Liverpool

Liverpool show teeth without Salah & Mane in Brentford victory but must be sharper

Jude Summerfield
Minamino scored from Firmino's assist
Minamino scored from Firmino's assist / Michael Regan/GettyImages
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A pretty startling Liverpool stat emerged a few hours before Liverpool took on Brentford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.

While reliance on goalscoring stars like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane is hardly a bad thing, it can be a bit worrying when both are unavailable at the same time.

The pair are currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, and given they account for 48% of the goals Liverpool have scored in the Premier League since the start of the 2017/18 season, there undoubtedly would have been a few Reds fans with butterflies of uncertainty in their stomachs before their clash with the Bees at Anfield.

Liverpool have always had other outlets for goalscoring alongside their prolific duo, with Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota comfortable operating in the front three, but neither have been tasked with taken on the burden for a prolonged period.

There was certainly a lack of bite in the Carabao Cup clash with Arsenal on Thursday. Despite having a man advantage following Granit Xhaka's red card, Liverpool couldn't find a way through the Gunners as Jota, Firmino and Takumi Minamino huffed and puffed in front of goal.

At least one of Salah and Mane had featured in every league game since Salah signed, and the lack of incisive attacking movement during the first 25 minutes or so against a Brentford side that shipped four to Southampton last time out was a little disappointing.

Instead, it was Fabinho - an unlikely but regular source of goals in recent weeks - who found the breakthrough, nodding in at the back post from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came into the starting XI. The former Arsenal attacker has only scored one league goal since the start of last season and usually can't be relied upon for regular contributions, but it was him who gave Liverpool daylight against Brentford.

Brentford were poor at Anfield, rarely threatening and wasting their best opportunity when Bryan Mbeumo curled wide, and somewhat gifted Liverpool their third when they tried to play out from the back, allowing the Reds' attackers to swarm. Roberto Firmino - pretty quiet for most of the game - got the ball and set up Minamino for one of the easiest goals the Japan international will ever score.

While the scoreline was comprehensive, it wasn't the most fluid of attacking performances from Liverpool. While Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were typically creative from out wide - each grabbing an assist - the front three of Jota, Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled to combine to the same effect that Salah and Mane have on countless occasions in the past.

That is to be expected - any team in world football would struggle to replace players with such ruthlessness in front of goal - but with a Carabao Cup semi final second leg on the horizon, Reds fans would have wanted to see more synergy from their fringe attacking stars on Sunday.

They were gifted victory by a naive Brentford side still figuring things out in the Premier League, and Liverpool will need to be much sharper in front of goal against Arsenal and then Crystal Palace before football in England winds down for a short winter break.


For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!

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