Is Mo Salah “the least-underrated player in the Premier League?” It’s a tricky one, and we certainly can’t make a definitive judgement on any individual player.
But Sports Illustrated’s Phil Noble has done a good job of comparing the first quartet of the 20 highest-scoring English Premier League players in the last 15 years and using forward data to make the case that Mo Salah has certainly got off to a good start.
All of the above stats come from the number of attempts we look at, and only four of the guys we’ve compared in such a way do more to score goals or create chances. Some of it is a straightforward matter of opponents trying to shut Salah down with five or six defenders around him, while others are due to the fact that Salah is routinely inside or outside the penalty area where players are stationed to kick him.
But if Salah is a lot less effective from the edge of the box, it’s because a lot of other guys in the Premier League are much more talented in that area than him — or have some spare time to concentrate in that space, and Salah doesn’t at his current rate. The most important thing for Salah is to go where he can get the best chances, but he can’t always do that because teams have their tactics all figured out and won’t let him do that.
That, then, is why he’s so effective on the wing as well. Our number of shots-per-game stats indicate that Salah’s a very competent dribbler and a willing finisher as well, and this makes sense when you also look at that fantastic trick against Atletico Madrid in which he passes the ball across the goal and tries to make a break from there, because he’s a deadly sprinter.
Again, the stats don’t do much to recommend Salah as an England international, but the fact remains that he’s helped Liverpool surpass expectations this year. That’s definitely more undervaluing than being one of the underachievers.
“Every year Mo Salah starts to be underrated,” Noble writes, “and every year he comes back to being more likely to inspire Liverpool than quit mid-season before overtaking Rooney to be Liverpool’s greatest goalscorer of all time.”
Now that Salah has 34 goals in 30 games — and would probably have scored about half of them if he hadn’t been injured for the first four matches — it’s time to start focusing on his long-term international prospects.
*Definitely doesn’t mean he can’t still star for Egypt, or if he’s improved in certain areas he’d be a better option there than anywhere else. Egypt hasn’t made it out of the group stage at a World Cup since 1990, and Salah is still in his early twenties, so he’ll have another five to seven years to make a major impact.
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