. Is there a way of reintroducing this principle to the VAR age? I have a suggestion:

Wouldn’t the easiest way to allow the advantage to go the attacker be to use lines of differing thickness? I would suggest drawing the line on the defender with a thicker line than the one used for the attacking player, and only judging the attacking player offside if his thinner line is beyond the thicker line used to demark the position of the defender. I would suggest the thicker line be scaled to represent 10-15cm or so, and that way if the attacker’s line goes beyond that, he’s offside, if it does not, he’s onside.

I know people will then say, it changes nothing, we’ll still see marginal calls where a goal is disallowed for being a fraction beyond the new line, however, the advantage of this system is that even in these cases, it should be pretty clear, with the lines removed to agree that the player is indeed offside.

The two lines approach accepts the reality that unlike in tennis, where the lines are stationary, and technology is measuring the moving object against a fixed position, in the offside rule, officials and technology are making a judgement involving at least four objects, all of which are usually in motion: the player passing the ball, the ball, the defenders and attackers. The accuracy of any judgement or measurement that VAR provides is then much more complex and simple variables such as the number of frames captured per second, position of cameras, colours of kits, etc, can affect the accuracy of what the VAR officials see on their monitors and what they ultimately measure. In my opinion, if we are to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player, then this seems to me a realistic way of doing so in practice.

Alongside this change, or even as an alternative to it, I would recommend another, specifically for VAR decisions, which, unlike on-filed referee decisions, are always calls made after the passage of play has ended. This has to do with where of the attackers body the line is drawn from. I would recommend that VAR lines are only drawn from the part of the body that the attacker next uses to maneuver or affect the ball. So, if, following the pass forward, the attacker’s next touch is with his head, then draw the VAR line from his head. if the ball is controlled with the feet, then the line gets drawn from his feet. This would almost by definition rule out the spurious offside calls for pointing for where you want the ball played, or the offside-by-an-armpit call, as we rarely see players using hands or armpits in play.

Alternately, all players could all start using grass green boots and kit and body paint – camo style.
Rob, AFC

 

…Gareth this morning is exactly right highlighting VAR’s inaccuracies with the choice of frame with the blurry ball. This can’t show that the ball has left the foot. Trouble is the rules say “The first point of contact of the ‘play’ or ‘touch’ of the ball should be used”. Direct quote from the FA.com Law 11 – Offside (thefa.com)

Its not about when the contact ends, its about when the contact starts. This means that if the ball is blurry it is the wrong frame to use. It is already too late to make the assessment.

VAR offsides are not 100% accurate and they are used as if they are. This needs to stop.
Alex, South London

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