Salah may be out of form but his deep belief and world-class mentality make it possible to win the Etihad title.
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He is out of luck, out for goals, out form, possibly out of confidence, and perhaps out of the team.
But I can guarantee that Mo Salah will be thinking right now: ‘I haven’t scored a goal in open play since February, so it’s written in the stars I’ll break the drought this weekend.’ How can I say that? Because I’ve been there myself, many times. Every striker has, even the most powerful.
It is as important as scoring the goal. But it is more than just putting the ball into the net. Your ability to deal with barren spells is what will determine your level of quality as forward. World-class players think differently. They know that a string of games without a goal indicates that there is more to come. And there will be an iron belief it will be a spectacular one… a match-winner in the biggest game.
So if Salah has been feeling uneasy in recent weeks over his form, then believe me, he’ll have looked at the calendar and picked the visit to Manchester City as the perfect platform. I’m pretty sure the longest I went in my entire Liverpool career without a goal was eight games – and that came in the treble-winning season of 2000-01.
I was under pressure during that campaign, left out far too often for my liking, but still finished with 18 goals, a spectacular finish in the League Cup final, another decent one in the UEFA Cup final, and I came on at 1-0 down in the FA Cup final… and we won 2-1. It is essential to keep an optimistic mindset to be a great striker. It’s built into you as a goalscorer… it’s a mindset that is actually built into your movement on the pitch.
You must be optimistic the run you’re about to make will produce a goal, optimistic the defender will miss the cross, optimistic your midfielder will pick out a pass, optimistic the chance taken on will beat the keeper. If you’re not, then you don’t make the run, and don’t take on the shot – you don’t ever become a top striker. Defenders on the other hand, have to be naturally pessimistic – that things will go wrong and they’ll have to cover. I prefer which one!
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I’ve watched Salah close up since he arrived at Liverpool (and watched him beat almost all of my records, one by one). What I most admire is his profound belief and profound optimism. That rubbish about him being selfish isn’t true, are you? That’s just belief. You must be a good striker. The more you believe in yourself, the more you will succeed.
Salah won’t be worried about the City game, he won’t be hiding. He’ll be desperate to play, because honestly, he’s sitting there on Sunday morning as you read this, thinking today is going to be his day, his spectacular day – which is why I’d be amazed if he didn’t start. I’d be totally gobsmacked in fact. He will not be allowed to sit on the bench. Jurgen Klopp will want his big-match experience, his desire, his belief, and his ability to turn games with a wonder goal – as he’s done against City so many times already.
He’ll be banking on that muscle memory, not just in Salah to produce his best instinctively, but in the City defenders too, who MUST be pessimistic to believe he’ll be back to his world-class best against them. I know if I was in his position, with just one penalty in eight games, I’d be thinking: ‘It means I’m guaranteed a goal’.
After the eight-goal drought in 2000-01, I scored five goals in five of my five subsequent starts. I think Salah would settle for the same for sure, and if he does, then you’d have to think a treble wouldn’t be beyond Liverpool, just as it wasn’t for us back then.