You could see it from a mile away. When he came on and bagged two away at Stoke last season, you could envision it materialising in the distance.
Contrary to poular belief, he’s human. In the same way we one day have to admit that Batman is merely a comic-book character, we now have to concede that Mohamed Salah isn’t a superhero, nor is he immortal.
In the same way that we justifiably convinced ourselves we were never going to lose again back in August, we can surely be forgiven for having expected the Egyptian forward to score at least 73 goals this season.
Alongside all the adoration, fame, commercial opportunities, awards and overall recognition for being brilliant at football, Salah’s glorious maiden season with the Reds did present him with two big burdens for the future.
One is having weird middle-aged men harass you while you’re driving out of Melwood because you don’t fancy signing another autograph. The other is the ridiculously lofty, almost unattainable expectation that both the media and the fans are going to have of you.
While it can be frustrating to watch Sky and BT make a narrative from his slow start out of the blocks, questions pondering Mo’s drop-off this season haven’t exactly been unfair.
It’s not just good performances appearing sloppy in comparison to the brilliance of last season. He’s genuinely looked a bit crap for most of the current campaign.
Despite his best efforts, he’s barely been able to navigate past a full-back in the last two months, and has consistently left the ball behind him when trying his so-often jaw-dropping trickery around the box.
He hasn’t offered much of a threat on the counter-attack either, and the distance he’s been hitting shots wide and over the bar has been noticeably unusual for one of the best finishers in the world.
If Xherdan Shaqiri was having the season that Salah has had so far, most of us would be left scratching our heads thinking ‘What did we sign this lad for?’
It’s getting harder and harder to say that it’s just a bit of a poor spell for Liverpool’s number 11. It’s getting harder and harder to feel like there’s not a specific reason behind it that we’re going to find out about in someone’s autobiography ten years down the line.
In one of the games before the international break, Mo did that thing that footballers do, he took off his shirt while walking off the pitch. In doing so, he revealed a large amount of strapping around his shoulder, a lasting result of his infamous clash in Kiev with Sergio Ramos.
Between the World Cup, pre-season, a packed opening eight weeks of the campaign and more international duty, it’s easy to forget just how serious the injury was, as well as just how painful the mental scars it left must still be for the Egyptian.
But Jurgen Klopp isn’t a manager to play lads through injuries, and he rarely prioritises short-term gain over long-term needs. You have to feel that he wouldn’t be on the pitch at all if the injury was still causing any problems.
Although it’s possible the Egyptian is limiting his performances by just being cautious with it, afraid to aggravate the injury any further, Liverpool Football Club is surely too professional and vigilant an organisation to let something like that go on under the radar.
Also, Liverpool are now more than equipped to contend with a month-long absence of their key man, with the bench now filled with first-team players rather than academy kids.
It can’t be teams just figuring him out either. Firing the ball ten yards over the bar when finding some space is nothing to do with teams ‘figuring you out’.
It’s important to remember that all footballers are allowed to be a bit crap for a while. Regardless of your opinion, directing personal abuse at players and criticising them as people is brainless, provided the players in question are giving their all.
But if Liverpool want to win this league, the manager can only persist with last year’s winning formula without it clicking for so long. By the end of this run of games beginning on Saturday, we’ll be a third of the way through the season.
With their performances yet to catch fire quite like they did at times last campaign, it can only be so long before teams start taking on the Red, and stop turning up to Anfield beaten, such as Southampton did last month for example.
Soon, Klopp’s side may need more than a misfiring Salah on the pitch picking up a goal every three or four games. The manager may have to make a big call and switch things up, leaving Mo on the bench for tactical reasoning, as opposed to just regular rotation.
A break for Salah would seem like the best option, especially considering the news of a fresh injury which he picked up last week with Egypt. Although the knock isn’t considered serious, taking him out of the firing line for Huddersfield, Red Star and Cardiff may not be the worst idea.
Klopp on Salah: “He needed time last year, like we all needed time. And he will take time this season as well.”
Spot on. Be patient and he’ll return to his very best. pic.twitter.com/3v2qdJPIom
— . (@VintageSalah) September 21, 2018
An empty midweek before Arsenal away would effectively give Salah two weeks off and would give the manager a proper look at Shaqiri and Sturridge. Even Origi and Solanke may get a look-in at some stage.
Jurgen Klopp will know what to do better than anyone, not least because for every ninety minutes we see a player play, the German sees them play several hundred more in training every day.
He speaks to them on a daily basis, knows them inside-out and has said before that he can look into their eyes and know where their head is at.
A big call may be on the horizon for the manager in relation to Liverpool’s talisman. But if last season taught us anything, it’s that you rule out the Egyptian King at your peril.
If he does start on Saturday, it’s the perfect opportunity to get back among the goals and kick-start his season.
Liverpool fans shouldn’t demand Salah to be world class, but it sure would help to win us number nineteen.
Eight games gone, thirty to go. Let’s get going lad.