Talking Tactics

New roles add to Kane and Salah's threat

Adrian Clarke 14 Sep 2018
Harry Kane, Spurs, and Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

Adrian Clarke says the Golden Boot winners have both become more creative as they prepare to meet at Wembley

Adrian Clarke looks at tactical battles set to take place in Matchweek 5.

Spurs v Liverpool

Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane shared an impressive 62 Premier League goals between them last season but in the early weeks of 2018/19 they have shown other attributes.

Both Golden Boot-winners have made respectable starts, scoring twice each. Yet slightly modified roles have introduced more creativity to their all-round play.

So when Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool in Saturday's 12:30 BST kick-off, it may be their link-up play that influences the contest as much as their goal threat.

Unselfish Salah

Liverpool's front three have rotated superbly across the opening four fixtures.

Playing with even greater freedom and unpredictability than last term, Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have all taken it in turns to pop up in the centre-forward's position.

Salah frequently pushes inside from the right flank to set up chances. He is adept at releasing the ball early and his team-mates benefit from the extra time and space.

The Egypt international has laid on 13 chances already, the joint-highest number in the division alongside Manchester City's David Silva.

He is creating a goal opportunity every 26 minutes, a huge uplift on his average of 47.1 minutes last term. This area of Salah's game is improving with each match.

Whom Salah has set up in PL 2018/19
  Chances created Assists
Firmino 4 1
Mane 4 0
Wijnaldum 2 0
Sturridge 1 0
Keita 1 0
Gomez 1 0
Positive change

This positive change has compensated for the easy scoring opportunities that Salah has uncharacteristically spurned this season.

Although these are early days in the campaign, last season's top scorer's conversion rate has dropped from 29 per cent to 17 per cent.

If Salah can get both sides of his play in sync this weekend, Spurs will have a difficult time containing him.

Shot-shy Kane

For his part, Kane is still adjusting to a shift in formation from Mauricio Pochettino.

Rather than leading the line on his own, the 25-year-old is playing alongside Lucas Moura, who is also being deployed as a striker.

The stats indicate that Kane is working just as hard to show for the ball and is enjoying about the same amount of touches per match.

Yet the striker's impact inside the penalty area has definitely changed.

Kane is producing less than half the number of shots per 90 minutes than he did last season.

On the flip side, he is laying on a greater number of chances for others.

Dele Alli and Lucas, with two each, and Christian Eriksen, have all been recipients of key passes from him.

Kane's threat in PL
  18/19 17/18
Mins/chance created 71.6 93.4
Mins/shot 35.8 16.8
Shot accuracy % 37.5 55.9

In the short term, having an additional forward occupying central areas appears to be limiting Kane's potency, but this is unlikely to last.

Once he fully acclimatises to the change in set-up, assuming Pochettino persists with it, the goals will flow again.

Also in this series

Part 2: How Moutinho has helped Wolves impose their style
Part 3: Lukaku set to test Watford's winning start
Part 4: How Holgate has emerged as Silva starter

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