Jurgen Klopp must put faith in Keita
Naby Keita would be forgiven for wondering whether he’d walked into the wrong team.
The last time Keita had started for Liverpool, he played his part in a record-breaking 7-0 win at Crystal Palace the weekend before Christmas.
Now he was expected to help revive a side that have, after this dismal reverse to Fulham, taken just 12 points from their subsequent 14 games.
Keita was in fact one of only four players who started at Selhurst Park to line up here, Gini Wijnaldum, Andy Robertson and Alisson Becker the others.
And he was perhaps the sole Reds player to emerge with any semblance of credit, lively when in possession and always looking forward.
It didn’t always come off for the Guinean. But at least he was trying to make things happen, pressing high, gliding past opponents and seeking one-twos with Diogo Jota in particular.
That he completed the full 90 minutes – for only the third time in the Premier League since April 2019 – will also be of huge benefit.
Elsewhere in midfield, James Milner was decent first half before fading horribly, while an exhausted Wijnaldum is simply in dire need of a rest.
Keita, though, has done more than enough to merit further opportunities. He, along with Curtis Jones, is giving Liverpool an attacking thrust from the engine room they sorely, sorely need.
Salah struggles won’t last
Mohamed Salah has had better weeks.
On Thursday, the Egyptian was left bewildered at being replaced midway through the second half as Liverpool floundered against former club Chelsea.
And here he was caught out for Fulham’s winner, dispossessed on the edge of his own area by Mario Lemina who then thumped home an angled drive.
Salah’s agent Ramy Abbas Issa, quick to respond on social media to his client’s substitution a few days earlier, was strangely silent.
The manner in which Salah was outmuscled said much about the desire pumping through Fulham compared to the self-doubt that is now plaguing Liverpool.
Fulham may not have wanted it more. But it certainly meant more to them, finding belief in their scrap against relegation while Jurgen Klopp’s side realise top-four is looking a forlorn hope.
Salah, until that point, was one of few Liverpool players to have reached anywhere near their level, playing down the middle of a reshaped front three alongside a grafting Diogo Jota and inconsistent Xherdan Shaqiri.
Often he was compelled to deal with hopeful long balls up against comparative man-mountains in the visiting defence, and more than held his own in the first half before seemingly being affected by his error.
That feeling won’t last too long, however. Salah remains the most likely to end a wait for a goal from open play at Anfield that now stands at a frankly laughable 708 minutes.
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Mane worries grow
That Mohamed Salah is having to shoulder such a burden is due to his fellow forwards not exactly stepping up to the plate in recent times.
The travails of Roberto Firmino, here absent with a knock, have been well documented.
Less so hotly-debated, though, has been the form of Sadio Mane, restricted to a second-half cameo against Fulham.
While he was closest to equalising with a header that glanced the woodwork, that the Senegalese seems utterly devoid of conviction when inside the box was apparent with his wild swipe at the ball when a corner dropped towards him.
Indeed, his numbers are alarming. Mane has now scored just six times in his last 25 outings, and two of those were against Aston Villa’s kids. In the Premier League, it’s a mere three goals since Virgil van Dijk was injured against Everton back in October.
Mane has always prospered when the Reds have been attuned accordingly. Evidence of that came in 2017/18 when, after a poor start to the campaign, he came to life once Phillipe Coutinho departed.
Clearly, the enforced chopping and changing elsewhere in the team is starting to hamper even Liverpool’s most reliable talents.