The manager of Liverpool football club, coach Jurgen Klopp has admitted that the club is missing the services of Mohamed Salah of Egypt and Sadio Mane of Senegal who are currently representing their countries in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Liverpool are also without the club’s central midfielder Naby Keita who is representing Guinea in the ongoing AFCON.
The last time the three players played for Liverpool was on January 2, 2022, when the club drew 2-2 against Chelsea in a Premier League away game. In the game, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored a goal each while Keita started from the bench.
After the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool hosted a lower league side, Shrewsbury, in the FA Cup third round and they defeated the lower league side 4-1 without Salah, Mane, and Keita.
But their absence was felt heavily on Thursday, January 13, 2022, when Liverpool hosted Arsenal in a Carabao Cup semi-final first leg match. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Xhaka got red-carded very early in the game but Liverpool could not take advantage of playing with 11 men against 10.
At the end of the day, Arsenal were able to hold Liverpool for close to 70 minutes with just 10 players and coach Jurgen Klopp could not come up with an effective plan to take advantage of the situation. Hence, the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
After the game, most football analysts believed that if Mane and Salah were available to lead the Liverpool attack during the game, the club would have taken full advantage of the red card situation.
Critics of the game stressed that coach Jurgen Klopp missed the pace of Mane and Salah and also missed their ability to think fast.
But ahead of Liverpool vs Brentford Premier League game scheduled to kick off at 15:00 on Sunday, coach Jurgen Klopp insisted that his team had a great chance of beating Arsenal. The German tactician noted that the only way he could avoid being questioned about Mane and Salah is by scoring goals.
Klopp said: “The situation is clear: they are not here and they are world-class players. Do we miss them? Yes, but it’s not about who is not here, but about how we can do better.
“The start was really good, we caused Arsenal a lot of problems, we pressed the right spaces, we created enough and then the red card happened. You have to break down a really low block, and that’s the most difficult thing. We couldn’t do that last night.
“We were not good enough in moments, but we can do better and that’s what we will do.”
If Senegal and Egypt last in AFCON until the final which is on February 6, Liverpool would be without Mane and Salah in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final match against Arsenal on January 20. They will not also be available for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace on January 23, and the FA Cup tie against Cardiff on February 6.
During the pre-match press conference ahead of the Liverpool vs Brentford Premier League game, coach Jurgen Klopp was close to being irritated about reporters’ concern over the absence of Mane, Salah, and Keita.
The coach insisted that during the game against Arsenal on Thursday, Liverpool did not miss the speed of the players, he noted that Liverpool found it difficult to win the game because Arsenal played too deep.
“There’s absolutely nothing bad to say about Sadio and Mo,” coach Jurgen Klopp said. “Outstanding players. Naby I would say is one of the best midfielders I ever saw. But they are not here.
“Last night we didn’t miss speed – that was not our problem. They were so deep, where do we want to run? Over the touchline, into the stands? There was no space.
“There are so many things we can do – counter-pressing, winning the ball back – that’s not about pace. We have to play against deep formations, in between the lines.
“Quick thinking is much more important than quick running. Yes, Mo, Sadio, and Naby can think quickly but they are not here.
“It was crystal clear that we would sit here today after we draw 0-0 against 10 men and the only thing you would have in your mind is Sadio and Mo. But that’s not a solution, it’s only part of a problem. We are here to find solutions.
“Last night we were not perfect but maybe we are closer to our usual standard in the next game and we can win. We have to get through different periods in a season. This is our period now – let’s get through this together.”
🗣 "They are not here and they are world class players, do we miss them? Yes."— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 14, 2022
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool miss Sadio Mane and Mo Salah but the focus should be on the players available pic.twitter.com/D5I6lmaadB
Liverpool are currently sitting on the third spot on the Premier League table with 42 points in 20 games, 11 points away from first-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.