The form of Liverpool’s much vaunted front three is a serious cause for concern heading into the biggest game of the season so far, believes Anfield legend Steve Nicol.
The Reds host Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday in a first against second clash where United lead by three points and could solidify their claim as title contenders with a win.
Firmino and Salah have not scored in the last three Liverpool league gamesAFP
The form of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino has been somewhat of a concern in recent games and the team has scored just once in their last three games – Mane’s goal in the draw against West Brom.
Nicol believes that form is concerning going into such an important game.
He told talkSPORT: “One goal in three games for that front three in the Premier League you almost wouldn’t believe it if someone said it was going to happen.
“Because that’s what’s happened it’s very difficult to think they will go another game without getting a goal.
“You can definitely say that Liverpool, under the circumstances, have defended well. They’ve lost two goals in those three games, which isn’t bad.
“The problem is they are coming up against a front three from United that have so much pace and on their day can be absolutely devastating.
“If you are talking about two midfielders as centre-backs against that that is a worry.”
Sadio Mane is yet to show the form that helped Liverpool win the title last seasongetty
What may be more of a worry for fans will be the club’s lack of centre-backs giving Jurgen Klopp a potential selection headache.
Joel Matip is a doubt for the game and if he does miss out then it will be Liverpool’s fourth game in a row without a fit senior centre-back.
Nicol added: “Liverpool will do what Liverpool do when they go forward and United, I’m sure, will be more than happy not to sit on the edge of their box but a little deeper.
“They’ll be sitting at home now thinking if we can win the ball in good areas and get at whatever the two centre-backs are going to be they must be licking their lips because as well as Fabinho has done, I don’t think he has the pace to recover against up he is up against.
“The problem is it’s going to have to be Jordan Henderson beside him.”
Jurgen Klopp may be worried about the form of his front threeGetty – Pool
Liverpool have relied on that front three for a while now and it has been brilliantly effective on their way to Premier League and Champions League success.
The perception is that this season they have not been effective and the signing of Diogo Jota has helped share the load.
But how does the front three’s record compare this season to their title winning campaign last season?
talkSPORT.com has taken a look at how their numbers stack up.
Liverpool’s front three statistics in 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons
Chances created: 61
Shots on target: 59
Mins per goal and assist: 99
Chances created: 52
Shots on target: 39
Mins per goal and assist: 177
Chances created: 59
Shots on target: 36
Mins per goal and assist: 110
Chances created: 27
Shots on target: 26
Mins per goal and assist: 84
Chances created: 17
Shots on target: 17
Mins per goal and assist: 175
Chances created: 23
Shots on target: 21
Mins per goal and assist: 167
The goals were shared around last season with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane getting the bulk with 19 and 18 respectively.
Salah is on pace for more but Mane is lagging behind his tally from last season as we approach the halfway point of the season.
The Egypt international is actually returning more goals and assists per 90 minutes than last season.
He has a goal contribution every 84 minutes compared to 99 in 2019/20.
Firmino’s numbers are consistent with their title winning campaign. He had a goal contribution every 177 minutes last season and that has improved by two minutes in the current campaign.
Salah already has 13 goals in the Premier League this seasonGetty Images – Getty
Mane is the player who has slowed down significantly with 110 minutes per goal and assist in 2019/20 compared to 167 this season.
Just one goal in three games between the three of them will be a concern for Liverpool but their numbers one balance are largely the same as last season, with the exception of Mane.