Last week it was Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino on the score sheet; this time it was all about Mohamed Salah (albeit with more than a healthy dose of Bobby Dazzler). Clamp down on any one of Liverpool’s fearsome front three and the other two more often than not tend to punish you in world class fashion.
Arsenal were reminded of this footballing phenomenon on their visit to Anfield on Saturday, despite Gunners fans coming into the match nervously hopeful that they could escape with a result preserving a 100% start to season matched only by their hosts.
And while in truth, Arsenal were not nearly as abject in their 3-1 defeat as they have been in recent years, the gulf in class between the two sides was apparent and the Law of the Conservation of Liverpool Front Three Goals was still very much in effect.
The Londoners did manage to keep Mané, fresh off banging in three goals in the previous two games, quiet on the day. However it was Salah who stepped into the spotlight on this occasion. Choosing the Gunners’ newly-signed midfielder masquerading as a Premier League defender, David Luiz as the focus of his malicious intentions, the Egyptian lit up the second half of the match with a quickfire brace that proved devastatingly decisive.
After drawing a penalty against Luiz in the 49th minute and confidently powering the spot kick into the top corner to make it 2-0, the diminutive wide man made Arsenal supporters reassess their excitement at the £8m Brazilian’s signing when he skinned the defender 10 minutes later on the way to scoring his second to effectively put the game to bed.
Nice guy that he is, Salah could be seen on camera after the match doing his best to comfort Luiz for having undressed him so comprehensively. The Arsenal center half revealed in a post-match interview that the exchange had been about the penalty call for the Egyptian’s first goal in which Luiz had been adjudged to have pulled Salah’s shirt as the Reds’ man was in on goal:
“You cannot take out from the players, it is just a reflex,” Luiz said of his instinctive tug of the shirt. “When I turned I see that I was taking and so I took off [my hand from Salah’s shirt].”
The 32-year-old attempted to bring VAR into the discussion, managing to blame the video assistant for confirming the referee’s call before graciously making excuses for them:
“I spoke with Mo and he said ‘I didn’t feel you touch me, that’s why I didn’t go down to the floor’ but now with the VAR, you cannot see the power so it is difficult for the referees. He saw the shirt like that, but I don’t know.
“It’s difficult for them so I cannot complain with their efforts because it is difficult for them too. If you play with an extra-large shirt now, there could be a penalty every time. It’s interpretation, so I think if you pull someone with power and you change his strength to go to the ball, it’s different.”
Liverpool’s Ballon D’Or frontrunner, Virgil Van Dijk may have had his monstrous 50-match streak broken on the day when Arsenal new boy Nicolas Pépé dribbled past him; nevertheless, when you do the calculations:
Big Daddy Virg: £75m transfer fee/50 games not dribbled past
Luiz: £8m transfer fee/0 games not dribbled past
…the math still works out.