It’s the age-old question that emerges whenever a lethal strike combination is unearthed in the
Premier League - which component is the most important, and which is the most expendable?
Of course, the most truthful answer is usually that all elements involved work best in conjunction with each other, and therefore comparing them as single entities is a somewhat futile enterprise.
But nonetheless, sometimes an itch just needs to be scratched.
And thus since they were first fielded together in the Premier League during a 3-3 draw with Watford at the start of the 2017/18 season, many have mused as to which member of Liverpool’s front three is truly the most fundamental - Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane.
Of course, all three bring slightly different qualities to the table. Salah behaves most like a goalscorer - shamelessly selfish and usually playing off a defender’s shoulder - Sadio Mane offers relentless energy and natural penetration, and Roberto Firmino, part midfielder and part centre-forward, is the link man keeping it all tightly knitted together.
So, which one is most crucial to Liverpool’s successes and who could the Reds’ conceivably do without if push came to shove?
Well, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder and therefore, GIVEMESPORT have analysed every Premier League game one of Liverpool’s famous front three have missed since they were first united with each other.
The Brazilian has missed just five of the 123 games in question, which highlights just how important Jurgen Klopp thinks he is to this Liverpool team. But of those five games, Liverpool won all but one of them in pretty comprehensive fashion. The only game they failed to take all three points from was a 1-1 draw with Chelsea back in 2017 - but even then, Liverpool were five minutes away from victory until a late Eden Hazard equaliser.
Even more telling than the fact Liverpool have averaged 2.6 points in Firmino’s absence is how Salah and Mane have fared without him, despite the common perception that the Reds’ false nine is the wheel inside a wheel that keeps everything else spinning. In truth, Salah and Mane have scored ten goals in the five games Firmino’s missed, while Liverpool overall have averaged a whopping 3.2 per match.
Nonetheless, there is a caveat here in the quality of opposition Liverpool faced in these games. While Chelsea are a top side and Wolves represent testing opposition, even without Firmino the Reds would still be expected to comfortably beat Watford, Huddersfield and the Magpies - which is exactly what they did.
In contrast to Firmino, Mane has missed by far the most games of Liverpool’s three forwards during this time period with 15 in total. And while his absence wasn’t felt quite as much as you might expect with Liverpool averaging 2.2 points per game, they did miss Mane a touch more than Firmino.
Indeed, without Mane in the side Liverpool averaged less goals overall (2.5) and less goals from Salah and Firmino (1.2) but perhaps more interesting is how losing the Senegal attacker impacted the Reds defensively. Although they averaged the same number of clean sheets as in Firmino’s absence (0.6) their mean goals conceded stands at 1.1. However, that statistic is no doubt swung by Liverpool’s freakish 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa this season, which Mane missed.
Once again, the quality of opposition is worth bearing in mind here. While that 15 games includes Leicester, Manchester United and Spurs, Liverpool also played and comprehensively beat Bournemouth, Stoke, Swansea and Huddersfield, who are all no longer in the top flight.
Liverpool may have flown through their 3-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday in Salah’s absence but by in large, he’s the player the Reds have struggled without the most. During the eight games he’s missed, on three occasions the Premier League champions have been held to draws - twice by Everton and once against Manchester United.
In comparison to Mane and Firmino’s missed fixtures, that’s probably what stands out the most about Salah - the level of opposition has been noticeably tougher, with the Toffees and Liverpool’s bitter rivals joined by Leicester, Crystal Palace and Burnley.
Nonetheless, the statistics do speak for themselves and ultimately crown Salah as the clear winner. Albeit by relatively modest amounts in some instances, Liverpool have averaged the fewest points (2.1), goals (1.9), shots (13.7) and possession (62%) without the Egypt international, while the rest of Liverpool’s front three have managed just 0.7 goals per game.
Clearly then, despite Sunday’s huge win, Salah is the forward whose absence tends to hit Liverpool the hardest.News Now - Sport News