Liverpool is bracing for the absence of their star player, Mohamed Salah, during the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. Salah’s participation in the tournament means Liverpool could be without him for up to 10 games, including Premier League and domestic cup matches.
While Liverpool successfully retained Salah amidst interest from Saudi Arabia, his commitment to leading Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations creates a temporary void. The tournament, scheduled between January 13 and February 11, could see Salah missing at least five matches, with the potential for eight games if the team advances in domestic cup competitions. Additionally, Liverpool faces pivotal Premier League clashes against Chelsea and Arsenal in late January and early February.
This isn’t the first time Liverpool has navigated the absence of their African stars under Jurgen Klopp’s management. Mane and Salah have been on international duty before, impacting Liverpool’s performance. Klopp has traditionally opted not to sign temporary replacements, relying on the depth within his squad to compensate for the temporary loss.
In the 2021/22 season, Liverpool’s ability to thrive without Salah and Mane became evident as they won six out of seven matches without the duo in the starting lineup. This success led to the acquisition of Luis Diaz as a long-term replacement for Mane.
However, Mane’s absence in 2017 had a more pronounced impact, with Liverpool struggling and exiting both the League Cup and FA Cup. The team also saw a drop in the Premier League standings during his time away.
Klopp typically rotates replacement forwards during the absences of Mane and Salah, with various players stepping up to fill the void. In 2017, it was Sheyi Ojo, Adam Lallana, Ben Woodburn, and Roberto Firmino, while in 2022, Kaide Gordon, Diogo Jota, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Takumi Minamino took their turn.
Looking ahead, Liverpool has several strong options in their senior attacking ranks, including Diaz, Jota, Darwin Nunez, and Cody Gakpo. Young talents like Harvey Elliott and Ben Doak are also in the mix. Klopp is unlikely to seek a short-term replacement for Salah in the January transfer window, instead focusing on a long-term successor, especially if Salah considers a move to Saudi Arabia next summer.
Liverpool’s participation in the Europa League this season provides an opportunity to test potential solutions. Doak, in particular, could have seven auditions before Salah departs for the Africa Cup of Nations. Signed from Celtic last summer, Doak has impressed at various youth levels and is now poised to make his mark on the first-team stage.
As Liverpool prepares for a future without Salah, the emergence of Ben Doak offers an exciting glimpse into the club’s commitment to nurturing young talent and finding a worthy successor to their Egyptian King.