Sunday, February 25, 2024

Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota deliver at Bournemouth as Reds cope well with Mohamed Salah’s absence

Liverpool may be without Mohamed Salah, but their strong run of form has yet to take a hit as the Reds continue to aim for their first Premier League title since the 2019-20 season. Their latest show of dominance came in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth on Sunday, a match that was billed as a test of their credentials. Liverpool passed thanks to a brace each from Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota, who were able to ensure the Reds would overcome the in-form Cherries and pick up their third win in three games since Salah left to represent Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The victors dominated in most categories on Sunday and by large margins in some cases, but the two sides were not far apart in some attacking stats. Liverpool had 14 shots to Bourenouth’s 11 and barely edged them out on expected goals — the Reds posted 1.61 to the Cherries’ 1.39. The league leaders ultimately outdid themselves to see out the victory, somehow managing seven shots on goal and putting four of them in the back of the net on an exceptional finishing day.

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Overperforming their expected goals has become Liverpool’s trademark at times this season. The same was true in their 2-0 win over Arsenal in FA Cup action on Jan. 4, when they posted just 0.64 expected goals and as well as on a handful of days in which they have racked up the score. The trend also continues on an individual basis from time to time —  Nunez scored twice off of just three shots while Jota scored on his only strikes of the game against Bournemouth. Jota in particular exemplifies the pattern with seven goals in Premier League play this season and just 3.27 expected goals.

Individual hot streaks do not make up the whole story behind Liverpool’s success so far this season — they are atop the Premier League with 46.52 expected goals and are perfectly on pace with 47 goals so far while Salah’s league-leading 14 goals also correspond with his 14.87 expected goals. Plenty of praise should also go their defense’s way — no side has conceded fewer than Liverpool’s 18 goals so far, and their impressive organization was on display against Bournemouth, who were limited to just one shot on target. That said, overperforming in any category cannot hurt a title contender, especially when the other statistics confirm that the overall strategy is working.

Liverpool have scored eight goals (including one own goal) from six different goalscorers in the three games Salah has missed so far, which feels like a vote of confidence in Jurgen Klopp’s attack-first strategy this season. The squad boasts a remarkable number of notable goalscorers, all of whom seem eager to play a part as they push for the title.

It’s especially good news for Klopp and company in the wake of Salah’s injury setback. The Egypt captain picked up a hamstring injury during Egypt’s 2-2 draw with the Ivory Coast on Thursday, and, per TNT Sports, is expected to return to Liverpool to recover.

After the win at Bournemouth, Klopp said the plan is for Salah to rehab with Liverpool but return to the AFCON if they make a run to the final, though he admitted that it is not set in stone. The Liverpool manager said he spoke with the player directly after he sustained the injury and that Salah has been in touch with the team’s doctor since.

The Reds already boast a strong record without him in the lineup — he has missed just 11 games for the team since joining in 2017 and they have won eight — but Klopp will still feel encouraged by the fact that the injury appears to be a short-term one.

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