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Salah Quality Gives Liverpool Extra Advantage

James Milner with Mohamed Salah during a training session. Photo: John Powell
One of the most unique feelings in football is when your team is awarded a penalty. There are typically cheers from supporters, without anything actually happening, before the usual feelings of nerves as the player picks up the ball ready for the spot kick. 

Liverpool have been blessed with many a great penalty taker in recent times. Steven Gerrard regularly had the honour of taking the responsibility, as well as the duties that came with the armband. Now, though, the Reds have not one, but two who are more than capable of converting from the spot. 

James Milner is quite often the designated penalty taker, and has rarely failed from the spot when called upon. Just cast your mind back to the one of the biggest wins from last season at home to Leicester City. All square in injury time and is then faced with the task of scoring a goal to maintain Liverpool’s 100 per cent start to the season. A couple of steps later and the ball is in the back of the net and another precious three points for Jürgen Klopp’s men.

It is often another man, though, that often gets the chance to take the spot kick. With Milner on the bench in recent seasons, Mohamed Salah takes over the penalty taking duties, and has had frightening levels of success. Other than missing his first against Huddersfield Town in 2017, the Egyptian has never failed to score from the spot when called upon for Liverpool.

Penalties have become a more important part of football preparations. There used to be a time when all you had to do was run up and put your foot through the ball and hope for the best. Nowadays, there is a lot more thought and consideration, as well as plenty of practice. This has led to much more variation in the way players take their spot kicks.

Salah has a unique style, which always seems to make you worry that he will blaze his effort over the bar or shoot straight at the goalkeeper. Yet his track record should evaporate these feelings. Missing only one, he has scored his other 11 from the spot, all coming in different and, more often than not, high pressure situations. 

Take his goal against Tottenham in the Champions League final as an example, no messing around just dispatching the ball firmly down the middle. Certain players just have that confidence and sense of inevitability that they will score from the spot. Just like with Gerrard, you were pretty much certain that he wouldn’t miss, but even a player as great as him missed from 12 yards. During his 17-year career with Liverpool, Gerrard took 53 penalties and scored 46, missing seven. That is an accuracy level of 86 per cent, and is lower than what the club currently have at their disposal.

Milner has missed just two of the 21 that he has taken, with a 90 per cent chance of success. Salah’s is even higher. Out of the 12 attempts from the spot, the Egyptian has scored 11 times with a 92 per cent success rate. Granted, both have scored less than Gerrard combined, but what Liverpool do have up their sleeve is more than one competent option, if necessary.

It is a blessing that you don’t truly appreciate until the option isn’t there any more. If you go through other teams in the Premier League, very few will have similar strength in depth from the penalty spot. Yes, most will have a very solid first choice, but not many will have an equal if not stronger back-up. This is where Liverpool are, once again, ahead of the opposition in an area that wasn’t significantly taken advantage of last season.

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