The international break can be a great source of boredom for some football fans. How many times have you heard ‘football was better 10/15/20/25/30 years ago’ on social media in the last couple of weeks?
Football in the pandemic was a horrible slog to watch and keep up with, but now that fans are back and stadiums are rocking, we’re seeing the very best of what this sport has to offer again.
Liverpool’s shock 3-0 defeat at Watford in the 2019/20 season was one of the final games played before the pandemic fully hit, but they certainly avenged that loss on Saturday with a resounding 5-0 win at Vicarage Road.
The Reds look back to their world-beating best, and Mohamed Salah looks like the best player in the Premier League – if not on the planet.
In a game where Roberto Firmino grabbed a hat trick, Salah still put in the best performance on the pitch and was a class above, his game reaching new heights every week. It felt like we went into the international break with it clear that Salah was the best this league has to offer, and instead of confirmation bias clouding any judgement on Saturday, all we got was actual confirmation.
His opening 10 minutes at Vicarage Road were among the best any player anywhere could have offered without scoring a goal. Salah routinely ran rings around poor Danny Rose, sometimes even kicking the ball past him and running onto it rather than just tying him in knots. This ultimately culminated in an eighth-minute assist for Sadio Mane.
There was one point where the only way for Rose to stop Salah was to literally hook him by the neck in a joking fashion so that he wouldn’t receive a booking, but maybe on another day the veteran defender would have been wise enough to do something to get himself off the pitch quicker and save himself from this slaughter.
Watching Liverpool is fun once more and the diversity of their two star wide forwards is a massive part of that. Mane plays like a teenager full of youthful exuberance. He bounces around the pitch and almost everything he does is with finesse and flair, but his edges are refined enough to make him a world-beater. He is the final version of a super-charged Football Manager wonderkid.
But Salah’s approach is simply business. He has a Lionel Messi-like ability to run around you seven or eight times over just to prove the point that he can, that this is his pitch and you’re not going to stop him. That’s pretty much how his goal came about, slaloming his way through the Watford backline and sitting Craig Cathcart on his arse for the sake of it before curling it past a helpless Ben Foster.
If the honour of the best player in the Premier League was handed out like a boxing title belt, then Salah is most definitely the current heavyweight champion. It’ll take some doing for any contender to take him down.
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